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Harmonized Indexes of Consumer Prices: Their Conceptual Foundations

  • W. Erwin Diewert

The Harmonized Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) is the single most important indicator of inflation used by the European Central Bank. Sections 2 to 4 of the paper look at the theory of inflation indexes that could be used as target indexes of inflation. A Consumer Price Index (CPI) emerges as perhaps the most useful target index. Four different approaches to index number theory are reviewed and the "best" index number formula from each perspective is determined. Section 6 looks at the methodology of the HICP in the light of the previous sections. Section 7 looks at some of the difficult measurement problems that must be addressed in a CPI or an HICP. These problems include the treatment of quality change, substitution or representativity bias, chained versus fixed base indexes, the choice of formula at the lowest level of aggregation and the treatment of owner occupied housing and seasonal commodities.

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Article provided by Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics (SSES) in its journal Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics.

Volume (Year): 138 (2002)
Issue (Month): IV (December)
Pages: 547-637

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Handle: RePEc:ses:arsjes:2002-iv-13
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  1. Balk, B.M., 2001. "The Residual: On Monitoring and Benchmarking Firms, Industries, and Economies with respect to Productivity," ERIM Inaugural Address Series Research in Management EIA-2001-007-MKT, Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM), ERIM is the joint research institute of the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University and the Erasmus School of Economics (ESE) at Erasmus University Rotterdam..
  2. Paul A. Armknecht & Fenella Maitland-Smith, 1999. "Price Imputation and Other Techniques for Dealing with Missing Observations, Seasonality and Quality Change in Price Indices," IMF Working Papers 99/78, International Monetary Fund.
  3. Robert B. Archibald, 1977. "On the Theory of Industrial Price Measurement Output Price Indexes," NBER Chapters, in: Annals of Economic and Social Measurement, Volume 6, number 1, pages 57-72 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. repec:ubc:bricol:00-16 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. Alchian, Armen A & Klein, Benjamin, 1973. "On a Correct Measure of Inflation," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 5(1), pages 173-91, Part I Fe.
  6. Balk, Bert M, 1996. "Consistency-in-Aggregation and Stuvel Indices," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 42(3), pages 353-63, September.
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