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Alternative Strategies for Aggregating Prices in the CPI

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  • Matthew D. Shapiro
  • David W. Wilcox

Abstract

The Consumer Price Index does not take into account the fact that consumers alter the composition of their purchases in response to changes in relative prices. This substitution effect will cause the CPI to grow faster than the cost of living. This paper presents new estimates showing that this bias in the CPI averaged 0.3 percentage points per year between December 1986 and December 1995. This bias could be eliminated by using a superlative index to aggregate prices across the item-area strata of the CPI. The paper discusses the practical difficulties in implementing such a calculation and suggests a method for overcoming them. In particular, it shows how to construct an accurate approximation to a superlative price index that can be published with the same timeliness as the CPI.

Suggested Citation

  • Matthew D. Shapiro & David W. Wilcox, 1997. "Alternative Strategies for Aggregating Prices in the CPI," NBER Working Papers 5980, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5980
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Braithwait, Steven D, 1980. "The Substitution Bias of the Laspeyres Price Index: An Analysis Using Estimated Cost-of-Living Indexes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(1), pages 64-77, March.
    2. Diewert, W. E., 1976. "Exact and superlative index numbers," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 115-145, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Robert J. Gordon, 2006. "The Boskin Commission Report: A Retrospective One Decade Later," International Productivity Monitor, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 12, pages 7-22, Spring.
    2. Stéphane Jacobzone, 1998. "Le rôle des prix dans la régulation du secteur pharmaceutique," Économie et Statistique, Programme National Persée, vol. 312(1), pages 35-53.
    3. Redding, Stephen J. & Weinstein, David E., 2016. "A unified approach to estimating demand and welfare," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 67681, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    4. Jerry Hausman, 2002. "Sources of Bias and Solutions to Bias in the CPI," NBER Working Papers 9298, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Charles Steindel, 1997. "Are there good alternatives to the CPI?," Current Issues in Economics and Finance, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, vol. 3(Apr).
    6. Todd E. Clark, 1999. "A comparison of the CPI and the PCE price index," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, issue Q III, pages 15-29.
    7. Jan Hanousek & Randall K. Filer, 2003. "Substitution Biases in Price Indexes during Transition," Development and Comp Systems 0306002, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Christos Ioannidis & Mick Silver, 2003. "Chained, exact and superlative hedonic price changes: estimates from microdata," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 35(9), pages 1005-1014.
    9. Lieu, Pang-Tien & Liang, Jung-Hui & Chen, Jui-Hui, 2008. "Consumer preferences and cost of living in Taiwan," Journal of Asian Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 224-235, June.
    10. John S. Greenlees & Elliot Williams, 2009. "Reconsideration of Weighting and Updating Procedures in the US CPI," Working Papers 431, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
    11. Diewert, Erwin & Marandola, Tina, 2018. "Scanner Data, Elementary Price Indexes and the Chain Drift Problem," Microeconomics.ca working papers tina_marandola-2018-9, Vancouver School of Economics, revised 10 Oct 2018.
    12. Petter Frenger, 2006. "The substitution bias of the consumer price index," Discussion Papers 451, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
    13. Baclajanschi, Iaroslav & Bouton, Lawrence & Mori, Hideki & Ostojic, Dejan & Pushak, Taras & Tiongson, Erwin R., 2006. "The impact of energy price changes in Moldova," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3960, The World Bank.
    14. Mick Silver & Saeed Heravi, 2003. "The Measurement of Quality-Adjusted Price Changes," NBER Chapters,in: Scanner Data and Price Indexes, pages 277-316 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Robert J. Gordon, 2000. "The Boskin Commission Report and its Aftermath," NBER Working Papers 7759, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Courtney, Mark, 2013. "Consumer price indices and the identification problem," MPRA Paper 54137, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    17. R. A. Somerville, 2004. "Changes in Relative Consumer Prices and the Substitution Bias of the Laspeyres Price Index - Ireland, 1985-2001," The Economic and Social Review, Economic and Social Studies, vol. 35(1), pages 55-82.
    18. Jan Hanousek & Randall K. Filer, 2001. "Evaluating Imperfections and Biases in Price Indexes during Transition," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp186, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute, Prague.
    19. Gregor W. Smith, 2009. "The Missing Links: Better Measures of Inflation and Inflation Expectations in Canada," C.D. Howe Institute Commentary, C.D. Howe Institute, issue 287, April.
    20. David E. Lebow & Jeremy B. Rudd, 2006. "Inflation measurement," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2006-43, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C82 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - Methodology for Collecting, Estimating, and Organizing Macroeconomic Data; Data Access
    • E31 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Price Level; Inflation; Deflation

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