Phillips curve

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In economics, the Phillips curve is a historical inverse relationship between the rate of unemployment and the rate of inflation in an economy. Stated simply, the lower the unemployment in an economy, the higher the rate of inflation. While it has been observed that there is a stable short run tradeoff between unemployment and inflation, this has not been observed in the long run.

Contents

History

William Phillips, a New Zealand born economist, wrote a paper in 1958 titled The Relationship between Unemployment and the Rate of Change of Money Wages in the United Kingdom 1861–1957, which was published in the quarterly journal Economica. In the paper Phillips describes how he observed an inverse relationship between money wage changes and unemployment in the British economy over the period examined. Similar patterns were found in other countries and in 1960 Paul Samuelson and Robert Solow took Phillips' work and made explicit the link between inflation and unemployment: when inflation was high, unemployment was low, and vice-versa.

In the 1920s an American economist Irving Fisher noted this kind of Phillips curve relationship. However, Phillips' original curve described the behavior of money wages.[1]

In the years following Phillips' 1958 paper, many economists in the advanced industrial countries believed that his results showed that there was a permanently stable relationship between inflation and unemployment. One implication of this for government policy was that governments could control unemployment and inflation with a Keynesian policy. They could tolerate a reasonably high rate of inflation as this would lead to lower unemployment – there would be a trade-off between inflation and unemployment. For example, monetary policy and/or fiscal policy (i.e., deficit spending) could be used to stimulate the economy, raising gross domestic product and lowering the unemployment rate. Moving along the Phillips curve, this would lead to a higher inflation rate, the cost of enjoying lower unemployment rates.

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