The Boston Census Research Data Center (BRDC) is part of the Federal Statistical Research Data Center (FSRDC) program and is operated as a partnership between the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). Open since 1994, the BRDC provides qualified researchers the opportunity to perform statistical analysis on non-public microdata from the Census Bureau, National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).
Information on the FSRDC program can be found on its homepage at https://www.census.gov/fsrdc.
Data available for use within the secure RDCs include:
- A wide range of Census microdata files https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/ces/data/restricted-use-data.html
- Data collaborations among federal statistical agencies https://www.census.gov/about/adrm/fsrdc/federal_partners.html
- Restricted-use data from FSRDC statistical agency partners through their proposal process https://www.census.gov/about/adrm/fsrdc/about/available_data.html.
A searchable list of restricted-access data from the Federal Statistical System, including data available through the FSRDCs, is available at https://www.researchdatagov.org.
One can browse datasets by agency or browse all the data together. In addition, examples of work performed in the FSRDC system can be found in the CES Working Paper Series and Annual Reports https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/ces/library.html.
Spreadsheets containing metadata about active and completed FSRDC projects using Census data and lists of recent research outputs from those projects are available at https://www.census.gov/about/adrm/fsrdc/about/ongoing-projects.html.
To perform research within the BRDC requires the development and approval of a proposal. Proposal Guidelines for each of the FSRDC statistical agencies can be found on their web pages, with links to the proposal process available at https://www.census.gov/about/adrm/fsrdc/about/available_data.html.
It is important to contact the BRDC Administrator (contact information is below) early on about your prospective project to help you navigate the process and answer your questions. Proposals may be submitted on a rolling basis. Once approved, researchers become sworn agents of the Census Bureau and work within the BRDC secure facility. Foreign nationals are welcome to participate in the FSRDC program but must have lived in the United States for at least three years. Results intended for circulation in working papers and publications are screened to avoid disclosure of confidential information prior to release from the center.
Two points are of note:
- There are substantial financial costs involved in operating an RDC, and as a result, there are project access fees for using the BRDC. Local universities that have an institutional membership with the BRDC include Boston College, Boston University, Brown, Dartmouth, Harvard, MIT, Northeastern, Tufts, and the University of Massachusetts. These agreements cover lab fees for affiliated faculty, students, and staff. Researchers not affiliated with these member institutions generally cover lab fees with a grant.
- The approval process can take a substantial amount of time, several months for regular proposals and considerably longer if review by multiple agencies or data owners is required, or if data availability issues exist that require investigation.
We are proud of the fruits of almost three decades of research results from work performed at the BRDC and are grateful for your interest.
Boston Research Data Center
National Bureau of Economic Research
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138