Today at Equitable Growth: A workshop on distributional national accounts

The Washington Center for Equitable Growth today will be hosting a workshop with some of the world’s top scholars engaged in developing a system of distributional national accounts, or DINA. This new approach seeks to incorporate measures of economic inequality into existing calculations of gross domestic product and related components of our national income and product accounts.

Our current system of national accounts, produced regularly by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, looks only at the level and growth in macroeconomic variables such as national income, consumption, and investment, without any consideration as to how these economic aggregates are shared across participants in the economy. Distributional national accounts catalogue how economic output and economic growth is distributed. Properly constructed, these methods will be well-equipped to answer, for example, what share of total economic growth accrues to the top 10 percent and what share to the bottom 90 percent. A fully developed DINA would eventually allow economists to explore the impact of changes in technology, trade, or government policy across the income distribution.

Sessions at the workshop will review the state of DINA projects in the United States and in other high-income countries as well as seek to tackle a number of difficult measurement and conceptual questions that stand in the way of implementing a DINA in the United States and elsewhere.

Participants include Arjun Bruil of Statistics Netherlands; Steve Fazzari of Washington University in St. Louis; Dennis Fixler and Kevin Furlong of the Bureau of Economic Analysis; David Johnson of the University of Michigan; Nora Lustig of Tulane University; Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman of the University of California-Berkeley; Jorrit Zwijnenburg of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; and Federal Reserve Bank economists Barry Cynamon, Lisa Dettling, Kevin Moore, John Sabelhaus, and Jeff Thompson.

Three of the papers to be discussed are available online:  “A Consistent Data Series to Evaluate Growth and Inequality in the National Accounts” by Dennis Fixler, David Johnson, Andrew Craig, and Kevin Furlong; “Comparing Micro and Macro Sources for Household Accounts in the United States: Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances” by Lisa Dettling, Sebastian Devlin-Foltz, Jacob Krimmel, Sarah Pack, and Jeffrey Thompson; and “Household Income, Demand, and Saving: Deriving Macro Data with Micro Data Concepts” by Barry Cynamon and Steven Fazzari.

Equitable Growth looks forward to engaging with scholars interested in the development of consistent distributional national accounts. The workshop will help us plan our next steps in supporting this important research.

July 22, 2016

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