The Conference on Research in Income and Wealth

Article excerpt

In 1935, the National Bureau of Economic Research invited a consortium of universities to join with it in establishing a "program of cooperative research" in the area of economic measurement. The Conference on Research in Income and Wealth (CRIW) was founded a year later to provide conceptual support for the establishment of the U.S. National Income and Product Accounts. It was a conference in the basic sense of the word--a group of experts drawn from academia, government statistical agencies, and the business and economic policy community, meeting at regular intervals to confer on issues of importance for the development of the national accounts. While the CRIW has broadened its agenda to include measurement issues beyond the strict confines of the national accounts, the essential personality and objectives of the CRIW have remained unchanged up to the present.

The CRIW has special status at the NBER, thus setting it apart from the Bureau's regular programs. This status reflects the dual personality of the organization: it is an activity within the NBER, which exercises oversight and provides administrative support, but at the same time, it has a separate membership, steering committee, and its own dedicated funding from the government statistical agencies. Ongoing financial support is derived from the Bureau of the Census, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, and Statistics Canada. The executive committee is drawn from these agencies, from academe, and from program directors appointed by the NBER. The CRIW currently has some 300 members. Election to membership in the CRIW does not convey affiliation with the NBER, although there is considerable overlap.

The main activity of the CRIW is to hold annual conferences on subjects defined by the conference membership. The conference proceedings then appear in the series Studies in Income and Wealth, published by the University of Chicago Press for the NBER. This series now contains nearly 70 volumes. In recent years, the CRIW has joined with NBER's Program on Productivity to hold workshops at the annual Summer Institutes, and this initiative has broadened to include other NBER programs. The conference volumes published over the last decade include: The Economics of New Goods (1997), Geography and Ownership as Bases for Economic Accounting (1998), Labor Statistics Measurement Issues (1998), International and Interarea Comparisons of Income, Ou~Out, and Prices (1999), New Developments in PrActivity Analysis (2001), Medical Care Output and Productiviy (2001), and Scanner Data and Price Indexes (2003). The last three years have been particularly busy, with five regular CRIW conferences whose volumes are not yet published: Measuring Capital in the New Economy (2002), Hard-to-Measure Goods and Services: Essays in Memory of Zvi Griliches (2003), New Architecture for the U.S. Nationa/Accounts (2004), Price Index Concepts and Measurement (2004), and Producer Dynamics: New Evidence from Micro Data (2005). In addition, the CRIW has collaborated in three other conferences and five workshops. A listing of recent conferences and programs and workshops is available on the CRIW web page (www.nber.org/CRIW/), along with a list of volumes in the Studies in Income and Wealth series.

This list of recent conference papers is too long to describe fully in this brief report. However, there are several cross cutting themes: the importance of the revolution in information technology; the emergence of new goods and services whose quality differences are important and changing; and the globalization of economic activity. These dynamic issues provide a formidable challenge to economic measurement, since the national accounts are not a static structure, but rather one that must evolve continuously to reflect changes in the structure of the economy.

New Goods

The 1980s and early 1990s were the period in which personal computers, cell phones, video games, ATMs, and then the Internet, became common items of daily life. …