Tuesday, April 12th, 2016 11:08 am

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Question A: By providing important measures of US economic performance — including employment, consumer prices, wages, job openings, time allocation in households, and productivity — the Bureau of Labor Statistics creates social benefits that exceed its annual cost of roughly $610 million.

Responses
 

Source: IGM Economic Experts Panel
www.igmchicago.org/igm-economic-experts-panel

Responses weighted by each expert's confidence

Source: IGM Economic Experts Panel
www.igmchicago.org/igm-economic-experts-panel

Question B: Cuts in BLS spending would likely involve net social costs because potential declines in the quality of data, and thus their usefulness to researchers and decision makers, would exceed any budget savings.

Responses
 

Source: IGM Economic Experts Panel
www.igmchicago.org/igm-economic-experts-panel

Responses weighted by each expert's confidence

Source: IGM Economic Experts Panel
www.igmchicago.org/igm-economic-experts-panel

Question A Participant Responses

Participant University Vote Confidence Comment Bio/Vote History
Acemoglu Daron Acemoglu MIT Strongly Agree 6
Bio/Vote History
         
Alesina Alberto Alesina Harvard Disagree 2
Bio/Vote History
         
Altonji Joseph Altonji Yale Strongly Agree 9
BLS data are key to measurement of unemployment, wages, productivity, and labor force trends. It is also key for policy analysis.
Bio/Vote History
         
Auerbach Alan Auerbach Berkeley Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         
Autor David Autor MIT Strongly Agree 10
The U.S. has lead the world in measuring and understanding its own economy. Willfully blinding ourselves would be a step towards darkness
Bio/Vote History
         
Baicker Katherine Baicker Harvard Agree 3
Bio/Vote History
         
Banerjee Abhijit Banerjee MIT Uncertain 5
Bio/Vote History
         
Bertrand Marianne Bertrand Chicago Strongly Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         
Brunnermeier Markus Brunnermeier Princeton Strongly Agree 9
Spending about $2 per person a year to collect data for evaluating various government programs should pay off.
Bio/Vote History
         
Chetty Raj Chetty Harvard Strongly Agree 10
Bio/Vote History
         
Chevalier Judith Chevalier Yale Agree 9
Of course, it is hard to quantify the importance but many economic decisions rely on these data.
Bio/Vote History
         
Cutler David Cutler Harvard Strongly Agree 10
Bio/Vote History
         
Deaton Angus Deaton Princeton No Opinion
I don't have enough information, and it is very hard in practice to evaluate public good provision.
Bio/Vote History
         
Duffie Darrell Duffie Stanford Strongly Agree 6
Bio/Vote History
         
Edlin Aaron Edlin Berkeley Strongly Agree 9
Just one example: until directed to BLS stats many think inflation much higher than it is. And expectations drive inflation.
Bio/Vote History
         
Eichengreen Barry Eichengreen Berkeley Strongly Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         
Einav Liran Einav Stanford Agree 3
Bio/Vote History
         
Fair Ray Fair Yale Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         
Finkelstein Amy Finkelstein MIT Did Not Answer
Bio/Vote History
         
Goldberg Pinelopi Goldberg Yale Agree 6
Bio/Vote History
         
Goolsbee Austan Goolsbee Chicago Strongly Agree 8
Bio/Vote History
         
Greenstone Michael Greenstone Chicago Strongly Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         
Hall Robert Hall Stanford Strongly Agree 8
Bio/Vote History
         
Hart Oliver Hart Harvard Strongly Agree 8
The BLS provides data, in an objective and neutral manner, that are essential for policy. Its benefits exceed its costs.
Bio/Vote History
         
Holmström Bengt Holmström MIT Strongly Agree 8
Bio/Vote History
         
Hoxby Caroline Hoxby Stanford Did Not Answer
Bio/Vote History
         
Hoynes Hilary Hoynes Berkeley Strongly Agree 9
Bio/Vote History
         
Judd Kenneth Judd Stanford Strongly Agree 10
Information is good.
Bio/Vote History
         
Kaplan Steven Kaplan Chicago Uncertain 3
Do not know exactly whether the money is spent well nor whether private sector alternatives could do better.
Bio/Vote History
         
Kashyap Anil Kashyap Chicago Strongly Agree 9
we badly under-invest in measuring what happens in the economy & it sometimes hampers policy decisions. see Bernanke's memoir for an example
Bio/Vote History
         
Klenow Pete Klenow Stanford Strongly Agree 10
The BLS and Census produce vital macro statistics and make anonymized micro data available for public policy-related research.
Bio/Vote History
         
