Social statistics

Social statistics is the use of statistical measurement systems to study human behavior in a social environment. This can be accomplished through polling a group of people, evaluating a subset of data obtained about a group of people, or by observation and statistical analysis of a set of data that relates to people and their behaviors.

Social scientists use social statistics for many purposes, including:

  • the evaluation of the quality of services available to a group or organization,
  • analyzing behaviors of groups of people in their environment and special situations,
  • determining the wants of people through statistical sampling.

Statistics in the social sciences

Statistics and statistical analyses have become a key feature of social science. Statistics is employed in economics, psychology, political science, sociology and anthropology. There is a debate regarding the uses and value of statistical methods in social science, especially in political science, with some statisticians questioning practices such as data dredging that can lead to unreliable policy conclusions of political partisans who overestimate the interpretive power that non-robust statistical methods such as simple and multiple linear regression allow. Indeed, an important axiom that social scientists cite, but often forget, is that "correlation does not imply causation." For example, it appears widely accepted that the lower numbers of women in decision making positions in politics, business and science is good evidence of gender discrimination. But where men suffer adverse statistical indicators such as greater imprisonment rates or a higher suicide rate, that is not usually accepted as evidence of gender bias acting against them.

The use of statistics has become so widespread in the social sciences that many universities such as Harvard, have developed institutes focusing on "quantitative social science." Harvard's Institute for Quantitative Social Science focuses mainly on fields like political science that incorporate the advanced causal statistical models that Bayesian methods provide. However, some experts in causality feel that these claims of causal statistics are overstated,[1][2]

Statistical methods in social sciences

Methods, techniques and concepts used in quantitative social sciences include:

See also

Further reading

  • Blalock, H.M. Jr, ed. (1974), Measurement in the Social Sciences, Chicago, Illinois: Aldine Publishing, ISBN 0-202-30272-5, retrieved 10 July 2010
  • Blalock, Hubert M (1979), Social Statistics, New York: McGraw-Hill, ISBN 0-07-005752-4
  • Irvine, John, Miles, Ian, Evans, Jeff, (editors), "Demystifying Social Statistics ", London : Pluto Press, 1979. ISBN 0-86104-069-4
  • Miller, Delbert C., & Salkind, Neil J (2002), Handbook of Research Design and Social Measurement, California: Sage, ISBN 0-7619-2046-3, retrieved 10 July 2010CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)


  1. Pearl, Judea 2001, Bayesianism and Causality, or, Why I am only a Half-Bayesian, Foundations of Bayesianism, Kluwer Applied Logic Series, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Vol 24, D. Cornfield and J. Williamson (Eds.) 19-36.
Social science statistics centers

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Statistical databases for social science
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