The Bureau of Economic Analysis will soon release real personal income statistics using regional price indexes to adjust BEA’s personal income data for differences in the cost of living across states and metro areas. These new statistics will inform decisions by businesses and households alike – from deciding where to move for a new job or locating a new company to helping economic development offices shape regional marketing plans and comparing economic performances across regions.
Across the U.S., there are differences in the cost of everything from medical care to housing. In some states, such as Hawaii and New York, goods and services cost more. In others, such as South Dakota and Mississippi, they cost less. Just as adjusting U.S. economic growth for inflation (real GDP) is critical for comparing the high inflation years of the early 1980s to the low inflation years of the late 1990s, adjusting state personal incomes (real state personal income) for differences in the cost of living across states is important in comparing incomes, and the purchasing power of that income across states.
BEA will provide comprehensive data on regional differences in real incomes, on April 24, when it releases statistics for 50 states and for 381 metro areas. The report will cover the period 2008 through 2012.
Economists call indexes that compare the level of prices of goods and services across geographic areas purchasing power parity indexes. BEA has worked with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Census Bureau, and other experts in price measurement to develop its new regional price parities. These regional price parities, which measure differences in the level of prices across states and metro areas, are used in combination with BEA’s national Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) price index, which measures the changes in prices over time, (or inflation), to compare personal incomes across regions and over time.
Last year, BEA released prototype statistics of this kind. This year, for the first time, BEA will start releasing annual reports on a regular basis.