Large-scale commercial data for economic analysis

John W Galbraith

Private firms collect many types of data that can be of value in economic analysis, and this data is increasingly being used by researchers to supplement official economic statistics, and in some cases to answer questions that cannot be addressed with traditional data. This chapter reviews a number of types of commercial data that have been exploited, both for ongoing monitoring of the economy and to address research questions in novel ways. We emphasise types of data that can be collected electronically and on a large scale.


Traditionally, the most important economic data has come from official sources, usually government statistical agencies or central banks. Many of these data series are obtained through surveys, implying that construction of the data takes a substantial amount of time, so that the data is available with some time lag after the period to it applies. For example, gross domestic product (GDP) data is available in most developed countries at least six to eight weeks after the end of the period being measured.

This official data remains important; the breadth of its coverage of the economy may be difficult to match in any other way. Nonetheless

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