Why Has the Inflation Calculation Changed Over Time?

Consumer prices are increasing at the fastest clip in about 40 years, climbing 8.3 percent in April compared with a year earlier.

As popular anger about the rising costs mounts, a chorus of critics have been arguing that the sky-high inflation figure is actually being undercounted.

In YouTube videos, on conservative talk shows and in posts by financial analysts, the critics argue that over the past several decades economists have tweaked one of the government’s standard measures of inflation, the Consumer Price Index, in ways that understate how quickly prices are rising. Those lower inflation figures give the government some economic breathing room, they claim, saving money on expenses like Social Security.

“The bottom line is these are not accurate numbers,” Tucker Carlson, the Fox News host, said during a segment on inflation late last year. He added, “Do the math and you will see that the actual number, the rise in inflation, is not even close to the 7 percent that Washington is claiming.”