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A Cautionary Tale about the Use of Administrative Data: Evidence from Age of Marriage Laws

  • Rebecca M. Blank
  • Kerwin Kofi Charles
  • James M. Sallee

This paper demonstrates that administrative data may be inferior to survey data under particular circumstances. We examine the effect of state laws governing the minimum age of marriage in the United States. The estimated effects of these laws are much smaller when based on retrospective reports from census versus administrative records from Vital Statistics data. This discrepancy appears due to systematic avoidance behavior of two kinds. Some young people marry in states with less restrictive laws; others appear to have misrepresented their age on their marriage certificate. Our results have important implications regarding legal avoidance and the use of administrative data. (JEL J12 K36)

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Journal: Applied Economics.

Volume (Year): 1 (2009)
Issue (Month): 2 (April)
Pages: 128-49

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aejapp:v:1:y:2009:i:2:p:128-49
Note: DOI: 10.1257/app.1.2.128
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  1. Rebecca M. Blank & Christine C. George & Rebecca A. London, 1994. "State Abortion Rates: The Impact of Policies, Providers, Politics, Demographics, and Economic Environment," NBER Working Papers 4853, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Gordon Dahl, 2010. "Early teen marriage and future poverty," Demography, Springer, vol. 47(3), pages 689-718, August.
  3. McKinnish, Terra, 2007. "Welfare-induced migration at state borders: New evidence from micro-data," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(3-4), pages 437-450, April.
  4. Slemrod, Joel, 1992. "Do Taxes Matter? Lessons from the 1980's," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(2), pages 250-56, May.
  5. D. Klepinger & S. Lundberg & R. Plotnick, . "How Does Adolescent Fertility Affect the Human Capital and Wages of Young Women?," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1145-97, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  6. Kenkel, Donald S, 1993. "Drinking, Driving, and Deterrence: The Effectiveness and Social Costs of Alternative Policies," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(2), pages 877-913, October.
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