Two Simple Methods to Improve Official Statistics for Small Subpopulations

  • Nikolas Mittag CERGE-EI
Keywords: survey error, small populations food stamps, government transfers, official statistics


Many important statistics are known from official records for the entire population, but have to be estimated for subpopulations. I describe two simple data combination methods that reduce the substantial sampling error of the commonly used direct survey estimates for small subpopulations. The first estimator incorporates information from repeated cross-sections, while the second estimator uses the knowledge of the statistic for the overall population to improve accuracy of the estimates for subpopulations. To evaluate the estimators, I compare the estimated number of female and elderly recipients of a government transfer program by county to the "true" number from administrative data on all recipients in New York. I find that even the simple estimators substantially improve survey error. Incorporating the statistic of interest for the overall population yields particularly large error reductions and can reduce non-sampling error.
How to Cite
Mittag, N. (2018). Two Simple Methods to Improve Official Statistics for Small Subpopulations. Survey Research Methods, 12(3), 181-192.