A new report describes how state administrative data records can support more rigorous analysis and evaluation of economic and workforce development programs. Guest blogger Greg Hirschfeld provides an overview of this useful study.

Administrative records, which are data regularly collected through the operation or administration of state or local programs, contain important information on the characteristics and behaviors of companies and workers.  These records, such as corporate tax and unemployment insurance filings, hold great promise to improve program outcomes.

The Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC) report, Improving State Administrative Data Sharing: A Strategy to Promote Evidence-Based Economic and Workforce Development Policymaking, highlights the legal and regulatory environment, best practices, and reform efforts that encourage safe and secure data sharing in ways that protect confidentiality while improving program evaluation.

The report summarizes the findings from CREC’s research and offers a new framework for understanding individual state policies.  States can use administrative records to analyze and evaluate programs to their benefit in a number of ways.  For instance, data sharing:

  • helps improve the quality of program evaluation efforts
  • reduces the costs associated with conducting rigorous evaluations
  • ensures that agencies can more readily identify potential program related fraud, and
  • provides a third-party source for benchmarking data provided directly to the program agency by client firms or individuals

Despite these benefits, significant barriers limit data-sharing.  These include state data governance policy, data sharing process management, information technology requirements and limitations, and user understanding and accessibility.

The CREC report recommends that state efforts to encourage data-sharing focus on four areas:

  1. Educating state leaders on the value of administrative data and how it can support more evidence based policymaking while reducing government costs to evaluate programs;
  2. Encouraging agency leaders and staff to understand that sharing data for appropriate purposes and maintaining the highest standards of data confidentiality are not mutually exclusive;
  3. Providing greater visibility to and more resources for agency efforts to streamline data sharing policies and processes; and
  4. Establishing more structured and transparent processes for reviewing data sharing requests.

The report is part of a two-year State Data Sharing (SDS) Initiative. While focused on economic and workforce development, the lessons can inform actions in broader policy areas, like education, health, and criminal justice policy. SDS seeks to improve public policy program outcomes by enabling evidence-based policymaking through greater sharing of state administrative records in support of rigorous policy analysis and program evaluation. CREC has also created a website to share information and tools about the SDS Initiative, www.statedatasharing.org.