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WU Researchers Awarded Nancy and Richard Ruggles Memorial Prize

WU re­search­ers Stefan An­gel, Fran­ziska Disslbacher (both from the De­part­ment of So­cioeco­nom­ics), Stefan Hu­mer (Re­search In­sti­tute for Eco­nom­ics of Inequal­ity), and Mat­thias Schnet­zer (Vi­enna Cham­ber of La­bour and lec­turer at WU) were awar­ded the pres­ti­gi­ous Nancy and Richard Ruggles Me­morial Prize 2018 from the In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­ation for Re­search in In­come and Wealth (IARIW) for their pa­per “What did you really earn last year: Ex­plain­ing meas­ure­ment er­ror in sur­vey in­come data.” The prize is awar­ded to honor the best pa­pers by ju­nior re­search­ers up to the age of 35 years. The $ 2,500 prize is presen­ted every two years at the IARIW con­fer­ence. This year’s award ce­re­mony was held on August 21 in Copen­ha­gen.

The Re­search Pro­ject

In their study, the re­search­ers ana­lyzed an­onym­ized in­come data from the Aus­trian Sur­vey of In­come and Liv­ing Con­di­tions (SILC) for the period from 2008 to 2011. The in­come data from the sur­vey was com­bined with in­come data from ad­min­is­trat­ive re­cords and com­pared on the level of the in­di­vidual earner. The study showed that the sur­vey data de­vi­ated markedly from the data in the ad­min­is­trat­ive re­cords, and the ob­ject­ive of the pro­ject was to find out why.

The ana­lysis showed that the dif­fer­ences did not oc­cur ran­domly. Us­ing a vari­ety of quant­it­at­ive meth­ods, four dif­fer­ent reas­ons for the dis­crep­an­cies were in­vestig­ated: 1) So­cial desirab­il­ity: People with low in­comes ten­ded to in­dic­ate a higher in­come on the sur­vey than they ac­tu­ally earned ac­cord­ing to the ad­min­is­trat­ive data, while wealthy respond­ents entered on aver­age less than they ac­tu­ally earned; 2) So­cio-­demo­graphic factors: Men, for example, ten­ded to in­dic­ate a higher in­come than they earned ac­cord­ing to ad­min­is­trat­ive data; 3) In­ter­view method: Dis­crep­an­cies were not greater in tele­phone in­ter­views than in per­son; 4) Learn­ing ef­fects: There was no sig­ni­fic­ant re­duc­tion in dis­crep­an­cies when sub­jects were ques­tioned about their in­come re­peatedly in sub­sequent years. Factors 1) and 2) proved to be the most sig­ni­fic­ant in ex­plain­ing the dif­fer­ences between in­come data ob­tained through sur­veys and from ad­min­is­trat­ive re­cords.

The res­ults in­dic­ate that re­sponse be­ha­vior in so­cial stat­ist­ical sur­veys is af­fected by the sub­ject’s per­cep­tion of so­cial pro­cesses. On mat­ters like poverty risk and wealth dis­tri­bu­tion, sur­veys like the SILC provide both re­search­ers and policy makers with key data, mak­ing the qual­ity of the data par­tic­u­larly im­port­ant. From this per­spect­ive, con­nect­ing sur­vey data and re­cor­ded data to get a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the reas­ons be­hind the dif­fer­ences between the data sets is fun­da­mental. This study shows that in­come and gender are par­tic­u­larly sig­ni­fic­ant factors in the ob­served dis­crep­an­cies.

(from left to right): Timothy Smeed­ing (Dis­tin­guished Speaker at the Ruggles Me­morial Lec­ture); Andrew Sharpe (Ex­ec­ut­ive Dir­ector, IARIW); Stefan Hu­mer, Fran­ziska Disslbacher, Stefan An­gel (all WU); Al­bert Braak­mann (Pres­id­ent, IARIW)

Fur­ther In­form­a­tion

Nancy and Richard Ruggles Prize

The aim of the Prize is to pro­mote the devel­op­ment of young re­search­ers by re­cog­niz­ing their out­stand­ing schol­ar­ship. One Prize will be awar­ded com­pet­it­ively on the basis of a pa­per presen­ted at the Gen­eral Con­fer­ence of the In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­ation for Re­search in In­come and Wealth (IARIW) and judged by the Trust­ees of the Fund.­fund.php

IARIW 35th Gen­eral Con­fer­ence, Copen­ha­gen, Den­mark, August 20-25, 2018

Foun­ded in 1947, IARIW is a lead­ing scien­ti­fic as­so­ci­ation in the field of in­come and wealth re­search. Its quarterly journal Re­view of In­come and Wealth has been pub­lished since 1966.­copen­ha­gen.php

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