How Economists Gather Data To Calculate Inflation : Planet Money : The Indicator from Planet Money The Consumer Price Index helps to understand prices and inflation, but where do the numbers come from in the first place? We tagged along with an economist to find out the prices of socks, butter, and daycare.

How Do You Measure Inflation?

How Do You Measure Inflation?

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Heritage Images/Heritage Images via Getty Images
(Photo by Heritage Art/Heritage Images via Getty Images)
Heritage Images/Heritage Images via Getty Images

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics updates the Consumer Price Index each month. The latest number shows a 5.4% increase over the last twelve months. That has some inflation watchers worried. So today on The Indicator we go behind the scenes and look at how the numbers are collected and calculated.

Emily Mascitis is an economist at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. She and hundreds of people at the Department of Labor work hard to keep tabs on the price of everything consumers buy or rent. Collecting the data takes years of regular in-person visits, phone calls, and online searches. Sometimes Emily needs to double or triple check the price of a specific item, but such due diligence is essential. After all, policy makers, companies, and everyday people make numerous decisions based on the CPI.

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