The CPI for Rents: A Case of Understated Inflation

44 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2004

See all articles by Theodore M. Crone

Theodore M. Crone

Swarthmore College

Leonard I. Nakamura

Federal Reserve Banks - Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia

Richard Voith

Econsult Corporation; University of Pennsylvania - Wharton School, Department of Real Estate

Date Written: September 2004

Abstract

Until the end of 1977, the method used in the U.S. consumer price index (CPI) to measure rent inflation tended to omit rent increases when units had a change of tenants or were vacant. Since such units typically had more rapid increases in rents than average units, this response bias biased inflation estimates downward. Beginning in 1978, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) implemented a series of methodological changes that reduced response bias but substantial bias remained until 1985. We set up a model of response bias, parameterize it, and test it using a BLS microdata set for rents. We conclude that from 1940 to 1985 the CPI inflation rate for rent most likely was understated by 1.4 percentage points annually in U.S. data. We construct an improved rental inflation series for 1940 to 2000; at the starting point in 1940, the revised index is 54 percent as large as the official CPI.

Keywords: Consumer price index, CPI, inflation, rent

JEL Classification: C81, C82, E31, O47, R21, R31

Suggested Citation

Crone, Theodore M. and Nakamura, Leonard I. and Voith, Richard, The CPI for Rents: A Case of Understated Inflation (September 2004). FRB Philadelphia Working Paper No. 06-7, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=598205 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.598205

Theodore M. Crone (Contact Author)

Swarthmore College ( email )

500 College Ave
Swarthmore, PA 19081
United States

Leonard I. Nakamura

Federal Reserve Banks - Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia ( email )

Ten Independence Mall
Philadelphia, PA 19106-1574
United States
215-574-3804 (Phone)
215-574-4364 (Fax)

Richard Voith

Econsult Corporation ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

University of Pennsylvania - Wharton School, Department of Real Estate ( email )

3641 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6365
United States
215 382 1894 (Phone)

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