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The Social Production of Statistics. The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the Truth? Lecture 2. Leah Wild.

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Presentation on theme: "The Social Production of Statistics. The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the Truth? Lecture 2. Leah Wild."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Social Production of Statistics. The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the Truth? Lecture 2. Leah Wild.

2 Concept A concept is " a mental image we use as summary device for bringing together observations and experiences that seem to have nothing in common [...] they do not exist in the real world, so they can't be measured directly" (Babbie, 1989, p.126)A concept is " a mental image we use as summary device for bringing together observations and experiences that seem to have nothing in common [...] they do not exist in the real world, so they can't be measured directly" (Babbie, 1989, p.126)

3 " Conceptualization is the process of specifying the vague mental imagery of our concepts [by] sorting out the kinds of observations and measurements that will be appropriate for our research" (Babbie, 1989, p.126 )" Conceptualization is the process of specifying the vague mental imagery of our concepts [by] sorting out the kinds of observations and measurements that will be appropriate for our research" (Babbie, 1989, p.126 ) Measuring a concept requires "translating" the concept into something measurable, an indicator or a set of indicators.Measuring a concept requires "translating" the concept into something measurable, an indicator or a set of indicators.

4 Operationalizing concepts. An indicator is a method of measuring a concept. The process of making a concept measurable, the process in which the researcher chooses the particular indicator or sets of indicators to measure the concept is called operationalisation. It is "the development of specific research procedures (operations) that will result in empirical observations representing those concepts in the real world" Babbie (1989), p.129An indicator is a method of measuring a concept. The process of making a concept measurable, the process in which the researcher chooses the particular indicator or sets of indicators to measure the concept is called operationalisation. It is "the development of specific research procedures (operations) that will result in empirical observations representing those concepts in the real world" Babbie (1989), p.129

5 Operationalising Concepts. operationalising concepts involves a set of choices regarding the following:operationalising concepts involves a set of choices regarding the following: 1.units of analysis 2.points of focus 3.treatment of the dimension of time 4.nature of measurement

6 What units of Analysis? Individuals: (e.g. residents, workers, voters, parents, students). Key term - populationIndividuals: (e.g. residents, workers, voters, parents, students). Key term - population Groups (e.g. gangs, families). Their characteristics may be derived from the characteristics of their individual members - age, ethnicity, education of the head.Groups (e.g. gangs, families). Their characteristics may be derived from the characteristics of their individual members - age, ethnicity, education of the head. Organizations (e.g. corporations, churches, colleges, army divisions, academic departments). their characteristics may be derived form facts like number of employees, et annual profits, assets, contracts.Organizations (e.g. corporations, churches, colleges, army divisions, academic departments). their characteristics may be derived form facts like number of employees, et annual profits, assets, contracts. Social Artefacts (automobiles, clothes, building, pottery, jokes, scientific discoveries.)Social Artefacts (automobiles, clothes, building, pottery, jokes, scientific discoveries.)

7 What points of Focus? Characteristics: e.g. sex, age height, marital statusCharacteristics: e.g. sex, age height, marital status Orientations: e.g. attitudes, beliefs, personality traits etc.Orientations: e.g. attitudes, beliefs, personality traits etc. Actions: e.g. striking, dropping out of school, going to churchActions: e.g. striking, dropping out of school, going to church

8 What Time Dimension? Cross-sectional: mostly descriptive and exploratoryCross-sectional: mostly descriptive and exploratory Longitudinal: permitting observations over an extended period of time (trend studies, cohort studies, panel studies: same set of people studied all the time) -Longitudinal: permitting observations over an extended period of time (trend studies, cohort studies, panel studies: same set of people studied all the time) -

9 Choices for the Researcher. what range of variation to considerwhat range of variation to consider what levels of measurement to usewhat levels of measurement to use whether to depend on a single indicator or manywhether to depend on a single indicator or many

10 The Problems with Statistics Key Things to Consider about Statistics Interrogate your sources.Interrogate your sources. Who did the study?Who did the study?Who did the study?Who did the study? What are the statistics measuring?What are the statistics measuring?What are the statistics measuring?What are the statistics measuring? How have the concepts been operationalised?How have the concepts been operationalised? Who was asked?Who was asked?Who was asked?Who was asked? How were they asked?How were they asked?How were they asked?How were they asked? Compared with what?Compared with what?Compared with what?Compared with what?

