ArticlePDF Available

Assessing dissimilarity of employment history information from survey and administrative data using sequence analysis techniques


Abstract and Figures

Life course data is frequently gathered either using retrospective surveys or linking records with administrative data. Yet, each strategy has specific advantages and disadvantages. We study the consistency between both types of data sources and reasons for mismatch using the linked data set SHARE-RV, which combines retrospective life history data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) with respondents’ administrative data from German pension insurance records (N = 1679). Utilizing sequence analysis techniques with Hamming distance, Optimal Matching and OMspell as matching algorithms, we examine mismatches between survey and administrative data covering detailed, 30-year employment histories, and analyze how inconsistencies are associated with life-course characteristics, demographic and socio-economic factors. Our results show that life-course complexity and spells of atypical employment are associated with more mismatches. Furthermore, gender differences are pronounced and appear to be sensitive to the applied matching algorithm.
This content is subject to copyright. Terms and conditions apply.
Quality & Quantity
1 3
Assessing dissimilarity ofemployment history information
fromsurvey andadministrative data using sequence analysis
BabetteBühler1· KatjaMöhring2 · AndreasP.Weiland2
Accepted: 24 January 2022
© The Author(s) 2022
Life course data is frequently gathered either using retrospective surveys or linking records
with administrative data. Yet, each strategy has specific advantages and disadvantages. We
study the consistency between both types of data sources and reasons for mismatch using
the linked data set SHARE-RV, which combines retrospective life history data from the
Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) with respondents’ adminis-
trative data from German pension insurance records (N = 1679). Utilizing sequence analy-
sis techniques with Hamming distance, Optimal Matching and OMspell as matching algo-
rithms, we examine mismatches between survey and administrative data covering detailed,
30-year employment histories, and analyze how inconsistencies are associated with life-
course characteristics, demographic and socio-economic factors. Our results show that
life-course complexity and spells of atypical employment are associated with more mis-
matches. Furthermore, gender differences are pronounced and appear to be sensitive to the
applied matching algorithm.
Keywords Life course· SHARE· Hamming distance· Optimal matching· OMspell· Data
* Katja Möhring
Babette Bühler
Andreas P. Weiland
1 Hector Research Institute ofEducation Sciences andPsychology, University ofTübingen,
Europastraße 6, 72072Tübingen, Germany
2 School ofSocial Sciences, University ofMannheim, A 5, 6, 68159Mannheim, Germany
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
B.Bühler et al.
1 3
1 Introduction
As the popularity of life-course analysis increases, so does the need for detailed and reliable
life trajectory data. Two frequently used sources of such data are retrospective surveys and
administrative records. The literature describes the advantages and disadvantages of both
strategies in great detail. The most important drawbacks of retrospectively collected data
are that recall errors might occur (Solga 2001), respondents might oversimplify their work-
ing career, and underreport certain states such as unemployment (Manzoni etal. 2010). In
addition, respondents may perceive or define their employment or social situation differ-
ently than it is recorded in the administrative data. Yet, respondents must consent to having
their administrative data linked to their survey responses; some may refuse, resulting in a
biased sample (Korbmacher and Schröder 2013; Jenkins etal. 2006). Since in many cases
only one source might be available, there is a growing interest in comparing data from both
sources (Huber and Schmucker 2009; Wahrendorf et al. 2019). Inconsistencies between
the two sources might point to problems in the survey of retrospective information, espe-
cially if these discrepancies are aligned with respondents’ socio-economic characteristics,
for example if the quality of retrospective data is significantly higher or lower for specific
social groups or at particular stages of the life course. Comparing the data sources might
also help reveal blind spots in administrative records.
We use the SHARE-RV data set, which combines retrospective survey data gathered in
the SHARELIFE interviews from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe
(SHARE) program (Börsch-Supan 2019) with administrative data from the German pen-
sion insurance fund (SHARE-RV VSKT) (Forschungsdatenzentrum der Rentenversi-
cherung, Max-Planck-Institut für Sozialrecht und Sozialpolitik 2019) to analyze differences
between the data sources. The data set contains information on 1679 respondents, cover-
ing 30-year employment trajectories for West and East Germany. We study the agreement
between the two sources throughout individuals’ lives in order to determine whether cer-
tain stages in the life course are prone to inconsistencies. We first compare individuals’
employment trajectories using sequence analysis with different distance algorithms. We
then apply regression analysis using calculated distance values as dependent variables and
examine how socio-economic factors and characteristics of the life histories are related to
We go beyond previous research as our linked data set covers a longer time span,
includes more complex sequences, and is based on a representative sample of both East and
West Germany. The latter has been characterized by a free market economy, supporting a
male breadwinner model, the former by a centrally planned socialist economy with a high
degree of labor market engagement of men and women, until the profound system trans-
formation following German reunification in 1990 (Trappe et al. 2015). These divergent
institutional frameworks are particularly interesting in relation to life-course trajectories.
The data covers the ages of 21 to 50 for all respondents, which includes school-to-work as
well as retirement transitions based on a precise definition of employment status with nine
categories. The literature on sequence analysis discusses a range of distance measures that
quantify the degree of divergence between two sequences (Studer and Ritschard 2016). We
apply Hamming distance (Hamming 1950), a measure based on common attribute quantity,
which is very sensitive to timing. We also employ Optimal Matching (OM) (Abbott and
Forrest 1986), a more flexible edit dissimilarity measure. Alongside those very common
distance measures used in previous research (Huber and Schmucker 2009; Wahrendorf
etal. 2019), we apply the more context-sensitive Optimal Matching between sequences of
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
Assessing dissimilarity ofemployment history information…
1 3
spells (OMspell), proposed by Studer and Ritschard (2016), which accounts for the length
of spells.
The article proceeds as follows. Next, we review previous studies that compare survey
and administrative data, and discuss possible sources of inaccuracy. We then describe the
three sequence analysis algorithms that we use for the comparison in detail. The following
section examines our data and analysis strategy. We then present and discuss the descrip-
tive and multivariate results on the determinants of dissimilarities in both data sources.
2 Background
2.1 Previous research
There has long been a general interest in matching survey results with administrative data.
These efforts have focused on increasing the accuracy of interviewee characteristics such
as educational attainment (e.g. Adriaans etal. 2020) and income (e.g. Kreiner etal. 2015;
Valet etal. 2019), counteracting the recall bias of isolated life-course events such as retire-
ment (Korbmacher 2014), or decreasing the measurement error associated with entire
dimensions of the life course such as union histories (Kreyenfeld and Bastin 2016) and
employment biographies (e.g. Huber and Schmucker 2009; Kreuter et al. 2010; Wahren-
dorf etal. 2019).
For instance, Huber and Schmucker (2009) matched a year’s worth of survey and admin-
istrative employment data on a monthly basis in order to compare employment biographies
and found high levels of agreement between data originating from the two sources: data
from only 5 percent of respondents featured deviations. The authors conducted a multi-
variate analysis, which demonstrated that a higher number of state transitions, for instance
between employment and unemployment, increases the probability of a mismatch between
the two types of sources. Age, education and income also have a significant effect. The
results show that the probability of mismatches decreases until the age of 45 and increases
afterwards. Moreover, having no educational degree or belonging to the middle-income
category were linked to a smaller probability of diverging sequences. Other variables like
sex, nationality and further training had no significant effect. However, it is notable that the
regarded biographic episode of one year was rather short and not far in the past at the time
of the retrospective survey.
Wahrendorf etal. (2019) examined the differences between self-reported employment
histories from the Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study (executed in three German Cities in the Ruhr
area) and administrative data from the German Institute for Employment Research; they
note that the size and composition of the two data sources are different. They state high and
constant levels of agreement over time with an average of only 4years of diverging infor-
mation per person for an observation period of 36years, which corresponds to a median
level of agreement of 89 percent. They find that self-reported employment sequences are
less complex than those originating from administrative data, which confirms that respond-
ents tend to oversimplify their biographies during surveys (Manzoni etal. 2010). Using
sequence analysis, Wahrendorf et al. (2019) find larger differences for women and people
working in the tertiary sector. These effects vanish in multivariate analyses that take into
account transitions and the years spent in part-time work and non-employment. This leads
the authors to conclude that women, who often work in the tertiary sector, have more com-
plex sequences with frequent status changes and more part-time work or non-employment
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
B.Bühler et al.
1 3
(Widmer and Ritschard 2009) and therefore display greater disparities in the different types
of data sources. However, the classification into only three employment states is rather
rough; for instance, Wahrendorf et al. (2019) combine unemployment and childcare into
a single category of non-employment, which prevents a detailed look at gender-based
2.2 Sources ofmismatch: misrepresentation andnon‑response
Why might survey and administrative data on the life history of the same person yield dif-
ferent information? Possible sources of mismatch are reporting errors in survey or admin-
istrative data, as well as diverging measurement concepts and scopes in the two types of
data. For instance, survey respondents may provide inaccurate information or no informa-
tion at all. Likewise, recall bias is a central source of inaccuracy in retrospective life-course
interviews: respondents may not recall sections of their life history or may misremember
the nature of life-course episodes, their time frame or their temporal order (e.g. Korb-
macher 2014; Schröder 2011; Wagner and Philip 2019). Alternatively, they may withhold
or misrepresent sensitive aspects of their past such as (un-)employment spells, earnings or
partnership history due to social desirability bias (Krumpal 2013; Valet etal. 2019). The
survey design, interview mode and interviewer characteristics may exacerbate or mitigate
the likelihood and severity of these biases (Kreuter etal., 2008; Kühne 2018; West and
Blom 2017).
Administrative data are generally considered to be more robust to misrepresentations
and non-response than surveys (Kreuter etal. 2010) since they are gathered within the
framework of administrative processes using a systematic approach. However, inaccuracies
may occur through measurement error, as well as missing documentation and diverging
measurement constructs associated with the scope and purpose of the data (Groen 2012).
