Creating an Integrated System of Data and Statistics on Household Income, Consumption, and Wealth: Time to Build

Report by the National Academies: “Many federal agencies provide data and statistics on inequality and related aspects of household income, consumption, and wealth (ICW). However, because the information provided by these agencies is often produced using different concepts, underlying data, and methods, the resulting estimates of poverty, inequality, mean and median household income, consumption, and wealth, as well as other statistics, do not always tell a consistent or easily interpretable story. Measures also differ in their accuracy, timeliness, and relevance so that it is difficult to address such questions as the effects of the Great Recession on household finances or of the Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing relief efforts on household income and consumption. The presence of multiple, sometimes conflicting statistics at best muddies the waters of policy debates and, at worst, enable advocates with different policy perspectives to cherry-pick their preferred set of estimates. Achieving an integrated system of relevant, high-quality, and transparent household ICW data and statistics should go far to reduce disagreement about who has how much, and from what sources. Further, such data are essential to advance research on economic wellbeing and to ensure that policies are well targeted to achieve societal goals…(More)”.