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Quantifying Quality Growth

  • Mark Bils
  • Peter J. Klenow

We introduce an instrumental variables approach to estimate the importance of unmeasured quality growth for a set of 66 durable consumer goods. Our instrument is based on predicting which of these 66 goods will display rapid quality growth. Using pooled cross- relatively sections of households in the 1980 through 1996 U.S. Consumer Expenditure Surveys, we estimate quality Engel curves' for 66 durable consumer goods based on the extent richer households pay more for a good, conditional on purchasing. We use the slopes of these curves to predict the rate of quality-upgrading. Just as if households are ascending these quality Engel curves over time, we find that the average price paid rises faster for goods with steeper quality slopes. BLS prices likewise increase more quickly for goods with steeper quality slopes, suggesting the BLS does not fully net out the impact of quality-upgrading on prices paid. We estimate that quality growth averages about 3.7% per year for our goods, with about 60% of this, or 2.2% per year, showing up as higher inflation rather than higher real growth.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7695.

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Date of creation: May 2000
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Publication status: published as Bils, Mark and Peter J. Klenow. "Quantifying Quality Growth," American Economic Review, 2001, v91(4,Sep), 1006-1030.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7695
Note: EFG
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  1. Steven Berry & Samuel Kortum & Ariel Pakes, 1996. "Environmental Change and Hedonic Cost Functions for Automobiles," NBER Working Papers 5746, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. David M. Cutler & Mark McClellan & Joseph P. Newhouse & Dahlia Remler, 1996. "Are Medical Prices Declining?," NBER Working Papers 5750, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Brent R. Moulton & Karin E. Moses, 1997. "Addressing the Quality Change Issue in the Consumer Price Index," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 28(1), pages 305-366.
  4. Randolph, William C, 1988. "Housing Depreciation and Aging Bias in the Consumer Price Index," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 6(3), pages 359-71, July.
  5. Manuel Trajtenberg, 1990. "Product Innovations, Price Indices and the (Mis)Measurement of Economic Performance," NBER Working Papers 3261, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Matthew D. Shapiro & David W. Wilcox, 1996. "Mismeasurement in the Consumer Price Index: An Evaluation," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1996, Volume 11, pages 93-154 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Mark Bils & Peter J. Klenow, 1998. "Using Consumer Theory to Test Competing Business Cycle Models," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(2), pages 233-261, April.
  8. 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..
  9. Timothy F. Bresnahan & Robert J. Gordon, 1996. "The Economics of New Goods," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number bres96-1, August.
  10. Griliches, Z. & Cockborn, I., 1993. "Generics and New Goods in Pharmaceutical Price Indexes," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1664, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  11. Gordon, Robert J., 1990. "The Measurement of Durable Goods Prices," National Bureau of Economic Research Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 1, number 9780226304557.
  12. Goldberg, Pinelopi Koujianou, 1996. "Dealer Price Discrimination in New Car Purchases: Evidence from the Consumer Expenditure Survey," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(3), pages 622-54, June.
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