Federal Statistics in the FY 2013 Budget

Edward J. Spar, Executive Director
Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics

Statistics produced by the federal government serve as a base for research in a broad spectrum of scientific disciplines. Population and vital statistics are central to the work of political scientists and demographers; employment, financial, and production data are essential for economists; and information on education and crime is used by sociologists and psychologists. Responsibility for the collection, analysis, and dissemination of federal statistics is spread throughout the departments and independent agencies of the executive branch; each of some 70 agencies and departmental units annually spends $500,000 or more on statistical activities. Within this decentralized system that generates statistical information, a more limited number of agencies have the creation of statistics as their principal mission. It is these agencies that are responsible for producing statistics on major economic, demographic, and social developments and trends that are the focus of discussion in this chapter. 

Bureau of the Census

The Bureau of the Census collects, compiles, and publishes a broad range of statistics on the population and the economy. Budget authority for the Census Bureau is provided in two appropriations: one covers current programs, including demographic surveys, international programs and data on construction, manufacturing, retail and wholesale trade, services, foreign trade, and state and local government finances and employment; the other covers periodic programs, including the decennial census of population; and the quinquennial economic censuses and the census of governments.

For FY 2013, funding is requested to continue Census Bureau core programs, and to: (1) conduct the 2012 Economic Census and the 2012 Census of Governments, including distribution of, and data capture from, millions of census forms; (2) continue research and testing for the 2020 Census to support fundamental changes to program, business, operational, and technical processes; (3) complete the 2010 Count Question Resolution program and publish the Public Use Microdata Sample as well as the 2010 Census data products for Guam, American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands; and (4) expand research and production capacities in order to complement the official poverty measures with annual supplementary measures of poverty from the Current Population Survey.  

Bureau of Labor Statistics

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the principal fact-finding agency in the federal government in the field of labor economics, has a dual mission: to provide general purpose statistics that support the formulation of economic and social policy decisions in the business and labor communities, in legislation, and other programs affecting labor; and to serve the program needs of the Department of Labor and other federal agencies that use the BLS data and research findings to administer and evaluate on-going programs, develop legislative proposals, and analyze economic and social problems. To meet these objectives, BLS collects, processes, analyzes, and disseminates data on employment and unemployment, projections of economic growth, the labor force, and employment by industry and occupation, prices and cost of living, consumer expenditures, wages and employee benefits, occupational injuries and illnesses, collective bargaining activities, and productivity and technological change in U.S. industries.

For FY 2013, funding is requested to provide support for ongoing BLS programs, and to provide support for ongoing BLS programs, and to: (1) modify the Consumer Expenditure survey to support the Census Bureau in its development of a supplemental statistical poverty measure; and (2) add an annual supplement to the Current Population Survey to capture data on contingent work and alternative work arrangements in even years, and on other topics in odd years. The funding request also includes program reductions that: (1) continue the elongation of National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth started in 2012; and (2) eliminate the International Labor Comparisons program.  

Bureau of Economic Analysis

The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) provides a picture of the United States economy through the preparation, development and interpretation of the economic accounts. These accounts consist of the national income and product accounts, summarized by the gross domestic product (GDP); the wealth accounts that show the business and other components of national wealth; the input-output accounts that trace interrelationships among industrial markets; State and regional income and product accounts; and the United States balance of payments and associated international investment accounts. These economic accounts provide key information on economic growth, regional development, and the nation's position in the world economy. These data are vital ingredients in major decisions affecting such areas as monetary and fiscal policy, social security projections, and business planning and investment.

For FY 2013, funding is requested to continue BEA’s core programs, and to: (1) continue to implement a critical modernization of the Bureau’s information technology system that would lead directly to an increase in the operational efficiency and security of BEA’s statistical production and analysis; (2) produce gross domestic product by industry on a quarterly basis to provide real-time information on the health and stability of sectors within the U.S. economy; and (3) provide measures of median, as well as mean, income and other measures of the distribution of income across households to improve understanding of how the business cycle affects U.S. households. In order to fund these priorities, BEA will seek operational efficiencies as well as modifications to reporting thresholds and published detail on surveys of operations of multinational corporations.  

