Expanding the Role of Synthetic Data at the U.S. Census Bureau

17 Pages Posted: 12 Apr 2014

See all articles by Ron S. Jarmin

Ron S. Jarmin

U.S. Census Bureau

Thomas Louis

Government of the United States of America - Bureau of the Census

Javier Miranda

US Census Bureau — Economy-Wide Statistics Division

Date Written: February 1, 2014

Abstract

National Statistical offices (NSOs) create official statistics from data collected from survey respondents, government administrative records and other sources. The raw source data is usually considered to be confidential. In the case of the U.S. Census Bureau, confidentiality of survey and administrative records microdata is mandated by statute, and this mandate to protect confidentiality is often at odds with the needs of users to extract as much information from the data as possible. Traditional disclosure protection techniques result in official data products that do not fully utilize the information content of the underlying microdata. Typically, these products take the form of simple aggregate tabulations. In a few cases anonymized public-use micro samples are made available, but these face a growing risk of re-identification by the increasing amounts of information about individuals and firms available in the public domain. One approach for overcoming these risks is to release products based on synthetic data where values are simulated from statistical models designed to mimic the (joint) distributions of the underlying microdata. We discuss recent Census Bureau work to develop and deploy such products. We discuss the benefits and challenges involved with extending the scope of synthetic data products in official statistics.

Keywords: confidentiality, synthetic micro data, official statistics

Suggested Citation

Jarmin, Ron S. and Louis, Thomas and Miranda, Javier, Expanding the Role of Synthetic Data at the U.S. Census Bureau (February 1, 2014). US Census Bureau Center for Economic Studies Paper No. CES-WP- 14-10, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2408030 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2408030

Ron S. Jarmin (Contact Author)

U.S. Census Bureau ( email )

4700 Silver Hill Road
Washington, DC 20233
United States

Thomas Louis

Government of the United States of America - Bureau of the Census ( email )

4600 Silver Hill Road
Washington, DC 20233-9100
United States

Javier Miranda

US Census Bureau — Economy-Wide Statistics Division ( email )

Washington, DC
United States

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