Public-Use vs. Restricted-Use: An Analysis Using the American Community Survey

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Saki Kinney
Alan F Karr


Statistical agencies frequently publish microdata that have been altered to protect condentiality. Such data retain utility for many types of broad analyses but can yield biased or insufficiently precise results in others. Research access to de-identied versions of the restricted-use data with little or no alteration is often possible, albeit costly and time-consuming. We investigate the advantages and disadvantages of public-use and restricted-use data from the American Community Survey (ACS) in constructing a wage index. The public-use data used were Public Use Microdata Samples, while the restricted-use data were accessed via a Federal Statistical Research Data Center. We discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each data source and compare estimated CWIs and standard errors at the state and labor market levels. We find the results from the publicly available data are generally good relative to the restricted-use data, with greater similarity for larger areas and less similarity for smaller areas. Standard errors are higher in the public-used data but may still be underestimated.

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How to Cite
Kinney, Saki, and Alan F Karr. 2018. “Public-Use Vs. Restricted-Use: An Analysis Using the American Community Survey”. Journal of Privacy and Confidentiality 8 (1).