Economic Analysis and Statistical Disclosure Limitation


Suggested Citation

Abowd, John M. and Ian M. Schmutte (2015). "Economic Analysis and Statistical Disclosure Limitation." Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Spring.


This paper explores the consequences for economic research of methods used by data publishers to protect the privacy of their respondents. We review the concept of statistical disclosure limitation for an audience of economists who may be unfamiliar with these methods. We characterize what it means for statistical disclosure limitation to be ignorable. When it is not ignorable, we consider the effects of statistical disclosure limitation for a variety of research designs common in applied economic research. Because statistical agencies do not always report the methods they use to protect confidentiality, we also characterize settings in which statistical disclosure limitation methods are discoverable; that is, they can be learned from the released data. We conclude with advice for researchers, journal editors, and statistical agencies.