Levin Jonathan Levin Stanford Strongly Agree 10
Bio/Vote History
         
Maskin Eric Maskin Harvard Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         
Nordhaus William Nordhaus Yale Strongly Agree 9
Bio/Vote History
         
Saez Emmanuel Saez Berkeley Agree 8
Bio/Vote History
         
Samuelson Larry Samuelson Yale Agree 8
One cannot hope to make effective economic policy without reliable data.
Bio/Vote History
         
Scheinkman José Scheinkman Princeton Agree 4
Bio/Vote History
         
Schmalensee Richard Schmalensee MIT Did Not Answer
Bio/Vote History
         
Shapiro Carl Shapiro Berkeley Strongly Agree 9
Bio/Vote History
         
Shimer Robert Shimer Chicago Strongly Agree 8
BLS data is essential for the Fed at a minimum. $610 million is 0.003% of US GDP.
Bio/Vote History
         
Thaler Richard Thaler Chicago Strongly Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         
Udry Christopher Udry Yale Strongly Agree 1
I believe strongly that better evidence generates better policy choices. But I don't have strong evidence to back up that belief.
Bio/Vote History
         

Question B Participant Responses

Participant University Vote Confidence Comment Bio/Vote History
Acemoglu Daron Acemoglu MIT Strongly Agree 5
Bio/Vote History
         
Alesina Alberto Alesina Harvard Disagree 2
Bio/Vote History
         
Altonji Joseph Altonji Yale Strongly Agree 10
The BLS has been underfunded for several years. Key data products are at risk.
Bio/Vote History
         
Auerbach Alan Auerbach Berkeley Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         
Autor David Autor MIT Strongly Agree 10
BLS data are at the heart of good policy in both the public and private sectors. It's a bargain relative to the public and private value.
Bio/Vote History
         
Baicker Katherine Baicker Harvard Agree 1
Bio/Vote History
         
Banerjee Abhijit Banerjee MIT Uncertain 5
Bio/Vote History
         
Bertrand Marianne Bertrand Chicago Strongly Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         
Brunnermeier Markus Brunnermeier Princeton Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         
Chetty Raj Chetty Harvard Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         
Chevalier Judith Chevalier Yale Agree 4
Bio/Vote History
         
Cutler David Cutler Harvard Strongly Agree 10
Bio/Vote History
         
Deaton Angus Deaton Princeton No Opinion
Bio/Vote History
         
Duffie Darrell Duffie Stanford Strongly Agree 6
Bio/Vote History
         
Edlin Aaron Edlin Berkeley Strongly Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         
Eichengreen Barry Eichengreen Berkeley Strongly Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         
Einav Liran Einav Stanford Uncertain 1
Bio/Vote History
         
Fair Ray Fair Yale Agree 8
Bio/Vote History
         
Finkelstein Amy Finkelstein MIT Did Not Answer
Bio/Vote History
         
Goldberg Pinelopi Goldberg Yale Agree 6
Bio/Vote History
         
Goolsbee Austan Goolsbee Chicago Strongly Agree 9
Bio/Vote History
         
Greenstone Michael Greenstone Chicago Strongly Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         
Hall Robert Hall Stanford Strongly Agree 8
Bio/Vote History
         
Hart Oliver Hart Harvard Strongly Agree 8
Same answer as before.
Bio/Vote History
         
Holmström Bengt Holmström MIT Uncertain 2
Bio/Vote History
         
Hoxby Caroline Hoxby Stanford Did Not Answer
Bio/Vote History
         
Hoynes Hilary Hoynes Berkeley Agree 9
Bio/Vote History
         
Judd Kenneth Judd Stanford Strongly Agree 10
I doubt we have too much information of excessive quality. Reallocation of resources may be desired, but not cuts.
Bio/Vote History
         
Kaplan Steven Kaplan Chicago Uncertain 3
Bio/Vote History
         
Kashyap Anil Kashyap Chicago Strongly Agree 9
Bio/Vote History
         
Klenow Pete Klenow Stanford Strongly Agree 10
Big data from the private sector is becoming more plentiful, but it cannot match the scope and representativeness of BLS data.
Bio/Vote History
         
Levin Jonathan Levin Stanford Strongly Agree 6
Bio/Vote History
         
Maskin Eric Maskin Harvard Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         
Nordhaus William Nordhaus Yale Strongly Agree 9
Just turn your headlights off at night on an icy country road to see what is involved in reducing the quality of economic statistics.
Bio/Vote History
         
Saez Emmanuel Saez Berkeley Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         
Samuelson Larry Samuelson Yale Agree 8
Economic policy is often imprecise, but abandoning the data and making policy blindly would be even worse.
Bio/Vote History
         
