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Cityscape: Volume 26 Number 1 | Local Data for Local Action | Building a Transformational Data Resource to Support Housing Research: The Wisconsin Experience


Local Data for Local Action

Volume 26 Number 1

Mark D. Shroder
Michelle P. Matuga

Building a Transformational Data Resource to Support Housing Research: The Wisconsin Experience

Marah Curtis
Kurt Paulsen
Hilary Shager
University of Wisconsin

This article describes recent efforts by University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW) researchers to connect federal and local housing program data with the Wisconsin Administrative Data Core (WADC). These connections create an innovative and transformational approach to support housing research that informs policy and program design. Developed and maintained by UW’s Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP) in collaboration with Wisconsin state agency partners, WADC links large volumes of standardized, longitudinal administrative data from nearly all Wisconsin social welfare programs (for example, Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, child welfare, child support, childcare subsidies, unemployment insurance, and homelessness services), information on incarceration from the Department of Corrections, and children’s educational outcomes from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. The data system relies on a file known as the Multi-Sample Person File (MSPF), which contains one observation per individual, with no individual appearing twice. The MSPF can be linked with program participation data files, allowing researchers to group individuals by case or family, supporting integrated analysis of multiple program participation and individual and family outcomes over time. Leveraging recent funding opportunities, and via a data-sharing agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the authors connect federal housing program participation data with WADC. IRP is conducting two proof-of-concept studies analyzing the effects of these programs on adult health and child educational outcomes. IRP also recently incorporated the state’s Homeless Management Information System into WADC and is pursuing opportunities to incorporate localized data from the Emergency Rental Assistance program established during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as publicly available eviction data. Linking such data opens an expansive new research agenda to include the study of multiple public program participation and policy interactions; explore a wide berth of individual, family, and community outcomes; and inform actionable policy and practice recommendations. This article shares insights from UW’s experience developing and maintaining agency partnerships, and this valuable data resource, which might be applied in other states, discusses the potential of linked administrative data to advance future interdisciplinary, applied housing research and evidence-based policymaking.

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