Border prices and retail prices

Scholarly Edition

We analyze retail prices and at-the-dock (import) prices of specific items in the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) CPI and IPP databases, using both databases simultaneously to identify items that are identical in description at the dock and when sold at retail. This identification allows us to measure the distribution wedge associated with bringing traded goods from the point of entry into the United States to their retail outlet. We find that overall U.S. distribution wedges are 50-70%, around 10 to 20 percentage points higher than that reported in the literature. We discuss the implications of this for measuring the size of the "pure" tradeables sector, exchange rate pass-through, and real exchange rate determination. We find that distribution wedges are very stable over time but there is considerable variation across items. There is some variation across the country of origin for the imported item, for our major trading partners, but not as much as the cross-item variation. We also investigate the determinants of distribution wedges, finding that wedges do not vary systematically with exchange rates, but are related to other features of the micro data.

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Berger, DW; Faust, J; Rogers, JH; Steverson, K

Published Date

  • 2009