Frequently Asked Questions
- Q: What are the geographic
units for which data are available?
- A: The basic ARF is
maintained at the county level. Many different
geographic codes are included on the file including:
FIPS state code, metropolitan-micropolitan
statistical area codes, Urban/Rural Continuum Code,
Typology Codes, Economic Area Codes, and region
codes so that the data can be easily aggregated to
higher geographic levels. Effective with the 2001
release of the ARF, all independent cities and
Alaska boroughs/census areas are available for 1992
and later data.
- Q: How often is the ARF
released and when was the last release?
- A: The ARF is released
annually. The 2011-2012 ARF ASCII version was
released in March 2012 and is the latest release.
Please note the year of file reflects the release
date, not the year of the data contained on the
file. The ARF carries historic data.
- Q: What are the primary data
- A: The ARF integrates
data from numerous primary data sources including:
the American Hospital Association, the American
Medical Association, the American Dental
Association, the American Osteopathic Association,
the Bureau of the Census, the Centers for Medicare
and Medicaid Services (formerly Health Care
Financing Administration), Bureau of Labor
Statistics, National Center for Health Statistics
and the Veteran’s Administration.
- Q: Can I order historical data
that are on an older version of the ARF?
- A: Yes, historic
versions of the ARF are available. However, note
that some historic fields are carried on the basic
ARF ASCII file and on the ARF Access.
The ARF Access has much more historic
information than the basic ARF. Because the record
length of the basic ARF is limited, fields are taken
off each year as new data are added. With the
exception of few fields, no data are removed from
the ARF Access. There are approximately 23,800
variables on ARF Access and 6,000 on the basic
To find out what variables are on the 2011-2012
ARF and 2011-2012 ARF Access,
- Q: What is
the appropriate citation for the ARF?
- A: For the most
current release: Area Resource File (ARF).
2011-2012. US Department of Health and Human
Services, Health Resources and Services
Administration, Bureau of Health Professions,
- Q: How quickly can I receive
the file after ordering?
- A: The ARF is now
downloadable. To immediately obtain a copy of the
file, go to the order link and click on the file of
interest in the box at the bottom of the page. If you
prefer to obtain a CD, upon receipt of the order,
the file is shipped via FedEx overnight.
- Q: Can special files be
prepared if I don't want to order the entire file?
- A: Yes, you can
receive a price quote if you provide the specific
variables and specifications for the data you are
- Q: Can I be notified upon the
release of the next version of the ARF?
- A: Yes, a list of
e-mail and mailing addresses is maintained each year
that is used for notification of new releases.
- Q: What software package do I
need to use the file?
- A: Because the ARF is
a large ASCII file, software such as SAS or SPSS or
any high level programming language capable of
processing large files must be used to extract data.
- Q: Can I use the data with
database and spreadsheet packages such as MS Access,
- A: The standard data
file must be read with the software mentioned above,
but the 2011-2012 ARF Access System is also
available. This version has a built-in, user
friendly front-end that enables users to extract the
desired data into Access or Excel formats. You can
also access the data in the MS Access tables
- Q: How do I use the data with
SAS or SPSS?
- A: A SAS file
definition is included with the documentation. This
definition can be modified for use with SPSS. When
using SAS with the 2001 and earlier versions, be
sure to include recfm=f in your infile statement.
For the 2002 (and later) versions, do not include
recfm=f in your infile statement. When using SPSS
with the 2001 and previous versions, you should
include mode=image and recfm=f in your infile
statement. For the 2002 and later versions, you
should include mode=character in your infile
- Q: What are the file
- A: The ARF is an ASCII
file with a fixed record format and a record length
of 31897 (for the 2011-2012 release). The current
release of the ARF has 3230 records (one for each
county and independent city in the U.S. as well as
one for each county equivalent in the following U.S.
territories: Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin
Islands). There are approximately 6000 variables for
each county. The file size is approximately 100MB.
Programming software, such as SAS or SPSS is needed
to extract data from the file, unless using the MS
Q: What software do I need to use the ARF Access
The ARF Access System uses Microsoft Access. MS
Access 2000 or later version is required. It
should be noted, however, that though Microsoft
Access is required, no knowledge of MS Access is
required. Selected data can be readily exported.
- Q: What is the difference
between ARF and ARF Access?
- A: The ARF file is
an ASCII file with a fixed record format and a
record length of 31897 (for the 2011-2012
release). The current release of the ARF has
3230 records (one for each county and
independent city in the U.S. as well as one for
each county equivalent for Guam, Puerto Rico and
the Virgin Islands). There are approximately
6000 variables for each county. The file size is
approximately 100MB. Programming software such
as SAS or SPSS is needed to extract the data
from the file.
The ARF Access System is an Access database
using Microsoft Access. Though Microsoft Access
is required, no knowledge of MS Access is
needed. This version has a built-in user
friendly front-end that enables the user to
extract the desired data in Access or Excel
formats. You can also access the data in MS
Access tables directly. The ARF Access carries
more historic data than the ARF ASCII file.
There are approximately 26,000 variables for
- Q: What data are available
on the ARF Access System?
- A: To find out
what variables are on this release,
click here. The 2011-2012 version of ARF
Access should be available in late spring 2012.