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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

    Is IPUMS MICS the best tool for my needs?
    How do I start?
    How much does it cost to use IPUMS MICS?
    When and how should I cite IPUMS MICS?
    I want the latest sample for my country. When will IPUMS MICS make that available?
    I want a variable that is not available. When will IPUMS MICS make that available?
    I used IPUMS MICS to conduct research. Will you help me share my research?
    Is IPUMS MICS useful to me if I am not a registered MICS user?
    Is there a preferred statistical package for using IPUMS MICS?
    Where does the data come from?
Understanding the IPUMS MICS website
    What is meant by "Unit of analysis"?
    What is meant by "Universe"?
    What is an "extract"?
    What are "integrated" variables?
    Is there an IPUMS MICS User Guide?
    How long does it take to make a data extract?
IPUMS MICS compared to other MICS data sources
    How are IPUMS MICS data different from MICS data?
    The MICS is already harmonized. What value does IPUMS MICS add?
    How do I combine my IPUMS MICS file with original MICS data?
    Where can I get the original MICS data?
    What is the difference between spatially harmonized and sample specific geography variables?
    When should I use spatially harmonized variables versus a sample specific geography variable?
    Why do some MICS surveys have only one geography variable?
    Can I map MICS data using GIS?
    I'm having trouble logging into IPUMS MICS. What should I do?
    I can't find the variable I want.
    Why can't I open my downloaded data file?
    I'm having trouble using the IPUMS MICS website. How can I get help?
    I found a mistake in IPUMS MICS or want to suggest an improvement. What should I do?
Using the variables page
    Variables page menu
    Variables page details
    How does "sample selection" work on the IPUMS MICS website?
    What does "Add to cart" mean?
Using the data extract system
    Your data cart
    Why are some variables in my data cart preselected?
    Extract request page
    Extract option: Describe your extract


Is IPUMS MICS the best tool for my needs? [top]

IPUMS MICS is the ideal tool for people who want to work with MICS microdata (that is, data on individuals) using the statistical software Stata.

If you are just interested in seeing MICS descriptive statistics in a single country in a certain year, UNICEF MICS provides extensive summaries of the MICS data in both country Final Reports. These will be the best and easiest sources for you to use for this purpose.

Use IPUMS MICS if you want to go further, for example, to test whether differences in the use of modern family planning over time or across countries are statistically significant, assess relationships across variables through correlations or multivariable analyses, or design your own figures or charts.

How do I start? [top]

Start by registering to use MICS data at UNICEF website. Registration is simple, but it can take a couple of days for your approval to come through. If you are already registered as a MICS user, you can use your UNICEF MICS login information (email and password) to log in to IPUMS MICS.

You can browse the IPUMS MICS website and see all the variable documentation without registering, but you will not be able to create your own dataset until your registration is approved.

For new users, the IPUMS MICS User Guide provides step-by-step instructions on using the website and constructing a customized data file.

How much does it cost to use IPUMS MICS? [top]

Nothing. The IPUMS MICS data and system are completely free. Everything about the system is free. We are grateful to the Eunice Shriver Kennedy National Institute of Child Health and Development, UNICEF, and the countries participating in the MICS surveys for providing the support and material to make this possible.

When and how should I cite IPUMS MICS? [top]

See the IPUMS MICS Citation guide for help on determining how best to cite IPUMS MICS in your work.

Please always include a citation to IPUMS MICS in your research document; do not just say "MICS data" without acknowledging IPUMS MICS as a source. Continued funding for IPUMS MICS depends on our showing that the data are widely used, through researchers' citations.

I want the latest sample for my country. When will IPUMS MICS make that available? [top]

We get access to MICS samples at the same time as the general public. It takes some time to integrate new samples into IPUMS MICS. Currently, we aim to release samples within about three months after UNICEF makes them available. We continue to introduce efficiencies, so the lag time is getting shorter all the time.

I want a variable that is not available. When will IPUMS MICS make that available? [top]

We are constantly creating new IPUMS variables from the thousands in the MICS data. We will be releasing new variables over time. If you have a specific request or recommendation, please send feedback to

I used IPUMS MICS to conduct research. Will you help me share my research? [top]

Absolutely! If you use IPUMS MICS data or documentation for an article, book, thesis, class or conference paper or poster, teaching materials, or other product, please enter the information into the IPUMS Bibliography where others can find it.

