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Bias in U.S. Import Prices and Demand

In: The Economics of New Goods

  • Robert C. Feenstra
  • Clinton R. Shiells

The purpose of the paper is to measure the potential bias in the U.S. import price index due to the appearance of new product varieties, or new foreign suppliers, and determine the effect of this bias on the estimated income elasticity of import demand. Existing import price indexes are based on a sample of products from importing firms. We argue that if the share of import expenditure on the sampled products is falling over time, this will lead to an upward bias in the measured index. Using a correction based on the falling expenditure share on sampled countries, we find that the income elasticity of aggregate U.S. import demand is reduced from 2.5 to 1.7, or about halfway to unity. Our estimates suggest that the aggregate import price index is upward biased by about one and one-half percentage points annually.

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This chapter was published in:
  • Timothy F. Bresnahan & Robert J. Gordon, 1996. "The Economics of New Goods," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number bres96-1.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 6069.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:6069
    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
    Phone: 617-868-3900
    Web page: http://www.nber.org
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    1. Krugman, Paul, 1989. "Differences in income elasticities and trends in real exchange rates," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(5), pages 1031-1046, May.
    2. Diewert, W. E., 1976. "Exact and superlative index numbers," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 115-145, May.
    3. Peter Hooper, 1989. "Exchange rates and U.S. external adjustment in the short run and the long run," International Finance Discussion Papers 346, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    4. Sato, Kazuo, 1976. "The Ideal Log-Change Index Number," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 58(2), pages 223-28, May.
    5. Feenstra, Robert C, 1994. "New Product Varieties and the Measurement of International Prices," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(1), pages 157-77, March.
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