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A Critique of the United States Income and Product Accounts

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Suitability of the Accounts for Short-Term Analysis This PDF is a selection from an out-of-print volume from the National Bureau of Economic Research Volume Title: A Critique of the United States Income and Product Accounts Volume Author/Editor: Volume Publisher: Princeton University Press Volume ISBN: 0-870-14178-3 Volume URL: http://www.nber.org/books/unkn58-1 Publication Date: 1958 Chapter Title: Suitability of the Accounts for Short-Term Analysis Chapter Author: V. Lewis Bassie Chapter URL: http://www.nber.org/chapters/c0558 Chapter pages in book: (p. 383 - 393) Suitability of the Accounts for Short-Term Analysis V LEWIS BASSIE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS ONE approach to appraising the usefulness of any statistical series is to set up abstract criteria of good data. It takes, however, only limited ex- perience in statistical analysis to realize that no single set of statistical data can satisfy all standards of usefulness or meet all the needs of analysts working in the field. Statistics cannot, for example, be both up- to-the-minute and wholly accurate. Moreover, each problem, each new situation, presents its own special questions, which can be answered only in terms of data suitable to it. The most that can be asked of any set of data is that it have substantial validity with reference to all the ordinary problems of its users. Data of this kind may be termed general purpose or basic data. In practice, basic data constantly have to be supplemented with more timely or other special data that meet the specific needs of the occasion. One of the first problems of current analysis is to "forecast" the present. It is necessary to foretell what the current situation will prove to be after data are available to define it effectively. The quarterly in- come and product data, when first issued, are themselves estimates of this provisional character: they attempt to predict what the final esti- mates will be after all possible information is in. But in current analy

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