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How to measure living standards and productivity

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  • Nicholas Oulton

Abstract

This paper sets out a general algorithm for calculating true cost-of-living indices or true producer price indices when demand is not homothetic, i.e. when not all expenditure elasticities are equal to one. In principle, economic theory tells us how we should calculate a true cost-of-living index or Konüs price index: first estimate the consumer's expenditure function (cost function) econometrically and then calculate the Konüs price index directly from that. Unfortunately this is impossible in practice since real life consumer (producer) price indices contain hundreds of components, which means that there are many more parameters than observations. Index number theory has solved this problem, at least when demand is homothetic (all income elasticities equal to one). Superlative index numbers are second order approximations to any acceptable expenditure (cost) function. These index numbers require data only on prices and quantities over the time period or cross section under study. Unfortunately, there is overwhelming evidence that consumer demand is not homothetic (Engel's Law). The purpose of the present paper is to set out a general algorithm for the nonhomothetic case. The solution is to construct a chain index number using compensated, not actual, expenditure shares as weights. The compensated shares are the actual shares, adjusted for changes in real income. These adjustments are made via an econometric model, where only the responses of demand to income changes need to be estimated, not the responses to price changes. This makes the algorithm perfectly feasible in practice.

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File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/28678/
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library in its series LSE Research Online Documents on Economics with number 28678.

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Length: 45 pages
Date of creation: 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:28678

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Related research

Keywords: consumer price index; Konüs; cost of living; measurement of welfare change; Quadratic Almost Ideal Demand System; producer price index; homothetic; productivity;

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References

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  1. Hill, Robert J., 2003. "Constructing price indexes across space and time: the case of the European Union," GGDC Research Memorandum 200362, Groningen Growth and Development Centre, University of Groningen.
  2. Caves, Douglas W & Christensen, Laurits R & Diewert, W Erwin, 1982. "Multilateral Comparisons of Output, Input, and Productivity Using Superlative Index Numbers," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 92(365), pages 73-86, March.
  3. Nicholas Oulton, 2005. "Ex post versus ex ante measures of the user cost of capital," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 19885, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
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  7. Nicholas Oulton, 2007. "Chain indices of the cost of living and the path-dependence problem: an empirical solution," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 19718, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  8. J. Peter Neary, 1996. "Rationalising the Penn World Table - True Multilateral Indices for International Comparisons of real Income," Working Papers 199622, School Of Economics, University College Dublin.
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  24. Mellander, Erik, 1992. " An Indirect Approach to Measuring Productivity in Private Services," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 94(0), pages S229-44, Supplemen.
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Cited by:
  1. Urban Sila, 2009. "Can family-support policies help explain differences in working hours across countries?," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 28684, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  2. Nicholas Oulton & Ana Rincon-Aznar, 2009. "Rates of return and alternative measures of capital input: 14 countries and 10 branches, 1971-2005," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 28687, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.

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