What Do Long Data Tell Us About the Inflation Hike Post COVID-19 Pandemic?
To what extent is the recent spike in inflation driven by a change in its permanent component? We estimate a semi-structural model of output, inflation, and the nominal interest rate in the United States over the period 1900-2021. The model predicts that between 2019 and 2021 the permanent component of inflation rose by 51 basis points. If instead we estimate the model using postwar data (1955--2021), the permanent component of inflation is predicted to have increased by 238 basis points. A possible interpretation of this finding is that the model estimated on the shorter sample assigns a larger increase in the permanent component of inflation because the period 1955-2021 does not contain sudden sparks in inflation like the one observed in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic but only gradual ones---the great inflation of the 70s took more than 10 years to build up. By contrast, the period 1900-1954 is plagued with sudden inflation hikes---including one around the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic---which the estimated model endogenously recalls and uses to interpret inflation around the COVID-19 episode. This result suggests that prewar data might be of use to understand recent inflation dynamics.
We thank Giovanni Bonfanti for research assistance. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.