NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Goods Prices and Availability in Cities

Jessie Handbury, David E. Weinstein

NBER Working Paper No. 17067
Issued in May 2011
NBER Program(s):   ITI

This paper uses detailed barcode data on purchase transactions by households in 49 U.S. cities to overcome a large number of problems that have plagued spatial price index measurement. We identify two important sources of bias. Heterogeneity bias arises from comparing different goods in different locations, and variety bias arises from not correcting for the fact that some goods are unavailable in some locations. Eliminating heterogeneity bias causes 97 percent of the variance in the price level of food products across cities to disappear relative to a conventional index. Eliminating both biases reverses the common finding that prices tend to be higher in larger cities. Instead, we find that price level for food products falls with city size.

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This paper was revised on December 2, 2013

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w17067

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