Bureau of Labor Statistics

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The cost of 'basic necessities' has risen slightly more than inflation over the last 30 years

By Jonathan Church

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is widely used as a cost-of-living indicator. In some cases, its use is mandated by relevant statutes; in other cases, its use is a matter of contractual agreement or practice. For example, Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments are adjusted each year by an amount equal to the change in the CPI. Other payments adjusted by the CPI include federal tax brackets, rents, alimony payments, child support payments, and wages.

Each agreement or law that mandates use of the CPI to adjust payments must select a specific index to use for adjustment purposes. For example, Social Security and SSI use the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), U.S. City Average, All Items. In general, there are three main parameters to choose:

1. Population coverage (either all urban consumers, covered by the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers, or CPI-U; or urban wage earners and clerical workers, covered by the CPI-W)

2. Geographic coverage (e.g., the U.S. city average or one of four census regions)

3. Item coverage (e.g., all items).

Most statutes and agreements use an all-items CPI, either the CPI-W or the CPI-U. Then, in either case, they use the U.S. city average, one of the four census regions, or one of 27 metropolitan statistical areas for which BLS publishes indexes.

Contracts often use an all-items index to ensure that payments are adjusted to account for overall consumer inflation in the economy.1 The CPI is designed to track the average change over time in the prices paid by either urban consumers or urban wage earners for a constant-quality market basket of goods and services.2 Cost-of-living adjustments that use the CPI for All Items are based on changes in the average level of prices across the broadest range of goods and services available in the consumer marketplace. However, one might be interested in price change across a more limited range of items. For example, one might wish to know how the price of a set of items that constitute “basic necessities” for daily living changes. A general consensus on the set of goods and services necessary for daily living is perhaps elusive; however, this Beyond the Numbers article constructs three pairs of experimental indexes for three different sets of goods and services that might reasonably be considered necessary for daily living. Each pair consists of a U.S. city average for the CPI-U and for the CPI-W. Thus, six indexes are presented for comparison.3

The base pair of experimental indexes covers only food at home (grocery items), shelter, and apparel.

The next pair of indexes adds energy to the base pair. In today’s economy, many find it necessary to drive to the supermarket. Many also power their homes with electricity and heat their homes with natural gas or fuel oil.

The final pair of experimental indexes adds medical care to the base-plus-energy pair of indexes. The CPI is used to adjust Social Security payments each year. Many seniors are frequent consumers of medical care and face higher copayments, prescription drug costs, and other medical costs every year.

All six indexes are normalized to 100 in the beginning month and are then charted over time. They are compared against the CPI-U or CPI-W All Items index. The series are constructed starting in December 1982 for the CPI-U and December 1984 for the CPI-W.4 Annual Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) use a calculation that compares the third-quarter average index value in the current year with the third-quarter average index value in the most recent year in which a COLA was implemented; therefore, the article presents the long-term change from the third quarter of 1983 to the third quarter of 2014 in the case of the CPI-U and from the third quarter of 1985 to the third quarter of 2014 in the case of the CPI-W.

Methodology

This article uses a standard methodology to construct experimental indexes. The methodology updates expenditure weights by price change. The weights are rebased in December of each year. CPI relative importance data are used as a proxy source of expenditures. Relative importance data for particular categories of expenditures are published as percentages of total expenditures. Therefore, the All Items index has a weight of 100. (In other words, 100 percent of total expenditures are spent on all items.) These percentages can be interpreted as relative dollar expenditures. Accordingly, a weight of 100 percent can be interpreted as, for example, $100 spent on all items. Thus, the relative importance of a CPI category in a particular year can be interpreted as equivalent to a certain number of dollars out of a hundred. For instance, a relative importance of 20.097 in December 1984 for the food-at-home category of the CPI-W tells us that urban wage earners and clerical workers spent about 20 percent of their total expenditures on grocery items then. Because the relative importance data can be treated as the amount of dollars out of a hundred dedicated to food at home, we can treat 20.097 as the dollars spent on food at home by an average urban wage earner or clerical worker in December 1984.

The index associated with each category is used to update the starting expenditure amount in December.5 This method thus provides a measure of price change for a particular category by measuring changes in total expenditures over time on that category of good or service. Historically, that is the basic approach to calculating the CPI. The methodology implicitly assumes that the quantity component of expenditures remains fixed between weight updates (In other words, consumers purchase the same quantity of a given food item from year to year.) Throughout the history of the CPI, weights have been updated approximately every 10 years. In January 2002, biennial weight updates were introduced and the quantity in the market basket was assumed to be fixed between the updates.

Results

The results presented in this section are for the experimental CPI-U, unless otherwise indicated. According to all of the experimental indexes except the base-plus-energy pair, basic necessities increased annually at a slightly higher rate than the rate of overall consumer inflation.6 During the period examined, the rate of overall consumer inflation was 2.78 percent, as measured by the regular CPI-U for All Items. In comparison, the base experimental index rose at an average annual rate of 2.91 percent from December 1982 to December 2014. The base-plus-energy experimental index increased at an average annual rate of 2.75 percent over the same period. The base-plus-energy-and-medical-care experimental index rose at an average annual rate of 2.99 percent during the same timeframe.

Because the CPI is used to update payments, the analysis considered what $100 in 1982 would be equal to in 2014 if $100 were updated each year by the average annual rate of change for each experimental index. Thus, $100 in 1982 would be equal to $250.36 in 2014 using the rate of change of the base experimental index. Similarly, the $100 in 1982 would equal $238.53 using the rate of change of the base-plus-energy experimental index. Finally, the same $100 would equal $256.47 using the rate of change of the base-plus-energy-and-medical-care experimental index. Using the rate of change of the All Items index gives an amount equal to $240.59. These results for the CPI-U are summarized in table 1. Table 2 summarizes the results for the CPI-W. Both tables also compare the third-quarter average in 2014 with the third-quarter average in 1983 and in 1985, respectively.

 

Table 1. Average annual rates of change in experimental "basic necessities" indexes based on the Consumer Price Index
Period covered Food, shelter, and clothing Food, shelter, clothing, and energy Food, shelter, clothing, energy, and medical care All items

Average annual rate of change (percent):

       

December 1982–December 2014

2.91 2.75 2.99 2.78

Third quarter 1983–third quarter 2014

2.81 2.76 2.97 2.74

December 2014 amount needed to equal $100 in December 1982

$250.36 $238.53 $256.47 $240.59

Percent difference between December payment based on basic necessities index and December payment based on all-items index

4.06 -0.85 6.6 0.0

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

 

Table 2. Average annual rates of change in experimental "basic necessities" indexes based on the Consumer Price Index for urban wage earners and clerical workers (CPI-W)
Period covered Food, shelter, and clothing Food, shelter, clothing, and energy Food, shelter, clothing, energy, and medical care All items
Average annual rate of change (percent):        

December 1984–December 2014

2.8 2.71 2.91 2.65

Third quarter 1985–third quarter 2014

2.69 2.72 2.9 2.64
December 2014 amount needed to equal $100 in December 1984 $229.11 $222.87 $236.21 $219.38
Percent difference between December payment based on basic necessities index and December payment based on all-items index 4.25 1.52 7.34 0.0
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As mentioned earlier, all of the experimental indexes for the basic necessities, except for the base-plus-energy CPI-U, have grown at a slightly faster annual rate than the rate of overall consumer inflation. The difference is very small, except in the case of the two experimental indexes that include medical care. These indexes show a rate higher than the average rate of overall inflation by an amount roughly equal to a fourth or fifth of a percent. Charts 1 and 2 show the trend lines for the base-plus-energy-plus-medical-care CPI-U and CPI-W, respectively.

