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Economics: Data and Statistics

What is the difference between Data and Statistics?

People often use the terms data and statistics interchangeably. However, researchers realize there is an important distinction between data and statistics.  Put in the reverse, statistics provide an interpretation and/or summary of data.

Data is the raw information from which statistics are created.  Raw data is the direct result of research that was conducted as part of a study or survey. It is a primary source. Data can be analyzed and interpreted using statistical procedures to answer the questions “why” or “how.” Data is used to create new information and knowledge. Data usually comes in the form of a digital dataset or machine-readable file that can be analyzed using software such as Excel, SPSS, SAS, and so on.

A dataset may look like this:
Example: Raw Data



Statistics are the results of data analysis.  Statistics can be reported as numbers or percentages and often come in the form of a summary table or chart.  Statistics will answer the questions “how much” or “how many” so they are what you look for when you need a quick number.

Statistics may look like this:
Example: Statistics

Thanks to the MSU libraries for the inspiration for this tab, learn more on their guide.

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