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This looks to be a highly interesting conference at the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis this September 29-30, 2014 for anyone interested in historic economic data. Keynote speakers include Hal Varian, Chief Economist at Google, and Neil Fantom, World Bank manager who leads their Open Data Initiative. St Louis Fed is doing such great work in providing access to historic economic dataso this is a great opportunity to discuss, learn, plan, and strategize for how libraries and the Fed can work collaboratively in this arena. Hope to see lots of our readers in St Louis!

BEYOND THE NUMBERS: ECONOMICS AND DATA FOR INFORMATION PROFESSIONALS
FEDERAL RESERVE BANK OF ST. LOUIS
MONDAY AND TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 29-30, 2014


The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis is hosting a free conference to address the challenges of economic information. We are bringing together experts to share their experiences at the frontier of economic data and information, discuss problems and potential solutions, and identify ways to improve access to and understanding of economic information.Our aim is to provide librarians and other information professionals with the knowledge, competence, and enthusiasm to disseminate economic information expertise to their respective audiences.

via Beyond the Numbers Economics and Data for Information Professionals.

 

Question: I need population figures for various countries starting at about 1850. Is there a resource I can check for such data?

Answer: You should start with B. R. Mitchell's International Historical Statistics: 1750-2005. It's shelved in the Information Center Statistics area and there are three volumes: 1) Africa, Asia and Oceania; 2) The Americas; 3) Europe.

You might also want take a look at databases like JSTOR and Project Muse to see what secondary literature is available on historical statistics.

Question: I'm looking for data on the average tariff levels of various countries from 1962-1989. Any version of the average tariff (weighted average) would be fine.

Answer: For any statistics question, the Library's Database page for Statistics and Numeric Data is a great place to start. From there, SourceOECD, the UN Common Database (UNCDB) (replaced in Feb. 2008 by a new site, UNdata), and the World Bank's World Development Indicators are good sources for international statistics.

In this particular case, however, you'll need to go outside of Stanford. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has kept trade statistics since 1964. Recently, UNCTAD, the World Bank, UN Statistics Division, and the World Trade Organization (WTO) combined resources to build the World Integrated Trade Solution (WITS), which gives access to the major trade and tariffs data compilations: the COMTRADE database (maintained by the UNSD); the "TRade Analysis and INformation System (TRAINS) (maintained by UNCTAD); the IDB and CTS databases (maintained by the WTO).

You can use TRAINS to get average tariff statistics. It provides online access to indicators of Trade Control Measures (Tariff, Para-tariff and Non-tariff measures), as well as imports by suppliers for over 150 countries. Registration is free at wits.worldbank.org. There is a registration link here.

TRAINS goes back to 1988. The World Bank has a page devoted to data on trade and import barriers. There's a helpful -- though incomplete -- dataset called "Trends in average applied tariff rates in developing and industrial countries, 1981-2005."

For data prior to the 1980s, search the journal and documents literature and/or do your own calculations for average tariffs. Worldwide Political Science Abstracts, EconLit, and the World Bank e-Library are good sources for journal articles about international trade.

Also check the following documents for possible leads and data tables:

 

Lastly, the library has a subscription to the International Customs Journal, published by the International Customs Tariffs Bureau (ICTB). This journal lists provisions of each country's customs tariff law and has detailed lists of items (steel, textiles, machinery, arms, etc.) and the tariff charged for each item, going back to 1891 in microfilm, print, and CDROM. More recently (2000-present), the ICTB has made that information accessible online here.

Question: I am doing research on the social security application (federal document #SS-5), and how it has changed over the years. Where can I look for historical versions of this document?

Answer: That's a tricky one since it says on the current form "Form SS-5 (08-2009) ef (08-2009) Destroy Prior Editions." The various editions of the Social Security Handbook include much information about the SSA's workings -- including about applying for social security with form SS-5 -- but does not include copies of forms.

So the next step is the Social Security Administration itself. The SSA has a History section that would no doubt be able to help, including 3 guides to SSA records. Lastly, you can contact the SSA historian to request copies of historic forms.

Question: I am researching on the negotiating history of article 66.2 of the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). I would like to find information on debates that preceded adoption of this Article in the Agreement. I have not been able to find any particular thread in the GATT Archive that would enable me trace this history.

Answer: Thanks for contacting the GATT archive. Here are a few angles to explore in order to trace that history.

Question: I need help locating some data that we are hunting. Specifically, I am interested in finding out the following information for a selected years between 1987 and 2000: The composition of state legislatures (in terms of political parties); Party affiliation of state governors; Maximum welfare or TANF rates for families of 3 by state. I’ve found some of the TANF data in various editions of the Green Book put out by the House Ways and Means Committee, but have not been able to locate TANF data for 1987, 1991 or 1993. Would you mind pointing me to any potential sources of this data?

Answer: Below are some resources in which you'll find the necessary information.

Lastly, you should be able to find Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) data in the annual TANF report hosted on the US Deptartment of health and human services web site. However, TANF only began in 1997, succeeding the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program. I found annual data for TANF in one of our subscription databases called "Proquest Statistical Insight" which can be accessed via http://databases.stanford.edu. You should be able to find data on AFDC as well. Don't forget to look at the citations for the data tables. You may not find exactly the variable for which you're looking, but you'll find the agency that published the data (a very important bit of information for tracking down data from the government!)

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you need further information or help.

Question: How do I find out the party affiliation of California city council members?

Answer: City council offices in California are non-partisan offices, which means no party affiliation is declared. You can try to get this information from news sources or articles that may discuss activities of the council members but unless they specifically state their affiliation, you would be inferring this information. For background on non-partisan offices in California, see:

  1. California Constitution, Article 2, Voting, Initiative and Referendum and Recall Sec. 6 (a) All judicial, school, county, and city offices, including the Superintendent of Public Instruction, shall be nonpartisan.
  2. FAQ from the California League of Women Voters
  3. National Association of Counties (NACO), Research Abstract Series, County Elections - Partisan or Non-Partisan? -- State by State, 2007 (PDF).

For more information, please contact Kris Kasianovitz, International, State and Local Government Information Librarian

Question: I'm doing research for a professor, but am having some trouble finding the information and data that he needs.  I'm supposed to make a time trend of U.S. land area in square miles -- one with states plus territory and one with just states.  However, I can't find any sources that track the total U.S. land area over time.  Can you help?

Answer: Here's some information for you on square miles of land area broken down by state. The best part about that table is the citation. It cites the Statistical Abstract of the United States. So I went to the StatAb (one of the most amazing series in our collection IMHO ;-)) and found the data going back in time. The StatAb pulls together statistics from across govt into one handy finding aid -- this particular data e.g. is from the decennial census and so we'll be able to find land area at least every 10 years.Searchworks record for the Statistical Abstract of the US. We have holdings in paper going back to 1878 as well as links to several different digital versions. Here for example is page 5 of 1950 StatAb which lists land area broken down into states and regions. 

There's also the US Census quick facts on land area and the US Gazetteer for further reference.

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