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Award Abstract #1430854

Economic Statistics and the Challenge of Democratic Control

Divn Of Social and Economic Sciences
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Initial Amendment Date: July 30, 2014
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Latest Amendment Date: July 30, 2014
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Award Number: 1430854
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Award Instrument: Standard Grant
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Program Manager: Frederick M Kronz
SES Divn Of Social and Economic Sciences
SBE Direct For Social, Behav & Economic Scie
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Start Date: September 1, 2014
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End Date: August 31, 2016 (Estimated)
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Awarded Amount to Date: $104,530.00
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Investigator(s): Thomas Stapleford tstaplef@nd.edu (Principal Investigator)
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Sponsor: University of Notre Dame
940 Grace Hall
NOTRE DAME, IN 46556-5708 (574)631-7432
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Program Reference Code(s): 7567
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Program Element Code(s): 7603, 8804


Government economic statistics are Janus-faced. On the one hand, they have an extensive role

in modern governance in which they are treated as apolitical, empirical facts: Statistics are used to guide policy, and to allocate or adjust resources automatically. In these roles, the non-partisan character of official statistics is essential. On the other hand, methodological decisions must be guided by a clear set of measurement goals; yet, every major economic statistic has many such possible goals, and even economists frequently argue about the proper objectives. However, insofar as these statistics are simultaneously used to guide, evaluate, or enact policies, then a decision about measurement goals is defacto a decision about the policy objectives for the relevant programs. These two competing aspects of economic statistics pose a challenge: how can official statistics be subject to democratic oversight and control while retaining their non-partisan character and serving as a bulwark against the abuse of political power? This project aims to explore and resolve this challenge.

This project aims to transform the way Americans construct and understand economic statistics, a goal that requires both theoretical analysis and broader outreach. Funding for the project will support the design of a new undergraduate course on the conceptual foundations of economic statistics that will become the basis for a text book targeted toward undergraduates, policymakers, and journalists. Second, funding will support the construction of a website on price indexes for these audiences that will explain basic conceptual issues, digest recent methodological research, and provide an ongoing, non-partisan commentary about policy issues connected with these statistics. This site will be a pilot program for a future, expanded version that will cover all major macroeconomic statistics.


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