 

View Chart Data

Chart 1. Experimental "basic necessities" indexes based on the Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers (CPI-U), December 1982–December 2014
Month Basic necessities Basic necessities with energy Basic necessities with energy and medical care All items

Dec 1982

100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0

Jan 1983

100.4 100.0 100.1 100.2

Feb 1983

100.7 99.8 100.0 100.3

Mar 1983

101.1 99.7 100.0 100.3

Apr 1983

101.7 100.7 100.9 101.0

May 1983

102.0 101.6 101.7 101.6

Jun 1983

102.0 101.9 102.1 101.9

Jul 1983

102.2 102.3 102.4 102.4

Aug 1983

102.5 102.4 102.7 102.7

Sep 1983

103.0 102.8 103.0 103.2

Oct 1983

103.3 102.8 103.0 103.5

Nov 1983

103.3 102.5 102.9 103.7

Dec 1983

103.5 102.5 103.0 103.8

Jan 1984

104.4 103.2 103.6 104.4

Feb 1984

105.0 103.8 104.3 104.9

Mar 1984

105.3 103.9 104.4 105.1

Apr 1984

105.7 104.4 104.9 105.6

May 1984

105.6 104.6 105.1 105.9

Jun 1984

105.9 104.9 105.4 106.3

Jul 1984

106.4 105.3 105.8 106.7

Aug 1984

107.1 105.8 106.3 107.1

Sep 1984

107.5 106.2 106.8 107.6

Oct 1984

107.8 106.3 106.9 107.9

Nov 1984

107.9 106.0 106.7 107.9

Dec 1984

108.0 106.0 106.7 107.9

Jan 1985

108.3 106.0 106.8 108.1

Feb 1985

109.1 106.4 107.2 108.6

Mar 1985

109.4 107.0 107.8 109.0

Apr 1985

109.7 107.6 108.4 109.5

May 1985

110.1 108.3 109.1 109.9

Jun 1985

110.2 108.7 109.5 110.2

Jul 1985

110.5 109.0 109.9 110.5

Aug 1985

111.0 109.1 110.1 110.7

Sep 1985

111.4 109.4 110.3 111.0

Oct 1985

111.9 109.4 110.4 111.4

Nov 1985

112.4 109.7 110.8 111.7

Dec 1985

112.7 110.0 111.1 112.0

Jan 1986

113.1 110.2 111.4 112.3

Feb 1986

113.1 109.3 110.7 112.0

Mar 1986

113.6 108.0 109.7 111.5

Apr 1986

114.2 107.3 109.1 111.3

May 1986

114.4 107.8 109.6 111.6

Jun 1986

114.3 108.6 110.3 112.2

Jul 1986

115.0 108.2 110.1 112.2

Aug 1986

115.9 108.5 110.4 112.4

Sep 1986

116.6 109.1 111.1 112.9

Oct 1986

117.0 108.7 110.8 113.0

Nov 1986

117.2 108.5 110.6 113.1

Dec 1986

117.2 108.5 110.7 113.2

Jan 1987

117.6 109.3 111.5 113.9

Feb 1987

118.1 110.0 112.3 114.3

Mar 1987

119.0 110.7 113.0 114.9

Apr 1987

119.7 111.4 113.7 115.5

May 1987

120.0 111.9 114.1 115.9

Jun 1987

120.1 112.6 114.8 116.3

Jul 1987

120.0 112.6 114.9 116.6

Aug 1987

120.9 113.6 115.9 117.2

Sep 1987

121.7 114.1 116.4 117.8

Oct 1987

122.4 114.2 116.6 118.1

Nov 1987

122.5 114.1 116.5 118.2

Dec 1987

122.5 114.0 116.4 118.2

Jan 1988

123.0 114.2 116.8 118.5

Feb 1988

123.2 114.3 116.9 118.9

Mar 1988

124.2 115.0 117.6 119.4

Apr 1988

124.9 115.7 118.3 120.0

May 1988

125.1 116.2 118.8 120.4

Jun 1988

125.3 116.7 119.4 120.9

Jul 1988

125.9 117.3 120.0 121.4

Aug 1988

126.6 118.0 120.7 121.9

Sep 1988

127.7 118.8 121.5 122.7

Oct 1988

128.4 119.0 121.7 123.2

Nov 1988

128.4 118.8 121.6 123.3

Dec 1988

128.3 118.7 121.6 123.5

Jan 1989

128.8 119.1 122.1 124.1

Feb 1989

129.3 119.6 122.6 124.6

Mar 1989

130.6 120.7 123.8 125.3

Apr 1989

131.0 122.0 125.0 126.1

May 1989

131.6 122.9 125.9 126.8

Jun 1989

131.5 123.2 126.2 127.2

Jul 1989

132.0 123.5 126.6 127.5

Aug 1989

132.4 123.5 126.7 127.7

Sep 1989

133.1 123.9 127.2 128.1

Oct 1989

134.0 124.4 127.7 128.7

Nov 1989

134.3 124.3 127.7 129.0

Dec 1989

134.3 124.3 127.8 129.2

Jan 1990

135.5 126.1 129.6 130.5

Feb 1990

136.5 126.7 130.2 131.1

Mar 1990

137.9 127.6 131.2 131.9

Apr 1990

138.0 127.7 131.4 132.1

May 1990

138.0 127.9 131.7 132.4

Jun 1990

138.7 129.0 132.7 133.1

Jul 1990

139.5 129.5 133.4 133.6

Aug 1990

140.6 131.3 135.1 134.8

Sep 1990

141.2 132.8 136.6 136.0

Oct 1990

141.6 133.6 137.5 136.8

Nov 1990

141.6 133.5 137.5 137.1

Dec 1990

141.5 133.2 137.3 137.1

Jan 1991

142.7 133.7 137.9 137.9

Feb 1991

143.3 133.3 137.6 138.1

Mar 1991

144.1 133.3 137.8 138.3

Apr 1991

144.6 133.6 138.1 138.5

May 1991

144.4 134.0 138.6 138.9

Jun 1991

144.6 134.4 139.0 139.3

Jul 1991

144.6 134.3 139.0 139.5

Aug 1991

145.0 134.6 139.5 140.0

Sep 1991

145.6 135.2 140.1 140.6

Oct 1991

145.9 135.1 140.1 140.8

Nov 1991

146.2 135.4 140.4 141.2

Dec 1991

146.0 135.2 140.4 141.3

Jan 1992

146.6 135.4 140.6 141.5

Feb 1992

147.4 135.8 141.2 142.0

Mar 1992

148.5 136.6 142.0 142.7

Apr 1992

148.3 136.6 142.1 142.9

May 1992

148.0 136.9 142.4 143.1

Jun 1992

148.2 137.8 143.3 143.6

Jul 1992

148.3 137.8 143.5 144.0

Aug 1992

149.0 138.3 144.0 144.4

Sep 1992

149.4 138.7 144.4 144.8

Oct 1992

149.9 138.9 144.6 145.3

Nov 1992

149.8 138.7 144.6 145.5

Dec 1992

149.5 138.4 144.3 145.4

Jan 1993

150.4 139.0 145.0 146.1

Feb 1993

151.4 139.6 145.7 146.6

Mar 1993

152.1 140.2 146.3 147.1

Apr 1993

152.5 140.6 146.8 147.5

