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Statistics Defined

There have been many definitions of the terms ‘Statistics’ – indeed scholarly articles have carefully collected together hundreds of definitions. Some have defined Statistics as statistical data (plural sense) whereas others as statistical and hence it is necessary to examine a few definitions of statistics to understand the characteristics of statistical data.

Webster defined statistics as “the classified facts representing the conditions of the people in a State, especially those facts which can be stated in numbers or in tables of numbers or in any tabular or classified arrangement.”

The above definition is too narrow as it confines the scope of statistics to only such facts and figures which relate to the conditions of the people in a State.

Yule and Kendall defined statistics as “By statistics we mean quantitative data affected to a marked extent by multiplicity of causes.”

This definition is less comprehensive than the one give by Prof. Horace Secrist who defined statistics as follows:

“By Statistics we mean aggregates of facts affected to a marked extent by multiplicity of causes, numerically expressed, enumerated or estimated according to reasonable of accuracy, collected in a systematic manner for a predetermined purpose and placed in relation to each other.”

This definition clearly points out characteristics which numerical data must possess in order that they may be called statistics. These are as follows:

1. Statistics are aggregates of facts. Single and isolated figures are not statistics for the simple reason that such figures are unrelated and cannot be compared.

2. Statistics are affected to a market extent by multiplicity of causes. Generally speaking, facts and figures are affected to a considerable extent by a number of forces operating together.

3. Statistics are numerically expressed. All statistics are numerical statements of facts i.e., expressed in numbers. Qualitative statements such as ‘The population of India is rapidly increasing’; or ‘The production of wheat is not sufficient’; or ‘India is a poor country’ do not constitute statistics. The reason is that such statements are vague and one cannot make out anything from them.

4. Statistics are enumerated or estimated according to reasonable standards of accuracy. Facts and figures about any phenomenon can be derived in two ways, viz., by actual counting and measurements or by estimate. Estimates cannot be as precise and accurate as actual counts or measurements.

5. Statistics are collected in systematic manner. Before collecting statistics a suitable plan of data collection should be prepared and the work carried out in a systematic manner. Data collected in a haphazard manner would very likely lead to fallacious conclusions.

6. Statistics are collected for a pre-determined purpose. The purpose of collecting data must be decided in advance. The purpose should be specific and well defined. A general statement of purpose in not enough.

7. Statistics should be placed in relation to each other. If numerical facts are to be called statistics, they should be comparable. Statistical data are often compared period-wise or region-wise.

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