Data Questions


GIS Questions

Census Questions


Data Downloading Questions


SABINS and General Questions

Data Questions [top]

How do I obtain data? [top]

All mappable SABINS data are delivered through our SABINS/NHGIS data extraction system. Users select the data tables and GIS school boundary files they are interested in, and the system creates a custom-made extract containing this information. Data are generated on our server, and the system sends out an email message to the user when the extract is completed.  The user must download the extract and analyze it on their local machine.

Users need to register for a free account with SABINS before they can submit an extract request. Users do not, however, need to login or register prior to building an extract request. Detailed information on using the data extraction system can be found on the User’s Guide page.

Additional, tabular, school data is provided on this site under Public School Data.

What do these field names (H7Q001, P0030037) mean? [top]

The key to these unique column names is found in the Codebook file that was automatically included in your data extract. Look for the .txt file in the zipped file you downloaded, and it will shed some light on your data.

Do I need special statistical software like SPSS, SAS, or Stata to use SABINS data? [top]

Absolutely not! Any spreadsheet software like Microsoft Excel will work fine, and even that is not technically required. Statistical software may make it easier to analyze large amounts of data, and SABINS does provide data with a command file specific to each of these major software packages.  

Something is wrong with the data I downloaded. What should I do? [top]

There are lots of reasons why something may seem wrong with your data. Typically (but not always), the issue stems from trying to use the incorrect data format for your software or by not being aware of the many, many odd quirks that exist with older census data. Review the information on the User’s Guide and Data Documentation pages for additional information. Of course, always feel free to contact SABINS User Support at sabins@umn.edu with any questions you may have!

Can I just get a copy of every data table you have and save myself the hassle of repeatedly downloading different tables? [top]

You might not realize how much data that really is (into the terabytes…)! Users frequently ask for this, thinking it will save them time if they have every file we have; trust us, it won’t. Sifting through over ten thousand tables and hundreds of thousands of fields is not an easy task.   Data hungry researchers are free to email SABINS if they have a unique situation regarding the need to have data delivered outside of the website data extraction system. Honoring said requests, however, is at the discretion of SABINS staff.

Do you have data for outside the USA? [top]

SABINS and NHGIS do not have international data. Other projects of the Minnesota Population Center do contain an international element, yet are microdata rather than aggregate data based. These include IPUMS-International and NAPP.

Do you have data for Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, or other territories? [top]

At the moment, we do not have any data for these areas.


GIS Questions [top]

I don’t have Esri ArcGIS! Can I still map the data I downloaded? [top]

There are several options for those who do not have access to Esri ArcGIS. A number of open source GIS programs are available, including GRASS and QGIS. In addition, the website www.socialexplorer.com allows online mapping of select SABINS data. Another option students often use is the free student licenses provided by Esri that can often be had through the GIS or Geography department for class purposes, or by purchasing select books from the Esri Press. Student licenses vary in length, but are typically 6 or 12 months.

OK, I downloaded the data files and the GIS files. Now how do I join them together? [top]

SABINS has made it as easy as possible to join data tables to their respective GIS boundary files. Under Public School Data you will find association tables that contain a column called SABINSID and another column called NCESSCH. The variable SABINSID corresponds to the column of the same name in the GIS boundary file. The variable NCESSCH is a unique school identifier with a corresponding column in CCD data. Additional information on using these association tables can be found under the heading User's Guide. 

Why am I missing columns of data when I bring the .csv into GIS? [top]

Unfortunately, the maximum number of columns in a .csv file that Esri ArcGIS can normally import is 256 and any additional fields are truncated. This is a known issue to Esri and Microsoft and is outside the control of SABINS. Using the Quick Import tool that is part of the Data Interoperability extension to ArcGIS is the easiest workaround but not everyone has it available. Other solutions do exist and additional information on the issue, along with instructions on using the Quick Import tool, can be found on the User’s Guide page. In addition, be advised that older versions of Microsoft Excel (pre-2007) have this same 256 column limitation as Esri ArcGIS.

What projected coordinate system is this GIS data in? [top]

Data for the contiguous US is projected in Albers Equal Area Conic projection. Hawaii shapefiles are projected in Hawaii Albers Equal Area Conic projection.  Alaska shapefiles are projected in the Alaska Albers Equal Area Conic projection.

What is the unit of the SHAPE_AREA and SHAPE_LEN? [top]

SHAPE_AREA is an area measurement in square meters. SHAPE_LEN is a perimeter measurement in meters.


Census Questions [top]

Where are the 2010 Census and American Community Survey datasets? [top]

Additional data will be added to SABINS as it becomes available and packaged in the format needed for SABINS. Look for updates on data additions on the SABINS News page.


Data Downloading Questions [top]

Why can’t I select to download data for a single school district? [top]

The initial release of the SABINS data extract system provides access to data, both spatial and non-spatial, for all school attendance boundaries in the database. This design provides academic scholars with access to the large amounts of data required for their research. Future releases of the data extract system will allow users to obtain data for school attendance boundaries in a given state or set of states.

How long does a data extract take? [top]

The time needed to make an extract differs depending on the size of the data extract requested, and the load on our server. Extracts can take from a few seconds to an hour or more. The system sends an email when the extract is completed, so there is no need to stay active on the SABINS site while the extract is being made. If you users wish, however, they can stay on the Extracts History page following an extract request. Refreshing the web browser will allow the user to see progress being made on the extract request.

Why do I have so many data files in my downloaded zipped file? [top]

SABINS provides several data files with each download to help the user.  When downloading the fixed width format, users will receive command files that are used with SPSS, SAS, and Stata.


SABINS and General Questions [top]

What are aggregate data? [top]

Data for many people compiled together to create totals per a geography like school attendance boundaries. No individual records, with or without personally identifiable information, is included anywhere in SABINS (or NHGIS).  So it is not possible to determine if a specific child attends a particular school. 

What is the source of all this data? [top]

SABINS data come from a variety of sources. The GIS files are created using information provided by individual schools, districts, and states in combination with TIGER/Line census block data that the US Census Bureau creates. Demographic data comes from the US Census Bureau, and school data comes from the National Center for Education Statistics.

I have a suggestion for how you can improve your website! Do you want to hear it? [top]

Sure! We are always open to new suggestions. This does not mean we can always act on the suggestion, but many changes to SABINS and NHGIS have come about through users’ suggestions.

How should I cite SABINS in my paper? [top]

The College of William and Mary and the Minnesota Population Center. School Attendance Boundary Information System (SABINS): Version 1.0. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota 2011.

Also, we really appreciate it when you send us the citation or link for any paper or article you write using SABINS data. This information is very valuable to us for funding purposes.