On misusing National Accounts data for governance purposes
According to KENDRICK (1996, p. 1), National Accounts have become “an indispensable tool for macroeconomic analysis, projections, and policy formulation”. The paper elaborates on this statement, addressing policy domains that rely heavily on National Accounts data. Yet – useful as they are – National Accounts can also be misused in the context of governance. The most common misapplication of National Accounts relates to the field of international comparisons. For instance, according to National Accounts data, the U.S. have outperformed all other high-income economies over the course of the 90s and up through the new millennium. In many European countries, public debate centres on the question how to devise ‘structural reforms’ in order to make the set-up of the respective economy more similar to that of the United States. Arguably, the main impact of National Accounts on governance can be found here. Still, there are large differences in the ways National Accounts calculations are carried out even among European countries, let alone between Europe and the U.S. The paper discusses several such differences, showing that the divergence in growth rates between the U.S. and the EU since 1997 can be explained almost entirely in terms of differing statistical methods.
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