Big Microdata Network

The Big Microdata Network will connect an emerging interdisciplinary community of scientists using new collections of census microdata. Our goals are to connect existing microdata researchers and to expand and diversify the user community, thereby increasing access to these data and facilitating new research.

How to Join the Big Microdata Network 

Learn about the 2024 Data-Intensive Research Conference


The Big Microdata Network seeks to simplify access to significant census data resources from IPUMS and the U.S. Census Bureau. Full count census data allow for novel research applications, including but not limited to

  • IPUMS USA is a series of harmonized census microdata from 1850 to the present. In collaboration with genealogy organizations, IPUMS disseminates full-count census microdata spanning 1850 to 1940, comprising the complete enumerations and totaling nearly 700 million records.
  • The Census Bureau also maintains extensive census microdata collection and linked data infrastructure that for data security and privacy protection reasons are only available in Federal Statistical Research Data Centers (FSRDCs).
    • More than a billion records from decennial census data from 1960 to 2010 are available in IPUMS format.
    • Census Bureau linking data infrastructure initiatives link census records and administrative data spanning the period from 1940 to the present in a massive new data resource.


The Big Microdata Network has three main goals*:

  1. Build community. We plan a range of activities to connect people both online and in-person (when that is safe again). We will arrange sessions and informal gatherings at annual academic conferences and other meetings. We will also host annual meetings, each including a research conference, to promote discussion of ongoing projects and collaborations across the Network. We will start with virtual events in Summer 2021.
  2. Lower barriers to using full count census data. We will engage IPUMS users and researchers using full count census data to determine high priority issues and data challenges. Network activities and resources will be devoted to addressing challenges by connecting scholars to share resources, preparing user guidances, and providing training opportunities through webinars and workshops.
  3. Engage new users and increase diversity. We will promote the Network to a broad spectrum of new users and provide support to a diverse set of interdisciplinary researchers. We will pay specific attention to recruiting early career scholars, scholars from underrepresented groups, and researchers outside R1 institutions.

*Much of this work will be done in coordination with NDIRA, an initiative from the University of Minnesota’s Life Course Center, with similar goals for data-intensive research focused on aging and the life course.