Provides researchers with guidance on how to access administrative data to conduct impact studies; the guide includes a discussion on meeting data compliance requirements and establishing data use agreements with the agencies involved in the data collection process.

“This guide provides practical guidance on how to obtain and use nonpublic administrative data for a randomized evaluation. Administrative data are information collected, used, and stored primarily for administrative (i.e., operational), rather than research, purposes. Government departments and other organizations collect administrative data for the purposes of registration, transaction, and record keeping, usually during the delivery of a service. Examples of administrative data include credit card transactions, sales records, electronic medical records, insurance claims, educational records, arrest records, and mortality records. This guide focuses on nonpublic (i.e., proprietary or confidential) administrative data that may be used in an individual-level randomized evaluation….


Many of the concepts in this guide are applicable across countries and contexts. However, sections pertaining to compliance (particularly [the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] and specific ethics requirements) are directly applicable only in the United States. Other jurisdictions with similar regulatory contexts may have similar legislation (e.g., the European Union has legislation on data protection), resulting in the general applicability of concepts across countries.


This guide focuses on the following topics:

  • Standardized processes for accessing administrative data
  • The ethical and legal framework surrounding the use of administrative data for randomized evaluations
  • Common challenges in using administrative data” (p.3).


The first half discusses the advantages of using administrative data; potential biases when using administrative data; how to find administrative data pertinent to your research; cost of administrative data; and ethics and compliance in using this type of data for impact studies.


The second half walks readers through the administrative data collection process. It starts with an overview of formulating a data request and encourages researchers to develop a data flow strategy during the design phase of their evaluation. Next it discusses data use agreements (DUAs), such as some of the items commonly found in these agreements. The guide closes with a discussion around maintaining the confidentiality of the administrative data and provides external resources for using this data.


(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)