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Inflation Expectations, Learning and Supermarket Prices


  • Alberto Cavallo
  • Guillermo Cruces
  • Ricardo Perez-Truglia


Information frictions play a central role in the formation of household inflation expectations, but there is no consensus about their origins. We address this question with novel evidence from survey experiments. We document two main findings. First, individuals in lower-inflation contexts have significantly weaker priors about the inflation rate. This finding suggests that rational inattention may be an important source of information frictions. Second, cognitive limitations also appear to be a source of information frictions: even when information about inflation statistics is made readily available, individuals still place a significant weight on less accurate sources of information, such as their memories of the price changes of the supermarket products they purchase. We discuss the implications of these findings for macroeconomic models and policy-making.

Suggested Citation

  • Alberto Cavallo & Guillermo Cruces & Ricardo Perez-Truglia, 2014. "Inflation Expectations, Learning and Supermarket Prices," NBER Working Papers 20576, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:20576
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Paul E. Carrillo & M. Shahe Emran, 2012. "Public Information and Inflation Expectations: Microeconometric Evidence from a Natural Experiment," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 94(4), pages 860-877, November.
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    3. Olivier Coibion & Yuriy Gorodnichenko, 2015. "Is the Phillips Curve Alive and Well after All? Inflation Expectations and the Missing Disinflation," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 7(1), pages 197-232, January.
    4. David Barr & John Campbell, "undated". "Inflation, real interest rates and the bond market: a study of UK nominal and index-linked Government bond prices," CERF Discussion Paper Series 95-09, Economics and Finance Section, School of Social Sciences, Brunel University.
    5. Michael W. M. Roos & Ulrich Schmidt, 2012. "The Importance of Time‐Series Extrapolation for Macroeconomic Expectations," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 13(2), pages 196-210, May.
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    7. Lamla, Michael J. & Lein, Sarah M., 2014. "The role of media for consumers’ inflation expectation formation," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 106(C), pages 62-77.
    8. Rüdiger Bachmann & Tim O. Berg & Eric R. Sims, 2015. "Inflation Expectations and Readiness to Spend: Cross-Sectional Evidence," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 7(1), pages 1-35, February.
    9. Andreas Fuster & David Laibson & Brock Mendel, 2010. "Natural Expectations and Macroeconomic Fluctuations," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 24(4), pages 67-84, Fall.
    10. Cavallo, Alberto, 2013. "Online and official price indexes: Measuring Argentina's inflation," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 152-165.
    11. Ranyard, Rob & Missier, Fabio Del & Bonini, Nicolao & Duxbury, Darren & Summers, Barbara, 2008. "Perceptions and expectations of price changes and inflation: A review and conceptual framework," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 29(4), pages 378-400, August.
    12. Sebastian J. Goerg & Johannes Kaiser, 2009. "Nonparametric testing of distributions—the Epps–Singleton two-sample test using the empirical characteristic function," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 9(3), pages 454-465, September.
    13. Brachinger, Hans Wolfgang, 2008. "A new index of perceived inflation: Assumptions, method, and application to Germany," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 29(4), pages 433-457, August.
    14. Christopher D. Carroll, 2003. "Macroeconomic Expectations of Households and Professional Forecasters," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(1), pages 269-298.
    15. Mary A. Burke & Michael Manz, 2011. "Economic literacy and inflation expectations: evidence from a laboratory experiment," Public Policy Discussion Paper 11-8, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
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    Cited by:

    1. Alberto Cavallo, 2017. "Are Online and Offline Prices Similar? Evidence from Large Multi-channel Retailers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(1), pages 283-303, January.
    2. Sukudhew (Sukhdave) Singh, 2016. "Economic changes, inflation dynamics and policy responses: the Malaysian experience," BIS Papers chapters,in: Bank for International Settlements (ed.), Inflation mechanisms, expectations and monetary policy, volume 89, pages 231-245 Bank for International Settlements.
    3. Naohito Abe & Yuko Ueno, 2016. "The Mechanism of Inflation Expectation Formation among Consumers," UTokyo Price Project Working Paper Series 064, University of Tokyo, Graduate School of Economics.
    4. Kuchler, Theresa & Zafar, Basit, 2015. "Personal experiences and expectations about aggregate outcomes," Staff Reports 748, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
    5. Alberto Cavallo & Roberto Rigobon, 2016. "The Billion Prices Project: Using Online Prices for Measurement and Research," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 30(2), pages 151-178, Spring.
    6. Olympia Bover, 2015. "Measuring expectations from household surveys: new results on subjective probabilities of future house prices," SERIEs: Journal of the Spanish Economic Association, Springer;Spanish Economic Association, vol. 6(4), pages 361-405, November.
    7. Abe, Naohito & Ueno, Yuko, 2015. "Measuring Inflation Expectations: Consumers' Heterogeneity and Nonlinearity," RCESR Discussion Paper Series DP15-5, Research Center for Economic and Social Risks, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
    8. George-Marios Angeletos & Chen Lian, 2016. "Incomplete Information in Macroeconomics: Accommodating Frictions in Coordination," NBER Working Papers 22297, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Koichiro Kamada & Jouchi Nakajima & Shusaku Nishiguchi, 2015. "Are Household Inflation Expectations Anchored in Japan?," Bank of Japan Working Paper Series 15-E-8, Bank of Japan.
    10. Alberto Cavallo & Guillermo Cruces & Ricardo Perez-Truglia, 2016. "Learning from Potentially-Biased Statistics: Household Inflation Perceptions and Expectations in Argentina," NBER Working Papers 22103, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Xu, Yingying & Chang, Hsu-Ling & Lobonţ, Oana-Ramona & Su, Chi-Wei, 2016. "Modeling heterogeneous inflation expectations: empirical evidence from demographic data?," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 153-163.
    12. Alberto Cavallo & Guillermo Cruces & Ricardo Perez-Truglia, 2016. "Learning from Potentially Biased Statistics," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 47(1 (Spring), pages 59-108.
    13. Abe, Naohito & Ueno, Yuko, 2016. "The Mechanism of Inflation Expectation Formation among Consumers," RCESR Discussion Paper Series DP16-1, Research Center for Economic and Social Risks, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • E31 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Price Level; Inflation; Deflation
    • E58 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Central Banks and Their Policies

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