Blegging Your Help on Sources of Data on Consumer-Goods Prices in Europe

by Don Boudreaux on January 31, 2013

in Standard of Living

One of my splendid GMU undergraduate students, Mr. Aaron Baker, is doing a research project this semester under my direction.  This post is to ask (or, I believe the appropriate term in this forum is “bleg”) for information – especially (but not at all exclusively) from European readers – on how Aaron can best find some data that he needs.

Aaron is exploring trends in the living standards of western Europeans over the past 20 years.  (The exact countries he will examine have yet to be determined; that determination will be settled, in part, by the availability of data.)  But think of the United Kingdom, France, Denmark, and Italy as the sorts of countries that Aaron will research.

Specifically, Aaron will do something similar to what I do here at the Cafe with my Sears catalogs: divide the nominal prices of ordinary goods and services by the mean or median wage of non-supervisory workers in these countries.  We anticipate that Aaron will encounter no insurmountable problems getting data on mean or median wages (although if you have any insights on this matter, please do share!).  But getting data on the retail prices of consumer goods might be more tricky.

Anyone have any ideas of what data sources to explore?

Even more specifically, the sort of goods and services that Aaron wants to find prices on are products such as (for example):

- liter of whole milk

- dozen eggs

- liter of apple juice

- liter of petrol

- loaf of bread

- package of bacon

- automobile tires (or, for our friends in the U.K., tyres)

- a pair of adult blue jeans

- roundtrip coach airfare between London and Rome

- passenger-kilometer price of rail travel

- pair of contact lenses

- a bottle of 100 aspirin tablets

The above are simply examples that popped into my head as I write this bleg-post, but they should give you some idea of the kinds of the goods and services whose nominal prices Aaron seeks to get information on – reliable information that, hopefully, spans at least 20 years up through 2013, 2012, or 2011, and is reported on at least an annual basis.

So what are the best sources for such European data?  Any suggestions will be very much appreciated, by both Aaron and me.  You can e-mail me directly (dboudrea@gmu.edu) or post your suggestions in the comments section (or both!).

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