Policymakers' Uncertainty

72 Pages Posted: 11 Oct 2021 Last revised: 3 Nov 2022

See all articles by Anna Cieslak

Anna Cieslak

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Stephen Hansen

University College London - Department of Economics

Michael McMahon

University of Oxford

Song Xiao

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE)

Date Written: October 5, 2021

Abstract

Uncertainty is a ubiquitous concern emphasized by policy-makers. We study how uncertainty affects decision-making by the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC). We distinguish between the notion of the Fed-driven uncertainty that is induced by the policy choice and the classic notion of uncertainty that emanates from within the economy and which the Fed takes as given. A simple theoretical framework illustrates how the Fed-driven uncertainty introduces a wedge between the standard Taylor-type policy rule and the optimal decision. Using internal Fed deliberations, we provide the first quantification of the types of uncertainty that the Fed perceives and their effects on the policy stance. The FOMC members' uncertainty about inflation strongly predicts a more hawkish policy stance that is not explained either by the internal Fed's forecasts or by the measures of public uncertainty. In contrast, policymakers' uncertainty about growth has no impact on policy decisions beyond these standard controls. Consistent with a model of inflation scares, policymakers' inflation uncertainty reflects their constant worries about losing the nominal anchor. We argue that the desire to maintain inflation credibility is an important driver of the FOMC's decisions and provide evidence from the FOMC transcripts consistent with this channel.

Keywords: uncertainty, monetary policy, Federal Reserve

JEL Classification: E52, E58

Suggested Citation

Cieslak, Anna and Hansen, Stephen and McMahon, Michael and Xiao, Song, Policymakers' Uncertainty (October 5, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3936999 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3936999

Anna Cieslak (Contact Author)

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business ( email )

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HOME PAGE: https://sites.google.com/site/ancieslak/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Stephen Hansen

University College London - Department of Economics ( email )

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Michael McMahon

University of Oxford ( email )

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Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

Song Xiao

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) ( email )

Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

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