GIS Data & Literature in the Social Sciences


Some GIS Data Sources for the Social Sciences
Global Datasets, by Topic
  • Multi-topic
    • DIVA-GIS - Free data on roads, railroads, altitude, population density, land cover, LandSat imagery, and other things...
    • Natural Earth - wealth of global GIS data ranging from physical geographic features to urban areas, roads, airports and more.
    • G-Econ - Yale University's Geographically Based Economic Data (G-Econ) estimates level of economic activity at 1-degree cell resolution for the world.  Available for several years, and includes many other data at the 1-degree cell size.
    • History Database of the Global Environment (HYDE): HYDE presents (gridded) time series of population and land use for the last 12,000 years. It also presents various other indicators such as GDP, value added, livestock, agricultural areas and yields, private consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and industrial production data, but only for the last century.
    • IPUMS (University of Minnesota) - Census and survey datasets from countries around the world, integrated in time and space. In collaboration with 105 national statistical agencies, nine national archives, and three genealogical organizations, IPUMS has created the world’s largest accessible database of census microdata. IPUMS includes almost a billion records from U.S. censuses from 1790 to the present and over a billion records from the international censuses of over 100 countries. We have also harmonized survey data with over 30,000 integrated variables and 150 million records, including the Current Population Survey, the American Community Survey, the National Health Interview Survey, the Demographic and Health Surveys, and an expanding collection of labor force, health, and education surveys. In total, IPUMS currently disseminates integrated microdata describing 1.4 billion individuals drawn from over 750 censuses and surveys. 
    • Nightlights: This website offers download of both DMSP and VIIRS nightlight data.
      • DMSP: The individual images are cloud-free composites made using all the available archived DMSP-OLS (Defense Meteorological Satellite Program - Operational Linescan System) smooth resolution data for calendar years. In cases where two satellites were collecting data, two composites were produced. The products are 30 arc second grids, spanning -180 to 180 degrees longitude and -65 to 75 degrees latitude, and span 1992-2013.
      • VIIRS:  The VIIRS Day/Night Bands (DNB) collect levels of nighttime light across the globe at 750-meter resolution, and span 2012-present.
  • Demography & Income
    • CIESIN - Columbia University's Center for Earth International Earth Science Information Network.  Includes lots of global and country-level GIS data on population, urban/rural populations and extents, health, land cover, natural resources and many other topics.
    • G-Econ - Yale University's Geographically Based Economic Data (G-Econ) estimates level of economic activity at 1-degree cell resolution for the world.  Available for several years, and includes many other data at the 1-degree cell size.
    • History Database of the Global Environment (HYDE): HYDE presents (gridded) time series of population and land use for the last 12,000 years. It also presents various other indicators such as GDP, value added, livestock, agricultural areas and yields, private consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and industrial production data, but only for the last century.
  • Infrastructure
    • DIVA-GIS - Free data on roads, railroads, altitude, population density, land cover, LandSat imagery, and other things...
    • Open Street Map - Crowd-sourced street maps for the whole world, downloadable for use in a GIS. 
    • Global Roads Open Access Data Set (gROADS), v1 (1980-2010), from CIESIN (Columbia University)
    • GSM Roaming and Coverage MapsGSM Coverage Maps is a unique resource containing information supplied and approved by the members of the GSM Association. Network, Services and Roaming information are continually updated to reflect the evolving situation worldwide. Interactive coverage maps, updated quarterly, allow you to navigate to see where exactly you can use your phone.
    • Natural Earth - wealth of global GIS data ranging from physical geographic features to urban areas, roads, airports and more.
    • Accessibility to Cities (Malaria Atlas Project) - Quantified and validated global accessibility to high-density urban centres at a resolution of 1×1 kilometre for 2015, as measured by travel time. The last global mapping effort to measure accessibility was for the year 2000, a time that predates both substantial investment and expansion of transportation infrastructure and an extraordinary improvement in the data quantity and quality of accessibility measures. The game-changing improvement underpinning this work is the first-ever, global-scale synthesis of two leading roads datasets – Open Street Map (OSM) data and distance-to-roads data derived from the Google roads database – which resulted in a nearly five-fold increase in the mapped road area relative to that used to produce the circa 2000 map. 
  • Agriculture
    • EarthStat - Lots of global gridded data on crop areas (including by crop), pastureland, yields, fertilizer use, and others.
    • SAGE - Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment has lots of environment- and agriculture-related data.
    • GRACE: NASA satellite data measuring underground water storage using gravity changes.
    • Gridded Yield Changes under 1-3 degree of Global WarmingFor maize, rice, soy and wheat (Moore et al., in press)
    • History Database of the Global Environment (HYDE): HYDE presents (gridded) time series of population and land use for the last 12,000 years. It also presents various other indicators such as GDP, value added, livestock, agricultural areas and yields, private consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and industrial production data, but only for the last century.
    • Land Matrix: Online Public Database in Land Deals. A global and independent land monitoring initiative that promotes transparency and accountability in decisions over land and investment.  This website is a Global Observatory - an open tool for collecting and visualising information about large-scale land acquisitions.
    • The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) AgroMaps Project has subnational time-varying data on agricultural production and yields at subnational administrative levels.
  • Health
    • DHS - The Demographic and Health Surveys are done for many developing countries and include georeferenced samples.  Variables include
      • Physical assets
      • Health measures
      • Education
      • Fertility history
    • Malaria Ecology Index - From Kiszewski et al. (2004), it indicates strength of malaria transmission based on local temperatures, precipitation, and human biting preference of the locally dominant Anopheles.  Extended in Anttila-Hughes and McCord (2016), and validated against children's malaria positivity from bloodwork in DHS surveys.
  • Conflict
  • Environment
    • IPUMS Terra - integrates census data from around the world with global environmental data
    • GRACE: NASA satellite data measuring underground water storage using gravity changes.
    • Gridded Yield Changes under 1-3 degree of Global Warming: For maize, rice, soy and wheat (Moore et al., in press)
    • The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has a repository of geospatial data called the Environmental Data Explorer.
    • History Database of the Global Environment (HYDE): HYDE presents (gridded) time series of population and land use for the last 12,000 years. It also presents various other indicators such as GDP, value added, livestock, agricultural areas and yields, private consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and industrial production data, but only for the last century.
  • Weather and Climate
  • Hazards
    • CIESIN Natural Disaster Hotspots: (direct link to data here
    • Dartmouth Flood Observatory
    • UNEP Global Risk Data Platform: The PREVIEW Global Risk Data Platform is a multiple agencies effort to share spatial data information on global risk from natural hazards. Users can visualise, download or extract data on past hazardous events, human & economical hazard exposure and risk from natural hazards. It covers tropical cyclones and related storm surges, drought, earthquakes, biomass fires, floods, landslides, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. The collection of data is made via a wide range of partners (see About for data sources). This was developed as a support to the Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction (GAR) and replace the previous PREVIEW platform already available since 2000. Many improvements were made on the data and on the application.

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