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Using Administrative Data for Social Science Research: Promise and Peril

Presenter 1
Fredric Gey
University of California, Berkeley

Administrative records from ongoing social and tax programs can provide a rich source for specialized research in the social sciences. Welfare, employment, income tax, support programs for pregnant and parenting teens, scholarship applications, can, among many others be mined for insights into social and economic behavior of specialized sup-populations of the general population. This source of information comes at a price of diligence in understanding the statistical universe you are utilizing, dealing with dirty data (duplicate records, missing data, confusing data), protection of the privacy of individuals and understanding the peculiar structure and operations of particular data processing systems within operational social programs. This presentation will draw from the UC DATA’s experience of more than a decade of social science research using administrative data. It is hoped that our experience can enlighten and prepare others for the challenge and rewards of preparing and repurposing administrative records for research uses that they were not originally designed. Administrative data will be compared (in terms of utility, accuracy and completeness) with rigorously design social survey data.

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