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Re-Assessing the U.S. Quality Adjustment to Computer Prices: The Role of Durability and Changing Software

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Author Info

  • Christopher Knittel
  • Robert Feenstra

    (Department of Economics, University of California Davis)

Abstract

In the second-half of the 1990s, the positive impact of information technology on productivity growth for the United States became apparent. The measurement of this productivity improvement depends on hedonic procedures adopted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). In this paper we suggest a new reason why conventional hedonic methods may overstate the price decline of personal computers. We model computers as a durable good and suppose that software changes over time, which influences the efficiency of a computer. Anticipating future increases in software, purchasers may “overbuy” characteristics, in the sense that the purchased bundle of characteristics is not fully utilized in the first months or year that a computer is owned. In this case, we argue that hedonic procedures do not provide valid bounds on the true price of computer services at the time the machine is purchased with the concurrent level of software. To assess these theoretical results we estimate the model and find that before 2000 the hedonic price index constructed with BLS methods overstates the fall in computer prices. After 2000, however, the BLS hedonic index falls more slowly, reflecting the reduced marginal cost of acquiring (and therefore marginal benefit to users) of characteristics such as RAM, hard disk space or speed.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of California, Davis, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 632.

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Length: 50
Date of creation: 16 Nov 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cda:wpaper:06-32

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Keywords: industrial;

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References

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  1. Ariel Pakes, 2003. "A Reconsideration of Hedonic Price Indexes with an Application to PC's," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(5), pages 1578-1596, December.
  2. Benkard, C. Lanier & Bajari, Patrick, 2003. "Hedonic Price Indexes with Unobserved Product Characteristics, and Application to PC's," Research Papers 1841, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  3. Glenn Ellison & Drew Fudenberg, 1999. "The Neo-Luddite's Lament: Excessive Upgrades in the Software Industry," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1870, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  4. Alan G. WHITE & Jaison R. ABEL & Ernst R. BERNDT & Cory W. MONROE, 2005. "Hedonic Price Indexes for Personal Computer Operating Systems and Productivity Suites," Annales d'Economie et de Statistique, ENSAE, issue 79-80, pages 787-807.
  5. Christopher Knittel & Victor Stango, 2005. "Compatibility and Pricing with Indirect Network Effects: Evidence from ATMs," Working Papers 525, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
  6. Rosen, Sherwin, 1974. "Hedonic Prices and Implicit Markets: Product Differentiation in Pure Competition," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(1), pages 34-55, Jan.-Feb..
  7. Robert C. Feenstra & Matthew D. Shapiro, 2003. "Scanner Data and Price Indexes," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number feen03-1, May.
  8. Stephen D. Oliner, 1990. "Constant-quality price change, depreciation, and retirement of mainframe computers," Working Paper Series / Economic Activity Section 110, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  9. Robert C. Feenstra, 1995. "Exact Hedonic Price Indexes," NBER Working Papers 5061, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Stephen D. Oliner & Daniel E. Sichel, 2000. "The resurgence of growth in the late 1990s: is information technology the story?," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2000-20, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  11. C. Lanier Benkard & Patrick Bajari, 2003. "Hedonic Price Indexes with Unobserved Product Characteristics, and Application to PC's," NBER Working Papers 9980, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. W. Erwin Diewert, 1980. "Aggregation Problems in the Measurement of Capital," NBER Chapters, in: The Measurement of Capital, pages 433-538 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. G. Christian Ehemann & Brent R. Moulton, 2001. "Balancing the GDP Account," BEA Papers 0014, Bureau of Economic Analysis.
  14. Diewert, W. E., 1976. "Exact and superlative index numbers," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 115-145, May.
  15. W. Erwin Diewert, 2003. "Hedonic Regressions. A Consumer Theory Approach," NBER Chapters, in: Scanner Data and Price Indexes, pages 317-348 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. Bloom, Nicholas & Sadun, Raffaella & Van Reenen, John, 2007. "Americans Do I.T. Better: US Multinationals and the Productivity Miracle," CEPR Discussion Papers 6291, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Susan N. Houseman & Timothy J. Bartik & Timothy J. Sturgeon, 2014. "Measuring Manufacturing: How the Computer and Semiconductor Industries Affect the Numbers and Perceptions," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 14-209, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.

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