Navigating the U.S. Federal Statistical System
October 2023 .. how do I access income related measures for small areas? One example. Many Federal statistical programs produce these data. They are available at no cost. But how to find the right data, how to access the data, how to put the data into a usable form are often challenging. Am I using the best data for a my application? What are the options? Another challenge is integrating Federal statistical data with other data. What are the limitations of the data? How does this impact development of decision-making information? How to best use these data in collaboration?
This section is developed by Warren Glimpse, and is updated periodically. See related Data Analytics Blog. Glimpse is an econometrician, former associate director of the U.S. Office of Federal Statistical Policy & Standards and former Census Bureau senior statistician. Glimpse developed the Census Bureau TIGER digital map database prototype and Census Bureau State Data Center Program. He now principal at ProximityOne. E-mail Warren or call (888-364-7656) with questions/help.
This section is focused on accessing, integrating and using geostatistical data from the Federal Statistical System (FSS). It has been developed as a guide to help stakeholders, data users, navigate the FSS. FSS geographic, demographic, economic and related data update daily. This section updates frequently reflecting new and changing developments.
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01 Navigating the Federal Statistical System
02 Accessing & Using Federal GeoStatistical Data
.. DEDE -- Demographic-Economic Data Extraction & Integration
.. VDA -- Visual Data Analytics (VDA) Web GIS
.. Situation & Outlook -- Integrated Demographic-Economic Estimates & Projections
.. Advisory Services -- getting answers to questions; knitting data together; using the data
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The U.S. Federal Statistical System offers a vast array of diverse data resources that are useful in wide-ranging planning and analytical applications. Many of these data resources, such as census block level demographics from the decennial census, are unique in scope and content; in many cases there are no alternative data resources.
But there are issues/challenges facing the data user to navigate the Federal Statistical System. Examples ... the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases total employment data by county quarterly and monthly through multiple programs. The data values differ, for methodological reasons, but the net result can be confusion for data users. The Census Bureau releases total employment data from many statistical programs by county both annually and more frequently. Where are these alternative total employment data and how can they be accessed? How do these various measures differ and which data are right for my situation? This section provides basic statistical program information. Subsequent updates will provide more detail.
Navigating the Federal Statistical System & Data Access -- see below.
While the FSS is focused on agencies that collect, develop and make available statistical data, there is a broader set of data and resources that relate to accessing and using these data. As technology and related data analytics resources have evolved, access to and use of these data is closely associated with the development of geographic data by Federal statistical and other agencies and Geographic Information Systems (GIS).
Washington Post: How the U.S. National Statistics System Works
The FSS is a decentralized set of agencies that collect, develop and make available statistical and geographic data. The OMB Office of Statistical Programs and Standards (SPS) provides a limited FSS coordinative role. The SPS establishes statistical policies and standards, identifies priorities for improving programs, evaluates statistical agency budgets, reviews and approves Federal agency information collections involving statistical methods, and coordinates U.S. participation in international statistical activities. SPS is housed within the OMB Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) and has little public visibility. SPS provides no data access operations.
An example of SPS operations are organizing steps/meetings that result in the proposed changes (see Federal Register post) to OMB's metropolitan and micropolitan statistical area standards by the Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Area Standards Review Committee (facilitated by SPS).
Standards and policies relating to race/ethnic data collected and tabulated by the Federal government were established/published by SPS, again through interagency meetings and coordination. Yet SPS does not actually collect, develop or disseminate any race/ethnic data.
All Federal statistical survey and data collection forms/operations must be reviewed and approved by SPS before being used by an agency. Examples of this are data collection forms developed by the Census Bureau for Census 2020 and the American Community Survey. Yet, SPS has no role in actually collecting or tabulating data collected through use of the forms/data collection instruments.