May 1993

152.3 140.7 147.0 147.7

Jun 1993

152.0 140.9 147.2 148.0

Jul 1993

152.0 140.7 147.1 148.0

Aug 1993

152.8 141.3 147.7 148.4

Sep 1993

153.2 141.5 148.0 148.7

Oct 1993

153.7 142.0 148.5 149.3

Nov 1993

153.8 141.7 148.3 149.4

Dec 1993

153.8 141.5 148.1 149.4

Jan 1994

154.5 141.8 148.5 149.8

Feb 1994

155.1 142.4 149.2 150.3

Mar 1994

156.1 143.2 150.0 150.8

Apr 1994

156.1 143.2 150.1 151.0

May 1994

156.0 143.3 150.2 151.1

Jun 1994

156.0 143.9 150.8 151.6

Jul 1994

156.3 144.3 151.3 152.0

Aug 1994

157.1 145.3 152.2 152.7

Sep 1994

157.5 145.6 152.5 153.1

Oct 1994

157.9 145.4 152.5 153.2

Nov 1994

157.9 145.4 152.5 153.4

Dec 1994

157.7 145.0 152.2 153.4

Jan 1995

158.4 145.5 152.8 154.0

Feb 1995

159.2 146.0 153.4 154.6

Mar 1995

160.0 146.6 154.0 155.1

Apr 1995

160.6 147.2 154.5 155.6

May 1995

160.3 147.4 154.8 155.9

Jun 1995

160.2 147.9 155.3 156.3

Jul 1995

160.5 147.9 155.4 156.3

Aug 1995

161.1 148.2 155.7 156.7

Sep 1995

161.6 148.4 156.0 157.0

Oct 1995

162.3 148.7 156.3 157.5

Nov 1995

162.2 148.2 155.9 157.4

Dec 1995

162.0 148.2 155.9 157.3

Jan 1996

163.1 149.3 157.1 158.2

Feb 1996

163.6 149.8 157.6 158.7

Mar 1996

164.8 151.0 158.7 159.5

Apr 1996

165.1 151.9 159.6 160.1

May 1996

164.7 152.2 159.9 160.5

Jun 1996

164.9 152.3 160.1 160.6

Jul 1996

165.5 152.7 160.5 160.9

Aug 1996

165.9 152.8 160.6 161.2

Sep 1996

166.4 153.3 161.1 161.7

Oct 1996

167.2 153.7 161.5 162.2

Nov 1996

167.3 153.8 161.7 162.5

Dec 1996

166.9 153.8 161.6 162.5

Jan 1997

167.7 154.6 162.5 163.0

Feb 1997

168.6 155.3 163.2 163.5

Mar 1997

169.3 155.5 163.5 163.9

Apr 1997

169.6 155.5 163.5 164.1

May 1997

169.5 155.3 163.4 164.0

Jun 1997

169.4 155.8 163.8 164.2

Jul 1997

169.9 155.9 164.0 164.4

Aug 1997

170.3 156.5 164.6 164.8

Sep 1997

170.6 157.0 165.0 165.2

Oct 1997

171.4 157.2 165.2 165.6

Nov 1997

171.3 156.9 165.1 165.5

Dec 1997

171.1 156.4 164.6 165.3

Jan 1998

172.0 156.6 164.9 165.6

Feb 1998

172.6 156.6 164.9 165.9

Mar 1998

173.6 157.0 165.4 166.2

Apr 1998

173.8 157.2 165.7 166.5

May 1998

174.0 157.7 166.2 166.8

Jun 1998

173.9 158.1 166.5 167.0

Jul 1998

174.1 158.1 166.6 167.2

Aug 1998

175.0 158.5 167.1 167.4

Sep 1998

175.3 158.5 167.1 167.6

Oct 1998

176.2 159.0 167.6 168.0

Nov 1998

176.2 158.8 167.4 168.0

Dec 1998

175.6 158.0 166.7 167.9

Jan 1999

176.0 158.2 167.0 168.3

Feb 1999

176.7 158.6 167.4 168.5

Mar 1999

177.5 159.5 168.3 169.1

Apr 1999

178.1 161.2 170.0 170.3

May 1999

178.0 161.3 170.1 170.3

Jun 1999

177.9 161.4 170.3 170.3

Jul 1999

177.9 161.8 170.7 170.8

Aug 1999

178.2 162.6 171.5 171.2

Sep 1999

179.0 163.5 172.4 172.0

Oct 1999

179.6 163.7 172.7 172.3

Nov 1999

179.6 163.6 172.6 172.4

Dec 1999

179.1 163.4 172.5 172.4

Jan 2000

179.8 164.0 173.1 173.0

Feb 2000

180.8 165.6 174.7 174.0

Mar 2000

182.0 167.7 176.8 175.4

Apr 2000

182.2 167.6 176.7 175.5

May 2000

182.4 167.7 176.9 175.7

Jun 2000

182.3 169.4 178.6 176.6

Jul 2000

182.5 169.6 178.8 177.0

Aug 2000

183.2 169.3 178.6 177.0

Sep 2000

183.9 170.8 180.1 178.0

Oct 2000

184.6 171.2 180.4 178.3

Nov 2000

184.4 170.9 180.3 178.4

Dec 2000

184.1 170.5 179.9 178.3

Jan 2001

184.9 172.0 181.4 179.4

Feb 2001

186.2 172.9 182.5 180.1

Mar 2001

187.6 173.5 183.1 180.5

Apr 2001

187.8 174.4 184.0 181.3

May 2001

187.9 175.9 185.4 182.1

Jun 2001

188.2 176.2 185.8 182.4

Jul 2001

188.3 174.6 184.4 181.9

Aug 2001

189.0 174.6 184.5 181.9

Sep 2001

189.4 175.5 185.4 182.7

Oct 2001

190.2 174.1 184.1 182.1

Nov 2001

190.2 172.9 183.0 181.8

Dec 2001

189.8 171.7 181.9 181.0

Jan 2002

190.5 172.3 182.6 181.5

Feb 2002

191.9 173.3 183.7 182.2

Mar 2002

193.3 175.3 185.6 183.2

Apr 2002

193.8 176.9 187.2 184.2

May 2002

193.3 176.7 187.1 184.2

Jun 2002

192.9 176.8 187.2 184.3

Jul 2002

192.8 176.8 187.4 184.5

Aug 2002

193.6 177.4 188.0 185.1

Sep 2002

194.0 177.8 188.4 185.5

Oct 2002

194.6 178.3 189.0 185.8

Nov 2002

194.5 178.0 188.8 185.8

Dec 2002

193.9 177.2 188.1 185.3

Jan 2003

194.5 178.4 189.3 186.2

Feb 2003

195.5 180.8 191.6 187.6

Mar 2003

196.3 182.8 193.6 188.7

Apr 2003

196.3 181.9 192.7 188.3

May 2003

196.6 181.4 192.3 188.0

Jun 2003

196.5 181.8 192.8 188.2

Jul 2003

196.5 181.9 192.9 188.4

Aug 2003

197.2 183.1 194.2 189.1

Sep 2003

197.7 184.2 195.3 189.8

Oct 2003

199.0 183.8 194.9 189.5

Nov 2003

198.6 182.8 194.0 189.0

Dec 2003

198.2 182.3 193.6 188.8

Jan 2004

198.5 183.5 194.9 189.8

Feb 2004

199.5 184.9 196.4 190.8

Mar 2004

201.4 186.9 198.4 192.0

Apr 2004

201.9 187.8 199.3 192.6

May 2004

202.5 189.8 201.3 193.8

Jun 2004

202.4 190.8 202.3 194.4

Jul 2004

