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GDP deflator

By Konstantin Vasilev Member of the Board of Directors of Cbonds, Ph.D. in Economics
Updated September 11, 2023

What is the GDP deflator?

The GDP price deflator, alternatively referred to as the GDP deflator or implicit price deflator, gauges alterations in prices across the entire spectrum of goods and services generated within an economy.

Functioning as a metric, the GDP deflator assesses the impact of price fluctuations on the gross domestic product (GDP), focusing on product and goods pricing adjustments rather than economic output. It aids in deciphering market spending trends and demand dynamics, which hold direct or indirect consequences for a nation’s economic landscape.

The GDP deflator serves as an inflation metric, determined by the division of GDP at current prices by GDP at constant prices.

GDP deflator

GDP deflator explained

Gross domestic product (GDP) signifies the monetary value of goods and services produced. Nevertheless, while GDP reflects economic fluctuations, it doesn’t incorporate the influence of inflation or ascending prices. The GDP price deflator addresses this by illustrating the impact of price shifts on GDP. It accomplishes this by establishing a reference year and then contrasting present prices with those of the reference year.

In essence, the GDP price deflator elucidates the degree to which shifts influence GDP alterations in the price level. It quantifies the scope of price level fluctuations, i.e., inflation, within the economy by monitoring the prices transacted among businesses, the government, and consumers.

GDP deflator calculation

The gross domestic price deflator closely resembles the GDP price index, albeit their calculations vary, and can be determined using the subsequent formula:

GDP Price Deflator = (Nominal GDP divided by Real GDP) multiplied by 100

In this formula, the GDP price deflator quantifies the relative change in price levels between nominal and real GDP, expressed as a percentage. Nominal GDP represents the economic output valued at current market prices, while real GDP adjusts for inflation or deflation by assessing the same output at constant, base-year prices. This computation enables an understanding of how much of the observed GDP change is attributable to variations in the price level, offering insights into inflationary or deflationary trends within an economy.

The computation of the GDP deflator is typically carried out by the national statistical offices or central banks of various countries. For instance, in Russia, this index is computed by the Federal State Statistics Service (GKS); in China, it is the responsibility of the National Bureau of Statistics; in the Eurozone, Eurostat handles its calculation; the Central Bank of Ireland oversees it in Ireland; and the Central Bank of Brazil undertakes this task in Brazil.

The frequency of deflator calculation varies, occurring monthly in some regions like Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan, quarterly in countries such as the USA, Russia, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, and annually in places like Greece, Iceland, Saudi Arabia, and India.

Commonly expressed in points as seen in Slovakia, Hong Kong, and Lithuania, the GDP deflator can also be presented as a percentage, as done in Latvia, Portugal, and North Macedonia.

Uses of the GDP deflator

The calculation is rooted in the GDP deflator’s base year, providing analysts, global leaders, and citizens with essential data points to assess the economic landscape. Let’s delve into some of the most valuable applications that vividly illustrate the significance of a GDP deflator:

  1. Comprehensive Tool to Measure Inflation. The GDP deflator encapsulates the prices of all domestically produced goods and services, offering a robust measure of inflation. It encompasses prices of investment goods, government services, and exports, while excluding the costs associated with imports.

  2. Insights into Consumption and Investment Patterns. The deflator captures noteworthy shifts in consumption patterns or the introduction of new goods and services. It serves as a potent tool to recognize trends and gauge the inflation rate across multiple years. Additionally, it uncovers consumer preferences and behavioral tendencies, shedding light on changes in demand and consumption cycles.

  3. Spending Impact on Deflator. The spending habits of the population significantly influence the GDP deflator. The patterns of expenditure have a substantial impact on the deflator’s calculation.

Benefits of using the GDP deflator

The GDP price deflator plays a crucial role in gauging the extent of price inflation within a specific timeframe. This significance arises from the fact that, as illustrated in our earlier example, comparing GDP across two different years could yield misleading outcomes if there’s a shift in the price level between those years.

In the absence of a mechanism to accommodate price changes, an economy experiencing inflation would seem to be expanding in monetary terms. However, in reality, that same economy might be displaying minimal to negligible growth; with prices on the rise, the overall output statistics would erroneously indicate greater production than what was generated.

The difference between the GDP price deflator and the Consumer Price Index

The GDP deflator provides insights into overall price changes across various sectors of the economy, distinct from the consumer prices captured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI). In contrast to CPI, the GDP deflator does not rely on a stagnant basket of goods and services. This basket is permitted to evolve in tandem with shifts in people’s consumption and investment preferences. Specifically, concerning the GDP deflator, the "basket" for each year encompasses the entirety of domestically produced goods, with each item’s weight determined by the market value of the overall consumption of that particular good.

While CPI data is updated on a monthly basis, the GDP deflator comes with a lag of either quarterly or yearly intervals after the release of GDP data. Consequently, the deflator is not equipped to promptly monitor monthly fluctuations in inflation, impacting its immediate relevance. However, it’s important to note the differences between the GDP deflator and CPI, which are elaborated upon below:

GDP Deflator:

  • Reflects the price of all domestically produced goods and services.

  • Considers the prices of domestic goods.

  • Adjusts weights over time as the composition of GDP changes.

  • Compares the prices of goods and products in a given year against their value in the base year.


  • Also reflects the price of all domestically produced goods and services.

  • Includes imported goods in its calculation.

  • Utilizes fixed weights for different goods based on a fixed basket.

  • Compares the prices of a fixed basket of goods and services to the base year’s basket.


  • Can the GDP deflator be negative?

  • What is deflation?

  • What is the consumer price index (CPI)?

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