wmboal.com    Seminar in Economics

Some Links to Economic Data

Gateways and search engines

A huge and ever-increasing quantity of data is posted online by the U.S. federal government and other sources. You can search for items not listed below using

U.S. federal government data sources

Administration (executive branch)

The Executive Office of the President includes

The Department of Agriculture offers statistics collected by its Economic Research Service, and estimates of demand elasticities for various foods and commodities.

The Department of Commerce includes two important statistical agencies.

The Department of Education publishes statistics through its National Center for Education Statistics.

The Department of Energy publishes statistics through its Energy Information Administration.

The Department of Health and Human Services includes the the Centers for Disease Control, which operate the National Center for Health Statistics.

The Department of Justice has two subdivisions of special interest to economists:

The Department of Labor includes the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which collects data on employment and unemployment, earnings, and prices (including the CPI).

The Treasury Department includes the

Congress (legislative branch)

The Congress consists of two houses, the Senate and the House of Representatives, each of which has many committees that develop legislation (the status of which may be tracked through the Library of Congress's "Thomas" web resource). However, two committees include members of both houses.

Reporting to the Congress are several Congressional agencies, including the following.

Independent federal agencies

The Central Intelligence Agency publishes an annual almanac-like World Factbook, containing current information, including maps and data, on 250 countries.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation publishes data on the banking system.

The Federal Reserve is the central bank of the United States. It consists of a Board of Governors in Washington D.C., and 12 District Banks. The Board of Governors site includes

The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis maintains an easy-to-use data bank of U.S. macroeconomic data, called FRED.

The Federal Trade Commission enforces laws against consumer fraud. Its Bureau of Competition works with the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice to enforce antitrust laws. Its Bureau of Economics does research in support of both functions.

The Securities and Exchange Commission regulates markets for stocks, bonds, and other securities. Its EDGAR searchable database provides information filed by all publicly-traded corporations.

International organization data sources

The European Central Bank publishes macroeconomic data and financial for the European Union as a whole, for the Euro Area (monetary union) as a whole, and for member countries. Follow links to the "Statistics Pocket Book."

The International Monetary Fund, set up under the Bretton Woods agreement of 1944, lends money to any country having temporary balance-of-payments difficulties. Its periodical International Financial Statistics, a standard reference for macroeconomic data, is available in hardcopy form in Cowles Library, but I have not yet found it on the Web. However, the IMF's World Economic Outlook (WEO) database does offer some downloadable macroeconomic data--about 30 years of historical data and several years of IMF forecasts.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development an organization of developed countries, offers on-line national accounts data (follow links to "statistics"). The International Energy Agency, connected with OECD, offers current and recent price and quantity data by country on petroleum and other forms of energy (follow links to "statistics").

The United Nations offers access to multiple databases through its UNdata page.

The World Bank, set up under the Bretton Woods agreement of 1944, lends money to developing countries at favorable terms. Its Data page offers a variety of country data on demographics and economic development, but there are many missing values.

Government data sources in other countries

Statistics Canada offers a variety of recent Canadian economic and social data for free, but for historical data you must pay. Data are also available by province and territory.

The U.S. Census Bureau maintains a page of links to statistical agencies in other countries. So does the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the United Nations.

Nongovernment data sources

Economagic offers a large quantity of U.S. and other macroeconomic data series. A commerical site, it supports itself through advertising.

EH.NET Economic History Services, operated by a consortium of organizations of economic historians, offers data collected by economic historians. A remarkable page entitled How Much Is That?, edited by Samuel H. Williamson, offers estimates of US GDP back to 1790, UK GDP back to the 1300, and other very long time series on interest rates, exchange rates, and inflation.

The Integrated Public Use Microdata Series, operated by the University of Minnesota, posts international and U.S. Census microdata.

The National Bureau of Economic Research is a private nonpartisan organization supporting economic research related to public policy questions. A committee of the NBER officially dates the peaks and troughs of U.S. business cycles starting in 1857. The NBER site includes an index to research papers by its associated economists (which you must pay for), and data files contributed by them (which are free). It also includes a collection of pre-World War II macroeconomic data for the United States.

The Penn World Tables, maintained at the University of Pennsylvania, are a database of macroeconomic data for most countries of the world for the last few decades. The unique feature of this database is that the data have been converted to U.S. dollars using purchasing power parity exchange rates, not the usual market exchange rates, so they permit more accurate comparison of living standards. These data were first created by Alan Heston and Robert Summers and have subsequently been analyzed in many, many academic papers.