Data Sharing for Policy Analysis & Program Evaluation

Sharing administrative data for policy analysis and program evaluation purposes can improve evidence available to state leaders as they determine which economic and workforce development programs are likely to produce the greatest benefits for the state’s economy, workers, and communities. Data-gathering agencies that have trusted and secure data sharing processes in place can share their data with other government agencies and outside researchers, while always protecting the privacy and confidentiality of the data collected.

What is Data Sharing?

Data sharing is a formal process by which state agencies that collect and manage administrative records, such as corporate income tax and unemployment insurance records, may grant other government agencies and outside researchers access to microdata within those records to support authorized activities.

Data Sharing Agreements

The transfer of administrative data from one agency to another is facilitated by the establishment of formal data sharing agreements. These agreements are required by federal and state data confidentiality laws. While the format of agreements varies from state to state, some common elements of agreements include:

  • Determining specific purposes for which data may be used
  • Identifying groups or individuals that will have access to the data
  • Designating a set timeframe for data usage before requisite return to the lending agency or proper disposal of data
  • Establishing safeguards to ensure that data remains confidential
Data Protection Safeguards

Because the microdata contained in administrative records includes personally identifiable information (PII), establishing safeguards to protect the data disclosed is a critical component of data sharing agreements. Some common safeguards include:

  • Maintaining a secure physical facility for storing the data that is subject to periodic on-site audits
  • Requiring staff with access to the data to sign an acknowledgement of the criminal penalties for unauthorized use or disclosure of the data
  • Providing assurances that research based on the data will not be published in any manner that reveals PII

Data Sharing Toolkit

The Data Sharing Toolkit provides guidance and templates to help state policymakers construct data confidentiality laws and regulations and data sharing agreements that ensure the protection of sensitive data and support appropriate access for policy analysis and program evaluation. The toolkit also provides information on other organizations with an interest in advancing evidence-based decision making to improve the impact of public economic and workforce development investments.

SDS Landscape

Resource Organizations

There is a growing network of organizations that can provide further support to groups seeking to improve economic and workforce development program outcomes through more rigorous policy analysis and program evaluation. Some of these organizations include:

Associations and non-profits
  • Center for Innovative Technology
  • Child Trends
  • Common Education Data Standards
  • Education Research & Data Center
  • National Governors Association
  • National Skills Coalition
  • The Center for IDEA Early Childhood Data Systems
  • The Hunt Institute
  • Workforce Data Quality Campaign
Government agencies
  • National Center for Education Statistics
  • U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
  • United States Government Accountability Office