Person Spine Linkage Methodology and Maintenance

Main Article Content

Brett Frazer


As there is no single unique identifier for Australians across government datasets, commonwealth and state data must be brought together using data integration methods. The ABS has developed the Person Linkage Spine (the 'Spine') as an enduring piece of data linking infrastructure that is the core of the Multi-Agency Data Integration Project (MADIP) data asset, and is used to combine person-centred datasets.

Objectives and Approach
The Spine was created using a staged deterministic linkage process combining three core datasets: Medicare Consumer Directory, Social Security and Related Information, and Personal Income Tax. The Spine aims to broadly cover all people resident in Australia at any point during the reference period of 2006 to 2019. The Spine is used in combination with anonymised name and address history information from the core datasets to facilitate linkage of datasets to the Spine from any time period within its scope.

The Spine was recently updated with new data from the core datasets in a 'Spine Maintenance' process, a key part of which involves the use of graph based methods to identify spine elements requiring updating in the new version. Spine Maintenance was conducted in such a way as to ensure consistency between Spine versions, enabling linkages to be conducted and retained across different versions of the Spine, whilst still allowing for improvements to the Spine based on updated information. This talk will focus on the methodological challenges associated with creating, using and maintaining the Person Linkage Spine.

The Spine has been successfully utilised as the core of the MADIP data asset, enabling valuable longitudinal person centred analysis.

Conclusion / Implications
The Spine has created a foundational linking infrastructure which is a sound basis for extending across time (longitudinally) and expanding to include datasets from across a broad range of sectors and jurisdictions.

Article Details

How to Cite
Frazer, B. (2020) “Person Spine Linkage Methodology and Maintenance”, International Journal of Population Data Science, 5(5). doi: 10.23889/ijpds.v5i5.1566.