User Beware: Concerning Findings from the Post 2011–2012 U.S. Internal Revenue Service Migration Data

Jack DeWaard, Mathew Hauer, Elizabeth Fussell, Katherine J. Curtis, Stephan D. Whitaker, Kathryn McConnell, Kobie Price, David Egan-Robertson, Michael Soto, Catalina Anampa Castro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) makes publicly and freely available period migration data at the state and county levels. Among their uses, these data inform estimates of net-migration as part of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Program, which, in turn, are used for producing other annual statistics, survey design, business and community planning, and federal funding allocations. Building on and extending prior research, we devote this Research Brief to documenting from multiple new angles a highly concerning and apparently systemic problem with the IRS migration data since the IRS took over responsibilities for preparing these data from the U.S. Census Bureau in 2011. As we then discuss, despite the fact that the IRS provides documentation detailing changes that it made to how it prepares these data relative to how the U.S. Census Bureau prepared them, it is not clear why or how these changes would result in the problem detailed in our analysis. Given that this problem appears to be an internal one within the IRS, we conclude by suggesting that the post 2011–2012 IRS migration data not be used until this problem is resolved, and we encourage the IRS to do so quickly, transparently, and collaboratively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPopulation Research and Policy Review
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 18 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work is part of the projects, “Extreme Weather Disasters, Economic Losses via Migration, and Widening Spatial Inequality” and “Demographic Responses to Natural Resource Changes,” funded by the National Science Foundation (Award #1850871) and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health (Award 5R03HD095014-02), respectively. This work is also supported by center grant #P2C HD041023 awarded to the Minnesota Population Center at the University of Minnesota, center grant # P2C HD041020 awarded to the Population Studies and Training Center at Brown University, and center grant # P2C HD047873 awarded to the Center for Demography and Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health. The authors wish to thank the Editor, two anonymous reviewers, and Michael Mazerov for their helpful comments and suggestions.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V.

Keywords

  • Internal migration
  • Internal Revenue Service
  • Migration
  • Migration data
  • U.S. Census Bureau

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