Social statistics
Social statistics is the use of statistical
Statistics is the study of the collection, organization, analysis, and interpretation of data. It deals with all aspects of this, including the planning of data collection in terms of the design of surveys and experiments....

 measurement systems to study human
Humans are the only living species in the Homo genus...

 behavior in a social environment. This can be accomplished through polling
Opinion poll
An opinion poll, sometimes simply referred to as a poll is a survey of public opinion from a particular sample. Opinion polls are usually designed to represent the opinions of a population by conducting a series of questions and then extrapolating generalities in ratio or within confidence...

 a particular group of people, evaluating a particular 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 (but not limited to): 1) the evaluation
Program evaluation
Project evaluation is a systematic method for collecting, analyzing, and using information to answer questions about projects, policies and programs, particularly about their effectiveness and efficiency...

 of the quality of services available to a particular group or organization, 2) analyzing behaviors of groups of people in their environment and special situations, and 3) determining the wants or needs of people through statistical sampling
Sampling (statistics)
In statistics and survey methodology, sampling is concerned with the selection of a subset of individuals from within a population to estimate characteristics of the whole population....


Statistics in the Social Sciences

Statistics and statistical analyses have become a key feature of contemporary social science. Statistics is and has been perhaps most important in economics
Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. The term economics comes from the Ancient Greek from + , hence "rules of the house"...

 and psychology
Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. Its immediate goal is to understand individuals and groups by both establishing general principles and researching specific cases. For many, the ultimate goal of psychology is to benefit society...

 but is also employed in political science
Political science
Political Science is a social science discipline concerned with the study of the state, government and politics. Aristotle defined it as the study of the state. It deals extensively with the theory and practice of politics, and the analysis of political systems and political behavior...

, sociology
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

 and anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

. There is, however, currently a heated debate regarding the questionable uses and value of statistical methods in social science, especially in political science, with many statisticians questioning the policy conclusions of political partisans who overestimate the interpretive power that non-robust statistical methods such as simple and multiple linear regression
Linear regression
In statistics, linear regression is an approach to modeling the relationship between a scalar variable y and one or more explanatory variables denoted X. The case of one explanatory variable is called simple regression...

 allow. Indeed, an important mantra that social scientists cite, but often forget, is that "correlation
In statistics, dependence refers to any statistical relationship between two random variables or two sets of data. Correlation refers to any of a broad class of statistical relationships involving dependence....

 does not imply causation
Causality is the relationship between an event and a second event , where the second event is understood as a consequence of the first....


The use of statistics has become so widespread in the social sciences that many top 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
Political science
Political Science is a social science discipline concerned with the study of the state, government and politics. Aristotle defined it as the study of the state. It deals extensively with the theory and practice of politics, and the analysis of political systems and political behavior...

 that are incorporate the advanced causal statistical models that Bayesian methods provide.

Statistical Methods in Social Sciences

A number of methods, techniques and concepts have been developed or extensively used in various branches of quantitative social sciences. Those include, in no particular order:
  • Structural Equation Modeling
    Structural equation modeling
    Structural equation modeling is a statistical technique for testing and estimating causal relations using a combination of statistical data and qualitative causal assumptions...

     and factor analysis
    Factor analysis
    Factor analysis is a statistical method used to describe variability among observed, correlated variables in terms of a potentially lower number of unobserved, uncorrelated variables called factors. In other words, it is possible, for example, that variations in three or four observed variables...

  • Multilevel models
  • Cluster analysis
  • Latent class model
    Latent class model
    In statistics, a latent class model relates a set of observed discrete multivariate variables to a set of latent variables. It is a type of latent variable model. It is called a latent class model because the latent variable is discrete...

  • Item response theory
    Item response theory
    In psychometrics, item response theory also known as latent trait theory, strong true score theory, or modern mental test theory, is a paradigm for the design, analysis, and scoring of tests, questionnaires, and similar instruments measuring abilities, attitudes, or other variables. It is based...

  • Survey methodolgy and survey sampling
    Survey sampling
    In statistics, survey sampling describes the process of selecting a sample of elements from a target population in order to conduct a survey.A survey may refer to many different types or techniques of observation, but in the context of survey sampling it most often involves a questionnaire used to...

Social Science Statistics Centers

Cross Disciplinary

Labor Statistics

Further reading

  • Irvine, John, Miles, Ian, Evans, Jeff, (editors), "Demystifying Social Statistics ", London : Pluto Press, 1979. ISBN 0861040694
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