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Jahrbücher für Nationalökonomie und Statistik

Journal of Economics and Statistics

Editor-in-Chief: Winker, Peter

Ed. by Büttner, Thiess / Riphahn, Regina / Smolny, Werner / Wagner, Joachim

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CiteScore 2018: 0.50

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Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.382

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Volume 231, Issue 5-6


Benford’s Law as an Instrument for Fraud Detection in Surveys Using the Data of the Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP)

Prof. Dr. Jörg-Peter Schräpler
  • Chair of Social Science Data Analysis, Ruhr-University Bochum, Gebäude GB1/131, Universitätsstr. 150, 44801 Bochum, Germany, and DIW Berlin
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Published Online: 2016-03-16 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jbnst-2011-5-609


This paper focuses on fraud detection in surveys using Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) data as an example for testing newly methods proposed here. A statistical theorem referred to as Benford’s Law states that in many sets of numerical data, the significant digits are not uniformly distributed, as one might expect, but adhere to a certain logarithmic probability function. In order to detect fraud, we derive several requirements that should, according to this law, be fulfilled in the case of survey data.We show that in several SOEP subsamples, Benford’s Law holds for the available continuous data. For this analysis, we developed a measure that reflects the plausibility of the digit distribution in interviewer clusters. We are thus able to demonstrate that several interviews that were known to have been fabricated and therefore deleted in the original user data set can now be detected using this method. Furthermore, in one subsample, we use this method to identify a case of an interviewer falsifying ten interviews not previously detected by the fieldwork organization.

Keywords: Falsification; data quality; Benford’s Law; SOEP

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Published Online: 2016-03-16

Published in Print: 2011-10-01

Citation Information: Jahrbücher für Nationalökonomie und Statistik, Volume 231, Issue 5-6, Pages 685–718, ISSN (Online) 2366-049X, ISSN (Print) 0021-4027, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jbnst-2011-5-609.

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© 2011 by Lucius & Lucius, Stuttgart.

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