Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Census Bureau Obscured Personal Data

Too Well, Some Say - Wall Street Journal

A study has found the agency went too far hiding individual identities, introducing errors that might lead economists and demographers astray. By relying on the microdata, researchers would have found, for example, evidence of a steep drop-off in marriage rates for women at age 65, or of a big rise in the proportion of women in their early 70s who are working—both false conclusions.

The anomalies highlight how vulnerable research is to potential problems with underlying numbers supplied by other sources, even when the source is the government. And they illustrate how tricky it can be to balance privacy with accuracy.

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