Official statistics

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One official statistics is one of an official institution, in particular a statistical office , to use statistics . It is often understood to mean the complete statistics on a certain subject area, for example population statistics or economic statistics, or the entirety of all statistics for a country.


Originally, that is already in antiquity , "official statistics" were used by governments for their own needs and for very specific purposes (e.g. for setting up an army or building a large structure ( pyramid , canal) or generally as a basis for Tax collections). On the basis of pottery shards, it can already be said for the time around 3800 BC. A census in ancient Babylon. Between 3000 and 2000 BC BC (depending on the source) there were censuses and wealth surveys in Egypt and China . In ancient Athens there were not only censuses but also ongoing records of grain imports, registers of goods subject to duty, etc. a. In the Roman Empire already since the 6th century BC. Chr. Every 5 years population surveys carried out. At the time of Emperor Augustus , there is said to have been a statistical source work with a series of tables compiled by the Emperor himself .

Already in the Middle Ages , territorial divisions were established within city walls, which were also used as spatial references for statistical purposes. In the imperial city of Nuremberg z. B. there were eight districts, which were divided into lane captains. At the end of the 16th century there were 131 of them with a fixed number (1–63 on the Sebalder and 1–68 on the Lorenz city side). The street captains had to collect the population information as a statistical task, namely about "non-citizens", about "parentless citizens 'daughters with their own property" and about the citizens' sons who had turned 14 years old. In the Middle Ages, there were hardly any systematic statistical surveys by the state . Only with the emergence of absolutism and the introduction of mercantilist economic policy did the need for statistics as an instrument for the centralized control of the economy arise again . The mainstay of the mercantilist economic policy was the “ university statistics ”, which tried to describe as precisely as possible all “state peculiarities” qualitatively. On the other hand, at about the same time, the representatives of " political arithmetic " tried to quantify all social relationships based on the model of natural science.

However, the results of the statistical surveys remained within the state administration until the 18th century , as they were considered secret information to be protected from competing states . This secrecy policy only loosened with the spread of the ideas of the Enlightenment and the development of a bourgeois journalistic public.

Beginning in the 18th century, there was a significant expansion and, above all, an institutionalization of official statistics in the 19th century . In Germany, statistical offices were set up in the various sub-states, and from 1834 the German Customs Union ensured that statistical work was coordinated . When the German Empire was founded in 1872 , the Imperial Statistical Office was set up as the central statistical office .

In the Third Reich , the state sovereignty of the decentralized statistical offices was abolished in favor of the Reich Statistical Office , which in turn had to hand over tasks to other offices due to management and war economy. The head of the statistical department in the SS main office was Richard Korherr , who compiled statistical information on the “ final solution to the Jewish question ” with the so-called Korherr report .

With the transformation of societies into democracies in modern times, the self-image of official statistics also changed. It became a generally available tool that provides the statistical information necessary for political decision-making in society. In addition, it acts as a data provider for science and continues to act as an aid for political and economic planning.

Legal framework

Since official statistics intervene in the freedom of informational self-determination of individuals and companies in many areas (especially in the case of an obligation to provide information ) and misuse of the data collected is fundamentally possible, legal framework conditions have been created for official statistics, in particular statistical confidentiality applies .


With the progressive integration in the European Union , more and more legal requirements for the official statistics of the member states come from there. The central office is Eurostat in Luxembourg.


As part of public administration, official statistics are bound by the statutory rules for administrative action ( Article 20 (3) of the Basic Law). The federal government has the exclusive legislation for statistics for federal purposes ( Art. 73, Paragraph 1, No. 11 of the Basic Law), but the implementation of the statistics is basically a matter for the federal states ( Art. 83 of the  Basic Law). In addition, the countries can arrange their own country statistics.

Due to the local self-government in Germany (unlike in most other countries) the municipalities are responsible for intra-area statistics, which is why there is a separate statistical office for the tasks of municipal statistics, especially in large cities .

All surveys carried out by the official statistics department are ordered by law. For federal statistics in Germany, the law on statistics for federal purposes (Federal Statistics Law ) is, so to speak, the "Basic Law". It is supplemented by state statistic laws of the federal states . These contain regulations comparable to the Federal Statistics Act for the state statistics and the organization of the statistical offices of the states . There are also well over 100 other legal bases that regulate specific issues relating to individual statistics. The tasks of the municipal statistics are usually governed by a municipal statistics statutes.

The journal Wirtschaft und Statistik appears in Germany .


The legal basis is the Federal Statistics Act 2000 .


The basis is Article 65 of the Federal Constitution and the Federal Statistics Act of 9 October 1992. The individual statistical surveys are listed in the Statistics Collection Ordinance.

See Federal Statistical Office .


See Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques (INSEE).

Institutional organization

To ensure that the objectives are achieved, it is important that official statistics can carry out their tasks on a scientific basis and free from political interference. To ensure this, a statistical concentration (all statistics summarized in an independent institution) and a state-guaranteed financial budget are generally considered suitable.

Available statistics

Official statistics are generally available for the following areas:

See also microcensus and population census .

In contrast, “ soft data ” (e.g. business climate in companies or opinions in people) are typically not the subject of official statistics. Rather, it is collected and analyzed by social science research institutes, economic research institutes and opinion research institutes .


Official statistics see themselves as an instrument for political decision-making in society. In order for its results - and not the official statistics themselves or the process of compiling their statistics - to be the subject of this decision-making process, it is forced to place its work on a scientific basis and to document it comprehensively. The methods used must also be generally recognized. As a result, only simple methods of descriptive statistics , in particular the determination of mean values ​​and the compilation in tables or thematic maps , are primarily used in official statistics . In doing so, the data is aggregated technically (e.g. in age groups) and spatially (in the statistical spatial reference units).


  • Statistics of the German Reich , overview of volumes in the holdings of the Rostock University Library
  • Federal Statistical Office (Hrsg.): The field of work of federal statistics . Metzler-Poeschel, Stuttgart 1997
  • Federal Statistical Office (ed.): Strategy and program plan 2012 to 2016. Wiesbaden 2012, ISBN 978-3-8246-0993-2 ( downloadable here )
  • City of Nuremberg, Office for Urban Research and Statistics (Ed.): Nürnberger Perspektiven on the 100th birthday of the Statistical Office. (Anniversary issue), Nuremberg 2000 ( online )
  • Horst-Dieter Westerhoff: The official statistics in the democratic society . (= Economic discussion contributions; 91). University of Potsdam, Potsdam 2007 ( full text )

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Helmut Büscher; Andreas Gleich: The statistical spatial information system. In: City of Nuremberg, Office for Urban Research and Statistics (Hrsg.): Nürnberger Perspektiven on the 100th birthday of the Statistical Office. , Nuremberg 2000 online ( Memento of the original dated June 30, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  2. Alexander Pinwinkler : Official Statistics, Population and State Policy in Western Europe, approx. 1850–1950, in: Peter Collin / Thomas Horstmann (ed.), The knowledge of the state. History, theory and practice. Nomos Verlag: Baden-Baden 2004, 195–215.
  3. ^ Statistics of the German Reich , overview of volumes in the holdings of the Rostock University Library
  4. ^ Federal Statistical Office: Legal bases
  5. Statistical spatial reference system: