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Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency: Fifth Edition (2013)

Chapter: Appendix B: Organization of the Federal Statistical System

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Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Organization of the Federal Statistical System." National Research Council. 2013. Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency: Fifth Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18318.
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Appendix B

Organization of the Federal Statistical System

This appendix begins with an overview of the U.S. statistical system as a whole. It then briefly summarizes the statistical functions of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the principal statistical agencies, and a selection of major statistical programs housed or sponsored by other agencies.

OVERVIEW

Budget

For fiscal 2012 OMB estimated $6.2 billion in direct funding for government statistical programs in 129 agencies with directly funded statistical activities of $500,000 or more (U.S. Office of Management and Budget, 2012b:Table 1). “Statistical activities” are defined by OMB (2012b:3–4) to include not only survey and census design and data collection, but also data analysis, forecasting, and modeling. The 2012 total amount covers programs carried out by 14 designated statistical agencies and 115 policy, research, and program operation agencies, excluding the 2010 decennial census, which had a separate $0.4 billion in direct funding.1

“Direct funding” is directly appropriated to an agency. Some agencies (e.g., the Census Bureau) carry out statistical activities for other agencies on

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1 The total number of policy, research, and program operation agencies treats each institute or center of the National Institutes of Health as a separate agency.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Organization of the Federal Statistical System." National Research Council. 2013. Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency: Fifth Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18318.
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a cost-reimbursable basis. The funding for these activities is allocated to the sponsoring agency and not to the data collection agency. OMB’s annual compilation of statistical programs generally includes the entire budget for each of the 14 agencies represented on the Interagency Council on Statistical Policy (ICSP);2 other agencies determine which parts of their budgets should be included according to the OMB definition of statistical activities.

In fiscal 2012, the 14 ICSP agencies accounted for 34 percent of the total budget authority for statistical activities, excluding the 2010 census; with the 2010 census authority included, they accounted for 36 percent. Not all of the work of ICSP agencies is carried out in house. For fiscal 2012, OMB estimated that 37 percent of the total budget authority of ICSP agencies was used to purchase statistical services, such as data collection and analysis, from other organizations (U.S. Office of Management and Budget, 2011:App. A). Of total ICSP budget authority, 8 percent went to reimburse state and local governments for administrative records (e.g., birth and death records provided to the National Center for Health Statistics and unemployment insurance wage records provided to the Bureau of Labor Statistics); 21 percent was paid to private organizations for data collection and analysis services; and 8 percent was paid to other federal agencies, principally the Census Bureau.

In dollar terms, the National Center for Education Statistics, the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the National Center for Health Statistics dedicated the largest amounts of their budgets to purchasing statistical services; by percentage of budget authority, the National Center for Education Statistics, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Center for Health Statistics, and the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics were the largest users of purchased services. These patterns have remained roughly constant over the past decade (see U.S. Office of Management and Budget, 2001:Table 3).

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2 The 14 agencies are the Bureau of Economic Analysis; Bureau of Justice Statistics; Bureau of Labor Statistics; Bureau of Transportation Statistics; Census Bureau; Economic Research Service of the Department of Agriculture; Energy Information Administration; National Agricultural Statistics Service; National Center for Education Statistics; National Center for Health Statistics; National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics; Office of Environmental Information of the Environmental Protection Agency; Office of Research, Evaluation, and Statistics of the Social Security Administration; and the Statistics of Income Division of the Internal Revenue Service.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Organization of the Federal Statistical System." National Research Council. 2013. Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency: Fifth Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18318.
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Value

Spending on statistical programs is a tiny fraction of overall federal spending: in fiscal 2012, the $6.2 billion in budget authority for all statistical programs identified by OMB amounted to less than 0.2 percent of the budget authority of about $3.7 trillion for the federal government. On a per capita basis, the $6.2 billion is equal to about $20 annually for every U.S. resident (315.1 million as of January 1, 2013; see www.census.gov).

A basic public policy question is the value of the statistical system for the federal government and the public. It is difficult to assign an overall valuation to the system or even to a specific agency or program (see National Research Council, 1985b:Ch. 3, App. 3A). A sense of value can be obtained in some instances by comparing the dollars spent on providing key statistics to the dollars that such statistics drive in the economy and society. For example, the prices and cost-of-living programs of the Bureau of Labor Statistics—including the Consumer Price Index (CPI), the Producer Price Index, the Consumer Expenditure Survey, and related activities—had an estimated budget authority of $206 million in fiscal 2012.3 Output from the CPI component of the program is used for annual cost-of-living adjustments to payments for retirees and other beneficiaries under the Social Security Program, which provided $65.4 billion in benefits to 56.8 million people in December 2011:4 a difference of 1 percentage point in the CPI amounts to almost $8 billion in additional (or reduced) Social Security benefits in the subsequent year. Annual changes in the CPI also affect changes in commercial and residential rents, public- and private-sector wages, and components of the federal income tax code. Reports of monthly changes in the CPI are a major input for Federal Reserve Board decisions in setting short-term interest rates and to financial decisions throughout the public and private sectors. There are other such examples of consequential statistics throughout government and the economy.

Some statistical programs may lack clear-cut links to public- and private-sector financial outlays, but they nonetheless serve other important purposes:

• Some programs provide information to inform policy makers and the public about the social and economic health of the nation, states,

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3 Available: http://www.dol.gov/dol/budget/2012/PDF/CBJ-2012-V3-01.pdf [February 2013].

