Published: July 20, 2018

Download: Life Course Centre Working Paper: 2018-11


Melanie Spallek, Michele Haynes, Janeen Baxter, and Nicole Kapelle.

Non-Technical Summary:

Government administrative data is increasingly accessible to social researchers providing new opportunities to examine social behaviour, life course pathways, and evaluations of social policies and programs. This paper outlines results from a collaboration with the Australian Government Department of Human Services (DHS) where administrative data was used to address a substantive research and policy question concerning the association between income support and relationship breakdown. Overall, we explored a process by which a team of university-based researchers could effectively partner with an Australian Government agency to securely generate research evidence from administrative data that records income support payment information for the entire population. We applied innovative statistical methods to investigate the research question and found that unpartnered individuals, following initial receipt of income support payments in a partnered relationship, are significantly less likely to exit payment receipt

Our research highlights some of the strengths and limitations of administrative data compared to survey data and the importance of close collaboration with data custodians when analysing administrative data. Current directions and trends toward more open data access in Australia, as well as many other countries, suggest that new opportunities for realising the value of administrative data for research, as well as policy design and evaluation will become increasingly available. This is unlikely to negate the importance of continuing to collect rich longitudinal data from national survey samples, such as that provided by HILDA, but it does open new possibilities for important new research and policy insights into hard-to-reach minority groups, who are often under-represented in sample surveys. For researchers concerned with understanding pathways into and out of disadvantage for such groups, as is the case for those involved in the Life Course Centre, access to administrative data is thus imperative and an exciting new development in social science infrastructure.


July 19, 2018