US Department of Education sent me National Household Education Surveys Program data via cd-rom and I'm looking for tips/software/best-practices here for converting/viewing/manipulating this data. Also a basic, if not thorough understanding of the data formats that it contains and what software I can use with them.

It comes with its own software, but it won't work on win > 7, so I can't use it...and I'm assuming I wouldn't want to anyways.

The data consists of a few folders, two in question are ASCIIProg and DataFiles:

DataFiles consist of .dat files, which a search tells me "DAT, or Data Files, contain generic data which may be utilized or referenced by other programs."
so I'm assuming its like a typical ASCII file and/or tab-delimited/comma-separated file.
If I'm right, then no worries, I'll quickly convert them to .csv

ASCIIProg: consists of files with .dct, .do, .sas, and .sps extensions.
I'm vaguely aware of .dct (dictionary) and that .sas and .sps are (proprietary?) formats that the government utilized heavily in the 1990s.
A quick search tells me that:
Fixed format ASCII with a SAS program - .sas
Fixed format ASCII with an SPSS program - .sps
Fixed format ASCII with a Stata program - .do
So essentially these are all files for specific software?
Seeing as how they are ASCII, can I easily convert them to .csv?

Any thoughts here are greatly appreciated!
I'd like to know exactly what the programs/software/extensions are so I can find documentation and get a clear picture in my head, as well as know exactly what I can, can't do when converting, etc. Also, with that better understanding I/we can clean up this question for greater accuracy/relevancy.

Hailing from Virginia, I really only care about the commonwealth's data, but as an added bonus, I'll be sure to upload everything in a fresh datahub.io repository for everyone's use.

Apologies in advance - I did do some homework here, but after finding multiple definitions for .sas and .sps, I quickly backtracked from the rabbit hole and came here to maintain my sanity.

1 Answer 1


nces data are generally complex sample survey data, which means you'll eventually need a statistical package (sas, spss, stata, or R) to work with the microdata correctly. R is the only free option here, and you can load the ascii file directly into R with the SAScii package. good luck!

install.packages("SAScii") # if it is not already installed.
x <- read.SAScii( "C:/path to/file.dat" , "C:/path to/sas import program.sas" )
  • n00b question - i'm assuming i install R and run the above from cmd/terminal? without knowing, i'm sure R has some great libraries for conversion to csv
    – albert
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 13:34

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