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Public & Social Policy

A guide to information sources for public & social policy research.

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Sources listed for statistics contain the "numbers" generally sought for frequently asked questions such as population, income levels, trade figures, or gross domestic product calculations.

Datasets are files containing the quantitative data researchers use to conduct statistical analysis on a hypothesis or research problem.  Use the sites on this page to search for and identify existing datasets in repositories often used by political scientists.

GIS data can be imported into ArcMap, Google Earth or other Geographic Information Software for creating data-rich maps.

Locating Datasets

Will data analysis be part of your project? Using SPSS, R or another statistical software package? Great! But where will you find your data? Try the sources below, or contact your librarian!

Geospatial Data Sources

Depending on your project you may need to create your own data, or request it from a local government agency. However, there's a lot of data on the web for free. Much of it is created and provided by government entities, some is provided by Universities or data clearinghouses that gather many sources of data in one place.

For information on Census data, see the U.S. Census Information Guide.

Here are some sources to get you started, but they are just the tip of the iceberg! 

General U.S. Statistics

The following sources are great places to start looking for U.S. federal statistics and international statistics on all subjects.

U.S. Census

Looking for demographic and housing data from the U.S. Decennial Census? Start with the sources below and see the U.S. Census Information guide for more information.

Missouri Data

The Missouri Census Data Center brings together data on Missouri and its communities from a variety of data points.  This site is invaluable in exploring numerical data regarding state level data.

The Missouri Data Portal offers a search feature to locate public data from state agencies from the Administrative Hearing Commission to Corrections to Social Services and the State Tax Commission.

Intergovernmental Organization (IGO) Data & Statistical Sources

Every country collects data a little differently, and may have slightly different definitions for terms. IGOs take information reported by various countries and normalize them so comparisons can be made across countries and across time. If you ever want to compare two countries, IGO data should be your first choice if avaialble. (But it is still important to read about the methodology behind the data!)

If you are studying only one country, or need more detailed data or statistics than is provided by an IGO, the statistical department of a country's government may be your best source. See Northwestern University's list of foreign government websites, including statistical divisions for more.