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Suggested Citation:"INTRODUCTION." National Research Council. 1991. Improving Information for Social Policy Decisions -- The Uses of Microsimulation Modeling: Volume II, Technical Papers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1853.
Page 141

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FUTURE COMPUTING ENVIRONMENTS FOR MICROSIMULATION MODELING 141 5 Future Computing Environments for Microsimulation Modeling Paul Cotton and George Sadowsky INTRODUCTION Microanalytic simulation models have been used worldwide in a variety of contexts for the past 25 years to assess the impact of alternative economic and social programs. In particular, the analysis of tax and transfer systems applied to families and individuals now depends critically on the construction and evolution of such models, and their use is routine and expected in public agencies and research organizations that address these issues. Microanalytic simulation models of nontrivial size or complexity have relied for solution on the use of digital computers. The ability to use these models in a practical manner has depended on rapid technical progress in the computing industry. This progress has allowed the complexity of microanalytic models to increase and the costs associated with a specific simulation experiment to decrease substantially over time.1 Paul Cotton is senior technical advisor at Fulcrum Technologies, Inc., in Ottawa, Canada; George Sadowsky is director of the Academic Computing Facility at New York University. The authors gratefully acknowledge the assistance of a number of colleagues in contributing to the improvement of the first draft of the chapter. The authors note that most of the analysis for this chapter was done during 1989. Since then, some of the microsimulation models we describe have been revised, and some of the computing developments that we forecast have begun to happen. 1The costs of performing a simulation experiment are distributed over several areas and include formulating the underlying microanalytic model or revising its components and setting up the specific simulation exercise, executing it, and analyzing its results. Although the actual computer-based simulation portion has decreased substantially in cost in the past 30 years, the cost and turnaround time of this step are central in that they determine the feasibility and scope of studies that can be attempted. Overall costs of microsimulation activities are increasingly dominated by the cost of research, programming, support, and operations related to microsimulation, not by computing costs.

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This volume, second in the series, provides essential background material for policy analysts, researchers, statisticians, and others interested in the application of microsimulation techniques to develop estimates of the costs and population impacts of proposed changes in government policies ranging from welfare to retirement income to health care to taxes.

The material spans data inputs to models, design and computer implementation of models, validation of model outputs, and model documentation.

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