Skip to Main Content
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
Committee on National Statistics
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
Statistical Methods and Estimates for Policy Use

Over several decades CNSTAT has undertaken a range of studies to improve statistical methods and estimates for use in policy making and implementation. A landmark 1991 study evaluated microsimulation models that are used extensively by executive branch and congressional agencies for assessing the pros and cons of alternative tax and transfer programs; its recommendations led to better understanding, documentation, and hardware and software platforms for these important public policy tools. Subsequent studies examined models for retirement income and Medicare policies. A major study in the late 1990s evaluated small area estimation models that combine administrative records with survey data to produce more reliable estimates than are possible with survey data alone: the estimates produced by one such model, the Census Bureau’s Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) program, are used to allocate federal funds to school districts to support disadvantaged students. In the late 2000s, CNSTAT completed a major study for the Food and Drug Administration on methods for reducing and compensating for missing data in clinical trials of alternative treatments for medical conditions. Other policy-relevant methodological studies have evaluated the accuracy of the polygraph for lie detection, alternative methods for estimating the size of markets for illegal drugs, and measures of disparity for women-owned small businesses in federal contracting.

Using Multiple Data Sources to Improve Federal Statistics

CNSTAT is currently engaged in studies for individual statistical agencies and for the federal statistical system more generally to improve federal statistics for policy use through combining multiple sources of data. The goal is to explore how to foster a paradigm shift in federal statistical programs—from the current paradigm of providing users with the output from a single census, survey, or administrative records source. The new paradigm would include combinations of diverse data sources from government and the private sector. These data would be combined with state-of-the art methods to give users richer and more reliable statistics leading to new insights about policy and socioeconomic behavior. In order to accomplish this, a wide variety of issues will need to be addressed, including access to alternative sources of data for federal statistical programs; designs of statistical processes that foster privacy protection, transparency, objectivity, timeliness, replicability, efficiency, and continuity of statistical series; concepts, metrics, and methods for assessing the quality and utility of alternative data sources for federal statistics; statistical models for combining data from multiple sources; and metrics and methods for evaluating the quality of combined-information estimates. Through these studies we hope to identify “proof of concept” examples as well as priorities for needed research and development.

Completed Projects and Workshops

Using Multiple Data Sources and State-of-the-Art Estimation Methods in Federal Statistics: Frameworks, Methods, and Assessment

Methods for Integrating Multiple Data Sources to Improve Crop Estimates

Research Methodologies and Statistical Approaches to Understanding Driver Fatigue Factors in Motor Carrier Safety and Driver Health

Options for Estimating Illegal Entries at U.S.-Mexico Border

Strengthening Data Science Methods for Department of Defense Personnel and Readiness Missions


Relevant Reports

Federal Statistics, Multiple Data Sources, and Privacy ProtectionNext Steps  (CNSTAT)

The environment for obtaining information and providing statistical data for policy makers and the public has changed significantly in the past decade, raising questions about the fundamental survey... Read more

Improving Crop Estimates by Integrating Multiple Data Sources  (CNSTAT)

The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is the primary statistical data collection agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). NASS conducts hundreds of surveys each year and... Read more

Improving Motor Carrier Safety Measurement  (CNSTAT)

Every year roughly 100,000 fatal and injury crashes occur in the United States involving large trucks and buses. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in the U.S. Department of... Read more

Innovations in Federal StatisticsCombining Data Sources While Protecting Privacy  (CNSTAT)

Federal government statistics provide critical information to the country and serve a key role in a democracy. For decades, sample surveys with instruments carefully designed for particular data needs... Read more

Commercial Motor Vehicle Driver Fatigue, Long-Term Health, and Highway SafetyResearch Needs  (CNSTAT,BOHSI)

There are approximately 4,000 fatalities in crashes involving trucks and buses in the United States each year. Though estimates are wide-ranging, possibly 10 to 20 percent of these crashes might have... Read more

Rationalizing Rural Area Classifications for the Economic Research ServiceA Workshop Summary  (CNSTAT)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service (USDA/ERS) maintains four highly related but distinct geographic classification systems to designate areas by the degree to which they are... Read more

Reliability GrowthEnhancing Defense System Reliability  (CNSTAT)

A high percentage of defense systems fail to meet their reliability requirements. This is a serious problem for the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), as well as the nation. Those systems are not only... Read more

Options for Estimating Illegal Entries at the U.S.-Mexico Border  (CNSTAT)

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is responsible for securing and managing the nation's borders. Over the past decade, DHS has dramatically stepped up its enforcement efforts at the... Read more

Key National Education IndicatorsWorkshop Summary  (BOTA,CNSTAT)

The education system in the United States is continually challenged to adapt and improve, in part because its mission has become far more ambitious than it once was. At the turn of the 20th century,... Read more

Industrial Methods for the Effective Development and Testing of Defense Systems  (CNSTAT,BAST)

During the past decade and a half, the National Research Council, through its Committee on National Statistics, has carried out a number of studies on the application of statistical methods to improve... Read more

The Prevention and Treatment of Missing Data in Clinical Trials  (CNSTAT)

Randomized clinical trials are the primary tool for evaluating new medical interventions. Randomization provides for a fair comparison between treatment and control groups, balancing out, on average,... Read more

Ensuring the Quality, Credibility, and Relevance of U.S. Justice Statistics  (CNSTAT,CLAJ)

