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Census Bureau Opens 20th Research Data Center in Wisconsin

October 20, 2015
Barbara Downs
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As we celebrate World Statistics Day and the importance of access to sound data, it’s a good time to recognize the recent opening of the Federal Statistical Research Data Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Research Data Centers like this give qualified researchers on approved projects access to restricted data that are vital to increasing our understanding of the U.S. population and economy.

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In addition to its own onsite researchers, the Census Bureau draws upon the expertise of the research community throughout the United States via the Federal Statistical Research Data Center (FSRDC) network. Research from this network has led to new uses of existing Census Bureau data, improved content in existing Census Bureau surveys and the development of new surveys designed to capture the dynamic U.S. economy. All of these activities are in support of the Census Bureau’s mission to serve as the leading source of quality data about the nation’s people and economy. The results of this research have been published in many top peer-reviewed journals, including the American Economic Review, Demography, the Journal of Political Economy and the Quarterly Journal of Economics.

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In existence since 1994, the network represents a partnership between participating federal agencies and non-profit research institutions. Research data centers are secure facilities that provide access to restricted-use microdata collected by the Census Bureau and other agencies such as the National Center for Health Statistics and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.  Researchers with approved projects can conduct research that benefits the Census Bureau by improving measures of the economy and people of the United States.

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Before gaining access to the FSRDC network, researchers must submit proposals to the Census Bureau. The review process ensures that proposed research is feasible, has scientific merit and benefits Census Bureau programs. In addition, the research data center network’s operating procedures, strict security and strong legal safeguards ensure the confidentiality of data, as required by law. Researchers, for instance, must pass a full background investigation and are sworn for life to protect the confidentiality of the data they access, with violations subject to significant financial and legal penalties.

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The FSRDC network currently hosts about 700 researchers working on more than 200 different projects.  The Wisconsin Federal Statistical Research Data Center joins 19 other Census Bureau research data center locations in the United States. These facilities are located at 14 colleges and universities — Baruch College (New York City), Cornell University (Ithaca, N.Y.), Duke University (Durham, N.C.), University of Michigan (Ann Arbor), University of Minnesota (Minneapolis), Penn State University (University Park, Pa.), University of Southern California (Los Angeles), Stanford University (Palo Alto, Calif.), Texas A&M (College Station), UC-Berkeley (Calif.), UC-Irvine (Calif.), UCLA (Los Angeles), University of Washington (Seattle) and Yale University (New Haven, Conn.) — and in the cities of Atlanta; Boston; Chicago; Raleigh, N.C.; and Suitland, Md.

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Centers expected to open soon will be in Kansas City, Mo., as well as the University of Maryland (College Park), the University of Missouri (Columbia) and the University of Nebraska (Lincoln).

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You can learn more about the FSRDC program and our newest location, the Wisconsin Federal Statistical Research Data Center, at www.census.gov/fsrdc and http://rdc.wisc.edu/.

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Barbara Downs, Ph.D., Center for Economic Studies

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