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Three centuries of macro-economic statistics

Bos, Frits (2011): Three centuries of macro-economic statistics.

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This paper describes the history of the national accounts starting from the incidental estimates by Petty, King and Davenant in the seventeenth century. The period 1930-1950 was a revolution in terms of the roles and uses of the national accounts, e.g. the discovery of input-output analysis, purchasing power parities and macro-econometric modelling and the Keynesian revolution in economic thinking. Most of these new uses also reinforced each other. These uses were also closely linked to the economic circumstances: the economic crisis of the thirties, the Second World War and the need for recovery afterwards stimulated an active role of the government. In 1947, for the first time a report on national accounting concepts was published by the UN. Some years later, the first official guidelines were published. Since then, national accounting theory and practice have increasingly been dominated by these guidelines. The period since the Second World War can thus best be labelled as 'the era of the international guidelines'. Many innovations in national accounting have been made since the Second World War. After gaining wider acceptance and maturity, a great deal of them has been included in the guidelines and some others have not. Since the Second World War, the national accounts statistics published by countries all over the world have changed drastically in scope, concepts, frequency and detail. These developments in national accounts practice do not have a straightforward relationship to the international guidelines. Due to the European Unification, the supply of national accounts in Europe has been improved dramatically.

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