Large-scale register data for quantitative social research

Methodology courses and philosophy of science

Course information

ECTS: 2.5 
Number of sessions: 3
Hours per session: 3.5
Course fee:

  • free for PhD candidates of the Graduate School
  • consult our enrolment policy for more information


Telephone: +31 (0)10 4082607 (Graduate School)

In the academic year 2020-2021 two sessions of this course will take place online.
The second session will take place on campus in Rotterdam due to the sensitivity of the data you will be working with.

Session 1
May 31 (Monday) 2021

Session 2
June 7 (Monday) 2021

Session 3
June 14 (Monday) 2021


Administrative government registers at Statistics Netherlands are increasingly used by scholars from the social sciences and humanities. This course –a collaboration between the Graduate School for Social Sciences and Humanities, UvA (Department of Sociology) and CBS- offers an introduction to using such register data for social research with the emphasis on practical applications. It is aimed at PhD-students who plan to work with large-scale register data in the near future.

Learning objectives

  • Basic understanding of the structure and availability of Dutch register data at Statistics Netherlands;
  • Understand issues like privacy, advantages and disadvantages of register data and specific data issues;
  • Obtain practical insight into register data manipulations and analysis via a hands-on practical assignment: how to link data from different sources, how to select populations and sampling periods, how to prepare your data set for analysis
  • Learn how to translate a theoretical research question into a ‘plan of action’: how to operationalise your research ideas with the existing register data.

Aims and working method

The first and third session will take place at the CBS, the second session is at the EUR. There are three weekly sessions of 3-4 hours each. Sessions are a mix of lectures, practical assignments and workshops. Students will work with CBS-data sets using R, Stata or SPSS. Participants will be informed well in advance by email on how to prepare. There is a homework assignment between session 2 and 3.

Target Group

Students following this course are expected to have:

  • Quantitative background: experience with survey or register data and experience with multivariate analysis
  • Good skills with R, Stata or SPSS. Session 2 consists of a hands-on assignment to practice with data manipulations such as linkage of different data sets
  • Intention to work with Dutch register data within one year, e.g. as a PhD or postdoc, for writing a veni-proposal. Session 3 focuses on how to find the register data you need for your own research plan
  • Have a basic understanding of Dutch, since most of the documentation at CBS is in Dutch
  • If you are in doubt about your background, contact the Graduate School office or the course instructors.

Session descriptions

Session 1:
Lectures: introduction to register data.

  • The Dutch context: Introduction to CBS, Dutch administrative registers.
  • Advantages and pitfalls of using register data for scientific research
  • Research examples
  • Microdata services

Session 2:
Practice: working with CBS-register data
Hands-on practical assignment with actual register data using R, Stata or SPSS.

  • ´Playing with the data´: getting to know the data, practice with data manipulations
  • Homework: your research plan, how to find the register data you need using the online microdata catalog

Session 3:
Workshop: from research question to analysis plan

  • Presentations by all participants and discussion

Attendance for all sessions is mandatory as each session builds upon the previous.

About the instructors

Marjolijn Das is endowed professor  Urban Statistics at The Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Erasmus University, appointed at the Leiden Delft Erasmus Centre for BOLD Cities and a senior statistical researcher at Statistics Netherlands. 


Ruben van Gaalen is endowed professor Register analyses of Life Course Dynamics at the Department of Sociology, University of Amsterdam and a senior statistical researcher at Statistics Netherlands.

Both have extensive experience with social scientific research using CBS register data and surveys.