How Much Do Official Price Indexes Tell Us about Inflation?
AbstractOfficial price indexes, such as the CPI, are imperfect indicators of inflation calculated using ad hoc price formulae different from the theoretically well-founded inflation indexes favored by economists. This paper provides the first estimate of how accurately the CPI informs us about “true” inflation. We use the largest price and quantity dataset ever employed in economics to build a Törnqvist inflation index for Japan between 1989 and 2010. Our comparison of this true inflation index with the CPI indicates that the CPI bias is not constant but depends on the level of inflation. We show the informativeness of the CPI rises with inflation. When measured inflation is low (less than 2.4% per year) the CPI is a poor predictor of true inflation even over 12-month periods. Outside this range, the CPI is a much better measure of inflation. We find that the U.S. PCE Deflator methodology is superior to the Japanese CPI methodology but still exhibits substantial measurement error and biases rendering it a problematic predictor of inflation in low inflation regimes as well.
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Date of creation: Oct 2013
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Other versions of this item:
- Jessie Handbury & Tsutomu Watanabe & David E. Weinstein, 2013. "How Much Do Official Price Indexes Tell Us About Inflation?," UTokyo Price Project Working Paper Series 013, University of Tokyo, Graduate School of Economics.
- Jessie Handbury & Tsutomu Watanabe & David E. Weinstein, 2013. "How Much Do Official Price Indexes Tell Us About Inflation?," CARF F-Series CARF-F-328, Center for Advanced Research in Finance, Faculty of Economics, The University of Tokyo.
- E01 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General - - - Measurement and Data on National Income and Product Accounts and Wealth; Environmental Accounts
- E31 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Price Level; Inflation; Deflation
- E5 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2013-10-11 (All new papers)
- NEP-MAC-2013-10-11 (Macroeconomics)
- NEP-MON-2013-10-11 (Monetary Economics)
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