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A Monetary Explanation Of The Great Stagflation Of The 1970s

  • Barsky, Robert
  • Kilian, Lutz

The origins of stagflation and the possibility of its recurrence continue to be an important concern among policymakers and in the popular press. It is common to associate the origins of the Great Stagflation of the 1970s with the two major oil price increases of 1973/74 and 1979/80. This paper argues that oil price increases were not nearly as essential a part of the causal mechanism generating stagflation as is often thought. We provide a model that can explain the bulk of stagflation by monetary expansions and contractions without reference to supply shocks. Monetary fluctuations also help to explain variations in the price of oil (and other commodities) and help to account for the striking coincidence of major oil price increases and worsening stagflation. In contrast, there is no theoretical presumption that oil supply shocks are stagflationary. In particular, we show that oil supply shocks may quite plausibly lower the GDP deflator and that there is little independent evidence that oil supply shocks actually raised the deflator (as opposed to the CPI). The oil supply shock view also fails to explain the dramatic surge in the price of other industrial commodities that preceded the 1973/74 oil price increase and the fact that increases in industrial commodity prices lead oil price increases in the OPEC period.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 2389.

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Date of creation: Feb 2000
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:2389
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  1. Ben S. Bernanke & Ilian Mihov, 1995. "Measuring monetary policy," Working Papers in Applied Economic Theory 95-09, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  2. Boschen, John F & Mills, Leonard O, 1995. "The Relation between Narrative and Money Market Indicators of Monetary Policy," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 33(1), pages 24-44, January.
  3. Ball, L. & Mankiw, G.H., 1992. "Relative-Price Change as Aggregate Supply Shocks," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1609, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  4. Jeffrey C. Fuhrer & George R. Moore, 1993. "Inflation persistence," Proceedings, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  5. Mary G. Finn, 1996. "A theory of the capacity utilization/inflation relationship," Economic Quarterly, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, issue Sum, pages 67-86.
  6. Ben S. Bernanke & Mark Gertler, 1995. "Inside the Black Box: The Credit Channel of Monetary Policy Transmission," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(4), pages 27-48, Fall.
  7. Robert J. Gordon, 1984. "Supply Shocks and Monetary Policy Revisited," NBER Working Papers 1301, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Ben Bernanke, 1990. "The Federal Funds Rate and the Channels of Monetary Transnission," NBER Working Papers 3487, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Bernanke, Ben S. & Gertler, Mark & Waston, Mark, 1997. "Systematic Monetary Policy and the Effects of Oil Price Shocks," Working Papers 97-25, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  10. Lawrence J. Christiano & Martin Eichenbaum & Charles Evans, 1994. "The Effects of Monetary Policy Shocks: Some Evidence from the Flow of Funds," NBER Working Papers 4699, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Chevalier, Judith A & Scharfstein, David S, 1996. "Capital-Market Imperfections and Countercyclical Markups: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(4), pages 703-25, September.
  12. Lawrence J. Christiano & Martin Eichenbaum & Charles Evans, 1994. "The effects of monetary policy shocks: evidence from the flow of funds," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, issue Apr.
  13. Andrew Atkeson & Patrick J. Kehoe, 1994. "Models of Energy Use: Putty-Putty versus Putty-Clay," NBER Working Papers 4833, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Bernanke, Ben S, 1983. "Irreversibility, Uncertainty, and Cyclical Investment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 98(1), pages 85-106, February.
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