202.4 190.1 201.7 194.1

Aug 2004

202.6 190.1 201.7 194.2

Sep 2004

203.1 190.3 202.0 194.6

Oct 2004

204.1 191.8 203.4 195.6

Nov 2004

203.5 191.5 203.2 195.7

Dec 2004

202.9 190.1 201.9 195.0

Jan 2005

203.4 190.2 202.1 195.4

Feb 2005

204.6 191.7 203.8 196.5

Mar 2005

206.6 194.4 206.4 198.1

Apr 2005

207.0 196.6 208.5 199.4

May 2005

206.7 196.0 208.0 199.2

Jun 2005

206.2 196.0 208.1 199.3

Jul 2005

206.4 197.5 209.6 200.2

Aug 2005

206.6 199.2 211.2 201.2

Sep 2005

206.6 203.2 215.0 203.7

Oct 2005

207.9 203.6 215.5 204.1

Nov 2005

207.6 200.2 212.4 202.5

Dec 2005

207.3 198.5 210.8 201.6

Jan 2006

208.0 200.8 213.1 203.2

Feb 2006

209.1 201.1 213.6 203.6

Mar 2006

211.0 203.0 215.5 204.7

Apr 2006

211.6 205.8 218.2 206.5

May 2006

211.8 207.5 219.8 207.5

Jun 2006

212.0 208.0 220.3 207.9

Jul 2006

212.3 208.9 221.3 208.5

Aug 2006

213.1 209.5 221.9 208.9

Sep 2006

214.0 207.3 219.9 207.9

Oct 2006

215.0 204.9 217.7 206.8

Nov 2006

214.7 204.5 217.3 206.5

Dec 2006

214.4 205.1 217.9 206.8

Jan 2007

215.4 205.6 218.6 207.4

Feb 2007

217.1 207.2 220.3 208.5

Mar 2007

218.5 210.5 223.5 210.4

Apr 2007

219.1 212.9 225.8 211.8

May 2007

219.2 215.1 228.0 213.1

Jun 2007

219.4 215.7 228.6 213.5

Jul 2007

219.7 215.2 228.2 213.4

Aug 2007

220.1 214.0 227.2 213.0

Sep 2007

220.9 214.8 228.0 213.6

Oct 2007

221.7 215.1 228.4 214.1

Nov 2007

221.6 217.0 230.4 215.3

Dec 2007

221.3 216.6 230.0 215.2

Jan 2008

222.5 217.8 231.3 216.3

Feb 2008

223.5 218.6 232.2 216.9

Mar 2008

224.8 221.6 235.1 218.8

Apr 2008

225.5 223.9 237.4 220.1

May 2008

225.5 227.0 240.3 222.0

Jun 2008

225.8 230.6 243.7 224.2

Jul 2008

226.6 232.1 245.2 225.4

Aug 2008

227.1 229.9 243.1 224.5

Sep 2008

228.0 229.1 242.4 224.2

Oct 2008

228.4 224.7 238.3 221.9

Nov 2008

227.9 216.8 230.8 217.6

Dec 2008

226.9 212.7 226.9 215.4

Jan 2009

227.5 213.8 228.1 216.3

Feb 2009

228.3 215.2 229.6 217.4

Mar 2009

229.1 215.6 230.1 217.9

Apr 2009

229.2 216.0 230.6 218.5

May 2009

228.8 217.0 231.5 219.1

Jun 2009

228.6 220.2 234.6 221.0

Jul 2009

227.9 219.0 233.5 220.6

Aug 2009

228.1 219.7 234.2 221.1

Sep 2009

228.3 219.4 234.0 221.3

Oct 2009

228.6 219.1 233.8 221.5

Nov 2009

227.4 219.0 233.7 221.6

Dec 2009

226.8 218.2 232.9 221.3

Jan 2010

226.8 219.2 234.1 222.0

Feb 2010

227.1 218.8 234.0 222.1

Mar 2010

227.8 220.3 235.5 223.0

Apr 2010

227.8 220.9 236.1 223.4

May 2010

227.6 221.0 236.2 223.5

Jun 2010

227.4 220.3 235.6 223.3

Jul 2010

227.0 220.1 235.4 223.4

Aug 2010

227.2 220.3 235.6 223.7

Sep 2010

228.0 220.5 235.9 223.8

Oct 2010

228.4 221.0 236.5 224.1

Nov 2010

228.3 221.1 236.6 224.2

Dec 2010

228.0 221.9 237.3 224.6

Jan 2011

228.7 223.4 238.9 225.6

Feb 2011

229.5 224.7 240.3 226.8

Mar 2011

230.6 228.4 243.9 229.0

Apr 2011

231.0 230.6 246.1 230.4

May 2011

231.4 232.2 247.6 231.5

Jun 2011

231.7 231.3 246.7 231.3

Jul 2011

232.1 231.4 246.9 231.5

Aug 2011

233.1 232.0 247.5 232.1

Sep 2011

234.0 232.5 248.1 232.5

Oct 2011

234.8 231.4 247.2 232.0

Nov 2011

234.7 230.9 246.8 231.8

Dec 2011

234.5 229.7 245.7 231.2

Jan 2012

235.1 231.0 247.1 232.2

Feb 2012

235.5 232.4 248.5 233.3

Mar 2012

236.6 235.2 251.3 235.0

Apr 2012

237.2 236.0 252.1 235.7

May 2012

237.3 235.1 251.4 235.5

Jun 2012

237.3 234.0 250.4 235.1

Jul 2012

237.1 233.1 249.7 234.7

Aug 2012

237.6 235.4 251.9 236.0

Sep 2012

238.7 237.3 253.8 237.1

Oct 2012

239.6 237.1 253.5 237.0

Nov 2012

239.5 234.8 251.4 235.9

Dec 2012

239.2 233.6 250.3 235.2

Jan 2013

239.8 234.3 251.1 235.9

Feb 2013

240.4 237.3 254.1 237.9

Mar 2013

241.1 238.1 254.9 238.5

Apr 2013

241.5 237.5 254.3 238.2

May 2013

241.6 238.1 254.9 238.7

Jun 2013

241.8 239.0 255.8 239.2

Jul 2013

241.8 239.0 255.8 239.3

Aug 2013

242.6 239.3 256.3 239.6

Sep 2013

243.4 239.7 256.7 239.9

Oct 2013

243.9 238.3 255.4 239.3

Nov 2013

243.9 237.4 254.5 238.8

Dec 2013

243.9 237.6 254.6 238.8

Jan 2014

244.4 238.9 256.1 239.7

Feb 2014

245.2 240.0 257.3 240.6

Mar 2014

246.6 242.6 259.8 242.1

Apr 2014

247.2 243.5 260.7 242.9

May 2014

248.0 244.6 261.8 243.8

Jun 2014

248.0 245.3 262.5 244.2

Jul 2014

248.3 245.2 262.5 244.1

Aug 2014

249.0 244.6 261.9 243.7

Sep 2014

250.2 244.9 262.2 243.9

Oct 2014

251.0 243.4 260.8 243.3

Nov 2014

250.7 240.9 258.6 242.0

Dec 2014

250.4 238.5 256.5 240.6

View Chart Data

Chart 2. Experimental "basic necessities" indexes based on the Consumer Price Index for urban wage earners and clerical workers (CPI-W), December 1984–December 2014
Month Basic necessities Basic necessities with energy Basic necessities with energy and medical care All items

