IDEA Handbook

map of the world with data points overlay


The Innovations in Data and Experiments for Action Initiative (IDEA) invited selected authors to contribute to the Handbook on Using Administrative Data for Research and Evidence-Based Policy (IDEA Handbook), supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The IDEA handbook is edited by Shawn Cole (Harvard Business School), Iqbal Dhaliwal (J-PAL), Anja Sautmann (World Bank), and Lars Vilhuber (Cornell University).

The IDEA Handbook serves as a go-to reference for researchers seeking to use administrative data and for data providers looking to make their data accessible for research. The handbook is published online under an open licensing model and freely available to all. It provides information, best practices, and case studies on how to create privacy-protected access to, handle, and analyze administrative data, with the aim of pushing the research frontier as well as informing evidence-based policy innovations.

In addition to an introduction by Daniel L. Goroff of the Sloan Foundation and an overview of administrative data, the handbook includes a range of chapters by contributing authors, reflecting diverse applications and a deep knowledge of administrative data in research and evidence-based policy. The online edition of the handbook was published on September 25, 2020.

Part 1 – Technical Chapters

The first section of the handbook provides guidance on specific topics common to most data access efforts. The summary sections in Part 1 condense the case studies into recommendations, best practices, and explicit guidance by the editors of this handbook. Additional thematic chapters focus on particular issues, such as ethics, privacy, or legal framework. These chapters augment the range of topics touched upon in the case studies, and provide normative answers to future questions not raised by the historical case studies.

Table  1 Technical Chapters
Author Title
Daniel L. Goroff (Sloan Foundation) Foreword
Shawn Cole (Harvard Business School)
Iqbal Dhaliwal (J-PAL)
Anja Sautmann (J-PAL)
Jim Shen (J-PAL)
Lars Vilhuber (Cornell University)
Overview of the administrative data landscape
Jim Shen (J-PAL)
Lars Vilhuber (Cornell University)
Physically protecting sensitive data
Amy O’Hara (Georgetown University) Model Data Use Agreements-- A Practical Guide
Kathleen Murphy (Northwestern University, ret.)     Collaborating with the Institutional Review Board (IRB) when conducting human research with administrative data
Ian Schmutte (University of Georgia) 
Lars Vilhuber (Cornell University)
Balancing Privacy and Data Usability: An Overview of Disclosure Avoidance Methods
Michah Altman (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Kobi Nissim (Georgetown University)
Salil Vadhan (Harvard University)
Alexandra Wood (Harvard University)
Designing Access with Differential Privacy

Part 2 – Case Studies

The selected case study contributions in this Handbook cover a broad spectrum of possible scenarios, problems, and solutions, and data access mechanisms around the world, with a focus on providing lessons applicable to the US context. We provide examples from national, sub-national, local, and private-sector instances of data provision. Examples focus on, but are not limited to, data providers who work with researchers conducting randomized experiments with the data provided.

Table  2 Case Studies
Author Title
Eric Bettinger (Stanford University)
Moonhawk Kim (San Francisco Unified School District, former)
Norma Ming (San Francisco Unified School District)
Michelle Reininger (Stanford University)
Jim Shen (Stanford University, former)
Laura Wentworth (California Education Partners)
The Stanford-SFUSD Partnership: Development of Data-Sharing Structures and Processes
Hugh Cole (City of Cape Town)
Kelsey Jack (University of California, Santa Barbara)
Brendan Maughan-Brown (J-PAL Africa)
Derek Strong (University of California, Santa Barbara)
City of Cape Town, South Africa: Aligning Internal Data Capabilities with External Research Partnerships
Donna Curtis-Maillet (University of New Brunswick)
Ted McDonald (University of New Brunswick)
New Brunswick Institute for Research, Data and Training, University of New Brunswick: A Ten-Year Partnership Between Government and Academia - the Establishment of NB-IRDT
Joshua D. Hawley (Ohio State University) Ohio and the Longitudinal Data Archive: Developing Mutually Beneficial Partnerships Between State Government and the Research Community
Laura Feeney (J-PAL North America)
Amy Finkelstein (MIT)
Aurora Health Care: Using Electronic Medical Records for a Randomized Evaluation of Clinical Decision Support
Leslie Jeng (Private Capital Research Institute)    
Therese Juneau (Private Capital Research Institute)
Josh Lerner (Harvard Business School)
The Private Capital Research Institute: Making Private Data Accessible in an Opaque Industry
Vivi Alatas (World Bank)
Farah Amalia (J-PAL Southeast Asia)
Abhijit Banerjee (MIT)
Rema Hanna (Harvard Kennedy School)
Benjamin A. Olken (MIT)
Sudarno Sumarto (SMERU Research Institute)
Putu Poppy Widyasari (J-PAL Southeast Asia)
Using Administrative Data to Improve Social Protection in Indonesia
Dana Müller (Institute for Employment Research)
Philipp vom Berge (Institute for Employment Research) 
Institute for Employment Research, Germany: Access to Administrative Labor Market Data for International Researchers
Maria Ruth Jones (World Bank)
Arianna Legovini (World Bank) 
Administrative Data in Research at the World Bank: the Case of Development Impact Evaluation (DIME)
Era Dabla-Norris (International Monetary Fund)
Federico Diez (International Monetary Fund)
Romain Alexandre Duval (International Monetary Fund)
The Use of Administrative Data at the International Monetary Fund

More about the IDEA Handbook

Read the Handbook on Using Administrative Data for Research and Evidence-Based Policy for free online. Downloadable PDF and ebook versions are available, and hardcover copies can be purchased as well.

Watch recorded presentations from the IDEA Handbook Webinar Series

For more information please contact Evan Williams.

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