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ethnostatistics Ethnostatistics studies the social organization and production of statistics, seeing them not as resources (towards an explanation of a particular social phenomenon), but as topics of investigation in their own right. In an early paper (‘A Note on Official Statistics’, Social Problems, 1962), John Kitsuse and and Aaron Cicourel
argued that criminal statistics should not be taken as objective indicators of the crime-rate, but instead should be examined as displays of social organization—of the work of statistics-keeping agencies. Similarly, Jack Douglas in The Social Meanings of Suicide (1967) suggested the same treatment should be accorded Émile Durkheim's suicide statistics, by treating them as the problem to be explained rather than as an objective or true measure of the suicide rate. There is a clear connection between this tradition and the ethnomethodological critique of sociology as a ‘folk discipline’ which takes commonsense meanings for granted. Recently, the domain of ethnostatistical work has been considerably expanded: thus, in his book Ethnostatistics (1988), Robert Gephart defines the enterprise as ‘the study of the construction, interpretation, and the display of statistics in quantitative social research’.

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