Dec 1984

100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0

Jan 1985

100.3 99.9 100.0 100.1

Feb 1985

101.0 100.3 100.4 100.6

Mar 1985

101.4 100.9 101.0 101.0

Apr 1985

101.5 101.5 101.6 101.4

May 1985

101.8 102.1 102.2 101.8

Jun 1985

102.0 102.5 102.6 102.1

Jul 1985

102.2 102.7 102.8 102.2

Aug 1985

102.7 102.9 103.1 102.4

Sep 1985

103.0 103.1 103.3 102.7

Oct 1985

103.4 103.0 103.3 103.0

Nov 1985

103.9 103.3 103.6 103.3

Dec 1985

104.2 103.7 104.0 103.6

Jan 1986

104.6 103.8 104.2 103.9

Feb 1986

104.6 102.9 103.5 103.5

Mar 1986

105.0 101.5 102.3 103.0

Apr 1986

105.5 100.7 101.6 102.7

May 1986

105.6 101.1 102.1 103.0

Jun 1986

105.5 101.9 102.8 103.4

Jul 1986

106.3 101.6 102.6 103.4

Aug 1986

107.2 101.7 102.8 103.6

Sep 1986

107.7 102.3 103.4 104.1

Oct 1986

108.2 101.9 103.1 104.1

Nov 1986

108.3 101.6 102.9 104.2

Dec 1986

108.3 101.7 103.0 104.3

Jan 1987

108.7 102.5 103.8 105.0

Feb 1987

109.1 103.2 104.5 105.4

Mar 1987

109.8 103.8 105.1 105.9

Apr 1987

110.5 104.5 105.8 106.5

May 1987

110.9 104.9 106.3 106.8

Jun 1987

110.8 105.6 106.9 107.3

Jul 1987

110.8 105.6 107.0 107.5

Aug 1987

111.5 106.5 107.9 108.1

Sep 1987

112.3 107.1 108.5 108.6

Oct 1987

113.0 107.2 108.6 108.9

Nov 1987

113.1 107.1 108.5 109.1

Dec 1987

113.0 106.9 108.3 109.0

Jan 1988

113.4 107.0 108.5 109.3

Feb 1988

113.6 107.0 108.7 109.4

Mar 1988

114.4 107.6 109.2 109.8

Apr 1988

115.0 108.2 109.8 110.4

May 1988

115.3 108.7 110.3 110.9

Jun 1988

115.5 109.4 111.0 111.4

Jul 1988

116.0 109.8 111.5 111.8

Aug 1988

116.7 110.5 112.2 112.3

Sep 1988

117.8 111.3 113.0 113.1

Oct 1988

118.4 111.4 113.1 113.5

Nov 1988

118.5 111.3 113.0 113.5

Dec 1988

118.4 111.1 113.0 113.7

Jan 1989

118.7 111.5 113.4 114.2

Feb 1989

119.2 111.9 113.9 114.7

Mar 1989

120.3 112.9 114.8 115.3

Apr 1989

120.8 114.4 116.3 116.2

May 1989

121.3 115.3 117.2 116.9

Jun 1989

121.2 115.5 117.5 117.2

Jul 1989

121.6 115.8 117.8 117.6

Aug 1989

122.0 115.7 117.8 117.6

Sep 1989

122.7 116.0 118.2 117.9

Oct 1989

123.6 116.5 118.6 118.5

Nov 1989

123.9 116.4 118.7 118.7

Dec 1989

123.8 116.4 118.7 118.9

Jan 1990

125.0 118.2 120.4 120.1

Feb 1990

125.8 118.6 120.9 120.6

Mar 1990

127.1 119.4 121.8 121.3

Apr 1990

127.2 119.6 122.0 121.5

May 1990

127.1 119.7 122.2 121.7

Jun 1990

127.7 120.7 123.2 122.4

Jul 1990

128.3 121.1 123.7 122.8

Aug 1990

129.3 122.9 125.4 124.0

Sep 1990

130.0 124.5 127.0 125.1

Oct 1990

130.4 125.5 127.9 125.9

Nov 1990

130.5 125.4 127.9 126.1

Dec 1990

130.3 125.1 127.7 126.1

Jan 1991

131.3 125.1 127.9 126.7

Feb 1991

131.6 124.5 127.4 126.7

Mar 1991

132.4 124.5 127.5 126.9

Apr 1991

132.9 124.9 127.9 127.2

May 1991

132.9 125.4 128.4 127.7

Jun 1991

132.9 125.7 128.8 128.0

Jul 1991

132.9 125.5 128.7 128.1

Aug 1991

133.2 125.7 129.0 128.4

Sep 1991

133.8 126.4 129.6 129.0

Oct 1991

134.0 126.2 129.6 129.2

Nov 1991

134.4 126.5 129.9 129.6

Dec 1991

134.2 126.4 129.9 129.7

Jan 1992

134.7 126.3 129.9 129.8

Feb 1992

135.3 126.6 130.3 130.2

Mar 1992

136.3 127.3 131.1 130.7

Apr 1992

136.1 127.4 131.2 131.0

May 1992

135.9 127.8 131.6 131.3

Jun 1992

135.9 128.5 132.4 131.8

Jul 1992

136.1 128.6 132.5 132.1

Aug 1992

136.8 129.1 133.0 132.4

Sep 1992

137.1 129.4 133.4 132.7

Oct 1992

137.6 129.6 133.6 133.2

Nov 1992

137.5 129.5 133.6 133.4

Dec 1992

137.3 129.2 133.4 133.4

Jan 1993

138.0 129.6 133.8 133.9

Feb 1993

138.8 130.0 134.3 134.3

Mar 1993

139.4 130.5 134.9 134.6

Apr 1993

139.8 131.0 135.3 135.1

May 1993

139.8 131.2 135.7 135.4

Jun 1993

139.5 131.4 135.8 135.5

Jul 1993

139.4 131.2 135.7 135.6

Aug 1993

140.1 131.6 136.1 135.9

Sep 1993

140.5 131.9 136.5 136.1

Oct 1993

141.1 132.5 137.1 136.7

Nov 1993

141.2 132.2 136.8 136.8

Dec 1993

141.2 131.9 136.6 136.7

Jan 1994

141.8 132.1 136.8 137.0

Feb 1994

142.2 132.6 137.4 137.4

Mar 1994

143.0 133.2 138.0 137.8

Apr 1994

143.1 133.3 138.2 138.1

May 1994

143.0 133.4 138.3 138.3

Jun 1994

143.0 134.0 138.9 138.7

Jul 1994

143.3 134.4 139.4 139.1

Aug 1994

144.0 135.4 140.3 139.8

Sep 1994

144.5 135.8 140.7 140.2

Oct 1994

144.7 135.4 140.5 140.3

Nov 1994

144.8 135.4 140.5 140.6

Dec 1994

144.7 135.1 140.3 140.5

Jan 1995

145.3 135.5 140.7 141.0

Feb 1995

145.9 135.9 141.2 141.5

Mar 1995

146.6 136.3 141.6 141.9

Apr 1995

147.1 136.9 142.2 142.5

May 1995

146.9 137.3 142.6 142.7

Jun 1995

146.8 137.7 143.0 143.0

Jul 1995

147.0 137.6 143.0 143.0

Aug 1995

147.5 137.9 143.3 143.3

Sep 1995

148.1 138.1 143.6 143.7

Oct 1995

148.8 138.3 143.8 144.1

Nov 1995

148.6 137.8 143.4 144.0

Dec 1995

148.6 137.9 143.5 144.0

Jan 1996

149.4 138.9 144.5 144.8

Feb 1996

149.8 139.2 144.8 145.2

Mar 1996

150.9 140.3 145.9 145.9

Apr 1996

151.2 141.4 146.9 146.6

May 1996

150.9 141.8 147.3 146.9

Jun 1996

151.1 141.9 147.5 147.0

Jul 1996

151.5 142.1 147.7 147.2

Aug 1996

151.9 142.2 147.8 147.4

Sep 1996

