Book ID: CBB247797576

America by the Numbers: Quantification, Democracy, and the Birth of National Statistics (2020)

unapi

When the Great Depression struck, the US government lacked tools to assess the situation; there was no reliable way to gauge the unemployment rate, the number of unemployed, or how many families had abandoned their farms to become migrants. In America by the Numbers, Emmanuel Didier examines the development in the 1930s of one such tool: representative sampling. Didier describes and analyzes the work of New Deal agricultural economists and statisticians who traveled from farm to farm, in search of information that would be useful for planning by farmers and government agencies. Didier shows that their methods were not just simple enumeration; these new techniques of quantification shaped the New Deal and American democracy even as the New Deal shaped the evolution of statistical surveys. Didier explains how statisticians had to become detectives and anthropologists, searching for elements that would help them portray America as a whole. Representative surveys were one of the most effective instruments for their task. He examines pre-Depression survey techniques; the invention of the random sampling method and the development of the Master Sample; and the application of random sampling by employment experts to develop the “Trial Census of Unemployment.”

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Reviewed By

Review Dan Bouk (April 2021) Review of "America by the Numbers: Quantification, Democracy, and the Birth of National Statistics". Technology and Culture (pp. 608-610). unapi

Review Emily Klancher Merchant (2021) Review of "America by the Numbers: Quantification, Democracy, and the Birth of National Statistics". Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences (pp. 627-628). unapi

Review Emily Klancher Merchant (2021) Review of "America by the Numbers: Quantification, Democracy, and the Birth of National Statistics". Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences (pp. 627-628). unapi

Citation URI
https://data.isiscb.org/isis/citation/CBB247797576/

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Authors & Contributors
Kurtulmus, A Faik
Irzik, Gürol
Oertzen, Christine von
Jewett, Andrew John
Gibson, Catherine
Kaat Louckx
Concepts
Statistics
Democracy
Census tabulation
Science and society
Science and politics
Technology and society
Time Periods
20th century, early
19th century
20th century, late
21st century
20th century
Places
United States
Prussia (Germany)
Bombay (India)
Calcutta (India)
Russia
Norway
Institutions
League of Nations
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