The Puerto Rico Statistics Institute has released its Cost of Living Index (COLI), which revealed that health care costs on the island are 31.3 percent below the United States average, among other details.
In the latest report, Puerto Rico ranked 298 of 298 in health care costs, making it the most inexpensive area in this category. Compared to the U.S. index average of 100.0, the island had an index of 68.7.
Meanwhile, the General Price Index (GPI) used to measure local values revealed that health care costs had an index of 155.089, a slight decrease from the 155.166 revealed in the same report for June 2019. Alas, the index was 1.1 percent higher compared with July 2018, with noticeable increases in the subgroups of professional services (1.6 percent) and health care products (2.4 percent).
Some categories retained roughly the same index in both June and July 2019, while others showed upsurges or slips. However, the GPI increased by 0.3 percent from July 2018, when it had an index of 119.923, to July 2019, when the index was 120.237.
As a point of interest, the Statistics Institute observed that the purchasing power of the consumer dollar remained at 83 cents from June to July 2019, in contrast to its value of $1.00 on December 2006. Although this value has been the same since May 2019, there was a slip between January, at which point the purchasing power was 85 cents, and the timeframe of February to April, when the purchasing power of the consumer dollar was measured at 84 cents. Meanwhile, the average value in 2018, both natural and fiscal, was 84 cents.
Categories That Showed an Increase
The Institute’s July 2019 GPI analyzes the indexes of multiple categories and compares them to the indexes of the previous month. In that report, the Institute noted that the categories of education and communication and foods and beverages reflected higher indexes in July.
The education and communication index showed the highest increase, being 0.6 percent greater than the one reported in June. The GPI observed that the rise documented on the subgroup of education, which included the components of enrollment, monthly payment and childcare, was 1.2 percent higher. Overall, when compared with the GPI for July 2018, there was a growth of 0.9 percent.
Moreover, the foods and beverages category experienced a 0.2 percent hike from June of the same year. This change was reflected in the subgroup of ‘foods in general’, with 0.2 percent. The Statistics Institute noted that this was caused by the fruits and vegetables component, which increased by 3.9 percent, which the Institute mainly attributed to higher lettuce prices.
When comparing the GPI for July 2019 with the GPI for the same time last year, the Institute observed a 0.3 percent upsurge in this category. This change was noticeable in the alcoholic beverages subgroup, which grew by 2.2 percent.
Categories That Showed a Decrease
Not all indexes grew in July 2019. The categories that reported lower indexes were clothing and transportation.
The clothing price index slipped by 3.1 percent compared with June 2019, with lower indexes on all six subgroups. The subgroups with the most significant changes were men and boys’ clothing (-5.5 percent), and footwear (-5.0 percent). All subgroups also revealed lower indexes compared with the GPI for July 2018, also most noticeably on footwear (-7.6 percent), and men and boys’ clothing (-6.1 percent).
Transportation registered a -0.1 percent drop from June 2019. Although public transportation was 1.9 percent higher, private transportation was down by -0.1 percent, primarily because of the component of motor fuel (-1.0 percent).
The changes are more drastic when compared with July 2018. The private transportation subgroup index was -0.7 percent lower in July of this year, and the public transportation index decreased by -17.4 percent.
Categories That Retained Their Numbers
The lodging, entertainment and other articles and services categories did not show significant changes compared to the GPI of June 2019.
The lodging index in July was 114.453, only slightly higher than the previous month’s, 114.428. However, the fuel and other utilities subgroup slipped by -0.1 percent. Compared to July 2018, this subgroup was 1.7 percent higher, while shelter and home appliances and services grew by 0.8 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively.
The entertainment index saw a minimal reduction—113.354 in July compared to 113.410 in June. The subgroup of entertainment articles lowered by -0.1 percent in both June 2019 and July 2018, whereas the entertainment services index was 0.1 percent higher than June 2019 and 1.6 percent higher when compared to July 2018.
Lastly, other articles and services reported an index of 127.537 in July 2019, partially lower than the June 2019 index of 127.538, but 2.7 percent higher than the July 2018 price index. Compared with July 2018, the other expenses subgroup decreased by -3.2 percent, while personal care grew by 3.4 percent, and tobacco and related products increased by 1.2 percent.
Puerto Rico’s COLI Rankings
While the GPI provides a thorough comparison between monthly and yearly index performances in Puerto Rico, the Institute measures the COLI by using a methodology from the Council for Community and Economic Research that allows students, companies, individuals, researchers and government entities to compare the cost of living in Puerto Rico with the cost of living in 297 other urban areas from mainland U.S., as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The COLI divides categories somewhat differently from the GPI—into grocery items, housing, utilities, transportation, health care, and miscellaneous goods and services. The most recent COLI report is from the first quarter of 2019.
Although Puerto Rico ranked the lowest in health care, other categories revealed high or moderate rankings. The highest was utilities, with a rank of three out of 298, for an index of 157.2. The second highest rank was in grocery items, with 16 out of 298, or an index of 120.4.
Housing was ranked 153 with an index of 85.9; transportation ranked 189 with an index of 95.4; and miscellaneous goods and services ranked 205 with an index of 95.2.
Leira M. Nogué Souffront, statistics projects assistant for the Institute, explained to THE WEEKLY JOURNAL that the methodology used for the COLI is designed to compare the cost of maintaining an appropriate standard of living for moderately affluent professional and managerial households in the different areas that participate for each specific quarter.
“That is, the COLI is not comparable to the average standard of living in Puerto Rico, but rather corresponds to a particular standard of living and it is not advisable to measure price hikes through time with this. It is worth noting that the tax burden is not considered in the COLI’s calculation,” Nogué stated.
For more information about the SI’s monthly reports, visit www.estadisticas.pr.
Editor's note: This story was published on the September 11 print edition of The Weekly Journal.