Statistics of Income, Internal Revenue Service

The Statistics of Income Division (SOI) program provides for compilation of annual income, financial, and tax data from samples of tax returns filed by individuals, corporations, partnerships, sole proprietors and tax-exempt organizations. SOI also provides periodic data based on other returns, such as those filed by estates, for estimating the wealth of the living top wealth holders, as well as on various other tax and information returns and schedules, for producing such estimates as U.S. investments abroad, foreign investments in the United States, and gains or losses from sales of capital assets.

For FY 2013, funding is requested to continue SOI’s core programs, providing high quality statistical data derived from tax and information returns. Areas of special emphasis in 2013 will include: (1) further modernizing tax data collection systems by efficiently assimilating data captured from the electronic filing of tax and information returns to the SOI program; (2) integrating population and information return data with SOI-edited data to provide rich longitudinal and/or cross-sector data that can be used to better understand the complex interaction between taxes and economic behavior; (3) developing improved statistical techniques for identifying and correcting outliers and data anomalies in IRS administrative population files; (4) contributing data and analytical support to IRS’ ongoing efforts to improve customer service, compliance, and employee satisfaction; and (5) partnering with tax policy experts within and outside of government to produce top quality research on important tax administration issues. that were previously displayed separately.  

National Agricultural Statistics Service

The Department of Agriculture published its first crop report in 1863, and further strengthened this responsibility in 1905 by creating the Crop Reporting Board (now the Agricultural Statistics Board). The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has the responsibility for collecting and publishing current national, state and county agricultural statistics. NASS collects and reports data on a wide range of production, inventories, prices paid and received by farmers, costs of production, farm labor usage and wage rates, agricultural chemical use, and other agricultural statistics. Beginning in FY 1997, NASS is responsible for the census of agriculture program, which provides comprehensive data every 5 years on all aspects of the agricultural economy down to the county level.

For FY 2013, funding is requested to continue NASS’ core programs, and to: (1) fully fund the Census of Agriculture during the peak data collection and processing year 2013; and (2) improve the quality of county estimates. Increases to support these initiatives will be partially offset by suspending the following programs for 2012 and 2013 -- Distiller Co-Products for Feed Survey, Nursery Report, and Post- Harvest Chemical Use Survey. In addition, NASS will reduce the frequency of chemical use reports and model Milk Production data in eight out of twelve months during the year.  

Economic Research Service

The Economic Research Service (ERS) is a research-oriented statistical agency that provides economic and other social science information and analysis related to the supply, demand and performance of domestic and international food and agricultural markets; indicators of food and consumer issues; economic and environmental indicators of agriculture production and resource use; and socio-economic indicators of the status and performance of the farm sector and the rural economy.

For FY 2013, funding is requested to continue ERS’ highest priority core programs, including research: (1) exploring how investments in rural people, business, and communities affect the capacity of rural economies to prosper in the new and changing global marketplace; (2) on economic issues related to developing natural resource policies and programs that respond to the need to protect and maintain the environment and the challenges of climate change while improving agricultural competitiveness and economic growth; (3) on production agriculture, domestic and international markets, Federal farm policies, and trade to develop and disseminate analysis of the U.S. food and agriculture sector’s performance in the context of increasingly globalized markets; and (4) to evaluate the Nation’s nutrition assistance programs, to study the relationship among the many factors that influence food choices and health outcomes including obesity, and to focus on enhancing methodologies for valuing societal benefits associated with reducing food safety risks.  

Energy Information Administration

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) collects, analyzes, and disseminates information on energy resources, production, distribution, consumption, technology, and related international, economic, and financial matters. EIA produces reports with statistical time series, projections of future energy trends, analyses of topical energy issues, and supports the energy information requirements of the Department of Energy and other federal agencies. The primary customers of EIA services are public policy makers in the Department of Energy and the Congress. Other customers include other federal agencies, state and local governments, the energy industry, educational institutions, the news media, and the public.

