longer it has taken to appear in the CPI. Home computers and VCRs, for instance, were not introduced into the CPI classification until 1987.

BLS now recognizes that the past delays between the introduction of entirely new and important goods and their appearance in the CPI are no longer acceptable. The most obvious way that this recognition has changed the CPI production schedule is in the updating of upper-level expenditure weights. Weights will be updated more frequently, and they will be based on a shorter span of expenditure data. Beginning in 2002, weights will be updated every 2 years, with a 2-year lag (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1998a):

Thus, for example, CPI expenditure weights will be updated to the 2001-02 period effective with release of CPI data for January 2004. As a result of this change, expenditure weight data will be, on average, “two years old” when introduced into the CPI, and four years old when replaced. By contrast, the most recent set of CPI expenditure weights—based on 1993-95 CEX data— were on average, 3 years old when first used in January 1998, and they replaced weights that were about 15 years old.

BLS has also begun researching the advisability of adopting special targeted procedures to quickly bring new products (Viagra was one) into the index (for a full description, see Lane, 2000). BLS’s work in this area is commendable, and BLS should continue to develop changes in its procedures designed to reduce those delays substantially.14 When visible items, such as home computers and VCRs, that achieve significant expenditure shares can be brought into the item samples rapidly, public and policy maker confidence in the CPI and the BLS can only be improved. While the effect of earlier inclusion of any one product is

14  

The 1999 CPI Improvement Initiative provided funds for study and data collection aimed at incorporating new goods into the CPI more quickly. Lane (2000) describes numerous methods, both currently used and proposed, for bringing new items into CPI samples more quickly. Most of the proposed new methods entail expanding current item and outlet rotation, along with augmentation and replacement methods.



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