Globalization and Measurement in Economic Statistics

Our system of economic statistics does not adequately measure certain rapidly expanding forms of international trade associated with the global integration of the production, compromising the accuracy of, and possibly biasing, key statistics and analysis based on these measures.


For decades, U.S. statistical agencies have collected data on imports, exports, and prices that is crucial for policy and our understanding of the economy. However, the rapid pace of globalization in recent years is challenging both the conceptual framework and the data methodologies used by the statistical agencies. As a result, the statistics may be significantly biased or the appropriate interpretation of the numbers may have changed.

New resesearch that addresses both the magnitude and conceptual aspects of measuring the impact of globalization was presented at a conference in Washington, DC on February 28–March 1, 2013. The conference was funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and organized by Susan Houseman of the Upjohn Institute and Michael Mandel of the Progressive Policy Institute.

The Upjohn Institute, in collaboration with the National Academy of Public Administration, received grants from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis to study measurement problems arising from the growth of globalization. The project helped fund new studies by leading researchers in academia and the federal statistical agencies on data gaps and biases resulting from the rapid growth of trade in goods and services. The research was presented at a conference in Washington, DC in 2009, and a report to Congress summarizing the conference findings and recommendations was released in 2010.

The project also funded sessions at the World Congress on National Accounts and Economic Performance Measures for Nations in Washington, DC.

Background Papers

Offshoring Bias in U.S. Manufacturing
Christopher Kurz, Federal Reserve Board
Paul Lengermann, Federal Reserve Board
Benjamin Mandel, Federal Reserve Board
Journal of Economic Perspectives 25(2): 111-132, 2011

Outsourcing and Import Price Measurement
Susan Houseman, Upjohn Institute
Survey of Current Business (February): 7-11, 2011.

Not All Productivity Gains are the Same. Here's Why.
Susan Houseman, Upjohn Institute
What Matters/McKinsey&Company June 1, 2011

Outsourcing, Offshoring, and Productivity Measurement in United States Manufacturing
Susan Houseman, Upjohn Institute
International Labour Review 146 (1-2): [61]-80, 2007

Measuring Offshore Outsourcing and Offshoring: Problems for Economic Statistics
Susan Houseman, Upjohn Institute
Employment Research 16(1): [1]-3, 2009.