Cleaning up the data

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Some good news emerges from the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board’s just-released quarterly report to the President and Congress. Many of the data quality problems that emerged in the first reporting period have been corrected, as illustrated in the report’s table one, on page five.

Late reports, for example, are down 30 percent. At the same time, technological improvements have reduced the number of incorrect congressional districts shown to zero. Mismatched zip codes — a source of consternation in the first reporting period — are similarly nonexistent now.

Good news from the latest Recovery Board report

This report underscores the stories of improvement we’ve been hearing from officials in the states.  All this makes us wonder whether the data hassles of the first quarter reports will end up teaching the federal government and the states how to share, compile and report data much more effectively, across the board and (maybe) lead to improvements in the way governments work together. As Chris Masingill, the stimulus czar in Arkansas said:  “this is a federal-state partnership that historians will be talking about and writing about.”

That said, we are also curious to see how much this data quality improvement is reported in the press. Yesterday’s coverage in the Washington Post’s “Federal Eye”  — with the headline “Government probing thousands of stimulus complaints” — concentrates on statistics about complaints and investigations of potential fraud. (The actual figures reported on complaints, as outlined in a table on page 8, were 1,777 received through January 31, 2010, with 147 active investigations, and 43 prosecutions initiated.)

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One Response to “Cleaning up the data”

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