Large-scale register data for quantitative social research

Methodology and philosophy of science

Course information

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

  • free for PhD candidates of the Graduate School
  • € 575,- for non-members
  • consult our enrolment policy for more information


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

In the academic year 2023-2024 this course will take place online.

Session 1
May 27 (Monday) 2024
Online (Teams)

Session 2
June 3 (Monday) 2024
Online (Teams)

Session 3
June 10 (Monday) 2024
​​​​​​​Online (Teams)

Enrolment available from December.


This course is relevant for researchers who want to learn about Dutch register data. These data are administered by Statistics Netherlands (in Dutch: Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek - CBS). They are mostly about the entire Dutch population and longitudinal by nature. 

Examples of register data are the population register with information on family relationships and addresses (who lives where and with whom), tax registers with e.g. information on income and labour market position, and educational registers with information about enrollment in primary, secondary and tertiary education.

CBS organizes and structures the data so that they can be linked to each other on the individual level, which opens up a wealth of research possibilities. Register data are therefore increasingly used by scholars from the social sciences and humanities. University and other researchers can access the data at CBS under strict privacy regulations.

This course is a collaboration between the Erasmus Graduate School for Social Sciences and the Humanities, the Department of Sociology of the University of Amsterdam, and CBS. The course offers an introduction to using register data for social research with an emphasis on practical applications.

Learning objectives

After attending this course students will:

  • Have a basic understanding of the structure and availability of Dutch register data at CBS;
  • Understand issues like privacy, advantages and disadvantages of register data and specific data issues;
  • Have 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;
  • Know 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

Sessions are a mix of lectures, practical assignments and workshops. 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:

  • An intention to work with Dutch register data within one year, e.g. as a PhD or postdoc, for writing a veni-proposal. Session 3 of the course focuses on how to find the register data you need for your own research plan.
  • A quantitative background: experience with survey or register data and experience with multivariate analysis.
  • Good skills with R, Stata or SPSS.
  • Have a basic understanding of Dutch, since most of the documentation at CBS is in Dutch.

If you are in doubt about whether you meet these criteria, please 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 register, microdata services
  • Advantages and pitfalls of using register data for scientific research
  • Research examples

Session 2: 
Practice: working with CBS-register data 

  • Hands-on practical assignment
  • 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 CBS. 


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 CBS.

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