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Why Has Inflation Been So Unresponsive to Economic Activity in Recent Years?

Listed author(s):
  • Robert G. Murphy

    ()

    (Boston College)

Standard Phillips curve models relating price inflation to measures of slack in the economy suggest that the United States should have experienced an episode of deflation during the Great Recession and the subsequent sluggish recovery. But although inflation reached very low levels, prices continued to rise rather than fall. More recently, many observers have argued that inflation should have increased as the unemployment rate declined and labor markets tightened, but inflation has remained below the Federal Reserve’s policy target. This paper confirms that the slope of the Phillips curve has decreased over recent decades and is very close to zero today. I modify the Phillips curve to allow its slope to vary continuously through time drawing on theories of price-setting behavior when prices are costly to adjust and when information is costly to obtain. I find that adapting the Phillips curve to allow for time-variation in its slope helps explain inflation before, during, and after the Great Recession.

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Paper provided by Boston College Department of Economics in its series Boston College Working Papers in Economics with number 920.

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Date of creation: 30 Apr 2016
Handle: RePEc:boc:bocoec:920
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  1. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2009. "Varieties of Crises and Their Dates," Introductory Chapters,in: This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly Princeton University Press.
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  4. Mazumder, Sandeep, 2011. "Cost-based Phillips Curve forecasts of inflation," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 33(4), pages 553-567.
  5. N. Gregory Mankiw & Ricardo Reis & Justin Wolfers, 2004. "Disagreement about Inflation Expectations," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2003, Volume 18, pages 209-270 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. N. Gregory Mankiw & Ricardo Reis, 2002. "Sticky Information versus Sticky Prices: A Proposal to Replace the New Keynesian Phillips Curve," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1295-1328.
  7. Friedrich, Christian, 2016. "Global inflation dynamics in the post-crisis period: What explains the puzzles?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 142(C), pages 31-34.
  8. Murphy, Robert G., 2014. "Explaining inflation in the aftermath of the Great Recession," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 228-244.
  9. Reinhart, Karmen & Rogoff, Kenneth, 2009. ""This time is different": panorama of eight centuries of financial crises," Economic Policy, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, vol. 1, pages 77-114, March.
  10. Mazumder, Sandeep, 2010. "The new Keynesian Phillips curve and the cyclicality of marginal cost," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 747-765, September.
  11. Roberts, John M, 1995. "New Keynesian Economics and the Phillips Curve," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 27(4), pages 975-984, November.
  12. Laurence Ball & Sandeep Mazumder, 2014. "A Phillips Curve with Anchored Expectations and Short-Term Unemployment," NBER Working Papers 20715, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Barsky, Robert B., 1987. "The Fisher hypothesis and the forecastability and persistence of inflation," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 3-24, January.
  14. Jeffrey C. Fuhrer, 1995. "The Phillips curve is alive and well," New England Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, issue Mar, pages 41-56.
  15. Murphy, Robert G., 1986. "The expectations theory of the term structure: Evidence from inflation forecasts," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 8(4), pages 423-434.
  16. Robert G. Murphy, 1998. "Accounting for the Recent Decline in the NAIRU," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 414, Boston College Department of Economics.
  17. Robert J. Gordon, 2013. "The Phillips Curve is Alive and Well: Inflation and the NAIRU During the Slow Recovery," NBER Working Papers 19390, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Calvo, Guillermo A., 1983. "Staggered prices in a utility-maximizing framework," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 383-398, September.
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