Statistical Literacy and Public Policies

Statistical Literacy

Dr. Gustavo Lara-Gonzalez

Public policies describe the action of the government. This action is in response to issues brought by the public before the public officials. The response of the government is by enacting laws and regulations. Thus, the government is a manufacturer of public policies.

Statistical Literacy

The aim of public or private policy has two key areas:

  1. To give direction to the organization and
  2. To serve and protect what is in the best interest of the public. Thus, the analysis of public policies and their effectiveness and efficiency became highly important. In this regard, statistical literacy is an important element to understand the responsiveness in bringing issues related to a certain public policy for examination, deliberation, and possible solution.

Currently, a statistic is more important than ever in today’s data-driven world. A vast amount of data is being generated in many fields, including in the public sector. If the evaluation of a public policy is about facts and values, then the role of the public administrator as a proficient statistician is imperative.  Conducting surveys, gathering evidence, examining specific cases related to a specific problem, organizing and learning from all the data, visualize important patterns and trends, and carefully listening and communicating the results and findings to non-statistician are some of the skills that public administrators need polish.

The Network of School of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) is the global standard in public service education and is recognized as a global accreditor of master’s degree programs in these fields. This global organization requires from any master program in public policy and administration evidence of their graduates in five competencies:

  1. Lead and manage in Public Governance.
  2. Participate in and contribute to the public policy process.
  3. Analyze, synthesize, think creatively, solve problems, and make decisions.
  4. Articulate and apply public service perspectives; and
  5. Communicate and interact productively with a diverse and changing workforce and citizenry.

Statistics courses help meet these requirements. Therefore, if we want to understand public policies, statistical literacy is a must. According to Wallman (1993), statistical literacy is the ability to understand and critically evaluate statistical results that permeate our daily lives—coupled with the ability to appreciate the contributions that statistical thinking can make in public and private, professional and personal decisions. To be successful civil servants, public administrators require to critically review the evidence and evaluate policies, and to understand analyzes and evaluations. They need to have some understanding of statistics to digest information to distinguish between a solid statistical argument from a bogus one and make good decisions based on that information.  


Wallman, K. K. (1993). Enhancing statistical literacy: Enriching our society. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 88(421), 1. [Taylor & Francis Online][Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar].


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *