Consumer Price Index

Consumer Price Index in the United States

Consumer Price Index (CPI) (Economics Term) in the Federal Budget Process

Meaning of Consumer Price Index in the congressional and executive budget processes (GAO source): A measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services commonly referred to as “inflation.” Measures for two population groups are currently published, CPI-U and CPI-W. CPI-U is based on a market basket determined by expenditure patterns of all urban households, while the market basket for CPI-W is determined by expenditure patterns of only urban wage-earner and clerical-worker families.

The urban wage-earner and clerical-worker population consists of clerical workers, sales workers, craft workers, operatives, service workers, and laborers. Both indexes are published monthly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The CPI is used to adjust for inflation, the income payments of Social Security beneficiaries, and payments made by other programs. In addition, the CPI is used to adjust certain amounts defined by the tax code, such as personal exemptions and the tax brackets.

Legal Materials

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) reflects the change in prices charged for consumer goods and services. It is often used as an indication of the inflation and/or the “cost of living.” The CPI calculated monthly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and announced on the 24th of the month following the month in question.

To find out exactly how the CPI is figured, see Labor Statistics Bureau Bulletin #2414 (BLS Handbook of Methods). Information is also posted on the BLS Web site (

Current CPI Data: The most complete information for the U.S. is the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ CPI Detailed Report. Information is also available on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Inflation & Prices page. Or you can get right to current info by viewing the latest Federal reserve release; if you just want to see the annual rate of change (i.e.,inflation), go right to Table 3, which provides data for All Urban Consumers (a) in the U.S., (b) by region and (c) for selected cities.

Other sources of CPI information: Moderately complete, and moderately current, are statistics published in BNA’s Daily Report for Executives or Labor Relations Reporter/Labor Relations Expediter (LRX *).

Historical CPI Data: If you just want to a list of the overall CPI figures for prior years, the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis posts the CPI from 1913-Present. For more complete historical final CPI data, use the BLS’s CPI Databases. For unadjusted data (i.e., what the BLS originally announced), you can look at the appropriate back issue(s) of the CPI Detailed Report, available back to 1994 through the Archived News Releases page, and possibly farther back in print in larger public and academic libraries. To get the inflation rate for a date range (e.g., 1870-1885), use the Inflation Rates calculator on the web site.

You can also find historical CPI data in the American Jurisprudence 2nd Desk Bookand Volume 1, Tab 10, “Economic Background for Bargaining,” in BNA’s Collective Bargaining: Negotiations and Contracts.

Inflation Calculators: To calculate the effect of inflation on the relative buying power of money (e.g., How much would $10 in 1950 be worth today?), use the What is a Dollar Worth? calculator on the home page of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, the CPI Inflation Calculator posted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Inflation Calculator or

Foreign CPI Data: You can look up CPI data for foreign countries using Inflation Central by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. The IMF’s International Financial Statistics includes cost of living data for many countries. In addition, CPI data for foreign countries is available on Lexis in one of the Bloomberg libraries. Also, the U.N. publishes foreign CPIs as Table 50 of its Monthly Bulletin of Statistics, though the data in the current issue is generally a few years old. has CPI data forBritish Pounds. The last page of each issue of The Economist has a financial data chart with the inflation rate for the major world economies.


See Also

Further Reading

  • Legislatures and the budget process: the myth of fiscal control (J Wehner, 2010)
  • Reconcilable Differences?: Congress, the Budget Process, and the Deficit (JB Gilmour, 1990)
  • Fiscal institutions and fiscal performance (JM Poterba, J von Hagen, 2008)

Consumer Price Index in the context of Real Estate


See Also

  • Cost of Living Index

Consumer Price Index: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Consumer Price Index. This part provides references, in relation to Consumer Price Index, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Consumer Price Index by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Consumer Price Index and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Consumer Price Index or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Consumer Price Index and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Consumer Price Index. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Consumer Price Index should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Consumer Price Index when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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