Public Use Data Files


Public Use Files are data sets from MDRC evaluations that we make available to researchers. These files contain the source data that we analyzed to produce our reports. The Public Use Files listed here are in two groups. The first group of files can be requested through this website; the second group of files are available from other sources, and many of them can be downloaded directly from another site. The second group also includes some Restricted Use Files, which require an application process to access.

To learn more about public use data files, scroll through the full list of questions and answers below.



What does a Public Use File contain?

A Public Use File contains source data that we analyzed to produce our reports. It does not contain any research results. Research results are generally available in MDRC’s published reports, all of which can be accessed for free on this Web site.




What is the difference between a Public Use File and a Restricted Use File?

While all identifiers are removed from Public Use Files, some data are not useful for analysis without including direct or indirect personal identifiers. These files may be available as Restricted Use Files. To preserve confidentiality, these files are available only to researchers affiliated with an institution, who must obtain IRB approval and go through an application process to gain access. MDRC does not make Restricted Use Files available, but they appear in the list of files available from other institutions.




Why does MDRC make Public Use Files available?

MDRC is committed to transparency in research. Making Public Use Files available allows independent researchers to replicate and build upon MDRC analyses. In addition, certain funders specify that these data be made available to the public to encourage additional research.




What data sources are included in a Public Use File?

The data sources included in a Public Use File vary by project. For example, some Public Use Files include administrative records data and others include survey data. MDRC releases only the data sources that we are allowed to make public. Data sources that are not included are not available to the public.




In what format are data files available?

MDRC supplies data files in SAS format. Older Public Use Files may contain data files in SPSS or ASCII format.




Are data altered in any way?

Data in Public Use Files do not include variables that, individually or collectively, might permit identification of individuals. Data may also be masked to help preserve confidentiality. For example:

  • Earnings might be rounded to the nearest hundred dollars.

  • Random assignment date might be supplied as calendar quarter. We repeat statistical tests on masked data to confirm that main impacts and significance levels are reproduced.

  • Number of children might be top-coded at 7.




What kind of documentation does MDRC provide?

MDRC provides comprehensive documentation to enable researchers to understand and use the data. Documentation may include:

  • An introductory memo describing the project, the Public Use File, and its usage

  • A table of file names, file types, sample sizes, and descriptions

  • Documentation on data source, time period, variable naming conventions, and key data decisions

  • A file flow diagram that illustrates how the analysis file was created

  • A regression model, including all the covariates in the regression model that were used for the primary impact analysis

  • Microsoft Excel tables from the impact analysis that users can reproduce in order to validate data integrity




In what format does MDRC provide documentation?

MDRC provides documentation in Adobe Acrobat format (PDF). Documentation may also be available in Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel formats.




How does MDRC distribute Public Use Files?

MDRC distributes Public Use Files, including data and documentation, on CD-ROM.




How do I find out what Public Use Files are available?

MDRC provides a list of available Public Use Files on the Available Files page of this site.




How do I request Public Use Files?

For Public Use Files available from MDRC, you may also make your request via mail or fax; see the How to Request Files page for more details. Most of the Public Use Files available from other organizations can be downloaded directly from their sites.




How much does it cost for an MDRC Public Use File?

There is no charge for MDRC Public Use Files.




How many Public Use Files may I request?

You may request up to four Public Use Files at a time. However, we recommend that you first review MDRC’s published reports, since they may already contain the information you are seeking. All MDRC reports are available free in the publications section of this site.




How can I learn more?

Please send an e-mail to [email protected].