Skip Header
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Restricted-Use Microdata

Some vital questions cannot be answered with publicly available data. The Census Bureau partners with various universities, research institutions, and agencies to form a nationwide network of secure Census Bureau Research Data Centers. At these secure centers, qualified researchers with approved projects can perform statistical analysis on selected internal microdata from the Census Bureau and other statistical agencies.

Explore the links below to learn more about the microdata available at secure Census Bureau Research Data Centers.

Changing Research Environment

In response to the growing literature in mathematics, computer science and statistics, which suggests that traditional statistical disclosure limitation or disclosure avoidance methods may not be strong enough to protect public-use tabular and microdata releases in the future, the Census Bureau has launched a major effort to modernize. Our current efforts focus on the 2020 Census of Population and Housing, the American Community Survey, and the 2017 Economic Census. Eventually, we will extend them to all public-use products released under the Bureau’s Title 13 confidentiality pledge.

At the core these modernization efforts is a commitment to maintain the scientific integrity of the analyses performed using the public-use products that the Census Bureau releases. Historically, statistical policies requiring that published estimates include information on the margins of error associated with ensemble of methods used have excluded the effects of disclosure limitation systems. When the modernized methods are in place, the Census Bureau will issue suitability for use guidelines and margins of error that also reflect the effects of the disclosure limitation. We will publish our algorithms, and the parameter values used by those algorithms, so that researchers can use the data in a scientifically appropriate manner.

To conduct scientific analyses for which the public-use data are not suitable or sufficiently accurate, researchers may choose to seek approval to conduct a project under the auspices of the Federal Statistical Research Data Centers. Modernized disclosure limitation systems will permit such analyses to support the underlying science while remaining within the boundaries dictated by Census Bureau policies on disclosure limitation as determined by the Disclosure Review Board and the Data Stewardship Executive Committee.


Back to Header