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ECON 490

Data Finding Tips

In addition to library databases, there is an increasing availability of open data online. Open data is any data that is made freely available for others to download and reuse. Many open data repositories are highlighted here. To find open data, first consider who collects it. Which agencies and organizations have an interest in collecting data on your topic? Statistics Canada is a good source for Canadian data, while for international data, you might check the U.N. The World Bank is a good source for development-related data because development is its mission. If you find data on Google, consider whether the organization that collected it is trustworthy and whether it has partisan bias.

Data is also available from repositories hosted by universities or consortia. Some, like the International Consortium for Political and Social Research, are focused by discipline, while others are more general. Many universities have open data repositories where data gathered by their faculty is published.

When downloading data, there is usually an option to download the documentation. Make sure you download the documentation, as this will help you interpret and make sense of the data. 

Key Datasets

  • General Social Survey: The Canadian General Social Survey (GSS) is a series of cross-sectional surveys aimed at gathering information and monitoring changes in key areas of concern for Canadian policy. The six rotating themes of the survey are: caregiving, families, time use, social identity, volunteering, and victimization. Starting from 1985, each survey theme is repeated approximately every 5 years. The GSS can be found in Abacus.
  • Penn World Table: The Penn World Table (PWT) is a major data set of national accounts data and can be used to compare Gross Domestic Product across countries. The latest version contains data from 182 countries between 1950 and 2017. Older versions, along with other economic data sets, can be found through the Groningen Growth and Development Centre.
  • Maddison Project: The Maddison Project Database is named for Dr. Angus Maddison. Dr. Maddison created an open data set comparing economic growth and development in the very long term. The original data is available from Maddison's website. The Maddison Project has continued his work, and publishes an updated dataset, which covers 169 countries up to the 2016.
  • Census of Canada: The Census of Canada is administered by Statistics Canada. Microdata can be found in Abacus.


Open Data Repositories and Data Sources

  • Federal Reserve Economic Data: Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED) contains 766 000 time series of economic and financial data compiled from 101 public and proprietary data. Much of the data is focused on the United States. Categories of data include: money, banking, and finance; population, employment, and labor markets; national accounts; production and business activity; prices; international data; U.S. regional data; and academic data.
  • World Inequality Database: The World Inequality Database tracks international wealth inequality using a combination of data on earned income and income from capital. It provides information on the distribution of wealth within and between countries. 
  • Demographic and Health Surveys: Demographic and Health Surveys DHS conducts surveys and gathers data relating to health, health care, and disease. Data is available for 90 countries and over 300 surveys. 
  • Statistics Canada: The federal statistical agency conducts surveys and collects data important to Canadian policy. Many data sets are available in aggregate on the Statistics Canada website. Public Access Microdata Files (PUMFs) shared with UBC for academic use and disseminated through Abacus.
  • International Consortium for Political and Social Research: The ICPSR is a consortium of over 750 academic institutions with a focus on data sharing. It contains browsable collections of data from papers published in American Economic Association journals and the Journal of Economic History