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Restricted-Use Data

The Census Bureau maintains and enhances confidential microdata for use in social science research. These data are from Census Bureau censuses and surveys of business and households, linked employer-employee data, and administrative records from federal and state agencies. A wide variety of these data are available to qualified researchers with approved projects at secure Federal Research Data Centers (FSRDCs).

The application process for requesting access to data in the FSRDCs is evolving. The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 calls for the Federal government to establish a standard application process (SAP) through which agencies, the Congressional Budget Office, State, local, and Tribal governments, researchers, and other individuals, as appropriate, may apply for access to confidential microdata. In response, the federal statistical system is developing the SAP Portal at www.ResearchDataGov.org. The SAP Portal is a web-based data catalog and common application that will serve as a “front door” to apply for confidential data from any of the 16 principal federal statistical agencies and units for evidence building purposes. To learn more about the SAP, please visit the Standard Application Process Overview webpage.

The SAP Portal is being developed in a phased approach. On February 28, 2022, the federal statistical agencies launched the SAP Portal data catalog to provide prospective applicants with comprehensive metadata about federal statistical agencies’ confidential microdata. Beginning December 8, 2022, FSRDC partner agencies and the other principal federal statistical agencies and units will begin transitioning applications to the SAP Portal. Information about applying for access to restricted-use microdata in the FSRDCs using the SAP portal is available on the Census Bureau’s standard application process website.

Assistance from an FSRDC administrator will greatly reduce the need for future revisions to your application. If you are unsure which FSRDC to contact or have a general question, please reach out to the Census Bureau at ced.fsrdc.info@census.gov.

Apply to Access Data

Available Microdata

Changing Research Environment

In response to the growing literature in mathematics, computer science and statistics, which suggests that traditional statistical disclosure limitation or disclosure avoidance methods may not be strong enough to protect public-use tabular and microdata releases in the future, the Census Bureau has launched a major effort to modernize. Our current efforts focus on the 2020 Census of Population and Housing, the American Community Survey, and the 2017 Economic Census. Eventually, we will extend them to all public-use products released under the Bureau’s Title 13 confidentiality pledge.

At the core these modernization efforts is a commitment to maintain the scientific integrity of the analyses performed using the public-use products that the Census Bureau releases. Historically, statistical policies requiring that published estimates include information on the margins of error associated with ensemble of methods used have excluded the effects of disclosure limitation systems. When the modernized methods are in place, the Census Bureau will issue suitability for use guidelines and margins of error that also reflect the effects of the disclosure limitation. We will publish our algorithms, and the parameter values used by those algorithms, so that researchers can use the data in a scientifically appropriate manner.

To conduct scientific analyses for which the public-use data are not suitable or sufficiently accurate, researchers may choose to seek approval to conduct a project under the auspices of the Federal Statistical Research Data Centers. Modernized disclosure limitation systems will permit such analyses to support the underlying science while remaining within the boundaries dictated by Census Bureau policies on disclosure limitation as determined by the Disclosure Review Board and the Data Stewardship Executive Committee.

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