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Development of a Quality Framework and Quality Indicators at the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Michael Horrigan, Polly A. Phipps, and Scott S. Fricker


In the last two years, the Office of Prices and Living Conditions (OPLC) of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has undertaken a project to define a quality framework for its four price programs. This initiative began with an extensive review of quality concepts and frameworks; we summarize findings from that effort, distinguish between product and process quality, and review associated quality measures. Subsequently, OPLC program managers reported measures and variables they track as part of their effort to evaluate quality. What emerged was a telling divide between the relatively greater emphasis in the quality literature on output quality and the reduction of total survey error, and the more balanced tracking of both output quality measures and detailed operational measures of the quality of survey business processes – the inputs to the development of high quality outputs. Based upon this realization, OPLC developed a consensus framework for its four programs that combines both input (process) and output (product) quality measures. What emerged from this effort is a framework that adopts a hybrid of statistical process control approaches to quality with the more traditional quality management (QM) frameworks used across many statistical agencies.