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Information about how to download political and social science data sets.

What's In this Guide

This guide is to help you use ICPSR to find data relevant to your research.

What is ICPSR?

The Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) is the world's largest archive of social science data, and is expanding into other disciplines as well. ICPSR provides Web access to documentation and data files for use with statistical software, such as R, SAS, SPSS, and Stata.

Because UNC at Chapel Hill is an institutional member of ICPSR, all Chapel Hill affiliates (including students) may deposit their research data with ICPSR's Member Archive at no cost to them.

The ICPSR data holdings contain more than 500,000 files that cover a wide range of social science areas such as population, economics, education, health, social and political behavior, social and political attitudes, terrorism, history, crime, aging, and substance abuse.  Some files (in the Member's Archive) are restricted to institutional members.  Others (in OpenICPSR, Thematic Collections, and those archived under contract with the Federal government) are available to anyone.

Here's a short video (just under 2 minutes) that provides an overview of all of its services.

Deposit Data with ICPSR

Caveat: Different Levels of Deposit Review

Please Note:

Data undergo different levels of curation depending on the program through which they are deposited. 

Member deposits (the General Archive) undergo an initial review to ensure complete data are submitted and that they fit within the scope of ICPSR studies/archives. Next, a team of professional data curators review the data to, among other things, make sure data are consistent (i.e., between variables), ensure the metadata are complete, and make the data available in different formats.  This makes them more usable for secondary research.

OpenICPSR studies are published as-is and do not undergo curation.

Researchers should consider this when selecting a dataset for secondary analysis.

Who Can Access the Data?

UNC-Chapel Hill is an ICPSR member institution. Students, faculty and staff have direct access to most data available at ICPSR. Users must create a My Data account and agree to abide by the terms of a responsible use statement (see the section below on Downloading Data for more information).

If you are off-campus, you must request authentication by emailing  Let them know you are at UNC and provide the email you used for your account.  They will authenticate your account after verifying your affiliation with the UNC Official Representative (OR).

Some data sets in the topical archives are federally funded and are available to anyone but many are restricted to ICPSR member institutions, and some have further restrictions so that researchers must apply to use them. Documentation for all but restricted studies is freely available to all; restricted data sets usually provide documentation of at least general scope and methodology.

Searching for Data

Search for data using ICPSR's search interface. You can also browse data by topic, series, geography, investigator, or multiple fields. Improve results by using search facets on the right side of the results pages.  You do not have to be logged in to search, or to download study documentation.

Downloading Data

You must be logged into your ICPSR account to download data.  UNC-Chapel Hill students, faculty and staff may download data directly from ICPSR while on-campus. First time users must create a My Data account to access data. After one on-campus use, users' accounts are authenticated to access ICPSR from off campus for six months.

If you are an online student, you must use UNC's Virtual Private Network (VPN) to download data from off campus.  Get more information about installing and using the VPN from ITS's help page.

The majority of data files come with SAS, SPSS, and Stata setup files which enable you to read data into these statistical software packages. If a file isn't in the format you need, contact Michele Hayslett for assistance.

Users simply click on the link for the files and data format they want to download. All files are downloaded as zipped files and must be uncompressed on your machine. Additionally setup files must be edited to point to the full pathname of the downloaded file.

See ICPSR's YouTube channel for step by step instructions.

Data Librarian

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Michele Hayslett
My pronouns are she, her, hers.
Data Management
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Locating Data

If you would like to request we acquire data, please carefully read the guidelines at

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Get Help

ICPSR's YouTube channel offers short videos that answer frequently asked questions.

Additional documentation is available as a FAQ database.

Contact Michele Hayslett for help with locating or downloading ICPSR data.

The ICPSR Official Representative at UNC-Chapel Hill is Thu-Mai Christian in the Odum Institute.