Every Number Counts: The Importance of Applied Statistics in Our Daily Lives

graphic of statistical symbols and text reading "Every Number Counts"
graphic of statistical symbols and text reading "Every Number Counts"

In today’s data-driven world, the application of statistics in everyday life is an ever-present reality that touches all aspects of society. Though the field of statistics originated centuries ago, the impact has exploded in recent years as modern statisticians have advanced applications of statistics through innovative, problem-solving approaches.

This blog will explore contemporary uses of statistics in everyday life, and the infographic following highlights vital examples.

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The Evolution of Statistics in the Real World

The technologies powering many of the products we buy, shows we watch, and devices we use today were developed and perfected through the efforts of mathematicians, demographers and statisticians — long before tech companies entered the picture. 

The idea of a census is a prime example of statistical progress over time. Historically, governments have used censuses to track population size. For instance, English demographers John Graunt and William Petty applied mathematical techniques to estimate population changes in the 1600s. In the United States, the first census dates back to 1790. 

The process and ramifications of the U.S. census have continued to expand, covering an increasingly broad range of demographic and economic information. Today’s U.S. census determines vital areas of government that significantly impact daily life, such as allocation of public funding, congressional representation and delineation of school districts.

The role of statistics in the real world extends far beyond the census, however. The federal government now operates 13 statistical agencies that manage critical information related to labor trends, health, education and more. Statistics also influence the operations of industries, markets and even nonprofits.

The Scope of Statistics in Everyday Life

"Many fields use statistics for different purposes, such to help keep us safe, improve our health, and advance our knowledge.

The practice of applied statistics plays a role in every realm of life today. The application of statistics most often happens in the background, as statisticians are continuously at work to discover and implement world-shaping developments.

Government

Applying statistics in the real world extends to every aspect of government in countries around the world. The United Nations Statistics Division describes the role of official statistics as an “indispensable element in the information system of a democratic society.”

Politicians and campaign managers use statistics to target specific voter demographics, gauge rates of constituent approval, and predict elections. Additionally, law enforcement agencies track data about fraud and crime that is then used to evaluate the effectiveness of strategies and tactics.

Government statistics also affect daily life in many less obvious ways. These are some examples from the U.S. government of statistics in everyday life:

  • Economic numbers related to production, investment and trade affect financial policies and taxes. Governments, market leaders and other statisticians depend on this information to understand how the national economy is performing and how this affects their interests.
  • Federal science research advances scientific and engineering discovery and integrates this work into education. Leading-edge federal research supports the nation’s security and international leadership.
  • The collection and analysis of educational data inform leaders on key indicators concerning the condition of education. The scope of information includes findings in areas such as technological trends, public health, and educational methods. 

Health Care

Statisticians are big participants in pharmacology, as they’re involved with the discovery, testing, approval and marketing of a drug. They may also work in public health for government agencies, where they help to educate on community health matters and to develop preventative treatments and control.

Additionally, statisticians often take on roles in epidemiology, working in fields like nutrition and environmental science to help monitor and report on health-related data. For the World Health Organization, statistical data is considered a “core WHO activity” essential for advocacy and delivery of health initiatives.

Law

Statistics often inform the development of legislation and may also guide in the interpretation of laws. Statisticians may provide expert testimony to court cases involving details such as salary discrepancies, DNA testing, disease clusters, and consumer surveys.

Statistical organizations serving state and federal courts synthesize information that serves to guide policy and procedural matters. For example, the National Center for State Courts has recently addressed questions related to the collection of race and ethnicity data. Data projects like this equip legal systems with critical information to promote equity and accountability.

Finance

Applications of statistics affect finance at many levels on a personal and global scale. Individuals use statistics to make decisions in financial planning and budgeting, while organizations are guided by statistics in financial policy decisions.

Banks use statistics to lower risk in lending operations, analyze activity in the financial market, and predict the impact of economic crises. Investors also use stats to understand the risk and potential of certain stocks, which helps them make informed investing decisions.

Digital Marketing

Applied statistics is a driving force in transforming contemporary marketing approaches. The advent of “big data” means that companies are collecting phenomenal amounts of information from consumers. Proactive companies utilize this information to predict sales, glean customer interests, and analyze the effectiveness of marketing initiatives. Applying statistics in everyday life provides a highly targeted, data-driven strategy.

Advertisers in the form of paid search managers monitor ad campaigns based on key performance indicator targets and baselines and analyze data to continually optimize a campaign’s performance. SEO specialists guide companies in understanding how to read and interpret website analytics.

Social Media Analytics

The rise of social media has created an environment where huge numbers of people and organizations are connected in a complex technological framework. In the Netflix film “The Social Dilemma,” statistics experts share what goes on behind social media screens. Everything users are doing online is “being watched,” the documentary explains.

Social media managers monitor organic and paid traffic to social media profiles and analyze data to grow followers, increase engagement and drive conversions. Companies use the data for microtargeting, measuring trends and watching competitors.

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What Are Applications of Statistics for Your Career?

The role of statistician is one of today’s fastest-growing professions and rated by U.S. News & World Report as #6 in its “100 Best Jobs” list.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of positions for statisticians in the United States is expected to increase by 35% from 2019 to 2029. Salary is commensurate with demand, and the latest BLS numbers show that statisticians earned a median salary of $91,160 in 2019.

"Statistician jobs are expected to grow 35% from 2019-2029, and the 2019 median pay was $91,160 per year."

Job responsibilities for a statistician include:

  • Using statistics to solve problems
  • Analyzing and interpreting data
  • Developing mathematical and statistical theories

Statistics careers can be found in almost any industry, covering a wide range of positions. Some of today’s top jobs include:

What Are Educational Requirements for a Statistician?

Though stats are used across many fields, specialized positions are only open to individuals with an education in mathematics or statistics, with most requiring a master’s degree. Professionals who earn a master’s degree in applied statistics gain a deeper understanding of how statistical solutions are applied in an organizational context for any industry.

The Michigan Tech online Master of Science in Applied Statistics equips students with expertise such as:

  • Advanced statistical methods like predictive modeling, statistical data mining, parametric estimation, model diagnostics and forecasting.
  • Integration of statistical tools into emerging technologies.
  • Effectively communicating results of statistical analysis.

The MTU applied statistics program is ideal for working professionals, with 100% online coursework. There is no application fee and no GRE/GMAT requirement. There are three start dates each year, and the program is completed with 10 seven-week courses.

How Will You Apply Statistics in Everyday Life?

The importance of data analysis and applied statistics is relevant to nearly every area of our lives. As the field of applied statistics continues to evolve, professionals qualified to lead organizations and governments with data insights will make a significant impact on the lives of generations to come.

Take the next step toward your Master of Science in Applied Statistics at Michigan Tech.

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This article is adapted from one originally published March 15, 2019.