Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
The what and why of statistics
Statistics can help provide concrete examples of a larger trend, give the basis for an important chart or graph, or make theoretical arguments tangible.
There are two main branches of statistics:
- Descriptive--concerns the numerical or quantitative data alone, and can help draw conclusions about a sample, rather than a population.
- Inferential--concerns the conclusions drawn about an entire population which are infered through the results of a random sampling of a population
Be aware of bias in statistics! Numbers can be manipulated, and charts and graphs can be arranged to give a certain impression. Always double-check your facts!
A list of places to begin research for historical statistics. Consider investigating your state's archives to supplement your research with more specific information.
Research tool with current and historical census and demographic data. Alongside surveys such as the US Census and American Community Survey, the site contains 39 billion data points, 200,000 variables, and 15,000 interactive maps with the ability to create your own maps to visualize data.
Penn World Tables (via University of Groningen)
Originally constructed by economists at University of Pennsylvania and now a collaboration between University of California, Davis and the University of Groningen. Three databases on historical economic development. Data sets within provide long time indicators of economic growth for a wide set of countries--some data extending as far back as 1 AD.
FRED (Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis)
FRED contains historic U.S. economic and financial data, including daily U.S. interest rates, monetary and business indicators, exchange rates, and regional economic data for Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.
A multidisciplinary database of journal articles dating back to the 1800s, all available in online in PDF full-texts. For best results, do an advanced search for a keyword + statistics. This is a good option for primary source material in a number of fields.