Statistical Confidentiality and the Construction of Anonymized Public use Census Samples: A Draft Proposal for the Kenyan Microdata for 1989

Robert McCaa, Agnes A Odinga

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

Abstract

Kenya has one of the richest collections of census microdata in the world, but this valuable trove is little used by scholars or public policy-makers. Computing costs were long the main barrier to use, but now that an inexpensive desktop computer can easily deal with even the largest census microdatasets currently available (such as Mexico's 10% sample from the 2000 census, consisting of more than ten million cases), access has become the principal obstacle. This is not only the case for Kenya, but for many other countries around the world. The first step in providing broader access--and reaping the benefits to be gleaned from these valuable sources--is to ensure that the data are anonymized to attain the highest levels of statistical confidentiality. The IPUMS International project, in cooperation with a group of National Statistical Agencies in Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa, is developing uniform standards for anonymizing census samples of individuals and households. This paper summarizes research on statistical confidentiality and, then as a test case, applies emerging international practices to a five percent sample drawn from the 1989 census of Kenya. The results are promising. Of the thirty-six person variables in the 1989 census microdata, it is recommended that four be suppressed entirely (because they report finely detailed information on place of residence), and that another six undergo some degree of aggregation. While this will disappoint purists who demand total access to the original data, the proposal seeks to strike a balance between access and statistical confidentiality, sacrificing some degree of detail to safeguard statistical confidentiality to a maximum, yet still make it possible for scientists to use the Kenya data to the greatest extent possible. In any case, final say on the procedures to be used to anonymize the public use sample of the 1989 census microdata rests with the Central Bureau of Statistics.
Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - 2001

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