Abhinav Narayanan
Reserve Bank of India
Sudipto Karmakar
Bank of England
Journal of Asian Economies, Aug 2020, 69
JEL Codes:
E21, E51, G28
● Do households care about cash? Exploring the heterogeneous effects of India's demonetization
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The recent demonetization exercise in India is a unique monetary experiment that made 86 percent of the total currency in circulation invalid. In a country where the currency in circulation constitutes 12 percent of GDP, the policy turned out to be a purely exogenous macroeconomic shock that affected all agents of the economy. This paper documents the impact of this macroeconomic shock on households. By construction, the policy helped households with bank accounts in disposing of the demonetized cash. We use a new household-level data set to tease out the effects of this policy on households with no bank accounts relative to households with bank accounts. Our results show that the impact of demonetization on household income and expenditure has been transient. We find that households with no bank accounts experienced a significant decrease in expenditure in November and December-2016. We find a slight decline in income in November-2016 but the effect dissipates thereafter. There is significant heterogeneity in the impact across households in different asset quartiles. We also show evidence of recovery of household finances whereby households were able to smooth out consumption during the post-demonetization period. However, this recovery phase is associated with an increase in household borrowing from different sources. In particular, informal borrowing (e.g. money lenders and shops) increased during this period.

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