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American Economic Journal: Applied Economics: Vol. 1 No. 2 (April 2009)

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

Article Citation

Blank, Rebecca M., Kerwin Kofi Charles, and James M. Sallee. 2009. "A Cautionary Tale about the Use of Administrative Data: Evidence from Age of Marriage Laws." American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 1(2): 128-49.

DOI: 10.1257/app.1.2.128

Abstract

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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Authors

Blank, Rebecca M. (Brookings Institution)
Charles, Kerwin Kofi (U Chicago)
Sallee, James M. (U Chicago)

JEL Classifications

J12: Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure; Domestic Abuse
K36: Family and Personal Law

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