Transforming Administrative Data into a Resource for Evidence Building

Colleagues reviewing information on a computer together

Government agencies collect large amounts of administrative data in their day-to-day activities, primarily to support program operations. This information isn't used as often as a research tool or fully harnessed for its evidence-building potential. The Administration for Children and Families' (ACF) TANF Data Innovation (TDI) project supported innovation and efficiency within the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program by expanding its use of its administrative data. This represented an important investment in using existing agency data to understand and manage the TANF program.

This brief describes TDI’s efforts to transform federal TANF and employment data into an integrated resource for program management and evidence building. This challenging project required the resolution of multiple technical, legal, and data security issues. Lessons learned may be useful for audiences interested in unlocking the potential of administrative data, including members of federal and state agencies, researchers, and advocates of evidence-informed policymaking.

Key Findings and Highlights

  • Building a collaborative, interdisciplinary team was crucial to converting administrative data into an evidence-building resource. TDI’s partnership included both ACF staff and an embedded group of team members from contractor partners.
  • The project required strategic planning, careful resource allocation, and cooperation across various levels of multiple organizations.
  • The team’s work addressed key areas of organizational capacity; data quality and suitability for research use; and data documentation to support researcher onboarding. The initiative required careful attention to the allowable uses of the data assets and negotiation of data security and privacy requirements.

Document Details

Publication Type
February 2024

Hendra, Richard, Johanna Walter, and Audrey Yu. 2024. “Transforming Administrative Data into a Resource for Evidence Building.” OPRE Report No. 2024-005. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.