Teaching Chain-Weight Real GDP Measures

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In 1996, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) changed the method used to calculate measures of real GDP from a Laspeyres or Paasche index to a Fisher ideal index, also called a chain-weight index. Even though this is a significant change in approach and has resulted in extensive revisions of reported statistics, many intermediate-level textbooks treat this topic casually, if at all. This article presents two applications in which this topic can be explored more thoroughly, with the help of spreadsheet software. One exercise introduces the concept of the chain-weight index by comparing it to Laspeyres, Paasche and ideal indexes with the use of utility analysis. The second exercise is a step-by-step process to calculate chain-weight index statistics.

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