Universiteit Leiden

nl en


‘For good measure’: data gaps in a big data world

Sarah Giest and Annemarie Samuels, both Assistant Professors at Leiden University, researched the quality and coverage of the data being collected for policiymakers to be used, specifically pertaining to minority groups.

Sarah Giest & Annemarie Samuels
22 April 2020

The paper makes the argument that while there is seemingly more data to draw on for policymakers, the quality of the data in combination with potential known or unknown data gaps limits government’s ability to create inclusive policies. In this context, the paper defines primary, secondary, and unknown data gaps that cover scenarios of knowingly or unknowingly missing data and how that is potentially compensated through alternative measures. Based on the review of the literature from various fields and a variety of examples highlighted throughout the paper, we conclude that the big data movement combined with more sophisticated methods in recent years has opened up new opportunities for government to use existing data in different ways as well as fill data gaps through innovative techniques. Focusing specifically on the representativeness of such data, however, shows that data gaps affect the economic opportunities, social mobility, and democratic participation of marginalized groups. The big data movement in policy may thus create new forms of inequality that are harder to detect and whose impact is more difficult to predict.

Read the full research

This website uses cookies.  More information.