CSO eyes new cost-of-living measure

The CSO said it will consider next year publishing a new range of statistics measuring the cost of living for different income and family groups.

The inflation statistics may then detect the way different people experience price changes for the first time.

It comes as a study published today shows soaring rents are helping push up the cost of living in recent years for lower income groups.

The Economic and Social Research Institute set out to analyse the way that different groups had been affected by price rises during the boom years and then during the economic bust.

It found that between 2003 to 2008 inflation for low income households was below the average inflation rate recorded by the CSO. But during the recession year of 2009 and 2014, low-income groups experienced faster inflation while the highest income groups experienced lower than average inflation.

“Low and high-income households purchase different baskets of goods and services. As a result, the rates of inflation for low and high income households can differ from inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is based on a basket of goods averaged over all households,” said the authors Brian Colgan and Tim Callan.

“Housing costs were a major factor contributing to this pattern. Low income groups were more likely to rent their homes, while high income groups were more likely to have a mortgage. Differences in the inflation rate for renters and for those with mortgages — the latter depending on both house prices and interest rates —help to explain the differences in overall inflation experience for both high and low income groups.”

Barra Casey, statistician at the CSO’s CPI unit, said there were tentative plans to publish a range of official statistics showing how different family income groups experience inflation. The CSO is completing its household budget survey and will re-base its CPI basket of goods and services next year.

It could then “weight” the basket by individual or family type, though issues such as the different type of shops used by high- and low-income households would need to be assessed as well, he said.

Motor insurance costs and private rents have soared in the past year, even as the prices of many other goods and services have fallen sharply, CSO inflation figures have shown this year.

While the overall CPI index has been low — with price decreases in the past year for clothing, footwear, transport and food — the costs of rents climbed. Mortgage interest costs have fallen in the past year as lenders trim their variable and fixed-rate mortgages.


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