Sep 27 2012

## Understanding the Consumer Price Index – the Fed’s “Drawing Board”

MV=PQ: A Resource for Economic Educators: Some Classroom Resources

Special thanks to Tim Schilling at MV=PQ blog for pointing out the Cleveland Fed’s interesting video series called the “Drawing Board”.

This video introduces the concept of Consumer Price Index as a measure of inflation in the United States, shows how CPI is calculated, and then goes into a bit more detail than perhaps the AP or IB student needs when it introduces a new method of measuring inflation used by the Fed called “median inflation”.

AP and IB students can benefit most from watching up to 4:12. In this first half of the video the CPI is defined, its measurement demonstrated, short-comings discussed and the “core CPI” explained.

Discussion Questions:

1. Why does the Bureau of Labor Statistics weight different items included in the measure of the consumer price index? What type of good gets a greater weights than others?
2. What are some of the purposes the CPI figure serves? Why do we care about changes in the price level in an economy?
3. What is one short-coming of the traditional method used for measuring the inflation rate using CPI?
4. Why did the BLS decide exclude oil and food prices from its “core CPI” figure?

May 09 2008

## Exactly what does inflation measure?

All of Inflation’s Little Parts – The New York Times

This is really cool… The Bureau of Labor Statistics releases monthly data on prices to let Americans know just how much inflation affects their livelihoods. The Consumer Price Index, which is studied in both AP and IB Economics, consists of a “basket of goods”, that when bundled together represent the “typical” American consumer’s expenditures. The CPI is broken into a few broad categories:

 Health care Apparel Housing Education/communication Recreation Food/beverages Transportation Miscellaneous

Here’s the cool part, though… within each broad category the BLS tracks the prices of dozens of specific categories, around 200 to be precise. Each of these is then broken down into individual products, around 84,000 in total! The task of tracking the prices of 84,000 individual goods and services every month is daunting, and just thinking about the tedium of this job makes me glad I’m a teacher!

The New York Times has assembled what can only be described as a mosaic of consumption, organizing the 200 specific CPI categories into what looks like an ornate stained-glass window, in which the size of each piece of glass represents the percentage of Americans’ income that go towards each specific category. Some of the categories represented in this mosaic include items such as:

 Oils and peanut butter (0.1%) Gasoline (5.2%) Garbage collection (0.3%) Internet (0.3%) Nursing homes (0.1%) New cars and trucks (4.6%) DVDs (0.2%)

This graphic is a great tool for teaching and understanding the Consumer Price Index, not to mention a beautiful pattern for any stained-glass artist looking for inspiration!
nyt-cpi-graphic

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• ## Order Welker’s books

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