Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Creating useful integrated data sets to inform public policy
by Potok, Nancy Fagenson, Ph.D., The George Washington University, 2009, 213; 3368742
Abstract (Summary)

The costs of traditional primary data collection have risen dramatically over the past decade. For example, the cost of the decennial census of population and housing, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, has risen from $6 billion in 2000 to an estimated $14.5 billion in 2010. Other surveys and censuses conducted by the government have also risen in costs. Yet some of the same data are collected by other federal agencies and contained in administrative records such as Medicare and tax records. Sharing of administrative record data between federal agencies has the potential to increase the information that is available for policy makers while saving money. Significant policy issues related to safeguarding privacy and confidentiality, as well as questions about data quality have resulted in barriers that slow down or stop record sharing. But do the barriers address real or perceived problems?

This research used two exploratory case studies to examine the creation of integrated data sets among three government agencies, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the U.S. Census Bureau (Census), and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). It identified the policy issues raised by the creation of such data pools and examined how these issues are approached in a decentralized governmental statistical system, such as that found in the United States. The creation of new, combined data sets and the related policy issues were examined through five dimensions, legal, technical, organizational, perceptual, and human.

The case studies addressed the following research questions related to the sharing of administrative records between U.S. Federal agencies: (1) What is the life cycle flow of administrative records data on individuals and businesses between IRS, CMS, and the Census Bureau? (2) What are the significant issues that have arisen as a result of sharing administrative records related to the need to protect privacy and confidentiality? (3) What insights and potential solutions can be learned from the experience of those who have worked within the federal statistical system that would help address the significant data-sharing issues that have been identified?

The study found that each agency involved in sharing administrative records is governed by a different set of statutes and regulations that only partially overlap. This patchwork of laws and regulations greatly slows down the initiation of record sharing projects. Participants at the agencies believe that privacy safeguards are adequate and effective. Participants at the agencies expend significant effort to assure that data are protected as required by law and by interagency agreements. Each agency has its own distinct internal processes for approving and tracking record sharing projects. There are no mature government-wide shared processes or criteria for reviewing or approving projects involving multiple agencies. The current processes are slow and burdensome and discourage initiation of new projects.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Newcomer, Kathryn E.
Commitee: Cordes, Joseph, Infeld, Donna L., Lane, Julia, Regenstein, Marsha
School: The George Washington University
Department: Public Policy and Public Administration
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-A 70/08, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Management, Statistics, Public administration, Information science
Keywords: Administrative records, Data stewardship, Integrated data sets, Privacy, Public policy, Survey & census data, Titles 13 & 26
Publication Number: 3368742
ISBN: 978-1-109-29613-6
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