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Defining Price Stability in Japan: A View from America


  • Christian Broda
  • David E. Weinstein


Japanese monetary and fiscal policy uses the consumer price index as a metric for price stability. Despite a major effort to improve the index, the Japanese methodology of calculating the CPI seems to have a large number of deficiencies. Little attention is paid in Japan to substitution biases and quality upgrading. This implies that important methodological differences have emerged between the U.S. and Japan since the U.S. started to correct for these biases in 1999. We estimate that using the new corrected U.S. methodology, Japan's deflation averaged 1.2 percent per year since 1999. This is more than twice the deflation suggested by Japanese national statistics. Ignoring these methodological differences misleading suggests that American real per capita consumption growth has been growing at a rate that is almost 2 percentage points higher than that of Japan between 1999 and 2006. When a common methodology is used Japan's growth has been much closer to that of the U.S. over this period. Moreover, we estimate that the bias of the Japanese CPI relative to a true cost-of-living index is around 2 percent per year. This overstatement in the Japanese CPI in combination with Japan's low inflation rate is likely to cost the government over 69 trillion yen -- or 14 percent of GDP -- over the next 10 years in increased social security expenses and debt service. For monetary policy, the overstatement of inflation suggests that if the BOJ adopts a formal inflation target without changing the current CPI methodology a lower band of less than 2 percent would not achieve its goal of price stability.

Suggested Citation

  • Christian Broda & David E. Weinstein, 2007. "Defining Price Stability in Japan: A View from America," NBER Working Papers 13255, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13255
    Note: ME

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Peter J. Klenow & Oleksiy Kryvtsov, 2008. "State-Dependent or Time-Dependent Pricing: Does it Matter for Recent U.S. Inflation?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(3), pages 863-904.
    2. Christian Broda & David E. Weinstein, 2010. "Product Creation and Destruction: Evidence and Price Implications," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(3), pages 691-723, June.
    3. Shigenori Shiratsuka, 1999. "Measurement errors in Japanese Consumer Price Index," Working Paper Series WP-99-2, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
    4. 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.
    5. Diewert, W. E., 1976. "Exact and superlative index numbers," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 115-145, May.
    6. Shiratsuka, Shigenori, 1999. "Measurement Errors in the Japanese Consumer Price Index," Monetary and Economic Studies, Institute for Monetary and Economic Studies, Bank of Japan, vol. 17(3), pages 69-102, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Hamano, Masashige, 2013. "The consumption-real exchange rate anomaly with extensive margins," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 26-46.
    2. Peter J. Klenow & Oleksiy Kryvtsov, 2008. "State-Dependent or Time-Dependent Pricing: Does it Matter for Recent U.S. Inflation?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(3), pages 863-904.
    3. Masashige Hamano, 2013. "On business cycles of variety and quality," CREA Discussion Paper Series 13-21, Center for Research in Economic Analysis, University of Luxembourg.
    4. Christian Broda & David E. Weinstein, 2010. "Exporting Deflation? Chinese Exports and Japanese Prices," NBER Chapters,in: China's Growing Role in World Trade, pages 203-227 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. repec:wsi:serxxx:v:52:y:2007:i:03:n:s0217590807002749 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Pierpaolo Benigno & Luca Antonio Ricci, 2008. "The Inflation-Unemployment Trade-Off at Low Inflation," NBER Working Papers 13986, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Satoshi Imai & Tsutomu Watanabe, 2014. "Product Downsizing and Hidden Price Increases: Evidence from Japan's Deflationary Period," Asian Economic Policy Review, Japan Center for Economic Research, vol. 9(1), pages 69-89, January.
    8. Wynne, Mark A., 2008. "How should central banks define price stability?," Globalization and Monetary Policy Institute Working Paper 08, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
    9. Francesco Zanetti & Masashige Hamano, 2017. "On Quality and Variety Bias in Aggregate Prices," Economics Series Working Papers 823, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E31 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Price Level; Inflation; Deflation
    • E5 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit
    • H6 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt

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