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Drexel Helps to Establish the Region's First Federal Statistical Research Data Center to Gain Access to Census Data

January 09, 2018

U.S. Census form

Researchers from around the city will have access to the latest Census data thanks to a new Federal Statistical Research Data Center at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

Researchers from around the city, who are studying public policy and the economy, will have access to some of the nation’s highest quality Census data this coming cycle, thanks to a new federal research center. The Federal Statistical Research Data Center, which opened earlier this month, will be operated by a consortium of five research institutions — the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, Drexel University, the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University and the Pennsylvania State University.

The facility is the first of its kind in the Philadelphia area and provides researchers with access to some of the nation’s highest quality Census data for analysis of the U.S. economy and public policy issues. 

“The Philadelphia Federal Statistical Research Data Center will provide much easier access to this restricted, micro-level data for scholars at Drexel and our partners institutions,” said Aleister Saunders, PhD, Drexel’s senior vice provost for research.

The centers are part of the network of 29 FSRDCs located around the country, including one on Penn State’s State College campus.

The FSRDC benefits the Philadelphia Fed’s “Third District,” which includes eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware, by facilitating research that allows policymakers to better understand economic conditions when designing policy. In addition, the center’s ability to attract and retain high-caliber researchers reinforces the area’s reputation as a hub for education and knowledge.

“The Philadelphia Fed is pleased to be the site of this data center that connects researchers to the millions of data points collected by the Census Bureau that allows them to do deeper dives into economic trends,” said Keith Sill, senior vice president and director of the Philadelphia Fed’s Real-Time Data Research Center.

FSRDCs are partnerships between federal statistical agencies and leading research institutions that provide qualified researchers with a secure environment in which to access restricted-use anonymized microdata from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the National Center for Health Statistics and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Because of the confidential nature of the data, the Census Bureau must review and approve requests for access to the FSRDC. There are robust security measures in place to ensure the integrity of the data. The Census Bureau’s Mallick Hossain is administrator of the Philadelphia FSRDC.

“Access to this house-level, restricted data is a treasure trove for social science scholars,” Saunders said. “We believe that our collaborative effort to compete for and win a Philadelphia FSRDC will support Drexel’s burgeoning social science and behavioral research enterprise. We believe that access to the FSRDC will stimulate individual scholarship but also the formation of new interdisciplinary teams, within Drexel and with our partner institutions, that will explore new areas of social science scholarship. I want to thank Professor Vibhas Madan who coordinated this effort on behalf of Drexel along with the Deans Ana Diez-Roux, Donna Murasko and interim Dean Paul Jensen for their support of this effort. The support for this initiative will help us recruit and retain faculty as well as provide Drexel students will unique training opportunities.”

Some examples of planned research at the Philadelphia FSRDC include an investigation into the link between increased trade exposure and the decline in entrepreneurship and the consequences for employment and productivity growth; and research on the effect of the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance training incentives on worker earnings.

“FSRDC research projects are of great benefit to the Census Bureau’s statistical programs,” said Ron Jarmin, performing the nonexclusive functions and duties of the director of the U.S. Census Bureau. “This partnership supports our efforts to increase transparency and broaden the use of our statistical data. We are devoted to research-based innovation.

Drexel researchers are planning to use the FSRDC to support research projects in a number of areas across departments and colleges. These include topics in the area of heath economics, finance, labor markets, public health criminology and others.

“This is an important resource for the work happening at Drexel because it provides our researchers access to rich and detailed micro-level datasets which are not publicly available,” said Vibhas Madhan, PhD, a professor in LeBow College of Business and director of the School of Economics, who helped lead Drexel’s involvement with the FSRDC. “The comprehensive nature and the exclusivity of these rich data sets will allow researchers to publish their work in top academic outlets, apply for highly competitive research grants and increase the visibility of Drexel research in the public policy arena.”