Depending on the type of administrative data and how it is collected and processed, the
nature or exact timing of an event may be inaccurately reported, for instance in employers’
social security notifications, although this is unlikely (Abowd and Stinson 2011; Kreuter
etal. 2010). The convergence between survey and administrative data is contingent on the
(dis-)similarity and compatibility of measurement concepts in both sources, such as how
they define employment states. Further, legislative and institutional changes may produce
mismatches through the (ex post) redefinition of measurement concepts in administrative
sources (Mika 2009). Finally, depending on their scope and purpose, administrative data
may lack coverage of certain individual characteristics or parts of the survey population,
thus effectively producing non-responses for these items (Korbmacher and Czaplicki 2013;
Sakshaug etal. 2017).
2.3 Dissimilarity measures insequence analysis
Our analysis depicts respondents’ life trajectories as sequences. A sequence is defined as an
ordered list of items (Brzinsky-Fay etal. 2006)—in this case units of time (e.g. 1year)—
categorized as different states (e.g. employment, education, etc.). Several consecutive items
that share the same state are called an episode or spell. Sequence analysis uses distance
measures to quantify the level of inconsistency between two sequences. Calculating these
distance measures is often seen as a first step. The resulting distance matrix, which con-
tains the distances between all given sequences, is then used to cluster the sequences, for
example (Brzinsky-Fay and Kohler 2010). In this analysis we only calculate distances for
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
Assessing dissimilarity ofemployment history information…
1 3
each person between the two sequences (originating from the survey and administrative
data) because we are interested in the level of inconsistency between the two sources—not
between the respondents. In a later step we use this measure of dissimilarity per person to
investigate the level of dissimilarity between different groups, and to examine the determi-
nants influencing the degree of divergence between the two sources. We employ three dif-
ferent distance measures for the pairwise comparison of individual sequences from admin-
istrative and survey data.
First, we calculate the Hamming distance, which depicts the difference between two
sequences by simply counting the number of non-matching items (Hamming 1950; Studer
and Ritschard 2016). The resulting distance value denotes the number of years in which
self-reported states differ from administrative states. This measure is very sensitive to the
correct timing—i.e. the exact year in which a state appears. In our case of retrospective
interviewing, it can be difficult for respondents to remember the correct timing of an event,
so a measure that is more forgiving in this regard may be appropriate.
The second distance measure we use is OM, which describes the difference in the two
sequences as the minimal cost of transforming one into another by allowing and specifying
the costs of insertion (inserting an element into a specific position) and deletion (delet-
ing an element from a certain position) which are subsumed under the term indel, as well
as substitution (changing one element into another) operations (Abbott and Forrest 1986;
Abbott and Hrycak 1990; Studer and Ritschard 2016). We use the standard costs of 2 for
each substitution and 1 for each indel operation. Thus, the OM distance allowing for align-
ment operations takes into account time shifts in the sequences and is less sensitive to cor-
rect timing than the Hamming measure.
Although OM is the most widely used distance measure for sequence analysis in the
social sciences (Halpin 2010) and has previously been used to examine similar research
questions (Huber and Schmucker 2009; Wahrendorf et al. 2019), it has been criticized
for being sociologically meaningless (Wu et al. 2000). Halpin (2010) notes that OM was
designed to assess discrete-time sequences, yet life trajectory data is continuous in time.
He argues that trajectories should be considered sequences of spells. Moreover, previous
research has shown very high correlations between Hamming and OM distances for life-
course data (Halpin 2010; Wahrendorf etal. 2019). A range of refined measures has been
proposed to address some of the critiques of OM (e.g. Elzinga 2003; Hollister 2009; Hal-
pin 2010; Lesnard 2010; Elzinga and Wang 2012).
Third, we use one such refined, context sensitive measure, OMspell, which calculates
OM for several consecutive years in the same state, and is therefore sensitive to the dura-
tion spent in distinct successive states (Studer and Ritschard 2016). It introduces a correc-
tion factor function for the spell length with a weighting factor, the so-called expansion
cost. The indel and substitution costs introduced for OM are extended as follows (Studer
and Ritschard 2016):
In this formula,
denotes the spell indel costs and
the spell substitution cost of a
given spell
, which depicts state a during t years.
denotes the expansion cost. Past stud-
ies have successfully used this measure for sequence analysis (e.g. Lee etal. 2017; Squires
if a =b,
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
B.Bühler et al.
1 3
etal. 2017). As before, we use the standard cost of 2 for substitution
, 1 for indel
and 0.5 for expansion cost
We compare different measures of dissimilarity to assess their ability to capture and
emphasize different dimensions of distinction between the two sequences and to investi-
gate which aspects are meaningful in the context of our research question. As stated above,
the naive Hamming distance measure is very sensitive to the point in time when the state
appears. For example, a respondent may report a state a year earlier than the administrative
data due to recall errors. He or she may report the sequence A–B–C, while the adminis-
trative data states C–A–B. This sequence has the same Hamming distance value as, for
instance, if the respondent had reported a third (totally different) state for that year, such as
D–D–D. The information he or she provided in the first case may be inaccurate concerning
the exact timing, but from a social science perspective it is more similar to the administra-
tive sequence than the second case (Halpin 2010). OM, however, allows for slight time
shifts due to the alignment through indel operations, which result in lower costs and there-
fore have a smaller distance value.
However, OM does not take the context into account. For instance, it makes no distinc-
tion between reporting a different item that is part of a two-year episode and misreporting
an item that is part of a ten-year spell, which might be less consequential from a sociologi-
cal point of view (Halpin 2010). OMspell also includes the length of the spells and thus
the structure of the sequences. It prefers expanding or compressing existing spells before
inserting new spells for alignment. By calculating OM between sequences of spells and
therefore taking episodes/spells (consecutive years spent in the same state) as the unit of
analysis, it accounts for the continuous character of life trajectory data. Figure 1 depicts
two example sequences from the employed data, with their respective Hamming, OM and
OMspell distances.
In sequence 1 at the beginning of the observation period, after a short period of employ-
ment, some years spent in school or training (ST) can be identified, followed by a very long
employment (EM) spell for the rest of the period. The sequences from both sources look
similar but are not identical. The differences are found in the first six years. The sequence
from the administrative data for the first 6 years is: EM-ST-EM-ST-ST-ST, while the
sequence from survey data is: EM-EM-ST-ST-ST-EM. The remaining 24years are coded
EM in both sources. In total, three years at age 22, 23 and 26 differ. The Hamming dis-
tance therefore takes a value of 3, normalized to 0.1. OM-based distance, which considers
that these three divergences can be resolved by one insertion and one deletion operation,
takes a value of 2, normalized to 0.023, which is a much smaller distance than that cal-
culated using the Hamming method. Hamming can take a maximum value of 30, in case
that every single year is different, while OM and OMspell have a (theoretical) maximum
of 60. For OMspell, spells as a whole count as units for indel and substitutions operations,
and substitutions of the same state can be expanded to different lengths, i.e. to include
several elements. Therefore, based on OMspell, two compression operations with a cost of
0.5 and two insertion operations with a cost of 1 each are needed to convert the survey into
the admin sequence. This results in an OMspell value of 3, normalized to 0.05, which is
slightly higher than OM but still considerably lower than the Hamming measurement.
Sequence 2 contains a total of 9years’ difference between the administrative and sur-
vey data, resulting in a Hamming distance of 8, normalized to 2.67. In the first half of
the observation period, there is a shift in the transition from childcare (CH) to employ-
ment (EM), which in the survey data occurs two years earlier. The remaining six dif-
ferences are found at the end of the period. While the administrative data show several
changes between Sick or Disabled (SD), return to Employment and finally to Retirement
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
Assessing dissimilarity ofemployment history information…
1 3
(RT) status, the survey data show a one-time change to SD. Using the OM approach,
the survey data sequence can be transformed into the admin sequence by inserting two
CH items and one SD item, and deleting two SD and one EM. These six indel opera-
tions have a cost of 6. Furthermore, three SD years have to be substituted with RT years,
which costs 3*2. This results in a total OM distance of 12, normalized to 0.2. Calculat-
ing the OMspell cost consists of substituting the nine-year CH spell in the survey data
with an 11-year episode of the same state. Since this is only an expansion of an existing
spell, the cost results from the expansion factor 0.5 times the amount of the difference in
spell length, i.e., a cost of 1. A similar calculation applies to the following compressions
of the EM spell from 15 to 12years and the SD spell from six years to one year. Sub-
sequently, a two-year EM spell, a one-year SD spell and a three-year RT spell have to
be inserted. The costs are calculated by the insertion cost (1) plus the weighting factor
(0.5) times the spell length (3) minus 1, represented as 1 + 0.5*(3–1) for the three-year
RT episode. This results in an OMspell distance of 9.5, normalized to 0.158. In this case
OMspell is smaller than OM because it favors the expansion or compression of existing
spells over the insertion of new spells. OM scores the same regardless of whether the
inserted CH items show the same state as previous or following spells. OMspell rewards
Fig. 1 Example Sequences.
Source: Authors’ own depiction
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
B.Bühler et al.
1 3
the fact that the considered sequences have the same spell structure in the first two-
thirds—CH, EM, SD.
3 Data andmethods
3.1 Data
Our analysis draws on a combination of the retrospective life history data included in the
SHARELIFE survey that was part of SHARE Wave 7 (Börsch-Supan 2019; Börsch-Supan
et al. 2013) and the VSKT dataset of SHARE-RV with administrative records from the
German Pension Insurance fund (DRV) (Forschungsdatenzentrum der Rentenversicherung,
Max-Planck-Institut für Sozialrecht und Sozialpolitik 2019). SHARE Wave 7 surveyed
3821 respondents in Germany, 2916 of whom gave their consent for their responses to be
linked to their pension data contained in the VSKT.
