Stablecoins, which we define as digital assets used as a medium of exchange that are purported to be backed by assets held specifically for that purpose, have grown considerably in the last two years. They rose from a market capitalization of $5.7 billion on December 1, 2019, to $155.6 billion on January 21, 2022. Moreover, a market that was once dominated by a single stablecoin—Tether (USDT)—now boasts five stablecoins with valuations over $1 billion (as of January 21, 2022; data about the supply of stablecoins can be found here). Analysts have started to pay increased attention to the stablecoin market, and the President’s Working Group (PWG) on Financial Markets released a report on stablecoins on November 1, 2021. In this post, we explain why we believe stablecoins are unlikely to be the future of payments.
In prior research, we documented evidence suggesting that digital payment adoptions have accelerated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While digitalization of payment activity improves data utilization by firms, it can also infringe upon consumers’ right to privacy. Drawing from a recent paper, this blog post explains how payment data acquired by firms impacts market structure and consumer welfare. Then, we discuss the implications of introducing a central bank digital currency (CBDC) that offers consumers a low-cost, privacy-preserving electronic means of payment—essentially, digital cash.
Today, the majority of retail payments in the United States are digital. Practically all digital payments are tracked, collected, and aggregated by financial institutions, payment providers, and vendors. This trend has accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic as payments that require physical contact, such as cash, have been discouraged. As cash gradually becomes obsolete, consumers are left with fewer alternatives for making private transactions. In this post, we outline some evidence on the impact of COVID-19 on consumer payment behavior and follow up in the second post in this Liberty Street Economics series with a look at the implications of cash obsolescence for privacy.
Digital currencies, including potential central bank digital currencies (CBDC), have generated a lot of interest over the past decade, since the emergence of Bitcoin. The interest has only grown in recent months because of a desire for contactless payment methods, stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. In this post, we discuss a common distinction made between “token-based” and “account-based” digital currencies. We show that this distinction is problematic because Bitcoin and many other digital currencies satisfy both definitions.
The 2012 Nobel Prize in economics was awarded to Alvin E. Roth and Lloyd S. Shapley for their work on matching problems. Two-sided matching problems, like assigning jobs to workers or dorm rooms to students, can be complicated enough. But sometimes the matching problem can be even more difficult. It may be that…