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) of the U.S. Department of Justice is one of the smallest of the U.S. principal statistical agencies but shoulders one of the most expansive and detailed legal... Read more

Ballistic Imaging  (CLAJ,CNSTAT,NMAB)

Ballistic Imaging assesses the state of computer-based imaging technology in forensic firearms identification. The book evaluates the current law enforcement database of images of crime-related... Read more

State and Local Government Statistics at a Crossroads  (CNSTAT)

Since the early days of the nation, the federal government has collected information on the revenues, expenditures, and other features of state and local jurisdictions and their operations. Today,... Read more

Testing of Defense Systems in an Evolutionary Acquisition Environment  (CNSTAT)

The Department of Defense (DoD) recently adopted evolutionary acquisition, a dynamic strategy for the development and acquisition of its defense systems. Evolutionary defense systems are planned, in... Read more

Letter Report to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics  (CNSTAT)

Read more

Improved Operational Testing and Evaluation and Methods of Combining Test Information for the Stryker Family of Vehicles and Related Army SystemsPhase II Report  (CNSTAT)

The U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC) is responsible for the operational testing and evaluation of Army systems in development. ATECrequested that the National Research Council form the... Read more

Innovations in Software Engineering for Defense Systems  (CNSTAT)

Recent rough estimates are that the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) spends at least $38 billion a year on the research, development, testing, and evaluation of new defense systems; approximately 40... Read more

Improved Operational Testing and EvaluationBetter Measurement and Test Design for the Interim Brigade Combat Team with Stryker Vehicles: Phase I Report  (CNSTAT)

The U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC) is responsible for the operational testing and evaluation of Army systems in development. ATEC requested that the National Research Council form the... Read more

Reliability Issues for DOD SystemsReport of a Workshop  (CNSTAT)

The final report of the National Research Council's (NRC) Panel on Statistical Methods for Testing and Evaluating Defense Systems (National Research Council, 1998) was intended to provide broad advice... Read more

Sowing Seeds of ChangeInforming Public Policy in the Economic Research Service of USDA  (CBASSE)

Every day economic decisions are made in the public and private sectors, based on limited information and analysis. The analysis and information needed for successful public policy has changed rapidly... Read more

Statistics, Testing, and Defense AcquisitionBackground Papers  (CBASSE)

The Panel on Statistical Methods for Testing and Evaluating Defense Systems had a broad mandate-to examine the use of statistics in conjunction with defense testing. This involved examining methods... Read more

Statistics, Testing, and Defense AcquisitionNew Approaches and Methodological Improvements  (CBASSE)

For every weapons system being developed, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) must make a critical decision: Should the system go forward to full-scale production? The answer to that question may... Read more

The Social Security Administration's Disability Decision ProcessA Framework for Research, Second Interim Report  

Read more

The Bureau of Transportation StatisticsPriorities for the Future  (CBASSE)

How can the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), the nation's newest federal statistical agency, contribute to the work of the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT)? What is the appropriate... Read more

Spotlight on HeterogeneityThe Federal Standards for Racial and Ethnic Classification  (CBASSE)

Read more

Statistics on U.S. ImmigrationAn Assessment of Data Needs for Future Research  (CBASSE)

The growing importance of immigration in the United States today prompted this examination of the adequacy of U.S. immigration data. This volume summarizes data needs in four areas: immigration... Read more

Integrating Federal Statistics on ChildrenReport of a Workshop  (CBASSE)

Those who make and implement policies for children and families are seriously hampered by several features of the federal statistical system: categorical fragmentation, sampling strategies that follow... Read more

Statistical Methods for Testing and Evaluating Defense SystemsInterim Report  (CBASSE)

Read more

Statistical Issues in Defense Analysis and TestingSummary of a Workshop  (CBASSE,CPSMA)

Read more

Improving Information for Social Policy Decisions -- The Uses of Microsimulation ModelingVolume I, Review and Recommendations  (CBASSE)

This book reviews the uses and abuses of microsimulation models--large, complex models that produce estimates of the effects on program costs and who would gain and who would lose from proposed... Read more

Improving Information for Social Policy Decisions -- The Uses of Microsimulation ModelingVolume II, Technical Papers  (CBASSE)

This volume, second in the series, provides essential background material for policy analysts, researchers, statisticians, and others interested in the application of microsimulation techniques to... Read more

Immigration StatisticsA Story of Neglect  (CBASSE)

This book examines the needs for and availability of statistics concerning immigrants and immigration. It concentrates on the needs for statistics on immigrants, refugees, and illegal aliens for... Read more


CNSTAT Home About CNSTAT CNSTAT Members CNSTAT Staff CNSTAT Mission Other Sites of Interest News and Events Upcoming Events CNSTAT News Public Seminars and Symposia Our Work Approaches to Estimating the Prevalence of Human Trafficking in the US Challenges and New Approaches for Protecting Privacy in Federal Statistical Programs Contingent Work and Alternate Work Arrangements Developing Indicators of Educational Equity Transparency and Reproducibility of Federal Statistics for the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics Using Models to Estimate Hog Production Workshop on Improving the American Community Survey Workshop on Social Science Modeling for Big Data in the World of Machine Learning Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency People, Projects, and Publications 2018-2019 Presentations from Meetings and Workshops Publications CNSTAT Reports Principles and Practices (P&P) Work With Us Our Study Process Study Process Brochure Getting to Know the Committee Process Overview for Sponsors Guide for Study Sponsors