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*Government Information: Federal

Finding government resources at OSU, including Federal, State, and International, Census and statistical resources, and subject specific information.

Data vs. Statistics

What is the difference between Data and Statistics?

In regular conversation, both words are often used interchangeably. In the world of libraries, academia and research there is an important distinction between data and statistics. Data is the raw information from which statistics are created. Put in the reverse, statistics provide an interpretation and summary of data.


  • Statistical tables, charts, and graphs
  • Reported numbers and percentages in an article

If you’re looking for a quick number, you want a statistic. A statistic will answer “how much” or “how many”. A statistic repeats a pre-defined observation about reality.

Statistics are the results of data analysis. It usually comes in the form of a table or chart. This is what a statistical table looks like:

Table 1206. Adult Attendance at Sports Events by Frequency: 2007

Source: Statistical Abstract of the United States



  • Datasets
  • Machine-readable data files, data files for statistical software programs

If you want to understand a phenomenon, you want data. Data can be analyzed and interpreted using statistical procedures to answer “why” or “how.” Data is used to create new information and knowledge.

Raw data is the direct result of research that was conducted as part of a study or survey. It is a primary source. It usually comes in the form of a digital data set that can be analyzed using software such as Excel, SPSS, SAS, and so on. This is what a data set looks like:

Dataset example: each cell in the spreadsheet represents an individual response to survey questions by Hailey Mooney, Michigan State University Libraries

Census and Census Products

The United States Census Bureau (USCB; officially the Bureau of the Census) is a principal agency responsible for producing data about the American people and economy.

The primary mission of the Census Bureau is conducting the U.S. Census every ten years, which allocates the seats of the U.S. House of Representatives to the states based on their population. In addition to the decennial census, the Census Bureau continually conducts dozens of other censuses and surveys, including the American Community Survey, the U.S. Economic Census, and the Current Population Survey. Furthermore, economic and foreign trade indicators released by the federal government typically contain data produced by the Census Bureau. The various censuses and surveys conducted by the Census Bureau help allocate over $400 billion in federal funds every year and help states, local communities, and businesses make informed decisions.

The Census Bureau is situated within the U.S. Department of Commerce and its director is appointed by the President of the United States.

(Wikipedia,, 8/11/2015)