DPLS News, December 1998

Please note: Older issues of the newsletter are likely to contain
broken links -- the newsletter is presented here "as published."

DPLS News contains articles about local, national, and international data issues.
It is published twice a semester by the library staff.

Editor: Kim Tully, Associate Special Librarian
Contributors: Lu Chou, Special Librarian &
Cindy Severt, Senior Special Librarian

December 1998

Table of Contents

European Union is Leading the Way to Individual Data Protection in the 21st Century

Polk, WI Census 1850, 1860 and The Why Files

Statistical Consultant Recently Hired at the SSML

Summer Research Institute

New Economic CD-ROM

APDU ‘98

Internet Corner


European Union is Leading the Way to Individual Data Protection in the 21st Century

As of October 25, 1998, the European Union enacted Directive 95/46/EC prohibiting companies from using personal information and identifiers, such as names, addresses, and telephone numbers in ways their customers never intended.

European companies as well as companies that do business in Europe must now inform their customers when they collect data about them, and how this information will be used. Customers must then provide their consent before any company can use their data, and companies must also give customers access to information about themselves. In the course of day-to-day business operations this law has the potential to affect credit card transactions, magazine subscriptions, telephone records, as well as the World Wide Web.

One of the most interesting aspects of this directive is that it has the potential to disrupt electronic commerce with the United States. A key provision of this law prohibits companies who are doing business in the European Union from transmitting personal information to any country that does not guarantee comparable privacy protection. At the moment, this would include the United States.

For many years European nations have been more conservative than the United States about protecting an individual’s privacy. In contrast, the Clinton Administration has developed a more laissez-faire approach, influenced nonetheless by the American direct-marketing companies, which would allow data industries to essentially regulate themselves.

If the issue of data privacy is not resolved between the European Union and the United States, European officials could potentially begin to block trans-Atlantic data transfers by multinational corporations and Internet companies. For the time being, European officials are not planning any blockades, and are quite hopeful that a peaceful resolution will be reached. A case in point is Germany, a country that has had tight data privacy laws for years, yet businesses around the world have found ways to deal with their strict requirements.

To find more information about this issue, visit the following sites on the Internet: http://www.privacy.org/ and http://europa.eu.int/comm/dg15/en/media/dataprot/index.htm.

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Polk, WI Census 1850, 1860 and The Why Files

What do the Population and Agricultural Census Schedules of Polk Township, Washington County, Wisconsin, 1850, 1860 (http://dpls.dacc.wisc.edu/Pop1850/) and the National Institute for Science Education Evaluation of "The Why Files" World Wide Web Site (http://dpls.dacc.wisc.edu/Whyfiles/) have in common? These two datasets are the newest addition to DPLS’ Online Data Archive.

Farm photoPopulation and Agricultural Census Schedules of Polk Township, Washington County, Wisconsin, 1850, 1860 data were coded directly from the manuscript censuses which include: dwelling number, name of individual, age, sex, race, occupation, value of real estate, value of personal estate, place of birth, place of birth of parents, birth within the year, school attendance, literacy, handicapped status, post office address, acres of improved or unimproved land, cash value of farm, value of farm implements and machinery, livestock, value of livestock, produce (types), value of orchard products, value of home manufactures, and value of animals slaughtered.

Other data derived from original information include persistence (present in 1850 and 1860), relationship to head of household, persons in each household, males and females per household, sex of persisters or non-persisters in each household, and location of household in village or rural area. The sample description includes all individuals in 1850 and 1860 for whom a dwelling unit number was provided.

Why Files image

In February 1996, the National Institute for Science Education (NISE) created The Why Files (http://whyfiles.news.wisc.edu), a Web site designed to explain the science behind the news.

In order to understand the characteristics of the users of The Why Files, a brief questionnaire was incorporated into the Web site and administered from March 20 through April 3, 1997. This online survey was limited to users who had previously visited the site at least twice in the two weeks prior to the survey or during the two-week survey period itself. If the user accepted the invitation to participate in the survey, they were then sent to a Web page that served as a consent form. After filling out the form the user was forwarded to the online survey instrument. Once the user completed the survey, the data were sent to a central database. The survey requested information about demographic characteristics, Web use frequency, and interest in topics related to science, math, engineering, and technology.

The overall response rate was 63%, and there were 37% non-respondents. Seventeen percent of the non-respondents refused to participate when asked, and 20% indicated they would fill out the survey at a later time. In total, responses to the survey were collected from 399 repeat users of The Why Files.

(Farm photo courtesy of SHS of Wisconsin.)

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Statistical Consultant Recently Hired at the SSML

Doug Hemken is the new half-time statistical computing consultant in the Social Science Microcomputing Lab (SSML) located in 3218 Social Science.

Hemken’s previous employment includes the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources as a Natural Resources Research Sociologist; the UW Environmental Resources Center as a Research Assistant; the Department of Sociology as a Lecturer for Methods of Sociological Inquiry (Sociology 357); and the Department of Rural Sociology as a research assistant. Currently, Hemken is a dissertator in Rural Sociology.

