Worried about back-to-school inflation? Latest price data for kids’ backpacks, laptops and clothes offers some relief for parents


(THE CONVERSATION) – As summer draws to a close, it’s time for many to think about back-to-school purchases, like notebooks, backpacks and new clothes.

Inasmuch as economist who has studied consumer prices for years, I wondered how galloping inflation affected typical back-to-school equipment costs.

Consumer prices have risen by about 8.5% in July compared to the previous year, according to the latest data published on August 10, 2022. But this figure is only an average. The price of certain itemslike airfares and gasoline, jumped much more than that, while the cost of other items, like the price of TVs and phones, actually went down.

To determine how the cost of paying for what school kids need has changed, I tracked two sets of prices: First, the cost of back-to-school necessities. Second, the price of school meals – because learning on an empty stomach is difficult.

Clothing and backpacks

Children often seem germinate during summer vacation. This growth usually means they need new clothes for the cooler fall weather. The US government’s consumer price index has tracked the price of girls’ and boys’ clothing since 1977.

Government data shows that the price of girls’ clothes peaked in 1992. The price of boys’ clothes peaked six years later, in 1998. Not only are clothes cheaper today than they were in 1990s, but over the past 12 months, prices for girls’ clothing have risen less than 2% – compared to headline inflation of 8.5%. Prices for boys’ clothing, however, jumped almost 5% last year.

Back to school also involves new shoes, because children’s feet are also growing. The average price of shoes for boys and girls has risen steadily since 1977. Over the past year, the price of shoes and sneakers has climbed almost 8%.

As for school supplies, inflation was mixed. The price of notebooks and paper has risen 11% over the past year. And while the Consumer Price Index doesn’t include pencils, markers and crayons, its close cousin, the producer price indexshows retailers are paying 11% more than last year for pencils and markers, while art supplies climbed almost 18%.

Backpack prices, on the other hand, have been rising at a much slower pace, up around 4% in July 2022 from 12 months earlier. And if your child needs a new laptop or tablet, you’re in luck. The computer prices actually fell nearly 4% from July 2021.

Combining these categories into an equally weighted index suggests that the cost of going back to school won’t hurt your wallet as much as parents might fear. My back-to-school index increased by about 5.1% in July compared to the previous year.

The index also shows that prices are virtually unchanged from around a decade ago. This is cold comfort for parents who had no students at school 10 years ago. However, this shows that the prices of back-to-school items do not always increase.

School meals

Another significant cost during the start of the school year is the purchase of lunch in school cafeterias.

Pre-pandemic data suggests nearly two-thirds of students bought lunch at school. Consumer price data shows that the cost of food in urban elementary and secondary school cafeterias fell 43% in May 2022 compared to the previous year – the latest figures available.

In fact, the index level is about the lowest since the index started tracking data in 2005, mainly because there was universal free lunch during parts of the pandemic. This the program is now completealthough some states are stepping in, lunch costs are therefore expected to climb in most school districts in the coming year.

For families who prefer to prepare school meals for their children, the data looks much worse. The average price of food purchased for home preparation jumped 13.1% in July a year earlier, the fastest rate of inflation since 1979.

But since this may not reflect the true cost of food in a child’s lunchbox, I did my own calculation based on what my mother brought me when I was a child: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which remain a staple today – but not for my kids.

My lunch box usually consisted of a PB&J sandwich on white bread, apple slices, a few small carrots, a bag of potato chips, 8 ounces of milk, and a chocolate chip cookie – to keep me happy. With help from the United States Department of Agriculture School meals buying guideI found the servings that would provide about 666 calories, a touch more than government recommended. My personal lunch box index jumped over 13%.

This was mainly motivated by the jump in the bread pricePeanut Butter, Milk and potato chips, all of which rose more than 14%.

Selective purchases

While most back-to-school prices are rising more than usual, there are still great deals to be found, like in kids’ clothes and computers.

Or in the lunch box example, you could add more apples, which have only gone up in price by about 5%. Including more apple slices could not only lighten your wallet, but also improve your child’s nutrition.

Prices for most goods may be much higher than a year ago, but it’s important to remember that not everything is experiencing skyrocketing inflation. With careful shopping, even families on a tight budget can find what they need at an affordable price.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here: https://theconversation.com/worried-about-back-to-school-inflation-latest-price-data-on-backpacks-laptops-and-kids-clothes-offers-some-relief-for-parents-188572.

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