Statistics Overview



  • Statistics is the branch of mathematics dealing with presenting, summarizing, and making inferences from data.
    • Descriptive Statistics is concerned with presenting and summarizing data. 
    • Inferential Statistics deals with making inferences from data.

The Process
Data, Statistic, Inference

  • The Process
    • Data is gathered and recorded
    • A statistic is computed on the data.
    • A conclusion is inferred from the statistic
  • Data
    • Primary (or raw) data are recorded facts about entities.
    • Such data can be represented by rows (the entities) and columns (the facts).
  • Statistic
    • A statistic is a mathematical calculation on the data, for example:
      • maximum, mean, median, minimum, mode, percentage, percent change, proportion, quantile, range, rate, standard deviation, sum, variance
    • If the data is accurate and the math correct, the statistic is a hard fact.
  • Inference
    • A conclusion is inferred from a statistic
    • Kinds of conclusions:
      • Generalizations, inferred from random samples
      • Forecasts, derived from regressions, time series, and models
      • Causal Statements, inferred from correlations, hypothesis tests, and regressions.

Descriptive Statistics

  • Descriptive Statistics presents and summarizes data, using
    • Statistics
    • Spreadsheets
    • Graphs
  • Statistics are used to summarize data.
  • Typical statistics
    • Maximum, mean, median, minimum, mode, percent, percent change, proportion, quantile, range, rate, standard deviation, sum, variance
  • Fancy statistics
    • Adjusted
      • Inflation-adjusted
      • Seasonally-adjusted
      • Age-adjusted
    • Indices
      • Consumer Price Index
      • GDP Deflator Index
      • Gini Index
      • S&P 500 Index
  • The rows and columns of a spreadsheet can be either primary data or calculated statistics


View Data and statistics used for the graphs

  • Graphs represent data and statistics visually.
  • In this Bar Chart:
    • Bars represent nations.
    • A bar’s height represents the nation’s GDP, per the scale of vertical axis.
  • In this Scatter Plot:
    • Dots represent nations.
    • A dot’s location indicates the nation’s GDP (per the scale of the horizontal axis) and its life expectancy (per the scale of the vertical axis).
  • Histograms represent frequency distributions.
  • In this Histogram:
    • The bins represent ranges of life expectancies, per the scale of the horizontal axis
    • A bin’s height represents the number of nations in its range, per the scale of the vertical axis.
  • For example, the rightmost bin represents life expectancies between 85 and 90 years. Only Japan and Singapore qualify.
  • The data can also be represented in table form:

Inferential Statistics

  • Inferential Statistics deals with making inferences from data.
  • Kinds of Statistical Inference:
    • Hypothesis Testing
      • Hypothesis Testing uses the concept of probability to assess the extent the data supports a hypothesis.  e.g. the effectiveness of a drug given the results of clinical trial.
      • The basic form of argument is:
        • The data is either explained by hypothesis H or is due to chance.
        • It’s unlikely the data is due to chance.
        • Therefore, it’s likely H is true, other things being equal.
      • View Example
      • View Hypothesis Testing
    • Estimation
      • Estimation uses the concept of probability to infer the value of a population parameter from a random sample, e.g. a president’s approval rating based on a poll.
      • The basic form of argument is:
        • A decent-sized random sample from a population exhibits a statistic S, e.g. mean, proportion, standard deviation.
        • Parameter P, S’s population counterpart, is derived from S.
        • Therefore, in all probability, the population exhibits P within a certain margin of error, other things being equal.
      • View Example
      • View Estimation
    • Regression Analysis
      • Regression Analysis is a set of procedures for finding and evaluating an equation that predicts a dependent variable from a set of independent variables.
      • The basic form of argument is:
        • Equation E, with a certain degree of accuracy, predicts the observed values of a dependent variable from the observed values of a set of independent variables.
        • Therefore, with the same degree of accuracy, E predicts the dependent variable from the independent variables generally.
      • View Example
      • View Regression
  • Two Philosophies of Statistical Inference: Bayesian and Frequentist Statistics
    • Pew Research
      • “These models were fit using a Bayesian framework, which means that it is necessary to specify a prior distribution for each parameter in the model. “
    • Gallup
      •  “For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.”
    • View Example
  • Fundamental Concept of Inferential Statistics
  • Can statistics “prove” things?
    • Two important senses of “proof”
        • 1a: the cogency of evidence that compels acceptance by the mind of a truth or a fact
        • 1b: the process or an instance of establishing the validity of a statement especially by derivation from other statements in accordance with principles of reasoning
    • Example of 1a:
      • Presenting evidence in court that proves the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
    • Examples of 1b:
      • mathematical proof, logical derivation, computation of statistics. e.g. calculation of p-value from the results of an RCT.
    • Statistics in sense 1b can prove correlations, p-values, and odds ratios, but not causal statements, forecasts, or generalizations.  For example, you can’t construct a step-by-step derivation of a causal statement from the results of a clinical trial..
    • But statistics can prove statements (that go beyond statistics) in sense 1a, i.e. by presenting evidence (p-values, correlation coefficients, confidence intervals) that prove the statements beyond a reasonable doubt. For example, clinical trials and observational studies have collectively proved (established, shown) that Pfizer’s vaccine prevents Covid cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.