Stata Basics: Data Import, Use and Export

In Stata, the first step of analyzing a dataset is opening the data in Stata so that it knows which file you are working with. Yes, you can simply double click on a Stata data file that ends in .dta to open it, but we prefer to write syntax so we can easily reproduce the same work or use the scripts again when working on similar tasks. In this post, we introduce methods of reading in, using, and saving Stata and other formats of data files.

sysuse: reading in datasets come with Stata

Several example datasets are installed with Stata. This command reads in one of them, census.dta, to memory. You should be able to see the data in your Stata Data Browser after running this following line.

sysuse census.dta
(1980 Census data by state)

describe: the information of the dataset in memory


Contains data from /Applications/Stata/ado/base/c/census.dta
  obs:            50                          1980 Census data by state
 vars:            13                          6 Apr 2014 15:43
 size:         2,900                          
              storage   display    value
variable name   type    format     label      variable label
state           str14   %-14s                 State
state2          str2    %-2s                  Two-letter state abbreviation
region          int     %-8.0g     cenreg     Census region
pop             long    %12.0gc               Population
poplt5          long    %12.0gc               Pop, < 5 year
pop5_17         long    %12.0gc               Pop, 5 to 17 years
pop18p          long    %12.0gc               Pop, 18 and older
pop65p          long    %12.0gc               Pop, 65 and older
popurban        long    %12.0gc               Urban population
medage          float   %9.2f                 Median age
death           long    %12.0gc               Number of deaths
marriage        long    %12.0gc               Number of marriages
divorce         long    %12.0gc               Number of divorces
Sorted by: 

Tip: run set more off to tell Stata to pause for -more- messages

summarize: summary statistics


    Variable |        Obs        Mean    Std. Dev.       Min        Max
       state |          0
      state2 |          0
      region |         50        2.66    1.061574          1          4
         pop |         50     4518149     4715038     401851   2.37e+07
      poplt5 |         50    326277.8    331585.1      35998    1708400
     pop5_17 |         50    945951.6    959372.8      91796    4680558
      pop18p |         50     3245920     3430531     271106   1.73e+07
      pop65p |         50    509502.8    538932.4      11547    2414250
    popurban |         50     3328253     4090178     172735   2.16e+07
      medage |         50       29.54    1.693445       24.2       34.7
       death |         50    39474.26    41742.35       1604     186428
    marriage |         50     47701.4    45130.42       4437     210864
     divorce |         50    23679.44    25094.01       2142     133541

clear: wipe out the data in memory


use: read in Stata datasets

Most of the time we use datasets that are either stored on our machine or on the web. Simply use the use command to read in the data file to memory.

* read in data files on the web

Contains data from
  obs:            10                          Apple trees
 vars:             2                          16 Jan 2014 11:23
 size:           100                          
              storage   display    value
variable name   type    format     label      variable label
treatment       int     %8.0g                 Fertilizer
weight          double  %10.0g                Average weight in grams
Sorted by: 

cd: change directory

Now let's save this dataset on the web to your machine. You can use the cd command to tell Stata where to save this file. You can also go to File...Change working directory... to set your working directory.

* see the current directory


* Change directory (plug in the path on your machine)

* Your directory/path may look like this -
* Stata for Windows: 
* cd C:Users\username\data
* Stata for Mac: 
* cd /Users/username/data

save: save files

save apple

file apple.dta saved

* use the replace option to overwrite an existing file 
save apple, replace

file apple.dta saved

dir: display file names

* see what's in your working directory
* you should see apple.dta listed in your directory

insheet and outsheet: import and export .csv files

Sometimes we work with other programs in addition to Stata. In those cases we may need to import data files that are not in a Stata format or export Stata data files to other formats. Here is an example of how to save datasets as .csv files and read them into Stata.

* -outsheet-: save as .csv files
outsheet using apple.csv, comma 

* -insheet-: read in .csv files
insheet using "apple.csv", clear

(2 vars, 10 obs)

Note: Per Stata 15 documentation, "insheet/outsheet have been superseded by import delimited. insheet/outsheet continue to work but, as of Stata 13, are no longer an official part of Stata."


  • StataCorp. (2017). Stata Statistical Software: Release 15. College Station, TX: StataCorp LLC.
  • StataCorp. (2017). Stata 15 Base Reference Manual. College Station, TX: Stata Press.

Yun Tai
CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow
University of Virginia Library
October 14, 2016
Updated May 23, 2023

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