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Books or toys?


Raising children is perhaps the most rewarding activity. Yet, it’s also very time consuming. Although there aren’t good substitutes for parental time, there are good complements: Two of the most obvious and traditional are books and toys.

We can’t expect FRED to provide the relative values of buying books or toys for your children, but FRED can inform us about the relative costs. The graph shows the U.S. consumer price indexes for books and for toys. It is interesting (and clear) that they have behaved diametrically differently over time. To better appreciate these differences, we use the left axis for the price of books and the right axis for the price of toys. Both series are normalized so they are both equal to 100 in December 1979, which allows us to compare the relative price changes.

There were some differences in earlier years, but the key point of departure is December 1996. The cost of a toy today is only one third of the cost in December 1996, and the cost of a book today is almost three times the cost in December 1996. Roughly speaking, in terms of toys, books cost nine times more today than 20 years ago.

How to create this graph: FRED allows you to use keywords to search for time series. Use “consumer price toys usa” and select “Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers: Toys” (series ID CUSR0000SERE01). Then use “consumer price books usa” and select “Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers: Educational Books and Supplies” (series ID CUSR0000SEEA). For both series, under the “Units” menu, select “Index (Scale value to 100 for chosen period”) and choose the observation date 1979-12-01. Finally, for the price of toys, select the right axis.

Suggested by Alexander Monge-Naranjo and his 9-year old son, Gabriel Monge

View on FRED, series used in this post: CUSR0000SEEA, CUSR0000SERE01


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