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U.S. Data

  • Crime Rates
  • (figures 1.5, 1.10, 1.11, 1.12 and table 1.5) In addition to the National Criminal Victimization Survey data used in several of the figures in chapter 1, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) provides a series of reports and data compilations on sentencing and imprisonment, capital punishment, drugs, and firearms. The BJS website seems to provide most of the FBI Uniform Crime Report data, although the FBI provides its data in a variety of formats. The FBI also collects hate crime statistics, but inconsistent local reporting of these crimes results in serious reliability problems.
  • Dow Jones Industrial Average
  • (figure 3.29) While the DJIA is the oldest and most recognized measure of stock market performance, it indexes the stock prices of only thirty companies. The Dow Jones Wilshire 5000 Composite Index is a much broader measure of stock market performance. The Yahoo! Finance website is a convenient source of these and other stock market related data.
  • Educational Achievement—National Data
  • (figures 5.5–5.9) The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) website provides several means of accessing National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) data. Many NAEP tables are published in the annual Condition of Education and the NCES website provides access to all (over 400) tables in spreadsheet format. In addition, the NAEP Data Explorer, an online data-query tool, permits users to create their own tabulations from the NAEP database. The NCES’s annual Digest of Education Statistics provides enrollment, staffing, finance, educational attainment, higher education, and international data.
  • Educational Achievement—State NCLB Data
  • (figures 5.9, 5.10, 5.11 and table 5.3) Except in the case of special reports (for example, figure 5.9), the NCES website does not provide access to the data derived from statewide No Child Left Behind (NCLB) testing. Generally, state NCLB data are made available on each state’s department (or board) of education website. Commonly, the state websites provide very easy access to individual school report cards containing school, school district and state test score, demographic and expenditure data. Using the larger files containing data for all the schools and school districts can be more cumbersome: just the codebook listing all the data items for the Illinois Report Card data file was several hundred pages long and the 2007 version of Excel (but not the 2003 version) had difficulty processing the large data file..
  • Education—Higher Education
  • (figures 3.15, 3.16, 3.17) The higher education data in chapter 3 were compiled by the Illinois Board of Higher Education and are made readily available on the Board’s website. Most states have similar governing boards for higher education, but the governance structure varies from state to state. Most multi-institution governing boards and most colleges and universities have an institutional research department responsible for compiling data and preparing reports on enrollments, tuition and fees, staffing, expenditures, and student academic performance. Often the data are presented in an annual data profile. The NCES provides some higher education data, mostly data concerning enrollments, tuition, and programs. Although American universities are currently going through an “assessment” fad, there are no reliable measures of educational achievement for higher education in the United States.
  • Federal Budgets
  • (figures 1.8, 1.9 and 3.6, 3.8, 3.11, 3.14, 3.22, 3.23) The president’s Office of Management and Budget submits the proposed federal budget for the each fiscal year (beginning October 1) to Congress in January of each year. The last section of each budget, the Historical Tables, contains an extensive set of time series tables, following the same table numbering and format in each year’s volume. When using the federal budget data, be aware of the distinction between spending by function and by agency. Not all education spending, for example, is in the Department of Education’s budget, some Defense spending is in the Department of Energy budget, and the Department of Agriculture budget includes the food stamp program. Usually, the budget data defined by functional categories (function and subfunction) are more meaningful. The actual budget documents and spreadsheet files are available on the White House, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Government Printing Office websites.
  • Gas prices
  • (figure 3.29) The Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration provides weekly gas price data and data related to all aspects of energy production and consumption. The agency’s website also provides data on renewable energy sources and worldwide and international greenhouse gases and emissions.
  • Homeownership
  • (figures 1.6, 1.7) The Census Bureau conducts a decennial Census of Housing and also includes a series of questions on housing conditions and homeownership in its quarterly Current Population/Housing Vacancy Survey. The Census Bureau provides more convenient access to these data than does the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
  • Income
  • (figure 6.8 and table 2.13) Using a single set of responses to the March Current Population Survey, the Census Bureau calculates a large number of income-related economic indicators (and poverty data) on this website. Annual mean and median income (the broader measure), earnings, and wages-and-salary data are reported for households, families, full-time year-round workers, and all persons. The time series data are reported in current and constant (inflation adjusted) dollars.
  • Inflation
  • (figures 1.2, 3.29) The Bureau of Labor Statistics is the primary source for consumer and producer price indexes. The consumer price index measures price changes in a market basket of goods and services that consumers typically purchase and is often used to adjust monetary times series data to constant dollars. The Bureau also provides several related inflation indexes and measures for specific sectors of the economy, such as energy and retail food. Note that the inflation rate is a complex statistic and the indicator may underestimate or overestimate the true inflation rate in several different ways. To adjust aggregate government expenditures for inflation, the Gross Domestic Product Deflator is the better measure. It is most conveniently found in the U.S. Budget Historical Tables, table 1.10.
  • The Misery Index
  • (figure 1.1) The Misery Index data used in figure 1.1 was obtained from a secondary website at The Bureau of Labor Statistics is the primary source of data for both unemployment and inflation.
  • National Debt
  • (figure 1.9) See section 7 of the Federal Budget.
