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Press Release

Why Are Headline PCE and Median PCE Inflations So Far Apart? Cleveland Fed Researchers Explain.

Headline PCE inflation has typically fallen below median PCE inflation. Despite their shared intention of measuring the central tendency of the PCE basket, the median and headline PCE inflation figures have recently been quite far apart: According to the data available in late August, year-over-year median PCE inflation was at 2.5 percent while headline inflation was at a much lower 1.0 percent.

To understand the reasons for this trend, Cleveland Fed Researchers Daniel Carroll and Ross Cohen-Kristiansen investigate which components of the headline measure are contributing to the difference.

“We find that energy components, which frequently undergo wide price swings, and electronics, which have been steadily decreasing in price for decades, explain most of the difference between the two inflation measures,” say the researchers. “COVID-19 and the social-distancing policies aimed at slowing the spread of the virus have also exerted a deflationary force on weighted-average price indexes.”

Read more: Why Are Headline PCE and Median PCE Inflations So Far Apart?

Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland

The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland is one of 12 regional Reserve Banks that along with the Board of Governors in Washington DC comprise the Federal Reserve System. Part of the US central bank, the Cleveland Fed participates in the formulation of our nation’s monetary policy, supervises banking organizations, provides payment and other services to financial institutions and to the US Treasury, and performs many activities that support Federal Reserve operations System-wide. In addition, the Bank supports the well-being of communities across the Fourth Federal Reserve District through a wide array of research, outreach, and educational activities.

The Cleveland Fed, with branches in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, serves an area that comprises Ohio, western Pennsylvania, eastern Kentucky, and the northern panhandle of West Virginia.

Media contact

Doug Campbell,, 513.218.1892