Consumer Price Index

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Definition: Consumer Price Index

Quick Summary of Consumer Price Index

The Consumer Price Index more commonly known as CPI, is a figure calculated by the federal government that is used a measure of inflation.

What is the dictionary definition of Consumer Price Index?

Dictionary Definition

The Consumer Price Index more commonly known as CPI, is a figure calculated by the federal government that is used a measure of inflation.

Full Definition of Consumer Price Index

The Consumer Price Index, also known as the CPI, is released monthly by the US Department of Labor. It measures the price changes in a fixed basket of consumer goods in an attempt to measure economic inflation. A Consumer Price Index reading that excludes volatile food and energy prices (core CPI) is also published monthly. The basket of goods and services used to calculate the Consumer Price Index includes medical services and drugs, food, energy, recreation, clothing, education, housing, and communications. The Consumer Price Index is widely viewed as a leading economic indicator. Cost of living adjustments in programs such as Social Security are based on the Consumer Price Index. GDP calculations also use the Consumer Price Index as an input. Because of its wide implications, the Consumer Price Index can affect interest rates and foreign exchange rates.

The CPI is a figure well known to many Americans. Essentially it measures how much it costs an average consumer to purchase goods and services he or she needs every day. The CPI is one of the most widely quoted statistics in the media as a measure of inflation, although it doesn’t directly measure increases in the money supply. The CPI takes into account changes in prices of a basket of everyday items, weights them in order o perceived importance to consumers, and then calculates the average increase. Obviously, there is a lot of play in the final number as a result of the weighting and items selected for inclusion.

The CPI’s prevalence has allowed it to become a benchmark for many things including rent increases in commercial real estate.


The CPI is calculated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and has frequently come under fire for how it is calculated. The methodology of calculating the CPI has frequently changed over the years to the point that critics argue it no longer accurately tracks inflation. Critics claim that the CPI suffers from “garbage in garbage out” (a phenomenon that says while formulas may be good if the calculator does not give the correct inputs, he or she will not get an accurate number) and that the current formulation excludes too many important items such as bread and milk as well as incorrectly weights others. Furthermore, they contend that its methodology completely ignores substitution effects (where consumers may trade down to less expensive items if an item becomes too pricey), the fact some manufacturers eliminate choice (such as when computer manufactures offer faster computers at the same price as the slower ones that are no longer available for sale) and the method of data collection is haphazard. In order to calculate the CPI BLS employees go periodically around to various retail outlets in a given census area and record prices.

Basically, there are a ton of ways this number could be completely wrong.

The CPI’s importance to how everyday business is done makes these issues heavily contested.

Inflation can be defined differently for each individual based on your personal spending patterns and your location. The nationally published CPI does not capture this as it is just an average. You can calculate your own personal inflation rate and research inflation data down to the individual item level at

Importance to Investors

CPI can warn the investor whether we are heading into a period of greater than normal inflation or less commonly deflation. The investor can use this information in evaluating companies. The CPI is best considered to be a decent rough estimate of inflation due to the difficulty in calculating it.

Synonyms For Consumer Price Index


Cite Term

To help you cite our definitions in your bibliography, here is the proper citation layout for the three major formatting styles, with all of the relevant information filled in.

Page URL
Modern Language Association (MLA):
Consumer Price Index. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. September 21, 2021
Chicago Manual of Style (CMS):
Consumer Price Index. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. (accessed: September 21, 2021).
American Psychological Association (APA):
Consumer Price Index. Retrieved September 21, 2021, from website:

Definition Sources

Definitions for Consumer Price Index are sourced/syndicated and enhanced from:

  • A Dictionary of Economics (Oxford Quick Reference)
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Accounting
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Business & Management

This glossary post was last updated: 4th August, 2021 | 4 Views.