Hemken’s experience includes research design; data collection, analysis, and reporting; database management; and statistical programming. Hemken is available to assist faculty and students doing social science research or class work in the microcomputer lab during the following hours: Monday 9-12 p.m., Tuesday 1:30-4:30 p.m., Wednesday 9-12 p.m. & 1:30-4:30 p.m., Thursday 9-12 p.m., Friday 1:30-4:30 p.m., and by appointment. Hemken can be reached by telephone at 262-0862 (SSML) and 262-4327 (office, 3325 Social Science), as well as email at dehemken@facstaff.wisc.edu.

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Summer Research Institute

The National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect will sponsor its Summer Research Institute for child maltreatment researchers June 13-18, 1999 on the Cornell University Campus in Ithaca, New York. Conducted annually since 1993 the weeklong Summer Research Institute is an intensive experience in secondary data analysis that combines classroom instruction with hands-on experience. All applications must be received by February 15, 1999. Applications can be obtained from the Archive’s web site (http://www.ndacan.cornell.edu), phone: (607) 255-7799, or email: DataCAN@cornell.edu.

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New Economic CD-ROM

cd-rom imageThe Regional Economic Information System (REIS) database provides local area economic data for states, counties, and metropolitan areas from 1969 through 1996. This database contains information on personal income and earnings by two-digit standard industrial classification (SIC) industry codes; full-time and part-time employment; regional economic profile; transfer payments (payments by government and business to individuals and nonprofit institutions); and farm income and expenses. The REIS database is capable of projecting employment, earnings, population, personal income, and gross state product to the year 2045.

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APDU ‘98

The 23rd annual conference of the Association of Public Data Users (APDU) took place October 25-28 in Alexandria, VA. Among the many plenaries and roundtables addressing such issues as delivering data via the web, the future of data preservation, and defining geographic space, two sessions stand out for their frankness and inside perspective.

A report from the two most recent Directors of the Bureau of the Census, Martha Farnsworth Riche and Barbara Everitt Bryant, provided historical context for the current debate on sampling as well as a peek into the future as the U.S. population becomes more racially dissimilar. Ms. Bryant opined that the next two to three decades will be a tabulation nightmare as the population becomes more racially diverse, but that eventually racial categories will be irrelevant.

Tom Hofeller, Staff Director of the House Subcommittee on the Census, argued for the case against sampling in the 2000 Census. Legalities regarding the constitutionality of sampling aside, he contended that there is a fear of a downward trend toward more statistically generated counts which will result in less survey participation as people come to believe it is unnecessary to respond since the census will be generated through statistical inference.

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Internet Corner

The Source: UK Facts and FiguresGSS image

The Source, a web site created by the Government Statistics Service (GSS), is a major provider of official statistics in the United Kingdom. This site has two main components, StatBase and United Kingdom in Figures, which provide a wide variety of comprehensive government statistics.

StatBase is a Web-based information retrieval system that offers a whole range of cross-sectional data, time series data and microdata in table format. Users are able to select specific topics and time periods to create their own customized tables.

United Kingdom in Figures provides an overview of U.K. statistics, which are organized into five broad categories: selected regional statistics, economy, people, state, and land. This information is presented in table format, and some of the data goes as far back as the 1970’s. The URL for The Source is http://www.statistics.gov.uk/.

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Canadian Facts

leafITP Nelson, a Canadian publisher, created this unique web site to provide quick links to factual information about Canada. Users have easy access to Statistics Canada’s various web pages, such as the 1996 census, economy, environment, education, housing and families, geography, government spending and elections, health, population, and justice and crime. This site also provides links to many provincial governments. Visit the site at http://polisci.nelson.com/facts.html.

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INS Statistics on the InternetDepartment of Justice seal

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has published its statistics on the Internet. Users can find detailed annual immigration statistics from 1994-1996, including state estimates of the United States’ illegal alien resident and foreign-born populations (http://www.ins.usdoj.gov/stats). The 1996 Statistical Yearbook is also available in PDF format from this site. This publication provides immigration data for 1996 along with related historical information.

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The Changing of America

Changing America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being by Race and Hispanic Origin documents current racial differences and describes how such differences have evolved over the past several decades. The charts included in this online publication, prepared by the Council of Economic Advisers for the President's Initiative on Race, show key indicators of well-being in seven broad categories: population, education, labor markets, economic status, health, crime and criminal justice, and housing and neighborhoods. It is possible to download the data underlying the charts as spreadsheet files in Lotus WK4 format. This publication is available at http://www.access.gpo.gov/eop/ca/index.html.

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DPLS staff would like to thank Lisa Viezbicke, a School of Library and Information Studies graduate student, for all of her hard work this semester responding to electronic reference questions.

End of December 1998 Newsletter.