The limits of statistical information: How important are GDP revisions in Italy?
The use of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a summary measure of the level of economic activity is pervasive in empirical economics, policy analysis and forecasting. This pervasive role of GDP and its nature of "public good" raises obvious problems of timeliness and accuracy of the data. A striking feature of GDP data (and, more generally, of all national accounts figures) is the presence of "data vintages". That is, the GDP estimate for a specific year or quarter is subject to several revisions after its first release. As a result, both the level and the profile of GDP over a given period may change, sometimes substantially, through time. This paper presents some evidence on the extent of GDP revisions in Italy, with particular emphasis on revisions of the quarterly national accounts series, and compares the Italian evidence with the available evidence from other countries. After discussing some areas in which data revisions can have potentially important consequences, the paper concludes with some policy recommendations.
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