presentation focused on projects designed to assess and improve the value of BLS’s American Time Use Survey to researchers working on nonmarket accounting.
The panel will have two or three additional meetings in 2003; its final report is expected to be completed and published in 2004.
One of the main objectives of the panel’s final report will be to provide practical recommendations on the measurement of nonmarket activity in a variety of areas the panel has identified as important. Each chapter in the final report will begin with a discussion of an identified issue area, considering its importance and the sense in which it constitutes an area of nonmarket activity. As noted throughout this report, in many of the areas the panel has chosen to explore, market activity coexists with nonmarket activity. Students pay tuition to attend universities (a market transaction), but there is no market transaction that captures directly the value of the time they devote to this endeavor. Nonprofit organizations may hire employees (a market transaction), but the wage these employees receive may well not reflect the value their time would be assigned if devoted to for-profit endeavors, and the value of the time contributed by unpaid volunteers is nowhere reflected.
Central to each chapter will be a discussion of the conceptual issues related to the measurement of nonmarket activity in the area it covers. Each chapter will discuss how one might measure input quantities—both market and nonmarket—and the resulting nonmarket output quantities. The transformation of inputs into outputs presupposes, of course, a production technology, and in a number of the chapters this technology will also be discussed.
Another matter that will figure prominently in each chapter is how to attach values to specified quantities of nonmarket inputs and outputs. The panel’s approach, in essence, is to seek prices that can be assigned to the identified quantities. In some cases, a satisfactory price measure or measures can be identified; in other cases, available information may be unsatisfactory, either because of deficiencies in its conceptual foundations or because it is insufficiently precise to be useful in the implementation of an accounting scheme. Each chapter will devote substantial attention to the discussion of whether and how satisfactory price measures might be developed. In many cases, researchers have already developed input or output valuations of the sort the panel contemplates.
On the basis of these topic-by-topic evaluations, the panel will recommend which areas should be considered as high priorities for the development of nonmarket accounts and which areas should be considered as lower priorities. Finally, for those areas in which the panel believes further work holds promise, the individual chapters will include recommendations about the ideal data for the intended purpose and steps that might be taken toward the production of such ideal data—or at least better data—for the United States. These recommendations concerning specific steps to improve the data available for measurement of these important areas are, we believe, likely to be among the report’s major contributions.