Guides on Using Statistics

Common Concepts in Statistics
Glossary of common statistical terms and concepts, written by a biostatistician.

Concepts and Applications of Inferential Statistics
A free, full-length, and occasionally interactive statistics textbook developed and maintained by Richard Lowry, Professor of Psychology at Vassar College.

Statistics Every Writer Should Know (from Robert Niles' Journalism Help)
Overview of basic statistical measures and tests from a layperson's perspective.

Statistics to Use
Discussion of a selection of statistical tests, plus specialized online calculators that can be used to run them. Hosted by the College of St. Benedict at St. John's University.

Statistical Source Directories and Indexes

American FactFinder
First launched in 1999, American FactFinder is intended to provide the public with an easy-to-use tool for browsing, searching, and mapping statistical data. The data stored here is derived from the 1990 Census, the 1997 Economic Census, the American Community Survey and the 2000 Census. Downloadable data sets are also available. With its graphical interface and well-written help screens, this is a convenient lookup site.

A one-stop search engine for statistical information collected and maintained by over 100 Federal Government agencies. Easy to use.

Social Indicators (United Nations Statistics Division)
A directory of statistical tables featuring national statistics on population, human settlements, water supply and sanitation, housing, health, child-bearing, education, literacy, income and economic activity, and unemployment. Along with the tables themselves, there are references to many other sources.

Statistical Abstract of the United States
The most popular statistical source in the country, this annual publication contains statistics on a wide variety of subjects (the 2003 edition includes 31 major subject categories). The site includes the complete text for every volume from 1995 to the present in Portable Document Format (*.pdf). A major drawback to the site's usefulness is the lack of a search engine for the content, but each volume's print index is available online.

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Statistical Sources By Subject Matter

Business, Labor, and Other Economic Statistics

2002 Economic Census
The Economic Census profiles the US economy every five years, from the national to the local level. Reports based on data collected in the most recent Economic Census have been published continuously since 1999. Most reports focus on specific geographic areas or industrial sectors, and data are available using both the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) and the North American Industry Classfication System (NAICS). This site includes all the reports currently available, and reports from the 1997 Economic Census are also available.

Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA)
This agency's mission statement summarizes its activity: "The mission of BEA is to produce and disseminate accurate, timely, relevant, and cost-effective economic accounts statistics that provide government, businesses, households, and individuals with a comprehensive, up-to-date picture of economic activity. BEA's national, regional, and international economic accounts present basic information on such key issues as U.S. economic growth, regional economic development, and the Nation's position in the world economy." The BEA is responsible for a number of useful statistical publications, including the monthly Survey of Current Business.

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
The statistics available at this site include timeseries data, surveys, and a variety of economic indicators related to labor and employment. News releases, reports, and other resources at the site help you put the data in context.
Sponsored by the Economic Development Administration, is intended "to help practitioners, researchers, students, and other data users quickly gain access to relevant state and substate socioeconomic data." The links are indexed by source and subject, and additional pages listing the editors' choice of "best sites" and "quick links" can save search time.

Foreign Trade Statistics
Site hosted by the Foreign Trade Division of the U.S. Census Bureau offers a variety of current and historical (to 1991) statistical data, including U.S. trade with individual countries, imports and exports, the balance of trade, and more. Most reports employ the Standard International Trade Classification.

OECD Statistics
Economic statistics for the 29 member states of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Topics include agriculture, labor, industry, trade, energy, debt, education, transportation, and health.

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Crime and Legal Statistics

Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)
The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), a component of the Office of Justice Programs in the U.S. Department of Justice, is the United States' primary source for criminal justice statistics. BJS collects, analyzes, publishes, and disseminates information on crime, criminal offenders, victims of crime, and the operation of justice systems at all levels of government. A substantial amount of statistical data is available here. In addition to summaries and reports, the site makes available many sets of aggregated data assembled into spreadsheets and ready for download. Also see the Bureau's Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, made available online in cooperation with the State University of New York at Albany.

Federal Justice Statistics Resource Center
The Federal Justice Statistics Resource Center (FJSRC) maintains the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) Federal Justice Statistics Program (FJSP) database, which contains information about suspects and defendants processed in the Federal criminal justice system. Using data obtained from Federal agencies, the FJSP compiles comprehensive information describing defendants from each stage of Federal criminal case processing. The site includes downloadable data sets.

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Education Statistics

National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)
Part of the U.S. Department of Education, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education in the United States and other nations. NCES issues approximately 100 publications and several datasets each year. The documents include early releases, bulletins, statistical reports, directories, and handbooks of standard terminology. The web site contains a search engine you can use to locate the many statistics NCES has placed online since 1996.

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Environmental Statistics

Envirofacts Data Warehouse and Applications
Created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Envirofacts is intended "to provide the public with direct access to the information contained in EPA databases on air, chemicals, facility information, grants/funding, hazardous waste, risk management plans, superfund, toxic releases, water permits, drinking water, drinking water contaminant occurrence, and drinking water microbial and disinfection byproduct information." The search engine enables you to search one or more databases at a time, and you can create reports or generate maps based on the data you extract.

