U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Skip Header

Statistical Quality Standard B2: Acquiring and Using Administrative Records

Purpose: The purpose of this standard is to ensure the quality of information products derived from administrative records data acquired from non-Census Bureau organizations.

Scope: The Census Bureau’s statistical quality standards apply to all information products released by the Census Bureau and the activities that generate those products, including products released to the public, sponsors, joint partners, or other customers. All Census Bureau employees and Special Sworn Status individuals must comply with these standards; this includes contractors and other individuals who receive Census Bureau funding to develop and release Census Bureau information products.

In particular, this standard applies to the acquisition and use of administrative records data (e.g., demographic, business, and geographic administrative records data), from non-Census Bureau organizations.

The global exclusions to the standards are listed in the Preface. No additional exclusions apply to this standard.

Key Terms: Administrative records, data-use agreement, and record linkage.

Requirement B2-1: Throughout all processes associated with acquiring, using, and disposing of administrative records data, the provisions of federal laws (e.g., Title 13, Title 15, and Title 26), data-use agreements, and Census Bureau policies and procedures on privacy and confidentiality (e.g., Data Stewardship Policies) must be followed to protect administrative records data from unauthorized release. (See Statistical Quality Standard S1, Protecting Confidentiality.)

Note: For detailed procedures on acquiring, using, and disposing of administrative records data, see the Administrative Records Handbook.

Requirement B2-2: A study plan must be developed that addresses verification and evaluation of the quality of the acquired data, in addition to the requirements of the Administrative Records Handbook.

Note: Statistical Quality Standard A1, Planning a Data Program, addresses the overall planning requirements for a data program, including estimates of schedule and costs.

Requirement B2-3: Acquired data must be reviewed to ensure that they meet the requirements specified in the data-use agreement and in the technical documentation provided by the source agency.

Examples of review activities include:

  • Verifying that the data are readable and match the record layout.
  • Verifying that the number of records is consistent with counts provided by the source agency.
  • Comparing distributions of variables with historical averages or expected values.
  • Reviewing address lists for extraneous characters and to ensure that the format of incoming information is consistent with information contained within Census Bureau databases.

Sub-Requirement B2-3.1: The quality of the acquired data must be evaluated.

Examples of evaluation activities include:

  • Calculating the missing data rates within the records.
  • Calculating coverage rates.
  • Evaluating the accuracy of the records (e.g., values of variables are within acceptable ranges).

Sub-Requirement B2-3.2: If the data do not meet the requirements, timely feedback on the problems must be provided and corrective actions taken, following the procedures described in the Administrative Records Handbook.

Requirement B2-4: Documentation needed to replicate and evaluate administrative records projects must be produced. The documentation must be retained, to the extent allowed by applicable policies and data-use agreements, and must be made available to Census Bureau employees who need it to carry out their work. (See Statistical Quality Standard S2, Managing Data and Documents.)

Examples of documentation, in addition to the documentation specified by the Administrative Records Handbook, include:

  • Descriptions of processes and procedures used to verify the data and evaluate its quality.
  • Descriptions of processes and procedures used to develop estimates.
  • Research reports used to guide decisions.
  • Quality measures and evaluation results. (See Statistical Quality Standard D3, Producing Measures and Indicators of Nonsampling Error.)


  1. The documentation must be released on request to external users, unless the information is subject to legal protections or administrative restrictions that would preclude its release. (See Data Stewardship Policy DS007, Information Security Management Program.)
  2. Statistical Quality Standard F2, Providing Documentation to Support Transparency in Information Products, contains specific requirements about documentation that must be readily accessible to the public ensure transparency of information products released by the Census Bureau.

Page Last Revised - October 8, 2021
Is this page helpful?
Thumbs Up Image Yes Thumbs Down Image No
255 characters maximum 255 characters maximum reached
Thank you for your feedback.
Comments or suggestions?


Back to Header