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The Spire Project: National Statistical Agencies
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Australia, United Kingdom, Canada and the United States each have national statistical agencies. Each organization collects and publishes statistics on many facets of their respective countries. This article should simplify your work in searching, selecting and appraising these sources. There is also a firm providing value-added access to US statistics.


to article list Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)
The Australian Bureau of Statistics ( has made their searchable catalogue available online. This is not, however, the only 'in' for this source.
1) The current ABS Catalogue of Publications (highly recommended).
Full Text Search of the Catalogue
webpage 2) Look for one of their Statistical Category Guides, including:
Directory of Housing Related Statistics (#1118.0)
Directory of Tourism Statistics (#1130.0)
Directory of Transport Statistics (#1132.0)
These document are not available online.
article 3) Through one of their periodicals:
Release Advice (a twice-weekly list of recently released statistics)
Publications and Products Released in [Month]
Publications to be released in 1997 (#1109)
webpage 4) Contacting the ABS by phone or in person, for personal advice.
webpage 5) Through their summary documents such as the Australian Yearbook, or the Western Australian Yearbook.

The ABS publishes only a portion of the information they have available, which means you can purchase additional information from the ABS through their information consultants. For this, contact the number of the individual in charge of a given publication (bottom of first or second page), and ask what is available. You will not be able to identify individual firms from the data but the additional information is appropriately priced. Purchase by asking for a written quote from an ABS staff member.

There are other types of information available to purchase from the ABS. They have a product called 4-site, which combines census data, the business register, household expenditure surveys and the like into a package of information describing the clientele in a surrounding district; priced at AU$200 to $600. You can also purchase import or export data by destination, origin, and specific product code.

If you live in Australia, each capital state has its' own ABS library. ABS publications are also found at all Universities, the State Library, and smaller collections can be found in many public libraries. If you visit the ABS library, be sure to ask for their free ABS catalogue on disk. [Catalogue #1101.0.15.001]

to article list The (UK) Office for National Statistics
The UK Office for National Statistics keeps changing its website, shuffling resources to different sites. Let me simply draw your attention to and their online bookstore (
webpage A Statistical Overview of the UK resides online.
webpage Publications be the UK Office for National Statistics, their product catalog, is buried on the advanced search feature of the website. Start at (

to article list The US Census Bureau
The US Census Bureau ( has also made their searchable catalogue available online. Here is a further description. The US Census is the least user-friendly of these four statistical agencies and more than a little confusing. For starters, there is no searchable catalogue of publications - only one monolithic webpage with everything on it. The US Census also uses a large number of pdf files on the website. However, the US Census website is very large and detailed.
webpage This Catalogue/List of publications is a large file but clearly describes how information was developed. Despite its size, this is where to look.
webpage This appears to be the directory of information available free from the Census Bureau website.
webpage Census Publication Categories - Detailed and not too difficult.
webpage CenStore is the publication point, and the location for information on their various products.
The US Census Bureau publishes online their Monthly Product Announcements, and Statistical Briefs. If you are interested, consider the US Census Bureau Website Site Search.
webpage Here is a list of Census Bureau publication vendors
webpage For a novel and resourceful approach to Census publications, look at the resources described in the Scout Report. Use their QuickSearch facility and search for census bureau.

The US Census Bureau publishes an internet product called CenStats. This is a subscription service (about US$40) to search and display as a webpage, a collection of databases including: County Business Patterns, Building Permits, International Trade Data, and a couple more.

The commercial entry below may also interest you, as it is a service that adds value to existing census data.

to article list Statistics Canada
Statistics Canada ( is the Canadian national statistical agency. Here is a further description. This is the brilliant website; precise, focused search engines, clearly arranged.
webpage The website has several search engines including their Information on Products and Services (IPS) catalogue, back issues of The Daily, their new release newsletter, an experimental Thematic Guide to Social Statistics, and a others. Access these through their search page.
Information on Products and Services (IPS) catalogue is a search of all Statistics Canada services, research papers and publications. (search help) Search
Thematic Search Tool for Research in Social Statistics
Search Statistics Canada’s Web Site

to article list Further National Statistical Agencies
webpage Statistics Canada has been most generous in preparing a list of additional national statistical agencies.
webpage Lastly, the online Statistical Abstract of the United States 1998 is freely available in pdf format. The section: Guide to sources of statistics is particularly factual, listing statistics from various statistical agencies.


National Statistical Agencies are certainly not the only source of statistics. They are, however, some of the easiest to access.

These agencies have several traits that distinguish them from other information sources. Firstly, statistical agencies are legally required to disguise their statistics to protect the identity of specific businesses and individuals (with the exception of the Business Register). If there is only one or two timber exporters in Western Australia, the ABS will not give you timber exports from Western Australia. Specific information may be found in directories like Kompass, commercial databases, or insider information from either experts or articles by experts.

Secondly, national statistical agencies have a tendency to be old.

Most surveys are not completed annually but rather every two, three or more years. Census data is older still. The analysis process also adds a delay. The ABS tends to take a year or more to collate and analyze statistics. For Legal and Accounting Services Australia we have '92-'93 statistics, and the '95-96 statistics are due to be released early Nov 1997. Certain statistics like National Indicators are rapidly produced but most are not.

Thirdly, national statistical agency publications are detailed - far more than most statistical publications. Commercial statistical sources often neglect supporting information like sample size and demographic breakdown but expect these publications to include this and more. Publications may still require further analysis, and may occasionally come from inferior sources of information but they are professionally delivered.

There are several ways to search each agency:
1_  Each agency has thoughtfully provided their catalogue of publications online. The links are above.

2_  Each agency collects certain information for analysis. It is helpful to become familiar with the various surveys and information sources used by each agency.

Article ListResearch CommentarySeminar datesUpdate Notices Besides the Census, the ABS conducts surveys of weekly household expenditure, agricultural land-use surveys, R&D surveys, and periodic surveys of various segments of the economy (like Legal and Accounting Services, Australia 1992-93). They also collect landing cards (tourism information), export and import documentation, regional hotel occupancy rates and more. Each statistical agency is similar. If the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has not yet conducted a survey of hospital occupancy, this information will not be available.

3_  Agencies publish guides to information on a particular topic. They also publish various newsletters of recent releases and annual yearbooks too.


These statistics are not the only statistics available, nor particularly the best in many circumstances. They are, however, often the best source for demographic data, widely used by government and frequently re-published in other government documents.

These agencies also provide a range of sample and national summary data directly from their website. Online statistics have not yet been organized, so I rather expect browsing the website for free information will be unwise, unless you are looking for simple national data.

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