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Considering the Use of Stock and Flow Outcomes in Empirical Analyses: An Examination of Marriage Data

Joelle Abramowitz and Marcus Dillender

Working Papers from U.S. Census Bureau, Center for Economic Studies

Abstract: This paper fills an important void assessing how the use of stock outcomes as compared to flow outcomes may yield disparate results in empirical analyses, despite often being used interchangeably. We compare analyses using a stock outcome, marital status, to those using a flow outcome, entry into marriage, from the same dataset, the American Community Survey. This paper considers two different questions and econometric approaches using these alternative measures: the effect of the Affordable Care Act young adult provision on marriage using a difference-indifferences approach and the relationship between aggregate unemployment rates and marriage rates using a simpler ordinary least squares regression approach. Results from both analyses show stock and flow data yield divergent results in terms of sign and significance. Additional analyses suggest prior-period temporary shocks and migration may contribute to this discrepancy. These results suggest using caution when conducting analyses using stock data as they may produce false negative results or spurious false positive results, which could in turn give rise to misleading policy implications.

Keywords: Marriage; Data Quality; Unemployment; Business Cycle; Health Insurance; Affordable Care Act (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C18 J00 J12 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017-01
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https://www2.census.gov/ces/wp/2017/CES-WP-17-64.pdf First version, 2017 (application/pdf)

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