Dr. Robert Inklaar and professor Marcel Timmer of the FEB are awarded a grant by the Alfred P. Sloan foundation and the US National Science foundation. They work on an independent database on the size of economies over time and over countries worldwide.
The project “The Next Generation of the Penn World Table” will be conducted in cooperation with Rob Feenstra (University of California - Davis) and Alan Heston (University of Pennsylvania).
For years, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have maintained the so-called Penn World Tables (PWT) a database aimed at understanding income levels and growth around the world. The PWT is one of the most frequently accessed resource by economists on the Web. Starting in 2012, the University of Groningen and UC Davis will take over the development of this important database. This will involve a substantial revision of PWT and an expansion into new areas, such as comparisons of trade prices and productivity.
Independent data source
Research into the comparative wealth of nations and the size of their economies has a long history. The World Bank has been collecting and compiling data on relative prices and relative incomes across countries since the late 1960s. This data however is infrequent and does not allow for comparisons over time. Furthermore, researchers are not just interested in relative income but also in relative production and productivity.
Finally, the World Bank results are influenced by political considerations, while science strives to provide an independent answer to such sensitive but important questions as ‘how big is the Chinese economy?’ Some researchers conclude that, for a variety of reasons, the Chinese economy is actually as much as 50 percent larger than suggested by the most recent official World Bank estimates. So an independent source for cross-country income data, like the PWT has clear value.
According to the grant-givers, the skills and knowledge to not only maintain but also improve and extend such a database is quite scarce but available at the Groningen Growth and Development Centre at the FEB. Large international projects like EU KLEMS and WIOD have given the Groningen researchers much international credibility in the area of capital and productivity measurement.
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