Coded Statutory Datasets for Public Health Law Research

Evaluation Review, Vol. 36, No 3, June 2012

21 Pages Posted: 1 Sep 2012

Date Written: August 30, 2012


Background and objectives: The evaluation of public health law requires reliable accounts of underlying statutes and regulations. States often enact public health-related statutes with nonuniform provisions, and variation in the structure of state legal codes can foster inaccuracy in evaluating the impact of specific categories of law. The optimal format for empirical analysis is a machine-readable 50-state coded data set. This study provides a comprehensive assessment of these resources and related materials with a focus on statutory data sets.

Research design: An exhaustive literature search was followed by a ‘‘pearling’’ or ‘‘snowball’’ approach to assure the most complete inventory of this very diverse and diffuse information. We also interviewed three leading investigators to identify barriers to wider use and availability of coded legal data sets.

Results: We identified relatively few accessible coded statutory data sets, and others that are not available for use outside the group or individual that compiled them. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded Public Health Law Research Program has made funding available for the development and dissemination of additional datasets, as well as extensive guidance regarding their use in the evaluation of public health law. Investigators reported serious obstacles to these activities in the past.

Conclusions: Compilation of coded statutory data sets requires a focused investment of resources that has only recently become available. Funders should require grantees to make their work accessible to other investigators so as to assure development of public health law research and evaluation.

Keywords: research methods, public health law

Suggested Citation

Costich, Julia Field, Coded Statutory Datasets for Public Health Law Research (August 30, 2012). Evaluation Review, Vol. 36, No 3, June 2012, Available at SSRN:

Julia Field Costich (Contact Author)

University of Kentucky ( email )

College of Public Health
111 Washington Ave
Lexington, KY 40536
United States
859-257-6712 (Phone)
859-257-2821 (Fax)

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