Statistical Standards
Statistical Standards Program
Table of Contents

·Purpose of Standards
·Background of Standards
·Development of Standards
·OMB Quality Guidelines

1. Development of Concepts and Methods
2. Planning and Design of Surveys
3. Collection of Data
4. Processing and Editing of Data
5. Analysis of Data / Production of Estimates or Projections
6. Establishment of Review Procedures
7. Dissemination of Data
Appendix A
Appendix B
Appendix C
Appendix D
Publication information

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Background of Statistical Standards

Data quality is the cornerstone of all official statistics programs. To this end there are a number of international and national groups that have devoted considerable time and effort to delineating important concepts and principles for official statistics. On the international front, the United Nations (UN) and the Economic Commission For Europe (ECE) have both adopted a set of "Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics." Included among the 10 principles are calls for statistical agencies to use professional standards that are based on scientific principles to guide the methods and procedures for the collection, processing, storage, and presentation of statistical data. The principles also call for the inclusion of relevant information on the sources, methods, and procedures of the statistics. In a similar vein, one of the main objectives identified by the Statistics Directorate of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) includes the development of international statistical standards, systems, and collaborations. Similarly, the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) data dissemination standard includes the integrity and quality of data, coverage, periodicity and timeliness, public access to data, and full documentation of the data collection.

In the United States, there are two national committees that have each been working for a quarter of a century to improve statistical methods and data quality-the Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology (FCSM) and the Committee on National Statistics (CNSTAT). The Office of Management and the Budget (OMB) convenes the Federal Committee to provide a forum for communicating and disseminating information about statistical practices among all Federal statistical agencies. The FCSM also recommends the introduction of new methodologies in Federal statistical programs to improve data quality.

The National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences convenes CNSTAT, a committee of prominent researchers from universities and private research organizations, to study statistical topics to improve the effectiveness of the Federal statistical system. CNSTAT monitors the statistical policy and coordinating activities of the Federal government, reviews the statistical programs of federal agencies and suggests improvements, reviews data-handling and privacy and confidentiality policies and provides recommendations for best practices, studies data gaps and recommends additions as necessary, and reviews extant methodologies and suggests improved statistical methods.

CNSTAT published a monograph on the "Principles and Practices for a Federal Agency" to assist Federal statistical agencies. The main principles include relevance of data, credibility among data users, confidentiality of data, and trust among data providers. Many of the practices identified parallel the "Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics" promulgated by the UN and the ECE. For example, statistical agencies should have a commitment to high quality and professional standards. In discussing openness about the data, CNSTAT stresses the importance of providing a full description of the data, the methods used, and assumptions made. The description should include reliable indicators of the kinds and amount of error in the data. CNSTAT also stressed the importance of wide dissemination of data presented in a user-friendly format. The CNSTAT guide was one of the tools used by NCES staff in planning their current revision of the agency's statistical standards.

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