4 Available: http://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/quickfacts/stat_snapshot [February 2013].

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Organization of the Federal Statistical System." National Research Council. 2013. Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency: Fifth Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18318.
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and localities. For example, the Bureau of Economic Analysis provides estimates of gross domestic product not only for the nation each quarter, but also for states and metropolitan areas each year, while the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey provides estimates of educational attainment, median income, immigration, poverty, and many other characteristics for large and small geographic areas annually (see National Research Council, 2007c).

• Some programs provide empirical evidence for developing and evaluating federal, state, local, and private-sector programs. For example, the American Housing Survey, sponsored by the Office of Policy Development and Research in the Department of Housing and Urban Development and conducted by the Census Bureau, provides valuable data on housing condition and housing finance with which to inform housing policy (see National Research Council, 2008b). The Commercial Buildings and Residential Energy Consumption Surveys, sponsored by the Energy Information Administration, provide valuable data for public- and private-sector policy making on end uses of various types of energy for heating, cooling, information technology, and other uses (see National Research Council, 2012c).

• Some programs provide input to important social science research that, in turn, informs the public and policy making. For example, the National Long-Term Care Survey, funded by the National Institute on Aging, produced unexpected findings of declining disability rates for older Americans over time (see National Research Council, 2009b), which has implications for understanding work-to-retirement transitions and the need for medical care by the elderly.

Structure

The United States has a highly decentralized statistical system in comparison with other developed countries (see Norwood, 1995). Essentially, the system grew by adding separate agencies whenever the need for objective empirical information on a particular aspect of the economy, society, or environment came to the fore (see Part II). Periodic recommendations from presidential commissions and other initiatives to consolidate one or more of the principal statistical agencies have never been adopted.

The statistical coordinating, clearance, review, and planning functions of the Statistical and Science Policy Office of OMB, which began in the 1930s (see Appendix A), provide an important integrative force for the U.S. statistical system. However, because statistics on agriculture, education,

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Organization of the Federal Statistical System." National Research Council. 2013. Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency: Fifth Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18318.
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health, justice, labor, and other topics are housed in agencies in different cabinet departments with different statutory provisions and are reviewed by different congressional committees, the system has limited capability to respond to changing priorities by such means as reallocating budgets across subject areas or to streamline agency operations by such means as sharing data (with some important exceptions in recently enacted legislation—see Appendix A).

Figure B-1 shows the major statistical programs in the executive branch of government by cabinet department. At the center of the system (not shown in the figure) is the OMB Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), which includes the Statistical and Science Policy Office headed by the chief statistician of the United States, a senior executive civil service position. OIRA also includes the clearance officers who review individual survey and other information requests from most agencies: staff of the Statistical and Science Policy Office clear information requests from many of the principal statistical agencies and consult with the OIRA desk officers for the other agencies. Other parts of OMB recommend budgets for statistical agencies and programs in consultation with the Statistical and Science Policy Office.

The chief statistician chairs the Interagency Council on Statistical Policy (ICSP), whose 14 member agencies are in 9 cabinet departments and 3 independent agencies. In Figure B-1, the ICSP member agencies are designated by shaded circles; the open circles designate other agencies that expected to spend at least $500,000 on statistical services in fiscal 2012. Some of these agencies report directly to the secretary or other high-level official of their cabinet department; others are one, two, or even more layers further down the hierarchy (see Figure B-2). Several of these agencies have federal-state cooperative statistical programs that produce some of the nation’s most important statistics, such as birth and death rates from vital records maintained by state registrars and estimates of employment from wage records maintained by state employment security offices.

The 14 agencies and OMB have their yearly budget requests reviewed and approved by seven different subcommittees of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees (see Figure B-2). The fact that different statistical agencies fall into different components of the federal budget for purposes of annual congressional appropriations complicates the possibility of coordination of statistical programs across the government.

Finally, there are some important federal agencies that have statistical activities that are not included in the OMB annual compilation because

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Organization of the Federal Statistical System." National Research Council. 2013. Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency: Fifth Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18318.
×

image

FIGURE B-1 Organization of principal federal statistical agencies and programs, by department, 2013. See text for discussion.

SOURCE: Based on U.S. Office of Management and Budget(2012b:Table 1).

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Organization of the Federal Statistical System." National Research Council. 2013. Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency: Fifth Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18318.
×

image

FIGURE B-2 Members of the Interagency Council on Statistical Policy: Organizational location and relevant congressional appropriations subcommittee based on subcommittee jurisdictions in the 113th Congress.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Organization of the Federal Statistical System." National Research Council. 2013. Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency: Fifth Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18318.
×

they are not part of the executive branch. These agencies include the Congressional Budget Office, which develops and applies projection models for the budgetary impact of current and proposed federal programs; the Federal Reserve Board, which compiles the widely used Flow of Funds report and other statistical series and periodically conducts the Survey of Consumer Finances; and the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which uses statistical data in evaluations of government programs.

OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET

The 1995 reauthorization of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980 and other legislation give the OIRA the authority to approve all agency information collection requests, including all survey and other statistical information requests. OIRA also reviews all proposed federal regulations. The chief statistician’s office in OIRA (the Statistical and Science Policy Office) establishes statistical policies and standards, identifies priorities for improving programs, evaluates statistical programs for compliance with OMB guidance, reviews statistical agency budgets, approves information collections for many of the principal statistical agencies, provides guidance to OIRA desk officers who review statistical information requests from other federal agencies, and coordinates U.S. participation in international statistical activities. The chief statistician’s office currently has a staff of six professionals, some of whom focus largely on science policy.

