The Federal Reserve Board eagle logo links to home page
Finance and Economics Discussion Series
Finance and Economics Discussion Series logo links to FEDS home page Robust Monetary Policy Rules with Unknown Natural Rates
Athanasios Orphanides and John C. Williams

Abstract: We examine the performance and robustness properties of alternative monetary policy rules in the presence of structural change that renders the natural rates of interest and unemployment uncertain. Using a forward-looking quarterly model of the U.S. economy, estimated over the 1969-2002 period, we show that the cost of underestimating the extent of misperceptions regarding the natural rates significantly exceeds the costs of overestimating such errors. Naive adoption of policy rules optimized under the false presumption that misperceptions regarding the natural rates are likely to be small proves particularly costly. Our results suggest that a simple and effective approach for dealing with ignorance about the degree of uncertainty in estimates of the natural rates is to adopt difference rules for monetary policy, in which the short-term nominal interest rate is raised or lowered from its existing level in response to inflation and changes in economic activity. These rules do not require knowledge of the natural rates of interest or unemployment for setting policy and are consequently immune to the likely misperceptions in these concepts. To illustrate the differences in outcomes that could be attributed to the alternative policies we also examine the role of misperceptions for the stagflationary experience of the 1970s and the disinflationary boom of the 1990s.

Keywords: Inflation targeting, policy rules, natural rate of unemployment, natural rate of interest, misperceptions

Full paper (328 KB PDF)

Home | FEDS | List of 2003 FEDS papers
To comment on this site, please fill out our feedback form.
Last update: March 27, 2003