Minnesota Population Center moves to new location at U

The center had a $1.6 billion renovation and is now located in Willey Hall.

by Cati Vanden Breul

On Monday, the Minnesota Population Center moved to a new location at the University.

Since its development in 2000, the center has been scattered all over the West Bank, said Robert McMaster, College of Liberal Arts associate dean of planning.

After a $1.6 million renovation, the center is now located in the basement of Willey Hall.

Construction workers are still working to turn the old Katherine E. Nash Gallery into the new population center.

Having a single location will enable the administration and researchers to accomplish even more, McMaster said.

With everything located in one place, the center will operate more efficiently, said Barb Schwab, Minnesota Population Center assistant director.

The center works to gather and analyze census data and make it accessible to researchers.

“One of our biggest goals is the preservation of older data that is being lost,” Minnesota Population Center Director Steven Ruggles said.

Original census data is taken and made available to researchers on the center’s Web site.

With a $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation, Ruggles and staff will gather data directly from the microfilm of 150 censuses in 44 countries.

The grant will allow researchers to look at otherwise difficult-to-access census data.

They will focus mainly on individual respondents through analyzing answers on questionnaires. Such information is called microdata, he said.

Microdata is useful for research because it shows what types of changes occurred at the individual level during a certain period of time, Ruggles said.

“(The center) is probably the biggest collection of individual data that is designed for research,” Ruggles said.

The database will allow researchers to analyze global economic, political and social change over the last 40 years.

Researchers are interested in all aspects of population history and look at how trends, such as fertility rates and labor-force participation, change, research coordinator Cathy Fitch said.

By analyzing census data, researchers will come closer to understanding the causes and consequences of social and economic transformations, Ruggles said.

A lot of the work done at the center takes on a historical perspective, Fitch said.

Before the Minnesota Population Center began, the University’s history department had researchers working on the Historical Census Project, she said.

After receiving a population center grant from the National Institutes of Health in 2000, the center was developed.

The center’s Web site is open to the public and distributes an average of 638 megabytes per hour, 24 hours a day, according to a University press release.