Individuals and organizations collect data because the information is needed. They may want information to keep records for administrative purposes, make decisions about important issues, or they may be required to pass information on to others. Whatever the specific reason, data have to be collected to provide information.
But who in society wants or needs information? Some of the many groups and organizations that use statistics include:
Governments: Federal, provincial and local governments need information on the population and the economy, among other things. This information is used to develop, implement and monitor social and economic programs. It helps governments make decisions on issues such as where to build hospitals, locate services, or how much money to raise through taxation. It also allows the public to measure a government's performance in making these decisions and holds it accountable if it does not meet these measurements.
Businesses: Most Canadian businesses require information. This information may be about the economy of a local population or various social trends. It helps them make decisions about employing people, marketing their products and opening new offices, warehouses and factories.
Community groups: These organizations need information about a wide variety of subjects, such as Aboriginal people’s health and population distribution, or the number and location of Canadian immigrants who require English or French language skills. Sporting clubs may want information about attendance at games or the number of young people in their local area.
Individuals: Everyone, from students to pensioners, needs some form of information at some time during their lives. The information may be used to complete an essay, a major project or simply to satisfy one's curiosity.
Statistics are often developed through a process commonly referred to as a survey. A statistical survey is developed by using well-defined concepts, methods and procedures, and compiling this information into a format that is useful such as publications or news articles. A survey involves the collection of different types of data about a particular topic of interest. The information collected can be from various units of a population (e.g., sample of television viewers or Sunday shoppers) or all units of a population (e.g., Census of Population, Census of Agriculture). It can be collected either directly from the sampled population or through the use of administrative data.
Surveys of human and non-human populations provide an important source of basic social and economical scientific knowledge. Many special interest groups (economists, sociologists, etc.) obtain grants from the government to study issues like racial violence in schools, voting behaviours, the number of children in single parent homes, etc.
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