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The Nonpuzzling Behavior of Median Inflation

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  • Laurence M. Ball
  • Sandeep Mazumder

Abstract

Economists are puzzled by the behavior of U.S. inflation since the Great Recession of 2008-2009, and many suggest that the Phillips curve relating inflation to unemployment has broken down. This paper argues that inflation behavior is easier to understand if we divide headline inflation into core and transitory components, and if core inflation is measured by the weighted median of industry inflation rates. This weighted median is less volatile than the traditional measure of core inflation, the inflation rate excluding food and energy prices, because it filters out large price changes in all industries. We illustrate the usefulness of the weighted median with a case study of inflation in 2017 and early 2018. We also show that a Phillips curve relating the weighted median to unemployment appears clearly in the data for 1985-2017, with no sign of a breakdown in 2008.

Suggested Citation

  • Laurence M. Ball & Sandeep Mazumder, 2019. "The Nonpuzzling Behavior of Median Inflation," NBER Working Papers 25512, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:25512
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Theodore M. Crone & N. Neil K. Khettry & Loretta J. Mester & Jason A. Novak, 2013. "Core Measures of Inflation as Predictors of Total Inflation," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 45(2-3), pages 505-519, March.
    2. repec:mcb:jmoncb:v:45:y:2013:i::p:505-519 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Laurence Ball & N. Gregory Mankiw, 1995. "Relative-Price Changes as Aggregate Supply Shocks," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(1), pages 161-193.
    4. Olivier Blanchard, 2016. "The Phillips Curve: Back to the '60s?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(5), pages 31-34, May.
    5. Smith, Julie K, 2004. "Weighted Median Inflation: Is This Core Inflation?," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 36(2), pages 253-263, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Camila Figueroa & Jorge Fornero & Pablo GarcĂ­a, 2019. "Hindsight vs. Real time measurement of the output gap: Implications for the Phillips curve in the Chilean Case," Working Papers Central Bank of Chile 854, Central Bank of Chile.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E31 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Price Level; Inflation; Deflation

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