Soft Power and Exchange Rate Volatility
Standard models—based exclusively on macro-financial variables—have made little progress in explaining the behavior of exchange rates. In this paper, we introduce a neglected set of “soft power” factors capturing a country’s demographic, institutional, political and social underpinnings to uncover the “missing” determinants of exchange rate volatility over time and across countries. Based on a balanced panel dataset comprising 115 countries during the period 1996–2011, the empirical results are generally robust across different estimation methodologies and show a high degree of persistence in exchange rate volatility, especially in emerging market economies. After controlling for standard macroeconomic factors, we find that the “soft power” variables—such as an index of voice and accountability, life expectancy, educational attainment, the z-score of banks, and the share of agriculture relative to services—have a statistically significant influence on the level of exchange rate volatility across countries.
IMF Working Papers