Many social programs are designed to have long-term benefits for participants, but evaluations of these programs rarely track long-term outcomes. Administrative data present a potentially low-cost opportunity for tracking long-term effects. Efforts related to making these data more accessible for such purposes are gaining traction, with many federal initiatives emerging to support leveraging these data for research.
The Assessing Options to Evaluate Long-Term Outcomes project is helping ACF/OPRE understand the feasibility of linking data sets for a set of major evaluations. Evaluations and administrative data sources are being selected and reviewed to assess the feasibility of linking data for long-run follow-up. This Compendium is part of this project and is intended to provide information on administrative sources to facilitate linkages to measure the impacts of social programs in both the medium and long terms.
There is growing interest in making better use of administrative data—which are collected primarily to manage programs—to support research on program effectiveness and evidence-based policymaking. The first step toward this goal is to better understand (1) the types and extent of data available and where they reside; (2) the process for obtaining data access; and (3) the feasibility for linking these data sources with evaluation data to measure the impact of government-funded programs. This Compendium includes such information for a variety of national, federal, and state-level administrative data sources that can be enlisted to support this federal priority.
This report has data sources that are grouped and presented as follows:
- National and federal data sources, which are typically focused on a single domain but have national coverage.
- State-level sources, which cover a single domain within the state.
- Data centers, which maintain information across multiple domains (for example, employment, health, public assistance, and so forth) and from multiple data sources, and provide environments for the secure analysis of sensitive.
Major Findings & Recommendations
One benefit of national data sources is that they contain data from all or most states and jurisdictions. Researchers working on studies with sites in multiple states would be able to obtain data for all sites through one source rather than going through multiple individual states. Because many national sources rely on and contain state-reported data, however, there can be significant time lags before the data are available. The availability of up-to-date information across states could take a while. Additionally, some national data sources may have issues with data coverage if, for example, states are not required to report all of their data.
This Compendium is not comprehensive. In the short term, it can help provide important reference material for data consumers, including government agencies and their research partners. With increased interest and use of administrative data, and policy changes affecting access to these data, this contribution should—in the long term—help to advance the development of a broader and sustainable repository of metadata on administrative data sources for self-sufficiency research.
The Compendium contains overviews, access instructions, and links to the data sources.