SHARELIFE collects retrospective life-course data in face-to-face-interviews using
a Life History Calendar approach, and covers information for the period 1920 to 2017
(Börsch-Supan 2019). Respondents are asked about biographical details from the time of
their schooling up to the time of the interview. In an attempt to minimize recall bias, the
Life History Calendar documentation follows a modular approach. The interviewer starts
with questions concerning salient life-course events such as the birth years of the respond-
ent’s children. These events are recorded in the calendar in real time during the interview
and serve as visible anchors for subsequent questions about the respondent’s history of
partnership and cohabitation. Although the interviews may slightly modify this order,
life-course information regarding respondents’ socio-economic episodes is by default con-
structed around these events. Subsequently, the study gathers information on the start and
end years of different socio-economic episodes, such as school, training, employment and
childcare, from which sequences of yearly states can then be deduced for each respondent
(Schröder 2011).
The VSKT includes the DRV’s monthly administrative records under the statutory pen-
sion scheme for individuals aged 14 to 65years. As the DRV only records pension-relevant
employment situations, work in self-employment and public service are not covered and
thus result in ‘no information’ states in the data. In order to take this into account, the cor-
responding states in the survey data (‘self-employment’ and ‘public service’) were also
recoded to ‘no information’ states. Respondents who never had public-pension-relevant
employment do not appear in the data at all. In the same way, childcare and homemaking
situations are only covered by pension insurance if they are relevant under pension law. In
Germany, child-raising periods are only credited until the child reaches the age of ten and
therefore only appear in the VSKT data up to that time. Thus, childcare states in the survey
data were converted into ‘no information’ states after the tenth birthday of the youngest
child to prevent inconsistencies arising from different recording procedures when compar-
ing the sequences.
Since a high proportion of ‘no information’ states limits the meaningfulness of
discrepancies between administrative and survey data, we exclude respondents with
more than 25 percent ‘no information’ states in their pension data life history from
the analysis. Therefore, our sample underrepresents self-employed persons, civil serv-
ants, and homemakers. The share of self-employed persons in Germany (West Ger-
many before reunification) amounts to an average of 10 percent of the working age
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
Assessing dissimilarity ofemployment history information…
1 3
population between 1960 and 2017, while civil servants represent about 6 percent dur-
ing this period (Source: Destatis 2019a; own calculations). The average share of labor
market inactive persons, i.e. those neither engaging in nor seeking gainful employment
(e.g. homemakers), are estimated at about 30 percent of the working age population
between 1960 and 2017 (Source: Destatis 2019b; own calculations).
Furthermore, we limit the period under consideration for all respondents to the age
range 21 to 50 since not all respondents had reached the age of 65 by the time of the
interview and the data quality for the first years of life is significantly worse due to a
high share of missing values in the survey data. This results in a dataset containing
30years of live history data, from age 21 to 50, for 1679 respondents.
Appendix Table4 shows sample information by selected covariates. The data set
consists of almost equal shares of men and women. The vast majority (90.83 per-
cent) of the respondents were aged 49–79 at the time of the interview. Nearly a quar-
ter (22.87 percent) lived in the former East Germany. Education levels were classified
using the ISCED scale: low (pre-primary, primary, lower secondary education), middle
(upper secondary, post-secondary non-tertiary education) and high (first, second stage
of tertiary education). Job sector is based on the job type of the last job stated in the
interview: energy and agriculture (agriculture, hunting, forestry, fishing; mining and
quarrying), manufacturing (manufacturing; electricity, gas and water supply; construc-
tion), services (wholesale and retail trade; hotels and restaurants; transport, storage
and communication; financial intermediation; real estate, renting and business activity;
public administration and defense; education; health and social work), and other sec-
tors (other, don’t know). The total number of pension earning points relates to pension
entitlements under the statutory pension scheme and was recorded in the VSKT, while
self-perceived health was queried in the SHARE survey.
3.2 Data linkage strategy
We harmonize the sequences from the two different sources in two steps in order to
be able to compare them. First, the original states in the different sources have to be
mapped to a common catalogue of possible social income situations (see Appendix
Table5 for detailed information on mapping). This process permits a detailed differ-
entiation between nine different states: no information; employed; unemployed; sick or
disabled; childcare; school or training; retired; military, civil service, war prisoner or
equivalent; and other. The status of ‘missing’, which only appears in the survey data, is
also regarded as a state.
Second, the monthly administrative data must be aggregated to make it comparable
to the annual survey data. To do this, we chose a mode-based aggregation and used the
status that was held for the longest time, i.e. the most months, in a given year as the
annual status. Based on this aggregation method, none of the respondents had an aver-
age low aggregation quality (defined as 8months or less spent in the denoted status
per year). Only 12.69 percent of the respondents have a medium aggregation qual-
ity (9–11months) and an overwhelming majority (87.31 percent) have a high-quality
aggregation (12months). This indicates that frequent changes within a year are rather
rare and that mode aggregation at the annual level appears to be well justified. Appen-
dix B explains why we favored mode- over rule-based aggregation as used by Huber
and Schmucker (2009).
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
B.Bühler et al.
1 3
3.3 Analysis strategy
First, we conducted a descriptive analysis using sequence distribution plots and other
graphical representations that consider the average time spent in each state, the number of
transitions, the within-sequence entropy, the longest episode and the average complexity of
the sequences. Gabadinho etal. (2011) defines the complexity index as:
The number of transitions indicates the number of state changes within one sequence
and accounts for the complexity caused by the state ordering, while the entropy accounts
for complexity stemming from the state distribution in a sequence (Gabadinho etal. 2011).
The entropy is zero if a sequence only consists of the same state for all 30years and takes
the maximum value of 1 if a sequence consists of all possible states for the same number of
years (Gabadinho etal. 2009).
We next consider the consistency between the two sources over time. This reveals
whether certain stages in an individual’s life course are more susceptible to inconsisten-
cies than others. Each year is considered individually, and the relative number of matches
between the two sources is measured for all respondents. The agreement by state, based on
administrative data, is examined to determine whether certain statuses contain more differ-
ences than others. Our analysis also accounts for the different—and, over the life course,
changing—institutional framework conditions between Eastern and Western Germany.
We then compare the two data sources by applying the three above-mentioned distance
measures (Hamming, OM and OMspell). They are calculated for each respondent between
the survey and administrative sequences using the TraMineR package in R (Gabadinho
etal. 2020). Initially, the calculated distance values are presented and compared bivariately
along various dimensions. Linear regression analyses are then conducted to detect potential
systematic mismatches for certain groups or sequences in the sample. We include the age
at the time of the interview, gender, education, residency in East or West Germany, the
sum of pension earning points (as an approximation of income), the job sector of the last
job, and self-perceived health as explanatory variables representing possible determinants
of the dissimilarity. We also consider sequence-specific variables such as the complexity
index and the number of years spent in each possible state based on the administrative
data. We control for the quality of the aggregation in all models. We calculate two models
for each distance measure. The first model includes all variables related to the respond-
ents’ socio-demographic characteristics, and the second adds the variables describing the
4 Results
4.1 Descriptive comparison ofsequences
Figure 2 depicts the state distributions of the resulting sequences, revealing slight but
remarkable discrepancies between the survey data plot (left) and the administrative data
plot (right). In particular, it highlights the smaller proportion of childcare, retirement, and
num. transitions
max . num. transitions ×entropy
max . entropy
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
Assessing dissimilarity ofemployment history information…
1 3
military service states and the larger proportion of sickness or disability spells in the sur-
vey data compared to the administrative data. The survey data (but not the administrative
data) contain missing states.
Table1 shows further statistics on the created sequences. The survey data indicates that
respondents spend an average of 24 out of the 30years under consideration in employ-
ment, while in the administrative data the average amounts to about 23 years. The consid-
erably smaller proportion of years in childcare in the survey data, approximately 1.9years
Fig. 2 State distribution plots. Source: Authors’ calculations based on SHARE-RV version 7–0-0 and
SHARE Wave 7 version 7–0-0
Table 1 Sequence Summary Statistics
Source: Authors’ calculations based on SHARE-RV version 7–0-0 and SHARE Wave 7 version 7–0-0
Survey data Mean (Sd) Admin data
Mean (Sd)
Duration (years)
Employed 24.345 (7.562) 23.185 (6.837)
Retired 0.088 (1.144) 0.215 (1.418)
Unemployed 0.494 (2.017) 0.973 (2.314)
Child raising and homemaking 1.941 (4.707) 2.691 (4.945)
Sick or disabled 0.241 (1.684) 0.208 (0.627)
School and training 1.167 (2.856) 1.075 (2.223)
Military, civil service 0.102 (1.22) 0.243 (0.544)
No information 1.201 (3.796) 0.952 (1.832)
Other 0.124 (1.233) 0.456 (2.28)
Missing 0.297 (1.937) 0 (0)
Complexity index 0.083 (0.083) 0.155 (0.113)
Transitions 1.432 (1.562) 3.270 (2.618)
Entropy 0.149 (0.153) 0.226 (0.166)
Longest episode 23.814 (6.636) 20.154 (7.175)
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
B.Bühler et al.
1 3
on average, compared to the administrative data, about 2.7 years, stands out. The aver-
age proportion of unemployed years is also significantly lower in the survey data than in
the administrative data. Conversely, the survey sequences contain a larger share of ‘no
information’ and years of sickness or disability as well as missing spells. Furthermore, the
sequences resulting from the survey data have a considerably lower average complexity
index. This indicates that the administrative data represents more complex trajectories,
considering the entropy and number of transitions. This is evident when looking at the
average number of transitions, namely status changes, per sequence—1.40 for the survey
data and 3.27 for the administrative data. The average within-sequence entropy, highlight-
ing the distribution of states, is smaller for survey than for administrative data, which on
average contains slightly shorter longest episodes.
Overall, when comparing the survey and administrative data, 14.00 percent of respond-
ents (n = 235) do not have a single inconsistent year in the entire time observed. All others
had conflicting information in at least one year (5.65years on average). The most frequent
type of mismatch found in the data (16.85 percent of all deviations) is the respondent stat-
ing she was employed while the administrative data show a child raising and homemaker
state. Another very common error (9.63 percent) was ‘no information’ in the survey data
but employed status in the administrative data. The third most frequent discrepancy (8.65
percent of all deviations) is an employed state in the survey and unemployed in the admin-
istrative data.
