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Beyond the Market: Designing Nonmarket Accounts for the United States
nor the necessary data are available to support an accounting of the human capital formed at home when parents teach their toddlers to talk or to think about the effects of their actions on others. The staged approach allows work to proceed without commitment to a rigid framework, which might be difficult to agree upon across different areas of interest. Experimental methods—potentially inconsistent with an integrated system—can be pursued in a framework of separate satellite accounts.
A wide range of productive activities seems worthy of exploration for possible inclusion in a set of augmented accounts that would reflect more fully and more directly the breadth of the economy’s productive activities. Within the set of outputs that might conceivably be of interest, the panel believes that priority should be given to the development of experimental accounts for areas that incrementally expand coverage of the conventional market accounts. The chapters that follow discuss several specific areas that the panel believes to be among the most promising and to which we accordingly give top priority:
investments in formal education and the resulting stock of skill capital,
investments in health and the resulting stock of health capital,
selected activities of the government and nonprofit sectors, and
environmental assets and services.
The panel believes that improved information about these selected areas of nonmarket activity would be of significant value to both policy makers and researchers. Moreover, given the conceptual tools and data that exist already, several of these areas are ripe for development.
Recommendation 1.1: The statistical agencies should develop a set of satellite accounts for household production, government and nonprofit organizations, education, health, and the environment. These accounts would provide a more complete picture of the nation’s productive activities in these areas.
The areas listed above are substantial components of the economy—and the level of activity associated with each has the potential to change significantly over time—so focusing attention on them should improve our understanding of the nation’s total production. As discussed in more depth in the chapters that follow, all are areas of likely interest in their own right to a range of data users. Several of the areas overlap the NIPAs and thus complement existing official statistics.
The panel’s focus on household production, government and nonprofit organizations, education, health, and the environment also reflects a feasibility constraint. Though measurement will be far from easy or noncontroversial for almost any nonmarket satellite account that could be envisioned, the set chosen for study excludes areas for which sensible approaches to quantifying and valuing inputs or