Is IPUMS MICS useful to me if I am not a registered MICS user? [top]

Yes! Some of the most important aspects of IPUMS MICS are variable discovery and variable-specific documentation (that is, question wording, who was asked the question, etc.) All of this is available to anyone with Internet access. You can also, without logging in, limit the display to include only the samples that interest you.

IPUMS MICS will require you to log in as an approved MICS user before you submit a request for a customized dataset.

Is there a preferred statistical package for using IPUMS MICS? [top]

Yes. Data extracts created with IPUMS MICS must be opened in Stata. Users will receive a zipped file that includes a Stata datafile (.dta) and a Stata syntax file (.do) for each sample selected. In order to use the data, users will run the syntax file to recode the data and create a single data file that represents the samples and variables selected from the IPUMS MICS extract creator.

Where does the data come from? [top]

IPUMS MICS has a partnership with UNICEF MICS. Through this partnership, the data delivered to IPUMS MICS users is disseminated by UNICEF along with a syntax file that you will use to create your custom data extract on your own computer. Any questions or concerns about the data should be directed to IPUMS User Support at

Understanding the IPUMS MICS website

What is meant by "Unit of analysis"? [top]

The unit of analysis represents the different data files commonly found in MICS. For most samples, each household is identified through a sampling frame and the head of the household is the respondent for questions about the household characteristics (the "Household Characteristics" unit of analysis) and the members of the household (the "Household members" unit of analysis). Then women age 15-49 in the household are interviewed about themselves (the "Woman" unit of analysis). The mother or guardian of each child age 0-4 (the "Child age 0-4" unit of analysis) is asked questions about the child. These four units of analysis are found in each MICS sample.

In some MICS samples, men in each household or a sub-set of households are also interviewed (the "Man" unit of analysis). In some samples, women also report on their birth history (the "births" unit of analysis). Finally, in some samples, one child between the ages of 5-17 is also selected and the mother or guardian of that child answers questions about the child (the "children 5-17" unit of analysis).

What is meant by "Universe"? [top]

"Universe" appears in IPUMS MICS in two ways. Most IPUMS MICS variables have a "Not in Universe" or NIU code, which indicates which respondents were not asked that particular question. There is also a UNIVERSE tab on every variable's documentation page.

The UNIVERSE tab describes the individuals who were asked a question.

A variable's universe is affected, first, by the sample. In most MICS, respondents vary based on the unit of analysis. To learn more about the universe for a specific unit of analysis in a specific sample, see the sample description tab. Often respondents with incomplete interviews are not in the universe.

The universe is affected, second, by survey skip patterns, and IPUMS MICS will tell you this, e.g., the universe is "Women age 15-49 who have ever heard of HIV/AIDS."

The universe is sometimes affected, third, by post-survey processing of the data collected. Data processing can produce universes different from what is suggested by the survey skip patterns. For example, sometimes but not always respondents are assigned a "no" response to one question based on their response to an earlier question in the survey. (For example, only women who gave birth in a medical facility are asked whether their last delivery was Caesarian, but women who gave birth elsewhere are assigned a "no" response to the Caesarian birth variable.)

IPUMS MICS staff empirically check the universes for all variables and all samples, so the reported universes match what appears in the data.

Researchers will make false inferences if they fail to ensure that universes are the same when comparing variable responses across MICS surveys. This is a very common mistake for new MICS users! Fortunately, IPUMS MICS makes it easy for researchers to identify universe differences and make adjustments accordingly.

What is an "extract"? [top]

"Extract" is the IPUMS term for a tailored dataset, with samples and variables selected by the user. When accessing data at UNICEF MICS website, users must download files that include all units of analysis and variables for every possible survey question and must then keep or drop variables and merge files to create the dataset they want to analyze. IPUMS MICS users create their custom data extract by selecting the variables and samples they would like. Then, the data and syntax are disseminated from UNICEF and run the syntax in Stata where of the recoding, merging, and harmonization take place in one step.

What are "integrated" variables? [top]

Integrated variables have the same variable names and codes used in every sample. This consistency may also be true for some standard variables in the original MICS files, but it is not true for a) standard variables with country-specific responses and b) country-specific, non-standard variables.