Scheinkman José Scheinkman Princeton Agree 4
Bio/Vote History
         
Schmalensee Richard Schmalensee MIT Did Not Answer
Bio/Vote History
         
Shapiro Carl Shapiro Berkeley Strongly Agree 9
Bio/Vote History
         
Shimer Robert Shimer Chicago Strongly Agree 8
Full disclosure: much of my research uses publicly available BLS data.
Bio/Vote History
         
Thaler Richard Thaler Chicago Strongly Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         
Udry Christopher Udry Yale Strongly Agree 1
Bio/Vote History
         

10 New Economic Experts join the IGM Panel


For the past two years, our expert panelists have been informing the public about the extent to which economists agree or disagree on important public policy issues. This week, we are delighted to announce that we are expanding the IGM Economic Experts Panel to add ten new distinguished economists. Like our other experts, these new panelists have impeccable qualifications to speak on public policy matters, and their names will be familiar to other economists and the media.

To give the public a broad sense of their views on policy issues, each new expert has responded to a selection of 16 statements that our panel had previously addressed. We chose these 16 statements, which cover a wide range of important policy areas, because the original panelists' responses to them were analyzed in a paper comparing the views of our economic experts with those of the American public. You can find that paper, by Paola Sapienza and Luigi Zingales, here. The paper, along with other analyses of the experts' views, was discussed during the American Economic Association annual meetings, and the video can be found here.

The new panelists' responses to these statements can be seen on their individual voting history pages. Our ten new economic experts are:

Abhijit Banerjee (MIT)
Markus K. Brunnermeier (Princeton)
Liran Einav (Stanford)
Amy Finkelstein (MIT)
Oliver Hart (Harvard)
Hilary Hoynes (Berkeley)
Steven N. Kaplan (Chicago)
Larry Samuelson (Yale)
Carl Shapiro (Berkeley)
Robert Shimer (Chicago)


Please note that, for the 16 previous topics on which these new panelists have voted, we left the charts showing the distribution of responses unchanged. Those charts reflect the responses that our original panelists gave at the time, and we have not altered them to reflect the views of the new experts.

We have also taken this opportunity to ask our original panelists whether they would vote differently on any of the statements we have asked about in the past. Several experts chose to highlight statements to which they would currently respond differently. In such cases, you will see this "revote" below the panelist's original vote. We think you will enjoy seeing examples of statements on which some experts have reconsidered.

As with the 16 previous statements voted on by new panelists, these "revote" responses are not reflected in the chart that we display showing the distribution of views for that topic: all the charts for previous questions reflect the distribution of views that the experts expressed when the statement was originally posed.

About the IGM Economic Experts Panel

This panel explores the extent to which economists agree or disagree on major public policy issues. To assess such beliefs we assembled this panel of expert economists. Statistics teaches that a sample of (say) 40 opinions will be adequate to reflect a broader population if the sample is representative of that population.

To that end, our panel was chosen to include distinguished experts with a keen interest in public policy from the major areas of economics, to be geographically diverse, and to include Democrats, Republicans and Independents as well as older and younger scholars. The panel members are all senior faculty at the most elite research universities in the United States. The panel includes Nobel Laureates, John Bates Clark Medalists, fellows of the Econometric society, past Presidents of both the American Economics Association and American Finance Association, past Democratic and Republican members of the President's Council of Economics, and past and current editors of the leading journals in the profession. This selection process has the advantage of not only providing a set of panelists whose names will be familiar to other economists and the media, but also delivers a group with impeccable qualifications to speak on public policy matters.

Finally, it is important to explain one aspect of our voting process. In some instances a panelist may neither agree nor disagree with a statement, and there can be two very different reasons for this. One case occurs when an economist is an expert on a topic and yet sees the evidence on the exact claim at hand as ambiguous. In such cases our panelists vote "uncertain". A second case relates to statements on topics so far removed from the economist's expertise that he or she feels unqualified to vote. In this case, our panelists vote "no opinion".

The Economic Experts Panel questions are emailed individually to the members of the panel, and each responds electronically at his or her convenience. Panelists may consult whatever resources they like before answering.

Members of the public are free to suggest questions (see link below), and the panelists suggest many themselves. Members of the IGM faculty are responsible for deciding the final version of each week’s question. We usually send a draft of the question to the panel in advance, and invite them to point out problems with the wording if they see any. In response, we typically receive a handful of suggested clarifications from individual experts. This process helps us to spot inconsistencies, and to reduce vagueness or problems of interpretation.

The panel data are copyrighted by the Initiative on Global Markets and are being analyzed for an article to appear in a leading peer-reviewed journal.

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