152.5 142.7 148.4 148.0

Oct 1996

153.2 143.0 148.7 148.4

Nov 1996

153.4 143.4 149.0 148.8

Dec 1996

153.1 143.3 149.0 148.8

Jan 1997

153.6 143.9 149.6 149.1

Feb 1997

154.3 144.4 150.1 149.6

Mar 1997

154.9 144.5 150.2 149.8

Apr 1997

155.2 144.5 150.3 150.0

May 1997

155.2 144.5 150.3 150.0

Jun 1997

155.1 144.9 150.7 150.2

Jul 1997

155.4 144.9 150.7 150.3

Aug 1997

155.9 145.6 151.4 150.6

Sep 1997

156.2 146.1 151.9 151.0

Oct 1997

156.8 146.1 151.9 151.2

Nov 1997

156.9 145.9 151.8 151.2

Dec 1997

156.6 145.2 151.2 151.0

Jan 1998

157.2 145.2 151.2 151.1

Feb 1998

157.6 145.0 151.0 151.2

Mar 1998

158.4 145.3 151.3 151.4

Apr 1998

158.7 145.5 151.7 151.8

May 1998

158.9 146.1 152.3 152.2

Jun 1998

158.9 146.5 152.6 152.4

Jul 1998

158.9 146.4 152.6 152.5

Aug 1998

159.6 146.6 152.8 152.7

Sep 1998

160.1 146.7 153.0 152.9

Oct 1998

161.0 147.2 153.4 153.2

Nov 1998

161.0 147.0 153.3 153.3

Dec 1998

160.5 146.3 152.6 153.3

Jan 1999

160.9 146.4 152.7 153.6

Feb 1999

161.3 146.5 152.9 153.7

Mar 1999

161.9 147.3 153.7 154.0

Apr 1999

162.5 149.2 155.5 155.2

May 1999

162.5 149.4 155.8 155.3

Jun 1999

162.3 149.4 155.8 155.3

Jul 1999

162.1 149.7 156.2 155.8

Aug 1999

162.5 150.5 157.0 156.3

Sep 1999

163.3 151.6 158.1 157.2

Oct 1999

164.0 151.8 158.2 157.4

Nov 1999

164.0 151.7 158.2 157.5

Dec 1999

163.7 151.7 158.2 157.5

Jan 2000

164.1 152.1 158.7 158.0

Feb 2000

164.8 153.6 160.1 158.9

Mar 2000

165.8 155.6 162.2 160.2

Apr 2000

166.0 155.4 162.0 160.3

May 2000

166.3 155.7 162.3 160.5

Jun 2000

166.2 157.6 164.1 161.5

Jul 2000

166.3 157.5 164.1 161.6

Aug 2000

166.8 156.9 163.7 161.5

Sep 2000

167.7 158.7 165.4 162.6

Oct 2000

168.4 159.0 165.7 162.8

Nov 2000

168.3 158.8 165.6 163.1

Dec 2000

168.1 158.4 165.2 162.9

Jan 2001

168.6 159.7 166.4 163.8

Feb 2001

169.7 160.4 167.2 164.5

Mar 2001

170.9 160.8 167.7 164.7

Apr 2001

171.1 161.8 168.8 165.6

May 2001

171.3 163.6 170.5 166.4

Jun 2001

171.4 163.6 170.6 166.6

Jul 2001

171.5 161.8 168.9 165.8

Aug 2001

172.0 161.6 168.7 165.8

Sep 2001

172.7 163.0 170.1 166.8

Oct 2001

173.6 161.4 168.6 166.0

Nov 2001

173.7 160.1 167.4 165.7

Dec 2001

173.3 158.8 166.3 165.0

Jan 2002

173.7 159.3 166.8 165.3

Feb 2002

174.8 159.9 167.5 165.7

Mar 2002

176.0 161.9 169.4 166.7

Apr 2002

176.4 163.6 171.1 167.7

May 2002

176.0 163.4 171.0 167.7

Jun 2002

175.6 163.5 171.1 167.8

Jul 2002

175.4 163.4 171.1 168.0

Aug 2002

175.9 163.9 171.6 168.5

Sep 2002

176.6 164.5 172.2 168.9

Oct 2002

177.2 165.0 172.7 169.2

Nov 2002

177.2 164.9 172.8 169.3

Dec 2002

176.9 164.2 172.1 168.9

Jan 2003

177.1 165.2 173.1 169.6

Feb 2003

178.0 167.6 175.5 171.0

Mar 2003

178.7 169.6 177.5 172.0

Apr 2003

178.7 168.6 176.6 171.6

May 2003

178.9 167.9 175.9 171.2

Jun 2003

178.7 168.3 176.3 171.4

Jul 2003

178.6 168.2 176.3 171.4

Aug 2003

179.2 169.5 177.6 172.0

Sep 2003

180.1 171.0 179.1 172.7

Oct 2003

181.2 170.4 178.5 172.4

Nov 2003

181.2 169.5 177.7 171.9

Dec 2003

180.9 169.1 177.3 171.7

Jan 2004

181.0 170.3 178.6 172.6

Feb 2004

181.8 171.6 179.9 173.6

Mar 2004

183.3 173.3 181.7 174.5

Apr 2004

183.7 174.2 182.6 175.1

May 2004

184.2 176.4 184.7 176.2

Jun 2004

184.0 177.3 185.6 176.8

Jul 2004

184.0 176.5 184.9 176.4

Aug 2004

184.2 176.5 184.9 176.5

Sep 2004

184.8 176.7 185.2 176.9

Oct 2004

185.8 178.3 186.7 178.0

Nov 2004

185.5 178.2 186.6 178.2

Dec 2004

185.0 176.7 185.3 177.5

Jan 2005

185.2 176.5 185.2 177.8

Feb 2005

186.2 178.0 186.7 178.7

Mar 2005

187.6 180.3 189.0 180.0

Apr 2005

188.0 182.7 191.4 181.5

May 2005

187.8 182.2 191.0 181.3

Jun 2005

187.3 182.2 191.0 181.4

Jul 2005

187.4 183.7 192.5 182.3

Aug 2005

187.7 185.7 194.4 183.3

Sep 2005

188.1 190.4 198.9 186.1

Oct 2005

189.1 190.3 198.9 186.3

Nov 2005

189.1 186.7 195.5 184.5

Dec 2005

188.8 185.0 194.0 183.7

Jan 2006

189.2 187.2 196.1 185.1

Feb 2006

190.1 187.3 196.3 185.3

Mar 2006

191.5 188.9 198.0 186.4

Apr 2006

192.0 191.9 200.9 188.2

May 2006

192.3 193.7 202.7 189.1

Jun 2006

192.4 194.2 203.1 189.5

Jul 2006

192.3 194.9 203.9 190.1

Aug 2006

193.3 195.6 204.6 190.5

Sep 2006

194.4 193.2 202.3 189.3

Oct 2006

195.4 190.4 199.7 188.0

Nov 2006

195.2 190.1 199.5 187.8

Dec 2006

195.0 190.9 200.3 188.2

Jan 2007

195.6 191.1 200.4 188.5

Feb 2007

197.0 192.4 201.8 189.5

Mar 2007

198.3 195.9 205.4 191.4

Apr 2007

198.8 198.5 207.9 192.9

May 2007

199.0 201.1 210.4 194.3

Jun 2007

198.9 201.3 210.7 194.6

Jul 2007

199.0 200.6 210.0 194.4

Aug 2007

199.5 199.4 208.9 193.9

Sep 2007

200.5 200.3 209.9 194.6

Oct 2007

201.5 200.6 210.3 195.0

Nov 2007

201.6 203.1 212.7 196.5

Dec 2007

201.5 202.7 212.4 196.4

Jan 2008

202.3 203.7 213.6 197.3

Feb 2008

203.1 204.3 214.2 197.8

Mar 2008

204.0 207.3 217.1 199.6

Apr 2008

204.9 209.9 219.6 201.0

May 2008

204.9 213.4 223.0 203.0

Jun 2008

205.1 217.3 226.7 205.4

Jul 2008

205.6 218.6 228.0 206.4

