DPLS News, February 2003

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: Joanne Juhnke, Associate Special Librarian
Contributors:Lu Chou, Senior Special Librarian, Jay Dougherty, Library Assistant, & Cindy Severt, Senior Special Librarian


February 2003


Table of Contents

The Data Is Blowin' in the Wind
Updates on Major Studies
New Studies at DPLS
DataFerrett in Java Beta-release
Statistically Adjusted 2000 Census Data Released
Web Investigator for NLSY79 and NLSY97
Research Grants at AERA

Internet Corner

Belize Central Statistical Office
Development Report Card of the States
The National Environmental Data Index
The World In Figures



The Data is Blowin’ in the Wind

Cartoon of WindData permanence is a familiar problem, as anyone with survey results stored on old IBM punch-cards can attest. Bringing the data forward to new media and formats takes work and care. The political side of data permanence, however, has been swirling intensely, most notably since September 11, 2001. Political winds, as surely as the march of time, can blow data away.

Open access to U.S. government information underwent changes after September 11. Organizations tracking removals from government web sites, such as OMB Watch (http://www.ombwatch.org/article/articleview/213/1/1/) and the Government
Documents Round Table of the American Library Association (http://tigger.uic.edu/~tfontno/chr.html), reported a flurry of removals in the months that followed. Of note from a data perspective: in April 2002 the EPA discontinued full public access to the EnviroFacts database, offering a reduced-access version instead. Some months earlier, U.S. Federal Depository Libraries were directed by the U.S. Geological Service to destroy a CD-ROM containing data on public surface water supplies.

While the spate of removals has slowed to a trickle, the decision-making process for making material available in the first place appears to have shifted. A March 19, 2002 memo from the White House Chief of Staff urged agencies to carefully control “information that could be misused to harm the security of our nation and the safety of our people.” (http://www.usdoj.gov/oip/foiapost/2002foiapost10.htm). In addition to existing categories of classified, reclassified, and declassified information that should be regarded with caution, the memo created a new category of “sensitive but unclassified.” Materials, including data, withheld on the basis of this new category will be much harder to track than those materials which were formerly available and then removed.

Another political way in which data may disappear is through the cessation of funding. In a recent example, a Labor Department program tracking mass layoffs was quietly ended after the November numbers were released. Articles in the San Francisco Chronicle and Washington Post blamed political motives, pointing out that the program was abandoned once before during troubled economic times in 1992, only to be reinstated in the next administration in 1994.

Finally, data can be “blown away” before even being collected, if funding is not forthcoming. In the version of the 2003 appropriations bill passed by the Senate in late January, the funding for the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) fell considerably short of the President’s FY03 budget request. While funding for the 31 ACS test sites would be continued, the bill would not allow for the full ACS roll-out originally envisioned for 2003.

The vigilance of individuals and organizations will be essential as the winds continue to blow.

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Updates on Major Studies

Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID): The 2001 Data and 2001 Income Plus are now available at the PSID web site, http://www.isr.umich.edu/src/psid/.

American Housing Survey (AHS): The new 2001 national AHS public use dataset is available for downloading from the HUD USER web site at http://www.huduser.org/datasets/ahs/ahsdata01.html.

National Longitudinal Surveys (NLS): 2001 data has been released for mature women and young women cohorts. These two files can be downloaded at http://www.nlsinfo.org/ordering/display_db.php3.

For quick links to the latest news at other selected data websites, please visit
DPLS’ list of What’s New links!

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New Studies at DPLS

  • Federal Justice Statistics Program Data, 1978-1991: [United States].
  • IRIS-3 File of International Country Risk Guide (ICRG) Data, 1982-1997.
  • Kennedy Assassination Survey, 1963
  • National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, Waves 1 and 2 1994-1996.
  • The Independent Sector Survey on Giving and Volunteering, 1988, 1992 and 1994.

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DataFerrett in Java Beta-release

The U.S. Census Bureau has released a Java version of DataFerrett. It is available at
http://dataferrett.census.gov/TheDataWeb/index.html. The new program is different from the Internet form-based FERRETT system in several ways.

Data Ferrett logoThe new DataFerrett is a data browser for the DataWeb, which brings together under one umbrella demographic, economic, environmental, health, and other datasets that are usually separated by geography and/or organization. This infrastructure allows data users access to an extensive range of data-sets in one centralized location, where they can mine extensive levels of data resolution and content.

DataFerrett has a graphic interface. Users can browse and search variables, modify them and download the subsets or generate tables. Currently available datasets from the DataWeb are: Current Population Survey, Survey of Income and Program Participation, American Community Survey, American Housing Survey, Small Area Income Poverty Estimates, Population Estimates, Economic Census Areawide Statistics, National Center for Health Statistics data, and Centers for Disease Control data. In the future more datasets will be added.

There are still some bugs with this beta release. The DataFerrett team welcomes any feedback. If you are interested in trying out this new tool, you can download the DataFerrett and install it to your PC. The system requirements are 200 Mhz or higher processor, 64MB or higher RAM, Windows 95 or higher, minimum 5MB available disk space, and 56KBps connection speed.

