University of Oregon

Guide to Finding Statistical Information

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In looking for statistics, one useful approach is to begin by asking a few questions.

  • What group or organization would be producing such statistics?
    • (For example: domestic education statistics - the US Dept. of Education is a good bet.)
  • Why would they need the data, and how would they acquire it?
  • Would they have the means and incentive to publish it?
  • Would they be required to report to information to a government agency (which one)?

In other words, begin by considering where you might reasonably expect to find the statistical data you are seeking. Thinking about your information needs at the beginning of your search can sometimes save you hours of fruitless effort.

  • An approach that may NOT work well (and may get very frustrating) is searching the open Web (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.)

Finding Aids & Starting Points

The Statistical Abstract of the United States is a good basic reference for U.S. statistics and a small number of international statistics. It is available in print (going back to 1879), and a new online version. 

  • NOTE:  The Statistical Abstract used to be published by the US Census Bureau, but due to federal budget cuts, after 2012 it is produced commercially (although most of the statistics still come from the federal government.)
  • You can look at the 2012 and earlier editions from the Bureau of Census here.
  • Note the sources of tables. This is also a good way to find further statistics on the same topic.

    The Document Center also has statistical yearbooks for many other countries.

    Guide to Statistical Quick Reference Sources

    • This webpage has links to compendiums like the Statistical Abstract for many different geographies, time periods, and subjects.  A quick and easy starting point for many statistics.

    UNdata - the portal to statistical data collected by the United Nations; a good place to start for international statistics.

    Data-Planet Statistical Datasets (UO only) - excellent, all-around, easy-access to statistical data on a wide array of topics and geographies.

    If the above aren't enough, try the links in:
    Statistical Sources
    Data Set Sources*

    • Most of these links are to Government or IGO (International Governmental Organization) sources, but non-governmental sources are included here as well.
      • Governments are important--and sometimes only--sources of data and statistics. The federal government of the United States is the world's largest producer of statistics.
    • Consult with Document Center staff for help in locating the many other government statistical publications in the library's collections.

    *Note that the data set source links are limited to those sources from which data can be downloaded in a format that can be manipulated. Sometimes these are very large datasets, e.g. in zipped files, and may require special software.

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    Library Resources


    Search the UO Library Catalog (LibrarySearch) for publications giving statistics on a particular subject

    • Do a subject search using the word "statistics" as a subheading. For example: education-oregon-statistics, or population-statistics. Such searches may also prove useful in searching periodical indexes.
    • For older sources of statistical data you may have to use print indexes:
      • American Statistics Index, which covers U.S. Federal government statistical publications back to 1973,
      • Statistical Reference Index, which indexes private and state government statistical sources from 1980,
      • Index to International Statistics, which covers the statistical output of international organizations.
    • Microfiche extracts from many of the publications indexed are available in the library's Document Center - Microforms Collections (backfiles, 1980 - 2003 only).

    Library Databases (UO only)

    • Data-Planet Statistical Datasets provides easy access to an extensive repository of standardized and structured statistical data. The Data-Planet repository contains more than 90 billion data points from more than 65 source organizations.
    • OECD iLibrary:  The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development provides statistics on economics & finance, health, education, and development for its member countries.
    • Oxford Social Explorer provides easy access to a wealth of statistics from the US Census, the American Community Survey, US Religious Information, and carbon emissions data, available as tables, downloads and maps.
    • Tablebase: Tabular data on business-related topics such as market share, market size, capacity, production, etc.

    by Subject

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    Other Campus Resources

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    Created by vmitch on Jun 18, 2012 Last updated Aug 24, 2015
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