How Fast are Semiconductor Prices Falling?

David M. Byrne, Stephen D. Oliner, Daniel E. Sichel

NBER Working Paper No. 21074
Issued in April 2015
NBER Program(s):Development of the American Economy, Economic Fluctuations and Growth, Industrial Organization, Productivity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship

The Producer Price Index (PPI) for the United States suggests that semiconductor prices have barely been falling in recent years, a dramatic contrast from the rapid declines reported from the mid-1980s to the early 2000s. This slowdown in the rate of decline is puzzling in light of evidence that the performance of microprocessor units (MPUs) has continued to improve at a rapid pace. Roughly coincident with the shift to slower price declines in the PPI, Intel — the leading producer of MPUs — substantially changed its pricing behavior for these chips. As a result of this change, we argue that the matched-model methodology used in the PPI for MPUs likely started to be biased in the mid-2000s and that hedonic indexes can provide a more accurate measure of price change since then. Our preferred hedonic index of MPU prices tracks the PPI closely through 2004. However, from 2004 to 2008, our preferred index fell faster than the PPI, and from 2008 to 2013 the gap widened further, with our preferred index falling at an average annual rate of 43 percent, while the PPI declined at only an 8 percent rate. Given that MPUs currently represent about half of U.S. shipments of semiconductors, this difference has important implications for gauging the rate of innovation in the semiconductor sector.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21074

Published: David M. Byrne & Stephen D. Oliner & Daniel E. Sichel, 2017. "How Fast are Semiconductor Prices Falling?," Review of Income and Wealth, . citation courtesy of

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