Statistics on the Number of Threatened and Endangered Wildlife and Plants (Division of Endangered Species, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
This government site maintains lists of plant and animal species that receive protection under the Endangered Species Act. The documents available here include statistical tables based on the Division's classification system and the definitions of “endangered” and “threatened” species stipulated by the Act. Also includes state maps and species information.

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Health and Medical Statistics

National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS)
The NCHS is a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and it functions as the Federal Government's principal vital and health statistics agency. The site's "Data Warehouse" includes data on vital events as well as information on health status, lifestyle and exposure to unhealthy influences, the onset and diagnosis of illness and disability, and the use of health care. Much of the data the NCHS collects each year is published in the well-organized digest titled Health, United States. The site can be searched or browsed.

World Health Organization Statistical Information System (WHOSIS)
The purpose of the WHOSIS web site is to describe - and to the extent possible provide access to - statistical and epidemiological data and information presently available from the World Health Organization and elsewhere in electronic or other forms. The site includes statistics about basic health indicators, diseases and conditions, health personnel, HIV/AIDS, mortality, and other subjects. A selection of classifications and other statistical tools are also provided.

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Historical Statistics

Access to Archival Databases (AAD) System (National Archives and Records Administration)
Access point for data records covering a wide range of historical topics. The data files can be queried through the site's search interface, with the results downloadable into a spreadsheet program for analysis.

United States Historical Census Data Browser
This site, hosted by the University of Virginia Library, provides census data for each U.S. state and county from 1790 to 1970. The information was drawn from a statistical data file created by the the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) [Study Number 0003, "Historical Demographic, Economic and Social Data: The United States, 1790-1970"]. The online viewing tools work best for browsing.

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Political and Public Opinion Statistics

Federal Election Commission (FEC)
The statistics available at the FEC's site fall into two general categories: (1) those dealing with voting and voter registration, and (2) those dealing with the financing of elections. Voter turnout and registration statistics are available back to 1960, although the earliest data is not very detailed. Campaign finance reports and data based on legally required disclosures and filings are available for federal elections to the 1996 campaigns. The fundraising activities of political parties and political action committees are also provided for 1995 to the present.

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Population and Demographic Statistics

American Housing Survey Data
The American Housing Survey is the largest, regular national housing sample survey in the United States. It provides data on apartments, single-family homes, mobile homes, vacant homes, family composition, income, housing and neighborhood quality, housing costs, equipment, fuels, size of housing unit, and recent movers. National data are collected every other year, from a fixed sample of about 50,000 homes, plus new construction each year. Hosted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

U.S. Census Bureau (Census 2000 Data)
The official site for online release of data from the 2000 census. Here you can obtain demographic profiles for geographic locations, information on apportionment and redistricting, release schedules, news, maps, educational materials, and more.

Developed by the Population Reference Bureau and the Social Science Data Analysis Network, AmeriStat offers instant summaries — in graphics and text — of the demographic characteristics of the U.S. population. The data is organized by a simple table of topics on the opening screen, and each summary includes links to the data files in text and Excel formats.

County and City Data Books (1988, 1994, 2000)
The County and City Data Book is a detailed supplement to the Statistical Abstract of the United States. Focusing on smaller geographical units than most of the tables in the Statistical Abstract, the Data Book provides a variety of data drawn from the Census of Population and Housing and other sources at the county and selected municipal levels. This site, based at the University of Virginia's Geospatial and Statistical Data Center, has taken the data from the three most recent editions of the Data Book and placed them online as a searchable resource you can use to create custom printouts and/or customized data subsets.

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Science and Technology Statistics

Chemistry WebBook (National Institute of Standards & Technology)
Easy access to chemical and physical property data for chemical species. The data is drawn from collections maintained by the NIST Standard Reference Data Program and outside contributors. Most entries include the species name, molecular weight, CAS registry number, structure image, additional names for the species, and links to other data.

International Atomic Energy Agency: Major Databases
Eight of the most widely used numerical, facutal, time series, and bibliographic databases available through the IAEA's web site. These databases include the Atomic Molecular Data Information System, the Global Network of Isotopes in Precipitation, and the Nuclear Data Information System. A complete directory of 35 databases (with links) is also available..

International System of Units (SI)
The International System of Units (SI) is the modern metric system of measurement. Here you can find the units, prefixes, and associated rules, along with a bibliography of additional references. This page is a sub-section of the National Institute of Standards & Technology Reference on Constants, Units and Uncertainty.

WebElements Periodic Table of the Elements
This is the "Scholar Edition" of an online reference to the elements based at the University of Sheffield. You can look up information and data about each elements and view graphics showing elements structures and periodic properties here. WebElements will also include simple compounds as it is further developed.