Summer Seminar: Accessing Bigger Data for Research and Policy

With over 650 researchers working on 267 active projects, the Federal Statistical Research Data Center (RDC) network is an important resource for demographers. Administered by the U.S. Census Bureau, the country’s 27 RDCs provide secure access to restricted microdata from federal agencies such as the National Center for Health Statistics and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Since 2015, UW–Madison has been home to a local RDC. Led by Brent Hueth, associate professor of agricultural and applied economics, the Wisconsin Research Data Center (WiscRDC) provides access to economic, business, demographic, employment, health, and household data that are only available to approved researchers.

To help increase awareness about UW’s data center, CDE hosted a day-long seminar this past June. Titled “Accessing Bigger Data for Research and Policy,” the summer session of the Demography Seminar featured keynote speakers John Abowd (associate director for research and methodology and chief scientist, U.S. Census Bureau; Cornell) and Ted Mouw (professor of sociology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill).

Presentations by Abowd, Mouw, and CDE alumnus Jack DeWaard (now assistant professor of sociology at Minnesota), as well as those by CDE affiliates Chenoa Allen, Jason Fletcher, and Tim Smeeding, touched on the themes of reproducibility, confidentiality, research design, and the application of big data from RDC holdings to research and policy.

Current CDE projects at WiscRDC include Allen’s exploration of the effects of immigration policies on Latino children’s health and access to healthcare; Marguerite Burns’ study of Medicaid expansions and disability program participation; Fletcher’s examination of life course effects of age-eligibility in voting behaviors; and Smeeding’s work on the American Opportunity Study.

For more on WiscRDC researchers and their projects, visit