Uncrunching the numbers

Understanding Economic Statistics: An OECD Perspective

As every number cruncher knows, there is a plethora of statistics available in print or online. Very often, the trouble is not how to find the numbers you want, but what to choose and how to use them when you do? How can you be sure about the quality of statistics you find?

Good economic statistics are fundamental for good research and policymaking, and Understanding Economic Statistics: An OECD Perspective shows how to avoid confusion and get to the information the user really wants. Its aim is to help readers to better understand how to use economic statistics in general and OECD statistics in particular.

If you want to know how the production of international statistics is organised, who the main data producers are and what databases are available over the internet, this is the book for you. Students and researchers will find it useful in gathering the evidence they need to do their work. The book will help journalists and other analysts evaluate economic trends or assess the effectiveness of policies.

It starts by giving a brief account of how the demand for statistics has evolved over the last 50 years and also takes a look into the future. If you wish to know the difference between a trend, a cycle and a seasonal variation, or how an economic system is defined, or even how the growth of an economy is measured, then this book will tell you. Understanding Economic Statistics describes how the international statistical system is organised and tells us who the main producers of economic statistics are. It also contains references to the main databases available on the internet. A whole chapter is entirely devoted to the OECD’s own statistical work and shows how to compare the economic structure of OECD countries, or measure innovation or globalisation.

So, can you always believe the numbers you read? This book debates this question and helps distinguish between good and bad data, including official ones. Readers will quickly realise that, much to statisticians chagrin, not all policy decisions are based on them!

ISBN 978-92-64-03312-2

©OECD Observer No 270/271 December 2008-January 2009

Economic data


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