A Monetary Explanation of the Great Stagflation of the 1970s

48 Pages Posted: 5 May 2000 Last revised: 16 Oct 2010

See all articles by Robert Barsky

Robert Barsky

Research Department, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago; University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Lutz Kilian

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Date Written: February 2000

Abstract

The origins of stagflation and the possibility of its recurrence continue to be an important concern among policymakers and in the popular press. It is common to associate the origins of the Great Stagflation of the 1970s with the two major oil price increases of 1973/74 and 1979/80. This paper argues that oil price increases were not nearly as essential a part of the causal mechanism generating stagflation as is often thought. We provide a model that can explain the bulk of stagflation by monetary expansions and contractions without reference to supply shocks. Monetary fluctuations also help to explain variations in the price of oil (and other commodities) and help to account for the striking coincidence of major oil price increases and worsening stagflation. In contrast, there is no theoretical presumption that oil supply shocks are stagflationary. In particular, we show that oil supply shocks may quite plausibly lower the GDP deflator and that there is little independent evidence that oil supply shocks actually raised the deflator (as opposed to the CPI). The oil supply shock view also fails to explain the dramatic surge in the price of other industrial commodities that preceded the 1973/74 oil price increase and the fact that increases in industrial commodity prices lead oil price increases in the OPEC period.

Suggested Citation

Barsky, Robert B. and Kilian, Lutz, A Monetary Explanation of the Great Stagflation of the 1970s (February 2000). NBER Working Paper No. w7547. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=214990

Robert B. Barsky (Contact Author)

Research Department, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago ( email )

230 South LaSalle Street
Chicago, IL 60604
United States

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics ( email )

611 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1220
United States
734-764-9476 (Phone)
734-764-2769 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Lutz Kilian

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics ( email )

611 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1220
United States
734-764-2320 (Phone)
734-764-2769 (Fax)

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

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