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last updated: 6/13/2013

Data Pathfinders: Historical Statistics

Basic Print Sources at IUB Wells Library | Electronic Resources on the Web


Statistics help flesh out the realities of history; they can be used to back up or disprove hypotheses. Anyone who has read Herodotus or papal histories knows that some of the older statistics are quite unreliable; indeed, statistics are very much a product of the age of the nation-state. Statistics are everywhere, and can be intimidating to use, therefore, finding good sources is important. Hopefully, the sources compiled here can make the life easier for the students interested in historical statistics.


Basic Print Sources at IUB Wells Library

Probably the first two actual PLACES you want to go to find print resources on historical statistics here at IUB Wells Library are the HA section in the research collections stacks (on the sixth floor go ahead and browse a little) and Government Information and Statistical Services (East Tower 2 or ET2) on the second floor (feel free to ask for help).

 

Note: Some locations of print materials may have changed. Consult IUCAT for current locations.


 

The two best means of finding U.S. statistical information are via the following two sources:

  • U.S. Census Bureau information (come on up to the ET2 for help).

  • Historical Statistics of the U.S.: Colonial Times to 1970.
    [ET2 Reference Desk -- C3.234/2: H62 1789-1970] (CD-ROM version available in ET2).

The following two resources should help familiarize you with using these and other kinds of U.S. Government statistical information:

  • Using Government Information Sources: Electronic and Print. Jean L. Sears and Marilyn K. Moody.
    [ET2 Reference Desk -- Z 1223.Z7 S4 2001].

  • Subject Guide to U.S. Government Reference Sources. Gayle J. Hardy and Judith Schiek Robinson.
    [Research Collections, Reference Dept. -- Z1223.Z7 R63 1996].

Other resources include:

  • Major U.S. Statistical Series: Definitions, Publications, and Limitations. Jean and Juri Stratford.
    [ET2 Reference Desk -- HA37 .U55 S77 1992].
    This resource provides the reader with statistical sources by topic. It explains what the statistics ARE, which is quite helpful; it also explains how to use these statistics and the sources where you might find them. In the words of its authors, ?the purpose of this text is to provide readers with a framework for locating and understanding statistical data.? Categories include: population, labor force, U.S. economic indicators, price indexes and inflation, production, foreign trade, and U.S. federal government finance.

  • Statistical Abstract of the United States.
    [ET2 Reference Desk -- C 3.134:2000].
    For more recent U.S. statistical information, this work is a good and easy-to-use bet.

  • Datapedia of the United States, 1790-2000. George Kurian.
    [ET2 Reference Desk -- HA202.K87 1994].
    This work provides good basic information and is based entirely on "the most significant historical statistics" gathered by the author from Statistical Abstract (for recent information) and Historical Statistics of the U.S. (for older information).

For statistical information on U.S. presidents, these two books could really help you out:

  • Vital Statistics on the Presidency: Washington to Clinton. Lynn Ragsdale.
    [Research Collections, Stacks -- JK518 .R33 1998].
    This work focuses on the presidency as an institution rather than on individual presidents and contains lots of very nice tables.

  • America at the Polls: American Presidential Election Statistics. Donald Dodd.
    [ET2 Reference Desk -- HA214.H57 1993].
    This work is more appropriate for basic election statistics.

For statistical information on African-Americans, the three books listed below should prove helpful.

  • Historical Statistics of Black America. Jessie C. Smith and Carroll P. Horton.
    [Research Collections, Reference Dept. -- E185 .H543 1995 v. 1-2].

  • Black Demographic Data 1790-1860: A Sourcebook. Clayton Cramer.
    [Research Collections, Stacks -- E185.18 .C73 1997].
    This work provides nice tables and graphs from the Antebellum period and is good for quick statistical evidence that might support or disprove a hypothesis. The first half of the book prepares the reader to use and understand statistics on African-Americans during this period and presents problems that affect these statistics that the researcher should know about.

  • Black Americans: A Statistical Sourcebook. Alfred N. Garwood, Ed.
    [Research Collections, Stacks -- E185.5 .B5 1990].
    A nice easy-to-use single volume statistical reference, but with a strong emphasis on the past 25-30 years.

One more resource worth pointing out is:

  • Nations Within a Nation: Historical Statistics of American Indians. Paul Stuart.
    [Research Collections, Stacks -- E77.S924 1987].
    A very nice resource; topics include land holdings, population, migration, vital statistics, federal government activity, health care and education, occupations, and use of natural resources.

The objective of the five books below, according to their author, is to provide economists and historians with a wide range of statistical data without the difficulty of identifying sources, of obtaining access to them, and [of] the often considerable labor of extracting the figures from many different places. Mitchell lists the sources that he has used for each country this could be quite helpful. Topics handled include: population and vital stats; labor force; agriculture; industry; external trade; transport and communications; finance; prices; education; and national accounts. It is worth noting that, in each work, Mitchell seems to be primarily interested in easily quantified things like flax production and pig iron.

  • International Historical Statistics: The Americas 1750-1993. B.R. Mitchell.
    [1. ET2 Reference; 2. Research Collections, Stacks -- HA175.M55 1998 (2 copies)]

  • International Historical Statistics: Europe 1750-1993. B.R. Mitchell.
    [1. ET2 Reference Desk; 2. Research Collections, Reference Dept. -- HA1107.M5 1998 (2 copies)]

  • International Historical Statistics: Africa, Asia, and Oceania 1750-1993. B.R. Mitchell.
    [ET2 Reference Desk -- HA4675 .M55 1998]

  • British Historical Statistics. B.R. Mitchell.
    [Research Collections, Reference Dept. -- HA1134 .M58 1988]

  • The Emergence of Industrial Societies. Statistical Appendix, 1700-1914. B.R. Mitchell.
    [Research Collections, Stacks -- HC240 F679 v.4 Appendix]

Electronic Resources on the Web

  • AHDS History
    Accessing the information contained herein is not easy, but the AHDS's mission--"Collecting, providing, and preserving digital resources for historical research, learning, and teaching" -- certainly seems relevant to our topic here.

  • Historical Census Data on the U. S. Census Bureau Website
    The coverage here is somewhat limited, as the Census Bureau's website is overwhelmingly concerned with the 1990 and 2000 censuses.However, the Housing tables do cover census data back to 1940, and Income tables cover data back to 1960s.

  • Historical Census Statistics of the U.S.
    A really great website; dates range from 1790 to 1960.

  • Integrated Public Use Microdata Series
    Maintained by the Minnesota Population Center at the University of Minnesota, the IPUMS consists of 25 high-precision samples (from the years 1850-1990) of the American population drawn from 13 federal censuses. Very good for quantifying long-term American historical changes.

  • Quantitative methods for historians
    Refer to the "Data Archives" section, which is quite helpful. Lots of web links; focused on, but not limited to, the U.S.

  • Historical Statistics of Canada
    This is a huge effort put together by Statistics Canada, the nation's central statistical agency. Searchable topics include inflation, housing, employment, health, and education. The time span is rather brief -- from 1867 to the mid-1970's.

  • Historical Statistics on Banking
    Compiled and maintained by the FDIC. The user can choose from the following topics: commercial bank reports, savings institution reports, bank and thrift failure reports, and "milestones." The time span here is also rather brief--from 1934 to the present.

  • Latin American Historical Statistics
    This enormous collection includes both bibliographic and statistical resources. The coverage is quite exhaustive, and some statistics contained within date from the 16th Century.


last updated: 6/13/2013