cannot extract .dta.gz file

I cannot seem to extract a .dta.gz file and import it into R. The zipped file is about 100MB. Whether I unzip it using WinGZip and then import the actual .dta file into R, or try to unzip the whole file in R, I always end up getting an error that says ''not a Stata version 5-12 .dta file''.

Does anyone have any ideas about how to extract this file so that R will be able to read it?


The .dta files created by our extract system are formatted for Stata version 13. It appears the method you are using to import into R requires a .dta file intended for an older version of Stata. You might try the readstata13 package for R.

Hope this helps.

I have Stata 16 and I get the same error, what’s wrong?

IPUMS data are delivered as a compressed file (a Stata file would be *.dta.gz). You will need to decompress or unzip them before using them. I recommend 7zip as a free decompression software for Windows; the Archive Utility on a Mac will take care of this as well. Please let me know if decompressing the data file does not address this issue.

I’m having an issue unzipping a .dat.gz file on my Mac. The error I get is “Error 79 - Inappropriate file type or format”. This is a recent issue, I was able to unzip files from IPUMS a couple of months ago. I appreciate any suggestions.

Sorry for the inconvenience. Archive Utility sometimes struggles with certain gzipped files; I recommend using either The Unarchiver or using the gunzip command on your Mac Terminal (e.g., gunzip usa_00005.dat.gz). Please contact if neither of these works for you so we can provide more targeted troubleshooting support.

Hello, I used the gunzip command, but the file unzipped appears to be a document rather than dataset. And it can’t be opened using Stata. What shall I do? Thank you!

By default, data are delivered as fixed-width text files (.dat extension). This file type can be read into Stata with the accompanying .do file delivered with your data extract (see screenshot below). Alternatively, you can request a data file that is formatted for Stata by clicking on the “Change” option in the Data Format row of your extract summary/definition page (see second screenshot).

Screenshot 1: Command file for reading fixed width data-set into Stata highlighted below.

Screenshot 2: Extract summary page change option for requesting a Stata-formatted data file.

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Thank you very much for the detailed solution Karl, it’s sorted!

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