Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login

The Boskin Commission Report: A Retrospective One Decade Later

Contents:

Author Info

  • Robert J. Gordon

Abstract

This paper provides a retrospective on the 1996 Boskin Commission Report, Toward a More Accurate Measure of the Cost of Living, and its famous estimate that the CPI in 1995-96 was upward biased by 1.1 percent per year. The paper summarizes the report's methods, findings, and recommendations, and then reviews the criticisms that appeared soon after the Report was issued. Post-Boskin changes in the CPI are summarized and assessed, as is recent research on related issues. The paper sharply distinguishes two questions. First, with what we know now, what should the Commission have concluded about CPI bias in 1995-96? Second, what is the bias now after the many improvements introduced into the CPI since the Commission's Report? About the first question, my own recent research on apparel and rental housing indicates a substantial downward bias in the CPI over much of the twentieth century, diminishing in size after 1985. Incorporating these findings into the Boskin matrix would reduce its 0.6 percent annual upward bias due to quality change and new products to a smaller 0.4 percent bias. However, this is more than offset by the stunning discrepancy over 2000-06 in the chain-weighted C-CPI-U compared to the traditional CPI-U, indicating that the Commission greatly understated the magnitude of upper-level substitution bias. This retrospective evaluation suggests that the Boskin bias estimate for 1995-96 should have been 1.2 to 1.3 percent, not 1.1 percent. Current upward bias in the CPI is estimated to have declined from the revised 1.2-1.3 percent in the Boskin era to about 0.8 percent today. Yet the Boskin report, like most contemporary studies of quality change, failed to place sufficient value on the value of new products and on increased longevity. Allowing for these, today's bias is at least 1.0 percent per year or perhaps even higher.

Download Info

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w12311.pdf
Download Restriction: no

Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12311.

as in new window
Length:
Date of creation: Jun 2006
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Robert J. Gordon, 2006. "The Boskin Commission Report: A Retrospective One Decade Later," International Productivity Monitor, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 12, pages 7-22, Spring.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12311

Note: EFG
Contact details of provider:
Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
Phone: 617-868-3900
Email:
Web page: http://www.nber.org
More information through EDIRC

Related research

Keywords:

Other versions of this item:

Find related papers by JEL classification:

This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

References

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
as in new window
  1. Matthew D. Shapiro & David W. Wilcox, 1997. "Alternative strategies for aggregating prices in the CPI," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue May, pages 113-125.
  2. Jerry Hausman & Ephraim Leibtag, 2005. "Consumer Benefits from Increased Competition in Shopping Outlets: Measuring the Effect of Wal-Mart," NBER Working Papers 11809, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Jack E. Triplett, 2006. "The Boskin Commission Report After a Decade," International Productivity Monitor, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 12, pages 24-60, Spring.
  4. Brent R. Moulton, 1996. "Bias in the Consumer Price Index: What Is the Evidence?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(4), pages 159-177, Fall.
  5. W. Erwin Diewert, 1998. "Index Number Issues in the Consumer Price Index," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(1), pages 47-58, Winter.
  6. William D. Nordhaus, 1998. "Quality Change in Price Indexes," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(1), pages 59-68, Winter.
  7. Ernst R. Berndt & Anupa Bir & Susan H. Busch & Richard G. Frank & Sharon-Lise T. Normand, 2000. "The Medical Treatment of Depression, 1991-1996: Productive Inefficiency, Expected Outcome Variations, and Price Indexes," NBER Working Papers 7816, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Griliches, Z. & Cockborn, I., 1993. "Generics and New Goods in Pharmaceutical Price Indexes," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1664, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  9. Robert J. Gordon & Todd vanGoethem, 2005. "A Century of Housing Shelter Prices: Is There a Downward Bias in the CPI?," NBER Working Papers 11776, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Hausman, Jerry, 1999. "Cellular Telephone, New Products, and the CPI," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 17(2), pages 188-94, April.
  11. Robert J. Gordon, 2005. "Apparel Prices 1914-93 and the Hulten/Brueghel Paradox," NBER Working Papers 11548, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Brent R. Moulton & Karin E. Moses, 1997. "Addressing the Quality Change Issue in the Consumer Price Index," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 28(1), pages 305-366.
  13. William D. Nordhaus, 2002. "The Health of Nations: The Contribution of Improved Health to Living Standards," NBER Working Papers 8818, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. 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.
  15. Irving Shapiro & Matthew D. Shapiro & David W. Wilcox, 1999. "Quality Improvement in Health Care: A Framework for Price and Output Measurement," NBER Working Papers 6971, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Michael J. Boskin, 1998. "Consumer Prices, the Consumer Price Index, and the Cost of Living," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(1), pages 3-26, Winter.
  17. Robert J. Gordon, 2000. "The Boskin Commission Report and its Aftermath," NBER Working Papers 7759, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Lawrence Slifman & Carol Corrado, 1999. "Decomposition of Productivity and Unit Costs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 328-332, May.
  19. Robert J. Gordon, 1990. "The Measurement of Durable Goods Prices," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number gord90-1.
  20. P. D. Chwelos & E. R. Berndt & I. M. Cockburn, 2008. "Faster, smaller, cheaper: an hedonic price analysis of PDAs," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 40(22), pages 2839-2856.
  21. David Cutler & Mark McClellan & Joseph Newhouse, 1998. "The Costs and Benefits of Intensive Treatment for Cardiovascular Disease," NBER Working Papers 6514, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  22. Gordon, Robert J., 1990. "The Measurement of Durable Goods Prices," National Bureau of Economic Research Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 1, number 9780226304557.
  23. Timothy F. Bresnahan & Robert J. Gordon, 1996. "The Economics of New Goods," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number bres96-1.
  24. Jaison R. Abel & Ernst R. Berndt & Alan G. White, 2003. "Price Indexes for Microsoft's Personal Computer Software Products," NBER Working Papers 9966, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  25. Katharine G. Abraham & John S. Greenlees & Brent R. Moulton, 1998. "Working to Improve the Consumer Price Index," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(1), pages 27-36, Winter.
  26. David M. Cutler & Mark McClellan, 1996. "The Determinants of Technological Change in Heart Attack Treatment," NBER Working Papers 5751, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  27. Joseph P. Newhouse, 2001. "Medical Care Price Indices: Problems and Opportunities / The Chung-Hua Lectures," NBER Working Papers 8168, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

Citations

Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
as in new window

Cited by:
This item has more than 25 citations. To prevent cluttering this page, these citations are listed on a separate page.

Lists

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

Statistics

Access and download statistics

Corrections

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12311. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ().

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.