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Statistically Adjusted 2000 Census Data Released

In November 2002, a federal courts appeal ordered the release of statistically adjusted data from the 2000 U.S. census. The U.S. Census Bureau had previously recommended against the release, citing analyses of the adjusted census data that showed it was “severely flawed.” The Supreme Court had also ruled that the adjusted census data cannot be used for appropriating Congressional seats. However, Oregon state senators Susan Castillo and Margaret Carter, both Democrats, filed a lawsuit based on a Freedom of Information Act request, wanting the data available for consideration in issues of state and local redistricting.

The Washington Post on November 23, 2002 summarized the political background, “The battle over whether adjusted numbers or figures from the door-to-door count are more accurate has inflamed political passions for decades. Democrats and civil rights groups say adjusted numbers include minorities and poor people who were missed, but Republicans contend they add made-up people for the benefit of Democrats.”

The statistically adjusted census data include at least 3.3 million people who did not show up in the door-to-door numbers. The Census Bureau, while forced to release the statistically adjusted census figures, did so with an extensive disclaimer. The Department of Commerce assumes no responsibility for the accuracy of the adjusted data, will provide no assistance in interpreting the numbers, and recommends that they not be used.

The adjusted census data is available for downloading at http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/issr/da/Adjusted/adjust_web.html.

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Web Investigator for NLSY79 and NLSY97

The National Longitudinal Surveys staff has created a web version of the NLS Investigator software for NLSY79 and NLSY97 to allow researchers to search the data files and view codebook pages directly online. Users can mark variables for which they want to obtain the actual data and submit the extract to the server. They will be notified by email when the extracts are ready to be downloaded. Please note the other cohorts are not available with this interface yet.

The online extracting tool for NLSY79 is at
http://www.nlsinfo.org/web-investigator/frame.php?xxx=nlsy79 and the tool for NLSY97 is at http://www.bls.gov/nls/y97vsdr/nlsvsdr.htm. The interfaces for these two cohorts are different in appearance but both work well.

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Research Grants at AERA

The American Educational Research Association (AERA) Grants Program provides funding for quantitative education policy and practice research using large-scale, national representative data sets such as National Longitudinal Surveys (NLS). Faculty at institutions of higher education, postdoctoral researchers, and other doctoral-level researchers may apply for these grants. Among the available grants are: AERA Fellows, Research Fellows, AERA Postdoctoral Fellows, Research Grants, and Dissertation Grants. Proposals for Research and Dissertation Grants and AERA and Research Fellowships will be reviewed three times a year, in fall, winter and spring. For more information, the AERA grants web site is at http://www.aera.net/grantsprogram/.

Eric Grodsky, formerly a regular DPLS user, was a 2-year AERA Dissertation Grant recipient. Eric is now an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of California, Davis.

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Internet Corner

Belize Central Statistical Office

The Belize Central Statistical Office offers a Belize Census 2000 site. The site provides summary reports from the census, as well as the Belize Family Health Survey. Users may also download Excel tables of Main Poverty Indicators, Main Labor Force Indicators, Main Literacy Indicators, and more. On the lighter side, try the Belize Census 2000 Song in RealAudio format, along with a helpful sheet of lyrics in English for sing-along purposes. The lyrics highlight both the privacy and representation aspects of the Belize Census: “The Census it is important to get all the facts / For proper planning give them all the stats / No need to worry ‘cause the things you say / Will be kept in secret--not to give away.” For further fun, you can also print out a crossword puzzle and “jumble” puzzle of Belize census terminology.

The Belize Central Statistical Office is available at http://www.cso.gov.bz/welcome.html.

Development Report Card of the States

For those interested in “grading” the progress of various states in the U.S., the Development Report Card of the States is an excellent resource. There are three primary areas in which states are graded: Performance, Business Vitality, and Development Capacity, with multiple sub-categories in each area. Users may look at various “State Report Cards” to see how states rated in various categories and how they ranked amongst other states. Users can look at statistics in Excel format and compare statistics for 2002, 2001, and 2000. The Development Report Card of the States is available at http://drc.cfed.org/.

The National Environmental Data Index

The National Environmental Data Index offers a guide to environmental data across a number of U.S. government agencies. Users may perform a full-text search across nu-merous agencies, including the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Energy, the Department of Interior, and many more. To search successfully, users must specify which sub-agencies to search (e.g., the Department of Interior has checkboxes for two agencies underneath it: the U.S. Geological Survey and the Biological Resources Division). Users can choose to search information, text, and publications, regulation/legislation, and/or metadata. A more exact field search is also included on the site.

The National Environmental Data Index is available at http://www.nedi.org/.

The World In Figures

The World in Figures web site, based in Hungary, represents an ambitious collaboration to provide free statistics online, “about all countries” and “from different fields of life.” A Java-based data browser allows selection of categories, countries and years, plus a text search. Available years and countries vary considerably among categories, but future updates may help alleviate this. Data source publications are not necessarily mentioned by name; source organizations are identified after the fact by clicking on the results table. While the results table does not lend itself to printing or saving, charts (bar, pie, or line) can be saved as gifs.

Whether the World in Figures site, at http://worldinfigures.org/, can eventually live up to its ambitions remains to be seen.

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