“Looking for the perfect holiday gift for someone who's got everything? Here's an exotic suggestion: How about the latest edition of the Stat Abstract, which is shorthand for the ‘Statistical Abstract of the United States’?,” wrote The Washington Post reporter Robert J. Samuelson in a December 4 opinion piece, “The Stat Abstract rocks. Here’s why.”
Although the holidays Samuelson refers to are in the past, we still love his advice on purchasing this unique gift for the numbers geek in your household. “You will not find more information anywhere about our country in one location,” Samuelson continued, “and I guarantee you that the surprise recipient won't already have a copy sitting on the coffee table.” (The article is available here for ProQuest users.)
Conceptualized by the U.S. federal government and published annually since 1878, the Statistical Abstract of the United States is the best known statistical reference publication in the U.S. You’ll find it behind nearly every reference desk in U.S. libraries as both an answer book and a guide to statistical sources. As a comprehensive collection of statistics on the social, political, and economic conditions of the United States, the Statistical Abstract is a snapshot of America and its people.
In the spring of 2011, the Census Bureau announced that the edition that year would be the last one produced at government expense. Despite protests from librarians and journalists and petitions to Congress, the unit that published the Statistical Abstract was eliminated. Its elimination resulted not from a decline in the popularity or perceived value of statistical compilations, but from the need to reduce agency spending while supporting new and existing data collection efforts. The following year, ProQuest took over responsibility for suppling the content for Samuelson’s recommended hard-copy book, now published by Rowman & Littlefield. In addition, ProQuest publishes and maintains an even more comprehensive Stat Abstract online database for the U.S. and aggregates a global resource of statistical yearbooks called Statistical Abstracts of the World.
Have a birthday or anniversary coming up? Give the gift of statistics! Or, alternatively, you talk to your local librarian about accessing the online database – it’s the gift that keeps on giving all year ‘round!