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A comparison of the CPI and the PCE price index

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  • Todd E. Clark

Abstract

In the United States, there are two broad indexes of consumer prices: the consumer price index, or CPI, and the chain price index for personal consumption expenditures, or PCEPI. Because the indexes are similar in many respects, the inflation rates measured with them often move in parallel. There are, however, some important differences, which, at times, can lead to large gaps between CPI and PCEPI inflation rates. In 1998, for example, the CPI rose 1.5 percent, while the PCEPI increased just 0.7 percent. The discrepancy was even larger excluding food and energy prices: the core CPI grew 2.4 percent in 1998, while the core PCEPI rose just 1.2 percent.> Such gaps between CPI and PCEPI inflation rates raise a simple question: Is one index better than the other? From a monetary policy perspective, an index could be superior in two respects. First, one of the price indexes might be a more accurate measure of inflation today and in the very recent past. To gauge progress toward price stability over the past year, for example, a policymaker would like to know if either the CPI or PCEPI more accurately measures consumer price inflation today. Second, one of the indexes could be a superior measure of historical inflation rates. A policymaker would probably want to use the better historical indicator for gauging long-term price trends and developing inflation forecasting models.> Because some observers have recently suggested the PCEPI may be a better price index, Clark examines whether the PCEPI is truly superior to the CPI. He reviews the differences in the construction of the indexes and examines the advantages and disadvantages of the CPI and PCEPI. He concludes that, while some observers might weigh the many pros and cons of the indexes differently, with recent improvements the CPI is the better price index.

Suggested Citation

  • Todd E. Clark, 1999. "A comparison of the CPI and the PCE price index," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, vol. 84(Q III), pages 15-29.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedker:y:1999:i:qiii:p:15-29:n:v.84no.3
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Craig S. Hakkio, 2008. "PCE and CPI inflation differentials: converting inflation forecasts," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, vol. 93(Q I), pages 51-68.
    2. Maria Demertzis & Massimiliano Marcellino & Nicola Viegi, 2008. "A Measure for Credibility: Tracking US Monetary Developments," DNB Working Papers 187, Netherlands Central Bank, Research Department.
    3. Ang, Andrew & Bekaert, Geert & Wei, Min, 2007. "Do macro variables, asset markets, or surveys forecast inflation better?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(4), pages 1163-1212, May.
    4. Stefano Eusepi & Bart Hobijn & Andrea Tambalotti, 2011. "CONDI: A Cost-of-Nominal-Distortions Index," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 53-91, July.
    5. Andrew Bauer & Nicholas Haltom & William B. Peterman, 2004. "Decomposing inflation," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, vol. 89(Q 1), pages 39-51.
    6. Carré, Emmanuel, 2013. "La cible d’inflation de la Fed : continuité ou rupture ?," Revue de la Régulation - Capitalisme, institutions, pouvoirs, Association Recherche et Régulation, vol. 14.
    7. Christopher Kent, 2004. "Discussion of 'Inflation Measurement for Central Bankers'," RBA Annual Conference Volume (Discontinued), in: Christopher Kent & Simon Guttmann (ed.),The Future of Inflation Targeting, Reserve Bank of Australia.
    8. Binner, J.M. & Tino, P. & Tepper, J. & Anderson, R. & Jones, B. & Kendall, G., 2010. "Does money matter in inflation forecasting?," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 389(21), pages 4793-4808.
    9. Robert W. Rich & Donald Rissmiller, 2001. "Structural change in U.S. wage determination," Staff Reports 117, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
    10. Hanson, Michael S., 2004. "The "price puzzle" reconsidered," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(7), pages 1385-1413, October.
    11. Andrew Bauer & Nicholas Haltom & William B. Peterman, 2004. "Examining contributions to core consumer inflation measures," FRB Atlanta Working Paper 2004-7, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
    12. Reis, Ricardo, 2005. "A cost-of-living dynamic price index, with an application to indexing retirement accounts," CEPR Discussion Papers 5394, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    13. William C. Whitesell, 2005. "An inflation goal with multiple reference measures," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2005-62, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    14. Roberto M. Billi & George A. Kahn, 2008. "What is the optimal inflation rate?," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, vol. 93(Q II), pages 5-28.
    15. Fan Ding & Alexander L. Wolman, 2005. "Inflation and changing expenditure shares," Economic Quarterly, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, vol. 91(Win), pages 1-20.
    16. David Fielding & Paul Mizen, 2008. "Evidence on the Functional Relationship between Relative Price Variability and Inflation with Implications for Monetary Policy," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 75(300), pages 683-699, November.
    17. Ricardo Reis, 2005. "A Dynamic Measure of Inflation," NBER Working Papers 11746, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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