Is there an IPUMS MICS User Guide? [top]

Yes. You can access it here.

How long does it take to make a data extract? [top]

The time needed to make an extract differs depending on the number and size of samples requested and the load on the server. Extracts can take from a few minutes 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 IPUMS MICS site while the extract is being made.

IPUMS MICS compared to other MICS data sources

How are IPUMS MICS data different from MICS data? [top]

The source material for IPUMS MICS is the original MICS files, but in some ways the integrated variables in IPUMS MICS look quite a bit different.

  • We've added many useful variables, such as harmonized geography for each country (with identified regions making the same geographic footprint in each sample) and variables that bridge different variable names and ways of asking a question (for example, about literacy) across all years of the MICS.
  • In the variable harmonization process, we often create IPUMS-specific response codes for variables. The MICS survey responses are never changed - only the numbers assigned to them. We use new numbers for codes to impose consistency across all samples, for the variables with country-specific responses (such as the variable on the respondent's religion). Sometimes we change the codes to accommodate additional detail that is only included in some samples. Because of these coding differences, we recommend researchers compare across IPUMS MICS samples rather than across IPUMS MICS and original MICS files.
  • Most, but not all, of the MICS data are currently in IPUMS MICS. It's our goal to include all MICS data within IPUMS, but we haven't met that goal yet. If there is a variable you desperately need that's not in IPUMS MICS yet, let us know at, and we will try to move it up on our priority list.

The MICS is already harmonized. What value does IPUMS MICS add? [top]

IPUMS MICS makes the use of MICS data more efficient and simple.

With IPUMS MICS you can:

  • Easily determine what questions were asked in each MICS survey.
  • See the specific wording of the survey question, translated into English, associated with every variable in every survey.
  • Learn the universe (who was asked the question) and see a discussion of possible comparability problems for each variable, with just a click.
  • Immediately access information on how complex variables (like "unmet need") were constructed, and follow hyperlinks to the variables used to construct them.
  • Download a single, fully integrated and harmonized dataset drawn from multiple surveys with a few simple clicks.
  • Add a new sample or variable to your dataset just as easily.
  • Compare information on fully-harmonized subnational regions (with each region keeping the same geographic footprint across samples) over time.

These are just a few of the many advantages of using IPUMS MICS.

How do I combine my IPUMS MICS file with original MICS data? [top]

See our User Note, "Linking IPUMS MICS Data to MICS Files."

Where can I get the original MICS data? [top]

The source materials for IPUMS MICS are the MICS household (HH) and household list of members (HL) files, women's individual (WM) files, woman's birth recode (BR) files, children 0-4 (CH) files, children 5-17 (FS) files, and men's individual files (MN) distributed through UNICEF. Researchers go through the same process to apply for access to the original files or the IPUMS MICS version of the data. As noted above, the UNICEF MICS data files include some variables not included in IPUMS MICS. MICS variables may differ in their coding schemes from the IPUMS MICS version of the same variable. To apply for access to the original MICS files, go here.


What is the difference between spatially harmonized and sample specific geography variables? [top]

Spatially harmonized geography variables provide consistent geographic units for a country across sample years. When there are changes in boundaries over time, IPUMS MICS creates consistent footprints across time by aggregating units as necessary. Some geographic detail is lost in the construction of spatially consistent geography. MICS also provides sample-specific variables in addition to the harmonized version; these variables retain all the original detail from each sample, but they are usually not fully consistent over time. See this page for more information.

When should I use spatially harmonized variables versus a sample specific geography variable? [top]

Spatially harmonized variables facilitate comparisons across time. Any research that involves studying changes (e.g. changes in children's health metrics over the MICS survey years) should use spatially harmonized variables. Use sample-specific geography variables when only one sample is required for analysis (e.g. children's health metrics in the last round of the survey).

Why do some MICS surveys have only one geography variable? [top]

Most MICS samples do NOT have any changes in geography across the samples. In such cases, users should use the Primary geography variable listed on this page for all disaggregation purposes.

