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Finding Social Science Data for Research : Multi-Topic

This research guide provides an introduction to using campus resources, government agencies, and consortia like ICPSR for finding and obtaining social science data.

U.S. Census Bureau

Things to know about the Census Bureau:

1) Makes its data available for free; its data is not covered by copyright.

  • Census Bureau data are often the foundation of other, for-fee data products as well as third-party apps
  • Census Bureau products are not supposed to compete with the private sector

2) Dependent on Congress for funding

  • In the past, Congress has cut and/or not increased funding for the Census Bureau, putting Census publications and data collection in jeopardy.

3) Collects information for the federal government, to help with government work

  • Not collected or published for scholarly or business needs
  • With the Census of Population and Housing, for example, Congress gets to approve each item on survey; the items must be tied to a government program.
  • Uses government definitions for race/ethnicity and government geographic units.

4) Collects more that just demographic and housing data

5) Conducts a census of population and housing every 10 years, but conducts other surveys as well each year. many of which are at      the national level.

How to extract data from

1) Click "Data" at the top of a Census Bureau page.

2) Click "Data Tools and Apps"

3) Click "Data Tools and Apps Main"

  • Some things that the Census Bureau calls "data retrieval tools" are really tools to retrieve statistics.

For more information, see the UW- Madison Libraries Research Guide: U.S. Census of Population and Housing Basics

ICPSR Thematic Data Collections

These thematic data collections, which focus on specific topics, have been created by the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research in collaboration with various funding entities to promote data discovery and use. Topics include: Aging, Arts & Culture, Race, Health/Mental Health, Civic Engagement, and many more.