Issues in Accessing and Using Administrative Data

Publication Date: March 27, 2017

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Policymakers are increasingly interested in using administrative data to address policy-relevant research questions. In order to make use of administrative data for social policy research, there are multiple issues to consider.

Issues in accessing and using administrative data highlighted in this brief include:

  • layers of access;
  • the importance of relationships;
  • the necessity of both confidentiality and access for conducting good research, and;
  • the need for capacity building related to use of administrative data


The purpose of this brief is to provide an overview of use and access issues to consider when using administrative data for social policy research.

Key Findings and Highlights

  • Access is one of the major issues in using administrative data for research purposes.
  • Strong relationships among researchers, program staff, data managers, and other data stewards are important. Each partner makes important contributions to the research.
  • Both confidentiality and access are important and necessary to conducting good research.
  • Building capacity related to the use of administrative data for social policy research requires considering the multiple:
    • roles related to using administrative data
    • levels at which capacity must be built
    • areas to address when building capacity, such as data systems, knowledge and expertise, and organizational culture


Maxwell, K. (2017). Issues in Accessing and Using Administrative Data, OPRE Report #2017-24, Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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