While the FSS spans more than 100 agencies, the 13 "principal statistical agencies" have statistical work as their principal mission. The principal statistical agencies include:
Census Bureau (Commerce)
Bureau of Economic Analysis (Commerce)
Bureau of Justice Statistics (Justice)
Bureau of Labor Statistics (Labor)
Bureau of Transportation Statistics (Transportation)
Economic Research Service (Agriculture)
Energy Information Administration (Energy)
National Agricultural Statistics Service (Agriculture)
National Center for Education Statistics (Education)
National Center for Health Statistics (CDC/HHS)
National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics -- NSF/Independent
Office of Research, Evaluation, and Statistics -- SSA/Independent
Statistics of Income (IRS)
There are hundreds of additional ongoing Federal programs (outside of the above agencies) that conduct statistical activities in conjunction with another program mission. These statistical programs are components within a Federal department or other agency. They include a broad set of centers, institutes and organizations in addition to the 13 principal statistical agencies. Many of these programs produce data accessible for public use, some routinely updated, many in a near ready-to-use data file structure suitable for integrating with other data.
There are also Federal agencies whose statistical activities are not part of the Executive Branch. These agencies include the Congressional Budget Office, which develops and applies projection models for the budgetary impact of current and proposed Federal programs; the Federal Reserve Board, which compiles the widely used Flow of Funds report and other statistical series and periodically conducts the Survey of Consumer Finances; and the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which uses statistical data in evaluations of government programs.
Navigating Access to Federal Statistical Data .. goto top
Footnotes (in the form 1,2/ or 2/) refer to additional detail provided shown below the table.
1/ augmented source data are component of PDS
2/ augmented source data are component of S&O
5/ FHFA: independent agency; regulates Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the 12 Federal Home Loan Banks.
6/ FDIC: independent agency
Accessing & Using Federal Statistical Data .. goto top
This section is under progressive development.
E-mail us with questions about this document or related tools/data reviewed.
Demographic-Economic Data Extraction (DEDE) API Tools .. goto top
Use DEDE to develop your own custom datasets from wide-ranging Federal statistical programs.
Visual Data Analytics (VDA) Web GIS .. goto top
Use the VDA Web GIS to access/analyze data from wide-ranging Federal statistical programs.
nothing to install, use any browser.
get started at no cost.
for example view/analyze block group demographic characteristics with a city/county/school district of interest
Situation & Outlook .. goto top
-- ready-to-use (and custom) demographic-economic estimates & projections .. goto top
-- more about Situation & Outlook
Advisory Services .. goto top
Many times data users have needs in accessing and integrating data to meet custom needs. ProximityOne/Warren Glimpse provides services that can help meet these needs.
What and where are Federal statistical data that might meet my needs?
Of the available Federal statistical data options, which is best to fit my needs?
What is the nature of geographic granularity of data; e.g., what data are available for all counties?
How do I build a time series of data that are reported periodically?
What are the limitations of data that are available?
Federal statistical data often lag by more than a year and/or are pre-pandemic. How do I get current data.
E1. I need demographic data by ZIP code. Where can I find it?"
A1. One of the most frequently asked questions, the only source of these data from the FSS (second to none on this subject) is the decennial census or American Community Survey (ACS) -- both Census Bureau programs.
From here, things can be more complicated ..
1) where is the most current data?
2) where similar options exist, how to compare among alternative data?
3) How do I access it on my computer?
This document, developed by Warren Glimpse, is updated periodically. Updated information is posted on the Data Analytics Blog. Follow the blog to receive updates and/or join the Situation & Outlook User Group. Join now to receive e-mail updates and related member benefits.
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Learn more about accessing and using demographic-economic data and related analytical tools. Join us in a Data Analytics Lab session. There is no fee for these one-hour Web sessions. Each informal session is focused on a specific topic. The open structure also provides for Q&A and discussion of application issues of interest to participants.
Additional Information .. goto top
ProximityOne develops geodemographic-economic data and analytical tools and helps organizations knit together and use diverse data in a decision-making and analytical framework. We develop custom demographic/economic estimates and projections, develop geographic and geocoded address files, and assist with impact and geospatial analyses. Wide-ranging organizations use our tools (software, data, methodologies) to analyze their own data integrated with other data. Follow ProximityOne on Twitter at www.twitter.com/proximityone. Contact us (888-364-7656) with questions about data covered in this section or to discuss custom estimates, projections or analyses for your areas of interest.