Interest rates have varied significantly over the last 50+ years (source: https://www.macrotrends.net/2016/10-year-treasury-bond-rate-yield-chart ).

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Is it possible to comprehensively and succinctly explain why interest rates went over 15% in the early 1980's in the U.S., but have been under 4% (sometimes flirting with 1.5% or less) for the last 10+ years?

What has changed about national and global economic factors to influence the general downward rate of economic inflation over the last 40 years?

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    $\begingroup$ economics.stackexchange.com looks like a better place for this question. $\endgroup$ Commented May 13, 2021 at 18:08
  • $\begingroup$ Agree with above. Anyway the standard narrative for the peak in interest rates is that the Fed partly lost control of inflation in the 70s and had to raise interest rates to a very high level. This helped bring inflation down (at the cost of creating a recession) so the Fed could maintain much lower rates after that. $\endgroup$
    – fes
    Commented May 13, 2021 at 18:55

1 Answer 1


Economics question yes. Also fairly easy to google. However, unless you are familiar with econ, finance etc it may not be clear where to search first.

FED chairman Paul Volker was responsible for these high interest rates. This was at a time of Stagflation, high inflation and slow growth. The link has some basic explanations but generally this is difficult to answer with certainty. Reducing money supply (raising interest rates) will break inflation. This link is clearer and it also worked under Paul Volker.

Since 2008 we have very low rates, due to a massive crisis (or crises now with Covid). Money supply by the FED (or any central bank) is only a fraction of total money supply. The money multiplier varies over time. If there is reluctance to borrow and lend, reduce investment spending and the like, total money supply is actually a lot less impacted. You can look up money aggregates like the ECBs- If you plot these, you will see although M1 expanded, M3 actually contracted (lower growth) in 2008 and stayed fairly low when compared historically.

You should find lots of research on this online, or ask economics.stackexchange.com.


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