1504.0 - Methodological News, Jun 2020  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 17/06/2020   
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Creating and Maintaining the Person Linkage Spine

The ABS has developed the Person Linkage Spine (the ‘Spine’) to efficiently and effectively combine person-centred administrative datasets to create a comprehensive picture of Australia over time.

As there is no single unique identifier for Australians across government datasets, commonwealth and state data must be brought together using data integration methods. The ABS has developed the Spine as an enduring piece of data linking infrastructure that is the core of the Multi-Agency Data Integration Project (MADIP) data asset.

The Spine aims to broadly cover all people who were residents in Australia from 2006 onwards by integrating information from three core datasets: Medicare Consumer Directory (MCD), Social Security & Related Information (SSRI) and Personal Income Tax (PIT). The first production Spine was created by the ABS in 2018 and included persons who were active in any of the three core datasets.

The Spine refresh completed in July 2019 improved the population coverage and quality of the information on the Spine by adding additional information from both the Tax and SSRI datasets. These changes particularly improved the representation of low-income earners and late lodgers of income tax returns on the Spine, as well as improving analysts’ understanding of family structures.

To maintain the quality and relevance of the Spine and data integration projects over time, the Spine needs to be updated to incorporate additional years of data for the core datasets.

The May 2020 Spine refresh extended all the core datasets of the Spine from 31 December 2016 to 30 June 2019, added new linking data (such as change of address) for all persons on the Spine and expanded the scope of the Tax dataset to significantly improve the coverage of migrants on the Spine.

These updates greatly increase the quality and coverage of the Spine and thus it’s utility in bringing together data in MADIP to support timely analysis of the Australian residential population by government policy makers and researchers.

The Spine has created a foundational linking infrastructure which is a sound basis for extending across time (longitudinally) and expanding to include datasets from across a broad range of sectors and jurisdictions. With a planned annual refresh process, the Spine will continue to be maintained over time and improved to meet the rapidly growing needs of analysts.

For further information please see:
MADIP data asset
Access to MADIP

For enquiries about the Spine creation and maintenance please contact Brett Frazer at methodology@abs.gov.au. For MADIP enquiries please contact dipa@abs.gov.au.

The ABS Privacy Policy outlines how the ABS will handle any personal information that you provide to us.