Official statistics are quantitative data gathered by the Government or other body officials. Examples include statistics on births, deaths, marriages and divorces etc. Every ten years the Government conducts a census of the whole UK population to find out official statistics. They do this so that they can make new policies e.g. school places for children in the future. Official statistics can be collected by using two different methods. One of these is registration and the second is through official surveys such as the census.
One practical advantage of using official statistics is that they are a free source of quantitative data. This means that sociologists do not have to pay such a large amount of money to collect all this information. As the census is such a large-scale study only the Government has that amount of money to pay for it which is good for sociologists. Sociologists can then use this data for their own studies which saves them a lot of time and money. However a disadvantage of this is that the Government collects their data for their own purposes so sometimes the data that is collected doesn’t actually help the sociologists in their study. For example Durkheim was carrying out a study on suicide but could not find any data relating to the religion of the suicide victims and this was vital in his study. Nevertheless as the census is a very large study it usually collects a large amount of information and usually sociologists do use this data to help them in a study that they maybe partaking in. This is why some sociologists choose to use official statistics.
Another practical advantage as to why sociologists use official statistics is because they are usually seen as reliable data. When official statistics are accumulated they are usually carried out by well trained staff. This means that these people know what they are doing so the information that is gathered is therefore seen as reliable. However not all data that is can be seen as valid because when data is collected it is scanned and sometimes devices may make mistakes when going through it. Also when people are filling out the surveys they may not fill out the questions properly so the information that is gathered may not been 100% true. Even so official statistics are the only things that are close to being 100% true so they are still seen as reliable. This is why some sociologists may choose to use official statistics.
Another reason as to why some sociologists choose to use official statistics is because there are no ethical issues involved. When collecting the data they do not need consent and this makes it easier for the sociologist as they do not have to worry about not giving informed consent to people. However a problem with this is that it is anonymous so sociologists do not know whether or not the data that they receive will suit their target population. With the…