Evans didn't reach his views alone on the dangers of long-term unemployment on workers and economy. His director of research, Daniel Sullivan, is a labor economist who has studied the relationship between unemployment and wage growth and the cumulative effects of unemployment.
Those concerned about inflation say more Fed stimulus will not help because the labor problems are structural, including, for example, a lack of desirable skills among the jobless.
Evans doesn't buy the skills mismatch story as a major cause of unemployment.
"I've heard these stories and ... I bring a bit of skepticism to these comments," he said. "They used to employ these people. Where did they go?"
Instead of just airing his views in private meetings, Evans went public. He first staked out his policy position in a speech at a banking conference in Rome in October 2010, when the jobless rate was 9.6 percent.
He told the audience that the unemployment rate should be closer to 7 percent. He ratcheted up the dialogue in speeches and media appearances last year.
"Suppose we faced a very different economic environment: Imagine that inflation was running at 5 percent against our inflation objective of 2 percent," he told a London audience in September. "Is there a doubt that any central banker worth their salt would be reacting strongly to fight this high inflation rate? No, there isn't any doubt. They would be acting as if their hair was on fire."
But Evans has a problem. It's hard to have aggressive monetary policy when short-term interest rates are already near zero.
One of his solutions is for the Fed to pledge to keep rates near zero until targets on either unemployment and inflation are hit. His triggers are 7 percent for unemployment and 3 percent for inflation. If either target were hit, the Fed should back off, Evans said.
Such sharpened guidance would boost the confidence of households and businesses to spend money instead of keeping it in the bank, he said. Evans also said the Fed should consider buying more mortgage-backed securities to support the housing market.
The speeches were just the opening act. In November he took his strongest action to date by disagreeing with the FOMC's decision not to change monetary policy. He dissented again in December.
It sounds subtle, but it was a big step. His past two predecessors at the Chicago Fed had never dissented from the consensus view at the FOMC, Evans said.
"I was extremely reluctant to push things to the point of dissenting last fall," Evans said. "I am normally quite comfortable with the consensus positions. But I did get to the point where I just thought that the economic literature as I understand it, the number of people who are staking out analyses which indicated that more accommodation was appropriate, was completely in line with my viewpoints."
In January, the Fed didn't take any action. But in a possible nod to Evans, it pledged its intent to hold down the federal funds rate through late 2014.
Christiano, his collaborator at Northwestern, applauds Evans' courage in the face of much criticism.
"To be honest, when I knew him as a young guy, I didn't anticipate this kind of strength, leadership and vision," he said. "It's kind of cool to watch."
President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago
--Family: Wife Ann, and two children, ages 19 and 24.
Why he's speaking out: The Fed is supposed to achieve two goals through its monetary policy: support maximum employment and control inflation. Evans believes the Fed isn't meeting the jobs goal, as unemployment remains high.
--Golf handicap: "At best a 16."
--Hobbies: "I always fail the hobby question." A past profile listed one of his hobbies as gardening. After reading the story, family friends gave Evans a rake as a gift, joking that they had never seen him use one.
--Personal: Born in Greenville, S.C., his family moved to Alexandria, Va., when he was young. He attended T.C. Williams High School, made famous in the movie "Remember the Titans," which is based on actual events in 1971 when the school hired its first black football coach.
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