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Lina Segers

17 July 2023
This paper provides an extensive literature review and analyses some open issues in the measurement of inflation that can only be explored in depth using micro price data. It builds on the analysis done in the context of the ECB’s strategy review, which pointed at directions for improvement of the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP), including better quantification of potential biases. Two such biases are the substitution bias and the quality adjustment bias. Most analyses of substitution bias rest on the concept of the cost of living, positing that preferences are stable, homogeneous and homothetic. Consumer behaviour is characterised by preference shifts and heterogeneity, which influence the measurement of the cost of living and substitution bias. Climate change may make the impact of preference shifts particularly relevant as it causes the introduction of new varieties of “green” goods and services (zero-kilometre food, sustainable tourism) and a shift from “brown” to “green” products. Furthermore, PRISMA data show that consumption baskets and thus inflation vary across income classes (e.g. higher-income households tend to buy more expensive goods), pointing to non-homotheticity of preferences. When preferences are heterogeneous and/or non-homothetic, it is important to monitor different experiences of inflation across classes of consumers/citizens. This is particularly important when very large relative price changes affect items that enter the consumption baskets of the rich and the poor, the young and the old, in very different proportions. Another open area of analysis concerns the impact of quality adjustment on measured inflation. Evidence based on web-scraped prices shows that the various implicit quality adjustment methods can produce widely varying inflation trends when product churn is fast. In the euro area specifically, using different quality adjustment methods can be an overlooked source of divergent inflation trends in sub-categories, and, if pervasive, shows up in overall measured inflation divergence across countries.
JEL Code
E31 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles→Price Level, Inflation, Deflation
14 April 2022
Economic Bulletin Issue 3, 2022
This box summarises the main findings from contacts between ECB staff and representatives of 67 leading non-financial companies operating in the euro area. The exchanges mainly took place between 20 and 30 March 2022. According to these contacts, overall activity developed positively in the first months of the year, despite ongoing supply constraints as well as cost and price pressures. The war in Ukraine added further disruption to businesses, mainly in the form of further price increases for energy and raw materials, much of which would be passed through to selling prices, as well as shortages resulting in reduced production in some sectors. Overall, contacts expected growth to slow in the coming months, as higher inflation would reduce disposable income and final consumer demand, while uncertainty and downside risks were substantial.
JEL Code
E2 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Consumption, Saving, Production, Investment, Labor Markets, and Informal Economy
E3 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles
L2 : Industrial Organization→Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior