US microdata

Data collection is much more distributed in the US than in Canada. Microdata is available from the US Census Bureau as well as a range of other government agencies. A key source improving ease of access to US government microdata is the IPUMS project. Additionally, many major nationally representative surveys are conducted at academic institutions rather than by the government.

Highlighted resource: IPUMS

The IPUMS project, based at the University of Minnesota, provides census and survey data from around the world. In addition to their international projects (highlighted on our international microdata page), they provide a number of key US government datasets, harmonized over time. Access to IPUMS requires setup of a free account. 

IPUMS Datasets

  • IPUMS USA - Census decennial census microdata from 1790-2010 and American Community Survey (ACS) microdata from 2000-present. These data are harmonized and may not include all variables included on the Census Bureau public use files.
  • IPUMS CPS - Current Population Survey (CPS) microdata from 1962-present. Cunducted by the Census Bureau, CPS includes demographic, employment, and supplemental data on topics such as fertility, tobacco use, volunteer activities, voter registration, internet use, food security, and more. Curious about the difference between the CPS and the APS? Check out this guide.
  • IPUMS Health Surveys - provides microdata from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS ) 1960s to present, and the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) from 1996-present. Both surveys are conducted under the US Department of Health & Human Services.

Highlighted resource: ICPSR

ICPSR is a major US-based archive containing more than 250,000 files of research in the social and behavioural sciences. It also hosts a range of special collections. Accessing ICPSR requires creation of an account using your U of T email address. You must be at an on-campus computer (or conntected to utorvpn) when you first register for your account; after the account is set up you can access ICPSR from anywhere.

Specialized ICPSR collections:

US government microdata

  • MDAT microdata tool on (Beta). Create cross-tabulations using variable from various Public Use Microdata sets (no microdata download)
  • Census and American Community Survey. Census Bureau. Public use microdata files. These differ from IPUMS versions as they have not been harmonized over time. 
  • National Longitudinal Surveys (Youth, Children & Young Adults, Young Women and Mature Women, Young Men & Older Men). Bureau of Labour Statistics. Public use microdata files are available.
  • Consumer Expenditure Survey. Bureau of Labour Statistics. Public use microdata files are available.
  • American Time Use Survey. Bureau of Labour Statistics. Public use microdata files are available.
  • National Center for Education Statistics Surveys & Programs. Includes a range of longitudinal surveys, some of which have public use microdata and some restricted use data available by application. 
  • CDC's National Center for Health Statistics Surveys & Data Collection Systems. Includes public use microdata files for: National Health Interview Survey, National Health & Nutrition Examination Survey, National Survey of Family Growth, and other current and historical data.
  • Sustance Abuse & Mental Health Data Archive. US Dept. of Health & Human Services. Microdata available for the National Mental Health Services Survey, National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, and others.
  • Map & Data Library microdata search

Other US microdata sources

  • General Social Survey (NORC, University of Chicago). Since 1972, the GSS has been monitoring societal change and studying the growing complexity of American society
  • Panel Study of Income Dynamics (Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan). Study began in 1968 with a nationally representative sample of over 18,000 individuals. Information in these individuals and their descendants has been collected continuously, including data covering employment, income, wealth, expenditures, health, family life, and other topics.
  • National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (known as "Add Health", University of North Carolina). Longitfudinal study of a nationally representative sample of over 20,000 adolescents in grades 7-12 during the 1994-5 school year, who have been followed through several waves of data collection.
  • Map & Data Library microdata search