One of the long-standing goals of the Committee on National Statistics (CNSTAT) is the improvement of economic measurement and the data sources crucial to that measurement. In working toward that goal, recent CNSTAT panels have produced reports on price and cost-of-living indexes, poverty measurement, measurement of the economy’s government sector, and the design of environmental and natural resource accounts. The last report in this list, Nature’s Numbers, focused on goods and services associated with the environment, which are in many cases not transacted in markets and hence not captured in conventional economic accounts. That report did much to set the conceptual stage for this panel’s broader study of economic activities that are largely nonmarket in character.
This report is the product of contributions from many individuals. The project was sponsored by the Yale University Program on Nonmarket Accounts which, in turn, was funded by a grant from the Glaser Progress Foundation. The Yale program is directed by William Nordhaus, whose long history of pioneering research in this and related areas—dating back three decades to his work with James Tobin on measures of economic welfare and continuing through his chairing of the Nature’s Numbers panel—helped to establish the foundations for this panel’s work. Dr. Nordhaus, along with Martin Collier of the Glaser Progress Foundation, attended the first meeting and, in articulating their hopes for the study, helped the panel sharpen its vision of their charge. The panel is grateful also to Dan Melnick who served as liaison to the panel for the Yale Program and contributed valuable suggestions and points of clarification along the way.