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Box: The 1992 Benchmark Survey

Benchmark surveys are BEA's most comprehensive surveys of foreign direct investment, in terms of both coverage of companies and subject matter. The 1992 survey covered all U.S. affiliates of foreign direct investors that had assets, sales, or net income of more than $1 million. It collected detailed information on the financial structure and operations of U.S. affiliates as well as on transactions and positions between the U.S. affiliates and their foreign parents.

The data from the benchmark survey extend universe estimates that begin with the year 1977 and that are derived from both annual and benchmark surveys. In addition, they will be used in preparing annual estimates in subsequent nonbenchmark years; these estimates are derived as the sum of (1) sample data reported in BEA's annual surveys of foreign direct investment in the United States and (2) estimates for nonsample affiliates, which are extrapolated from the prior benchmark survey.

Many of the items for which data were collected in the 1992 benchmark survey are similar to those for earlier years. However, some of the data from the 1992 benchmark survey—such as the expanded data on research and development that are discussed in this article—were not regularly collected before this survey. Other data on affiliates have been regularly collected only in benchmark survey years: These data include gross property, plant, and equipment used for manufacturing; interest receipts and payments; the number of employees covered by collective bargaining agreements; U.S. merchandise exports and imports by product and by country of destination or origin; and merchandise imports by intended use.

Except for a change in the classification of savings institutions and credit unions, the concepts and definitions underlying the 1992 data are essentially the same as those for BEA's 1987 benchmark survey./1/ Beginning with 1992, the data for nonbank U.S. affiliates exclude savings institutions and credit unions, which have been reclassified from the "finance, except banking" industry to the banking industry. In 1992, U.S. affiliates that were savings and loans or credit unions had total assets of $27 billion, sales of $2 billion, and employment of 6,800 (compared with total assets of $382 billion, sales of $33 billion, and employment of 57,900 for affiliates classified in "finance, except banking"). A full methodology of the 1992 survey will accompany the revised data, which will be published next year.

The preliminary benchmark survey results include estimates of data for reports that could not be fully processed in time for publication. However, the amount of estimation required was small, particularly for key items; for example, only 3 percent of the totals shown in the accompanying tables for both assets and employment was estimated. The percentage of estimated data reflected in the preliminary results is significantly smaller for the 1992 benchmark survey than it was for the 1987 benchmark survey because the development of online interactive editing programs and improved estimating methodologies have shortened processing time and permitted greater use of data from partially processed reports. The final survey results, to be published next year, will incorporate data from reports received and processed after publication of these preliminary results. Revisions are expected to be small overall; however, they could be sizable for some individual countries, industries, States, or items.

In the 1992 benchmark survey, a long form, requesting information in considerable detail, was filed by affiliates with assets, sales, or net income greater than $50 million. To minimize the burden on survey respondents, a short form, containing less detail, was used for filing by smaller affiliates. For these affiliates, BEA has estimated the items that appear only on the long form, so that the published results are presented in the same detail for all affiliates.

  1. For information on the 1987 survey, see U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis, Foreign Direct Investment in the United States: 1987 Benchmark Survey, Final Results (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, August 1990).