4.2 Agreement overtime
Figure3 displays the consistency of the data over the life course—the relative frequency
of agreement between the survey and administrative data, in total and for the three main
states, based on administrative data by year. The solid (dotted) lines denote respondents in
Western (Eastern) Germany.
The plot shows a relatively constant total agreement over time of approximately 80
percent of respondents from Western Germany. The first years of the observation period,
i.e. the years furthest from the date of interview, show slightly more differences. Although
respondents from the East also display less agreement in the early years, their values are
Fig. 3 Agreement over time by state (admin data) and residence. Source: Authors’ calculations based on
SHARE-RV version 7–0-0 and SHARE Wave 7 version 7–0-0
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
Assessing dissimilarity ofemployment history information…
1 3
considerably higher throughout almost the whole observed life span (near 90 percent
agreement), while towards the end of the observation period they drop significantly and
are even below the level of Western Germany. The agreement over time for administrative
employment states is slightly higher than the total agreement for all states for both East and
West and follows a very similar pattern, which can be explained by the large overall share
of employment states. However, it is notable that the relative consistency of employment
spells in Eastern Germany is higher in the first half of the observation period, while in the
second half it decreases to the same level as in Western Germany.
Respondents from Eastern Germany demonstrate up to over 95 percent consistency
in their employment state between the ages of 25 and 35, which constitutes the highest
observed agreement. For most of the observation period, the childcare state agreement for
Western Germany is constantly between 50 and 70 percent. Lower relative agreement in
this state is evident at the beginning and end of the observation period. The values for
Eastern Germany are similar but show particularly high levels of agreement in the second
half. However, the strong fluctuations result from relatively low case numbers in the corre-
sponding years. Respondents who are unemployed according to administrative data show a
very low level of agreement over time, not exceeding 30 percent for West Germans and 40
percent for East Germans, with high variation.
4.3 Determinants ofsequence distances
We first assess the dissimilarity between the survey and administrative data based on the
three distance measures. Table 2 shows the calculated normalized distances and their
standard deviations by covariate. Hamming has the highest average distance values, fol-
lowed by OM and OMspell. Regarding the covariates, women on average display greater
distances than men in our data. Age at the time of the interview has no clear linear rela-
tionship to the distances, while people with high and medium levels of education show
slightly smaller distances than those with low education. Respondents in East Germany
have smaller average distances between the administrative and survey data. Likewise, peo-
ple working in the service or other non-manufacturing sectors show greater distances than
those working in the manufacturing sector. The lowest distances are found in the energy
and agricultural sectors. The higher the accumulated pension points (which serve as a
proxy for lifetime earnings), the lower the average distance values. We find no clear pat-
tern for self-perceived health. Although the three distance measures have different aver-
age values, the relationships between the groups of covariates and the respective distance
measures are very similar.
Table3 reports the results of the multivariate linear regression analysis using the Ham-
ming distance, OM and OMspell measures as dependent variables. The independent vari-
ables were checked for collinearity using the variance inflation factor test. For all three
distance measures we first calculated a model containing only the socio-demographic
covariates. We then added variables on the characteristics of the sequences in a second
model. We controlled for aggregation quality in all models. In the first range of models,
which did not control for sequence characteristics, we find that gender, sum of earnings
points, high educational level, East Germany, and job sector are significantly related with
the level of all three distance measures. East Germans have significantly smaller distances
between the survey and administrative data; the higher the sum of the earnings points, the
smaller the distance. Those with high levels of education have significantly larger distances
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
B.Bühler et al.
1 3
than those with a low level. The same applies to those working in the service and manufac-
turing sectors compared to the energy and agricultural sectors.
For most covariates, the results are in the same direction for all three distance measures.
With respect to effect strength, distances are highest for Hamming and lowest for OMspell.
This reflects the fact that OMspell is less time sensitive than Hamming and considers con-
text more than OM. Likewise, it ‘punishes’ typical errors related to recall bias, such as
forgetting short spells and the exact duration of spells, to a lesser extent than the other
Table 2 Distances between survey and administrative data by covariates
Source: Authors’ calculations based on SHARE-RV version 7–0-0 and SHARE Wave 7 version 7–0-0
Variables Hamming Mean (SD) OM Mean (SD) OMspell Mean (SD)
Male 0.154 (0.207) 0.139 (0.196) 0.119 (0.126)
Female 0.22 (0.206) 0.197 (0.192) 0.18 (0.13)
49–64years 0.206 (0.202) 0.183 (0.188) 0.171 (0.128)
65–79years 0.167 (0.206) 0.15 (0.194) 0.131 (0.13)
80years or older 0.2 (0.246) 0.185 (0.235) 0.14 (0.142)
Low 0.252 (0.254) 0.225 (0.236) 0.169 (0.149)
Middle 0.178 (0.204) 0.161 (0.193) 0.149 (0.134)
High 0.191 (0.202) 0.168 (0.188) 0.148 (0.121)
West 0.199 (0.219) 0.179 (0.206) 0.153 (0.134)
East 0.154 (0.168) 0.134 (0.154) 0.142 (0.121)
Job Sector
Energy and Agriculture 0.113 (0.136) 0.099 (0.118) 0.11 (0.103)
Manufacturing 0.144 (0.176) 0.13 (0.164) 0.118 (0.117)
Services 0.201 (0.21) 0.179 (0.196) 0.175 (0.143)
Other sectors 0.233 (0.243) 0.21 (0.233) 0.175 (0.143)
Sum of pension earning points
0–19 0.381 (0.257) 0.342 (0.24) 0.229 (0.141)
20–39 0.236 (0.206) 0.209 (0.195) 0.184 (0.131)
40–59 0.12 (0.163) 0.109 (0.154) 0.118 (0.117)
60 or more 0.114 (0.179) 0.105 (0.174) 0.091 (0.108)
Self-perceived health
Excellent 0.192 (0.222) 0.164 (0.201) 0.14 (0.136)
Very good 0.178 (0.207) 0.161 (0.198) 0.138 (0.121)
Good 0.171 (0.192) 0.154 (0.18) 0.141 (0.124)
Fair 0.201 (0.212) 0.179 (0.198) 0.161 (0.134)
Poor 0.215 (0.234) 0.195 (0.218) 0.168 (0.149)
Aggregation quality
Good 0.328 (0.199) 0.278 (0.175) 0.273 (0.112)
Perfect 0.168 (0.203) 0.153 (0.194) 0.133 (0.124)
Total 0.188 (0.209) 0.169 (196) 0.15 (0.131)
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
Assessing dissimilarity ofemployment history information…
1 3
Table 3 Linear regression models for Hamming distance, OM and OMspell as dependent variables
(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6)
Hamming 1 Hamming 2 OM 1 OM 2 OMspell 1 OMspell 2
Male (Ref.)
Female − 0.0241*− 0.0272*-0.0200*− 0.0212*0.0148*0.00318
(− 2.29) (− 2.50) (-1.97) (− 2.01) (2.27) (0.45)
Age in 2017 − 0.00000446 0.000794 0.0000748 0.000637 − 0.000736*− 0.0000971
(− 0.01) (1.73) (0.15) (1.43) (− 2.28) (− 0.33)
Sum of earning
− 0.00509*** − 0.000483 − 0.00455*** − 0.000230 − 0.00183*** 0.0000289
(− 14.28) (− 1.33) (− 13.31) (− 0.65) (− 8.30) (0.12)
Low (Ref.)
Middle − 0.0192 − 0.0123 − 0.0130 − 0.00612 0.00635 0.00510
(− 1.16) (-0.90) (− 0.82) (− 0.46) (0.62) (0.58)
High 0.0507** 0.00957 0.0453*0.0115 0.0347** 0.0153
(2.77) (0.59) (2.58) (0.73) (3.06) (1.46)
West (Ref.)
East − 0.0540*** − 0.0144 − 0.0508*** -0.0147 − 0.0261*** − 0.0108
(− 4.94) (− 1.53) (− 4.85) (-1.61) (− 3.86) (− 1.79)
Job Sector
Energy and agri-
culture (Ref.)
Manufacturing 0.0533*0.00543 0.0466 0.00329 0.0355*0.00716
(2.14) (0.26) (1.95) (0.16) (2.31) (0.54)
Services 0.0874*** 0.0329 0.0761** 0.0275 0.0532*** 0.0210
(3.60) (1.64) (3.26) (1.41) (3.55) (1.62)
Other sectors 0.0830** 0.0383 0.0754** 0.0350 0.0504** 0.0270*
(3.27) (1.83) (3.10) (1.72) (3.22) (2.00)
Subjective rated
Excellent (Ref.)
Very good − 0.0127 0.00161 − 0.00135 0.0121 − 0.000373 0.000879
(-0.48) (0.07) (− 0.05) (0.57) (− 0.02) (0.06)
Good − 0.0164 − 0.00900 − 0.00547 0.000834 0.00525 0.00370
(− 0.67) (− 0.45) (− 0.23) (0.04) (0.35) (0.29)
Fair − 0.0127 − 0.00122 − 0.00199 0.00806 0.00659 0.00573
(− 0.51) (− 0.06) (− 0.08) (0.41) (0.43) (0.43)
Poor − 0.00247 0.00849 0.0113 0.0202 0.0158 0.0186
(− 0.09) (0.37) (0.43) (0.92) (0.93) (1.27)
Aggregation quality − 0.126*** − 0.0139 − 0.0937*** − 0.00270 − 0.136*** − 0.0398***
(− 8.81) (− 0.92) (− 6.85) (− 0.18) (-15.50) (− 4.10)
Complexity index 0.564*** 0.435*** 0.630***
(8.41) (6.68) (14.58)
Years spent in states
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
B.Bühler et al.
1 3
measures do, while Hamming and OM overly ‘punish’ small errors. For gender, however,
effect strength and direction differ between the three distance measures. Using Hamming
and OM, women have significantly lower sequence dissimilarity even after controlling
for sequence characteristics in the second range of models. In contrast, women have sig-
nificantly greater dissimilarity between survey and administrative data when OMspell is
applied, which is in line with the descriptive results. However, with OMspell the relation-
ship becomes insignificant after controlling for sequence characteristics.
