Navigating the U.S. Federal Statistical System

..  the U.S. Federal Statistical System offers a vast array of diverse data resources that are useful in wide-ranging planning and analytical applications. Many of these data resources, such as census block level demographics from the decennial census, are unique in scope and content; in many cases there are no alternative data resources.

But there are issues/challenges for the data user to navigate the Federal Statistical System. Examples … the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases total employment data by county quarterly and monthly through multiple programs. The data values differ, for methodological reasons, but the net result can be confusion. The Census Bureau releases total employment data from many statistical programs by county both annually and more frequently. Where are these alternative total employment data and how can they be accessed? How do these various measures differ and which data are right for my situation? This section provides basic statistical program information. Subsequent updates will provide more detail. See the related Web section for more information.

Navigating the U.S. Federal Statistical System
  — click to view agencies, programs, data.

This section provides an overview of the U.S. Federal Statistical System (FSS) and information that can help stakeholders navigate access to selected types of data produced by the FSS. While the FSS is focused on agencies that collect, develop and make available statistical data, there is a broader set of data and resources that relate to accessing and using these data. As technology and related data analytics resources have evolved, access to and use of these data is closely associated with the development of geographic data by Federal statistical and other agencies and Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

The FSS is a decentralized set of agencies that collect, develop and make available statistical and geographic data. The OMB Office of Statistical Programs and Standards (SPS) provides a FSS coordinative role. The SPS establishes statistical policies and standards, identifies priorities for improving programs, evaluates statistical agency budgets, reviews and approves Federal agency information collections involving statistical methods, and coordinates U.S. participation in international statistical activities.

While the FSS spans more than 100 agencies, the 13 “principal statistical agencies” have statistical work as their principal mission. Excluding funding for the decennial census ($689.0 million requested for the decennial census for FY 2015), approximately 38 percent ($2,378.8 million of the $6,310.8 million total proposed for FY 2015 President’s budget request) of overall funding for Federal statistical activities (of the Executive Branch) provides resources for these 13 agencies. The principal statistical agencies include:
Census Bureau (Commerce)
Bureau of Economic Analysis (Commerce)
Bureau of Justice Statistics (Justice)
Bureau of Labor Statistics (Labor)
Bureau of Transportation Statistics (Transporation)
Economic Research Service (Agriculture)
Energy Information Administration (Energy)
National Agricultural Statistics Service (Agriculture)
National Center for Education Statistics (Education)
National Center for Health Statistics (CDC/HHS)
National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics — NSF/Independent
Office of Research, Evaluation, and Statistics — SSA/Independent
Statistics of Income (IRS)

While the above agencies are classified as the “principal statistical agencies”, there are many other agencies that produce statistics that might be as much or more relevant to your needs. See this table that lists statistical programs and resources organized by producing agency.

New and updated Federal statistical data evolve daily. The Navigating the U.S. Federal Statistical System resource is frequently updated.

About the Author
— Warren Glimpse is former senior Census Bureau statistician responsible for innovative data access and use operations. He is also the former associate director of the U.S. Office of Federal Statistical Policy and Standards for data access and use. He has more than 20 years of experience in the private sector developing data resources and tools for integration and analysis of geographic, demographic, economic and business data.

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