Aug 2008

206.4 216.3 225.8 205.4

Sep 2008

207.5 215.6 225.2 205.1

Oct 2008

208.0 210.6 220.4 202.5

Nov 2008

207.9 201.8 212.1 197.8

Dec 2008

207.2 197.4 207.8 195.4

Jan 2009

207.6 198.4 208.9 196.3

Feb 2009

208.2 199.8 210.3 197.2

Mar 2009

208.8 200.1 210.7 197.7

Apr 2009

208.8 200.6 211.2 198.4

May 2009

208.5 201.9 212.5 199.2

Jun 2009

208.2 205.5 216.0 201.3

Jul 2009

207.5 204.2 214.8 200.9

Aug 2009

207.7 205.0 215.6 201.5

Sep 2009

208.1 204.8 215.4 201.6

Oct 2009

208.4 204.4 215.2 201.9

Nov 2009

207.7 204.8 215.5 202.3

Dec 2009

207.1 204.0 214.9 202.0

Jan 2010

207.2 205.2 216.1 202.8

Feb 2010

207.5 204.7 215.8 202.8

Mar 2010

208.0 206.3 217.4 203.7

Apr 2010

208.0 206.9 218.1 204.2

May 2010

207.8 207.0 218.2 204.3

Jun 2010

207.5 206.2 217.4 204.0

Jul 2010

207.1 206.0 217.2 204.1

Aug 2010

207.3 206.2 217.4 204.4

Sep 2010

208.1 206.3 217.7 204.5

Oct 2010

208.6 206.9 218.3 204.8

Nov 2010

208.6 207.1 218.5 204.9

Dec 2010

208.3 208.1 219.5 205.4

Jan 2011

209.0 209.8 221.1 206.5

Feb 2011

209.7 211.1 222.5 207.6

Mar 2011

210.8 215.2 226.5 209.9

Apr 2011

211.2 217.8 229.1 211.6

May 2011

211.6 219.5 230.7 212.7

Jun 2011

211.7 218.2 229.6 212.3

Jul 2011

212.0 218.2 229.5 212.5

Aug 2011

213.0 218.8 230.2 213.1

Sep 2011

214.1 219.4 230.7 213.4

Oct 2011

214.8 218.0 229.5 212.8

Nov 2011

214.9 217.5 229.1 212.6

Dec 2011

214.8 216.2 227.9 212.0

Jan 2012

215.3 217.6 229.4 213.0

Feb 2012

215.6 219.1 230.9 214.0

Mar 2012

216.6 222.2 233.9 215.9

Apr 2012

217.0 223.0 234.8 216.6

May 2012

217.0 221.8 233.8 216.2

Jun 2012

216.9 220.4 232.5 215.7

Jul 2012

216.7 219.4 231.6 215.2

Aug 2012

217.3 222.0 234.1 216.7

Sep 2012

218.2 224.0 236.1 217.7

Oct 2012

219.2 223.6 235.7 217.5

Nov 2012

219.2 221.1 233.3 216.2

Dec 2012

219.0 219.8 232.1 215.5

Jan 2013

219.5 220.5 232.7 216.1

Feb 2013

220.0 223.7 235.9 218.2

Mar 2013

220.6 224.5 236.8 218.8

Apr 2013

220.8 223.7 236.1 218.5

May 2013

220.9 224.3 236.7 218.9

Jun 2013

221.0 225.3 237.5 219.5

Jul 2013

221.1 225.1 237.5 219.5

Aug 2013

221.8 225.4 237.8 219.8

Sep 2013

222.6 225.7 238.2 220.0

Oct 2013

223.1 224.1 236.7 219.2

Nov 2013

223.2 223.0 235.7 218.6

Dec 2013

223.2 223.3 235.9 218.7

Jan 2014

223.6 224.6 237.3 219.5

Feb 2014

224.2 225.6 238.4 220.3

Mar 2014

225.4 228.3 241.0 221.9

Apr 2014

226.1 229.4 242.1 222.8

May 2014

226.6 230.4 243.1 223.5

Jun 2014

226.7 231.2 243.8 224.0

Jul 2014

226.9 230.9 243.6 223.8

Aug 2014

227.5 230.0 242.8 223.3

Sep 2014

228.8 230.2 243.0 223.4

Oct 2014

229.6 228.4 241.3 222.5

Nov 2014

229.4 225.6 238.8 220.9

Dec 2014

229.1 222.9 236.2 219.4

 

Nonetheless, someone who started receiving contract or other payments (e.g., a Social Security recipient) in December 1982, adjusted on the basis of the base experimental CPI-U, would receive a few dollars more in December 2014 than if the payments were adjusted on the basis of the All Items index. Adding energy would result in a few dollars less. Adding medical care to the base-plus-energy index would result in a few dollars more. These dollar amount differences are not negligible in percentage terms. For example, for the CPI-U, the December 2014 payment based on the annual rate of growth in the base index is 4.06 percent higher than the December 2014 payment based on the annual rate of growth in the All Items index. (See table 1.) Alternatively, the December 2014 payment based on the annual rate of growth in the All Items index is 3.91 percent lower than the December 2014 payment based on the annual rate of growth in the base index.7

In the case of the CPI-W, if contracts or other payments had been adjusted by a base experimental CPI-W, then average monthly payments for someone who started receiving such payments in December 1984 would be a few dollars more in December 2014 than if the payments were adjusted on the basis of the All Items index. The result is the same when energy and medical care are separately added.

Conclusion

Experimental indexes were constructed to measure the change in the price of “basic necessities” over the last 30 years. These indexes indicate that the cost of a market basket consisting only of groceries, shelter, clothing, energy, and medical care has risen at a slightly higher annual rate than the cost of a market basket consisting of the full range of goods and services available for purchase in the consumer marketplace. If contracts and other payments had been adjusted each year over the last 30 years by the rate of increase in one of these “basic necessities” indexes, the average payment received would be slightly higher than if the All Items index were used.

This Beyond the Numbers summary was prepared by Jonathan Church and Kenneth J. Stewart, economists in the Office of Prices and Living Conditions, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Email: church.jonathan@bls.gov. Telephone: (202) 691-5379.

