Tuesday, December 11, 2012

'Data driven' requires data

UPDATE...   hold the electrons.  The IRS site has been changed and now has this header.

State and county migration statistics will continue to be produced and posted on this site. Statistics for 1990 through 2010 are currently available. Statistics for 2011 will be posted as soon as they are completed. In addition, work is underway at IRS and the Bureau of the Census to develop additional migration statistics that take advantage of improved data that have recently become available.

This is really for the true data nerds out there, but worth a look.

To begin, the National Review Online has a short oped of sorts: An Embarrassing Metric Disappears.  The punch line is that migration data made available by the IRS, data used by a lot of us over a long time, may no longer be distributed.

I actually don't agree that the migration data in question is embarrassing, or at least not in the way implied.  Americans move, and they move a lot.  The thread of thought that taxes in themselves determine where people move nationally is not really supported by a lot of research. Take for example the big reversal in trend in migration into Pittsburgh in recent years.  Have any tax rates across the Pittsburgh region dropped over that time to explain that?  The logic just does not work with the data. 

Nonetheless, it does appear that the data is going away.

Which means that data we have used a long time to study trends in the region may be no more.  The last complete parse I have of this IRS migration data for the Pittsburgh region is online here fyi. Without that data, that version of the report may be the last ever.  Colleagues long before me have been doing similar work with IRS data analyzing trends in the Pittsburgh since the 1980s.  So this is a big change. Back in the day, compiling the data even with the IRS' help was a bit painful and beyond what the average public could do. They have made the data easier to use of late and via the governments data.gov initiative, the national file of IRS migration data has empowered a whole host of data driven info-products.  It may have been one of the bigger data enablers to come from data.gov in my opinion.  But no more?

The message there on the IRS site points us all to migration data compiled by the Census Bureau... much of which is from the sample based ACS.  While useful, it really is far more limited data that will be harder to draw conclusions from.   Alas, I was going to use the data that should have just been coming out with migration through 2011 to count how many folks have been moving from Texas and Oklahoma to Bradford County in Pennsylvania. I guess we will never really know for sure. 


Anonymous BrianTH said...

If I had read only the announcement on the IRS site, I would conclude it was just moving the online location of the data releases in question, not actually discontinuing the program.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012 9:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Alex B. said...

I don't generally get alarmist over gov actions, but this just doesn't seem right.

In this day of digital data, how expensive could it be to compile the data for public use? Perhaps there is more going on than meets the eye.

Perhaps someone is embarrassed that there isn't anything embarrassing to show.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012 11:04:00 PM  

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