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The Epidemiology of Macroeconomic Expectations

  • Christopher D. Carroll

Since the foundational work of Keynes (1936), macroeconomists have emphasized the importance of agents' expectations in determining macroeconomic outcomes. Yet in recent decades macroeconomists have devoted almost no effort to modeling actual empirical expectations data, instead assuming all agents' expectations are 'rational.' This paper takes up the challenge of modeling empirical household expectations data, and shows that a simple, standard model from epidemiology does a remarkably good job of explaining the deviations of household inflation and unemployment expectations from the `rational expectations' benchmark. Furthermore, a microfoundations or 'agent-based' version of the model may be able to explain, in a way that still permits aggregation, stark rejections of the pure rational expectations framework like Souleles's (2002) finding that members of different demographic groups have sharply different predictions for macroeconomic aggregates like the inflation rate.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8695.

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Date of creation: Dec 2001
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8695
Note: ME
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  1. Nicholas S. Souleles, 2001. "Consumer Sentiment: Its Rationality and Usefulness in Forecasting Expenditure - Evidence from the Michigan Micro Data," NBER Working Papers 8410, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Robert B. Barsky, 1986. "The Fisher Hypothesis and the Forecastability and Persistence of Inflation," NBER Working Papers 1927, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. N. Gregory Mankiw, 2000. "The Inexorable and Mysterious Tradeoff Between Inflation and Unemployment," NBER Working Papers 7884, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Laurence Ball, 1993. "What Determines the Sacrifice Ratio?," NBER Working Papers 4306, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Carroll, Christopher D & Fuhrer, Jeffrey C & Wilcox, David W, 1994. "Does Consumer Sentiment Forecast Household Spending? If So, Why?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(5), pages 1397-1408, December.
  6. Christopher D. Carroll, 1992. "The Buffer-Stock Theory of Saving: Some Macroeconomic Evidence," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 23(2), pages 61-156.
  7. Dean Croushore, 1998. "Evaluating inflation forecasts," Working Papers 98-14, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  8. Laurence Ball, 2000. "Near-Rationality and Inflation in Two Monetary Regimes," NBER Working Papers 7988, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Roberts, John M., 1997. "Is inflation sticky?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 173-196, July.
  10. Dean Croushore, 1993. "Introducing: the survey of professional forecasters," Business Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, issue Nov, pages 3-15.
  11. Christopher D. Carroll & Wendy E. Dunn, 1997. "Unemployment Expectations, Jumping (S,s) Triggers, and Household Balance Sheets," NBER Working Papers 6081, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Roberts, John M, 1995. "New Keynesian Economics and the Phillips Curve," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 27(4), pages 975-84, November.
  13. 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.
  14. Bryan, Michael F & Gavin, William T, 1986. "Models of Inflation Expectations Formation: A Comparison of Household and Economist Forecasts: A Comment," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 18(4), pages 539-44, November.
  15. George A. Akerlof & William R. Dickens & George L. Perry, 1996. "The Macroeconomics of Low Inflation," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 27(1), pages 1-76.
  16. Nicholas S. Souleles, . "Household Securities Purchases, Transactions Costs, and Hedging Motives," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 24-99, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  17. John M. Roberts, 1998. "Inflation expectations and the transmission of monetary policy," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 1998-43, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
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