Can I map MICS data using GIS? [top]

Users can create maps with IPUMS MICS data using ArcGIS, ArcGIS Pro, QGIS, or other GIS mapping applications. GIS (shapefiles) files are available for download here. Please note that IPUMS MICS maps are intended to facilitate visual illustrations of IPUMS MICS data rather than precise geographical calculations.


I'm having trouble logging into IPUMS MICS. What should I do? [top]

You must register with UNICEF MICS to access the data files. Once your registration is approved, you can use your UNICEF MICS login information to log in to IPUMS MICS.

If registering for MICS access does not solve the problem for you, please contact us so that we can help you gain access to the data. For individualized help, send an email message describing your problem in detail to, and someone will get back to you soon.

By the way, your IPUMS Username and Password will not work for IPUMS MICS; IPUMS MICS is on a different registration system than the other IPUMS projects (such as IPUMS-International or IPUMS DHS).

I can't find the variable I want. [top]

IPUMS MICS gives you the ability to browse variables by topic or to find a variable by searching for a keyword (e.g., unmet). Both options are part of the SELECT VARIABLES box on the top left of the variable selection page.

If you cannot find the variable that you're looking for using either of those options, it may not yet be in IPUMS MICS. IPUMS MICS includes over 900 MICS variables, but there are still a few variables from the original files that have not yet been included. Post a note to the IPUMS User Forum, and we can let you know if that is the case.

Why can't I open my downloaded data file? [top]

The data produced by the extract system are gzipped (the file has a .gz extension). You must use a data compression utility to decompress the file before you can analyze it.

Detailed instructions for the downloading and reading the data are available here.

I'm having trouble using the IPUMS MICS website. How can I get help? [top]

You might want to start with the User Guide. The Support link at the top of the IPUMS MICS home page will also bring you to a number of resources. While there are not yet tutorials for IPUMS MICS, there are online video tutorials for other IPUMS projects that explain what IPUMS is, how the online documentation works, and how to create customized data files for analysis. See resources here. User notes provide further details on how to download and unzip your customized data file and cover other topics. And the IPUMS User Forum allows you to post a question that will be answered by IPUMS staff or experienced users. If you need individualized help beyond these resources, send an email to, with a full description of your problem.

I found a mistake in IPUMS MICS or want to suggest an improvement. What should I do? [top]

Please contact us right away! We make every effort to provide accurate information, but like everyone else, we make mistakes. And we love to get new ideas about how to make our website and data more useful. Please share your ideas for improvements or information about mistakes by emailing, and that information will be passed along to the IPUMS MICS team.

Using the variables page

Variables page menu [top]

Use the left side of the menu to browse variables:
Topics: person variables by group
A-Z: integrated variables by first letter of the IPUMS MICS variable name
Search: display only variables that contain specified text in particular fields

Use the buttons and links on the right side of the menu to:
Select Samples: limit the display of variable information to selected samples
Options: alter how the variable list is displayed or get help for this page

Variables page details [top]

The Menu
The variables page allows you to browse integrated variables while limiting and controlling how the information is displayed.

When you "Select Samples," you limit the variable list to display only variables that are available in at least one of those samples. The effect of selecting samples also extends to all the variable descriptions and codes pages you can access through the variable system. Only information relevant to your selected samples will be displayed in any context while you browse the variables. You can change your sample selections at any point.

Selecting samples is a good practice when exploring IPUMS MICS, because the amount of information can be unwieldy. Selecting samples also makes sense if you know you are only interested in a specific country or countries. On the other hand, sometimes you need to see everything to determine what kinds of research are possible using the database.

"Search" lets you specify search terms for specific fields of variable metadata. The system will return a list of variables that include any of the search terms you indicate.

The final choices are "Options" and "Help." The "Options" item brings up a screen that offers a number of choices regarding the display of the variable list. Each selection has a default choice.

Use short country codes / Use long country codes
Switch between the 2-letter country abbreviations and longer abbreviations. The long codes are the default. A letter at the end of the sample ID can tell you more about if the sample is a nationally representative sample or a sub-national population or geographic sample. See here for more information about sub-national samples.

View one group / View all groups together
Switch between viewing one variable group at a time and viewing all variable groups on one screen. Unless you have a limited number of samples selected, your browser may be slow to display all groups. The default view is one group at a time.

