Purchasing power parity

Purchasing power parity (PPP) is a way of measuring economic variables in different countries so that irrelevant exchange rate variations do not distort comparisons. Purchasing power exchange rates are such that it would cost exactly the same number of, for example, US dollars to buy euros and then buy a basket of goods in the market as it would cost to purchase the same goods directly with dollars. The purchasing power exchange rate used in this conversion equals the ratio of the currencies' respective purchasing powers (reciprocals of their price levels). In neoclassical economic theory, the purchasing power parity theory assumes that the exchange rate between two currencies actually observed in the foreign exchange market is the one that is used in the purchasing power parity comparisons, so that the same amount of goods could actually be purchased in either currency with the same beginning amount of funds. Depending on the particular theory, purchasing power parity is assumed to hold either in the long run or, more strongly, in the short run. Theories that invoke purchasing power parity assume that in some circumstances a fall in either currency's purchasing power (a rise in its price level) would lead to a proportional decrease in that currency's valuation on the foreign exchange market. The concept of purchasing power parity allows one to estimate what the exchange rate between two currencies would have to be to equate the purchasing power of the two currencies. Observed deviations of the exchange rate from purchasing power parity are measured by deviations of the real exchange rate from its PPP value. PPP exchange rates help costing but exclude profits and above all do not consider the different quality of goods among countries. The same product, for instance, can have a different level of quality and even safety in different countries, and may be subject to different taxes and transport costs. Since market exchange rates fluctuate substantially, when the GDP of one country measured in its own currency is converted to the other country's currency using market exchange rates, one country might be inferred to have higher real GDP than the other country in one year but lower in the other; both of these inferences would fail to reflect the reality of their relative levels of production. But if one country's GDP is converted into the other country's currency using PPP exchange rates instead of observed market exchange rates, the false inference will not occur. Essentially GDP measured at PPP controls for the different costs of living and price levels, usually relative to the United States dollar, enabling a more accurate estimate of a nation's level of production.


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