As required by the Paperwork Reduction Act, the chief statistician’s office annually issues Statistical Programs of the United States Government (the “blue book”; see U.S. Office of Management and Budget, 2012b). It also prepares a chapter each year in the Analytical Perspectives volume of the President’s budget, which provides a cross-cutting analysis of the budget requests for the principal statistical agencies (see U.S. Office of Management and Budget, 2012a). The chief statistician chairs the ICSP, which began operating informally in the late 1980s and was authorized by statute in 1995. The chief statistician’s office also sponsors the Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology and other interagency collaborations, such as the Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics and the Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics (see discussion in Part II under Practice 13).

Appendix A provides background information on the Paperwork Reduction Act, statistical policy directives issued by the chief statistician’s office, and other legislation that the office oversees for the U.S. statistical system.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Organization of the Federal Statistical System." National Research Council. 2013. Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency: Fifth Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18318.
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PRINCIPAL STATISTICAL AGENCIES

This section provides information—primarily from agency websites (see Appendix E) and OMB publications—on 13 of the 14 members of the ICSP, excluding only the Office of Environmental Information in the Environmental Protection Agency, which is not a self-contained statistical unit. The information provided for the 13 agencies includes origins, authorizing legislation or other authority, status of head (presidential appointee, career senior executive service official), budget and full-time permanent staffing levels in 2012 (see U.S. Office of Management and Budget, 2012b:Table 1 and App. B), and principal programs. The agencies are discussed in alphabetical order.

Bureau of Economic Analysis

The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) is part of the Economics and Statistics Administration in the U.S. Department of Commerce (as is the Census Bureau), which is headed by the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs. The BEA director is a career senior executive service appointee, and the agency has a full-time staff of about 485 people and direct funding in fiscal 2012 of $92.2 million.

BEA’s history traces back to 1820 when the Secretary of the Treasury was directed by Congress to compile and publish statistics on U.S. foreign commerce. Three 20th-century predecessors of BEA were all located in the Department of Commerce: the Bureau of Statistics (1903–1912); the Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce (1912–1945); and the Office of Business Economics (1945–1972).

BEA produces statistics on the performance of the nation’s economy. Although it collects some source data, it primarily compiles data from the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and other agencies as input to estimating the National Income and Product Accounts (NIPAs), which include estimates of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) and related measures. The GDP, which was recognized by the Department of Commerce as its greatest achievement of the 20th century in a December 2009 ceremony, has major influence on U.S. financial markets.

Since the NIPAs were first developed in the aftermath of the Great Depression, BEA has extended its estimates to cover a wide range of economic activities for the nation, regions, and industries and also for the nation’s position in the world economy. BEA also conducts research and

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Organization of the Federal Statistical System." National Research Council. 2013. Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency: Fifth Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18318.
×

development on “satellite accounts” in such areas as health care, transportation, and research and development investments. Satellite accounts enable experimentation with new accounts before they are ready to incorporate into the main accounts and with nonmarket sectors that are not part of the market-based NIPAs.

Bureau of Justice Statistics

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), in the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), was formally established by the Justice Systems Improvement Act of 1979 (P.L. 96-157), inheriting statistical functions that had previously been vested in an office of the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, established in 1968. BJS is housed in the DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP), which also contains the National Institute of Justice (a research agency) and other agencies that are primarily focused on providing grant and technical assistance to state and local governments and law enforcement agencies. BJS’s director is a presidential appointee (without Senate confirmation as of August 2012) and reports to an assistant attorney general for OJP. The bureau has a full-time staff of about 45 and direct funding in fiscal 2012 of $53 million.

The centerpiece of BJS’s data collections is the National Crime Victimization Survey (originally the National Crime Survey), which has served as one of the nation’s principal measures of crime (particularly crime not reported to police) since its full-scale implementation in 1972. Data collection for most BJS surveys is conducted by the Census Bureau or private contractors, and OMB estimates that 86 percent of BJS’s fiscal 2012 budget authority was spent on purchased services.

BJS publishes annual statistics on criminal victimization, populations under correctional supervision, law enforcement management and administration, and case processing in the state and federal courts. Its periodic data series cover the administration of law enforcement agencies and correctional facilities, prosecutorial practices and policies, state court case processing, felony convictions, criminal justice expenditure and employment, civil case processing in state courts, and special studies on other criminal justice topics.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Organization of the Federal Statistical System." National Research Council. 2013. Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency: Fifth Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18318.
×

Bureau of Labor Statistics

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is an agency of the Department of Labor. It is responsible for the production of some of the nation’s most sensitive and important economic data, including unemployment statistics and consumer and producer price indexes, which are closely watched by the public, Congress, other federal agencies, state and local governments, business, and labor. The BLS commissioner is a presidential appointee, subject to Senate confirmation, for a fixed term of 4 years; the agency has a full-time staff of about 2,050 people and direct funding in fiscal 2012 of $609 million.

The history of the BLS dates back to 1884, when the Bureau of Labor was established in the Interior Department to collect information about employment and labor. It was made an independent (subcabinet) agency by the Department of Labor Act in 1888; it was made part of the Department of Commerce and Labor (as the Bureau of Labor) in 1903 and transferred to the newly created Department of Labor in 1913.

BLS programs use a variety of data collection methods and sources. Certain wage, benefit, employment, and price data are collected by BLS staff located throughout the country, who contact employers, households, and businesses directly. BLS has contractual arrangements with various state agencies to collect much of its employment and workplace safety and health data. Contractual arrangements with the Census Bureau support collection of several programs, including the Current Population Survey (the source of monthly unemployment statistics) and the Consumer Expenditure Survey (the source of the market baskets for the CPI). Some BLS data, such as data for the various National Longitudinal Surveys, are collected by private contractors. Finally, certain BLS data, such as information on work stoppages, rely on information from secondary sources.

