NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Morgan A. Henderson

University of Michigan
Department of Economics
611 Tappan St
Ann Arbor, MI 48103

E-Mail: EmailAddress: hidden: you can email any NBER-related person as first underscore last at nber dot org

NBER Working Papers and Publications

November 2017How Well Do Automated Methods Perform in Historical Samples? Evidence from New Ground Truth
with Martha Bailey, Connor Cole, Catherine Massey: w24019
New large-scale data linking projects are revolutionizing empirical social science. Outside of selected samples and tightly restricted data enclaves, little is known about the quality of these “big data” or how the methods used to create them shape inferences. This paper evaluates the performance of commonly used automated record-linking algorithms in three high quality historical U.S. samples. Our findings show that (1) no method (including hand linking) consistently produces samples representative of the linkable population; (2) automated linking tends to produce very high rates of false matches, averaging around one third of links across datasets and methods; and (3) false links are systematically (though differently) related to baseline sample characteristics. A final exercise demonstr...
 
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