Lip Gloss In, Corsets and Mangles Out: Inflation Update


This week, the U.K. announced changes to the basket of goods it uses to calculate inflation rates. From the perspective of "stuff I'd like to own" the new list is more appealing than the old list—disposable cameras have been dropped, Blu-ray DVD players and computer games with accessories have been added, allergy meds now appear on the list as well. (If it weren't for the lip gloss, that list is also more evidence of the ascendancy of nerds.)

The Daily Mail, which produced the chart above, naturally focuses on the fact that this is the final, official sign that lipstick is so out, and lip gloss is so in. But there are some other interesting things going on as well.

One of the goals of updating the basket is to capture how much it costs to buy, you know, the stuff that typical people typically buy. This means that the contents of the basket have changed a lot since the U.K. started collecting these stats in 1947. A little digging turns up this U.K. Office for National Statistics report with baskets of goods from the misty past. Key quote:

"In 1947, the basket included many items which are not present in today's basket like wild rabbits, mangles, corsets, candles and wireless licences."

Other items of interest:

Milk products

  • 1947: condensed milk, dried milk
  • 2005: Fresh cream, flavoured milk, yoghurt, fromage frais, chilled pot dessert

Fresh fruit

  • 1947: Cooking apples, oranges, bananas
  • 2005: Apples, pears, bananas, strawberries, grapes, oranges, grapefruit, avocado, pears, peaches, kiwi fruit, organic fruit

Household consumables

  • 1947: Soap, soap powder, soap flakes, soda, polishes, matches, writing paper, cleaning powder
  • 2005: Washing powder, washingup liquid, dish washer tablets, Light bulbs, aluminium foil, toilet rolls, kitchen roll, fabric conditioner, bin liners, household cream cleaner, cleaning cloths, bleach, ball point pen, wrapping paper, envelopes, greeting card, printer paper, inkjet cartridge, clear sticky tape, batteries

The proliferation of items in each category reflects the fact that the list of goods has grown more detailed over the years. But one reason it has grown more detailed is to reflect the proliferation of choices.