BLS’s surveys, indexes, and statistics fall into four main categories:

1. consumer expenditures and prices, including the CPI, producer price index, and U.S. import and export prices indexes;

2. the labor force, including monthly data on employment from households and business establishments, monthly and periodic data on unemployment, time use, job openings and labor turnover, occupational employment and projections of trends, mass layoffs, and longitudinal data on the work experience of cohorts of the population;

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Organization of the Federal Statistical System." National Research Council. 2013. Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency: Fifth Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18318.
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3. compensation and working conditions, including the employment cost index, and workplace injuries and fatalities; and

4. productivity.

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) is an agency in the Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) of the Department of Transportation. RITA also includes the Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office; the Office of Research, Development, and Technology; the Transportation Safety Institute; and the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center.

BTS’s director is a career senior executive service appointee who reports to the head of RITA. Prior to 2004, the director was a presidential appointee with a fixed term of 4 years who reported directly to the Secretary of Transportation. BTS has a full-time staff of about 70 and direct funding of $25 million in fiscal 2012.

BTS was established by the 1991 Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act and began operations in late 1992. It was moved to the newly created RITA by the Norman Y. Mineta Research and Special Programs Improvement Act of 2004. Prior to the establishment of BTS, statistical programs of the Department of Transportation focused exclusively on specific modes of transportation (highways, airlines, railroads, etc.), except for the first 10 years of the department’s existence (1967–1977), when the Office of the Secretary funded intermodal surveys on commodity flows and long-distance personal transportation.

BTS is charged to produce an annual report on transportation statistics, develop intermodal data on commodity and passenger flows, administer the National Transportation Library, and carry out other functions to ensure that the department, the states, and other federal agencies have available comprehensive information on the nation’s transportation systems. BTS also operates the Office of Airline Information, which was transferred to it from the now-defunct Civil Aeronautics Board. BTS contracts with the Census Bureau for major surveys.

Census Bureau

The Census Bureau is part of the Economics and Statistics Administration in the Department of Commerce (as is BEA), headed by the Under

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Organization of the Federal Statistical System." National Research Council. 2013. Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency: Fifth Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18318.
×

Secretary for Economic Affairs. It conducts population and economic censuses and a wide array of surveys.

Population censuses are required by the U.S. Constitution to be conducted every 10 years for reapportioning among the states the 435 seats in the House of Representatives. The first censuses were conducted by U.S. marshals under the authority of the Secretary of State. Beginning in 1850, a separate census office was established each decade to supervise the census. In 1902 a permanent Census Bureau was established; it was made part of the new Department of Commerce and Labor in 1903 and moved to the newly created Department of Commerce in 1913. Title 13 of the U.S. Code includes the major legal provisions related to the Census Bureau, including strict provisions for protecting the confidentiality of population and business information.

The director of the Census Bureau is appointed by the President with Senate confirmation for a fixed 5-year term (that can be renewed once) to begin in years ending in 2 and 7.5 The bureau has about 6,840 full-time staff, excluding staff hired for the decennial census, and direct funding in fiscal 2012 of $964.8 million including $446.1 million for the decennial census.

The major periodic activity of the Census Bureau is the decennial population census, which in 2010 consisted of basic questions on age, sex, race, Hispanic origin, relationship to household head, and housing tenure (own, rent). The Census Bureau also conducts the continuous American Community Survey (ACS), which replaced the content included for a sample of households in the census from 1940 through 2000 (the “long form”), a large number of household surveys (most under contract for other agencies), and a panoply of censuses and surveys of business establishments and governments. The Census Bureau produces annual population and housing estimates (in cooperation with state and local governments), estimates of poverty, median income, and health insurance coverage using statistical models for small areas, and geographic products based on its Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing (TIGER) system.

The Census Bureau has a substantial portfolio of reimbursable work for other agencies, which is primarily for the conduct of surveys, such as the Current Population Survey (for BLS), the American Housing Survey (for the Department of Housing and Urban Development), the Consumer Expenditure Survey (for BLS), and many others. OMB estimates that the

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5 The fixed term was signed into law in August 2012; previously, the director served at the pleasure of the president.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Organization of the Federal Statistical System." National Research Council. 2013. Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency: Fifth Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18318.
×

Census Bureau will conduct $285 million of reimbursable work in fiscal 2013 (U.S. Office of Management and Budget, 2012b:Table 2).

Economic Research Service

The Economic Research Service (ERS), along with the National Agricultural Statistics Service and two other agencies, reports to the Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The administrator of ERS is a career senior executive service appointee; the agency has a full-time staff of about 355 and fiscal 2012 direct funding of $77.7 million.

The origins of ERS trace back to 1905, when USDA established the Office of Farm Management, renamed the Office of Farm Management and Farm Economics in 1919. The Office’s research areas included farm organization, cost of production, farm labor, farm finance, land economics, agricultural history, and rural life studies. Several reorganizations took place, and in 1961, USDA created the Economic Research Service with responsibility to conduct economic research and policy analysis that informs program and policy decisions throughout USDA. The agency’s mission is to anticipate food, agricultural, agri-environmental, and rural development issues that are on the horizon and conduct peer-reviewed economic research so that research findings are available when issues require decisions by policy makers. As a statistical agency, ERS does not make recommendations; instead, it designs its research to show the consequences of taking alternative policy or programmatic pathways.

