The massive collection of social survey data associated with public policy research is a relatively recent phenomenon. The history of data processing associated with such data shows repeated occurrences of cost overruns, extensive time lags before data are available, and even then, large amounts of both unusable and not yet usable data. The Health Insurance Study, a complex, multiyear longitudinal study of the role of health insurance in the utilization of health care services, is discussed to illustrate the dimensions of the data processing task and the benefits of applying database techniques in managing them. 18 pp. Ref.
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