In December 2021, the United States Bureau of Economic Analysis released a report that investigated the feasibility of releasing its distribution personal income product on a quarterly basis. This feasibility study is an important first step toward providing more timely data on the distribution of income growth in the U.S. economy, but the BEA report concluded that existing data sources are insufficient to create quarterly measures. valid, informative and transparent.
Equitable Growth has previously argued that the BEA report demonstrates the importance of providing more resources to the agency to meet the needs of policymakers and the public. Appropriation bills currently before the US Congress provide specific funding to improve this key prototype data set, which is an important addition to federal statistics.
This personal income distribution product is unique among all the data published by federal statistical agencies to track income inequality. This BEA dataset provides valuable information to many economic actors, including households, businesses, academic researchers, and economic policymakers, about how economic inequality affects economic growth and stability in the United States. This is precisely why it must be published on a quarterly basis.
In this commentary, Equitable Growth’s director of economic measurement policy, Austin Clemens, argues that the US Bureau of Economic Analysis should consider whether the methods used by other research teams creating national distribution accounts sub-annually could yield useful early and quarterly estimates of income-based disparities in economic growth. .
There is no other data series produced by a federal statistical agency that provides such a comprehensive overview of how the US economy is performing for all Americans up and down the income scale. A faster release schedule will ensure this valuable resource can be used to inform business decisions, develop responsive policies and plan for the future.