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Getting Smart About Phones: New Price Indexes and the Allocation of Spending Between Devices and Services Plans in Personal Consumption Expenditures

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  • Ana Aizcorbe
  • David M. Byrne
  • Daniel E. Sichel

Abstract

This paper addresses two measurement issues for mobile phones. First, we develop a new mobile phone price index using hedonic quality-adjusted prices for smartphones and a matched-model index for feature phones. Our index falls at an average annual rate of 17 percent during 2010-2018, close to the rate of decline in the price index used in the GDP Accounts. Given relatively flat average prices over this period, our index points to substantial quality improvement. Second, we propose a methodology to disentangle purchases of phones and wireless services when they are bundled together as part of a long-term service contract. Getting the allocation right is especially important for real PCE because the price deflators for phones and wireless services exhibit very different trends. Our adjusted estimates suggest that real PCE spending currently captured in the category Cellular Phone Services increased 4 percentage points faster than is reflected in published data.

Suggested Citation

  • Ana Aizcorbe & David M. Byrne & Daniel E. Sichel, 2019. "Getting Smart About Phones: New Price Indexes and the Allocation of Spending Between Devices and Services Plans in Personal Consumption Expenditures," NBER Working Papers 25645, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:25645
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Raymond Mataloni & Kim Ruhl & Dylan Rassier & Fatih Guvenen, 2016. "Offshore Profit Shifting and Domestic Productivity Measurement," 2016 Meeting Papers 1382, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    2. David M. Byrne & John G. Fernald & Marshall B. Reinsdorf, 2016. "Does the United States Have a Productivity Slowdown or a Measurement Problem?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 47(1 (Spring), pages 109-182.
    3. Naoki Watanabe & Ryo Nakajima & Takanori Ida, 2010. "Quality-Adjusted Prices of Japanese Mobile Phone Handsets and Carriers’ Strategies," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 36(4), pages 391-412, June.
    4. David Byrne & Stephen D. Oliner & Daniel E. Sichel, 2017. "Prices of high-tech products, mismeasurement, and the pace of innovation," Business Economics, Palgrave Macmillan;National Association for Business Economics, vol. 52(2), pages 103-113, April.
    5. Aizcorbe, Ana M., 2014. "A Practical Guide to Price Index and Hedonic Techniques," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198702429.
    6. Ariel Pakes, 2003. "A Reconsideration of Hedonic Price Indexes with an Application to PC's," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(5), pages 1578-1596, December.
    7. David M. Byrne & Stephen D. Oliner & Daniel E. Sichel, 2018. "How Fast are Semiconductor Prices Falling?," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 64(3), pages 679-702, September.
    8. Aizcorbe, Ana & Bridgman, Benjamin & Nalewaik, Jeremy, 2010. "Heterogeneous car buyers: A stylized fact," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 109(1), pages 50-53, October.
    9. W. Erwin Diewert, 1998. "Index Number Issues in the Consumer Price Index," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(1), pages 47-58, Winter.
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    Cited by:

    1. David Byrne & Carol Corrado, 2020. "Accounting for Innovations in Consumer Digital Services: IT Still Matters," NBER Chapters, in: Measuring and Accounting for Innovation in the Twenty-First Century, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E01 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General - - - Measurement and Data on National Income and Product Accounts and Wealth; Environmental Accounts
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • E31 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Price Level; Inflation; Deflation
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes

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