Significance Magazine

Government statistical agencies often report official economic statistics as point estimates. Buried within the documents describing their data and methods, there may be an acknowledgment that these are in fact estimates subject to error, but they typically don’t quantify the size of these errors. News releases in turn then present the official estimates with little if any mention of potential error. But I think their failure to communicate this uncertainty gives an incomplete view of the statistics. In my opinion, agencies need to measure and report this more prominently in their news releases and technical publications.

Why is it important to communicate uncertainty in official statistics? A broad reason is that governments, firms and individuals use the statistics when making numerous decisions.