Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Question: What goods and services does the Consumer Price Index (CPI) cover?
Answer: The CPI represents all goods and services purchased for consumption by the reference population (Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers or Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers). The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has classified all expenditure items into more than 200 categories, arranged into eight major groups. Major groups and examples of categories in each are as follows:
- FOOD AND BEVERAGES (breakfast cereal, milk, coffee, chicken, wine, full service meals and snacks);
- HOUSING (rent of primary residence, owners' equivalent rent, fuel oil, bedroom furniture);
- APPAREL (men's shirts and sweaters, women's dresses, jewelry);
- TRANSPORTATION (new vehicles, airline fares, gasoline, motor vehicle insurance);
- MEDICAL CARE (prescription drugs and medical supplies, physicians' services, eyeglasses and eye care, hospital services);
- RECREATION (televisions, cable television, pets and pet products, sports equipment, admissions);
- EDUCATION AND COMMUNICATION (college tuition, postage, telephone services, computer software and accessories);
- OTHER GOODS AND SERVICES (tobacco and smoking products, haircuts and other personal services, funeral expenses).
Also included within these major groups are various government-charged user fees, such as water and sewerage charges, auto registration fees, and vehicle tolls. The CPI also includes taxes, such as sales and excise taxes, that are directly associated with the prices of specific goods and services. However, the CPI excludes taxes, such as income and Social Security taxes, not directly associated with the purchase of consumer goods and services.
The CPI does not include investment items, such as stocks, bonds, real estate, and life insurance. (These items relate to savings and not to day-to-day consumption expenses.)
For each of the more than 200 item categories, BLS has chosen samples of several hundred specific items within selected business establishments frequented by consumers, using scientific statistical procedures, to represent the thousands of varieties available in the marketplace. For example, in a given supermarket, BLS may choose a plastic bag of golden delicious apples, U.S. extra fancy grade, weighing 4.4 pounds to represent the "Apples" category.