After including sequence characteristics in the second range of models, when the Ham-
ming and OM approaches are used, only gender differences remain significant: women
have significantly smaller distances between the survey and administrative data. When
using OMspell, only those working in ‘other’ job sectors have significantly higher dissimi-
larity between the survey and administrative data. All other socio-demographic covariates
become non-significant in the second range of models when sequence variables are added.
Among the sequence characteristics, the strongest relationship to the distance measures is
found for the sequence complexity index: the higher the complexity, the more dissimilar
are the survey and administrative data. In contrast to the socio-demographic characteris-
tics, this relationship is strongest for OMspell, which considers spell length to a greater
Source: Authors’ calculations based on SHARE-RV version 7–0-0 and SHARE wave 7 version 7–0-0
t statistics in parentheses
* p < 0.05
** p < 0.01
*** p < 0.001
Table 3 (continued)
(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6)
Hamming 1 Hamming 2 OM 1 OM 2 OMspell 1 OMspell 2
Employed − 0.00373 − 0.00386 0.00845
(− 0.47) (− 0.50) (1.64)
Unemployed 0.0120 0.0113 0.0101*
(1.51) (1.46) (1.97)
Sick or disabled 0.000334 0.00172 0.0116
(0.03) (0.18) (1.82)
Child-raising and
0.00289 0.00321 0.00722
(0.36) (0.41) (1.40)
School and training − 0.00279 − 0.00330 0.000972
(− 0.35) (− 0.43) (0.19)
Retired 0.0187*0.0190*0.0132*
(2.29) (2.40) (2.51)
Other 0.0237** 0.0242** 0.0190***
(2.94) (3.09) (3.66)
No Information 0.00914 0.00857 0.00982
(1.15) (1.11) (1.91)
Constant 1.779*** 0.270 1.364*** 0.134 1.756*** 0.230
(11.10) (0.92) (8.87) (0.47) (17.74) (1.22)
Observations 1676 1676 1676 1676 1676 1676
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
Assessing dissimilarity ofemployment history information…
1 3
extent. Furthermore, an increasing number of years in the administrative data of the states
‘retired’ and ‘other’ has a significant positive relationship with all three distance measures.
For OMspell, the number of years spent in unemployment also displays a significant posi-
tive relationship. Aggregation quality is negatively related to sequence dissimilarity in the
first range of models, but becomes insignificant after controlling for sequence character-
istics in the second range of models when applying the Hamming and OM measurement
approaches. By contrast, for OMspell aggregation quality is highly significant in both mod-
els. Sequences with poorer aggregation quality have significantly higher OMspell values,
even after considering sequence-specific variables such as complexity.
5 Discussion
The descriptive analysis demonstrates clear differences between the survey and administra-
tive data. In particular, the lower complexity indices, transition rates and entropy values
confirm that respondents oversimplify their life courses in retrospective surveys. Analysis
of the agreement between the two types of data over time shows a relatively constant pro-
portion of inconsistency across all age levels. Only the beginning of the observation period
seems to be a slightly more error-prone life stage. Employment shows the highest levels of
agreement, while unemployment data shows comparatively low levels of agreement. This
result might be due to underreporting of unemployment states in the retrospective data,
which may arise from two sources. First, people may feel too ashamed to report they have
been unemployed in a survey. Second, the problem might be related to the survey design.
The job spell concept applied in SHARELIFE focuses on reporting subsequent occupa-
tional sequences; it gives non-employment and unemployment a lower weight, which sup-
ports the underreporting thesis. With regards to regional differences, East Germans display
very high agreement in the early phase of life. Here, during the socialist period, full-time
employment was the norm with a high degree of labor market integration for both men
and women, resulting in generally homogeneous trajectories and lower potential for mis-
matches. The system transformation following German reunification in 1990 is associated
with an increased discontinuity and heterogeneity of East German employment biogra-
phies, including frequent spells of unemployment and atypical employment arrangements
(Möhring and Weiland, 2021). Subsequently, in later-life-trajectories, which for most of the
participants was after German reunification, there is slightly lower consistency in Eastern
than in Western Germany.
Overall, the Hamming and OM distance measures are relatively similar, with the
latter slightly undercutting the former as it allows for alignment. OMspell, which takes
spell length into account, more frequently shows smaller distance values and almost
no high values. This is not unexpected, given that the present data shows very high
values for the average longest episodes. However, the calculated values of all three
measures are highly correlated (see Appendix Table6), as observed in the context of
life-course data for Hamming and OM in previous research (Halpin 2010; Wahrendorf
etal. 2019); it also seems to apply to OMspell. When comparing distances by covari-
ates, we observe smaller distances for men, more educated respondents, those working
in the energy and agricultural sectors, and participants who have a large number of
earning points. Additionally, as suggested by the agreement over time, East Germans
have lower distances overall.
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
B.Bühler et al.
1 3
The multivariate regression analysis with the distance values as the dependent vari-
able shows that the complexity of a sequence is positively related to the distance. The
significant association of socio-demographic covariates vanishes when sequence-spe-
cific variables are added to the model indicating that personal characteristics such as
age, earning points, and employment sector are highly correlated with the complexity
of a respondent’s employment history. However, even after controlling for characteris-
tics of respondents’ employment histories, for women the differences between admin-
istratively recorded and personally reported trajectories measured by the Hamming
and OM methods remain significant. In contrast to the descriptive results, women here
have lower sequence dissimilarity than men—perhaps because women are overrepre-
sented among service sector and low-income workers and typically have more complex
employment histories. The gender differences we detect are reversed after controlling
for these factors.
While the regression results using Hamming and OM as dependent variables reveal
very similar relationships for all the independent variables, there are remarkable dif-
ferences when OMspell is used. This distance measure takes into account the spell
structure and the context alignment operations. For example, being female is positively
related to sequence dissimilarity only when the OMspell approach is used, which may
be because OMspell considers spell length to a greater extent and gives less weight
to dissimilarities in longer spells. As women have more fragmented life courses with
short spells and men have more continuous careers with longer spells, the latter are
less ‘punished’ in the more context-sensitive OMspell.
Our findings are in line with those of previous studies. We find that retrospective life
trajectories are more likely to diverge from administrative data the more versatile a life
course is. Furthermore, even though the reason for disagreement is not rooted in their
group affiliation, certain social groups exhibit more complex employment histories and
therefore are especially prone to larger differences, such as women, respondents with
a low level of education and people employed in the tertiary sector. For these groups,
researchers must account for the fact that survey life history data underestimates life-
course complexity. Moreover, with respect to gender differences, researchers applying
sequence analyses to either administrative or survey data have to keep in mind that the
extent and direction of gender differences vary not only depending on the data source,
but also between the distance measures.
This study has two main limitations. First, self-employed, civil servants and home-
makers are not represented in the analysis, which also reveals a blind spot in the
employed administrative data. Second, and as reported by Wahrendorf etal. (2019),
respondents must consent to have their data linked, and not all SHARE participants
gave permission. Therefore, further research is needed, not only to compare life history
data from different sources that also cover employment states, which we were unable
to include, but also to systematically compare the results obtained from different dis-
tance measures.
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
Assessing dissimilarity ofemployment history information…
1 3
Appendix A
See Tables4, 5, 6.
Table 4 Sample statistics
Source: Authors’ calculations based on SHARE-RV version 7–0-0 and
SHARE Wave 7 version 7–0-0
Variables Frequency Percent
Male 813 48.42
Female 866 51.58
Age at interview
49–64years 781 46.52
65–79years 744 44.31
80years or older 154 9.17
Low 148 8.81
Middle 1,009 60.10
High 522 31.09
West 1,295 77.13
East 384 22.87
Sum of pension earning points
0–19 147 8.76
20–39 670 39.90
40–59 624 37.16
60 or more 238 14.18
Job sector
Energy and agriculture 62 3.69
Manufacturing 464 27.64
Services 811 48.30
Other sectors 342 20.37
Self-perceived health
Excellent 60 3.57
Very good 212 12.63
Good 692 41.22
Fair 536 31.92
Poor 176 10.48
Total 1679 100
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
B.Bühler et al.
1 3
Table 5 Mapping of VSKT and SHARELIFE states
No info No info
Unpaid care
Looking after home and family, IF youngest
child in household > 10years old
Civil servant
Missing - Missing
School and Training Vocational training School Training
Further fulltime education
Child raising and homemaking Child raising and homemaking Looking after home and family, IF youngest
child in household < 10years old
and first child born
Sick or disabled Incapacity to work/ illness Sick or disabled
Supplementary period
Unemployed Unemployed: unemploymentbenefit/ALGII Unemployed searching/ not searching for job
unemployed: Unemployment allowance (including unemployment benefit
up to 2000)
Unemployed: credit period
Military, civil service, war prisoner or equiva-
Military and civilian service Military services, war prisoner or equivalent
Employed Marginally employed Employed, Short term job (less than 6months)
Gainfully employed and obligated to pay social insurance
Retired from work Pension provision (own insurance) Retired from work
Other Other Leisure, travelling or doing nothing
Managing assets
Voluntary or community work
Forced labor or in jail
Exiled or banished
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
Assessing dissimilarity ofemployment history information…
1 3
Table 5 (continued)
Labor camp
Concentration camp
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
B.Bühler et al.
