Project LEGAL's

Public Policy Analyst



Public Policy Steps


Back

Statistics


Statistics refers to numerical facts or data. Usually statistics are organized and tabulated to present significant information. Statistical data are essential to demonstrate the existence of a social problem. Statistics regarding specific social conditions can be compared among different locations or over a period of time to demonstrate that an undesirable social condition is worse in one community or has increased over a number of years.

When using statistics in PPA, always consider the source. Usually government data is more accurate and objective compared to data gathered by private interest groups. For example, for years the tobacco companies paid for research studies to yield data that there was no connection between smoking and cancer. Later, government studies by the Surgeon Generalís office refuted such studies.

Here are some basic guidelines in using statistics in PPA:

Be sure to try to use the most appropriate statistics. For example, in an election, the incumbent (the candidate who holds the office and is seeking reelection) often uses the statistic of how many thousands of jobs have been created. The opponent though may point to the statistic that unemployment in the community has actually increased significantly. A vitamin company may advertise that eleven-year-olds that took their vitamins grew an average of three inches over 12 months. For that statistic to have any meaning, one would need to know statistics concerning how much the average eleven-year-old grows in a year.

Use the most appropriate type of analysis and display. Computer applications such as Excel and PowerPoint provide a variety of ways to create and display charts and graphs of your data

Be sure that you clearly show the relationship of your statistical data to the social problem you are studying. Remember that you are much more familiar with the problem than someone who is just reading your analysis. Add a statement below the data that clarifies its significance and relationship to the problem.