The Nordic countries have for many years been leaders in the use of administrative data for research. Such data have to a lesser extent been used for comparative studies across countries. We believe there is great potential for learning more by using register data from several countries in context. This has at least two major advantages: It allows for far more detailed descriptions and comparisons of countries than what can be done based on e.g. international labor force surveys or international statistics made available from e.g. OECD or Eurostat. And, it provides an opportunity to study the effects of measures and instruments and use variation between countries, even where there is little variation within countries.
The pandemic (Covid-19) has since March 2020 left a strong mark on our society. The schools were closed for a longer period and much of the teaching had to take place digitally. Many workers were laid off and unemployment was at a record high at one point. To mitigate the ripple effects of the crisis, a number of powerful political measures were implemented. It made it easier to lay off employees, unemployment benefits were increased, and comprehensive schemes to help companies avoid bankruptcy were implemented.
What exactly was the impact of these policies? Were generous and long-term redundancy options good? Has the so-called compensation scheme for fixed costs helped us avoid bankruptcy, or would it have gone just as well without it? And how has online teaching affected school children? Has it reinforced already existing social differences in the school, or has it perhaps helped to alleviate them?
With the help of comparable register data for the Nordic countries, we can more easily contribute to answering this type of question. In addition, we want to contribute to more Nordic register data research by documenting the work of harmonizing the facilitation of data so that it can also be of benefit to other researchers.
The Nordic countries have been pioneering the use of administrative micro data in social science research. Compared to other data sources, administrative data have a number of strengths: no attrition, high reliability, large sample sizes, and unique identifiers to link numerous data sources as well as to follow individuals and firms longitudinally. For comparative studies however, several barriers must be overcome, and unsurprisingly the use of administrative data for cross-country studies is scarce. The ambition of this research project is to overcome these obstacles and establish a comprehensive collaboration for Nordic comparative micro data research.
The Covid19 crisis creates a natural starting point for this agenda. There is a large potential for better and more detailed comparative research designs, exploiting the rich, and to a large extent similar, administrative data in the Nordic countries. Furthermore, the Nordic design allows for policy evaluations and causal effects identification not feasible neither with labor force survey data nor with single-country data.
The project has four work packages:
- Data harmonization and documentation, including provision of documentation and coding as a public good to spur future research.
- Pupils/students, analyzing whether school closings and distance education reinforced socioeconomic gradients in human capital development, exploiting variation in school closure policies within and between countries.
- Workers, studying the transition from corona-unemployment back to, or out of, the labor market, testing whether similarities and differences between the Nordic countries can be explained by different labor market policies.
- Firms, comparing destruction and creation of businesses during and after the crisis, and investigating whether similarities and differences can be explained by country-differences in firm-directed policies put in place during the crisis such as fixed cost compensation and wage subsidies