Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Weird Process by Which Federal Workers Measure Inflation

“Nearly every day, a few hundred federal workers, carefully spread around the United States by a rigorous statistical model, carry out a peculiar task on a special, secure tablet computer. Throughout the day, they are directed to visit specific stores in search of specific items—say, organic romaine lettuce hearts; or a 2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport with the premium package; or a men’s long-sleeve button-down shirt, blue, size XL and made of 80% cotton and 20% polyester. Over the course of the month, 80,000 prices are entered into tablets throughout the country, and the data flow to Washington for processing. Parsed and analyzed by economists, that information determines the official United States government inflation rate: arguably the most influential bit of data in the world, determining whether new factories are built, new employees hired.”

The Economy’s Missing Metrics