ERS is also the primary source of statistical indicators that, among other things, gauge the health of the farm sector (including farm income estimates and projections), assess the current and expected performance of the agricultural sector (including trade and productivity), provide measures of food insecurity in the United States and abroad, and measure dimensions of food availability and access. ERS jointly funds with the National Agricultural Statistics Service a major survey on farm household and business income and crop practices, the Agricultural Resources Management Survey (ARMS).

Energy Information Administration

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) is an agency of the Department of Energy (DOE); its administrator is a presidential appointee

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Organization of the Federal Statistical System." National Research Council. 2013. Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency: Fifth Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18318.
×

with Senate confirmation. EIA has a full-time staff of about 365 and fiscal 2012 direct funding of $105 million.

EIA was created by Congress in 1977 as part of the newly established Department of Energy. Its mission is to provide policy-independent energy data, forecasts, and analyses in order to promote sound policy making, efficient markets, and public understanding regarding energy and its interaction with the economy and the environment. To assure EIA’s independence, the Department of Energy Organization Act specifies that EIA’s products are not subject to clearance by executive branch officials; in particular, the administrator does not need to obtain the approval of any other DOE official for data collection and analysis, and he or she does not need to “obtain the approval of any other officer or employee of the United States” before publishing energy data and analysis reports (42 USC 7135(d)).

Many EIA data products, such as weekly, monthly, and annual data on petroleum and natural gas supply, deal with specific industries; others contain data on all fuel types. EIA energy supply surveys, for which participation is mandatory, are conducted by private contractors, who survey energy producers, users, and transporters, and certain other businesses. Data on energy consumption are collected for households, commercial buildings, manufacturing, and transportation. Analyses prepared by EIA staff cover energy economics, technology, production, prices, distribution, storage, consumption, and environmental effects.

EIA forecasts cover all energy types and include supply, consumption, prices, and other factors. Short-term forecasts cover 1–2 years; 20-year projections are also developed and often serve as the baseline for independent analyses of policy proposals that are prepared by EIA at the request of Congress or the administration. More than three-quarters of EIA’s resources are used for energy data collection and dissemination; the rest are used to support forward-looking forecasts, projections, and analyses.

National Agricultural Statistics Service

The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is under the Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics in USDA (as is ERS). The administrator of NASS is a career senior executive service appointee; NASS has about 1,200 full-time staff and direct funding of $158.6 million in fiscal 2012.

The foundation of NASS began with the establishment of USDA in 1862. Agricultural supply information was one of the purposes of the new

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Organization of the Federal Statistical System." National Research Council. 2013. Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency: Fifth Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18318.
×

department. The first official report on the condition of crops was issued in July 1863. This basic, mission-oriented program continues today in the USDA forecasts and estimates provided by the NASS Agricultural Statistics Board. NASS’s responsibilities are authorized under the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 (7 USC 1621–1627) and the Census of Agriculture Act of 1997, P.L. 105-113 (7 USC 2204g), which transferred responsibility for the census of agriculture and other special studies from the Department of Commerce to NASS. Conducted every 5 years, the census provides comprehensive information about the nation’s agriculture down to the county level.

NASS services the data needs of many agencies inside and outside the Department. NASS collaborates with state departments of agriculture and land-grant universities to meet state, local, and national needs for agricultural statistics. Through cooperative agreements going back as far as 1917 and memoranda of understanding, NASS also provides data collection and statistical services to other federal agencies and provides statistics to the public through trust fund agreements with private producer organizations when federal funding is inadequate. NASS also collaborates with universities throughout the United States, including the land-grant universities, on research to improve statistical methodologies and practices. A recent partnership with the National Institute of Statistical Sciences brings together academic and NASS researchers to solve challenges facing the agricultural statistics program.

Slightly more than a third of the agency’s staff is located at its Washington, DC, headquarters offices, with the rest of the staff located at the National Operations Center (NOC) and in offices around the country serving all 50 states and Puerto Rico. NASS works with its state and regional field offices to carry out hundreds of surveys every year and prepares reports covering virtually every aspect of U.S. agriculture. Examples include production and supplies of food and fiber, prices paid and received by farmers, farm labor and wages, farm finances, chemical use, and changes in the demographics of U.S. producers. All field interviewing staff are obtained through contracting with the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), and a federal telephone data collection staff is supplemented with NASDA staff on an as-needed basis.

National Center for Education Statistics

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is part of the Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES, which

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Organization of the Federal Statistical System." National Research Council. 2013. Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency: Fifth Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18318.
×

also includes three research and evaluation centers). The NCES commissioner is a presidential appointee for a fixed term of 6 years (as of August 2012 without Senate confirmation); the agency has a full-time staff of about 85 people and direct funding of $302 million in fiscal 2012.

NCES’s origins date back to 1867 when Congress established a Department of Education and gave it a primary mission of “collecting such statistics and facts as shall show the condition and progress of education in the several States and Territories, and of diffusing such information respecting the organization and management of schools and school systems and methods of teaching” (14 Stat 434). The legislation also charged the Commissioner of Education to issue an annual report. However, only 2 years later the department was abolished and the renamed Office of Education was transferred to the Department of the Interior, where it remained through 1939. The Office of Education was part of the newly created Federal Security Agency from 1939 to 1953, when it was made part of the newly created Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. A separate Department of Education was re-established in 1980.

