Sociology Index

STATISTICS

Statistics refers to a collection of tests or techniques that are applied to the data, or observations, which social scientists have gathered. Statistics and statistical analyses have become a key feature of social science. Statistics is employed in economics, psychology, political science, sociology and anthropology. 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.

There are two categories of statistics: descriptive and inferential. Descriptive statistics are used to describe characteristics of the sample or population the researcher is working with, for example one can calculate a mean, standard deviation, etc. Inferential statistics are used for drawing inferences about a population based on the observations of a sample. For example, reports of opinion polls routinely note that ‘a sample of this size is accurate to within x% 19 times out of 20’. This is the inference to be drawn about the population from which the sample was drawn.

Statistics In Sociology, 1950–2000: A Selective Review
Adrian E. Raftery.
Abstract: Statistical methods have had a successful half-century in sociology, contributing to a greatly improved standard of scientific rigor in the discipline. I identify three overlapping postwar generations of statistical methods in sociology, based on the kinds of data they address.

The first generation, which started in the late 1940s, deals with cross-tabulations and focuses on measures of association and log-linear models, perhaps the area of statistics to which sociology has contributed the most.

The second generation, which began in the 1960s, deals with unit-level survey data and focuses on LISREL-type causal models and event-history analysis.

The third generation, starting to emerge in the late 1980s, deals with data that do not fall easily into either of these categories, either because they have a different form, such as texts or narratives, or because dependence is a crucial aspect, as with spatial or social network data. There are many new challenges, and the area is ripe for statistical research; several major institutions have recently launched new initiatives in statistics and the social sciences.