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What is Statistics?

At this stage, definitely you should know more about Statistics. What are its actual uses in Economics? Whether it has any other meaning? Let us see how we can answer these questions to get closer to the subject. In our daily language the word 'Statistics' is used in two distinct senses: singular and plural. In the plural sense, 'statistics' means 'numerical facts systematically collected' as described by Oxford Dictionary. Thus, the simple meaning of statistics in plural sense is data. The term statistics in singular is the 'science of collecting, classifying and using statistics' or a 'statistical fact'? By data or statistics, we mean both quantitative and qualitative facts that are used in Economics.

For example, a statement in Economics like “the production of rice in India has increased from 43.65 million tonnes in 1974 75 to 54.96 million tonnes in 1984-85”, is quantitative fact. The numerical figures such as '43.65 million tonnes' and '54.96 million tonnes' are statistics of the production of rice in India for 1974-75 and 1984-85 respectively. In economics we have used both quantitative data and qualitative data. The important characteristic of such information is that they describe attributes of a single person or a group of people that is important to record as accurately as possible even though they cannot be measured in quantitative terms.

Let us take an example that the “gender” which distinguishes a person as man / woman or boy/girl. It is often possible (and useful) to state the information about an attribute of a person in terms of degrees (like better/ worse/worst; sick/ healthy/ more healthy; unskilled/ skilled/ highly skilled etc.). Such qualitative information or statistics is always used in Economics and other social sciences and these information collected and stored systematically like quantitative information (on prices, incomes, taxes paid etc.), whether for a single person or a group of persons. In the latter chapters, you will study that statistics involves collection and organisation of data.

The next step is to present the data in tabular, diagrammatic and graphic forms. Finally the data is summarised by calculating different numerical indices like mean, variance, standard deviation etc. that represent the broad characteristics of the collected set of information.

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