by Matt Ainslie (Falvey Research Center Intern)
Looking for scholarly historical data sets used by others in projects past? The solution may be a resource about which most historians have probably not heard. It’s a clearinghouse of quality data, some historical, called the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research. ICPSR has grown from its 1962 founding into a data archive of more than 500,000 files of research in the social sciences. Data files can be downloaded into statistical programs such as SPSS and a growing number of data sets can also be analyzed online with ICPSR’s own Statistical Data Analysis program.
The historical data sets in ICPSR are mainly raw data from surveys, censuses and administrative records. You can browse by subject or use ICPSR’s search engine. For example, subject browsing for historical resources leads to data sets of tax lists from Chester County, Pa. from 1693 to 1799, tax and census records in New York City in 1790, and data from census records that reflect the social characteristics of Mexican-American families in Los Angeles from 1844 to 1880. The search function is also excellent. Searching using the keyword “riots” turns up, to name one example, demographic information about those arrested for participation in the insurrection in Paris, France: Analysis of Arrests in Paris, June 1848. Results can be narrowed by subject, geography, author, and historical time period. You can save your search and sign up to be notified of new results using RSS. You can download the data in different formats after you set up an account.
Remember that research article by Goldin on the wages of single women during the progressive era which you recently read? Are you interested in taking a closer look at the data she used? A quick author search in ICPSR will establish whether Goldin archived her data sets in ICPSR as indeed she did. The View Related Literature link will eventually lead you to her Woman and Child Wage Earners (1907, Philadelphia and New York) data files. The study description lists the scope of the study, its data sources and the methodology. In order to download the data files you need to create an account and log into ICPSR.
Feel free to contact your liaison librarian with any questions or comments that you may have.
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