A major function of the Office of Education throughout its history was the collection and publication of education statistics. NCES was established in 1965 as a staff office reporting to the Commissioner of Education. NCES received statutory authority in 1974; in 1980 it was made part of the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, which in 2002 became the IES. Supporting the independence of NCES, the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002 which created IES, stipulated that “each Commissioner [head of one of IES’s constituent centers], except the Commissioner for Education Statistics, shall carry out such Commissioner’s duties … under the supervision and subject to the approval of the Director” of IES (20 USC 9517(d)).

NCES has an extensive survey program, including longitudinal surveys that follow the educational experience of cohorts of the U.S. population from early childhood through adulthood, periodic surveys of adult literacy, and international studies of educational achievement. It also collects the “Common Core of Data” from administrative records of state and local K–12 educational agencies, and it collects data for the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. It regularly assesses the educational knowledge and achievement of primary and secondary school students in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). It also administers the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) program, which provides grants to the states to develop longitudinal databases of student records for analyzing student performance and for identifying methods to improve achievement.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Organization of the Federal Statistical System." National Research Council. 2013. Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency: Fifth Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18318.
×

NCES contracts for a substantial portion of its work, including not only data collection, but also data analysis and preparation of reports. In 2012, 97 percent of its estimated budget authority was spent on data and analysis from state agencies, the Census Bureau, and private contractors.

National Center for Health Statistics

The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The NCHS director is a career senior executive service appointee; NCHS has a full-time staff of about 470 people and direct funding of $139 million in fiscal 2012.

NCHS’s roots lie in two formerly separate historical strands of the provision of national health statistics. The first strand is vital statistics on births, deaths, and other life events, which traces back to 1902, when Congress gave the newly created permanent Census Bureau the authority to establish registration areas to produce nationally comparable vital statistics by working with state agencies. This function was transferred in 1946 to the Federal Security Administration, which was folded into the new Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in 1953.

The second strand is general statistics on the nation’s health, which were authorized in the 1956 National Health Survey Act. NCHS was created in 1960 as the merger of the National Office of Vital Statistics and the National Health Survey Division; it was relocated every few years in HHS until its last relocation in 1987, when it was made part of CDC. In 2005 it became one of three centers reporting to the newly created Coordinating Center for Health Information and Service in CDC.

NCHS has four major programs:

1. The National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), in continuous operation since 1956, collects a wide range of information on self-reported health status and conditions and use of health care services by the population.

2. Several surveys collect information from health care providers, including nursing homes, hospitals, and outpatient facilities.

3. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) ascertains self-reported information on health and dietary intake and also, by use of mobile examining units, obtains extensive information from physical examinations and laboratory tests.

4. The nation’s basic vital statistics are collected and maintained.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Organization of the Federal Statistical System." National Research Council. 2013. Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency: Fifth Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18318.
×

In 2012, according to OMB, 78 percent of NCHS’s estimated budget authority was used to purchase data collection and reporting services from state and local governments, the Census Bureau, and private contractors.

National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics

The National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) is part of the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Directorate of the National Science Foundation (NSF). Its director is a career senior executive service appointee; it has a full-time staff of about 45 people and direct funding in fiscal 2012 of $44 million.

NCSES was formerly the Division of Science Resources Statistics and before that the Division of Science Resources Studies. It became NCSES, with an expanded mandate to serve as a “central Federal clearinghouse for the collection, interpretation, analysis, and dissemination of objective data on science, engineering, technology, and research and development,” with passage of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (Section 505; 42 USC 1862).

At its founding in 1950, NSF was charged to maintain a register of scientific and technical personnel so that the nation would be able to mobilize the scientific and technical work force in the event of a major war. Although no longer required to maintain a complete register, NSF has continued (by the terms of the National Science Foundation Act of 1950, as amended) to have responsibility “to provide a central clearinghouse for the collection, interpretation, and analysis of data on scientific and engineering resources and to provide a source of information for policy formulation by other agencies of the Federal Government” (42 USC 1862). NSF also has a congressional mandate from 1980 to provide information on women and minorities in science and engineering.

The NSF mandates provide the basis for two major statistical programs in NCSES: censuses and surveys of people trained in or working in science and engineering positions and of new bachelor’s graduates, new master’s graduates, and doctoral recipients in science and engineering fields; and surveys of research and development (R&D) expenditures by private industry and academic institutions and of R&D funding by the federal government. To support its programs, 75 percent of NCSES’s estimated budget authority in 2012 was used to purchase data collection and other services from the Census Bureau and private contractors. NCSES also serves as staff to the National Science Board in producing the biennial congressionally

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Organization of the Federal Statistical System." National Research Council. 2013. Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency: Fifth Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18318.
×

mandated Science and Engineering Indicators Report, which uses data from all 11 of the NCSES surveys.

Office of Research, Evaluation, and Statistics

The Office of Research, Evaluation, and Statistics (ORES) is located in the Social Security Administration (SSA), which became independent from HHS in 1995. ORES reports to the SSA Deputy Commissioner for Retirement and Disability Policy. ORES is headed by an associate commissioner, who is a career senior executive service appointee; it has a full-time staff of about 85 people and direct funding of $29 million in fiscal 2012.

SSA began as the Social Security Board in 1935; it became part of the Federal Security Agency in 1939, part of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in 1953, and part of HHS in 1980; it regained independent agency status in 1995. From the outset, SSA has had a research, statistics, and evaluation function.

