Enhancement of Federal Economic Statistics by Combining Multiple Data Sources
Economic statistics and research, as now practiced by government agencies and economists, is unsustainable. The practices rely on a set of sample survey and census-based measurements, designed by research-oriented staff, standardized across all measured units, and assembled into standard digital products.
These surveys are experiencing loss of participation and inflation of costs. Further, in an economy that experiences minute-to-minute changes, where discrete events have major impact, the measurements are slow to produce their statistical products. In addition, the spatial granularity of the statistics is
weak; while great variation exists at local levels in many economic attributes of the US, many key economic statistics become statistically unstable at the very levels that exhibit the variation.
Some of the challenges faced by these federal statistics could be ameliorated by using private sector data. There exist databases from private sector entities, based on their Point of Sales and scanner systems, from credit card transaction data, and other sources, which when combined with the Federal retail sales data, might offer more timely, and geospatially specific estimates.
Massive Data Institute (MDI)
The Massive Data Institute (MDI) at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy is an interdisciplinary research center devoted to the study of high-dimensional data to answer public policy questions.
MDI uses data from novel, often real-time sources like the Internet, social media, sensors and other big data sources to increase our understanding of society and human behavior, and thus improve public policy decision-making.
MDI draws on expertise from across Georgetown’s campus and beyond, including the social, natural, and computer science departments, and through strategic partnerships with organizations like the Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation, Lawrence Livermore Laboratories, the Institute for Social Research at University of Michigan, and the Pew Charitable Trust. The U.S. Census Bureau has designated MDI a Federal Statistical Research Data Center, one of only 23 in the nation.
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