weights, one can classify each pair of records into three groups: a link when the composite weight is above a threshold value (U), a non link when the composite weight is below another threshold value (L), and a possible link for clerical review when the composite weight is between U and L. Furthermore, the threshold values can be calculated given the accepted probability of false matches and the probability of false nonmatches (Fellegi and Sunter, 1969; Jaro, 1989). This contrasts favorably with the link or non link dichotomy in deterministic linkage.
Since the seminal work by Fellegi and Sunter (1969), the main focus of record linkage research has been how to determine the threshold values of U and L to improve the accuracy of determining what the threshold weight is for a certain link, as well as the threshold value for a certain non link. Recent development in improving record linkage allows us to take advantage of the speed and cost that computerized and automated linkage confer, such as deterministic matching, while allowing a researcher to identify at which “level” a match would be considered to be a true one (see for example; Jaro, 1989; Winkler, 1993, 1994, 1999).
Regardless of which method of deterministic linking is used, entry errors, typographical errors, aliases, and other data transmission errors can cause problems. For example, one incorrectly entered digit of a Social Security number will produce a nonmatch between two records for which all other identifying information is the same. Names that are spelled differently across different systems also cause a problem. A first name of James that is recorded in one system as Jim and in the other as James will produce a nonmatch when the two records, in fact, belong to the same individual. The data cleaning in the record linkage process often involves (1) using consistent value-states for the data fields used for linking, (2) parsing variables into components that need to be compared, (3) dealing with typographical errors, and (4) unduplicating each source file for linkage.
Because record linking typically involves data sets from different sources, the importance of standardizing the format and values of each variable is used for linking purposes cannot be overemphasized. The exact coding schemes of all the variables from different source files used in the matching process should be examined to make sure all the data fields have consistent values. For example, males coded as “M” in one file and “1” in another file should be standardized into a same value. In the process, missing and invalid data entries also should be identified and coded accordingly. For example, a birth year 9999 should be recognized as a missing value before the data set is put into the record-linking process. Otherwise, records with a birth year 9999 from the two data sets can be linked because they have the “same” birth year. We also find that standardization of names in the matching process is important because names are often spelled differently or misspelled altogether across agency information systems. For ex-