Reviving the Federal Statistical System: International Aspects
Despite the impression that the federal statistical system has been starved for resources, the record over the last decade or so, judged by conventional deflation methods, has been one of rough stability. The quality of U.S. international data on commodity and service trade, direct investment, and export and import prices has improved, but there has been a serious deterioration in data on portfolio capital flows, stocks, and income. Where improvements have taken place, the main source has been computerization, both inside and outside the federal statistical system. The standard deflators for expenditures do not adequately take account of the decline in the cost of computing and therefore impart a downward bias to the estimates of input.
Despite the gains in some areas, serious deficiencies remain for the increasingly important international sector. The improvements that have occurred have resulted mainly from Congressional and outside pressures, while successive administrations have shown little concern with the quality of the data they produce and presumably use for policy making.
Published: The American Economic Review, Vol. 80, No. 2, pp. 337-340, (May 1990).