Campus News

ACRDC will give researchers access to census micro data

The Atlanta Census Research Data Center will open its doors at the Federal Reserve Bank in downtown Atlanta in late September, providing the Southeast research community with access to confidential census data that is not available to the public.

That’s a boon for UGA faculty with research questions that can’t be answered with public data or aggregate statistics, according to Jeffrey Dorfman, a professor of agricultural and applied economics in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, who represents UGA on the ACRDC board of directors.

Faculty likely to take advantage of the ACRDC include researchers in economics, general social sciences, health care policy and effectiveness, public health, housing and demography.

What makes the ACRDC so valuable, according to Dorfman, is the level of geographic and demographic data.

“It’s down to the level of individual people, rather than the more generally available city, county, state and national level,” he said.

The ACRDC is a partnership between the U.S. Census Bureau and a seven-member consortium that includes UGA, Georgia State University, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Emory University, Georgia Tech and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

One of just 13 Research Data Centers located across the U.S., the ACRDC is managed by the Census Bureau’s Center for Economic Studies. Funding for the ACRDC is provided in part by the National Science Foundation and by the seven consortium institutions.

“Faculty and students from any of the seven ACRDC member institutions may use the ACRDC to access census data,” said Dorfman. And it’s free of charge for UGA researchers. The Office of the Vice President for Research provided funding for UGA membership in the consortium.

“We view this as a unique opportunity for a broad swath of UGA researchers, potentially drawn from all across campus,” said David Lee, vice president for research.

“Access to this remarkable resource should give our faculty and students an advantage as they analyze a host of contemporary issues, and I hope it will spur collaborations with the other participating Georgia and regional partners as well.”

But access to the gold mine of census data doesn’t come easy. Research takes place under a set of rules and limitations far more constraining than what most researchers are used to. Rigorous protocols require researchers to consult with the RDC staff before submitting a proposal to a lengthy review. Principal criteria are scientific merit and benefit to the Census Bureau.

“It may take several months to get you and your project approved,” said Dorfman.

Not only is the proposal reviewed, but researchers undergo a rigorous personal background check.

And once access is granted, the ACRDC operates under strict confidentiality guidelines. No data actually leave the RDC itself, said Dorfman.

However, he said, the ACRDC staff assists researchers in navigating the lengthy and rigorous Census Bureau proposal submission process.

The bottom line, said Dorfman, is that “research by qualified researchers using census data helps the Census Bureau to understand its data better and to refine its methods for further survey work.”

For information on submitting proposals to the ACRDC, contact Dorfman,, or visit the ACRDC website at