The BLS calculates a research price index called the Consumer Price Index for Americans 62 years of age and older, or R-CPI-E. The R-CPI-E is used by those interested in measures of price change specifically based on the spending patterns of the elderly (as defined in the construction of this index). Official uses of the R-CPI-E have been considered by other government agencies, but not implemented due to the limitations noted below.
There are several limitations of this research price index which must be considered and understood by potential users of the data. Because of the limitations listed below, any conclusions drawn from these analyses should be treated as tentative.
The 2017-18 Consumer Expenditure (CE) Survey is used as the source of expenditure weights for most CPI series. The CE Survey sample is designed to collect expenditure patterns representative of the CPI-U population. The research index uses a subset of the CE Survey urban sample consisting of households with a reference person or spouse aged 62 years of age or older. Since the CE Survey sample design does not specifically target the ‘62 and over’ population, the number of households used for estimating aggregation weights for use in the research index is relatively small--about one-fifth of the urban CE Survey’s sample. Thus, the expenditure weights used in the construction of the research price index are expected to have a higher sampling error than those used for the larger, official population.
The research consumer price index is a weighted average of price changes for the same set of item strata collected from the same sample of urban areas used in calculating the CPI-U. The areas selected for the CPI-U sample were chosen based on probabilities proportional to total urban population estimates. If the sample of areas were independently selected to represent the ’62 and over’ population, it is likely a different set of geographic areas would result if selection probabilities were proportional to elderly population estimates.
Retail outlets are selected for pricing in the CPI based on data reported in a survey representing all urban households. The research index also uses the same retail outlet sample. The outlets thus selected may not be representative of the places of purchase for older Americans.
The categories of items to be priced are selected using expenditure weights calculated from the expenditure surveys for the urban (CPI-U) population. As a result, the specific entry level items (ELIs) and unique goods and services selected to represent the total urban population may not be representative of the research index population.
A final source of uncertainty about the appropriateness of using the CPI-U prices for the index of the older population concerns the availability of discount prices for older Americans. For example, senior-citizen discount rates are used in the CPI in proportion to their use by the urban population as a whole. This approach is accurate for the estimation of an index which represents all urban consumers, but would be expected to understate the use of this type of discount in the research population.
R-CPI-E data are published monthly on the same day the CPI-U data are released. See the CPI Release Calendar for publication dates. Data is available starting with December 1982.
Additional information is available in Monthly Labor Review article The experimental consumer price index for elderly Americans (CPI-E): 1982-2007 and the Experimental Consumer Price Index for Older Americans Focus on Prices and Spending article, published in February 2012.
Last Modified Date: October 13, 2020