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What is the optimal inflation rate?

  • Roberto M. Billi
  • George A. Kahn

With inflation in the United States and elsewhere low by historical standards, the question of what inflation rate policymakers should aim for has moved front and center. Knowing what inflation rate to aim for is critically important for maximizing the economic well-being of the public. ; Most policymakers agree they should not allow inflation to fall below zero because the costs of deflation are thought to be high. They disagree, however, about how much above zero, if any, central banks should aim to keep inflation. Unfortunately, rigorous estimates of an "optimal inflation rate" have not been available in the economics literature. ; Billi and Kahn provide estimates of the optimal inflation rate. Based on a standard, modern macroeconomic model calibrated to U.S. data, they estimate the optimal inflation rate to be 0.7 to 1.4 percent per year as measured by the PCE price index. This estimate is the first to be based on an economic model in which policymakers are assumed explicitly to maximize the economic well-being of the public. Further research is required to confirm or refine these results using models that incorporate a richer array of possible interactions between the long-run inflation objective and economic stability.

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Article provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City in its journal Economic Review.

Volume (Year): (2008)
Issue (Month): Q II ()
Pages: 5-28

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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedker:y:2008:i:qii:p:5-28:n:v.93no.2
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  1. Athanasios Orphanides & Volker Wieland, 1998. "Price stability and monetary policy effectiveness when nominal interest rates are bounded at zero," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 1998-35, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  2. Robert J. Gordon, 2006. "The Boskin Commission Report: A Retrospective One Decade Later," NBER Working Papers 12311, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Reifschneider, David L. & Roberts, John M., 2006. "Expectations formation and the effectiveness of strategies for limiting the consequences of the zero bound," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 314-337, September.
  4. Martin S. Feldstein, 1997. "The Costs and Benefits of Going from Low Inflation to Price Stability," NBER Chapters, in: Reducing Inflation: Motivation and Strategy, pages 123-166 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. David Reifschneider & John C. Williams, 2000. "Three lessons for monetary policy in a low-inflation era," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, pages 936-978.
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  7. Todd E. Clark, 1999. "A comparison of the CPI and the PCE price index," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, issue Q III, pages 15-29.
  8. David E. Lebow & Jeremy B. Rudd, 2003. "Measurement Error in the Consumer Price Index: Where Do We Stand?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 41(1), pages 159-201, March.
  9. Roberto M. Billi, 2007. "Optimal inflation for the U.S," Research Working Paper RWP 07-03, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
  10. David Reifschneider & Robert Tetlow & John Williams, 1999. "Aggregate disturbances, monetary policy, and the macroeconomy: the FRB/US perspective," Federal Reserve Bulletin, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), issue Jan, pages 1-19.
  11. George A. Akerlof & William T. Dickens & George L. Perry, 2000. "Near-Rational Wage and Price Setting and the Long-Run Phillips Curve," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 31(1), pages 1-60.
  12. F. Brayton & P. Tinsley, 1996. "A guide to FRB/US: a macroeconomic model of the United States," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 96-42, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  13. Flint Brayton & Eileen Mauskopf & David Reifschneider & Peter Tinsley & John Williams, 1997. "The role of expectations in the FRB/US macroeconomic model," Federal Reserve Bulletin, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), issue Apr, pages 227-245.
  14. Orphanides, Athanasios, 2004. "Monetary policy in deflation: the liquidity trap in history and practice," The North American Journal of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 101-124, March.
  15. George A. Akerlof & William T. Dickens, 2007. "Unfinished Business in the Macroeconomics of Low Inflation: A Tribute to George and Bill by Bill and George," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 38(2), pages 31-48.
  16. Tobin, James, 1972. "Inflation and Unemployment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(1), pages 1-18, March.
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