1 3
Appendix B: Aggregation methods
We apply two different aggregation methods, as illustrated in Fig.4. The mode aggrega-
tion uses the most frequent state of the respective year. The rule-based aggregation sum-
marizes the year based on a state hierarchy similar to applications in previous research
(Huber and Schmucker 2009). This SHARE hierarchy is deduced from the hierarchy
used to deal with concurrent states during the transformation into monthly Social
Income Situations for Share RV (VSKT User Information Release 7–1-0; SHARE RV
2019). Accordingly, we ranked the states in the following order: employed, military,
Table 6 Pairwise correlations of
distance measures
* indicates significance at the 0.000 level
Source: Authors’ calculations based on SHARE-RV version 7–0-0 and
SHARE Wave 7 version 7–0-0
Distance measures (1) (2) (3)
(1) Hamming 1.000
(2) OM 0.984* 1.000
(3) OMspell 0.822* 0.829* 1.000
Fig. 4 Aggregation methods Source: Authors’ own depiction
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
Assessing dissimilarity ofemployment history information…
1 3
Table 7 Social Income Situation VSKT (according to VSKT User Information Release 7–1-0) and State
Aggregation Hierarchies
Hierarchy of Social Income Situations VSKT Hierarchy of States
Data Aggregation
Compulsory contribution except of child-raising Employed
Voluntary contribution
Creditable activities Unemployed
Sick or disabled
School or training
(Credited) substitute activities
Voluntary additional insurance
Pension provision Retired
Child raising period Child raising
Other activities taken into account Other, no information
Table 8 Aggregation quality
Source Authors’ calculations
based on SHARE-RV version
7–0-0 and SHARE Wave 7
version 7–0-0
Rule based
Mean quality Freq. Percent
6–8months 5 0.30
9–11months 375 22.33
12months 1299 77.37
Table 9 Distances between survey and administrative data by covariates
Admin data rule based mean (sd)
Duration (years)
Employed 24.182 (6.85)
Retired from work 0.235 (1.547)
Unemployed 1.075 (2.503)
Child raising & household 2.799 (5.244)
Sick or disabled 0.134 (0.598)
School & training 1.120 (2.417)
Military, civil service 0.256 (0.701)
No information 0.995 (2.083)
Other 0.497 (2.439)
Missing 0 (0)
Complexity index 0.117 (0.104)
Transitions 2.388 (2.259)
Entropy 0.177 (0.162)
Longest episode 22.118 (7.242)
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
B.Bühler et al.
1 3
Table 10 Pairwise correlations of distance measures for rule-based aggregation Source Authors’ calculations based on SHARE-RV version 7–0-0 and SHARE Wave 7 version
* shows significance at the 0.000 level
Rule based
Distance measures (1) (2) (3)
(1) Hamming 1.000
(2) OM 0.987* 1.000
(3) OMspell 0.854* 0.851* 1.000
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
Assessing dissimilarity ofemployment history information…
1 3
unemployed, sick or disabled, school or training, retired, child raising, other, no infor-
mation (see Appendix Table 7). This means that a respondent receives the highest-
ranked state that they display in at least one month in the corresponding year.
The results of the two forms of aggregation differ only marginally. They produce
different outcomes in only 5 percent of the overall years of all respondents. Only 0.3
percent of the sample shows a low average quality of aggregation, while 22.3 percent
have a medium quality and 77.4 percent a high quality (compare with Table8). Yet, we
preferred the mode aggregation for two reasons. First, its aggregation quality is consid-
erably better. Second, this method is independent from subjective decisions about a cer-
tain hierarchy of the states. The following supplemental material presents further com-
parisons between the two forms of aggregation. Table9 presents the summary statistics
of sequences generated by rule-based data aggregation. Comparing the two aggregation
procedures that we applied demonstrates that in addition to the general similarity of
the overall statistics, the rule-based aggregation results in less complex sequences, with
fewer transitions and less entropy, most probably due to preferences for certain states
over others. In these states they naturally also demonstrate longer average years. How-
ever, this seems to make them more similar to the survey data on the whole.
To rule out the possibility that differences in the quality of aggregation distort the
analysis of sequence distances, we investigated the extent to which the average quality
of the aggregation per person, namely the actual number of months spent in the assigned
state in a given year, is associated with the resulting distance measures. Our ANOVA
test shows significant differences in the distance values by quality. However, since most
respondents show a very high average aggregation quality (see Appendix Table8), this
should not greatly distort the results. In addition, frequent status changes within a single
year that are associated with low aggregation quality can also indicate generally more
complex sequences, which have a higher expected distance. Comparing the distance
measures (Hamming, OM and OMspell), indicates that the average distances are lower
for rule-based, than for mode aggregation for all three distance measures. Hamming has
the highest average distance values in both forms of aggregation, followed by OM and
OMspell. As can be seen in Table10, all distance measures are highly correlated.
Acknowledgements This paper uses data from SHARE Wave 7 (DOI: 10. 6103/ SHARE.w7.710), see
Börsch-Supan et al. (2013) for methodological details. The SHARE data collection has been funded by
the European Commission through FP5 (QLK6-CT-2001-00360), FP6 (SHARE-I3: RII-CT-2006-062193,
COMPARE: CIT5-CT-2005-028857, SHARELIFE: CIT4-CT-2006-028812), FP7 (SHARE-PREP: GA
N°211909, SHARE-LEAP: GA N°227822, SHARE M4: GA N°261982, DASISH: GA N°283646) and
Horizon 2020 (SHARE-DEV3: GA N°676536, SHARE-COHESION: GA N°870628, SERISS: GA
N°654221, SSHOC: GA N°823782) and by DG Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion. Additional fund-
ing from the German Ministry of Education and Research, the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of
Science, the U.S. National Institute on Aging (U01_AG09740-13S2, P01_AG005842, P01_AG08291, P30_
AG12815, R21_AG025169, Y1-AG-4553-01, IAG_BSR06-11, OGHA_04-064, HHSN271201300071C)
and from various national funding sources is gratefully acknowledged (see www. share- proje ct. org). The R
code of the Project is stored here: https:// osf. io/ 45xz3/
Funding Open Access funding enabled and organized by Projekt DEAL. Project funding from the German
Research Network on Pensions (FNA).
Availability of data and material Data access is restricted; see http:// www. share- proje ct. org/ data- access/
share- condi tions- of- use. html for further information.
Code availability The R code of the Project is stored here: https:// osf. io/ 45xz3/
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
B.Bühler et al.
1 3
Conflicts of interest No conflicts of interest.
Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License,
which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long
as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Com-
mons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article
are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the
material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not
permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly
from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http:// creat iveco mmons. org/ licen ses/ by/4. 0/.
Abbott, A., Forrest, J.: Optimal matching methods for historical sequences. J. Interdiscip. Hist. 16(3),
471–494 (1986). https:// doi. org/ 10. 2307/ 204500
Abbott, A., Hrycak, A.: Measuring resemblance in sequence data: an optimal matching analysis of musi-
cians’ careers. Am. J. Sociol. 96(1), 144–185 (1990)
Abowd, J.M., Harrison Stinson, M.: Estimating measurement error in SIPP annual job earnings: a com-
parison of census bureau survey and SSA administrative data. SSRN Electron. J. (2011). https://
doi. org/ 10. 2139/ ssrn. 18946 90
Adriaans, J., Valet, P., Liebig, S.: Comparing administrative and survey data: is information on educa-
tion from administrative records of the German Institute for Employment Research consistent with
survey self-reports? Qual. Quant. 54(1), 3–25 (2020). https:// doi. org/ 10. 1007/ s11135- 019- 00931-4
Börsch-Supan, A., Brandt, M., Hunkler, C., Kneip, T., Korbmacher, J., Malter, F., Schaan, B., Stuck, S.,
Zuber, S.: Data resource profile: the survey of health, ageing and retirement in Europe (SHARE).
Int. J. Epidemiol. 42(4), 992–1001 (2013)
Börsch-Supan, A.: Survey of health, ageing and retirement in Europe (SHARE) Wave 7. Release ver-
sion: 7.1.1. SHARE-ERIC. Data set (2019). https:// doi. org/ 10. 6103/ SHARE. w7. 711
Brzinsky-Fay, C., Kohler, U., & Luniak, M.: Sequence analysis with Stata. Stata J. 6(4), 435–460 (2006)
Brzinsky-Fay, C., Kohler, U.: New developments in sequence analysis. Sociol. Methods Res. 38(3), 359–
364 (2010). https:// doi. org/ 10. 1177/ 00491 24110 363371
Destatis, Genesis-Online: 12211–9000: Bevölkerung, Erwerbstätige, Erwerbslose, Erwerbspersonen,
Nichterwerbspersonen [jeweils im Alter von 15 bis unter 65 Jahren]: Deutschland, Jahre (bis 2019),
Geschlecht. Datenlizenz by-2–0. https:// www- genes is. desta tis. de/ genes is// online? opera tion= table &
code= 12211- 9000& bypass= true& level index= 0& level id= 16387 04581 271# abrea dcrumb (2021a).
Accessed 15 December 2021
Destatis, Genesis-Online: 12211–9005: Erwerbstätige: Deutschland, Jahre (bis 2019), Stellung im Beruf,
Geschlecht. Datenlizenz by-2–0. https:// www- genes is. desta tis. de/ genes is// online? opera tion= table &
code= 12211- 9005& bypass= true& level index= 0& level id= 16387 07272 562# abrea dcrumb (2021b).
