Statistics is a fast growing subject. As a discipline it is as old as human civilization. From its origin, statistics is being used as a tool of analysis. In ancient times, the state was using Statistics to keep different administrative and economic records. These records relate to population, age and sex-wise distribution of population, birth rate, death rate, stock of wealth and assets etc. These information (statistics) were of immense help to the state for its administration and policy formulations. So in those days, statistics was considered as the “Science of Statecraft” In ancient India we find the use of statistics in Kautilya’s ‘Arthashastra’ and Abul Fazal’s “Ain-e-Akbari”.
The word statistics seems to have come from the Latin word ‘status’ or Italian word ‘statista’ or the French word ‘statistique’ or the German word ‘statistick’. Each of these words means a political state. In modem times, statistics has become indispensable in almost all spheres of human’ activity and knowledge. In our day today activities we are using statistics in one form or another. It has become a part and parcel of our civilization. H.G. Wells had rightly observed, “Statistical thinking will one day be as necessary for efficient citizenship as the ability to read and write”. Sir Ronald A. Fisher was the pioneer in applying statistics to different branches of studies. So he is regarded as the “father of Statistics.”
Now there is hardly any subject or branch of study which does not use statistics. Scientific, social and economic studies without statistics are inconceivable. Hence elementary ideas on the subject is imperative for the students of Economics.
Generally statistics means numerical data or quantitative information in an enquiry. In ancient times, statistics was used as ‘political arithmetic’. The Government was collecting data on vital socioeconomic and political matters for the smooth administration of the state. From purely academic point of view we can discuss the meaning of statistics in two senses-singular sense and plural sense. In plural sense, statistics refers to numerical statements of facts related to each other. Non-related figures are not statistics. For example, when we say 47% of people of Orissa live below poverty line, or there are 30 districts in our state, we are using statistics in plural sense. Here the data are related, because we compare the percentage of poor people or the number of districts of Orissa with other States. So these statements are statistics. But statements like 10 students or 15 books are not statistics as they are not related.
In singular sense statistics refers to statistical methods or the theory of statistics. These methods are used in collection, presentation, analysis and interpretation of data. A study of these techniques is the science of statistics. In the above examples, we use certain methods to prepare the numerical statements. These methods are statistics. Thus in singular sense, statistics refers to a body of methods for taking decisions from the available information.