Tuesday 28 February 2017

Harder than it needs to be

The Niskanen Centre shows that immigrants in the United States make less use of government-funded welfare programmes.

It's a nice piece that quickly debunks a lot of popular myths about immigrants.

But it makes me weep how much harder that work is to do here than it is in the USA.

If I want to know, in the US, about whether foreign-born people have higher welfare uptake rates than domestic, all I need to do is go to IPUMS, go to the Current Population Survey, select the variables I want and the years I want extracted, hit the extract request button, and wait for the email saying that the subsample has been extracted for me.

Or, even more easily, I can use their online data analysis tool. And so I did. I'd registered previously with IPUMS. I had to fill in another form to get access to CPS data, which I hadn't used there before. The form auto-populated with the stuff they had on me already. I told them why I wanted the data, then clicked over into the SDA interface for the CPS. Here's what the interface looks like: it's the basic SDA interface Berkeley has that you'll be familiar with from the US GSS - which anybody can use without any login, straight from the website (here you need multi-week approval processes not just to get the data, but for any subsequent use of the data which is different from the purpose which you specified when you got the data in the first place).

If you care about open data, head over to IPUMS to see what is possible. Or even just navigate the SDA interface for the American General Social Survey.

That same work in New Zealand wouldn't be easy. The closest you could get is income source by ethnicity in the 2013 Census publicly available files. I think. Linking that to country of birth would be a specialised data request to Stats, or a trip to the data lab. There is a Confidentialised Unit Record File for the Census - similar to the PUMS available in the US on ACS data. But where anybody with a browser can download the American 5% or 1% samples, you have to make application through the data lab for access to the confidentialised unit record files.

Today StatsNZ put up some new work showing that the wage gap between childless men and women is tiny, while the wage gap between fathers and mothers is larger. It's nice that they've thought to check this, but the damned problem with StatsNZ is that their whole setup requires a stats analyst to think "Ok, maybe people would also be interested in this way of cross-tabulating the data." If you want to know something they haven't added, it's a multi-week application process for access to New Zealand's General Social Survey, for example. And running the HLFS data to adjust for whether the respondent has had a child - that would likely be a trip to the data lab. Meanwhile, American data is just a mouse-click away.

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