Friday, November 17, 2017

November 2017 Institutional Member Update

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Gov.Stats

Concurrent Symposium: The Vital Role of Government Statistics

Dhara Amin, Public Policy and Criminal Justice PhD Candidate
L. Douglas Wilder of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University

Watch the recorded session.

At this evening’s symposium, moderated by David Johnson from the University of Michigan, five panel members discussed the importance of government data related to decision-making and future policies.

Diane Schanzenbach of Northwestern University worked in a joint effort with Michael Strain of the American Enterprise Institute, to publish In Order that They Might Rest Their Arguments on Facts: The Vital Role of Government-Collected Data. Schanzenbach discussed the importance of making decisions based on facts rather than assertions. While survey participation is increasingly decreasing, government data and sources, such as statistical agencies, allow for the collection of data that is imperative and impactful to policymakers, the government, citizens and our communities. In addition, Schanzenbach argues that government statistics assist with the collection of consistent variables and factors that facilitate future comparisons.

Michael Strain of the American Enterprise Institute discussed the significance of convincing individuals at the nation’s capital of the importance of government statistics and impact on policy decisions. Business companies use neighborhood level data in order to better understand their individual markets. Strain also argued that while supplementing government data with private sector big data is important, it is a mistake to think that big data can ever substitute for government data.

Cornell University’s Erica Groshen asked, “What do we need to make good decisions?” Groshen responded with “Good data!” Government data needs to be trust-worthy, relevant, timely, and readily available in order inform policymaking. While government data allows businesses, policymakers, and communities to make informed decisions, Groshen contended that private sector data must be weighted, validated, and have many missing elements that must be supplemented by government data. Groshen exclaimed that as scholars, it is our responsibility to promote participation, as it is a public service and we must protect the use of data, as when people attack data, they “attack your ability to use the data.”

Lastly, Raphael Bostic of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta discussed the importance of sharing and translating knowledge, respect, and narratives. Bostic stated that while the importance of government statistics should be obvious, it is not because scholars falsely assume that everyday people understand our knowledge and perceptions. Consequently, as scholars it is our responsibility to assist and ensure that common people are provided with the knowledge of the importance of government statistics. This goal can be achieved by translating academic conversations into meaningful narratives that people will hold on to and remember. Furthermore, while opinions can vary, respectful dialogue can assist with understanding the gaps in knowledge and will allow us to better translate data into real outcomes that “real people care about and experience on a daily basis.”

While each panel member discussed different barriers of acknowledging the importance of government statistics, they all agree that the benefits can never be replaced.

 

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