Statistics: An Introduction to Quantitative Economic Research

By Daniel B. Suits | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
The Use of Samples: Statistical Inference

4.1 POPULATION AND SAMPLE
The objective of any scientific inquiry is to make measurements and to establish relationships that hold for a broad class of objects. The physicist attempts to derive a law for the period of pendulums, applicable to all pendulums of a certain description. The botanist attempts to find the relationship between plant hormone and growth in a wide class of plants. The economist hopes to find a relationship between family income and consumption that will hold among all families of a given description. The broad class of objects to which the measurement or relationship is applicable will be called the population or the universe.
4.1.1 The Need for Samples
One way to be sure that a measurement applies to an entire population is to examine every item in the population. Unfortunately, this is often impossible for several reasons:
1. Much of the population may not yet exist. For example, under. standing the effect of plant hormone on growth leads to improvement in the yield of crops as yet unplanted. Knowledge of the properties of a drug will help to cure people not yet ill and, for that matter, still unborn.
2. Exploration of the relationship may be destructive. A piece of cable whose strength has been tested by breaking it under measured conditions cannot be used again.
3. Finally, we generally have neither the time nor the resources to examine the entire population, even where physically possible to do so.

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