ORES conducts research and evaluation on the effects of the Social Security and Supplemental Security Income Programs and proposed changes in those programs on individuals, the economy, and program solvency. It provides data on program benefits and covered workers and develops and operates microsimulation models that estimate the costs and distributional effects of proposed changes in the programs. Periodically, it has sponsored surveys of specific populations, such as new beneficiaries, linked with SSA administrative records.

Statistics of Income Division

The Statistics of Income Division (SOI) is housed in the Office of Research, Analysis, and Statistics of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the Department of the Treasury. The director is a career senior executive service appointee and leads a full-time staff of approximately 150 employees with direct funding of $38.6 million in fiscal 2012.

SOI’s history traces back to the enactment of authority to levy individual income taxes in the 16th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which was ratified in 1913. Section 21 of the Revenue Act of 1916 mandated the annual “publication of statistics reasonably available with respect to the operation of the Income tax law.” Identical language is found in the current Internal Revenue Code (see 26 USC 6108).

SOI provides income, financial, and tax information to the user

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Organization of the Federal Statistical System." National Research Council. 2013. Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency: Fifth Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18318.
×

community based largely on individual and corporate tax returns and on returns filed by most tax-exempt organizations. It also provides periodic data derived from other returns and schedules, such as estate and gift taxes, foreign income and taxes, and gains and losses from sales of capital assets. Upon written request, SOI data are available to staff in the Department of the Treasury and the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation for policy analysis and revenue estimation. Likewise data are also available to the Congressional Budget Office for modeling Social Security and Medicare programs and no other purpose. Selected tax return data are also available, under strict confidentiality protection provisions, for use by the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and the National Agricultural Statistics Service in structuring censuses and national economic accounts and conducting related statistical activities authorized by law. (See discussion in Appendix A of the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act.)

OTHER STATISTICAL PROGRAMS

This section briefly describes seven statistical programs that are conducted or sponsored by agencies of the federal government other than the principal statistical agencies. The programs were selected purposively to illustrate the breadth and depth of the federal government’s statistical portfolio. They are in alphabetical order.

Health and Retirement Study

The Health and Retirement Study (HRS) is a longitudinal panel survey with over 20,000 respondents representing people ages 51 and older in the United States. It provides in-depth information on middle- and older-aged people’s transitions from the workforce to retirement, savings behavior and pension plans, physical and cognitive health, disability, family structure, health care expenditures, and many other aspects of financial, social, physical, and mental well-being. The HRS began in 1992 and currently introduces a new cohort of people ages 51–56 every 6 years. People in the sample are interviewed in-person or by telephone every 2 years. The HRS is conducted by the University of Michigan with support from the National Institute on Aging and SSA.

The HRS has provided data for a wide range of path-breaking research studies, has made innovations in data collection methods, and has inspired

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Organization of the Federal Statistical System." National Research Council. 2013. Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency: Fifth Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18318.
×

similar efforts in many countries around the world. Similar panel surveys in other countries include the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA); the Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe (SHARE); the New Zealand Health, Work and Retirement Survey; the Korean Longitudinal Study of Aging; the Mexican Health and Aging Study (MHAS); the Longitudinal Aging Study in India (LASI); the Japanese Study of Aging and Retirement (JSTAR); and the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS).

Medical Expenditure Panel Survey

The Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) is a statistical program of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) in HHS. MEPS is the core health care expenditure survey in the United States, with a primary analytical focus directed to the topics of health care access, cost, and coverage. MEPS was designed to provide data for health care policy analysis and research; it was first conducted in 1977 and 1987 under different names, and became a continuous survey in 1996. The MEPS budget for 2012 was about $59 million.

MEPS consists of a family of three interrelated parts: the household component, the medical provider component, and the insurance component. The household survey collects information from household members and their health care providers and employers in order to construct a complete picture of medical care use, expenditures, and health insurance coverage and reimbursements. Households are in a MEPS panel for five rounds of interviewing that cover 2 years, so that patterns of medical care and expenditures can be observed over time; a new household panel begins every year. Data for the MEPS household and medical provider surveys are collected by private contractors; the household survey sample of about 14,000 households per year is drawn from the NCHS National Health Interview Survey. The MEPS insurance component collects data each year from a sample of about 30,000 private- and public-sector employers on the health insurance plans they offer their employees. The collected data include the number and types of private insurance plans offered (if any), premiums, contributions by employers and employees, eligibility requirements, benefits associated with these plans, and employer characteristics. Data for this component of MEPS are collected by the Census Bureau.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Organization of the Federal Statistical System." National Research Council. 2013. Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency: Fifth Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18318.
×

National Agricultural Workers Survey

The National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS) is an activity of DOL’s Employment and Training Administration. It provides data on wage and migration history, type of crops worked, unemployment benefits, housing, health care, use of public programs, and other characteristics of the U.S. crop labor force. The information, which is used by numerous federal agencies for occupational injury and health surveillance, estimating the need for services for workers, allocating program dollars to areas of greatest need, and program design and evaluation, is obtained directly from farm workers through personal interviews.

Since 1988, when the survey began, nearly 53,000 workers have been interviewed. The survey samples crop workers in three cycles each year to reflect the seasonality of agricultural production and employment. Workers are located at their farm job sites. During the initial contact, arrangements are made to interview the respondent at home or at another location convenient to the respondent. Depending on the information needs and resources of the various federal agencies that use NAWS data, between 1,500 and 4,000 workers are interviewed each year.

National Automotive Sampling System

The National Automotive Sampling System (NASS) is an administrative-records– based data collection system of the National Center for Statistics and Analysis (NCSA) of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the Department of Transportation. NASS was created in 1979 as part of a nationwide effort to reduce motor vehicle crashes, injuries, and deaths on U.S. highways. NASS samples accident reports of police agencies in randomly selected areas of the country.

