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NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Connor P. Cole

University of Michigan
Department of Economics
611 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

E-Mail: EmailAddress: hidden: you can email any NBER-related person as first underscore last at nber dot org
Institutional Affiliation: University of Michigan

NBER Working Papers and Publications

November 2017How Well Do Automated Linking Methods Perform? Lessons from U.S. Historical Data
with Martha Bailey, Morgan Henderson, Catherine Massey: w24019
This paper reviews the literature in historical record linkage in the U.S. and examines the performance of widely-used automated record linking algorithms in two high-quality historical datasets and one synthetic ground truth. Focusing on algorithms in current practice, our findings highlight the important effects of linking methods on data quality. We find that (1) no method (including hand-linking) consistently produces representative samples; (2) 15 to 37 percent of links chosen by prominent machine linking algorithms are identified as false links by human reviewers; and (3) these false links are systematically related to baseline sample characteristics, suggesting that machine algorithms may introduce complicated forms of bias into analyses. We find that prominent linking algorithms at...
 
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