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  • Providing assurances that research based on the data will not be published in any manner that reveals PII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.

Informational Webinars

In order to help users understand data sharing and how to use this web site, SDS conducted a series of webinars.

View Webinars  

State Data Sharing to Support Economic and Workforce Development Policymaking

Presentation PDF

This webinar hosted by the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness and the National Governors Association highlights the efforts of multi-agency teams from Iowa, Minnesota, South Carolina, Wisconsin, and Utah to increase transparency about the legal and regulatory barriers to sharing administrative data and to guide potential policy changes that would allow greater access to administrative data without compromising its privacy and confidentiality. The SDS Initiative state leaders will share their experiences with building effective data governance structures, engaging stakeholders and building multi-agency coalitions, and navigating the legislative process.

Promoting Evidence-Based Policymaking by Sharing State Administrative Data

Presentation PDF

In the 21st century data-driven economy, reliance on data and data analytics to improve outcomes has become the driving force behind most decision making across all sectors, including government, business, education, and research. Because government leaders are demanding greater transparency and accountability of their resources in light of tightening federal, state, and local budgets, access to reliable, accurate data is more important than ever. This webinar was designed to help launch this website.

Improving Public Policy Program Outcomes: The Case for Sharing Administrative Records

Presentation PDF

The SDS team presents the findings of a year-long research effort to examine the value of administrative data for research, the state laws and regulations that protect these data, and the data sharing experiences of data-gathering agencies and various data user groups. The SDS team is joined by Oklahoma Tax Commissioner, Dawn Cash, who will share her first-hand experience tackling key barriers to sharing corporate tax data to better evaluate Oklahoma's business assistance programs.

Legal Guide Book

In the form of the report below, SDS produced guidelines and additional context to assist with users' understanding of the legal landscape associated with developing Memorandums of Understanding for the purposes of data sharing.

Legal Guide Book (PDF)

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