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Macroeconomic data

Publication details

Ullrich Heilemann

The following look on the current state and the future of macroeconomic data is likely to fail. For one thing, researchers will be disappointed to find that their claims for more and “better” data are not adequately supported; the Amtliche Statistik [(Official Statistics (OS)], while to some degree perhaps sharing this disappointment, may miss suggestions and specific comments on old and new data needs. In a material sense, the situation does not appear lamentable and no case can be made requiring immediate action. In addition, few of the following remarks are new or unique. Indeed, as an empirical macroeconomist, and as a member of various statistical advisory bodies, the present author is impressed by the progress made in numerous areas of research infrastructure that were inconceivable only a decade ago. Within the triad of data, methods, and theory, for an increasing number of areas of the social and behavioural sciences, “data” no longer appear to be the limiting factor (so here appetite comes with eating, too) – especially not when also looking at cost, returns, and setting negative priorities. It is true that improvements to the macroeconomic informational infrastructure over the last two decades were much smaller than the progress made in microeconomics and many of its sub-categories (for labour economics, e.g., Bender and Möller 2009; Schneider 2009). However, these other areas were only catching up with the state of macroeconomic data, which had experienced a similar jump with the launch of the National Accounts (NA) in Germany some 50 years ago. Given the breadth of the topic, at least in the context of this volume, the following remarks will be cursory and the references rather general.