One of the most important goals of agencies producing economic statistics is that those statistics be relevant and regularly used by public and private decision makers. Achieving this goal requires several elements including accuracy, timeliness, and sound concepts and methods. However, perhaps most important, in a world of constrained resources, it requires focusing on those statistics that are most important to decision makers in the public and private sector. And this may be the most difficult challenge. Statisticians are by nature perfectionists and most are data producers rather than data users. The result is a tendency to focus on a level of accuracy, conceptual consistency, or statistical integration that is too high relative the quality of the underlying source data or the needs of the users. A jewel-like set of integrated accounts that comes out so late as to be irrelevant to decision makers, or that is not benchmarked to comprehensive information, is of limited value. This short paper will discuss these and other issues important to developing and maintaining a set of economic statistics that are relevant to economic decision making. The focus will be on the U.S. experience and lessons that can be learned -- positive and negative -- from that experience.
Presented at the Goskomstat Workshop: Developing the State Statistical System of the Russian Federation, Moscow, Russia, May 28-29, 2000