Charles Bean, 22 December 2015

Economic statistics are an important public good and governments typically recognise this by supporting their production, ideally through an independent agency. But producing reliable and meaningful statistics is by no means easy. In this column, former Bank of England Deputy Governor Charles Bean presents the findings from his forthcoming report on the UK’s current and future statistical needs. Addressing the challenge of measuring a modern dynamic economy not only requires statistical organisations to have the right skills, methods and technological systems – they also need to be pro-active and creative, curious and self-critical.

Leandro de la Escosura, 27 September 2014

As demonstrated by the dramatic upward revision of Nigeria’s GDP for 2013, the choice of a benchmark year matters when computing GDP statistics. This column explains how the replacement of benchmark years creates an inconsistency between new and old national accounts series, and how different ways of resolving this inconsistency yield very different estimates of historical GDP levels and growth rates. When used to evaluate the relative historical performance of Spain and France, the interpolation procedure for splicing national accounts produces more plausible results than the conventional ‘retropolation’ approach.

Borağan Aruoba, Francis Diebold, Jeremy Nalewaik, Frank Schorfheide, Dongho Song, 03 December 2013

GDP can be estimated by measuring either expenditure or income. Since a penny spent is a penny earned, both methods should give the same answer, but there is substantial measurement error in both estimates. This column presents a new method of measuring US GDP that blends these two estimates. According to the new measure, GDP growth is about twice as persistent as the current headline measure implies. The new measure also makes the current recovery look stronger, especially in 2013.

Martin Cihák, Asli Demirgüç-Kunt, Erik Feyen, Ross Levine, 25 April 2013

Is there too much financial development, or too little? Can economists even measure it well? This column argues that commonly used measures of financial development are poor proxies of what the financial system actually does, presenting a new worldwide database that aims to fill some of the gaps. There needs to be a stronger link between the theory and measurement of financial development.

Harry Wu, 28 July 2010

In this column in memory of Angus Maddison, Harry Wu pays tribute to a mentor, friend, and pioneer who mapped economic performance across the world, and nurtured a passion for Japan and China.

Martin Ravallion, 26 March 2010

The World Bank’s estimate of China’s real GDP per capita was revised down by 40% in 2005. This column explains how economic growth impacted price structures in developing countries -- impacts that had not been factored into how old PPPs were updated prior to new price surveys. It argues that large revisions could be avoided by using better economic models for predicting PPPs.

Simon Johnson, Arvind Subramanian, Will Larson, Chris Papageorgiou, 07 December 2009

The Penn World Table is a major data source for many studies of economic growth. This column reveals that its GDP statistics are surprisingly sensitive to revisions – GDP growth for the same country at the same point in time changes across successive versions. Researchers analysing annual data may obtain more robust results by using national accounts data, even though they are not PPP-adjusted.

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