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Other - Issue Briefs - Publication Number: IB00-1 January 15, 2000

Comment on Methodology and Privacy Issues

This was an exploratory study designed to illustrate some of the information about University students and alumni that can be unobtrusively derived from official records. Whether the opportunity for more accurate study of the career paths of alumni should be taken, remains an open question.

There are many advantages to gathering employment outcome data through governmental records. Recognizing that the most viable alternative is a survey of alumni, an analysis of computer-based records is probably more accurate, it certainly more complete, was less expensive to conduct, and did not intrude upon their daily activities. However, there are significant limitations to results of this type of database merger and there is justifiable concern that the privacy of alumni has been intruded upon. Would alumni have granted access to these wage and salary records if given the choice?

Concerned alumni can rest assured that their wage and salary information was only used for the research purposes reflected here and that safeguards were in place to restrict access to records. The Department of Economics went to great lengths to insure restricted access to these wage and salary data as did the University in restricting access to student records. Access to extracted data required agreeing to the conditions of a nondisclosure agreement and the earnings of individual alumni can not be identified from this report. Furthermore, no other use was made of the results.


Reviewed March 23, 2011.