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Social Statistics

My research sits at the intersection of the social sciences and statistics. This interest has been long standing - in college, I majored in math, but minored in sociology and English. In looking to combine these interests, after college I started a PhD program in Sociology, thinking that I wanted to be a 'quantitative social scientist'. After a couple of years, I realized this wasn't quite right, and after a few years working, I realized what I wanted to be was the inverse of this - a 'social statistician'. That is, I wanted to develop and study methods that enable social science research.

Unlike biostatistics, since there aren't social statistics departments, the community is more fragmented. My hope here is to provide a few resources for those who are interested in or are beginning a career in this field. If you know of other resources, please let me know and I will add them. Welcome!

In no particular order:

  1. There is a Social Statistics Section of the American Statistical Association. It is a great community and includes statisticians focused on sociology, economics, psychology, public policy, education, public health, public opinion research, and beyond. 

  2. Andrew Gelman's blog - Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science - is over 20 years old and was one of the first places that I found this community. 

  3. Elizabeth Stuart created a spreadsheet with information on Graduate Programs in social statistics.

  4. There are a variety of ways to enter this field. Some do so with a PhD in Statistics, others with a PhD in a discipline but with a focus on methods. In education, e.g., there are programs in Quantitative Methods in Education (or Research Methods, Measurement, Evaluation, and/or Statistics). At Northwestern, in the social sciences some students get a PhD in a discipline and an MS in Statistics via an Ad Hoc degree program. (Other universities have similar programs, but you should check in advance)

  5. There are a variety of journals focused on methods specific to social science fields, e.g., Journal of Education and Behavioral Statistics, Psychological Methods, Sociological Methods and Research, Journal of Business and Economic Statistics, Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science.

  6. Social statisticians work in a variety of areas. Some are found in Statistics departments, but others in social science departments, education schools, policy schools, biostatistics departments, public health programs, and so on. Many work in the federal government, and others in industry.

  7. There are a variety of topic areas represented in social statistics, but common ones focus on methods for causal inference, network analysis, survey sampling, and experimental design. Nested, spatial, and network data structures are common, and issues of data privacy are a concern.  

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