Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Question: Is the Consumer Price Index (CPI) the best measure of inflation?
Answer: Inflation has been defined as a process of continuously rising prices, or equivalently, of a continuously falling value of money.
Various indexes have been devised to measure different aspects of inflation. The CPI measures inflation as experienced by consumers in their day-to-day living expenses; the Producer Price Index (PPI) measures inflation at earlier stages of the production and marketing process; the Employment Cost Index (ECI) measures it in the labor market; the Bureau of Labor Statistics' International Price Program measures it for imports and exports; and the Gross Domestic Product Deflator (GDP-Deflator) measures combine the experience with inflation of governments (Federal, State and local), businesses, and consumers. Finally, there are specialized measures, such as measures of interest rates and measures of consumers' and business executives' inflation expectations.
The "best" measure of inflation for a given application depends on the intended use of the data. The CPI is generally the best measure for adjusting payments to consumers when the intent is to allow consumers to purchase, at today's prices, a market basket of goods and services equivalent to one that they could purchase in an earlier period. It is also the best measure to use to translate retail sales and hourly or weekly earnings into real or inflation-free dollars.