Economists have the luxury of being able to offer opinions on a number of topics, from smaller issues in personal finance, to major public policy reform. In all cases having the right data is critical. I have been in scores of meetings where data collection has been discussed as “the one thing” keeping an organization from achieving its goals. I am also slightly dumber now for having attended some of these gatherings.
Why? Because collecting data is only the beginning. A person or group also needs to know what information is truly relevant to their task; how to look at it (i.e. number, % change, % change over time, etc.); what it means in the context of the business cycle and/or group’s activities, and what else needs to be considered to “tell the story.” The lack of storytelling is the Achilles’ Heel of many local decision-makers; even those with good intentions.
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