Journal Article

Envy, Guilt, and the Phillips Curve


  • Ahrens
  • S.
  • Snower
  • D.J.
Publication Date

We incorporate inequality aversion into an otherwise standard New Keynesian dynamic stochastic equilibrium model with Calvo wage contracts and positive inflation. Workers with relatively low incomes experience envy, whereas those with relatively high incomes experience guilt. The former seek to raise their income and the latter seek to reduce it. The greater the inflation rate, the greater the degree of wage dispersion under Calvo wage contracts, and thus the greater the degree of envy and guilt experienced by the workers. Since the envy effect is stronger than the guilt effect, according to the available empirical evidence, a rise in the inflation rate leads workers to supply more labor over the contract period, generating a significant positive long-run relation between inflation and output (and employment), for low inflation rates. Provided that wage adjustments are costly, this tradeoff remains significant even once the degree of wage stickiness adjusts to the inflation rate. This Phillips curve relation, together with an inefficient zero-inflation steady state, provides a rationale for a positive long-run inflation rate. Given standard

calibrations, optimal monetary policy is associated with a long-run inflation rate around 2 percent.

Kiel Institute Expert


JEL Classification
E20, E31, E50

Key Words

  • fairness
  • inequality aversion
  • Inflation
  • long-run Phillips curve