Accessed 15 December 2021
Elzinga, C.H.: Sequence similarity: a nonaligning technique. Sociol. Methods Res. 32(1), 3–29 (2003)
Elzinga, C.H., Wang, H.: Kernels for acyclic digraphs. Pattern Recogn. Lett. 33(16), 2239–2244 (2012)
Gabadinho, A., Ritschard, G., Studer, M., Müller, N. S.: Mining sequence data in R with the TraMineR
package: Auser’s guide. Department of Econometrics and Laboratory of Demography, University of
Geneva, Geneva (2009)
Gabadinho, A., Ritschard, G., Müller, N.S., Studer, M.: Analyzing and visualizing state sequences in R
with TraMineR. J. Stat. Softw. 40(1), 1–37 (2011). https:// doi. org/ 10. 18637/ jss. v040. i04
Gabadinho, A., Studer, M., Müller, N., Bürgin, R., Fonta, P.-A., Ritschard, G.: TraMineR: Trajectory
miner: a toolbox for exploring and rendering sequences (2020). https:// CRAN.R- proje ct. org/ packa
ge= TraMi neR. Accessed 31 May 2020
Groen, J.A.: Sources of Error in Survey and Administrative Data: The Importance of Reporting Proce-
dures. J. Off. Stat. 27(2), 173–198 (2012)
Halpin, B.: Optimal matching analysis and life-course data: the importance of duration. Sociol. Methods
Res. 38(3), 365–388 (2010). https:// doi. org/ 10. 1177/ 00491 24110 363590
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
Assessing dissimilarity ofemployment history information…
1 3
Hamming, R.W.: Error detecting and error correcting codes. Bell Syst. Tech. J. 29(2), 147–160 (1950).
https:// doi. org/ 10. 1002/j. 1538- 7305. 1950. tb004 63.x
Hollister, M.: Is optimal matching suboptimal? Sociol. Methods Res. 38(2), 235–264 (2009)
Huber, M., Schmucker, A.: Identifying and explaining inconsistencies in linked administrative and sur-
vey data: the case of German employment biographies. Hist. Soc. Res. 34(3), 230–241 (2009).
https:// doi. org/ 10. 12759/ hsr. 34. 2009.3. 230- 241
Jenkins, S.P., Cappellari, L., Lynn, P., Jäckle, A., Sala, E.: Patterns of consent: evidence from a general
household survey. J. r. Stat. Soc. Stat. Soc. 169(4), 701–722 (2006). https:// doi. org/ 10. 1111/j. 1467-
985X. 2006. 00417.x
Korbmacher, J., Czaplicki, C.: Linking SHARE survey data with administrative records: first experi-
ences from SHARE-Germany. In: Malter, F., Börsch-Supan, A. (eds.) Share wave 4: innovations &
methodology. MEA, Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy, Munich (2013)
Korbmacher, J.M., Schroeder, M.: Consent when linking survey data with administrative records: the
role of the interviewer. Surv. Res. Methods 7(2), 115–131 (2013)
Korbmacher, J.M.: Recall Error in the Year of Retirement. SHARE Working Paper Series 21–2014, 42
Kreiner, C.T., Lassen, D.D., Leth-Petersen, S.: Measuring the Accuracy of Survey Responses using
Administrative Register Data: Evidence from Denmark,. In: Carroll, C. D., Thomas F. Crossley, T.
F., Sabelhaus, J. (eds.) Improving the Measurement of Consumer Expenditures, Vol. 74, 289–307.
University of Chicago Press, Chicago (2015)
Kreuter, F., Presser, S., Tourangeau, R.: Social desirability bias in CATI, IVR, and web surveysthe
effects of mode and question sensitivity. Public Opin. q. 72(5), 847–865 (2008). https:// doi. org/ 10.
1093/ poq/ nfn063
Kreuter, F., Müller, G., Trappmann, M.: Nonresponse and measurement error in employment research:
making use of administrative data. Public Opin. q. 74(5), 880–906 (2010). https:// doi. org/ 10. 1093/
poq/ nfq060
Kreyenfeld, M., Bastin, S.: Reliability of union histories in social science surveys: blurred memory,
deliberate misreporting, or true tales? Adv. Life Course Res. 27, 30–42 (2016). https:// doi. org/ 10.
1016/j. alcr. 2015. 11. 001
Krumpal, I.: Determinants of social desirability bias in sensitive surveys: a literature review. Qual.
Quant. 47(4), 2025–2047 (2013). https:// doi. org/ 10. 1007/ s11135- 011- 9640-9
Kühne, S.: From strangers to acquaintances? Interviewer continuity and socially desirable responses
in panel surveys. Surv. Res. Methods 12(2), 121–146 (2018). https:// doi. org/ 10. 18148/ srm/ 2018.
v12i2. 7299
Lee, K. O., Smith, R., Galster, G.: Neighborhood trajectories of low-income US households: An application
ofsequence analysis. J. Urban Aff. 39(3), 335–357 (2017)
Lesnard, L.: Setting cost in optimal matching to uncover contemporaneous socio-temporal patterns.
Sociol. Methods Res. 38(3), 389–419 (2010)
Manzoni, A., Vermunt, J.K., Luijkx, R., Muffels, R.: Memory bias in retrospectively collected employ-
ment careers: a model-based approach to correct for measurement error. Sociol. Methodol. 40(1),
39–73 (2010)
Mika, T.: The effects of social and institutional change on data production. The case of welfare state
reforms on the rise and decline of unemployment and care-giving in the German Pension Fund
Data. Historical Social Research/Historische Sozialforschung, 115–137 (2009)
Möhring, K., Weiland, A.P.: Couples’ life courses and women’s income in later life: a multichannel
sequence analysis of linked lives in Germany. Eur. Sociol. Rev. (2021). https:// doi. org/ 10. 1093/ esr/
jcab0 48
Forschungsdatenzentrum der Rentenversicherung, Max-Planck-Institut für Sozialrecht und Sozialpolitik:
SHARE-RV. Release version: 7.0.0. SHARE-ERIC. Dataset (2019). doi: https:// doi. org/ 10. 6103/
Sakshaug, J., Antoni, M., Sauckel, R.: The quality and selectivity of linking federal administrative
records to respondents and nonrespondents in a general population sample survey of Germany.
Surv. Res. Methods 11(1), 63–80 (2017). https:// doi. org/ 10. 18148/ srm/ 2017. v11i1. 6718
Schröder, M.: Concepts and topics. In: Schröder, M. (ed.) Retrospective Data Collection in the Survey
of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe. SHARELIFE Methodology. MEA, Mannheim (2011)
Solga, H.: Longitudinal surveys and the study of occupational mobility: panel and retrospective design
in comparison. Qual. Quant. 35(3), 291–309 (2001). https:// doi. org/ 10. 1023/A: 10103 87414 959
Squires, P., Kaufman, H. G., Togelius, J., & Jaramillo, C. M.: A comparative sequence analysis of career
pathsamong knowledge workers in a multinational bank. 2017 IEEE International Conference on Big
Data (Big Data).3604-3612 (2017). https:// doi. org/ 10. 1109/ BigDa ta. 2017. 82583 54
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
B.Bühler et al.
1 3
Studer, M., Ritschard, G.: What matters in differences between life trajectories: a comparative review of
sequence dissimilarity measures. J. R. Stat. Soc. A. Stat. Soc. 179(2), 481–511 (2016). https:// doi.
org/ 10. 1111/ rssa. 12125
Trappe, H., Pollmann-Schult, M., Schmitt, C.: The rise and decline of the male breadwinner model:
Institutional underpinnings and future expectations. Eur. Sociol. Rev. 31(2), 230–242 (2015)
Valet, P., Adriaans, J., Liebig, S.: Comparing survey data and administrative records on gross earnings:
nonreporting, misreporting, interviewer presence and earnings inequality. Qual. Quant. 53(1), 471–
491 (2019). https:// doi. org/ 10. 1007/ s11135- 018- 0764-z
Wagner, M., Philip, J.T.: SHARELIFE. SHARE Wave 7 Methodology: Panel innovations and life histo-
ries (2019)
Wahrendorf, M., Marr, A., Antoni, M., Pesch, B., Jöckel, K.-H., Lunau, T., Moebus, S., Arendt, M.,
Brüning, T., Behrens, T., Dragano, N.: Agreement of self-reported and administrative data on
employment histories in a German cohort study: a sequence analysis. Eur. J. Popul. 35(2), 329–346
(2019). https:// doi. org/ 10. 1007/ s10680- 018- 9476-2
West, B.T., Blom, A.G.: Explaining interviewer effects: a research synthesis. J. Surv. Stat. Method. 5(2),
175–211 (2017). https:// doi. org/ 10. 1093/ jssam/ smw024
Widmer, E.D., Ritschard, G.: The de-standardization of the life course: Are men and women equal? Adv.
Life Course Res. 14(1), 28–39 (2009). https:// doi. org/ 10. 1016/j. alcr. 2009. 04. 001
Wu, L.L.: Some comments on “Sequence analysis and optimal matching methods in sociology: review and
prospect.” Sociol. Methods Res. 29(1), 41–64 (2000)
Publisher’s Note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and
institutional affiliations.
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
Terms and Conditions
Springer Nature journal content, brought to you courtesy of Springer Nature Customer Service Center
GmbH (“Springer Nature”).
Springer Nature supports a reasonable amount of sharing of research papers by authors, subscribers
and authorised users (“Users”), for small-scale personal, non-commercial use provided that all
copyright, trade and service marks and other proprietary notices are maintained. By accessing,
sharing, receiving or otherwise using the Springer Nature journal content you agree to these terms of
use (“Terms”). For these purposes, Springer Nature considers academic use (by researchers and
students) to be non-commercial.
These Terms are supplementary and will apply in addition to any applicable website terms and
conditions, a relevant site licence or a personal subscription. These Terms will prevail over any
conflict or ambiguity with regards to the relevant terms, a site licence or a personal subscription (to
the extent of the conflict or ambiguity only). For Creative Commons-licensed articles, the terms of
the Creative Commons license used will apply.
We collect and use personal data to provide access to the Springer Nature journal content. We may
also use these personal data internally within ResearchGate and Springer Nature and as agreed share
it, in an anonymised way, for purposes of tracking, analysis and reporting. We will not otherwise
disclose your personal data outside the ResearchGate or the Springer Nature group of companies
unless we have your permission as detailed in the Privacy Policy.
While Users may use the Springer Nature journal content for small scale, personal non-commercial
use, it is important to note that Users may not:
use such content for the purpose of providing other users with access on a regular or large scale
basis or as a means to circumvent access control;
use such content where to do so would be considered a criminal or statutory offence in any
jurisdiction, or gives rise to civil liability, or is otherwise unlawful;
falsely or misleadingly imply or suggest endorsement, approval , sponsorship, or association
unless explicitly agreed to by Springer Nature in writing;
use bots or other automated methods to access the content or redirect messages
override any security feature or exclusionary protocol; or
share the content in order to create substitute for Springer Nature products or services or a
systematic database of Springer Nature journal content.
