The Penny's Economic Importance

Consumers benefit with a low denomination coin. Moreover, faith in the strength of the economy and the nation is tied to perceptions about the currency system, and public acceptance is an important criterion for evaluating currency and coinage changes.

Proposals to eliminate the penny and move to the nickel as the lowest denomination coin create public anxiety about higher prices and inflation. Over three-quarters of Americans (77%) are concerned merchants would raise prices without the penny. And they're probably right. Raymond Lombra, Ph.D., Professor of Economics at Penn State University, told a Congressional committee that rounding cash sales up or down to the nearest nickel would cost consumers over $600 million annually.

Some proponents of penny elimination may say the coin's demise would not even be noticed.  But removal of the cent is a concern, if only as a symbol of inflation.  If prices rise, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rises which, in turn, triggers further rises in many public and private sector costs which are tied formally or informally to the CPI. The Wall Street Journal has said eliminating the penny would "wave a symbolic white flag before the forces of inflation." They likened taking the penny out of circulation to actions taking by third world countries to degrade their currencies and create hyper inflation.

Approximately six in ten Americans (59%) think eliminating the penny would cause confusion when purchasing items.  A system of rounding would be regressive and hurt those least able to afford it because they make more small cash purchases.  And the current coinage mix should be maintained as long as it meets individual consumer preferences.

Other items of interest:

More than Two-Thirds of Americans Still Favor Keeping the Penny

Recent Poll Shows Increasing Penny Support and Concern About Price Increases If Penny Is Eliminated

WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A poll released today by Americans for Common Cents (ACC) continues to show overwhelming and increasing support for the penny by the American public. 68% of those surveyed favor keeping the penny in circulation, representing a slight increase since the last poll in 2012.


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