The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. Almost 300 Working Papers are released each year, covering a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.
This paper examines the usefulness of testing the conformity of macroeconomic data with Benford's law as indicator of data quality. Most of the macroeconomic data series tested conform with Benford's law. However, questions emerge on the reliability of such tests as indicators of data quality once conformity with Benford's law is contrasted with the data quality ratings included in the data module of the Reports on the Observance of Standards and Codes (data ROSCs). Furthermore, the analysis shows that rejection of Benford's law may be unrelated to the quality of statistics, and instead may result from marked structural shifts in the data series. Hence, nonconformity with Benford's law should not be interpreted as a reliable indication of poor quality in macroeconomic data.