Practical advantages and disadvantages of official statistics

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  • Practical advantages and disadvantages of official statistics
    • Advantages
      • They often provide a more representative sample than surveys conducted with the limited resources available to the sociologist.
      • Official statistics are generally a reliable source of data.
    • Disadvantages
      • The government collects statistics  for its own purposes and not for the benefit of sociologists, so there may be none available for the topic we are interested in studying.
      • The definitions that the state uses in collecting the data may be different from those that sociologists would use.
        • If definitions change over time, it may make the comparisons difficult.
      • They lack validity
      • Marxism: John Irvine (1987), unlike interpretivists, doesn't regard official statistics as merely the outcome of labels applied by officials, instead they see official statistics as serving the interests of Capitalism.
        • Marxists don't see the state as neutral and see the statistics that they produce as part of ruling class ideology which helps them remain in power.
        • For example, unemployment statistics. The state has regularly changed the definition of unemployment over the years which has almost always reduced the numbers officially defined as unemployed. This disguises the true level of unemployment.
    • Qualitative data
      • Existing qualitative sociological research
      • Public documents
      • Personal documents
      • Historical documents




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