This study examines the impact of access to confidential administrative data on the rate, direction, and policy relevance of economics research. To study this question, we exploit the progressive geographic expansion of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Federal Statistical Research Data Centers (FSRDCs). FSRDCs boost data diffusion, help empirical researchers publish more articles in top outlets, and increase citation-weighted publications. Besides direct data usage, spillovers to non-adopters also drive this effect. Further, citations to exposed researchers in policy documents increase significantly. Our findings underscore the importance of data access for scientific progress and evidence-based policy formulation.