Use of Social Security Administration Data for Research Purposes

Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 65, No. 2, 2003/2004

This note was prepared by Dotty O'Brien, Joel Packman, and Carolyn Puckett, Data Linkage Team, Office of Research, Evaluation, and Statistics, Office of Policy, Social Security Administration.

The findings and conclusions presented in the Bulletin are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Social Security Administration.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains information about Social Security and Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries and applicants for Social Security numbers in its administrative master files. Use of these data for research purposes outside of SSA has previously been restricted to a limited number of federal agencies. SSA recently published a Privacy Act notice in the Federal Register to allow SSA to share certain microdata from these master files for research purposes with any federal or state agency that meets strict criteria. This new routine use will permit the development of richer and more comprehensive information that can be used in actuarial, epidemiological, economic, and other social science research projects. It became effective on April 13, 2004.

Types of Data Available

Information may be released under the new routine use from the following administrative files:

Tax return information maintained by the Social Security Administration in its Master Earnings File is not covered by this new routine use provision. SSA's release of this information is restricted by the Internal Revenue Code.

Criteria for Proposed Uses

Under the new routine use, disclosure may be made to a federal, state, or congressional support agency for research, evaluation, or statistical studies. To receive data the following criteria must be met:

These SSA data are not intended to be used to draw samples for surveys or to contact individuals, other than in situations already provided for in the regulations. SSA may refuse to extract and release data if sufficient resources are not available.

For more information about the Social Security Administration's Privacy Act Notice, see Social Security Administration, "Privacy Act of 1974, as Amended: New System of Records and New Routine Use Disclosures," Federal Register 49, No. 48 (March 11, 2004): 11693–11694. Available at