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Multifactor productivity in computer-related manufacturing, 1987–2013
Long-term price trends for computers, TVs, and related items
The computers, peripherals, and smart home assistant devices index is a subcomponent of the information technology, hardware, and services category of the Consumer Price Index. The CPI tracks changes in prices for items sold to household consumers for personal use. The computers, peripherals, and smart home assistant devices index is published monthly at the U.S. level.
The computers, peripherals, and smart home assistant devices index includes all types of personal computers such as tablets, desktop computers, notebook computers, computer hardware, and peripheral equipment sold for noncommercial applications. Peripheral equipment includes, but is not limited to, hard drives, mice, monitors, and printers. Smart home assistants that are speaker or screen based, and any accompanying accessories, are also included in this index.
The relative importance of an item category is its percent of the CPI weight as of December of the most recent year.
Information technology, hardware, and services
Computers, peripherals, and smart home assistant devices
Computer software and accessories
Internet services and electronic information providers
Telephone hardware, calculators, and consumer information items
Unsampled information and information processing
All price information for computers, peripherals, and smart home assistant devices in the CPI is collected by CPI data collectors, and evaluated for index use by analysts in the Washington Office.
Data collectors return every month to the sampled outlets to obtain the current prices of the selected items, including any changes or discounts. Any characteristics of the selected items that have changed are also identified and reviewed. When the price of an item changes, the CPI analyst tries to determine a reason for the change; however, if the characteristics remain unchanged, the CPI usually reflects the price change without any adjustments.
If a replacement is needed and it is essentially the same as the predecessor item, the CPI treats any price difference between the replacement item and its predecessor as pure price change. If the characteristics of the item changed and the reported change is one that provides little value to the consumer, the CPI will show the unadjusted price change. This is how an item replacement is typically handled in the CPI to show price change from one month to another.
However, unlike most other item categories in the CPI, computers do not follow these standard item replacement procedures as computer manufacturers are continually releasing new, higher quality models. If item replacement procedures for most other CPI items were followed, the quality of the computers reported for pricing would fall to the lowest level of quality in a short period of time.
The quality of personal computers is associated with the component attributes that are used to build it. Attributes include the speed of the central processing unit (CPU), the amount of random-access memory (RAM), and the hard drive storage capacity. Based on these and other features, all personal computers are classified into one of three levels of quality: high-end, mainstream, or economy/low-end.
The specific attributes that differentiate each quality level are updated every six months. CPI data collectors are instructed to replace (or substitute) an older computer to a new one of the same level of quality but with updated attributes. This process, known as directed substitution, was introduced in January 2000. The directed substitution process is different from the typical CPI process where an item continues to be priced until that item is no longer available in the marketplace. With directed substitution, data collectors are instructed to substitute to a new item, regardless of the availability of the previous item. Analysts in the national office then adjust for any quality change to reflect a more accurate estimate of price change.
Because individual components in personal computer configurations change so rapidly, the CPI calculates these quality adjustments using attribute costs. The attribute cost adjustment database for personal computers contains five attribute categories: CPU model, RAM type and amount, hard drive storage capacity, video card, and monitor size. The database is updated monthly, with each attribute category populated with the monetary value of specific components found in current models. These component prices are obtained from original equipment manufacturer (OEM) websites that include the producer prices charged to manufacturers. In the computer industry, OEM websites are typically computer part price aggregators. The CPI has applied these cost adjustments to personal computers since 2003.
Access data for computers, peripherals, and smart home assistant devices in our online database.
Additional information may be obtained from the Consumer Price Index Information Office by email or calling 202-691-7000. Information on the CPI's overall methodology can be found in the BLS Handbook of Methods.
Last Modified Date: February 10, 2023