IPUMS FAQs: Becoming an Approved IPUMS User

At IPUMS we try to address every user’s questions and suggestions about our data. It is just one feature that adds value to IPUMS data. Over time, many questions are often repeated. In a new blog series, we will be sharing some of these frequently asked questions. Maybe you’ll learn something, or perhaps you’ll just find these interesting. Regardless, we hope you enjoy.

Here’s one of those questions:

Why do I have to apply for different projects? And When will my application be approved?

There are nine IPUMS projects: IPUMS USA, IPUMS CPS, IPUMS International, IPUMS DHS, IPUMS NHGIS, IPUMS Terra, IPUMS Time Use, IPUMS Health Surveys, and IPUMS Higher Ed.  Most IPUMS users begin by using data from one of these projects and then move to other projects. Occasionally, a user will ask why is it, that even though they are registered and approved for use of one project, they don’t have access to another project. This can be an annoying feature of IPUMS, but there is good reason for it. Even though IPUMS data is freely available, researchers must comply with usage licensing agreements. Importantly, because IPUMS data comes from various sources, usage agreements differ slightly across projects.

For example, IPUMS International data is licensed for scholarly research and educational purposes only. Commercial use is strictly prohibited. For other projects, like IPUMS USA and IPUMS CPS, commercial use is not restricted. While these details may represent small annoyances for IPUMS data users, requiring different applications for different projects allows IPUMS to apply different usage licenses to the various projects. Ultimately, this allows IPUMS to freely provide a diverse set of data from numerous sources to as many users as possible.

This discussion is related to another common question: “When will my application be approved?” The standard answer is it typically takes a couple days for the appropriate IPUMS team to review and respond to pending applications. Therefore, it can sometimes take up to a week before an application is reviewed. With this in mind, users should apply for access before they intend to start working with the data.


Have a question or comment for IPUMS? Email ipums@umn.edu or post on our User Forum.

Story by Jeff R. Bloem
PhD Student, Department of Applied Economics
Graduate Research Assistant, Minnesota Population Center