Using Statistics to Drive Sound Policy

This morning I delivered a speech (pdf) at a Joint Symposium of the Committee on National Statistics and the American Academy of Political and Social Science on a topic near to my (admittedly wonkish) heart—the role of Federal statistics in developing and executing good public policy.

As I’ve noted in this space before, OMB wears many hats.  Among OMB’s lesser known roles is oversight of the Federal statistical system—a range of agencies that produce the data that drive nearly all aspects of what we do as a government.

The President has made it very clear that policy decisions should be driven by evidence – accentuating the role of Federal statistics as a resource for policymakers.  Robust, unbiased data are the first step toward addressing our long-term economic needs and key policy priorities.

In my speech this morning, I noted two particular areas where more and better data would be useful: health care and education.  In health care, bending the curve on cost growth will require more information about how we’re spending our health dollars, the health outcomes we’re producing, and how specific interventions rank against alternative treatments.  In education, better longitudinal data on the progress of individual students, which can be linked to specific programs and teachers, will go a long way to helping us understand what works better – and what doesn’t -- and as a result, where to target scarce resources to bolster student achievement.

Sound data by themselves are not sufficient to create sound public policy decisions, but the Administration has been clear that data – importantly including the stream of data that comes from Federal statistical sources -- and evidence are a necessary and crucial component in our policy process.  

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