Interesting new paper in the Journal of Development Studies by Justin Sandefur & Amanda Glassman: “The Political Economy of Bad Data: Evidence from African Survey & Administrative Statistics” (here is a link to an ungated version).
Here’s Amanda and Justin discussing their findings:
“Comparing administrative and survey data across 46 surveys in 21 African countries, we find a bias toward overreporting school enrollment growth in administrative data. The average change in enrollment is roughly one-third higher (3.1 percentage points) in administrative than survey data (an optimistic bias that is completely absent in data outside Africa. Delving into the data from two of the worst offenders, Kenya and Rwanda, shows that the divergence of administrative and survey data series was concomitant with the shift from bottom-up finance of education via user fees to top-down finance through per-pupil central government grants. This highlights the interdependence of public finance systems and the integrity of administrative data systems. Difference-in-differences regressions on the full sample confirm that the gap between administrative and survey of just 2.4 percentage points before countries abolished user fees grew significantly by roughly 10 percentage points afterward.”
In other words, If you pay by the unit but let workers self report their output, you are likely to get significantly biased output measures