Data Resources for Economists
There is an incredible wealth of economics data available online. Below are some of the most-used publicly available data sources, categorized by data type.
U.S. Macroeconomic Data
- The St. Louis Fed’s FRED database compiles time-series data on more than 800,000 variables from more than 100 different data sources, covering U.S. regional, national, and international economic activity and financial markets. Data series can be handily graphed, transformed, and downloaded from the FRED website. Inflation, GDP, unemployment, stock prices, exchange rates, consumer sentiment, the whole nine yards.
- The Bureau of Economic Analysis produces U.S. statistics on GDP, consumer spending and income, business investment, international trade and investment, prices deflators, and many more; detailed information is available here. BEA statistics are increasingly available at disaggregated levels, including by industry and by state or county or metropolitan area. BEA also establishes satellite accounts for new or difficult-to-measure areas of economic activity, including the digital economy, the space economy, health care, and non-monetized production of goods and service within the household.
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles and releases the closely followed Consumer Price Index, as well as such key labor-market indicators as payroll employment and the employment, unemployment, and labor force participation rates. BLS tracks wages, prices, employment, job openings, and productivity via a host of surveys and other data collections.
- The Congressional Budget Office makes available its fiscal-policy projections and the economic and demographic forecasts on which they are based.
- Census Bureau – the centerpiece of the U.S. statistical system, the Census Bureau conducts the decennial census of the population mandated by the U.S. Constitution, as well as a vast array of other periodic surveys of U.S. households and businesses. A handy list of the wide-ranging topics on which the Census Bureau collects data can be found here. Perhaps best known for collecting information on the population, the Census Bureau also regularly collects data on U.S. businesses which feed into statistics on GDP and provide monthly indicators of retail sales, business inventories, housing starts, business starts, and more.
- IPUMS (short for Integrated Public Use Microdata Series) is a data center at the University of Minnesota that compiles and makes available standardized versions of micro-level census and survey data from the U.S. and other countries. Data available through the IPUMS system include the U.S. decennial census (research samples), American Community Survey, Current Population Survey, National Health Interview Survey, and American Time Use Survey, as well as micro data sets from 103 countries provided by national statistical offices across the globe. IPUMS versions of datasets standardize variable names and coding across years, substantially reducing researchers’ start-up costs and facilitating analyses from multiple survey years. Most datasets can be downloaded or analyzed online.
- Longstanding U.S. surveys:
- Panel Survey of Income Dynamics (PSID) – The longest running longitudinal survey in the world (est. 1968), the PSID follows a representative sample of U.S. households over time, tracking changes in employment, income, education, wealth, expenditures, health, marriage, childbearing, housing, and more.
- National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth (NLSY) – The NLSY has tracked cohorts of youth as they finish school, enter the labor market, set up their own households, and get their adult lives in swing. Plans are underway to start a new NLSY cohort in 2026.
- Health and Retirement Survey (HRS) – The HRS is a longitudinal study of ~20,000 people that has tracked their changes in work status, health, income, wealth, spending, marital status, cognition, and quality of life as they enter retirement and progress into older age.
- General Social Survey (GSS) – The GSS has asked representative samples of the adult population topical questions about social attitudes, political opinions, religious practices and beliefs, family values, and subjective well-being since 1972.
Data by Sector
- Agriculture: The Economic Research Service (ERS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture compiles and releases a wide range of statistics on U.S. production, consumption, imports, and exports of agricultural products.
- Banking: The Federal Deposition Insurance Corporation (FDIC) maintains data on individual FDIC-insured banks and statistics on the banking industry going back to 1934.
- Education: The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) collects information on American educational institutions at all levels and conducts surveys that track access to education and the effectiveness of the U.S education system.
- Energy: The Energy Information Agency (EIA) collects information on production and consumption of different energy types (petroleum, natural gas, electricity, nuclear, coal, renewable), as well as tracking energy-related carbon emissions.
- Environment: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) compiles data on a number of key indicators of climate change.
- Health: The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) runs a number of surveys that measure the health of the U.S. population, healthcare utilization, and the functioning of the U.S. healthcare system. NCHS also maintains the U.S. vital statistics system.
- Justice: The Bureau of Justice Statistics compiles crime statistics and collects data on prison populations and facilities, the law-enforcement workforce, the operation of state and tribal court systems, and related topics.
- Transportation: The Bureau of Transportation Statistics collects data on all things transportation, from fuel prices to monthly air-passenger volume to truck tonnage to bikeshare trips.
- The S. Census Bureau’s USA Trade® Online data tool provides access to current and historical U.S. export and import data.
- The World Bank’s website provides country-level data on a wide range of indicators of economic and social development, as well as a microdata library of 3,380 data sets useful for studying determinants of poverty, employment, health, income growth, living standards, and other facets of development across the globe
- The Penn World Tables compile statistics on output and income using methodologies that facilitate comparisons across countries and over time
- The World Trade Organization maintains statistics on international trade in merchandise and services, tariffs, non-tariff policy measures and trade in value added.
- The Pacific Exchange Rate Service of UBC’s Saunders Business School has historical data on bilateral exchange rates for a large number of currencies, available for research and teaching purposes.
- The International Monetary Fund maintains a number of international macroeconomic and financial data bases, including the World Economic Outlook, Government Finance Statistics, and International Financial Statistics, mostly covering the 190 IMF member countries.
Other valuable data sources
- National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER): The NBER archive has an “eclectic mix” of economic, demographic, and business datasets, made available for wider use by individual NBER researchers or through NBER research projects. Files are often in more convenient formats than the original data source, reflecting value added of the researchers who compiled the data set. A treasure trove of valuable, interesting data.
- The Inter-University Consortium for Social and Political Research (ICPSR) serves as a repository of research data files in social-science and behavioral research. Its archive contains 250,000 data sets on topics as varied as aging, education, health, crime, immigration, voting behavior, patient-centered outcomes, and many more.