Information in this article will be made available upon request to individuals with sensory impairments. Voice phone: (202) 691-5200. Federal Relay Service: 1-800-877-8339. This article is in the public domain and may be reproduced without permission.

Notes

1 The CPI is not the only price index used to escalate contracts. Producer Price Indexes (PPIs) are commonly used as escalators in purchase and sales contracts and to account for changes in input prices. For example, a long-term contract for bread may adjust for the price of bread according to the percent change in the PPI for wheat. (See “Producer price indexes: frequently asked questions” (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, February 18, 2015), http://stats.bls.gov/ppi/ppifaq.htm#1.) Also, the Employment Cost Index (ECI) is used for a number of purposes: federal pay adjustments; active-duty military pay adjustments; escalator clauses in collective bargaining contracts, U.S. government contracts, and foreign government contracts; adjustments to Medicare reimbursements for hospital, physician, and related services; adjustments to school district property taxes; and economic price adjustments in long-term purchase contracts. (See BLS handbook of methods, chapter 8, “National compensation measures (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), https://www.bls.gov/opub/hom/pdf/homch8.pdf.)

2 A “constant-quality” market basket is a theoretical concept according to which the items in the market basket remain the same over a given length of time. In reality, the marketplace evolves. Goods and services can become obsolete. New goods and services enter the marketplace. Existing goods and services improve in quality. The CPI accounts for marketplace evolution by completely rotating its sample every 4 years. However, the goal of a measure of inflation is to track changes in the standard of living. In order to do so, adjustments must be made to account for changes in the standard of living. Thus, if the size of cereal boxes decreases, but the price remains the same, the CPI accounts for the increase in per-unit price. In another example, a higher quality computer purchased at the same price as a previous-generation computer is treated as a price decline. Thus, conceptually, the standard of living remains constant, allowing for measurement of “pure” price change independently of changes in the marketplace.

3 The CPI-U and CPI-W constitute the pair; the U.S. city average and experimental index are the common elements. Because there are three experimental indexes, there are three pairs.

4 The index for shelter is composed primarily of the indexes for “rent of primary residence” and “owners’ equivalent rent.” The index for “owners’ equivalent rent” was introduced into the CPI-U in January 1983. The base period was December 1982 = 100. The index for “owners’ equivalent rent” was introduced into the CPI-W in January 1985. Its base period was December 1984 = 100.

4 The relative importance for each category provides a starting amount in December 1982 for the CPI-U and in December 1984 for the CPI-W. These starting amounts are updated each month by changes in the price index until they are “rebased” in December of each year. For a simple example of how to construct such an index, see Gerald Perrins and Diane Nilsen, “Math calculations to better utilize CPI data” (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), https://www.bls.gov/cpi/factsheets/cpi-math-calculations.pdf.

6 Note that, because a confidence interval is not constructed around the estimated rate of change in the experimental index, tests of statistical significance are not applicable. The analysis presented consists simply of calculating annual rates of change in experimental indexes and comparing them with the annual rate of change in the All Items index.

7 The two percentages given in this paragraph are not percent differences in growth rates. Rather, they are percent differences between amounts of payments based on two indexes. For example, 4.06 percent is the percent difference between $240.59, the amount in December 2014 needed to equal $100 in December 1982, based on the All Items CPI, and $250.36, the amount in December 2014 needed to equal $100 in December 1982, based on the base experimental index. (Mathematically, [(250.36 – 240.59)/240.59] × 100 = 4.06.) A similar calculation holds for the 3.91-percent figure.

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Publish Date: Thursday, June 18, 2015

Suggested citation:

Jonathan Church,   “The cost of 'basic necessities' has risen slightly more than inflation over the last 30 years,” Beyond the Numbers, vol. 4, no. 10 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Jun 2015), https://www.bls.gov/opub/btn/volume-4/the-cost-of-basic-necessities-has-risen-slightly-more-than-inflation-over-the-last-30-years.htm (visited October 18, 2021).

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