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On both sides of the quality bias in price indexes

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  • Bart Hobijn

Abstract

It is often argued that price indexes do not fully capture the quality improvements of new goods in the market. Because of this shortcoming, price indexes are perceived to overestimate the actual price increases that occur. In this paper, I argue that the quality bias in price indexes is just as likely to be upward as it is to be downward. I show how both the sign and the magnitude of the quality bias in the most commonly applied price index methods are determined by the cross-sectional variation of prices per quality unit across the product models sold in the market. ; I do so by simulating a model of a market that includes monopolistically competing suppliers of the various product models and a representative consumer with CES (constant elasticity of substitution) preferences. I illustrate the bias in the commonly applied price index methods by comparing their estimates of inflation with the theoretical inflation rate implied by the data-generating process.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of New York in its series Staff Reports with number 157.

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Date of creation: 2002
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fednsr:157

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Related research

Keywords: Price indexes ; Oligopolies ; Consumer behavior;

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References

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  1. Greenwood, J. & Hercowitz, Z. & Krusell, P., 1996. "Long-Run Implications of Investment-Specific Technological Change," RCER Working Papers 420, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  2. Feenstra, R.C., 1995. "Exact Hedonic Price Indexes," Papers 95-11, California Davis - Institute of Governmental Affairs.
  3. Robert J. Gordon, 1990. "The Measurement of Durable Goods Prices," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number gord90-1, October.
  4. Mark Bils & Peter J. Klenow, 2001. "Quantifying Quality Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 1006-1030, September.
  5. Dixit, Avinash K & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1975. "Monopolistic Competition and Optimum Product Diversity," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 64, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  6. Lloyd, P J, 1975. "Substitution Effects and Biases in Nontrue Price Indices," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 65(3), pages 301-13, June.
  7. Ariel Pakes, 2002. "A Reconsideration of Hedonic Price Indices with an Application to PC's," NBER Working Papers 8715, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Mick Silver & Saeed Heravi, 2003. "The Measurement of Quality-Adjusted Price Changes," NBER Chapters, in: Scanner Data and Price Indexes, pages 277-316 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Gordon, Robert J., 1990. "The Measurement of Durable Goods Prices," National Bureau of Economic Research Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 1, number 9780226304557.
  10. Feenstra, Robert C, 1994. "New Product Varieties and the Measurement of International Prices," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(1), pages 157-77, March.
  11. G. Christian Ehemann & Brent R. Moulton, 2001. "Balancing the GDP Account," BEA Papers 0014, Bureau of Economic Analysis.
  12. Diewert, W. E., 1976. "Exact and superlative index numbers," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 115-145, May.
  13. Bart Hobijn, 2001. "Is equipment price deflation a statistical artifact?," Staff Reports 139, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  14. Sato, Kazuo, 1976. "The Ideal Log-Change Index Number," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 58(2), pages 223-28, May.
  15. Ana Aizcorbe, 2002. "Why are semiconductor prices falling so fast? Industry estimates and implications for productivity measurement," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2002-20, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  16. Irwin, Douglas A & Klenow, Peter J, 1994. "Learning-by-Doing Spillovers in the Semiconductor Industry," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(6), pages 1200-1227, December.
  17. David E. Lebow & Jeremy B. Rudd, 2001. "Measurement error in the consumer price index: where do we stand?," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2001-61, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
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Cited by:
  1. Emi Nakamura & Jón Steinsson, 2012. "Lost in Transit: Product Replacement Bias and Pricing to Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(7), pages 3277-3316, December.
  2. Adam Hale Shapiro & Ana Aizcorbe, 2010. "Implications of Consumer Heterogeneity on Price Measures for Technology Goods," BEA Working Papers 0062, Bureau of Economic Analysis.
  3. Monika Piazzesi & Martin Schneider & Selale Tuzel, 2004. "Housing, Consumption and Asset Pricing," 2004 Meeting Papers 357c, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  4. Karen Dury & Özlem Oomen, 2007. "The real exchange rate and quality improvements," Bank of England working papers 320, Bank of England.

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