  • Presidential Elections
  • (figure 3.28) The United States may be one of the few democracies where no single national governmental agency maintains official elections records, although the Federal Election Commission does maintain a database on campaign finance reports for federal elections and the Clerk of the House of Representatives does publish the vote counts (in a somewhat clumsy format) for each federal election since 1920. For the most part, official election records are maintained by each state’s Secretary of State office. Congressional Quarterly, Inc., a privately owned publishing company, collects almost all of the data related to the votes-cast turnout measures and results of gubernatorial and federal elections, published in its biennial, America Votes. The elections outcome data reported in the U.S. Statistical Abstract are mostly obtained from Congressional Quarterly, but the Abstract is the more accessible source of the data. The Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research’s United States Historical Election Returns series contains congressional, presidential, and gubernatorial election return data at the state and county level for elections from 1788 through 1990. Many universities and colleges are members of the ICPSR, which provides an extensive library of raw data from surveys and research studies.
  • Political Corruption
  • (figures 3.25, 3.26) Political corruption is generally not included among the crimes reported on the Bureau of Justice Statistics website. To obtain the state data on prosecution rates of public officials, I e-mailed one of the authors of the study cited, Kenneth Meier, and he graciously sent them to me. He developed the measure based on data obtained from an annual (since 1978) report submitted to the Congress by the Department of Justice Public Integrity Section, which details convictions for political corruption for each U.S. Attorney’s office. Of course, there is a fundamental validity question involved in using the “number of officials caught” as a measure of political corruption.
  • Poverty
  • (figures 6.5, 6.6, 6.7, 6.9) In addition to the annual March Current Population Survey (CPS) that has been used to measure income and poverty since 1959, income and poverty estimates are also derived from the decennial census and, since 1998, from the Census Bureau’s monthly American Community Survey (ACS). The ACS is a much larger survey, sampling three million households each year, versus less than 100,000 for the CPS. Because the three surveys are conducted at different times of the year and use slightly different definitions of the target populations and adjustments for inflation, they produce slightly different estimates. ACS income estimates tend to be about four percent higher than those derived from the decennial census. The ACS also includes questions about housing, immigration, citizenship, and employment and will eventually replace the decennial census long-form questionnaire that has been administered to one out six households. All these data are available at the Census Bureau’s Poverty site.
  • Presidential Approval
  • (figure 3.24). The standard presidential approval ratings are based on one of two questions. Since 1937 the Gallup Poll has asked, “Do you approve or disapprove of the job [president’s name] has done as president?” The alternative question, first used by the Harris Poll, asks, “How would you rate [president’s name] performance on the job: excellent, good, fair or poor?” The many other polling firms now use one or the other, or a slight variation, on these questions. The Gallup poll website has the most complete historical data on presidential approval and would be the best source for comparing several administrations’ approval data, but access to their data requires a subscription fee. The most complete collection of presidential approval data for each administration, but not including Zogby data shown in figure 3.24, are available (for nonsubscribers) from the Roper Center website at . The Professor PollKatz Poll of Polls website contains time series charts (but not the actual data) on presidential approval surveys conducted by fifteen polling organizations. The website is also an excellent source for political polling data on upcoming state and national election races.
  • Unemployment
  • (figures 1.2, 1.11, 3.24, 3.29) The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides a comprehensive set of monthly employment and unemployment statistics that are easily downloaded from their website. Note that the unemployment rate is a complex statistic with many issues involving the counts both of the workers and members of the labor force. The Bureau’s publication “How the Government Measures Unemployment” provides an excellent summary of how the indicator is constructed.
  • Social Capital Index
  • (figures 3.25, 4.7) The data for Robert Putnam’s Social Capital Index are available online through the Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) at
  • Voter Turnout—Voting Age Population Measures
  • (figures 4.3, 4.4, 4.5) The Census Bureau’s postelection Current Population Survey data provide reported voter turnout data at the state level and for several demographic categories such as education, age, race, ethnicity, and gender. The data can be obtained from the Bureau’s Voting and Registration website. The votes-cast measure are reported in the Statistical Abstract and obtained from the United States Elections Project website. In recent years, the Census Bureau has begun reporting turnout rates based on estimates of the voting-age citizen population.
  • Voting Turnout—Voting Eligible Population Measures
  • (figures 1.26, 4.6, 4.7 and tables 4.2, 4.3) Michael McDonald maintains the United States Elections Project website that provides detailed state-level data used in calculating the voter-eligible turnout measures.
  • War Casualties

  • (table 2.11) The Iraq Casualties website provides accessible data on the Iraq War casualties and includes fatality data for the other coalition partners. In also includes, and documents, some casualty data based on news sources that the Defense Department has not yet confirmed. For official U.S. armed forces casualties, the Defense Department’s Statistical Information Analysis Division (SIAD) Military Casualty Information website provides a considerable amount of data on U.S. war casualties back to the Revolutionary War. For recent wars, the casualties are categorized by race, ethnicity, gender, service, home state, and circumstances.

    For the most comprehensive set of data on the Iraq and Afghan war, see the Brookings Institute's IRAQ INDEX
    Tracking Reconstruction and Security in Post-Saddam Iraq
    and the AFGHANISTAN INDEX (which, unfortunately, are in .pdf rather than Excel format).