could also participate in cross-agency cooperative efforts to improve the available data for monitoring and evaluating health and social welfare programs. These agencies sponsor surveys (e.g., the Panel Study of Income Dynamics) that have provided useful information in the past and that could both contribute to and build on improvements in the major national household surveys.

Given that national surveys cannot carry the entire burden of providing needed data for program analysis, workshop participants stressed the importance of forming partnerships that could provide useful data for linking with national surveys, supplementing them, and evaluating the quality of their responses. Such partnerships would involve the collaboration of federal statistical and policy agencies with state agencies.

Workshop participants also noted that several private foundations and other organizations are involved in data collection to assess changes in health and welfare programs (see Table 1). While private organizations often have their own interests in terms of question content and may obtain only limited data, it could be mutually beneficial for them and government agencies to exchange information about questionnaire design and administration and survey results.

The utility of coordinating efforts between the states and the federal government was underscored at the workshop. Linking national survey data with state and local administrative data through exact matches of records for individuals and households is a way not only to validate the survey data, but also to add information from the administrative records that is not readily collected in a survey. States can also help to ensure the relevance and quality of national household surveys by reviewing questionnaire wording and other aspects of survey design from their knowledge of local program operations and policy concerns.

Workshop participants noted further that, under PRWORA, states have strong financial incentives to produce timely reports but few incentives or resources to design comparable, reliable and accessible data, while the federal government has a strong interest in ensuring the development of a consistent and reliable tracking system for the new state programs. By forming partnerships, the states and federal government could better assure consistency and reliability of measures, while the states could reduce the costs of implementing new administrative data systems.10

However, an unintended result of devolution may be that it places new barriers in the way of intergovernmental partnerships that are designed to improve the accuracy and availability of data on health and social welfare programs. PRWORA, along with the granting of administrative waivers, makes state and local governments increasingly responsible for welfare programs and their outcomes. To the extent that data provided by federal-state linkages can be used to critically examine welfare programs, states may be reluctant to reveal information and to enter into partnerships with the federal government.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) provides an example of a successful federal-state data collaboration effort on a highly politically charged issue. Originally, states did not want measures of educational achievement that could be compared across jurisdictions, and NAEP was designed so that only national-level estimates could be produced from the data. Subsequently, increasing public concern about educational issues led to a willingness on the part of the states to compare their performance, and NAEP was recently redesigned to provide state-level estimates.

Other types of data linkages that were discussed at the workshop concerned integration of survey responses from households with data from other sources, such as reports of employers and

10  

Brady and Snow (1996) suggest that the development of data systems to track caseloads over time and across counties, as mandated by PRWORA, will pose substantial challenges for many states.



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