Edited by Gerald R. Faulhaber, Gary Madden and Jeffrey Petchey
Chapter 15: The Absence of Data for Measuring the Economic Impact of IT in the US
Shane Greenstein INTRODUCTION In this chapter, I would like to assess the statistical foundations for addressing the most central economics question in Internet studies: what is the contribution of the Internet to economic growth in the United States (US) over the last decade? What will be its contribution over the next decade? My underlying motivation is that I believe statistics can inform policy debates. I make that statement as an empiricist. I have observed that economic statistics are a foundation for policy formulation in a multitude of areas. Here is the problem: there is no shortage of Internet policy debate, but there is a shortage of facts. To be precise: there is a shortage of meaningful data. When a meaningful statistic is available it quickly becomes central to a debate. I have observed this shortage in debates about: inequality of access and use of the Internet; effect of the Internet on international trade; changing requirements for human capital accumulation in information technology markets; and the spread of electronic government. Let me begin with a narrow motivation. The privatisation of the Internet – an event that the National Science Foundation (NSF) managed more than a decade ago – is one of the greatest gifts to the US and world economy to ever come from the US research community. Wouldn’t someone love to say – with some degree of confidence – what the contribution of the Internet was to the US economy? To be sure, it is not a straightforward question to address. One must account...
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