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Towards Unrestricted Public Use Business Microdata: The Synthetic Longitudinal Business Database


  • Satkartar K. Kinney
  • Jerome P. Reiter
  • Arnold P. Reznek
  • Javier Miranda
  • Ron S. Jarmin
  • John M. Abowd


In most countries, national statistical agencies do not release establishment-level business microdata, because doing so represents too large a risk to establishments\' confidentiality. One approach with the potential for overcoming these risks is to release synthetic data; that is, the released establishment data are simulated from statistical models designed to mimic the distributions of the underlying real microdata. In this article, we describe an application of this strategy to create a public use file for the Longitudinal Business Database, an annual economic census of establishments in the United States comprising more than 20 million records dating back to 1976. The U.S. Bureau of the Census and the Internal Revenue Service recently approved the release of these synthetic microdata for public use, making the synthetic Longitudinal Business Database the first-ever business microdata set publicly released in the United States. We describe how we created the synthetic data, evaluated analytical validity, and assessed disclosure risk.
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Suggested Citation

  • Satkartar K. Kinney & Jerome P. Reiter & Arnold P. Reznek & Javier Miranda & Ron S. Jarmin & John M. Abowd, 2011. "Towards Unrestricted Public Use Business Microdata: The Synthetic Longitudinal Business Database," International Statistical Review, International Statistical Institute, vol. 79(3), pages 362-384, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:istatr:v:79:y:2011:i:3:p:362-384
    DOI: j.1751-5823.2011.00153.x

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    Cited by:

    1. Tatiana Komarova & Denis Nekipelov & Evgeny Yakovlev, 2018. "Identification, data combination, and the risk of disclosure," Quantitative Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 9(1), pages 395-440, March.
    2. Felix Ritchie & Jim Smith, 2019. "Confidentiality and linked data," Papers 1907.06465,
    3. Javier Miranda & Lars Vilhuber, 2016. "Using Partially Synthetic Microdata to Protect Sensitive Cells in Business Statistics," Working Papers 16-10, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    4. Daniel H. Weinberg & John M. Abowd & Robert F. Belli & Noel Cressie & David C. Folch & Scott H. Holan & Margaret C. Levenstein & Kristen M. Olson & Jerome P. Reiter & Matthew D. Shapiro & Jolene Smyth, 2017. "Effects of a Government-Academic Partnership: Has the NSF-Census Bureau Research Network Helped Improve the U.S. Statistical System?," Working Papers 17-59r, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    5. Ori Heffetz & Katrina Ligett, 2014. "Privacy and Data-Based Research," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 28(2), pages 75-98, Spring.
    6. Ian Lundberg & Arvind Narayanan & Karen Levy & Matthew Salganik, 2018. "Privacy, ethics, and data access: A case study of the Fragile Families Challenge," Working Papers wp18-09-ff, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Research on Child Wellbeing..
    7. Allen Tran, 2013. "Customer Driven Establishment Dynamics and Allocative Efficiency," 2013 Meeting Papers 115, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    8. John M. Abowd & Ian M. Schmutte & Lars Vilhuber, 2018. "Disclosure Limitation and Confidentiality Protection in Linked Data," Working Papers 18-07, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    9. Joshua Snoke & Gillian M. Raab & Beata Nowok & Chris Dibben & Aleksandra Slavkovic, 2018. "General and specific utility measures for synthetic data," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 181(3), pages 663-688, June.
    10. Joseph W. Sakshaug & Trivellore E. Raghunathan, 2014. "Generating synthetic microdata to estimate small area statistics in the American Community Survey," Statistics in Transition new series, Główny Urząd Statystyczny (Polska), vol. 15(3), pages 341-368, June.
    11. Klein, Martin & Sinha, Bimal, 2015. "Likelihood-based inference for singly and multiply imputed synthetic data under a normal model," Statistics & Probability Letters, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 168-175.
    12. Little Roderick J., 2013. "Discussion," Journal of Official Statistics, Sciendo, vol. 29(3), pages 363-366, June.
    13. Gary Benedetto & Jordan C. Stanley & Evan Totty, 2018. "The Creation and Use of the SIPP Synthetic Beta v7.0," CES Technical Notes Series 18-03, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    14. John M. Abowd & Ian M. Schmutte, 2015. "Economic Analysis and Statistical Disclosure Limitation," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 46(1 (Spring), pages 221-293.
    15. Satkartar K. Kinney & Jerome P. Reiter & Javier Miranda, 2014. "Improving The Synthetic Longitudinal Business Database," Working Papers 14-12, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    16. Hang J. Kim & Jerome P. Reiter & Alan F. Karr, 2018. "Simultaneous edit-imputation and disclosure limitation for business establishment data," Journal of Applied Statistics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 45(1), pages 63-82, January.

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