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Does Hedonic Price Indexing Change Our Interpretation of Economic History? Evidence from Swedish Electrification

  • Edquist, Harald


    (Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN))

Rapid price decreases for ICT-products in the 1990s have been largely attributed to the introduction of hedonic price indexes. Would hedonic price indexing also have large effects on measured price and productivity during other technological breakthroughs? This paper investigates the impact of hedonic and matched model methods on historical data for electric motors in Sweden 1900–35. The results show that during the productivity boom of the 1920s, the constant prices for electric motors decreased by 9.7 and 8.1 percent per year depending on whether hedonic or matched model price indexes were used. This indicates high productivity growth in the industry producing electric motors 1920–29. In contrast to Sweden, the US annual total factor productivity was only, according to current best estimates, 3.5 percent in Electric machinery compared to 5.3 percent in manufacturing 1920–29. However, hedonic price indexes were not used to calculate US productivity. Moreover, in comparison to the matched model, the hedonic price index on average overestimates price decreases when prices are decreasing and overestimates price increases when prices are increasing. However, the total effect of the two different price indexes remains approximately the same in 1900–35. Finally, it is shown that the price decreases for electric motors in the 1920s are not in par with the price decreases for ICT-equipment in the 1990s, even if hedonic indexing is used.

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Paper provided by Research Institute of Industrial Economics in its series Working Paper Series with number 742.

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Length: 31 pages
Date of creation: 02 Apr 2008
Date of revision: 03 Sep 2009
Handle: RePEc:hhs:iuiwop:0742
Contact details of provider: Postal: Research Institute of Industrial Economics, Box 55665, SE-102 15 Stockholm, Sweden
Phone: +46 8 665 4500
Fax: +46 8 665 4599
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  1. Trajtenberg, M. & Bresnahan, T.F., 1992. "General Purpose Technologies: "Engines of Growth"," Papers 16-92, Tel Aviv.
  2. David, P.A., 1989. "Computer And Dynamo: The Modern Productivity Paradox In A Not-Too Distant Mirror," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 339, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  3. Nicholas Crafts, 2003. "Steam as a general purpose technology: a growth accounting perspective," Economic History Working Papers 22354, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
  4. Edquist, Harald, 2005. "The Swedish ICT miracle -- myth or reality?," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 17(3), pages 275-301, July.
  5. Jack Triplett, 2004. "Handbook on Hedonic Indexes and Quality Adjustments in Price Indexes: Special Application to Information Technology Products," OECD Science, Technology and Industry Working Papers 2004/9, OECD Publishing.
  6. Henrekson, Magnus & Edquist, Harald, 2006. "Technological Breakthroughs and Productivity Growth," Working Paper Series 665, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  7. David, Paul A, 1990. "The Dynamo and the Computer: An Historical Perspective on the Modern Productivity Paradox," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(2), pages 355-61, May.
  8. Ernst R. Berndt & Neal J. Rappaport, 2001. "Price and Quality of Desktop and Mobile Personal Computers: A Quarter-Century Historical Overview," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 268-273, May.
  9. Rosen, Sherwin, 1974. "Hedonic Prices and Implicit Markets: Product Differentiation in Pure Competition," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(1), pages 34-55, Jan.-Feb..
  10. Devine, Warren D., 1983. "From Shafts to Wires: Historical Perspective on Electrification," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 43(02), pages 347-372, June.
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