Research / BFI Working PaperJan 28, 2019

Low Interest Rates, Market Power, and Productivity Growth

Ernest Liu, Atif Mian, Amir Sufi

How does the production side of the economy respond to a low interest rate environment? This study provides a new theoretical result that low interest rates encourage market concentration by giving industry leaders a strategic advantage over followers, and this effect strengthens as the interest rate approaches zero. The model provides a unified explanation for why the fall in long-term interest rates has been associated with rising market concentration, reduced dynamism, a widening productivity-gap between industry leaders and followers, and slower productivity growth. Support for the model’s key mechanism is established by showing that a decline in the ten year Treasury yield generates positive excess returns for industry leaders, and the magnitude of the excess returns rises as the Treasury yield approaches zero.

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