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

06/01/2002

We recommend a number of activities in the cleaning of administrative data for research use. These include:

  • Examining the internal consistency of the data;
  • Examining how the data were collected, processed, and maintained before delivery to the researcher;
  • Taking every opportunity to compare with other data sets, either survey or administrative, through record linkage; and,
  • Most important, getting to know the operations of the program, not just the collection of administrative data, but also how services are provided so that inconsistencies in the data might be understood better.

We also recommend using probabilistic record linkage and not relying on any one identifier for linking records. We believe our analysis above makes this case. The golden rule of record linkage is that there is no such thing as a unique identifier, because individuals can match on many identifiers. In many cases the same SSN has been provided to two or more individuals.

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