11 The Use and Abuse of Statistics. Statistics as information.Statistics as information. Statistics as evidence or proof.Statistics as evidence or proof. Statistics as investigation eg. Epidemiology.Statistics as investigation eg. Epidemiology. Statistics to obtain results.Statistics to obtain results. Statistics dont just describe the world they are used to do things too.

12 Who produced the statistics? We can always find contradictory evidence in statistics.We can always find contradictory evidence in statistics. Need to ask Who? How? Where? and Why?Need to ask Who? How? Where? and Why? Tobacco and health example.Tobacco and health example. Dietary advice.Dietary advice. Are statistics objective and value free?Are statistics objective and value free? Look for possible prejudice and bias.Look for possible prejudice and bias.

13 Statements of Fact or Values? Some statistical Facts. Most people find a lover within a mile of their own home.Most people find a lover within a mile of their own home. 42% of people met their partner at work.42% of people met their partner at work. "The poverty rate fell for the fourth consecutive year, from 11.8 percent in 1999 to 11.3 percent in 2000, the lowest since 1979 and statistically the same as the lowest poverty rate ever recorded percent in (see "Poverty in the United States: 2003")"The poverty rate fell for the fourth consecutive year, from 11.8 percent in 1999 to 11.3 percent in 2000, the lowest since 1979 and statistically the same as the lowest poverty rate ever recorded percent in (see "Poverty in the United States: 2003") The annual income of middle-class Americans fell by almost $500 last year and the number of people in poverty rose by 1.7 million (American Census Bureau 2003).The annual income of middle-class Americans fell by almost $500 last year and the number of people in poverty rose by 1.7 million (American Census Bureau 2003). Statistical data is used to support and strengthen particular interests.

14 Interrogate Your Sources. Do statistics give the whole picture?Do statistics give the whole picture? Ie. Stats on prison poulation dont give an indication of crime in society.Ie. Stats on prison poulation dont give an indication of crime in society. Stats on sexual offences dont tell us how many offences actually take place.Stats on sexual offences dont tell us how many offences actually take place. A rise in prison population doesnt mean a rise in crime.A rise in prison population doesnt mean a rise in crime.

15 Interrogate Your Sources Power, ideology and Statistics. Stats can be used to produce certain effects.Stats can be used to produce certain effects. Eg. Manipulating voting behaviour.Eg. Manipulating voting behaviour. Gaining support for a policy.Gaining support for a policy. Statistics and immigration policy.Statistics and immigration policy. Statistics, IQ tests and racist education policy.Statistics, IQ tests and racist education policy. Nazi use of statistics to justify eugenics.Nazi use of statistics to justify eugenics. Legalising or criminalising certain behaviours. (Cannabis example).Legalising or criminalising certain behaviours. (Cannabis example).

16 What do statistics Prove? The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or the Americans.The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or the Americans. On the other hand, the French eat a lot of fat, they drink more wine and also suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or the Americans.On the other hand, the French eat a lot of fat, they drink more wine and also suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or the Americans. The Japanese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or the Americans.The Japanese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or the Americans. The Italians drink excessive amounts of red wine and also suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or the Americans.The Italians drink excessive amounts of red wine and also suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or the Americans. Conclusion: Eat and drink whatever you like. It's speaking English that kills you!!!!Conclusion: Eat and drink whatever you like. It's speaking English that kills you!!!!

17 Conclusion. Statistics means never having to say you're certain!


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