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The Summary Earnings Record and Detailed Earnings Record Extracts

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Working Paper Number ADEP-WP-2021-05


The Census Bureau and the Social Security Administration (SSA) have a long history of linking respondents in Census Bureau surveys at the individual level to earnings data from the SSA for research purposes. Yet, these data have been underutilized and are often difficult to understand due to disparate and limited documentation. This paper describes the history and contents of the restricted-use Summary Earnings Record (SER) data and the Detailed Earnings Records (DER) data extracts that can be linked to the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) and the Current Population Survey (CPS) Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC). These linked files provide an exciting opportunity for researchers to study individual earnings and related outcomes such as poverty, inequality, and the earnings distribution. Further, these data can be used for research in measurement error, non-response, and imputation. We discuss the linkage of the datasets and provide detailed yearly observation and linkage statistics. The data availability and access for researchers are also described.



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