September 13, 2018

RTC:Rural sponsors workshops on restricted-access federal data

RTC:Rural, along with the University of Montana (UM) Department of Geography and the UM Faculty Development Office, is pleased to sponsor a workshop series for the UM research community on accessing restricted federal statistical research data. Funding has been provided by the Office of the Vice-President for Research and Creative Scholarship. Dr. Ben Cerf, a Census Bureau research economist and the administrator of the Northwest Federal Statistical Research Data Center at the University of Washington in Seattle, will present the workshops. The workshops will be held on October 17, 2018, at the University of Montana.

headshot of Dr. von Reichert. She is an older woman with short, gray/brown hair, wearing a pink striped shirt. She is standing outside, and there is a view overlooking a city and ocean behind her.

Dr. Christiane von Reichert.

Dr. Christiane von Reichert, professor of Geography at UM and an RTC:Rural research partner, was instrumental in bringing Dr. Cerf to campus. von Reichert has been in communication with Dr. Cerf about seeking access to restricted data to examine whether or not urban-rural migration is a factor contributing to higher rural than urban disability rates.  

Federal Statistical Research Data Centers are secure facilities managed by the Census Bureau that provide access to restricted-use microdata from the Census Bureau, the National Centers for Health Statistics, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and other agencies. These centers are partnership between federal statistical agencies and research institutions. “The US government is diligent to protect the identity of people who respond to surveys like the American Community Survey,” said Dr. Craig Ravesloot, RTC:Rural Director. “That means that the publically available information about rural people with disabilities is very limited to protect their anonymity.”

Map of disability rates by county across the U.S.

Click on the map to visit the Geography and Disability Map Series webpage, where you can view and download this and other maps produced by RTC:Rural.

In his two workshops, Dr. Cerf will share insights and strategies for writing proposals to access restricted federal data. The first workshop will discuss restricted socio-demographic and health data. This workshop could be especially interesting for researchers in economics, geography, political science, psychology, public health, sociology, criminology, or other related disciplines. The second workshop will discuss firm-level data, which could be of particular interest for those in the fields of business, economics, and related disciplines.

Access to restricted federal data can have important implications for many areas of research, including RTC:Rural’s work to better understand the experiences of people with disabilities in rural areas. “The Accessing Restricted Federal Statistical Research workshops will allow UM researchers to follow very strict standards that protect anonymity but also allow for much more detailed information about rural people,” said Dr. von Reichert. “For example, one question we would like answered is do people who live in small cities that become disabled move to bigger cities for services? This question cannot be answered very well with publically available data.”

For more information and to RSVP for the workshops, visit Accessing Restricted Federal Statistical Research Data on the Faculty Development Office- Professional Development Series website.

These workshops are sponsored by RTC: Rural, the UM Department of Geography and the UM Faculty Development Office with funding provided by the UM Office of the Vice-President for Research.

For more information about how RTC:Rural uses large datasets, see: