Box: National Conference on the Economic Accounts

U.S. Chamber of Commerce
1615 H Street NW
Washington, DC
March 21, 1995

Introductions (8:30–9:15)

Three pervasive issues that affect the economic accounts constitute priorities that our economic statistical system must address. They are: the need to develop new and improved measures of output; the need to update measures of investment, saving, and wealth; and the need to measure better the international flow of goods, services, income, and capital. The first three sessions of the program address in turn these three issues, focusing on the nature of the problem and commenting on the draft BEA plan (as presented in the February SURVEY OF CURRENT BUSINESS). The fourth session addresses how to ``do more for less'' by translating these issues into priorities for the statistical system.

I. The Need for New and Improved Output Measures (9:15–10:30)

Our economy's output is getting progressively harder to measure. This problem affects service sector outputs, technologically advanced products, and ``products'' such as financial derivatives. What steps should we take to address this problem and properly divide the nation's nominal expenditures between real output growth and price changes?

Overview: Joel Popkin, Joel Popkin and Associates
Panel Discussion
Chair: Allen Sinai, Lehman Brothers
Maurine Haver, Haver Analytics
Bruce Steinberg, Merrill Lynch
Group Discussion

II. Investment and the Capital Stock (10:45–12:00)

Good measures of the capital stock allow us to measure our wealth and the productivity with which we produce output. Measuring the capital stock requires methodological decisions regarding the role of intangible and public sector assets and the valuation of assets. What are the most pressing problems in this area and how should we address them?

Overview: Robert Eisner, Northwestern University
Panel Discussion
Chair: Michael Boskin, Stanford University
Barry Bosworth, Brookings Institution
Charles Hulten, University of Maryland
Group Discussion

Luncheon (12:15–1:30) Speaker: Alan Blinder, Federal Reserve Board

III. The U.S. Economy in Internationally Integrated Markets (1:45–3:00)

Increasing international economic integration creates issues for our measurements of goods, services, income, and capital flows. Trade in such relatively new areas as business services creates gaps in coverage in the national and international accounts. Thin coverage of capital flows leads to uncertainty about the economy's international position. What are the most important problems in these areas and what steps should we take to address them?

Overview: Edwin Truman, Federal Reserve Board
Panel Discussion
Chair: David Devlin, Citibank
John McLenaghan, International Monetary Fund
C. Fred Bergsten, Institute for International Economics
Group Discussion

IV. Improving Statistics in a Resource-Constrained World (3:15–4:15)

There's no such thing as a free lunch. In an era of stringent fiscal discipline, the statistical system must have a strong sense of priorities in order to maintain the effectiveness of its program spending. What are the most pressing priorities in the entire statistical system and in the BEA and Census programs that support the economic accounts? Which current programs may most merit reduced effort and, therefore, be a source of funding for other initiatives?

Panel Discussion
Chair: Joseph Duncan, Dun and Bradstreet
Janet Norwood, Urban Institute
Geoffrey Hewings, University of Illinois; Federal
Reserve Bank of Chicago
Charles Waite, Consultant
Group Discussion

Summary and Closing (4:30–5:00)

BEA Reactions: Carol Carson

Closing Remarks: Everett Ehrlich