Dr. Econ

What is Taylor’s rule?

March 1998

Taylor’s rule is a formula developed by Stanford economist John Taylor. It was designed to provide “recommendations” for how a central bank like the Federal Reserve should set short-term interest rates as economic conditions change to achieve both its short-run goal for stabilizing the economy and its long-run goal for inflation.

Specifically, the rule states that the “real” short-term interest rate (that is, the interest rate adjusted for inflation) should be determined according to three factors: (1) where actual inflation is relative to the targeted level that the Fed wishes to achieve, (2) how far economic activity is above or below its “full employment” level, and (3) what the level of the short-term interest rate is that would be consistent with full employment. The rule “recommends” a relatively high interest rate (that is, a “tight” monetary policy) when inflation is above its target or when the economy is above its full employment level, and a relatively low interest rate (“easy” monetary policy) in the opposite situations. Sometimes these goals are in conflict: for example, inflation may be above its target when the economy is below full employment. In such situations, the rule provides guidance to policy makers on how to balance these competing considerations in setting an appropriate level for the interest rate.

Although the Fed does not explicitly follow the rule, analyses show that the rule does a fairly accurate job of describing how monetary policy actually has been conducted during the past decade under Chairman Greenspan. This fact has been cited by many economists inside and outside of the Fed as a reason that inflation has remained under control and that the economy has been relatively stable in the US over the past ten years.

References

Judd, John P. and Bharat Trehan. 1995. “Has the Fed Gotten Tougher on Inflation?” FRBSF Weekly Letter, Number 95-13, March 31.

Taylor, John B. 1993. “Discretion Versus Policy Rules in Practice,” Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, 39, pp. 195-214.