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Improving survey measures of household inflation expectations
Expectations about future inflation are generally thought to play an important role in households' decisions about spending and saving. They are also of great interest to central bankers, who take them into account when determining policy or assessing the effectiveness of communications with the public. To help improve existing survey measures of inflation expectations, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York recently joined with other institutions and academic consultants to develop a set of survey questions that will yield more reliable information on households' inflation expectations, ...
Inflation expectations and behavior: Do survey respondents act on their beliefs?
We compare the inflation expectations reported by consumers in a survey with their behavior in a financially incentivized investment experiment designed such that future inflation affects payoffs. The inflation expectations survey is found to be informative in the sense that the beliefs reported by the respondents are correlated with their choices in the experiment. Furthermore, most respondents appear to act on their inflation expectations showing patterns consistent (both in direction and magnitude) with expected utility theory. Respondents whose behavior cannot be rationalized tend to be ...
Expectations of inflation: the biasing effect of thoughts about specific prices
National surveys follow consumers' expectations of future inflation, because they may directly affect the economic choices they make, indirectly affect macroeconomic outcomes, and be considered in monetary policy. Yet relatively little is known about how individuals form the inflation expectations they report on consumer surveys. Medians of reported inflation expectations tend to track official estimates of realized inflation, but show large disagreement between respondents, due to some expecting seemingly extreme inflation. We present two studies to examine whether individuals who consider ...
Rethinking the measurement of household inflation expectations: preliminary findings
This paper reports preliminary findings from a Federal Reserve Bank of New York research program aimed at improving survey measures of inflation expectations. We find that seemingly small differences in how inflation is referred to in a survey can lead respondents to consider significantly different price concepts. For near-term inflation, the "prices in general" question in the monthly Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers can elicit responses that focus on the most visible prices, such as gasoline or food. Questions on the "rate of inflation" can lead to responses on the ...
Measuring consumer uncertainty about future inflation
Survey measures of consumer inflation expectations have an important shortcoming in that, while providing useful summary measures of the distribution of point forecasts across individuals, they contain no direct information about an individual's uncertainty about future inflation. The latter is important not only for forecasting inflation and other macroeconomic outcomes, but also for assessing a central bank's credibility and effectiveness of communication. This paper explores the feasibility of eliciting individual consumers' subjective probability distributions of future inflation ...
The effect of question wording on reported expectations and perceptions of inflation
Public expectations and perceptions of inflation may affect economic decisions, and have subsequent effects on actual inflation. The Michigan Survey of Consumers uses questions about "prices in general" to measure expected and perceived inflation. Median responses track official measure of inflation, showing some tendency toward overestimation and considerable disagreement between respondents. Possibly, responses reflect how much respondents thought of salient personal experiences with specific prices when being asked about "prices in general." Here, we randomly assigned respondents to ...