Advantages And Disadvantages Of Official Statistics In Sociological Research

1132 Words Oct 24th, 2013 5 Pages
Assess the Advantages and Disadvantages of Official Statistics

Official statistics are quantitative data produced by local and national government bodies, and can cover a wide range of behaviour including births, deaths, marriages and divorce, income, crime, and work and leisure. Official statistics can be produced as a by-product of the normal workings of a government department, but they can also result from research designed specifically to produce them.
Two main sources of official statistics are the government and its departments, and surveys. For example, government departments such as the Home Office and Education and Skills request; process and then publish information from organisations such as local tax offices, social
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However Interpretivists, in particular ethnomethodologists and phenomethodologists, reject the use of official statistics for measuring or determining certain behaviour of which they refer to. Cicourel and Atkinson believe that statistics are the products of meanings, which are assumptions of those who construct them.
However, although they think that official statistics are not social facts, but social constructs, this does not mean they are not of sociological interest. Phenomenologists believe that they can be studied in order to discover how they are produced. Cicourel said that this is the only use of official statistics, partly because all statistics involve classifying things, when such decisions are really subjective. When assessing this view, it seems it cannot be applied to all types of official statistics, especially those concerning data on age and gender. Although there may well be considerable room for interpretation when considering whether, for example, a sudden death is suicide, there is less room for interpretation when deciding whether someone is male or female.
Conflict theories such as marxist and feminist theory, argue that official statistics are neither hard facts or subjective meanings. Instead they believe they consist of information which is systematically distorted by the powerful institutions in society. Although the statistics are not

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