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Sources of Bias and Solutions to Bias in the CPI

  • Jerry Hausman

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.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9298.

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Date of creation: Oct 2002
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Hausman, Jerry. "Sources Of Bias And Solutions To Bias In The Consumer Price Index," Journal of Economic Perspectives, 2003, v17(1,Winter), 23-44.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9298
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  1. Hausman, J.A., 1994. "Valuation of New Goods Under Perfect and Imperfect Competition," Working papers 94-21, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  2. 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.
  3. Silver, Mick & Heravi, Saeed, 2001. "Scanner Data and the Measurement of Inflation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(472), pages F383-404, June.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Jerry Hausman, 1997. "Cellular Telephone, New Products and the CPI," NBER Working Papers 5982, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Berry, Steven & Levinsohn, James & Pakes, Ariel, 1995. "Automobile Prices in Market Equilibrium," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 63(4), pages 841-90, July.
  8. Hausman, Jerry A & Newey, Whitney K, 1995. "Nonparametric Estimation of Exact Consumers Surplus and Deadweight Loss," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 63(6), pages 1445-76, November.
  9. Diewert, W. E., 1976. "Exact and superlative index numbers," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 115-145, May.
  10. Jerry HAUSMAN & Gregory LEONARD & J. Douglas ZONA, 1994. "Competitive Analysis with Differentiated Products," Annals of Economics and Statistics, GENES, issue 34, pages 159-180.
  11. 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.
  12. Robert C. Feenstra & Matthew D. Shapiro, 2003. "Scanner Data and Price Indexes," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number feen03-1, December.
  13. Deaton,Angus & Muellbauer,John, 1980. "Economics and Consumer Behavior," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521296762, October.
  14. 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 237-63, September.
  15. Hausman, Jerry A, 1981. "Exact Consumer's Surplus and Deadweight Loss," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(4), pages 662-76, September.
  16. 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.
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