Easy and Affordable State-Based Research From RAND
Barbie E. Keiser
Posted On June 20, 2011
RAND State Statistics is too sophisticated to think that it was developed in response to our April 11, 2011 NewsBreak, “Got Government Data? Not Anymore,” but we’ll be happy to take the credit for it. RAND State Statistics features more than 70 databases for the 50 states—California and Texas were the first to be created, so their coverage is greater than other states, but we are told by RAND that the goal is to increase coverage of others, adding another 30 or so within the next year. Joe Nation, director of RAND State Statistics, says that a local government employee pension database is due to be launched in a week or so.
Timeseries are available for in the following categories:
- Business and Economics—Contains information on employment, unemployment, industry and occupational wages, occupational projections, construction, bankruptcies, inflation, foreign trade (imports and exports), gross state product, personal and per capita income, farm income, and airport operating statistics
- Community—Includes a number of “quality of life” databases, such as the number of crimes and crime rates, population density, national parks acreage and usage
- Education—Reports enrollment and student demographics for U.S. K-12 schools and U.S. Colleges
- Energy and Environment—Reports energy sources, energy consumption, energy expenditures, and prices by state, installed wind power, and estimated water usage by state
- Government—Reports revenues and expenditures by state, spending by program and agency, and local government spending in U.S. counties, cities, and special districts
- Health and Socioeconomic—Includes transfer of payments (retirement, Medicare, SSI, food stamps, unemployment insurance, veterans' benefits), and drug-related deaths (accidental, intentional, and undetermined causes)
- Population and Demographics—Contains U.S., county, and city population estimates, including population estimates by race, ethnicity, and age for most areas. It also includes population projections, border crossing and immigration statistics, deportations, and naturalizations
Unlike so many website designers, these folks know what they are doing, placing easy-to-understand tabs as the top navigation: Databases, What’s New, Subscribe, Special Requests, Research Publications, and FAQ. Click on Databases and RAND makes it easy to move from one category to the other to view a description of the timeseries available, geographic coverage, periodicity (e.g., monthly, quarterly, or annual update cycle), data series (First Year/Latest Year), Next Update (Year-Month-Day), and Source (e.g., Bureau of Labor Statistics). Nothing is hidden from the user. Moreover, rates for the subscription-based service are logical and reasonable. (Subscriptions are available for individual users, groups of users, or on a site license basis.)
Some may say that all of this data is available elsewhere, and we agree. However, you do have to know which agency to consult, think about when the data is likely to be updated, and then worry if you’ll be able to download it in the format that would be best for further analysis. RAND State Statistics makes this a snap. You can choose to look at All States or select states for any timeseries in a database. Just specify the years of coverage and how you wish to sort the results, and view the data online (in an HTML table), import it to a spreadsheet, or graph it. Additional kudos for including Backgrounders for all of the databases so that the user is sure to understand what is contained in each, how estimates are made, etc.
RAND State Statistics is brought to you by the RAND public policy research organization headquartered in Santa Monica, Calif. Click on Research Publications in the top navigation bar and you can access any and all of their reports. A quality organization has created a quality product that fills a growing void. One can see where additional topics could be added to the system over time, expanding the depth and breadth of the product. We can envision RAND State Statistics taking whole portions of Statistical Abstracts under its wing and incorporating it into this easy-to-navigate web-based product.