Show availability detail / Show availability summary
Switch between displaying the full sample-specific availability matrix, and a view that only displays the total number of samples that contain each variable. Both views only display or sum the samples that the user has selected in "Select samples." The default view is the detailed availability information.

Samples are displayed oldest to newest / Samples . . . newest to oldest
Display the samples columns indicating variable availability in chronological order or reverse chronological order. The default is oldest to newest.

The Variable List

As you browse the variables, they are displayed in a list containing a number of columns. The variable name links to the variable description, which will include detailed comparability discussions, universes, and survey text. The variable codes -- and their associated labels -- can be accessed directly using the "codes" links.

By default, all samples are selected for display. The country abbreviation and the sample year identify each sample at the top of every column. Hover over the country code with the mouse to see the full country name. If a variable is available in a given sample, an "X" is printed in that column.

In the column labeled "Add to cart," each variable has a purple circle with a "+" on the far left. Click these circles to add them to your data cart. Once you have clicked them, these icons change to a checked box, indicating that the variable is in your data cart. To remove the variable from your data cart, simply click the checkbox.

How does "sample selection" work on the IPUMS MICS website? [top]

When a user first enters the variable documentation system, all samples are selected by default. Every variable in the system will display on all relevant screens.

Users can filter the information displayed by selecting only the samples of interest to them. Only the variables available in one of the selected samples will appear in the variable lists. The variable descriptions and codes pages will also be filtered to display only the text and columns corresponding to the selected samples. Sample selections can be altered at any time in your session. Selections do not persist beyond the current session.

When a user enters the extract system after selecting samples, those selections are carried into the data extract system.

What does "Add to cart" mean? [top]

While browsing variables in the documentation system, you can select them to include in a data extract, sending them to your data cart (assuming you have been approved to download data from the sample(s) in question). You can deselect a variable by unchecking its box in the data cart. After you proceed to "create data extract," you can return to the variable list to make more selections.

Using the data extract system

Your data cart [top]

You cannot create data from the extract system unless you are a registered user approved to download a given sample (or samples). If you are not registered, you must apply for access.

At the top right corner of the variables page is a summary of your data cart. This box displays the number of variables and samples you have selected. Clicking the purple circle next to a variable places it in your data cart. You can view your data cart at any time by clicking "View Cart." The "View Cart" link only becomes operative when you have selected a variable or sample.

The data cart lists the variables preselected by the extract system as well as any variables you selected while browsing the documentation. As with the variable selection page, you can remove variables from your extract in this step by clicking the checkbox next to the variable in the "Add to cart" column. If you chose a variable but subsequently altered your sample selections in such a way that the variable is no longer available, it is indicated by an "i" icon.

The data cart also includes links to codes pages and sample availability for the variables in your cart.

Buttons are provided to return to the variable list to make more selections or to alter your sample choices. If you return to the variable list, click on "View Cart" again to return to the data cart.

When you are satisfied with your data selections, click "Create data extract" to finalize your extract request.

Why are some variables in my data cart preselected? [top]

Certain variables appear in your data cart even if you did not select them, and they are not included in the constantly updated count of variables in your data cart.

Unless you are absolutely certain you will not need one of these variables, we recommend that you not remove them from your data cart.

Extract request page [top]

When you click "Create data extract" in the Data Cart, you come to the Extract Request page. If you wish, you can simply hit the "Submit" button and create your data extract.

The page summarizes your data extract and provides options for modifying it. A link at the top expands to show the samples you selected. Click the appropriate links to go back to the variable browsing and sample selection pages to alter your choices. You return to the extract request page via the data cart, where you can review the availability matrix for selections and easily drop variables by unchecking them.

When you submit an extract, there will be a delay ranging from minutes to hours, depending on the size of the job. You do not need to wait on our site for the job to be completed. The system will send you an email when your extract is ready.

The definitions of every extract will remain on the server indefinitely, but the data files are subject to deletion after three days. However, the screen where you download extracts has a feature that lets you revise old extracts. When you click on "revise," all your selections for that extract will be loaded into the system, after which you can edit or regenerate it. Note, however, that each successive data release can create difficulties for recreating old extracts, because codes, samples, and variables may change.

Extract option: Describe your extract [top]

You can describe your extract for future reference. The system will display the description on the page where you download your data extract.