Purchasing power parity constitutes a very old and fundamental theory of economics. The basic idea is that a good or service should cost about the same in one economy as in another. When this doesn't happen it means that either one currency is overvalued or another undervalued. Economists take advantage of this law to observe distortions in markets from inflation and government interference. Observing imbalances in purchasing parity helps explain trade imbalances.
Quality of Life
Discovering the difference between purchasing power in different economies helps scholars to observe differences in the quality of life. Even if the currency of a country has become severely devalued, it may not have very wide effects on the majority of citizens as long as their purchasing power remains near parity for domestic goods. Even if the currency fluctuates in the short term, purchasing parity hopefully remains over the long term.
Finding gross domestic product (GDP) provides a good general way to measure the wealth of different economies. Unfortunately, if an economist calculates GDP with the standard domestic currency rates, it can lead to an inaccurate picture. Experts often point to the example of China, which intentionally devalues its currency. By adjusting for the assumed purchasing parity that China has with the United States, economists can provide a more accurate idea of the nation's wealth.
Correcting Trade Imbalances
When a severe trade imbalance develops between a nation's exports and its imports, economists may propose a variety of remedies. A common proposal is to erect trade barriers which may further distort markets. If, however, economists can observe a difference between a nation's purchasing power and its currency rate, the imbalance becomes much simpler to correct. Readjusting the currency to match actual purchasing power can solve the problem without excessive government involvement.
- University of British Columbia: Purchasing Power Parity
- The Economist: Purchasing Power Parity
- The Economist: When the Chips are Down
- Seeking Alpha: Purchasing Power Parity - Dollar Is 14% Undervalued
- International Finance Theory and Policy: Introduction to Purchasing Power Parity
- Forbes: India to Overtake Japan in Purchasing Power Parity by 2025
Casey Reader started writing freelance in 2010. His work appears on eHow, focusing on topics in history and culture. Aside from freelance work, Reader is actively pursuing a career in creative writing. He graduated from Centenary College of Louisiana with a Bachelor of the Arts in history and English literature.