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Carol House, Michael Hout, J. Trent Alexander, Amy O’Hara, Jonathan Fisher, David Grusky, Aliya Saperstein, and Matthew Snipp


This paper describes the first phase of a multi-phase activity termed the American Opportunity Study (AOS). This phase will be a “proof of concept” and produce six preliminary products: (1) a statistical methodology to digitize household members’ names and addresses from 1990 census microfilm records accurately and at low cost and append them to the 1990 electronic records; (2) a statistical methodology to assign identifiers to the electronic 1990 records and link them to later census and ACS electronic records ; (3) a statistical methodology to establish intergenerational “relationship pointers;” (4) negotiated arrangements to append further information to these linked records from tax data, earnings reports, other administrative sources, and surveys; (5) a statistical methodology to estimate errors associated with linking data from multiple sources; and (6) a tool, with appropriate documentation, to enable on-demand links of 1990 census data with more recent censuses and selected administrative and/or survey data.

Future phases will build on this initial work to enhance the tool and the methods for error estimation, to capture the information from the entire 1990 census and earlier censuses that is necessary for linking, and to develop methods for imputing or filling in gaps in the information. The data provided by the AOS will enable researchers to illuminate contemporary levels, differentials, and trends in mobility, and also provide valid comparisons with past decades.

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