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Drobisch’s Legacy to Price Statistics


  • Auer Ludwig von

    () (Universität Trier, Fachbereich IV – Finanzwissenschaft, Universitätsring 15, 54286 Trier, Germany)


This paper attempts to establish a greater awareness among researchers for the noteworthy contributions to price index theory made by Moritz Wilhelm Drobisch (1802-1896), a German mathematician and philosopher at the Universita¨ t Leipzig. Few economists and statisticians are aware of the fact that neither Étienne Laspeyres nor Hermann Paasche originally devised the well-known price indices that presently carry their names. Moritz Wilhelm Drobisch was the first to publish them in 1871 in a treatise and, shortly thereafter, in an abridged version that appeared in this very journal. He rejected them, however, because in his view they were inappropriate measures of inflation. Instead, he devised the unit value index, which he regarded as superior to all other price index formulas. This paper contains a description of his pioneering scientific achievements together with a synopsis of his personal and professional life. Its purpose is to give credit where credit is due, but more importantly, it attempts to recognize these seminal contributions in light of the factors that have tarnished them in the recorded annals of price index history. It attempts to put them into their proper perspective.

Suggested Citation

  • Auer Ludwig von, 2010. "Drobisch’s Legacy to Price Statistics," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), De Gruyter, vol. 230(6), pages 673-689, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:jns:jbstat:v:230:y:2010:i:6:p:673-689

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. D. W. Jorgenson & Z. Griliches, 1967. "The Explanation of Productivity Change," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 34(3), pages 249-283.
    2. Robert J. Hill, 2004. "Constructing Price Indexes across Space and Time: The Case of the European Union," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1379-1410, December.
    3. Balk,Bert M., 2012. "Price and Quantity Index Numbers," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9781107404960, March.
    4. Diewert, W Erwin, 1978. "Superlative Index Numbers and Consistency in Aggregation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(4), pages 883-900, July.
    5. Paul Schreyer, 2001. "The OECD Productivity Manual: A Guide to the Measurement of Industry-Level and Aggregate Productivity," International Productivity Monitor, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 2, pages 37-51, Spring.
    6. Diewart, W Erwin & Morrison, Catherine J, 1986. "Adjusting Output and Productivity Indexes for Changes in the Terms of Trade," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 96(383), pages 659-679, September.
    7. Bert M. Balk, 2010. "An Assumption-Free Framework For Measuring Productivity Change," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 56(s1), pages 224-256, June.
    8. Diewert, W. E., 1976. "Exact and superlative index numbers," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 115-145, May.
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    Price; inflation; index theory; measurement;


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