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News Release

Janet Yellen, James Stock, Louise Sheiner to chair oversight panel for new Hutchins Center initiative to improve the quality of economic statistics

Washington, D.C. — The Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at the Brookings Institution is launching a Productivity Measurement Initiative aimed at improving the quality of economic statistics.

Productivity—the amount of output per hour of work—is among the most important measures of a nation’s economic health.  Growth in productivity is the driver of rising living standards.

“For policymakers, getting economic measurement right is crucial to making good decisions. For the public, getting economic measurement right is crucial to understanding the economy in which we live, shop and work,” Dr. Yellen said. “I have deep respect for the expertise and diligence of the government statistical agencies.  This project should support and supplement their efforts to keep up with the evolution of the economy.”

Measuring productivity accurately has always been difficult, and the evolution of the economy—everything from the proliferation of free websites to the spread of global supply chains—is making it more difficult. At the same time, there is a lively debate over how much of the recent slowdown in productivity growth is real and how much it reflects the increasing inadequacy of official measures.

The project seeks to supplement the work under way at the statistical agencies by commissioning and promoting research on particularly hard-to-measure sectors of the economy, convening conferences that bring together measurement experts and consumers of economic data in academia and the private sector, and making recommendations to the government’s statistical agencies.

Added Dr. Stock: “Reliable productivity and price statistics are necessary for tracking technological changes in the economy and understanding how those changes affect workers and firms. There is increasing interest in productivity measurement in the research community, and this project will bring together a diverse group of researchers with a common interest in the ongoing task of improving statistical measurement.”

The Initiative brings together some of the nation’s top experts on productivity and economic statistics. Members of the media seeking expert commentary and analysis should contact Shannon Meraw: SMeraw@brookings.edu.

Oversight panel co-chairs:

Janet Yellen, former Chair of the Federal Reserve and now distinguished fellow in residence at the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy

James Stock, the Harold Hitchings Burbank professor of political economy at Harvard University and nonresident senior fellow at Brookings and co-editor of Brookings Papers on Economic Activity

Louise Sheiner, the Robert S. Kerr senior fellow at Brookings and policy director of the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy

Members:

Ufuk Akcigit, University of Chicago

Martin Baily, Center on Regulation and Markets, Brookings

David Byrne, Federal Reserve Board

Carol Corrado, The Conference Board

Karen Dynan, Harvard University and Peterson Institute for International Economics

Martin Fleming, IBM

Jan Hatzius, Goldman Sachs

Benjamin Jones, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University

Charles Jones, Graduate School of Business, Stanford University

Mekala Krishnan, McKinsey Global Institute

Marshall Reinsdorf, International Monetary Fund

Robert Seamans, Stern School of Business, New York University

David Wessel, Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy, Brookings

The Productivity Measurement Initiative’s first report is an evaluation of changes that have been made to the government’s economic measures over the past 20 years: “The Measurement of Output, Prices and Productivity: What’s Changed Since the Boskin Commission?” by Brent R. Moulton, formerly of the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The Productivity Measurement Initiative is funded, in part, by grants from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and Antoine van Agtmael, a Brookings trustee.  The mission of the Hutchins Center is to improve the quality of fiscal and monetary policies and public understanding of them.

About Brookings

The Brookings Institution is a nonprofit organization devoted to independent research and policy solutions. Its mission is to conduct high-quality, independent research and, based on that research, to provide innovative, practical recommendations for policymakers and the public.

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