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Handbook of Methods Consumer Price Index Overview

Consumer Price Index: Overview

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a representative basket of consumer goods and services. The CPI measures inflation as experienced by consumers in their day-to-day living expenses. Indexes are available for the United States and various geographic areas. Average price data for select utility, automotive fuel, and food items are also available. CPI indexes are used to adjust income eligibility levels for government assistance, federal tax brackets, federally mandated cost-of-living increases, private sector wage and salary increases, poverty measures, and consumer and commercial rent escalations. Consequently, the CPI directly affects hundreds of millions of Americans. 


Quick Facts: Consumer Price Index
Subject areas Prices
Key measures
  • Average prices
  • Consumer price indexes
  • Consumer prices
How the data are obtained Survey of businesses, Survey of households
Classification Commodity
Periodicity of data availability Bimonthly, Monthly
Geographic detail Census region, City, Metro area
Scope Urban consumers
Reference Period


Key products
Program webpage

Last Modified Date: November 24, 2020