Sufficient Statistics Revisited
This paper reviews and generalizes the sufficient statistics approach to policy evaluation. The idea of the approach is that the welfare effect of policy changes can be expressed in terms estimable reduced-form elasticities, allowing for policy evaluation without estimating the structural primitives of fully specified models. The approach relies on three assumptions: that policy changes are small, that government policy is the only source of market imperfection, and that a set of high-level restrictions on the environment and on preferences can be used to reduce the number of elasticities to be estimated. We generalize the approach in all three dimensions. It is possible to develop transparent sufficient statistics formulas under very general conditions, but the estimation requirements increase greatly. Starting from such general formulas elucidates that feasible empirical implementations are in fact structural approaches.
I thank Felix Bierbrauer, Claus Kreiner, Magne Mogstad, Emmanuel Saez, Stefanie Stantcheva, and Owen Zidar for comments and discussions. The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.