1504.0 - Methodological News, Jun 2001  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 21/07/2001   
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The Analysis Branch now has access to an administrative dataset that contains (nameless) information about persons receiving welfare payments from Centrelink. Through a Memorandum of Agreement with the Department of Family and Community Services (FaCS), the Branch is able to look at an extensive range of data about social security customers in the form of a longitudinal data set (LDS). The dataset tracks fortnightly payments to social security customers and captures customer characteristics, three quarters of which are changing over time.

The wealth of information contained in the LDS provides a comprehensive picture of flows into, out of, and transfers within the welfare payments system. It helps to capture the dynamic nature of welfare, and the characteristics of customers that affect these dynamics.

A one percent sample of the LDS data has been copied to a SAS data set and has been made available to the Branch for analysis.

ABS has a special interest in administrative and business by-product data. The Corporate Plan 2000 states that an expanded and improved national statistical service can be achieved by, among other strategies, 'better utilisation of both public and private administrative and transactional data sources". This include "developing methods for utilising the very large but imperfect datasets available through administrative and transaction data holdings...".

This year, with this broad objective in mind, the Branch started to use the data to pursue a couple of research topics. The aim is to give both ABS and FaCS a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of this very large administrative dataset, whose characteristics differ greatly from traditional censuses and surveys. The analysis focuses on aspects like data quality, useability, interpretability, and linkability with other data sources. It is hoped that in the long run this administrative dataset could offer opportunities to create new analytical or statistical products that may serve as replacements for, or supplements to, data that ABS currently collects directly.

The two research investigations (also called modules) that are currently underway are:

  • Module 1: Duration, transition and flow analyses of disability support and mature age customers; and
  • Module 2: Analysis of LDS metadata, including an investigation of the quality of Indigenous coding and implications for analyses of Indigenous issues.

The first module intends to help FaCS understand better the dynamics of welfare participation of certain groups of customers (people with disability, mature age customers, Indigenous people). The analyses make use of a variety of methods, including a suite of techniques called survival analysis. The project team is developing and testing various non-parametric, parametric and semi-parametric models to estimate survivor and hazard functions and the influences of covariates (e.g. demographic characteristics) on the probabilities of customers entering into a particular payment program, exiting it, or transferring to a different one.

The second module aims to make recommendations for improving the data structures and descriptions of the LDS, for research purposes. It looks into the quality of Indigenous identification and the degree of useability of the LDS to studies that have Indigenous perspectives.

For more information, please contact the team leader, Ruel Abello on (02) 6252 5511. The other members of the team are Anil Kumar, and John de Maio.

E-mail: ruel.abello@abs.gov.au