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Problems of Theory and Measurement

  • Martin Bulmer (a1)

Extract

Social indicators have not fulfilled their promise, or at least have not lived up to the expectations held of them in the late 1950s and 1960s. Despite the continued growth of social statistics, produced both by governments and other organisations, the aim of producing precise, concise and evaluatively neutral measures of the state of society and of change in society has apparently eluded some of the best minds of the social science and governmental statistics communities. Whereas a wide range of economic indicators and data are readily available, if not without their problems (cf. Johnson, 1988), and integrated into the concepts of economic theory, standard measures of crime, health, well-being, education and many other social characteristics have proven much more difficult to construct and establish as standard yardsticks of social conditions. This note considers some of the reasons for these difficulties. It relates specifically to the aspiration to construct social indicators, not to social statistics more generally (as reviewed in, for example, Carley, 1981).

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References

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Brand, J. (1978) ‘The politics of social indicators’ in Bulmer, ed. (1978), pp. 228–43.
Bulmer, M. ed. (1978) Social Policy Research (London: Macmillan).
Bulmer, M. (1960) ‘Why don't sociologists make more use of official statistics?’, Sociology vol. 14, pp. 505–23.
Bulmer, M. (1982) The Uses of Social Research: social investigation in public policy-making (London: Allen and Unwin).
Bulmer, M. (1983) ‘The methodology of early social indicator research: William Fielding Ogburn and Recent Social Trends, 1933’, Social Indicators Research, vol 13, pp. 109130.
Bulmer, M. et al. , (1986) Social Science and Social Policy (London: Allen and Unwin).
Bulmer, M., ed. (1987) Social Science Research and Government: comparative essays on Britain and the United States (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
Carley, M. (1981) Social Measurement and Social Indicators (London: Allen and Unwin).
Carley, M. (1986) ‘Tools for policy-making: indicators and impact-assessment’, in Bulmer, (1986), pp. 126–54.
Carley, M. and Bustelo, E. S. (1984) Social Impact Assessment and Monitoring: a guide to the literature (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press).
Culyer, A. J., Lavers, R. J. and Williams, A. (1972) ‘Health indicators’ in Shonfield, S. and Shaw, S., eds. Social Indicators and Social Policy (London: Heinemann) pp. 94118.
Culyer, A. J. ed. (1983) Health Indicators (Oxford: Martin Robertson).
Johnson, C. (1988) Measuring the Economy: a guide to understanding official statistics (Harmondsworth: Penguin).
Johnson, D. (1987) ‘The Federal effort in developing social indicators and social reporting in the United States during the 1970s’ in Bulmer, ed, pp. 285302.
Miles, I. (1985) Social Indicators for Human Development (London: Pinter).
Morgenstern, O. (1960) On the Accuracy of Economic Observations (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press).
Morris, M. D. (1979) Measuring the Condition of the World's Poor: the Physical Quality of Life Index (Oxford: Pergamon).
Moser, C. (1978) ‘Social indicators: systems, methods and problems’ in Bulmer, , ed. (1978), pp. 203–14.
President's Commission on Social Trends (1933). Recent Social Trends in the United States (New York: McGraw Hill).
World Development Report, World Development Report 1988 (Oxford and Washington DC: Oxford University Press and World Bank).
World Bank (1987) Social Indicators of Development (Washington DC: World Bank).

Problems of Theory and Measurement

  • Martin Bulmer (a1)

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