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New Evidence on Outlet Substitution Effects in Consumer Price Index Data


  • John S. Greenlees

    () (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

  • Robert McClelland

    () (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)


In this paper we provide new and detailed evidence on the impact on the U.S. CPI of the appearance and growth of new types of product outlets. Using actual CPI microdata for 2002-2007, we find that the changing mix of outlets had a statistically significantly negative impact on average prices in most of the 14 item food categories we study. In contrast to previous studies of this issue, our approach allows us to examine the effects of changes in outlet mix both across outlet types (such as among large groceries, discount department stores, and warehouse club stores) and within those outlet categories. We also adjust for numerous differences in item characteristics such as brand name, organic certification, and, importantly, package size. In our sample we find that the upward impact on price from increased item quality has offset most of the downward impact of lower-priced outlets. We also provide evidence showing that a simulated “matched-model” approach similar to that used in the CPI yields indexes that differ to a surprising extent from our baseline hedonic indexes, which also hold outlet and item mix constant.

Suggested Citation

  • John S. Greenlees & Robert McClelland, 2008. "New Evidence on Outlet Substitution Effects in Consumer Price Index Data," Working Papers 421, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Handle: RePEc:bls:wpaper:ec080070

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Matthew D. Shapiro & David W. Wilcox, 1996. "Mismeasurement in the Consumer Price Index: An Evaluation," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1996, Volume 11, pages 93-154 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Alan G. White, 2000. "Outlet types and the Canadian Consumer Price Index," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 33(2), pages 488-505, May.
    3. David E. Lebow & Jeremy B. Rudd, 2003. "Measurement Error in the Consumer Price Index: Where Do We Stand?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 41(1), pages 159-201, March.
    4. Jerry Hausman & Ephraim Leibtag, 2007. "Consumer benefits from increased competition in shopping outlets: Measuring the effect of Wal-Mart," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 22(7), pages 1157-1177.
    5. Jerry Hausman & Ephraim Leibtag, 2009. "CPI Bias from Supercenters: Does the BLS Know that Wal-Mart Exists?," NBER Chapters,in: Price Index Concepts and Measurement, pages 203-231 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. D. Cornille & J. Langohr, 2011. "The distributive trade sector and its impact on euro area prices," Economic Review, National Bank of Belgium, issue iii, pages 35-52, December.
    2. John S. Greenlees & Robert McClelland, 2011. "Does Quality Adjustment Matter for Technologically Stable Products? An Application to the CPI for Food," Working Papers 444, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    More about this item


    Outlet Bias; Consumer Price Index;

    JEL classification:

    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions
    • J33 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Compensation Packages; Payment Methods


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