DOI: 10.1162/rest_a_01357 ISSN: 0034-6535

Did the Federal Reserve Break the Phillips Curve? Theory & Evidence of Anchoring Inflation Expectations

Brent Bundick, A. Lee Smith
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


In a macroeconomic model with drifting long-run inflation expectations, the anchoring of inflation expectations manifests in two testable predictions. First, expectations about inflation far in the future should no longer respond to news about current inflation. Second, better anchored inflation expectations weaken the relationship between unemployment and inflation, flattening the reduced-form Phillips curve. We evaluate both predictions and find that the Federal Reserve's communication of a numerical inflation objective, first through its Summary of Economic Projections and later through the announcement of a 2 percent target in 2012, better anchored inflation expectations. Moreover, inflation expectations in the United States have remained anchored amid the volatility of the COVID-19 pandemic. In contrast, similar analysis reveals no evidence of anchoring in Japan despite the adoption of a numerical inflation target.