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Beyond the Market: Designing Nonmarket Accounts for the United States
families make in preparing children for lives as productive members of society, including the necessary foundation for later investments in formal education and health.
Though the panel considered other kinds of activities as well, we do not claim to have fully documented all areas of nonmarket production that contribute to social or private well-being. On the grounds hinted at above and elucidated further in the report, some other important areas—e.g., safety and security, leisure activities, and the underground economy—receive limited attention. This narrowing of scope notwithstanding, we believe that scholars and policy makers interested in a broad range of nonmarket topics will benefit from the principles laid out in this report.
Even within the set of areas identified here, there are differences in readiness to begin the construction of new satellite accounts. At this time, accounts for household production and the environment would rest on the firmest foundations; indeed, the Bureau of Economic Analysis and other national statistical offices already have done substantial work in these areas. In the remaining areas for which we advocate development efforts—the government and nonprofit sectors, education, and health—further conceptual thinking and new data collection are needed, and we encourage such work.
We acknowledge the difficulty of drawing boundaries between the areas of nonmarket activity we have identified as priorities. Improved health, for example, may result from better medical care, better education that contributes to better individual decisions about diet and exercise, or improved air and water quality. Nonetheless, the panel sees no realistic alternative to considering the different areas of nonmarket activity separately, but nonetheless recognizes the need to delineate the interactions and complementarities among them as the development of supplemental accounts proceeds.
Because the accounts proposed in this report will unavoidably overlap with one another (and with the market accounts), aggregate cost or product values will not be derivable by simply adding these accounts up—there would be extensive double counting. Nonetheless, given the current stage of development of frameworks and data relating to nonmarket activities, independent accounts will likely be more useful than a system that forces the accounting into a framework designed to eliminate overlap. Such a framework would require arbitrary allocation of costs or outputs across accounts.
Complementing decisions about scope, a conceptual framework must be adopted on which to develop an economic account. For a number of reasons, the panel believes that experimental satellite accounts will be most useful if their structure is as consistent as possible with the NIPAs. Because the national accounts have undergone extensive scrutiny, reflecting a long history of research