AISP: You are likely aware of the Administrative Data chapter in President Obama’s 2016 budget. What was your impression of its focus on “improving access to workforce data” and what do you think we can expect from this statement?
Rachel Zinn: “We were thrilled to see that the 2016 President’s Budget includes proposals to expand the use of wage data. These proposals would help to assess the effectiveness of education and training programs, making sure they are really helping people succeed in the labor market. WDQC supports the legislative change requested in the budget to allow the National Directory of New Hires, which contains wage data collected by states, to be used by federal agencies for evaluating education and training. That legislation was approved by the Senate Finance Committee last year, and hopefully we’ll see it introduced again in this Congress.”
AISP: As you are also probably aware, the President’s budget included funding for the Census Bureau to start developing a more comprehensive infrastructure for linking, sharing, and analyzing key data sets. What is the probability of this occurring? Do you think this could handle the demand for workforce data among the research community?
Rachel Zinn: “It’s exciting to imagine Census Bureau expanding its role in making data available for research, even as the agency maintains its strong tradition of keeping confidential information secure. It’s difficult to predict the likelihood of Congress funding the $10 million request for additional data management capacity. As we all know, federal resources are still tight. However, this proposal stems from legislation recently introduced by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). It would create a commission to consider improvements to federal data that would aid evidence-based policymaking, so clearly there is bipartisan support for better utilizing federal data.”
AISP: An alternative approach would be to get state Labor Departments to share their data with researchers or with Integrated Data Systems. What are the prospects that WIOA will encourage more state data sharing around earnings and employment?
Rachel Zinn: “With stricter requirements for WIOA training providers to report on the employment outcomes of all their students, the new law will certainly promote conversations among state agencies about data sharing. Having these conversations be successful depends on achieving true collaboration that benefits all the agencies contributing time and resources. When multiple agencies and top state leaders can work together to identify key policy questions that are best answered with linked data, then everyone is motivated to share.”
AISP: What issues are you focused on for the upcoming year at WDQC?
Rachel Zinn: “We’ll be doing a second round of our survey of state longitudinal data systems, and expect to see more examples of how policymakers, educators, and the public are using information to make better decisions. We’ll be trying to tell compelling stories about how workforce data is being used to improve programs and policies, and ultimately, people’s lives. As these stories generate demand for valuable information, we can assist federal and state leaders in crafting policies to support a strong data infrastructure.”