Reviving the Federal Statistical System: International Aspects
Robert E. Lipsey
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.
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