Qualitative Field Research in Monetary Policy Making

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Many central banks conduct economic field research involving in-depth interviews with external parties. But very little is known about how this information is used and its importance in the formation of monetary policy. We address this gap in the literature through a thematic analysis of open-ended interviews with senior central bank economic and policy staff who work closely with policy decision-makers. We find that these central bankers consider information from field research programs not just useful but also an essential input for monetary policy making. They use this information in conjunction with quantitative tools primarily to inform their near-term forecasts. The information is considered most valuable at potential turning points in the economy when uncertainty about the pace of economic growth is heightened (in the advent of large shocks to the economy) and when timely official data are not available or are viewed as unreliable. Senior staff also place a high value on maintaining a reliable and credible sample of representative economic agents that can be accessed on an ongoing basis and very quickly when required.