Data for GOOD Communities

According to the U.N., Celebrating Statistics is 100 Percent Awesome

by Resa Alboher

October 11, 2015

Data analysis is trending. Over the last four years, the field of statistics has turned into the fastest-growing undergraduate STEM degree in America, according to a study of federal government education data conducted by the American Statistical Association. It’s a degree that's likely to pay off, too: The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) puts the median wage at over $75,000 (nearly twice that of most U.S. jobs), estimating that “employment of statisticians is projected to grow 27 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations.” 

Statisticians—a.k.a. data scientists, analysts, surveyors, and a whole host of “ologists”—are in demand because they help us make things better, from structures to healthcare to governmental policies. Essentially, a statistician’s job is to collect, analyze, disseminate, and visualize data about real-world problems, then find ways to solve them.

Without statistics, it’d be hard to make much progress in the world, which is why the United Nations has had a Statistical Commission in place since 1947. Comprised of chief statisticians from member states all over the planet, the commission serves as the highest body of the global statistical stystem—monitoring areas of progress and decline, setting standards, and advising U.N. leaders on a variety of issues. Thanks to U.N. statisticians, you can access full data sets revealing updated economic snapshots of every country in the world. Or you can check in on the progress of the U.N.’s new Sustainable Development Goals.

In 2010, the U.N. Statistical Commission opted to officially celebrate the fact that statistics “help decision makers develop informed policies that help millions of people,” declaring October 20, 2010 the first-ever World Statistics Day.

It’s a pretty special worldwide holiday, given that it comes only once every five years. When initially launched, the U.N. stated that the mission of World Statistics Day would be to raise awareness “of the many achievements of official statistics premised on the core values of service, professionalism and integrity.” Over 130 countries participated in the 2010 celebration. And though you may not be a statistician, it’s likely you can do the math: The second World Statistics Day is here at last, made official thanks to a resolution from the U.N. officially adopted this past June.

This year’s theme is “Better Data. Better Lives.” Member states and organizations around the world will be joining the party in their own suitably statistical ways:

There are many more events taking place all over the world—and you’re invited to join in, too. If you can’t attend an event, thank a statistician in your life today with the hashtag #StatsDay15, or share a data point that made a difference to you.

The celebration continues Thursday, October 22, when you can weigh in on how the U.N. should best use statistics to monitor the global goals in a Twitter conversation with Lenni Montiel, U.N. DESA’s Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development. Hop online at 10 a.m. Eastern and use the hashtag #SDGsData to participate. 

And if all this talk about world-changing statistics has gotten you inspired, the BLS offers an introductory primer on becoming a statistician yourself. (Rumor has it that approximately 100 percent of them are pretty amazing.)

Illustration by Brian Hurst. Thumbnail image via Twitter user @StatistikaSrb.

Throughout 2015, we're partnering with Progressive to harness the power of information. Each week, we'll put data under the microscope, asking how statistics and research can empower us to challenge our understanding of ourselves and the ways we navigate our world. Knowledge is the first step on the way to progress: Let's take this information and drive change in the world together. This is Data for GOOD.

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According to the U.N., Celebrating Statistics is 100 Percent Awesome