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According to the World Bank PPP conversion factors, in 2014, 0.86 SGD could buy as much stuff in Singapore as could 1 USD in the USA (presumably Averagetown, USA).

The market exchange rates in 2014 varied from 1.24-1.32 SGD per USD. This means that according to the World Bank, 0.65-0.69 USD could buy as much stuff in Singapore as could 1 USD in the USA. In other words, price levels were 31-35% lower in Singapore than in Averagetown, USA.

Anyone who has lived in both countries recently will find that impossible to believe, at least based purely on personal anecdotes.

So I was trying to find the data on which these numbers are based. In particular, detailed data like prices of specific goods that were used to form these PPP comparisons.

It seems like they come from the International Comparison Program (ICP) 2011. But the most detailed data I could find about the ICP 2011 was this Excel spreadsheet, which has no such information.

Anyone knows where I can find the detailed data (prices of specific goods, how they were weighted, etc.) on which these World Bank PPP conversion factors are based?

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  • $\begingroup$ It is quite possible that your acquiantances were not living in representative parts of these countries renderring their averaged anecdotal prices a distorted mean. I am guessing no one from rural USA or Singapore, but in reality rural USA has a large weight whereas rural Singapore does not. $\endgroup$ – Giskard Jan 26 '16 at 8:15
  • $\begingroup$ @denesp There is no rural Singapore. $\endgroup$ – Kenny LJ Jan 26 '16 at 14:12
  • $\begingroup$ I was also unsure so I googled it before commenting. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulau_Ubin However my comment would make sense even if there was no rural Singapore because there is definitely a rural USA with a largish weight in the average and I am guessing it was underrepresented. $\endgroup$ – Giskard Jan 26 '16 at 14:45
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    $\begingroup$ @denesp: You seem to be saying, "Your acquaintances lived disproportionately in urban USA, where prices are higher than in rural USA. Hence, their averaged anecdotal USA prices are higher than the USA average. Hence, the USA is even cheaper than anecdotes might suggest." This serves precisely to underscore my point that the US should have much lower prices (relative to Singapore) than what the World Bank suggests. $\endgroup$ – Kenny LJ Jan 30 '16 at 2:43
  • $\begingroup$ Also, Ubin can be considered "rural Singapore" only if you also consider Central Park to be "rural Manhattan". $\endgroup$ – Kenny LJ Jan 30 '16 at 2:44
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These data are not publicly available. According to Section VI of this PDF, the more detailed the data, the more restricted they are.

For the less restricted data, there is ostensibly some painful application process that researchers can go through in order to get access. But in practice, unless you're a big shot or someone who has connections with the World Bank, they will be reluctant to share the data with you. (That was my personal experience — I went through the whole long application process, there was some back and forth for about a month, and eventually they decided not to share the data with me.)

And for the most heavily restricted data:

Access to Sub-National Data and Individual Price Observations with supporting metadata is restricted in general. However, users may address applications of access to these data directly to the countries in question.

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These PPP conversion factors from the World Bank don't provide a date at which they actually applied. It might be that they rely on average data for the given year. Thus, the variation of FX rates throughout the year might not be relevant data.

In addition, we cannot compare FX rate variations with this conversion factor, as it is PPP, and not nominal. Thus, the implied PPP rate might remain completely unaffected by the variations of the nominal exchange rate.

A good indicator of PPP rates is the Big Mac Index, computed by the Economist on a regular basis. It has the advantage of stating the precise date (or rather, the month) at which the observation occurred. As you can see on the chart below the map, if you select Singapore, the actual exchange rate indeed varied a lot. But the implied exchange rate remained basically constant (0.99-0.98). Thus, the relative purchasing power of americans and singaporean didn't encounter such great variation as your reading of the World Bank's data implied.

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