The Misuse, Misrepresentation, and Politicization of Statistics in American Society critically examines the early measurement efforts of several government agencies responsible for some of the most widely watched social indicators on unemployment, life expectancy, crime, and population. It argues that official statistics are dubious at best, better seen not so much as objective barometers of social life but rather as socially constructed metrics that are easily manipulated and often politicized. This book argues that official statistics powerfully frame social reality, ultimately helping to determine who counts and what matters in society. It makes the case that, as with other types of official accounts, data derived from government sources needs to be regarded skeptically and systematically investigated. This book concludes that official statistics are a kind of sanctioned cover up of everyday reality, hiding the true extent of joblessness, distorting the real increase in life expectancy, obscuring where crime actually happens, and understating the undeniable growth of minority populations.
Robert E. Parker is professor of sociology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Social Significance of Official Statistics
Chapter One: The BLS and the Underestimation of Unemployment
Chapter Two: The CDC and the Overestimation of Life Expectancy
Chapter Three: The FBI and the Miscalculation of Crime
Chapter Four: The Census Bureau and the Decennial Undercount
Chapter Five: Why Official Statistics Matter
“Official statistics about unemployment, life expectancy, crime, and the nation’s population are often taken for granted, just accepted as straightforward facts. Robert E. Parker’s book invites us to think critically about these numbers by examining who decides what to count, as well as the even consequences of those choices for society’s members.”
“Providing a data infrastructure is one of the functions of the US government. Parker provides a timely warning that government data can be politicized to the detriment of everyone.”