FSD Bulletin

Issue 15 (3/2004)

ISSN 1795-5262

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FSD Bulletin is the electronic newsletter of the Finnish Social Science Data Archive. The Bulletin provides information and news related to the data archive and social science research.


Finnish Social Science Data Archive
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Markus Jäntti Appointed as Research Director of LIS

Mari Kleemola 8.2.2005

Markus Jäntti

Markus Jäntti, Professor of Economics at Åbo Akademi University, became the Research Director of LIS at the beginning of 2005. In this task he follows Lee Rainwater, Professor of Sociology at Harvard University.

Jäntti says that his main task as the Research Director will be to advise LIS employees in research issues and to monitor the quality of LIS data.

Easy access and comparability

According to Jäntti, easy access and comparability of data are the best features of LIS. He says that LIS is the only database that provides comparable data on income distribution and socio-economic variables from most OECD countries.
- In principle, for example, the European Community Household Panel (ECHP) is available to researchers. In practise, however, there are strict access restrictions and problems with comparability of data. There are also gaps in country and time period coverage.
- The main weakness of LIS is that its coverage is somewhat random. New Zealand, Portugal and Greece are not included, and the years covered by the survey series do not necessarily satisfy all users.

LWS data for wealth comparisons

A new household wealth study, Luxembourg Wealth Study (LWS) is being planned alongside the LIS project. The two-year LWS project is led by researcher Andrea Brandolini from the Bank of Italy and LIS Overall Director, professor Timothy Smeeding.
- The goal of LWS is to collect and systemise document data from developed countries on household wealth, to create standards for measuring wealth, and to make wealth studies from different countries comparable. In future, LWS data will be available to researchers in the same way LIS data are now, Jäntti describes.

Markus Jäntti leads a research project which studies intergenerational mobility of socio-economic status in Finland since 1950. The project is funded by the Academy of Finland. He participates in a Scandinavian research project studying the impact of family background on occupational status and health. He also participates in the revision of the World Income Inequality Database, provided by WIDER (World Institute for Development Economics Research, United Nations University).

High quality statistical data in Finland

- Finland has traditionally invested in the quality of statistics, even though documentation was previously not up to the same standard. The system used in Finland at present produces high quality material: we have both extensive register-based data, and survey data which is at times combined with register data. Background registers are mainly of good quality, even though their primary function is not to produce data for statistics, Jäntti says.

In Finland, also interview studies yield high quality data.
- Probably, this is partly due to the high level of social capital in Finland. Unfortunately, it seems difficult to make interview data more available for research.

Understanding of statistical methods still needed

Statistical packages have become more user-friendly. It is possible to perform even complicated statistical analysis just by clicking the mouse a few times. Markus Jäntti says, however, that mastering the technique is not enough, one must also understand the logic behind statistical methods.
- It is not easier to understand statistical methods than before. Clicking the mouse does not in itself enhance deeper understanding of complicated mathematical and conceptual problems. Thinking and understanding, the key elements to statistical research, have not become any easier, he points out.
- User-friendly software naturally facilitates the process of learning, but only if people realise that full and deep understanding of the methods is still essential for research.

More information on Luxembourg Income Study