Administrative Data for the Public Good

Census Bureau-Chapin Hall partnership yields proposals, pilots for creative use of government data

How does eviction impact family poverty? What early childhood experiences could affect a young person’s likelihood that they won’t be employed or in school as young adults? How does lowering the cost of college in one state affect outcomes for low-income families?

These are just some of the questions researchers are exploring in six projects  using existing government data to innovate around how this data can be used to build evidence to inform policymaking. This project started with a request for proposals issued in 2016 by Chapin Hall in partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau. The RFP sought proposals that demonstrated ways to use federal and state data curated by Census Bureau to increase our understanding about how public policies and programs can support better outcomes for families.

Chapin Hall received 45 project proposals from all levels of government, universities, research firms and other nonprofits. In these proposals, which came from 22 states, researchers identified one or more sources of local administrative data that were suitable to combine with federal data.

Administrative Data for the Public Good , published by Chapin Hall, summarizes these proposals. The paper also explores challenges that researchers face in accessing these administrative data sets. Getting permission to access the data, and the secure transfer of data that contains personally identifiable information were among the highlighted challenges. The paper also presents recommendations for how to overcome these obstacles, including establishing cloud-based administrative data research facilities that can increase accessibility while maintaining a high level of security.

Of the proposals submitted, six were launched as pilots in 2017. Chapin Hall is overseeing implementation of these pilots, which will showcase the potential of using linked data and inform the broader conversation about use of government program data for research and evidence building.

This project is led by Dr. Robert Goerge, a nationally recognized expert in using administrative data to assess the effectiveness of public programs that serve children and families. He leads Chapin Hall’s Integrated Database on Child and Family Programs in Illinois, and is the principal investigator for the Family Self-Sufficiency Data Center, funded by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. Chapin Hall Researcher Dr. Leah Gjertson brings her considerable experience in administrative data analysis, survey research and program evaluation to this project.

For more information about this work, please contact Leah Gjertson.

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This report summaries the proposals submitted to explore the use of administrative data to inform evidence-based policy.