Making Wage Data Work: Creating a Federal Resource for Evidence and Transparency

Christina Pena at the National Skills Coalition: “Administrative data on employment and earnings, commonly referred to as wage data or wage records, can be used to assess the labor market outcomes of workforce, education, and other programs, providing policymakers, administrators, researchers, and the public with valuable information. However, there is no single readily accessible federal source of wage data which covers all workers. Noting the importance of employment and earnings data to decision makers, the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking called for the creation of a single federal source of wage data for statistical purposes and evaluation. They recommended three options for further exploration: expanding access to systems that already exist at the U.S. Census Bureau or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), or creating a new database at the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).

This paper reviews current coverage and allowable uses, as well as federal and state actions required to make each option viable as a single federal source of wage data that can be accessed by government agencies and authorized researchers. Congress and the President, in conjunction with relevant federal and state agencies, should develop one or more of those options to improve wage information for multiple purposes. Although not assessed in the following review, financial as well as privacy and security considerations would influence the viability of each scenario. Moreover, if a system like the Commission-recommended National Secure Data Service for sharing data between agencies comes to fruition, then a wage system might require additional changes to work with the new service….(More)”