Use of Social Science Data for Policy Analysis and Policymaking

  • Ruth S. Hanft
Part of the The Hastings Center Series in Ethics book series (HCSE)


Social science data, empirical research, and social theory have always been used in some form or another for public policy formulation. Theories and data describing the behavior of people, economic systems, and nations were used by the first social organizations to develop public policy. The oldest and still most basic social data bases comprises the census and vital statistics. The collection of census information is an ancient practice; the Old Testament (Exod. 30; Num. 1) documents its use. In the eighteenth century, the framers of the U.S. Constitution(Art. 1, Sec. 2) saw fit to provide for a regular decennial census. With the rapid development of the industrial revolution in the latter part of the last century and the early part of this century, observational data about the consequences of industrial development, population changes, and mortality were collected through the census, vital statistics, and ad hoc local studies. Social reform movements, state government, and ultimately the federal government used these data to develop measures such as workmen’s compensation, child welfare laws, industrial safety, and even Prohibition.


Decision Maker Policy Analysis Health Service Research Policy Analyst National Probability Sample 
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Copyright information

© The Hastings Center 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ruth S. Hanft
    • 1
  1. 1.Association of Academic Health CentersUSA

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