You’ve seen it, I’ve seen it, we’ve all seen it. Oregon leads the nation in revenue growth. It sounds reasonable doesn’t it? Oregon’s economy is more volatile overall and generally outperforms the typical state. In recent years we’ve been Top 10 for employment, personal income, and state GDP growth, so naturally revenues would follow suit. Well, not so fast.

Josh Lehner with the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis outlines why recent reports on above average revenue growth in Oregon are misleading, and why verifying data is so important to ensuring that the information we share and use does indeed reflect reality. He also shares a bit about how the framing of data can influence the message it carries:

…there are two general statements about state revenues making the rounds. The first talks about changes from before the Great Recession through today. This is the correct way to look at the situation. The second one compares revenue growth from the depths of the crisis through today, measuring growth just in the expansion to date. This is neither a good nor useful way to measure revenue growth. Some states and some revenue streams are more volatile. Only measuring changes over part of the cycle simply muddies the water and does not lend itself to being helpful.

As auditors, we collect and use a great deal of information in the course of our audit work. Having the essential facts is powerful and informs our findings and recommendations. We take great care to ensure that we are truly learning from the data collected, and not superimposing any preformed conclusions (the ‘hows’ and the ‘whys’) onto it- in other words, framing data to suit an end goal. Not everyone is so careful, but we are happy to see that the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis vigilantly adheres to the facts and how those facts are shared. Go Team! Read more here.