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Official statistics are quantitative data produced by local and national government bodies and can cover a wide range of behaviour including births deaths marriages and divorce income crime and work and leisure Official statistics can be produced as a by-product of the normal workings of a government department but they can also result from research designed specifically to produce them Two main sources of official statistics are the government and its departments and surveys For example government departments such as the Home Office and Education and Skills request process and then publish information from organisations such as local tax offices social services and hospitals An example of a source of surveys that produce official statistics is The Office for National Statistics which is a government agency and is responsible for compiling and analysing statistics Every ten years this agency carries out the Census of the Population which covers every household in the UK By law each head of household must complete a questionnaire that includes family composition housing occupation transport and leisure Official statistics are used by sociologists because of their many advantages A main plus is that official statistics are often compiled from data which has been gathered from a large sample size The majority of sociologists could probably not afford to carry out such vast research The size of the sample also tends to increase the representivity of the statistics They also tend to be well organised and planned when researched so the standards of sociological research can be met Official statistics are usually readily available and relatively inexpensive so sociologists can spend more time and money analysing data than collecting it Statistics can also sometimes be the only source available for a specific topic such as unemployment figures Another advantage is that statistics allow sociologists to make comparisons over time as they are usually produced regularly for example the Population Census which is carried out every ten years This is
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