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Sources of Bias and Solutions to Bias in the CPI

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  • Jerry Hausman

Abstract

Four sources of bias in the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) have been identified. The most discussed is substitution bias, which creates a second order bias in the CPI. Three other changes besides prices changes create first order effects on a correctly measured cost of living index (COLI). (1) Introduction of new goods creates a first order effect of new good bias' (2) Quality changes in existing goods will lead to quality' bias, which has first order effects (3) Shifts in shopping patterns to lower priced stores can create first order outlet bias'. I explain in this paper that a pure price' based approach of surveying prices to estimate a COLI cannot succeed in solving the 3 problems of first order bias. Neither the BLS nor the recent report C. Schultze and C. Mackie, eds., At What Price (AWP, 2002), recognizes that to solve these problems, which have been long known, both quantity and price data are necessary. I discuss economic and econometric approaches to measuring the first order bias effects as well as the availability of scanner data that would permit implementation of the techniques. Lastly, I review recent research that demonstrates that these sources of bias are large in relation to measured inflation in the CPI.

Suggested Citation

  • Jerry Hausman, 2002. "Sources of Bias and Solutions to Bias in the CPI," NBER Working Papers 9298, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9298
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    1. repec:adr:anecst:y:1994:i:34 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Jerry Hausman & Gregory Leonard & J. Douglas Zona, 1994. "Competitive Analysis with Differentiated Products," Annals of Economics and Statistics, GENES, issue 34, pages 143-157.
    3. repec:adr:anecst:y:1994:i:34:p:06 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Silver, Mick & Heravi, Saeed, 2001. "Scanner Data and the Measurement of Inflation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(472), pages 383-404, June.
    5. Hausman, Jerry A & Leonard, Gregory K, 2002. "The Competitive Effects of a New Product Introduction: A Case Study," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(3), pages 237-263, September.
    6. Jerry A. Hausman, 1996. "Valuation of New Goods under Perfect and Imperfect Competition," NBER Chapters,in: The Economics of New Goods, pages 207-248 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Matthew D. Shapiro & David W. Wilcox, 1997. "Alternative strategies for aggregating prices in the CPI," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue May, pages 113-125.
    8. Hausman, Jerry A & Newey, Whitney K, 1995. "Nonparametric Estimation of Exact Consumers Surplus and Deadweight Loss," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 63(6), pages 1445-1476, November.
    9. Hausman, Jerry, 1999. "Cellular Telephone, New Products, and the CPI," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 17(2), pages 188-194, April.
    10. Katharine G. Abraham & John S. Greenlees & Brent R. Moulton, 1998. "Working to Improve the Consumer Price Index," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(1), pages 27-36, Winter.
    11. Deaton,Angus & Muellbauer,John, 1980. "Economics and Consumer Behavior," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521296762.
    12. Amil Petrin, 2002. "Quantifying the Benefits of New Products: The Case of the Minivan," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(4), pages 705-729, August.
    13. E. Rothbarth, 1941. "The Measurement of Changes in Real Income under Conditions of Rationing," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 8(2), pages 100-107.
    14. Diewert, W. E., 1976. "Exact and superlative index numbers," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 115-145, May.
    15. W. Erwin Diewert, 1980. "Aggregation Problems in the Measurement of Capital," NBER Chapters,in: The Measurement of Capital, pages 433-538 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Berry, Steven & Levinsohn, James & Pakes, Ariel, 1995. "Automobile Prices in Market Equilibrium," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 63(4), pages 841-890, July.
    17. Robert C. Feenstra & Matthew D. Shapiro, 2003. "Scanner Data and Price Indexes," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number feen03-1.
    18. W. Erwin Diewert, 1988. "The Early History of Price Index Research," NBER Working Papers 2713, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    19. 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.
    20. Hausman, Jerry A, 1981. "Exact Consumer's Surplus and Deadweight Loss," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(4), pages 662-676, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bank for International Settlements, 2010. "Monetary policy and the measurement of inflation: prices, wages and expectations," BIS Papers, Bank for International Settlements, number 49, November.
    2. Vivien Lewis, 2006. "Macroeconomic fluctuations and firm entry : theory and evidence," Working Paper Research 103, National Bank of Belgium.
    3. Bakker, Gerben, 2004. "At the origins of increased productivity growth in services. Productivity, social savings and the consumer surplus of the film industry, 1900-1938," Economic History Working Papers 22348, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C43 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods: Special Topics - - - Index Numbers and Aggregation
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis

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