Some U.S. Data Sources

This is an introduction to some of the many databases and datasets available for information about the U.S. Some provide micro-level data, some summary-level data. For  information about the people of the United States, the Census Bureau is best place to start. There are other agencies that produce data about the U.S., and there are links below to sites that repackage those data along with others.

  • Census Bureau (No Harvard login required) Recent and historical census counts (from the Census of Population and Housing), as well as data from the Economic Census, the Census of Governments, the Census of Agriculture and foreign and domestic trade data. This site has several sub-sections that might be useful for more specific questions. To find all of these, click on the Surveys/Programs link in the top menu.
    • American Community Survey Data Detailed data covering population, housing, jobs, and more. The link to the data is in the left margin.
    • American Housing Survey  Sponsored by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and run by the U.S. Census bureau. Information on the size, composition, and quality of the nation’s housing and measuring changes in our housing stock as it ages. Also covers the physical condition of homes and neighborhoods, the costs of financing and maintaining homes, and the characteristics of people who live in these homes.
    • Current Population Survey From both the Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics. Covers work, earning, and education. Monthly supplemental surveys cover a wide variety of topics such as child support, volunteerism, health insurance coverage, and school enrollment.
    • Digital Equity Population Viewer: an interactive collection of maps that highlight various demographics and broadband internet availability and adoption by state. The maps help policymakers plan and implement digital inclusion and equity programs under the Digital Equity Act of 2021.
  • Data at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (Np Harvard login required): provides descriptions of HUD's datasets (metadata), information about how to access the datasets, and tools that leverage government datasets. The data catalogs will continue to grow as datasets are added.
  • Digest of Education Statistics: provides a compilation of statistical information covering the broad field of American education from prekindergarten through graduate school. The Digest includes a selection of data from many sources, both government and private, and draws especially on the results of surveys and activities carried out by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Material is nationwide in scope and of broad interest and value.
  • National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP): information about student achievement and learning experiences in various subjects. Also known as The Nation’s Report Card, NAEP is a congressionally mandated program that is overseen and administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), within the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences.
  • National Center for Health Statistics: collects, analyzes, and disseminates timely, relevant, and accurate health data and statistics. Our products and services inform the public and guide program and policy decisions to improve our nation’s health. The subsection FastStats provides topical access to different chunks of their datasets.
  • Immigration Data and Statistics, Homeland Security: Since the passage of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, the Office of Immigration Statistics has responsibility to carry out two statutory requirements: 1) to collect and disseminate to Congress and the public data and information useful in evaluating the social, economic, environmental, and demographic impact of immigration laws; and 2) to establish standards of reliability and validity for immigration statistics collected by the Department’s operational Components.
  • How many undocumented immigrants are in the United States and who are they? From the Brookings Institute Policy 2020 site, this provides a good ancillary/counterpoint to the statistics from Homeland Security. Ascertaining the size of the undocumented population is difficult. Estimates vary according to the methodology used. While anti-immigrant groups maintain that the flow of undocumented immigrants has increased, estimates show that over a longer period the number has declined.
  • Opportunity Atlas (No Harvard login required) Constructed from U.S. Census data, this is acomprehensive census tract-level atlas of children’s outcomes in adulthood using anonymized data covering nearly the entire U.S. population. Estimates children's earnings distributions, incarceration rates, and other outcomes in adulthood by parental income, race and gender for every census tract in the United States.  Additional data is available from the Opportunity Insights website.
  • Policy Map (Harvard Login) Generate reports, create tables and maps. Includes demographics, home sale statistics, health data, mortgage trends, school performance scores and labor data like unemployment, crime statistics and city crime rates. While the data may be the most recent numbers available, they may be a decade old.
  • FRED (No Harvard login required) A database of historical U.S. financial and economic time series, including interest rates, commercial banking and monetary data. Includes GeoFRED, a data-mapping tool which displays color-coded employment data on the state, MSA, and county levels.
  • Regional Economic Accounts (No Harvard login required) Data on personal income and earnings, employment, county economic profiles, farm income and production expenses, summaries of economic conditions, etc. for the U.S., states, metropolitan areas, and counties.
  • Proquest Statistical Abstract of the United States (Harvard Login) Summary statistics on the social, political and economic organization of the United States. Compiled from publications and records of various government and private agencies. Earlier additions are available from the Census Bureau.
  • Social Explorer (Harvard Login) Presents historical census data for the United States through the use of interactive maps and reports. Currently provides access to data from 1790 to present at census tract, county, state and national level.
  • United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics Download data on county wages, income, unemployment, pay & benefits
  • SimplyAnalytics (Harvard Login) Enables creation of maps and tables for the United States that incorporate data such as population, age, race, income, employment, and education. Harvard subscribes to premium content including Experian Simmons Local for market research data and D&B for business demographics.

Polling Data

If part of your project compares what people of an area think about something versus what the data show about it, polling data is one of the places to check:

  • Gallup Analytics (Harvard Login): Provides access to data from the Gallup World Poll, Gallup U.S. Daily tracking and historical data from the Gallup Poll Social Series. Gallup Analytics includes questions and indexes covering topics such as economics, politics and well-being. This database limits access to 1 user at a time.
  • Polling the Nations (Harvard Login): Polling the Nations is a comprehensive compilation of public opinion surveys, containing the full text of more than 350,000 questions and responses from 14,000 surveys conducted by 700 polling organizations from 1986 to the present in the United States and more than 80 other countries.
  • Roper Center public opinion archives (Harvard Login): provides access to summary-level (aggregate) and micro-level (raw) public opinion data. While the data collection focuses strongly on United States public opinion, it also includes growing collections of (micro-level) European, Latin American (Latin American Databank) and Japanese (JPOLL) polls. The data archive (micro-level data) is searchable by keyword, date, and survey organization. The iPOLL database (summary-level data) is searchable by keyword, subject /or survey organization and survey sponsor; it provides question and response level data.
  • Pew Research Center: (Does not require a Harvard Login) Calls itself; "a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. We conduct public opinion polling, demographic research, content analysis and other data-driven social science research. We do not take policy positions."