For FY 2013, funding is requested to maintain core energy data, analyses, and forecasting programs critical to energy markets and policymakers, and to: (1) restore important electricity trade data collection and add collection of monthly oil production data; (2) revitalize the energy consumption data program to enhance understanding of energy use and provide benchmarking and performance measurement of energy efficiency programs; (3) modernize the systems and tools used to produce EIA’s weekly petroleum and natural gas statistical reports, on which industry and market participants heavily rely; (4) enhance energy modeling and analytic capabilities to address a range of important topics, including international markets, short-term forecasts, end-use efficiency, refinery activities, the interrelationship of energy and financial markets, and the analysis of refined product markets; (5) leverage technology to more efficiently manage data collection and processing across the agency; and (6) enhance customer access and usability of EIA’s information by developing more integrated and interactive dissemination platforms. 

National Center for Health Statistics

The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) monitors the Nation's health and use of health services and explores the relationship between risk factors and disease. Data sources include the Nation's vital statistics system and surveys involving personal interviews, physical examinations and laboratory testing, and information from health care providers. The mission of NCHS is to provide statistical information that will guide actions and policies to improve the health of the American people. Data from NCHS include the use of hospitals, nursing homes, physician services, financial and non-financial barriers to health care access; the health of racial and ethnic population groups; infant mortality, access to prenatal care; death from diseases such as cancer, heart disease, HIV/AIDS; health insurance coverage, immunization status, and other measures used to help design and monitor the impact of programs and policies that affect health and the health care system.

For FY 2013, funding is requested to continue data collection, analysis, and dissemination activities for key national health data systems, including the National Vital Statistics System, National Health Interview Survey, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), and National Health Care Surveys, and to continue to: (1) provide timely, accurate estimates of high priority health measures; (2) enhance the quality and usability of health data through improved access tools and tutorials; (3) use birth and death data collected by the States for tracking priority health initiatives in prevention, cancer control, out-of-wedlock births, and teenage pregnancy; (4) monitor health care utilization through the family of provider surveys; 5) provide NHANES data on diet and nutrition, blood pressure, chronic diseases, and other health indicators; and (5) provide information annually and quarterly on the health status of the U.S. civilian non-institutionalized population through confidential household interviews conducted by the National Health Interview Survey. Requested funding would also support the expansion of Vital Statistics to fully implement electronic birth records in the eight remaining jurisdictions.  

National Center for Education Statistics

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) collects, analyzes and reports statistics on education in the United States, and conducts studies on comparisons of international education statistics. NCES also provides leadership in developing and promoting the use of standardized terminology and definitions for the collection of education statistics. 

In FY 2013, funding is requested to continue NCES’ core programs, and to (1) conduct the National Assessment of Educational Progress, including administration of the 2013 national and State reading and mathematics assessments at grades 4, 8, and 12; (2) pilot a State-representative sample of the Program of International Student Assessment of 15 year-olds in reading, mathematics, and science for a limited number of participating States; (3) conduct a college choice follow-up data collection for the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 cohort as it enters postsecondary education; (4) conduct field testing and development work for the Longitudinal Study of Early Adolescence; (5) continue developmental work on measuring adults’ acquisition of education and training oriented toward work, including certificates and certifications, and begin collecting related data in partnership with other Federal statistical agencies; and (6) continue the development of State longitudinal data systems by assisting States in expanding their systems to include unit record data on students from prekindergarten through K-12 as well as postsecondary levels and by furthering the voluntary Common Education Data Standards to ensure interoperability of State systems.  

Bureau of Justice Statistics

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) is responsible for the collection, analysis, and publication of statistical information on crime, criminal offenders, victims of crime, and the operations of justice systems at all levels of government and internationally. The mission of the Bureau is to provide accurate and timely justice data and to support the emerging capacity of State and local governments in the use of these data for their justice programs.

