Studies of Welfare Populations: Data Collection and Research Issues. Data Limitations

06/01/2002

This study relies solely on administrative records from the CARES system and matched UI records from the state of Wisconsin. These data have important limitations. First, only records from Wisconsin are included in this study. If a case moved into or out of Wisconsin, information about the case when not in the state is not available. Second, good information on how many of these movers might be in the data file at some point is not available. Administrative data are available on those in the case unit and not on others who might be living in the same household as the unit. For example, earnings of a cohabitating partner are not available, nor are data on living arrangements. Third, errors may occur during the process of matching the CARES data to the UI data may occur if Social Security numbers are reported erroneously or if there are duplications in the data reported to the UI system from employers. Finally, with specific regard to UI data, not all jobs are covered in the Unemployment Insurance system (for example, self-employed persons or federal government employees) or recorded when they legally should be. As a result, some cases that appear to have no earnings may in fact have earnings from jobs. Hotz and Scholz (this volume: Chapter 9) review studies of underreporting in the UI system.

In the Wisconsin data, some cases cannot be tracked with the administrative records from the postexit period (for example, those who move into or out of the state as described). These cases, "disappearers," make up 3.7 percent of the total of 54,518 cases. Other cases appear in some but not all quarters. These "partial disappearers" make up 13.6 percent of the total caseload. Cases that disappear are used in the analysis unless otherwise noted. Cases not appearing in UI records for a quarter are assumed to have zero earnings for that quarter. Cases not appearing in public assistance records were assumed to not be receiving benefits.

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