IPUMS IHGIS: Unlocking International Population and Agricultural Census Data

By Tracy Kugler

Nearly all countries throughout the world conduct population and housing censuses at least every ten years, and most also conduct agricultural censuses or surveys regularly. These censuses collect information on demographics, education, employment, housing characteristics, migration, agricultural land ownership, agricultural workforce, livestock, crops, and more. The resulting data can be used to study a wide range of questions, from the character of demographic transitions within and across countries, to utilization of irrigation, to educational trends among women. 

Unfortunately, this wealth of data has remained largely inaccessible to researchers. The data are typically published in reports as tables summarizing population characteristics. In recent decades, many of these reports have been published as PDF documents and made available on national statistical office websites. While the reports are available, data from a PDF document cannot be easily imported into a statistical or GIS package. Furthermore, the table structures are highly heterogeneous, both across countries and even within the same report.

The International Historical Geographic Information System (IPUMS IHGIS) is designed to provide easy access to these data in a way that researchers can easily use for analysis. In the early phases, IHGIS was known internally as “Project Mako,” named after the Mako shark, which has a global range, voracious appetite, and a reputation for a broad-ranging diet. Like the shark, IHGIS (née Project Mako) will encompass the world and ingest all kinds of data tables.

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Cite us! Seriously though…

By Renae Rodgers and Kari Williams

Hi there IPUMS users! Let’s talk about citations. When using our datasets in your insightful, groundbreaking, interesting work, please cite us! 

Seriously though. 

Cite us. 

You wouldn’t steal a car, you wouldn’t rob a little old lady of her handbag, you wouldn’t base work on that of a colleague and not put their paper(s) in your reference section, right?!? Then don’t use IPUMS data and fail to mention it! 

To help you on your way, here are some answers to frequently asked questions:

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In the Archive: “25 Years of IPUMS Data”

“25 Years of IPUMS Data,” the current IPUMS/MPC archive exhibit, highlights a dynamic quarter center history of data innovation at the University of Minnesota. In the late 1980s, the Social History Research Laboratory at the University of Minnesota’s History Department proposed “the creation of a single integrated microdata series composed of public use samples for every year … with the exception of the 1890 census, which was destroyed by fire.”  The primary aim was to make the U.S. census microdata “as compatible over time as possible while losing little, if any, of the detail in the original datasets” (Integrated Public Use Microdata Series: A Prospectus).

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