NASS has two components, one on crashworthiness and one on general estimates. For the crashworthiness component, NCSA field researchers collect detailed information from police accident reports for selected crashes on a wide range of factors, including exterior and interior vehicle damage, occupant injury, and environmental conditions at the time of the crash. For the general estimates component, which covers a larger sample of crashes, only basic information is recorded from the police accident reports. The NASS infrastructure is also used for special studies and surveys, such as the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey, conducted in 2005–2007,

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Organization of the Federal Statistical System." National Research Council. 2013. Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency: Fifth Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18318.
×

which sampled police accident reports in real time and obtained on-scene information in addition to the information reported by the police. NASS will undergo a major redesign over the next few years.

National Resources Inventory

The National Resources Inventory (NRI) is a statistical program of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in USDA. The current NRI is a longitudinal survey of soil, water, and related environmental resources designed to assess conditions and trends on nonfederal U.S. land parcels. NRCS has conducted the NRI in cooperation with the Iowa State University Center for Survey Statistics and Methodology since 1977.

The NRI was conducted on a 5-year cycle from 1982 to 1997; beginning in 2000 it is now conducted annually (with major data releases occurring at 5-year intervals). Before 2000, NRI data were collected every 5 years for 800,000 sample sites; annual NRI data collection covers slightly less than 200,000 sample sites. Year-by-year data on conditions for the same sites enable analysis of the effects of resource conservation programs and other applications.

National Survey on Drug Use and Health

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) is a continuing survey of the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality (CBHSQ) in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which is part of the National Institutes of Health of HHS. It is the nation’s primary data system for collecting data on the incidence and prevalence of substance abuse and adverse health consequences associated with drug abuse from the civilian, noninstitutionalized population of the United States for people aged 12 and older.

NSDUH (formerly called the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse) was fielded periodically from 1972 to 1990 and annually beginning in 1991. It has been conducted for SAMHSA by a private firm, RTI International, since 1988. The sample size each year is about 70,000 people, with oversampling of teenagers and young adults.

The total budget for the statistical activities of SAMHSA is about $130 million. This covers not only NSDUH, but also the Behavioral Health Services Information System and its associated surveys (the primary data

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Organization of the Federal Statistical System." National Research Council. 2013. Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency: Fifth Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18318.
×

source for information on the nation’s substance abuse treatment system and outcomes), the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) (a public health surveillance system, which monitors drug-related visits to hospital emergency departments, as well as drug-related deaths investigated by medical examiners and coroners), and other programs.

Panel Study of Income Dynamics

The Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) is a longitudinal survey that has followed several thousand families since it began in 1968. It is conducted by the Survey Research Center of the Institute for Social Research of the University of Michigan with funding from a consortium of agencies. Originally, PSID was funded by the Office of Economic Opportunity; currently, the study’s major funding source is the National Science Foundation, with substantial additional funding from the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation of HHS, the Economic Research Service of USDA, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Labor, and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University–Purdue University, Indianapolis.

The PSID emphasizes the dynamic aspects of economic and demographic behavior, but its content is broad, including sociological and psychological measures. From 1968 to 1996, the PSID interviewed individuals in the original sample of about 4,800 families every year, whether or not they were living in the same dwelling or with the same people. In 1997 interviewing was changed to every other year, the original sample was reduced, and a sample of Hispanic families that had been added in 1990 was replaced by a sample of post-1968 immigrant families and their adult children of all ethnic groups. The current sample of families, including those formed by children leaving their parental homes, is about 8,700.

Since 1968, more than 3,000 journal articles, books and book chapters, government reports, working papers, and dissertations have been based on the PSID. The PSID was founded to study poverty and the effects of programs to combat poverty, and an important early finding was that family structure changes such as divorce are as important to family well-being as employment. As the survey has added content and extended its period of observation, the data have also contributed importantly to studies of intergenerational patterns of work, welfare receipt, and other behaviors;

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Organization of the Federal Statistical System." National Research Council. 2013. Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency: Fifth Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18318.
×

international comparisons with panel data from other countries; neighborhood effects on family well-being (using data files augmented with census-based characteristics of sample members’ communities); and long-term trends in marital and fertility histories and living arrangements.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Organization of the Federal Statistical System." National Research Council. 2013. Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency: Fifth Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18318.
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Publicly available statistics from government agencies that are credible, relevant, accurate, and timely are essential for policy makers, individuals, households, businesses, academic institutions, and other organizations to make informed decisions. Even more, the effective operation of a democratic system of government depends on the unhindered flow of statistical information to its citizens.

In the United States, federal statistical agencies in cabinet departments and independent agencies are the governmental units whose principal function is to compile, analyze, and disseminate information for such statistical purposes as describing population characteristics and trends, planning and monitoring programs, and conducting research and evaluation. The work of these agencies is coordinated by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. Statistical agencies may acquire information not only from surveys or censuses of people and organizations, but also from such sources as government administrative records, private-sector datasets, and Internet sources that are judged of suitable quality and relevance for statistical use. They may conduct analyses, but they do not advocate policies or take partisan positions. Statistical purposes for which they provide information relate to descriptions of groups and exclude any interest in or identification of an individual person, institution, or economic unit.

Four principles are fundamental for a federal statistical agency: relevance to policy issues, credibility among data users, trust among data providers, and independence from political and other undue external influence. Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency: Fifth Edition explains these four principles in detail.

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