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Session Slot: 10:30-12:20 Tuesday

Estimated Audience Size: 100

AudioVisual Request: regular - overhead projector

Panel Session Title: Should We Continue To Release Public-Use Microdata Files?

Statistical data from censuses and surveys are disseminated in text, tabular, graphic, and microdata formats. The last of these, which has substantially enhanced the utility of census and survey data, is a product of the computer age. Data users receive files of individual records, giving them the ability to interact with the data set and perform the tabulations and statistical analyses that are best suited to their own purposes. Two principles have been applied to the release of microdata files - restricted data and restricted access. For virtually all releases of microdata files, data are restricted by removing explicit identifiers and taking other steps to limit the possibility that individuals can be identified. In some instances, access is restricted to certain categories of users, such as those who have research grants with a federal agency or those who are willing to work with the files at a federal site. Users in these categories are generally subject to penalties for violating the terms of their access to the files. A public-use microdata file is one for which there are no restrictions on access, other than payment of the cost of a tape or CD- ROM. Some public-use microdata files can be downloaded via the Internet. In recent years, Rubin, Fienberg, and others have proposed to eliminate all risk that individuals can be identified by releasing microdata files containing only synthetic data - records that do not contain information for specific individuals but, in the aggregate, retain the statistical properties of the real records.

Several federal statistical agencies are currently releasing public-use microdata sets and plan to do so in the future, e.g., from the 2000 Census of Population. However, some respected statisticians argue that this practice cannot continue indefinitely - that with the rapid development of more efficient computer matching programs and the proliferation of computerized information about individuals available from both the public and private sectors, the risks of disclosure of the identities of persons whose records are included in public-use data sets will become unacceptably high. The purpose of this panel discussion is to discuss the risks and benefits associated with continued release of public-use microdata files and to discuss the pros and cons of alternative approaches - restricted access and release of synthetic data files.

Theme Session: Yes

Applied Session: Yes

Panel Organizer: Jabine, Thomas B. Independent Consultant

Address: 3231 Worthington St., NW, Washington, DC 20015-2362

Phone: 202-244-4179



Panel Organizer: de Wolf, Virginia A. US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Address: 1719 Luzerne Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20910-1510

Phone: 202-606-7374

Fax: 202-606-7426


Session Timing: 110 minutes total (Sorry about format):

110 minutes total...please allocate Opening Remarks by Chair - 5 minutes First Panelist - 15 minutes Second Panelist - 15 minutes Third Panelist - 15 minutes Fourth Panelist - 15 minutes Fifth Panelist - 15 minutes Rebuttals/Discussion Among Panel Members - 15 minutes Floor Discussion - 15 minutes

Panel Chair: Kirkendall, Nancy J. US Office of Management and Budget

Address: OMB, OIRA, Statistical Policy Branch, NEOB, Room 10201, 725-17th St., NW, Washington, DC 20503

Phone: 202-395-7315

Fax: 202-395-7245


David, Martin   University of Wisconsin

Address: Univ. of Wisc., Dept. of Economics, 6440 Soc. Sci., Bldg., 1180 Observatory Dr., Madison, WI 53706

Phone: 608-262-3281

Fax: 608-263-3876


Fienberg, Stephen E.   Carnegie Mellon University

Address: Carnegie Mellon University, Dept. of Statistics, Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Phone: 412-268-2723

Fax: 412-268-7828


Gordon, Nancy M.   Census Bureau

Address: Census Bureau, Room 2061-3, Washington, DC 20233

Phone: 301-457-2126

Fax: 301-457-3761


Juster, F. Thomas   University of Michigan

Address: Univ. of Michigan, Inst. for Social Research, PO Box 1248, Room 3240, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1248

Phone: 313-764-4207

Fax: 313-647-1186


Scheuren, Frederick J.   Ernst & Young

Address: 1402 Ruffner Road, Alexandria, VA 22302-4217

Phone: 202-327-6000



List of speakers who are nonmembers: None

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David Scott