Accessing IPUMS NHGIS in R: A Primer

By Finn Roberts & Jonathan Schroeder

R users have a powerful new way to access IPUMS NHGIS!

The July 2023 release of ipumsr 0.6.0 includes a fully-featured set of client tools enabling R users to get NHGIS data and metadata via the IPUMS API. Without leaving their R environment, users can find, request, download and read in U.S. census summary tables, geographic time series, and GIS mapping files for years from 1790 through the present. This blog post gives an overview of the possibilities and describes how to get started.

What you can do with ipumsr

Request and download NHGIS data

You can use ipumsr to specify the parameters of an NHGIS data extract request and submit that request for processing by the IPUMS servers. You can request any of the data products that are available through the NHGIS Data Finder: summary tables, time series tables, and shapefiles. You can also specify general formatting parameters (e.g., file format or time series table layout) to customize the structure of your data extract.

Once you have specified a data extract, you can use a series of ipumsr functions to:

  • submit the extract request to the IPUMS servers for processing
  • check on the extract status
  • wait for the extract to complete
  • download the extract as soon as it’s ready
  • load the data into R with detailed data field descriptions.

This workflow allows you to go from a set of abstract NHGIS data specifications to analyzable data, all without having to leave your R session!

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Going Global: IPUMS International

By Diana Magnuson

Display case with a banner "Going Global: IPUMS International" and memorabilia from around the world
The display case at IPUMS HQ

A new exhibit, “Going Global: IPUMS International,” is now on display at IPUMS headquarters, housed at the University of Minnesota. The exhibit features pieces that tell the history and scope of IPUMS International.

Beginning in 1999 with a social science infrastructure grant from the National Science Foundation, IPUMS International had a simple yet audaciously ambitious goal: preserve the world’s microdata resources and democratize access to those resources. Twenty-four years later, the goals are: collecting and preserving census and survey data and documentation; harmonizing those data; and disseminating the harmonized data free of charge. The data series includes information on an impressive range of population characteristics, including fertility, nuptiality, life-course transitions, migration, labor-force participation, occupational structure, education, ethnicity, and household composition.

Dr. Bob McCaa standing behind a table with stacks of paper
Dr. Bob McCaa

Source data for IPUMS International are generously provided by participating national statistical offices. Our staff develop and nurture relationships with representatives of NSOs from around the world. As IPUMS International got underway, co-principal investigator Dr. Bob McCaa, University of Minnesota Department of History, “proved to have formidable persuasive powers and managed to convince . . . agency directors of the benefits of preservation and access to scientific information.” Over time, IPUMS International developed a team of research scientists articulating to a broad international audience the significance of the IPUMS data collection, harmonization, and preservation work. Today, an NSF advisory committee, senior personnel including research scientists and data analysts, an external advisory panel, and graduate and undergraduate research assistants all support the work of IPUMS International.

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Preparing Time Diary Data to Create Tempograms and to Conduct Sequence Analysis

By Sarah Flood and Kamila Kolpashnikova

Time diary data: a unique opportunity

Time diary data offer researchers an opportunity to visualize daily life in a way that just isn’t possible with other data and demonstrating how people spend time. Respondents report every activity that they engage in (along with where and who they were with) over the course of the day, which means that time diaries can indicate how much time was spent in various activities as well as when activities occur during the day (e.g., timing) and the order in which they occur (i.e., sequencing) . This blog post will describe how to transform IPUMS ATUS data to perform these types of analyses, illustrate how to create a tempogram (including sample code), and link to additional resources for creating tempograms and performing sequence analysis.

While there are several ways to leverage the unique properties of time diary data, analysts are increasingly interested in creating tempograms and conducting sequence analyses, both of which capitalize on the temporal specificity of time diary data. These techniques allow researchers to explore the timing and order of activities over the course of a day. Both creating tempograms and conducting sequence analysis require time units that are consistent across respondents. Most time diary data are not natively in this format.

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