Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Consumer price indices and the identification problem

Courtney, Mark (2013): Consumer price indices and the identification problem. Published in: Statistical Journal of the IAOS , Vol. 29, No. 1 (2013): pp. 41-51.

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Conventionally, consumer price indices are constructed on the assumption that we are observing a stable system of consumer demand, and that all price movements are, therefore, the result of supply-side changes. This often leads to an emphasis on consumer price substitution and to a recommendation that we should allow for it by using the geometric mean for first-stage aggregation. This paper argues, on the basis of economic theory and from observations on the UK clothing sub-index, that demand-side changes are also important in generating price movements. For most items we are unable to solve the resulting identification problem of whether supply-side or demand-side influences predominate: in these circumstances, the appropriate formula to use for first-stage aggregation is one that makes no assumptions about the cause of price changes – i.e. one that uses an arithmetic rather than a geometric average. Allowing for both sources of price movements also affects the way in which elementary aggregates should be defined: this should be on the basis of both demand and supply characteristics, in order to minimise problems that arise when aggregating disparate products.

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