State governments are demanding more rigorous analysis and evaluation of government funded economic and workforce development programs. 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.
As part of this project, CREC collected information about data-sharing issues from 65 national and state experts, supplementing those insights with the development of a database of the actual laws and regulations governing data-sharing in more than 40 states.
The report summarizes the findings from our 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 are also discussed, including 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:
- 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;
- 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;
- Providing greater visibility to and more resources for agency efforts to streamline data sharing policies and processes; and
- 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.
The Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness is a national nonprofit organization focused on encouraging evidence-based economic and workforce development policy. The SDS Initiative helps achieve that mission by improving the quality of data to support better decision making.