The use of scanner data in Economics
Since the adoption of barcode scanning technology in the 1970’s, a large number of academic studies have exploited the resulting new source of data, i.e., scanner data. In Economics, the virtues of these data – the availability of detailed price, quantity and product characteristic information for highly granularly defined products at high frequency – have attracted increasing interest particularly in the last two decades. Scanner data have been used, among others, in the study of aggregate national and international price measurement, consumer demand, the measurement of market power, firms’ strategic interactions and decision-making and the evaluation of policy reforms. However, the usage of these data has not been confined to these areas and is ever expanding to applications in new fields. AiMark is supporting endeavors in this direction.
Key strengths of scanner data for conducting research in Economics
The data sets comprise information about the purchase of individual products by households. Knowing which product (defined by the barcode) was purchased by which type of household (defined by its socioeconomic features) at what time (day) enables to conduct economic analyses at highly microscopic levels.
The available data sets cover transaction information from more than 30 countries. Being able to employ data from multiple countries not only allows to conduct cross-country studies but can, e.g., also be used to construct proper control groups in policy evaluation exercises.
The detail of purchase information available makes it possible to link the available data sets with exogenous complementary information. Examples include administrative data, additional product information (country of origin, nutritional information, tax information).
HOUSEHOLD CONSUMPTION AND ENVIRONMENTAL/ ECOLOGICAL ECONOMICS
The detailed information available about the purchases of households has been employed in research to evaluate, e.g., the ecological footprint of household consumption.
GOODS MARKET INTEGRATION AND WELFARE COSTS OF SEGMENTATION
The multi-country dimension and the granularity of the data have been exploited to examine crosscountry segmentation of markets and evaluate its welfare effects.
COMPETITION AND MARKUP IN NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL RETAIL MARKETS
The representativeness of the purchase information allows to evaluate the degree of competition in national and international markets.
EXCHANGE RATES, PRICES AND CONSUMPTION
Applications in this area include the evaluation of exchange rates on consumer prices for imported goods and quantities (imports).
INFLATION NOW- AND FORECASTING
Given their high-frequency features, scanner data can be employed to construct highfrequency price-index series that are used to nowcast inflation rates.
HOUSEHOLD CONSUMPTION AND FINANCE
Research in this field has related purchase behavior of household, e.g., to the availability of liquidity or income shocks.
HOUSEHOLD HETEROGENEITIES, PRICES AND INEQUALITY
The broad set of socioeconomic household variables has been used, e.g., to evaluate differences in inflation rates or the effects of policy measures across household groups.
MICRO PRICES AND MACROECONOMIC DYNAMICS
Evidence from evaluating the dynamics of prices at the micro level has delivered valuable information for the calibration of macro models.
HOUSEHOLD CONSUMPTION, HEALTH AND WELFARE
Studies in this field evaluate health- and associated welfare effects of household consumption based on the purchase information and the socioeconomic variables of households.
TAXES, CONSUMER PRICES AND CONSUMER WELFARE
Various studies have been conducted to examine the effects of (changes in) value-added and excise taxes on consumer prices, consumption and welfare.
NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL AGGREGATE PRICE MEASUREMENT
Researchers have employed the granularity of the scanner data to improve the measurement of national prices (evaluating substitution effects, quality improvements, changes in variety, …) and relative international prices (PPPs).
Auer, R. (1. Bank for International Settlements – BIS), Burstein, A. (UCLA), & Lein, S. M. (University of Basel) (2021). Exchange rates and prices evidence from the 2015 Swiss franc appreciation. American Economic Review, 111(2), 652-86.
Beck, G. W. (University of Siegen), & Lein, S. M. (University of Basel) (2020). Price elasticities and demand-side real rigidities in micro data and in macro models. Journal of Monetary Economics, 115, 200-212.