Government Data Collection: It’s Not The Governments Story To Tell

By Keith Plunkett | July 21st, 2017 at 11:07 am

BY: Keith Plunkett / Editor

Keith Plunkett is a Policy Consultant, Editor, Writer, Founder and Publisher of

Filed Under: Civil Rights, Commentary, Common Core, Contributor, Economy, Education, Ethics, Feature Stories, Federal Government, Governor, Institutes of Higher Learning, Keith Plunkett, Liberty, MDA, MDE, Mississippi, Mississippi PEP, Mississippi State University, MS State Government, Opinion, Politics, Principles of Freedom, US Congress

So who is responsible for telling the full story? Is it a group of unelected state agency directors using information from a federally funded data program at a university heavily dependent on federal subsidy?

Mimmo Parisi wants Mississippians to stop sounding a false alarm.

Parisi is the executive director of the National Strategic Planning & Analysis Research Center (nSPARC) at Mississippi State University and professor of sociology. He manages the state’s government data collection program, Mississippi’s official state longitudinal data system. The project, called Lifetracks, maintains data to provide improved strategies for state agencies to plan the trajectory of the lives of Mississippians from Kindergarten through the workforce.

The data work is a behind the scenes state government project constructed with many years of federal appropriations buried in mammoth government spending bills. Few Mississippi citizens have knowledge of the programs existence or of what data is used to map out their lives and the lives of their children.

Parisi writes that “data can help Mississippi tell its own story rather than be subject to the storytelling of others who have little knowledge of our state.” But, unfortunately the script of the story is being written by a group of state agency bureaucrats, not Mississippians nor their elected representatives.

A recent study conducted by Governing Magazine is what brings Parisi forward recently. The report looks at the importance of millennials through examination of the annual Census projections to determine population growth and shifts across the country. The report shows Mississippi has lost more millennials than any other state between 2010 and 2016.

In an opinion article published July 20, Parisi is agitated that the report findings have caused some to “jump to the conclusion that millennials are leaving the state at an alarming rate.” He writes that “the report provides no explanation for the decline. In fact, nowhere in the report does it even state that the statistic is a measure of millennials actually moving out of Mississippi.”

Here is an excerpt from Parisi’s article explaining his disagreement with the study:

To understand the dynamics of millennials leaving a state, you need longitudinal data that can track individuals over time, such as data from the U.S. Panel Study of Income Dynamics. Census estimates only give a snapshot of a population. Using snapshot data, the most appropriate analysis would be to compare the size of the share of millennials of the total state population across states. If we did this, we’d find millennials were 27 percent of Mississippi’s population in 2016, which is more than many other states and close to the national average (27.1 percent). This percentage hasn’t changed since 2010.

Using snapshot data to compare population change within the millennial age range (16 to 35) in Mississippi, another picture emerges. Between 2010 and 2016, the number of people ages 22 to 27 in Mississippi grew anywhere from 2.4 to 13.6 percent, which is consistent with numbers that show Mississippi students tend to live and work in Mississippi after completing college. These numbers are available at LifeTracks – – Mississippi’s official data system.

Now, the number of people ages 28 to 30 in Mississippi shrank between 2010 and 2016, but this reflects the LifeTracks finding that 10 percent of Mississippi college graduates leave the state after five years in the Mississippi economy. This is consistent with national data showing 10 percent of this age group with college degrees tend to leave their state. The good news is that the number of people ages 31 to 35 in Mississippi has grown between 2010 and 2016, suggesting older millennials might come back and work in Mississippi. When we examine people in the age range of 16 to 21, their share of the Mississippi population declined between 2010 and 2016, but this is consistent with the fact that college-bound high schoolers might go to college in other states.

Before jumping to conclusions about any statistics, you should ask a couple of questions: Are the data appropriate for what we want to measure? Have we considered all possible alternatives that might explain potential conclusions?

Parisi’s explanation of the necessity for deeper study of the data at his disposal versus that used by the researchers of the Governing study is a good counter-argument. And certainly it’s good news to know that maybe Mississippi isn’t losing the next generation to other states in such large numbers as previously reported. Parisi correctly asserts that how “data are presented can have a significant impact on the image of the state.”

Government Data Collection From Cradle To Grave

The question many Mississippians may have, and one Parisi should answer, is who is responsible for promoting that image? Is it him? Or is it the several state agency directors that make up the Lifetracks Advisory Board? And how transparent is the process by which these decisions are made?

‘What decisions’, you ask? Take this statement from the strategic plan of the MS Workforce Investment Board that answers to the Office of the Governor:

The competitiveness of our state depends on our ability to build a unified education and workforce system. By creating a seamless educational experience from early childhood into the workforce, we can help Mississippi realize its potential.

Reading this statement is eerily similar to reading a section from the central planning committee of Communist Russia’s ‘five-year plans’, a series of centralized economic plans that forced mass adoption of the Marxist idea of ‘productive force determinism’. This heavy-handed centralized economic planning was also adopted by Communist China.

The concept of planning the lives of citizens from ‘cradle to grave’ is also the driving force behind the development of the educational goals of Common Core first developed by Marc Tucker. I wrote about Tucker in September 2011 when he traveled to Mississippi as the speaker at a statewide forum promoted by the Mississippi Dept. Of Education. Tucker’s plan to remold the education system of the United States was included in a letter he wrote to Hillary Clinton in November of 1992. In the letter he lays out a plan “to remold the entire American system” into “a seamless web that literally extends from cradle to grave and is the same system for everyone,” coordinated by “a system of labor market boards at the local, state and federal levels” where curriculum and “job matching” will be handled by counselors “accessing the integrated computer-based program.”

You can read the entire letter HERE.

Tucker’s ambitious plan was implemented in three laws passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton in 1994: the Goals 2000 Act, the School-to-Work Act, and the reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act. These laws establish the following mechanisms to restructure the public schools:

  • Bypass all elected officials on school boards and in state legislatures by making federal funds flow to the Governor and his appointees on workforce development boards.
  • Use a computer database, a.k.a. “a labor market information system,” into which school personnel would scan all information about every schoolchild and his family, identified by the child’s social security number: academic, medical, mental, psychological, behavioral, and interrogations by counselors. The computerized data would be available to the school, the government, and future employers.
  • Use “national standards” and “national testing” to cement national control of tests, assessments, school honors and rewards, financial aid, and the Certificate of Initial Mastery (CIM), which is designed to replace the high school diploma.

Does any of this sound familiar?

In his article, Parisi asks us to consider that “if we buy into gloom-and-doom conclusions, how can we ever convince our children to live and work in Mississippi?” But, who exactly the “we” he refers to who need to “convince our children” goes unspecified. Is this a reference to the children’s families? Or is it a reference to the many state agency directors that make up Lifetracks Advisory Board?

Parisi concludes that “when telling the full story, we cannot ignore the power of data or the responsibility that goes with it.”

So who is responsible for telling the full story? Is it a group of unelected state agency directors using information from a federally funded data program at a university heavily dependent on federal subsidy?

Parisi might find that a great many Mississippians want neither him nor unelected state agency directors to have responsibility over the power to collect or use their data, or to tell the story of Mississippi for them or their children.

It’s not the governments story to tell.