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Beyond the Market: Designing Nonmarket Accounts for the United States
and quality of data available to support quantification and valuation of nonmarket activities in a way that is even remotely comparable to that which is done for the NIPAs. Fortunately, there is recent progress to report.
The new American Time Use Survey (ATUS) will provide rich information about the most important input to nonmarket production—people’s time.
Recommendation 2.1: The American Time Use Survey, which can be used to quantify time inputs into productive nonmarket activity, should underpin the construction of supplemental national accounts for the United States. To serve effectively in this role, the survey should be ongoing and conducted in a methodologically consistent manner over time.
What makes the ATUS particularly valuable for the purpose of creating nonmarket accounts is that its information will be provided year after year.
Despite the tremendous step forward represented by the ATUS and its role as an essential building block for most nonmarket accounts for the United States, there are concerns about its reliability and validity for this purpose. Lower-than-expected response rates—and the possible resulting nonresponse bias—are worrisome. Efforts to assess the extent of biases in survey responses—and, if necessary, to confront that bias by raising response rates or making appropriate adjustments to the estimates—should be a priority.
Recommendation 2.2: The Bureau of Labor Statistics should commit resources adequate to improve response rates in the American Time Use Survey and to investigate the effects of lower-than-desirable response rates on survey estimates.
Demographic data go hand in hand with time-use data in laying the foundation for nonmarket accounts: time-use data can be used to answer questions about what individuals with particular characteristics are doing with their time; demographic data describe the distribution of characteristics in the population. Although we recognize that creation of better coordinated demographic data would require significant effort by statistical agencies and other suppliers of data, the development of such data is an important goal.
Recommendation 2.4: A consistent and regularly updated demographic database should be assembled as an input to nonmarket accounts. The database should include information on the population by age, sex, school enrollment, years of education and degrees completed, occupation, household structure, immigrant status, employment status and, possibly, other dimensions.
The fact that high-quality demographic data are already collected by the Census Bureau and other agencies improves the feasibility of implementing this recommendation. The American Community Survey also will help advance the effort to produce a more fluid demographic description of the population. Given budget