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MANAGEMENT UPDATE.

A DECLINE IN QUALITY DATA

Data is, increasingly, the language of government. As a result an early April “On the Evidence” podcast from Mathematica was particularly worrisome.


The guest was Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics; a man whose reputation for the careful use of data is widespread. But in his conversation with Paul Decker, Mathematica’s president, and CEO, he voiced concerns that there’s been an erosion of some of the data that is fundamental for his economic analyses, as well as to critical government decision-making.


One of his greatest concerns is that “the quality of the data we’re using is starting to erode because a lot of it is based on surveys and survey response rates are way down across the board.”


He added that “There are concerns around privacy, cyber issues, but for whatever reason, the response rates are way down and that’s beginning to affect the data to a significant degree.”



This isn’t a trivial issue, said Zandi indicating that it’s ”a real problem – and this is going to become a bigger issue going forward,” and not just for government surveys, but for corporate surveys that chronicle individual behavior. “I’m sure some of it is survey fatigue,” he said. “Everything I buy or every plane I get on or every car I rent; I get a survey saying ‘How did I do. . .?’”


As an example of the potential problem, he pointed to frequent revisions in employment numbers – partly due to low response rates and lagging reports because “businesses are responding later and later to what’s going on.”


This isn’t just a US problem. In fact, it may be more visible elsewhere. “The British can’t even collect good employment rate data, and if you can’t have a good fix on unemployment, how do you accept monetary policy? So that’s a real problem for them, and that’s the direction we’re headed here in the United States if we don’t provide more funding and try to figure this out.”


As Zandi pointed out, funding for government agencies that collect, clean and disseminate data hasn’t kept up and in some ways has gone backwards. “I think that’s a really serious problem. We can’t make good, informed decisions; we can’t do the kind of work we need to do to make good policy unless we have good underlying economic information and data . . .

“If I were king for the day and I could devote resources to one thing, that would be it. Let’s go make our data sources more resilient, better, more comprehensive, more timely.”


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MANAGEMENT UPDATE ARCHIVES.

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THE ACADEMIC GOVERNMENT COMMUNICATIONS GAP

USING GENERATIVE AI FOR PUBLIC SAFETY

ADVOCATING FOR CITY MANAGERS: A NEW ORGANIZATION

PEWS FISCAL 50 HAS BEEN SUPERCHARGED

EQUALIZING THE PROCUREMENT PLAYING FIELD

HEAT KILLS SHOULDNT WE PAY MORE ATTENTION

REINVIGORATING PUBLIC SERVICE

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