School of Public Affairs Selected to Host One of the U.S.’s Nine Census Data Research Facilities

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      A state-of-the-art facility that provides secure access to Census Bureau microdata for approved research is open at Baruch College's School of Public Affairs (SPA). The New York Census Research Data Center (NYCRDC) is a collaborative effort of Baruch, Columbia, Cornell, CUNY, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Fordham, National Bureau of Economic Research, NYU, Pace, Princeton, Russell Sage Foundation, Rutgers, the University at Albany-SUNY, Stony Brook University, Yale and the Census Bureau’s Center for Economic Studies. Only eight other such facilities operate nationwide.  

      The RDC network in the United States has contributed research findings that provide new insights into changes in the economy and society.  In addition, the analysis of microdata by researchers has yielded useful feedback to the Census Bureau about the quality of the household and business surveys and data programs and the statistics generated from them.

      Baruch College President Kathleen Waldron will preside at a Grand Opening Event on May 4 that will include the director of the U.S. Bureau of the Census. SPA Professor Sanders Korenman is Executive Director of the NYCRDC.  A Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), Korenman is responsible for overseeing the Center and of initiating outreach activities, working with the directors of other RDCs.  He assumed this position last fall, succeeding the project's initial Executive Director, Professor Neil Bennett.  Dr. Rosemary Hyson, an economist whose research interests include job search, turnover, and low wage workers, is the administrator for NYCRDC Baruch. She will direct a staff to assist researchers with developing proposals, to set up their access to the data, and to safeguard information. 

      The NYCRDC plans to hold periodic presentations of its on-going research. In addition, the NYCRDC Baruch will host the 2006 Census RDC Annual Conference on September 14 and 15, 2006.  The RDC Annual Conference will bring together the staff and researchers from all nine of the RDCs located around the country and the Center for Economic Studies. It will include sessions open to the research community on research being conducted at the RDCs and information from the Census Bureau on data and issues of broad interest.

      At the Data Centers, researchers whose proposals have met the Census Bureau’s rigorous standards can access economic and demographic data gathered by the U.S. Census Bureau. All research conducted in the RDCs must meet the criteria of benefits to the Census Bureau, scientific merit, need for non-public data, feasibility, and disclosure risk.     

      In addition to its decennial demographic census, the Census Bureau conducts censuses and surveys of businesses and other surveys of households and individuals.  Such data, particularly those for businesses, are not available to the public as microdata files.  The RDCs provide access to uniquely detailed information on employment, poverty, housing, manufacturing, trade, and other U.S. economic conditions. 

      Several area researchers worked to bring the NYCRDC into existence.  In 2003, Neil Bennett of Baruch teamed up with Erica Groshen and Bart Hobjin of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Robert Lipsey of NBER to obtain National Science Foundation (NSF) support for creating an RDC in New York City.  To make the case for locating a RDC in New York City, researchers from Columbia, NYU, Baruch, CUNY, Queens, Hunter and the University at Albany contributed descriptions of research that they would not otherwise be able to undertake without access to confidential data at an RDC.  Stan Altman, former Dean of the School of Public Affairs, along with the Provost and President of Baruch College, committed to providing the physical space at 135 East 22nd Street to house the NYCRDC.  To fund the renovation of the physical space in order to meet the requirements for operating a secure research data center, support was obtained from the office of then Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields and the New York City Council.

      In addition to the NSF funding, ongoing support from member institutions is required to sustain the Center.  At the time the NSF proposal was submitted, eight universities and three research organizations had already committed to support the creation of the NYCRDC at Baruch.  Since then, four others joined in support, including Cornell University.  The addition of Cornell was significant, as it included the establishment of a second site in Ithaca. NYCRDC Cornell opened in September 2004. 

      Any researcher can submit a proposal to the Census Bureau for a project at the NYCRDC.  However, researchers from member institutions, such as Baruch, do not have to pay the substantial non-member fee to use the lab.  Moreover, member researchers will have priority if the RDC reaches capacity.

      In addition to giving researchers the opportunity to study important economic, demographic, and public policy issues of significance to New York and beyond, and benefiting Census Bureau programs, NYCRDC Baruch hopes to foster cross-institutional collaboration among researchers in the greater New York area.  Recent technological enhancements to the RDC network increase the prospects for collaboration across RDCs and give our researchers the ability to work jointly on projects with co-authors located around the United States.