Detecting Problems in Survey Data Using Benford's Law

30 Pages Posted: 23 Feb 2006 Last revised: 4 Nov 2007

See all articles by George Judge

George Judge

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics

Laura Schechter

University of Wisconsin at Madison - Agricultural and Applied Economics; University of Wisconsin at Madison - Economics

Date Written: November 1, 2007

Abstract

It is 15:00 on Friday in Nairobi. Do you know where your enumerators are?? Good quality data is paramount for applied economic research. If the data are distorted, corresponding conclusions may be incorrect. We demonstrate how Benford's law, the distribution that first digits of numbers in certain data sets should follow, can be used to test for data abnormalities. We conduct an analysis of nine commonly used datasets and find that much data from developing countries is of poor quality while data from the US seems to be of uniformly better quality. Female and male respondents give data of similar quality.

Keywords: Benford's law, first-digit phenomenon, relative frequencies, data errors, survey quality

JEL Classification: C10, C24

Suggested Citation

Judge, George G. and Schechter, Laura, Detecting Problems in Survey Data Using Benford's Law (November 1, 2007). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=885685 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.885685

George G. Judge

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics ( email )

207 Giannini Hall
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Laura Schechter (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin at Madison - Agricultural and Applied Economics ( email )

427 Lorch St.
Madison, WI 53706-1503
United States

HOME PAGE: http://aae.wisc.edu/lschechter

University of Wisconsin at Madison - Economics ( email )

William H. Sewell Social Science Building
1180 Observatory Drive
Madison, WI 53706-1393
United States

HOME PAGE: http://aae.wisc.edu/lschechter

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