FAQs

Application and Access

Q: Can I access the VDI from my home/work computer?
A: Yes, as part of your application for the VDI, submit a MiCDA VDI Security Plan for each location you plan to use.

Q: Do I need IRB approval in order to access HRS restricted data through the VDI?
A: Yes, proof of IRB/human subjects review from the researcher's home institution is required. Acceptable determinations for VDI include: approval; exemption for secondary analysis; not regulated. We need to know your institution is aware of your research.

Q: How long does a decision about an application regarding restricted data usually take?
A: We review applications twice each month to keep applications moving. So for most applications 6-8 weeks. However, especially with traditional license, there are often issues outside our control that can cause substantial delays.

Q: How much does the data cost?
A: Data distributed by the HRS are free of charge. However, there are costs associated with obtaining CMS-linked data as both CMS and MedRIC charge access and/or licensing fees.

Software

Q: Do you have {R/Matlab/M-plus/Stata/SAS/SPSS/ArcGIS/Microsoft Office/...} on the MiCDA VDI server?
A: Yes, most software tools used by researchers are available; contact us if you have a specific software requirement.

Q: How long will my access last?
A: VDI access will last for twelve months, at which point you will have an opportunity to renew.Access with a traditional license lasts the lesser of up to 24 hours or the expiration of federal funding. Traditional license holders are expected to provide an annual update.

Access with a traditional license lasts the lesser of up to 24 hours or the expiration of federal funding. Traditional license holders are expected to provide an annual update.

Data Availability

Q: I am looking for data elements that are not included in the HRS public files. Is there a way to obtain this information as restricted data?
A: Possibly, depending on the type of data sought and the resources entailed in making the data set available. Also there are certain data elements (names, telephone numbers, street addresses, employer names and addresses, patient identifiers, etc.) that will never be released. Contact HRS before you submit your proposal.

Q: Is it possible to look at data from specific areas in the U.S.?
A: Yes, geographic information down to the census tract level is available as restricted data. Details here: Cross-Wave Geographic Information (Detail) [1992-2014]

Q: I would like to apply for HRS geographic data files and merge them with SSA administrative data. Is this possible?
A: On an exception basis, with written approval from the HRS project director, detailed geographic information may be merged with HRS-SSA data. All such merges must be conducted in the MiCDA VDI Environment.

Q: If I were studying a specific county, would I be able to look at HRS data for that county if it were available?
A: Yes and no. It is possible to link county data for HRS respondents who happen to live in that county. But it is important to note that those respondents would NOT constitute a sample of the population of that county. HRS uses a national area probability sample of US households; this means that not every state will contain HRS respondents.

Q: Are there any restricted HRS data products that include the respondents' state of birth and/or city/county of birth?
A: State of birth (but not city/county) is available. Please see the codebook for the Cross-Wave Geographic Information file.

Q: I am trying to use the HRS Urban-Rural code to create a dummy variable to indicate whether the respondent's current location is urban or rural. However, I am not sure how to code the suburbuban and ex-urban groups.
A:This is a decision that must be made by the researcher.

Technical Questions

Q: Can I use RAND HRS data in the MiCDA VDI?
A: Yes, you may use RAND files in both Enclave & traditional license environments.

Q: How are the data files within the MiCDA VDI organized?
A: All public, sensitive and restricted data files are arranged in appropriate folders in the VDI server in system file format. There is no need for users to run command files against ASCII data files to produce system files. When Enclave users log in, they have access to all public data files as well as the restricted/sensitive data files referenced in their individual user agreement.

Q: Would I be able to upload my own data to use with the data from the server?
A: Yes. You can upload your files via ftps to a temporary storage area. Enclave staff members will then review the files and install them in your Enclave user space.

Q: What are the limits of STATA in the MiCDA VDI?
A: The maximum number of variables allowed in STATA MP is 32,767. If you are merging FAT files across waves, you will run into the 32,767 variable limit after 3 waves. We recommend subsetting variables of interest before undertaking cross-wave merging.

Q: Am I allowed to export data from the MiCDA VDI? My advisor would like to see my results.
A: No research identifiable information (anything at respondent level) may ever be exported. Enclave users of HRS data may only export statistical summary information (i.e., frequency tabulations, magnitude tabulations, means, variances, regression coefficients, correlation coefficients) that do not permit the identification of any individual person, family, household, employer, or benefit provider. If your advisor needs to review results, add them as a user to your agreement.