A History of Data: Good People, Good Work

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Bethel University Professor of History Diana L. Magnuson is documenting the growth of the Minnesota Population Center. Believing that preserving institutional memory is vital, the Center is supporting Magnuson’s work to capture oral histories of past and present MPC faculty and staff. This is the third in a three-part series of oral histories. This post features several senior research staff: Trent Alexander, Sarah Flood, Ron Goeken, Patricia Kelly Hall, Monty Hindman, and David Van Riper.

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Addressing the Importance of Data

Flags of member nations flying at United Nations Headquarters. 30/Dec/2005. UN Photo/Joao Araujo Pinto. www.unmultimedia.org/photo/
Flags of member nations flying at United Nations Headquarters. UN Photo/Joao Araujo Pinto. www.unmultimedia.org/photo/

In April, MPC Director of Data Integration Matt Sobek was invited to speak at an event for the United Nations’ 49th Session of the Commission on Population and Development. The special session, “The Data Revolution in Action: National and International Experiences with Microdata Dissemination and Public Use,” was created to show attendees examples of national and international organizations distributing data for public use.

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Counting—and Redefining—the Cost of War

Hacker_headshot 2016 copyAssociate Professor of History and MPC Faculty Member J. David Hacker made headlines in 2011 when he published a groundbreaking study of the total number of U.S. Civil War dead. Hacker argued that the widely-accepted figure of 620,000 was far too low. Using IPUMS, Hacker showed that the number of dead was at least 750,000—if not more. His article, “A Census-Based Count of the Civil War,” published in Civil War History, was introduced by the editors in the issue as “among the most consequential pieces ever to appear in this journal’s pages.”

Few demographic historians expect attention from mainstream press when they publish their research, but Hacker’s study attracted national interest, including interviews with the New York Times and National Public Radio.

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