ECONOMISTS and policy analysts who rely on Census Bureau data no longer have to travel to the Beltway.
The first Census Bureau research center outside Washington was opened in Boston this week and is intended to serve as a model for other potential sites across the country.
The Boston Research Data Center ``will add value to those statistics collected at great expense,'' says Charles Waite, associate director for economic programs at the Census Bureau. The pilot program, funded by the National Science Foundation in conjunction with the National Bureau of Economic Research, will make data available for research, while protecting the confidentiality of firms that have responded to Census Bureau surveys, Mr. Waite says.
In addition to the Bureau's own census data, the Boston database will include outside information on the costs and production of manufacturing plants and other businesses, as well as Environmental Protection Agency statistics on emissions of toxins and air and water pollution.
The first research projects at the Research Data Center will address: how firms and plants in the automobile industry react to changes such as gasoline price shocks or government-imposed mileage requirements; how intermittent actions taken by individual companies, such as investments, machine replacement, or even entry into and exit from markets, influence the business cycle; and how differences among state environmental regulations affect the location of manufacturing plants.
``If a researcher were to look just at the macro statistics, he'd miss the underlying detail,'' says Robert McGuckin, chief of the Census Bureau's Center for Economic Studies in Washington.