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

Library Data Services

Library Data Services caters to researchers interested in working with data, mapping, texts, visualization, and technology. Many of these services are available online. Davis Library Data Services, located on the second floor of Davis Library, offers:

  • A computing lab with specialized software for GIS and data visualization & analysis.
  • Walk-in assistance provided by knowledgeable student consultants during set hours
  • Consultations with specialists for more in-depth inquiries (by appointment).
  • Spaces for collaboration and presentation, complete with white boards and external displays.
  • Technology short courses and programs that promote digital scholarship.

What's In this Guide

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.  Data deposit in ICPSR is free of charge.

Because UNC at Chapel Hill is an institutional member of ICPSR, all Chapel Hill affiliates (including students) may re-use research data deposited there at no cost to them. Some studies (in OpenICPSR, some in 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.

Scope of Data Collections

While ICPSR has its basis in the social sciences, it accepts data related to a wide range of disciplines.  See its full Collection Development Policy for details and developments over time--it states this is not intended to be an exhaustive list.

Anthropology Archeology

Area Studies

Arts & Humanities

Behavioral Health



Data Science


Disability Studies



Environmental Science


Ethnic Studies

Gender Studies




Health Care


Human Development

Information Science





Political Science


Public Health

Public Policy

Social Work




Likewise, a wide assortment of data types are accepted.  In the policy linked above, a list of examples are noted in the What Data Are In Scope? section within the Data Generation Techniques subsection.

Not in scope are data "that cannot be connected with or used to expand upon the scientific investigation of the social and behavioral dimensions of human lives (both antecedents and consequences) will not be acquired. For example, much data in the physical sciences are out of scope for ICPSR."  Also, "There may be instances where ICPSR rejects data due to technological limitations. For example, some data may require a specific proprietary software to review the data that is not currently available at ICPSR."

Deposit Data with ICPSR

Caveat: Different Levels of Deposit Review

Please Note:

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

Deposits to 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 may be published as-is for free or undergo curation for a fee.  Researchers should review datasets from OpenICPSR for issues 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 free of charge to all but restricted ICPSR data. 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).  Restricted datasets offer a link to apply to use them.

*NOTE:  In late 2023, ICPSR is transitioning to a new login system, Researcher Passport, which will enable users to login with their UNC ONYEN, ORCID iD, and other options, and will speed applications for restricted data access.  Watch for the change in December.  Your MyData login will no longer be needed.

If you are on campus, your login will be authenticated as a UNC user automatically.  If you are creating your login from off-campus, you must request authentication by emailing  Let them know you are at UNC and provide the email you used in creating your account.  They will authenticate your account after verifying your affiliation with the UNC Official Representative (OR).

Some datasets 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 datasets 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 left 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.  First time users must create a My Data account to access data. After one on-campus use or authentication through ICPSR as described above, 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
Numeric Data
Census Data
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, the Designated Representative, for help with locating or downloading ICPSR data.

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