Consumers' Opinion of Inflation Bias Due to Quality Improvements
Measurement of quality changes has proven to be an especially difficult aspect of calculating unbiased rates of inflation. We propose a new methodology of capturing quality improvements based on consumer focus groups and apply this methodology in an environment where quality changes might be expected to be especially rapid and extensive, a post-communist transition economy. We find that the methodology is practical and that it indicates a substantial understatement of quality improvements during transition, and, therefore, a substantial overstatement of inflation resulting in a serious downward bias in growth rate estimates for post-communist economies. The move to free markets has apparently improved consumers' welfare more by improving what they can purchase than by increasing how much they can purchase.
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