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What Is Absolute Purchasing Power Parity?

Absolute Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) is an economic theory that suggests prices of identical goods or services should equalize across countries when expressed in a common currency. This concept assumes no transaction costs and perfect market conditions. It's a cornerstone for comparing living standards and economic productivity globally. Curious how this affects your wallet or investments? Let's delve deeper into the implications of PPP.
Jim B.
Jim B.

Absolute purchasing power parity is an economic concept that states that the purchasing power of citizens in different countries should be roughly the same. This means that the difference in prices for certain products in two countries can be directly traced back to the exchange rate for the currencies of those two countries. If a disparity exists, it means that the prices in one country are more favorable than in another, allowing buyers to benefit from that in a technique known as arbitrage. Another concept related to absolute purchasing power parity — known as APPP — is relative purchasing power parity, which takes inflation rates into consideration when comparing prices.

In a global economy, it is generally accepted that the economies of all the nations of the world are interconnected. As a result, though their currencies may have different values, the overall price for a product should be roughly the same no matter in what nation it is sold. This concept is known as the "law of one price," and it is the basis for the notion of absolute purchasing power parity.

Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone
Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone

As an example of how absolute purchasing power parity works, imagine a hypothetical situation where one unit of currency from Country A is equal to two units of currency from Country B. A loaf of bread in Country A costs 20 units of that country's currency. The law of one price stipulates that the loaf of bread in Country B should be 40 units, since the ratio of 40 to 20 would equal the exchange rate of two to one.

Using that example again, imagine that a loaf of bread in Country B was actually selling for a total of 35 units. This would mean that a consumer would be getting a better value by buying the bread in Country B. Assuming that many consumers would take advantage of this discrepancy, the sellers of bread in Country B would realize that they could sell the bread for more. This would raise the price for bread in Country B until absolute purchasing power parity is reached.

Inflation can also affect pricing in different countries, a fact that is accounted for by APPP's counterpart, relative purchasing power parity. When considering the notion of purchasing power parity, certain factors may exist that can throw the prices off balance from what might be expected. For example, competition between sellers may be restricted in some nations. In addition, certain trade restrictions like tariffs can also affect APPP.

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Discussion Comments


@Logicfest -- it is probably more of an ideal than a theory and, as such, is a goal well worth working to achieve. We know that tariffs and such will always make it impossible to reach absolute purchasing parity, but free market advocates have pushed for the "one price" ideal for years.

Everything you've mentioned about cutting prices for various reasons in other nations may well be true. But how fair is that to consumers in the nations not getting those discounts? Ideally, everyone should pay the same price because that is best for all consumers. After all, charging the same price to all consumers guarantees none are overcharged and none are undercharged.


It is a nice theory, but how often do things actually work out so that the law of one price is actually reached? Isn't it true that companies boost their prices in nations considered wealthier than others? Some companies have even reduced prices in some countries in order to attract customers -- a move not necessary in nations where the company's products dominate the market.

Again, it's a great to hope that buyers will enjoy purchasing parity but that seems impossible given real world conditions and how companies actually price their products.

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