UC Irvine is home to the nation’s newest of 18 U.S. Census Research Data Centers. Established through a partnership between the School of Social Sciences and the U.S. Census Bureau, the campus site allows UCI researchers unprecedented local access to administrative and survey data.
 
“The information is key to research in economics, sociology, health services, public health, transportation, law and business, and the center gives students and faculty new opportunities to use it to answer questions they otherwise couldn’t,” said Marianne Bitler, UCI professor of economics and executive director of the facility. She’s utilizing center data to better understand links between state health insurance mandates about cancer screening and early detection in women.
 
The U.S. Census Bureau has established 17 other research data centers across the country since 1994, when the first one was launched in Boston. Information available includes nonpublic census records as well as data sets from the National Center for Health Statistics, the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality and others.
 
With this data, researchers can explore the policy environment within a detailed geographic area and connect that to micro-level data on public health, transportation, labor, crime, education and more. The result will be better studies addressing highly relevant public issues such as the impact of crime on local businesses, how policy changes affect health and well-being among different populations and regions, or how educational attainment influences community and national earnings.
 
“Establishing a census data center allows our researchers to use real-time, detailed data to do state-by-state, municipality-by-municipality or even finer-grained comparisons and to understand small, special populations that get lost in the noise of aggregated data sets,” said Bill Maurer, UCI social sciences dean.
 
“It not only opens whole new vistas for researchers but will foster new collaborations at UC Irvine and regionally. Before, researchers in Orange County, the Inland Empire and San Diego County would have to travel to UCLA to gain access to this data. Now we join UCLA as well as campuses like Berkeley, Cornell, Duke and Stanford in providing access to this data in-house.”
 
The center is maintained through external funding and a fee-for-use model. Security checks and training are required of users in order to maintain the integrity and confidentiality of the data, Bitler said. Only approved researchers on approved projects may utilize the site.
 
Located in the School of Social Sciences, the center is staffed by a Census Bureau employee who oversees operations and security protocols. The space is set up for 24-hour access by as many as 10 qualified researchers at any one time.
 
Interested parties should contact Bitler at mbitler@uci.edu. For more information, go to www.ccrdc.uci.edu.

-Heather Ashbach, Social Sciences Communications

 

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