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Robert F. Schoeni photo

Preserving and Utilizing Historical Data in the PSID

a PSC Research Project

Investigators:   Robert F. Schoeni, Charles C. Brown, Katherine A. McGonagle

The Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) is the world?s longest running household panel survey. With over 40 years of data on the same families and their descendents, the PSID is a cornerstone of the data infrastructure for empirically-based social science research in the U.S. and the world. The PSID began in a time period when most surveys were conducted using paper and pencil. Computer assisted interviewing, let alone web-based interviewing, was still decades away. A paper questionnaire was printed for each respondent, and the interviewer wrote the respondents answers directly on the instrument. This approach was used in the PSID from 1968 to 1992. The completed paper interviews were then mailed to Ann Arbor for data entry personnel and data processors would create the electronic file. For answers to questions that required coding ? e.g., occupation or industry ? the handwritten open-ended responses written on the instrument were not typed into the electronic data file, but instead the response was coded into a categorical variable. The instruments also contained extensive notes in the margins made by the interviewer, providing important information to the data processors about various aspects of the data being reported by the respondent that was not captured by the structured interview. These so-called "marginal notes" have been used extensively by PSID data processors to generate accurate data values. Even today, PSID data processors retrieve completed paper interviews from the archive as they attempt to reconcile conflicting information over time. The aims of this project are twofold:
Aim 1: Scan all completed paper instruments from 1968 to 1992, consisting of an estimated 15 million document pages. The resulting electronic documents would preserve the data on the paper instruments which are deteriorating, make it easier and cheaper for PSID data processors to access this historical information, and facilitate future projects that would generate new variables that would be made available to scientists.
Aim 2: Create appropriate electronic versions of all PSID interviewer training documents, 1968 to the present, and make these documents available to all users through the PSID website.

Funding Period: 10/01/2012 to 09/30/2016

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