64th ISI World Statistics Congress - Ottawa, Canada

64th ISI World Statistics Congress - Ottawa, Canada

Census Microdata as a Critical Resource for Research


Dr Lara Cleveland


  • SS
    Sula Sarkar
  • EM
    Ercio Munoz Saavedra
  • AE
    Albert Esteve
  • RL
    Rodrigo Lovaton Davila
  • FR
    Dr Frederico Roman Ramos
  • LC
    Dr Lara Cleveland
  • Category: International Association for Official Statistics (IAOS)


    The value and utility of census data extends far beyond the release of official census results. This session illustrates the incredible wealth and depth of information in censuses, which enables scientific discovery and informed policy making if researchers have access to census microdata. By showcasing recent research that draws on census microdata available through the IPUMS International database, this session makes a case for continued adherence to open data practices in the area of census and survey microdata dissemination.

    IPUMS International is the world's largest collection of population microdata available for research. More than 100 countries have joined in partnership with IPUMS as part of their census (and survey) microdata dissemination efforts. IPUMS facilitates researcher access to important census microdata by
    - standardizing disparate data formats;
    - harmonizing data at the variable level across time and across countries according to international standard classifications where possible,
    - ensuring long term data preservation according to best practices in data archiving,
    - curating and optimizing documentation from questionnaires, enumerator instructions and sample documentation;
    - managing and vetting credentials of data requesters; and
    - disseminating data through a user friendly web system that provides customized data extracts to eligible members of the research community.
    The goal is to facilitate comparative and cross-temporal international research. In pursuing this goal, IPUMS does not reduce international differences to a set of least common denominators but aims to provide researchers access to the full detail of the original data. The database includes more than 1 billion person records across 400+ censuses from 104 countries. The IPUMS samples are nationally representative and typically offer geographic detail to the second administrative level within countries, such as counties, districts, or municipalities. More than 100 thousand registered researchers from academic and government institutions worldwide access microdata files, including international and US census and survey data, from IPUMS.

    This session illustrates the ways that providing access to census microdata fuels scholarly research.
    Our panel members will present results from their recent research using census microdata shared by more than 100 countries. The data are accessible and optimized for research use through the IPUMS database. The papers cover a variety of topics, including migration and living standards; educational attainment and mobility; creation of an urban area database; and trends in family living arrangements. Each presentation will highlight why census microdata are uniquely suited to the research agenda. Discussion will focus on how and why continued access to population representative data are crucial for advancing knowledge about human populations and activities. Authors and the discussant will also describe data features and detail which ensure robust analysis and sound findings.