Working Paper

Did the Federal Reserve Break the Phillips Curve? Theory and Evidence of Anchoring Inflation Expectations


Abstract: In a macroeconomic model with drifting long-run inflation expectations, the anchoring of inflation expectations manifests in two testable predictions. First, expectations about inflation far in the future should no longer respond to news about current inflation. Second, better-anchored inflation expectations weaken the relationship between unemployment and inflation, flattening the reduced-form Phillips curve. We evaluate both predictions and find that communication of a numerical inflation objective better anchored inflation expectations in the United States but failed to anchor expectations in Japan. Moreover, the improved anchoring of U.S. inflation expectations can account for much of the observed flattening of the Phillips curve. Finally, we present evidence that initial Federal Reserve communication around its longer-run inflation objective may have led inflation expectations to anchor at a level below 2 percent.

Keywords: Monetary policy; Inflation; Inflation targeting; Central bank communication; Structural breaks; Phillips Curve;

JEL Classification: E31; E52; E58;

https://doi.org/10.18651/RWP2020-11

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Bibliographic Information

Provider: Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City

Part of Series: Research Working Paper

Publication Date: 2020-09-03

Number: RWP 20-11