For FY 2013, funding is requested to maintain BJS’ core programs, and to (1) improve BJS’ criminal victimization statistics derived from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) and continue to address recommendations of the 2008 National Research Council report, Surveying Victims: Options for Conducting the National Crime Victimization Survey with special emphasis on sub-national estimates and the crimes of rape and sexual assault; (2) explore the use of administrative records data in police and correctional agencies for providing statistical data in these areas including recidivism information, arrests, and offenses known to the police; (3) expand the surveys of inmates of prisons and jails to inform the process of re-entry; (4) maintain BJS’ core statistical programs that provide law enforcement data from more than 3,000 local agencies on the organization and administration of police and sheriffs’ departments; nationally representative prosecution data on resources, policies, and practices of local prosecutors; court and sentencing statistics, including Federal and State case processing data; data on correctional populations and facilities from Federal, State, and local governments; and information about prisoner re-entry and recidivism; and (5) continue to support the enhancement of criminal justice statistics available through State analysis centers.  

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) is responsible for developing and disseminating timely, relevant, and high quality transportation data and information for all modes to public and private transportation decision makers. BTS programs include freight and travel statistics, transportation economics, geospatial information systems, statistical methods and performance measurement, and airline transportation statistics. BTS also administers the National Transportation Library. BTS is a component of the Department of Transportation’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration. 

For FY 2013 funding is requested to maintain BTS’ core statistical programs, and to: (1) continue implementation of the 2012 Commodity Flow Survey; (2) develop and manage the International Freight Data System to support the Automated Commercial Environment/International Trade Data System; (3) enhance production of a core set of transportation performance indicators including the Transportation Services Index; (4) establish a Safety Data portal to serve U.S. DOT and other transportation safety communities; (5) initiate a long distance travel data program for use in making transportation investments; (6) deploy the performance metrics program to safeguard the quality of DOT data; and (7) reintroduce the international Journal of Transportation and Statistics. The budget proposes to move BTS along with the rest of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration to the Office of the Secretary of Transportation.  

National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, National Science Foundation

The legislative mandate the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES), as stated in the National Science Foundation Act of 1950, as amended, is, “…to provide a central clearinghouse for the collection, interpretation, and analysis of data on scientific and engineering resources and to provide a source of information for policy formulation by other agencies of the federal government….” To meet this mandate, NCSES provides policymakers, researchers and other decision makers with high quality data and analysis for making informed decisions about the nation’s science, engineering, and technology enterprise. The work of SRS involves survey development, data collection, analysis, information compilation, dissemination, and customer service to meet the statistical demands of a diverse user community.

Funding is requested to maintain and enhance ongoing programs, and to explore and increase support for emergent areas of responsibility ascribed to NCSES in Section 505 of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, including using the data it collects to support research on methodologies in areas related to NCSES’ work, and supporting the education and training of researchers in the use of large-scale, nationally-representative data sets. As a cost-saving measure, NCSES will accelerate efforts to rely more heavily on data from the National Survey of College Graduates built from the American Community Survey to meet its needs for data on the overall science and engineering workforce.

Table 1. Principal Statistical Agencies in the Federal R&D Budget

(budget authority in millions of dollars)

  FY 2011 Actual FY 2012 Estimate FY 2013 Request
Bureau of the Census: Curent Program $ 289 $ 276 $ 289
Periodic Programs 891 634 711
Bureau of Labor Statistics 610 609 618
Bureau of Economic Analysis 93 92 97
Statistics of Income (SOI) 39 40 40
National Agricultural Statistics Service 123 117 116
Census of Agriculture 33 42 63
Economic Research Service 82 78 77
Energy Information Administration 95 105 116
National Center for Health Statistics 139 139 162
National Center for Education Statistics 126 127 133
Bureau of Justice Statistics 68 53 68
Bureau of Transportation Statistics 24 25 38
Science Resources Statistics, NSF 42 44 42