This fascinating chart was designed by Amanda Cox for the Saturday New York Times business section. The chart creates a visual, interactive map of the spending that goes into how the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates the Consumer Price Index.
The CPI is a useful tool for calculating inflation across the economy. Unlike some other inflation calculators, the CPI is an extremely practical measure because it calculates inflation based on the changes in prices of products and services that average consumers buy. These goods fall into a common “basket” of products and services that are evaluated monthly. The CPI, becuase of the way it is calculated, is more a measure of cost-of-living than it is a measure of pure price, but the Index has been a popular tool for measuring inflation since it was introduced in 1919
The chart itself is divided into spending areas: food and beverages, transportation, health care, apparel, housing, education and communication, recreation, and miscellaneous. And within each category, the chart illustrates how much money the average consumer spends on certain items like fast food, car parts, children’s shoes, and appliances. You can zoom in for a closer view of the map, and putting your mouse over each shape gives you further spending information. Finally, the colors on the chart indicate how the price of each item has changed since March of 2007.
Click here or on the picture above to see the full chart.