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Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U)

What is CPI-U?

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is the statistical metric developed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics used to monitor the change in the price of a set list of products. The idea is that by monitoring the fluctuations in price it costs to purchase a set basket of goods, the government can track the cost of living for most individuals. The CPI-U is the CPI value for Urban Consumers, which excludes rural populations and represents approximately 80% of the population. The CPI and CPI-U do not directly measure inflation, but it gives a very good idea of whether we are in a period of inflation or deflation and how severe that change may be. As the Bureau of Labor Statistics states, "The CPI is generally the best measure for adjusting payments to consumers when the intent is to allow consumers to purchase at today's prices, a market basket of goods and services equivalent to one that they could purchase in an earlier period."

US Population Desnsity
Population density of US - Approx. 80% of population lives in urban areas. Map from

What goods and services does the CPI cover?

The CPI represents all goods and services purchased for consumption by the reference population (U or W) BLS has classified all expenditure items into more than 200 categories, arranged into eight major groups. Major groups and examples of categories in each are as follows:

Basic CPI-U Categories

  • FOOD AND BEVERAGES (breakfast cereal, milk, coffee, chicken, wine, full service meals, snacks)
  • HOUSING (rent of primary residence, owners' equivalent rent, fuel oil, bedroom furniture)
  • APPAREL (men's shirts and sweaters, women's dresses, jewelry)
  • TRANSPORTATION (new vehicles, airline fares, gasoline, motor vehicle insurance)
  • MEDICAL CARE (prescription drugs and medical supplies, physicians' services, eyeglasses and eye care, hospital services)
  • RECREATION (televisions, toys, pets and pet products, sports equipment, admissions);
  • EDUCATION AND COMMUNICATION (college tuition, postage, telephone services, computer software and accessories);
  • OTHER GOODS AND SERVICES (tobacco and smoking products, haircuts and other personal services, funeral expenses).

Detailed CPI-U Categories

Food and beverages
  • Food
    • Food at home
      • Cereals and bakery products
      • Meats, poultry, fish, and eggs
      • Dairy and related products
      • Fruits and vegetables
      • Nonalcoholic beverages and beverage materials
      • Other food at home
        • Sugar and sweets
        • Fats and oils
        • Other foods
        • Other miscellaneous foods
    • Food away from home
      • Other food away from home
  • Alcoholic beverages

  • Shelter
    • Rent of primary residence
    • Lodging away from home
    • Owners' equivalent rent of residences
      • Owners' equivalent rent of primary residence
    • Tenants' and household insurance
  • Fuels and utilities
    • Household energy
      • Fuel oil and other fuels
      • Gas (piped) and electricity
    • Water and sewer and trash collection services
  • Household furnishings and operations
    • Household operations

  • Men's and boys' apparel
  • Women's and girls' apparel
  • Infants' and toddlers' apparel
  • Footwear

  • Private transportation
    • New and used motor vehicles
      • New vehicles
      • Used cars and trucks
    • Motor fuel
      • Gasoline (all types)
    • Motor vehicle parts and equipment
    • Motor vehicle maintenance and repair
  • Public transportation

Medical care
  • Medical care commodities
  • Medical care services
    • Professional services
    • Hospital and related services

  • Video and audio

Education and communication
  • Education
    • Educational books and supplies
    • Tuition, other school fees, and childcare
  • Communication
    • Information and information processing
      • Telephone services
      • Information technology, hardware and services
        • Personal computers and peripheral equipment

Other goods and services
  • Tobacco and smoking products
  • Personal care
    • Personal care products
    • Personal care services
    • Miscellaneous personal services

CPI-U Data

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