The Opportunities and Challenges of Using Administrative Data Linkages to Evaluate Mobility

Since Alan Krueger's christening of the Great Gatsby curve, there has been increased attention given to the relationship between inequality and intergenerational social mobility in the United States. Studying intergenerational mobility (IGM) requires longitudinal data across large spans of time as well as the ability to follow parents and children over multiple generations. Few longitudinal datasets meet this need. This article surveys available data and the current and potential issues surrounding the use of administrative records to vastly extend the study of IGM. First, we describe the U.S. Census Bureau's current uses of administrative records in the linkage of households across household surveys such as the Current Population Survey (CPS), American Community Survey (ACS), Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), and the decennial censuses. Then, we describe the possibilities of creating additional parent-child linkages using the SIPP linked to decennial censuses and the ACS. Last, we outline our model to create linkages across earlier census data (e.g., 1980 and 1990) and contemporary surveys. [Reprinted by permission of Sage Publications Inc., copyright The American Academy of Political and Social Science.]