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Measuring U.S. Innovative Activity


  • B.K. Atrostic


Innovation has long been credited as a leading source of economic strength and vitality in the United States because it leads to new goods and services and increases productivity, leading to better living standards. Better measures of innovative activities–activities including but not limited to innovation alone–could improve what we know about the sources of productivity and economic growth. The U.S. Census Bureau either currently collects, or has collected, data on some measures of innovative activities, such as the diffusion of innovations and technologies, human and organizational capital, entrepreneurship and other worker and firm characteristics, and the entry and exit of businesses, that research shows affect productivity and other measures of economic performance. But developing an understanding of how those effects work requires more than just measures of innovative activity. It also requires solid statistical information about core measures of the economy: that is, comprehensive coverage of all industries, including improved measures of output and sales and additional information on inputs and purchased materials at the micro (enterprise) level for the same economic unit over time (so the effects can be measured). Filling gaps in core data would allow us to rule out the possibility that a measure of innovative activity merely proxies for something that is omitted from or measured poorly in the core data, provide more information about innovative activities, and strengthen our ability to evaluate the performance of the entire economy. These gaps can be filled by better integrating existing data and by more structured collections of new data.

Suggested Citation

  • B.K. Atrostic, 2007. "Measuring U.S. Innovative Activity," Working Papers 07-11, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:07-11

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    Cited by:

    1. B. Atrostic, 2008. "Measuring U.S. innovative activity: business data at the U.S. Census Bureau," The Journal of Technology Transfer, Springer, vol. 33(2), pages 153-171, April.

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    innovation; productivity; economic measurement;

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