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Social Science Data and Statistics Sources

This is a general guide to resources for finding social science data and statistics.

Questions to ask yourself when looking for data sources

  • Who? Who might be interested in and able to collect the data you would like to find? That is, who might have an interest in the subject matter as well as the material support and expertise to conduct the data collection? Who might be required to make it publicly available? Who might be willing to share it voluntarily?
    • Which of these data collectors do you think will provide you the data that you need at no cost?
      • Government agencies 
      • Inter-governmental organizations 
      • Non-governmental organizations/non-profit organizations
      • Academic researchers
      • Think tanks/policy institutes
      • Community organizations​
      • Private companies
  • When? Are you looking for current or historical data? Historical data from the same organization might be stored in a different database or data repository than current data. Older data and statistics might be only available in print form. 
  • Where? At what geographic level are you interested in studying - neighborhood, city, county, state, region, country, continent, world? What organizations or individuals might collect and share data at that geographic level?

Search the secondary literature for primary sources

You can search in Google Scholar or other scholarly article databases using your topic keywords and adding GIS or "Geospatial data" to your search. This might help you locate researchers doing work in the area, and their citations might lead you to more sources of data you could try to track down.

Open data portals

What are open data portals? 

Some government entities make their data available to the public using open data portals. These portals may contain geospatial data sets to download. 

How to find open data portal

  • You can search for these in your favorite internet search engine - try searching for the name of the place and "open data" or "open data portal". 
  • Use the Global Open Data Index to find and evaluate how usable and transparent the data portal might be.   
  • claims to be the most comprehensive list of open data portals in the world. It is curated by a group of leading open data experts from around the world - including representatives from local, regional and national governments, international organisations such as the World Bank, and numerous NGOs.

Barriers to open data portals

Open Knowledge International notes three major environmental constraints that cintribute to a lack of openness in government data sharing:

"1. Lack of capacity of government to maintain infrastructure and websites; incomplete and inaccessible published official information.
2. Limited open data knowledge from the respective government officials.
3. Limited capacity and open data knowledge of CSOs to take advantage or to ask for open data."

Some examples of open data portals

Data repositories

What are data repositories? 

Data repositories host research and other data for long-term preservation and archiving. They may be hosted by universities/colleges, non-profit organizations, for-profit companies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), etc. They might be broad in scope, or they might organized around a specific area of reseach. 

Some examples of data repositories