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The Phillips Curve and US Monetary Policy: What the FOMC Transcripts Tell Us

The Phillips curve framework, which includes the output gap and natural rate hypothesis, plays a central role in the canonical macroeconomic model used in analyses of monetary policy. It is now well understood that real-time data must be used to evaluate historical monetary policy. We believe that it is equally important that macroeconomic models used to evaluate historical monetary policy reflect the framework that policymakers used to formulate that policy. To that end, we use the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) transcripts to examine the role that the Phillips curve framework played in Fed policymaking from 1979 through 2003. The FOMC’s transcripts allow us to trace the evolution in policymakers’ discussion of the Phillips curve framework over time. Our analysis suggests that the Phillips curve was much less central to the formulation and implementation of US monetary policy than it is in models commonly used to evaluate that policy.

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