In line with the restriction against commercial use, Springer Nature does not permit the creation of a
product or service that creates revenue, royalties, rent or income from our content or its inclusion as
part of a paid for service or for other commercial gain. Springer Nature journal content cannot be
used for inter-library loans and librarians may not upload Springer Nature journal content on a large
scale into their, or any other, institutional repository.
These terms of use are reviewed regularly and may be amended at any time. Springer Nature is not
obligated to publish any information or content on this website and may remove it or features or
functionality at our sole discretion, at any time with or without notice. Springer Nature may revoke
this licence to you at any time and remove access to any copies of the Springer Nature journal content
which have been saved.
To the fullest extent permitted by law, Springer Nature makes no warranties, representations or
guarantees to Users, either express or implied with respect to the Springer nature journal content and
all parties disclaim and waive any implied warranties or warranties imposed by law, including
merchantability or fitness for any particular purpose.
Please note that these rights do not automatically extend to content, data or other material published
by Springer Nature that may be licensed from third parties.
If you would like to use or distribute our Springer Nature journal content to a wider audience or on a
regular basis or in any other manner not expressly permitted by these Terms, please contact Springer
Nature at
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
In research on stratification and inequality, administrative data are popular for their wide coverage and assumed high quality. Yet, the quality of the data depends crucially on the aim of data collection. In this paper, we investigate the quality of information on education in administrative data from social security records provided by the German Federal Institute for Employment Research where education was not the primary purpose of data collection. We use linked German employee data with self-reported education as a benchmark to investigate whether the level of education is consistent or provided at all in the administrative data. The results show striking differences between administrative and survey data. Not only is information on education often missing from the administrative data; the information contained often deviates from the information employees reported in the survey. Information on school-leaving certificates is more often missing from the administrative data than information on vocational and university degrees. Furthermore, the information on vocational and university degrees is frequently inconsistent. Our results, moreover, reveal that missingness and inconsistency of information differ by type of degree obtained. Employer characteristics show a systematic correlation with missingness of information on both schooling and vocational degrees but appear less relevant in explaining inconsistencies. Additional analyses of estimated returns to education indicate that misreporting of vocational degrees in particular leads to an underestimation of actual returns to education. These results suggest that further research on the quality of measures of education in administrative data collected for different purposes is needed.
Full-text available
Research on earnings inequality mostly relies on survey data, but these data may not be accurate. Survey data on earnings might be biased as research indicates that some respondents are likely to avoid reporting their gross earnings and others are likely to misreport them. In addition, the mode of data collection might affect responses to sensitive questions such as those on earnings. Given these three possibilities for bias, researchers’ conclusions on the degree of earnings inequality might be systematically biased as well. By comparing survey and linked administrative data, we looked for the nonreporting and misreporting biases suggested by the literature, investigated the presence of an interviewer as another source of non- and misreporting, and compared how nonreporting, misreporting, and the mode of data collection affected conclusions on earnings inequality. The analyses drew on a German employee survey and linked administrative data from the Federal Employment Agency. Using the administrative data as a benchmark, we found that respondents at the lower and upper end of the earnings distribution were more likely to not report and to misreport their earnings. Interviewer presence led to higher nonreporting but had no effect on misreporting. All these processes and especially nonreporting and interviewer presence led to an underestimation of earnings inequality based on survey data. We relate the relevance of these results to research on inequality and survey methodology and conclude that linking survey data to administrative records could be an avenue for safeguarding conclusions on earnings inequality.
Full-text available
Collecting life course data is increasingly common in social and epidemiological research, either through record linkage of administrative data or by collecting retrospective interview data. This paper uses data on employment histories collected through both strategies, compares the attained samples, and investigates levels of agreements of individual histories. We use data from the German Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study with information on employment histories collected retrospectively from 2011 until 2014 (N = 3059). Administrative data from the German Institute for Employment Research (IAB) were linked to the survey data. After comparing respondents who provide self-reported histories with the subsample of the ones for which administrative data were available, we investigate the agreement of individual employment histories from the two sources (between 1975 and 2010) using sequence analyses. Almost all participants provided survey data on employment histories (97% of the sample), linkage consent was given by 93%, and administrative data were available for 63% of the participants. People with survey data were more likely to be female, to have a higher education, and to work self-employed and in the tertiary sector. The agreement of individual employment histories is high and similar across time, with a median level of agreement of 89%. Slightly lower values exist for women and people working in the tertiary sector, both having more complex histories. No differences exist for health-related factors. In conclusion, it is likely that missing consent and failed record linkage lead to sample differences; yet, both strategies provide comparable and reliable life course data. Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (10.1007/s10680-018-9476-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Full-text available
Various forms of auxiliary information are being sought to augment general population survey samples in order to evaluate and improve the representativeness and overall quality of survey data. However, auxiliary data options are limited in most general population surveys. Federal administrative databases provide a potentially rich source of auxiliary information, but linking them to general population samples is often restricted to surveys which draw their samples from population registers containing unique identifiers which can be directly linked to federal databases. In this article, we examine the quality and selectivity of linkages between a general population survey sample and a federal administrative database performed without a unique identifier. We employ a series of standard linkage procedures that rely instead on non-unique and error-prone identifiers obtained from the sampling frame to link a federal employment database to respondents and nonrespondents in a nationally-representative survey in Germany. The quality and selectivity of the established links are evaluated using sample disposition codes, and household-and person-level interview data in accordance with German data protection laws. We report a linkage rate of 60 percent for the entire sample under a strict linkage criterion, and 80 percent under a more relaxed criterion. We find that linkage rates vary across some sample disposition codes as well as household-and person-level characteristics that are likely specific to the particular administrative database used in this case study. We conclude with a general discussion of the practical implications of this work for survey organizations considering performing similar linkages and highlight some opportunities for further research.
Full-text available
p>This package is a toolbox for sequence manipulation, description, rendering and more generally the mining of sequence data in the field of social sciences. Though it is primarily intended for analyzing state or event sequences that describe life courses such as family formation histories or professional careers its features also apply to many other kinds of categorical sequence data. It accepts many different sequence representations as input and provides tools for translating sequences from one format to another. It offers several statistical functions for describing and rendering sequences, for computing distances between sequences with different metrics among which optimal matching, the longest common prefix and the longest common subsequence, and simple functions for extracting the most frequent subsequences and identifying the most discriminating ones among them. A user's guide can be found on the TraMineR web page.</p
We examine how the life courses of couples in East and West Germany are linked to women’s income in later life using multichannel sequence analysis. By applying a couple perspective, we overcome the individualistic approach in most previous research analysing women’s old-age income. Detailed monthly information on spouses’ employment and earnings trajectories from age 20 to 50 for the birth cohorts 1925–1965 (N = 2020) stems from SHARE-RV, a data linkage of the administrative records of the German public pension insurance with the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). We identify seven clusters of couples’ life courses and link them to women’s absolute individual and relative household income in later life using a cohort comparison to identify trends over time. While in older cohorts, women in male-breadwinner type clusters achieve the lowest, and those in dual-earner type couples have the highest incomes, this relationship does no longer prevail in younger cohorts. Here, we identify a polarization in dual-earner and male-breadwinner type clusters. The former increasingly diverge into successful female-breadwinner constellations and those with both partners in marginalized careers. The latter polarize between persistent male-breadwinner constellations and those in which women increase their labor market engagement.
In many panel surveys that rely on face-to-face interviewing, interviewers are repeatedly allocated to the same respondents in each wave. Researchers and fieldwork agencies argue that interviewer continuity can contribute to the quality of the data collected, for instance, by reducing panel attrition. However, there is almost no empirical evidence focusing on the effects of growing familiarity between interviewers and respondents on responses and measurement error in repeated interviews. This paper focuses on questions containing socially (un)desirable answer options. It is argued that interviewer continuity promotes the development of trust, emotional closeness, and loyalty, as well as interview rapport between respondents and interviewers, and that this, in turn, increases the respondents’ motivation to answer truthfully rather than in a socially desirable way. Drawing on data derived from 31 waves of an ongoing household panel study in Germany, the results show a consistent effect of interviewer continuity on response behavior: Respondents who are more familiar with their interviewers are less likely to choose answer options associated with socially desirable connotations. This study provides evidence for a rare advantageous panel conditioning effect on data quality in longitudinal studies and points to the importance of taking into account the familiarity between respondents and interviewers when investigating conditioning effects on measurement error in longitudinal studies.
Neighborhood poverty experienced over time by low-income households is a topic of increasing interest and public policy importance. We employ sequence analysis of neighborhood poverty rates to identify distinct patterns among the 18- to 22-year longitudinal residential trajectories of 389 low-income households in the United States who formed households during 1988–1992, as represented in the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. Our most striking finding is the important role of poverty in their first neighborhood to the probability that low-income households ultimately reside in neighborhoods with higher poverty rates. Contrary to conventional wisdom, there are a wide variety of neighborhood poverty trajectories that low-income American households experience. However, those with felicitous neighborhood trajectories were almost entirely White households. The majority of Blacks formed households in high-poverty neighborhoods and were unlikely to live in any other sort of neighborhood for the next two decades when they are typically raising children. In addition, both in-place neighborhood changes and residential mobility have likely led to this racial variation in low-income neighborhood trajectories. We contribute to the evidence base about the role of place in perpetuating socioeconomic and racial inequalities.
A rich and diverse literature exists on the effects that human interviewers can have on different aspects of the survey data collection process. This research synthesis uses the Total Survey Error (TSE) framework to highlight important historical developments and advances in the study of interviewer effects on a variety of important survey process outcomes, including sample frame coverage, contact and recruitment of potential respondents, survey measurement, and data processing. Included in the scope of the synthesis is research literature that has focused on explaining variability among interviewers in these effects and the different types of variable errors that they can introduce, which can ultimately affect the efficiency of survey estimates. We first consider common tasks with which human interviewers are often charged and then use the TSE framework to organize and synthesize the literature discussing the variable errors that interviewers can introduce when attempting to execute each task. Based on our synthesis, we identify key gaps in knowledge and then use these gaps to motivate an organizing model for future research investigating explanations for interviewer effects on different aspects of the survey data collection process.