Synthetic Integrated Services Data


This dataset was created to pilot techniques for creating synthetic data from datasets containing sensitive and protected information in the local government context. Synthetic data generation replaces actual data with representative data generated from statistical models; this preserves the key data properties that allow insights to be drawn from the data while protecting the privacy of the people included in the data. We invite you to read the Understanding Synthetic Data white paper for a concise introduction to synthetic data.

This effort was a collaboration of the Urban Institute, Allegheny County’s Department of Human Services (DHS) and CountyStat, and the University of Pittsburgh’s Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center.


The source data for this project consisted of 1) month-by-month records of services included in Allegheny County's data warehouse and 2) demographic data about the individuals who received the services. As the County’s data warehouse combines this service and client data, this data is referred to as “Integrated Services data”. Read more about the data warehouse and the kinds of services it includes here.


Synthetic data are typically generated from probability distributions or models identified as being representative of the confidential data. For this dataset, a model of the Integrated Services data was used to generate multiple versions of the synthetic dataset. These different candidate datasets were evaluated to select for publication the dataset version that best balances utility and privacy. For high-level information about this evaluation, see the Synthetic Data User Guide.

For more information about the creation of the synthetic version of this data, see the technical brief for this project, which discusses the technical decision making and modeling process in more detail.

Recommended Uses

This disaggregated synthetic data allows for many analyses that are not possible with aggregate data (summary statistics). Broadly, this synthetic version of this data could be analyzed to better understand the usage of human services by people in Allegheny County, including the interplay in the usage of multiple services and demographic information about clients.

Known Limitations/Biases

Some amount of deviation from the original data is inherent to the synthetic data generation process. Specific examples of limitations (including undercounts and overcounts for the usage of different services) are given in the Synthetic Data User Guide and the technical report describing this dataset's creation.


Please reach out to this dataset's data steward (listed below) to let us know how you are using this data and if you found it to be helpful. Please also provide any feedback on how to make this dataset more applicable to your work, any suggestions of future synthetic datasets, or any additional information that would make this more useful. Also, please copy on any such feedback (as the WPRDC always loves to hear about how people use the data that they publish and how the data could be improved).

Further Documentation and Resources

1) A high-level overview of synthetic data generation as a method for protecting privacy can be found in the Understanding Synthetic Data white paper.
2) The Synthetic Data User Guide provides high-level information to help users understand the motivation, evaluation process, and limitations of the synthetic version of Allegheny County DHS's Human Services data published here.
3) Generating a Fully Synthetic Human Services Dataset: A Technical Report on Synthesis and Evaluation Methodologies describes the full technical methodology used for generating the synthetic data, evaluating the various options, and selecting the final candidate for publication.
4) The WPRDC also hosts the Allegheny County Human Services Community Profiles dataset, which provides annual updates on human-services usage, aggregated by neighborhood/municipality. That data can be explored using the County's Human Services Community Profile web site.

Data and Resources

Additional Info

Field Value
Public Access Level Comment
Temporal Coverage 2021-01-01/2021-12-31
Geographic Unit County
Data Notes
Related Document(s)
Frequency - Data Change Not Updated (Historical Only)
Frequency - Publishing Not Updated (Historical Only)
Data Steward Kathryn Collins
Data Steward Email Kathryn Collins