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NCJ Number: 169864 Find in a Library
Title: Measuring the Scope of Social Problems: Apparent Inconsistencies Across Estimates of Family Abductions
Journal: Justice Quarterly  Volume:14  Issue:4  Dated:(December 1997)  Pages:719-736
Author(s): J Best; T M Thibodeau
Date Published: 1997
Page Count: 18
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This paper seeks to explain apparent inconsistencies in estimates of family abductions and discusses the use of statistics by policymakers.
Abstract: Statistics play a central role in constructing social problems and in policy debates. Claimsmakers' estimates typically exaggerate the extent of these problems; research statistics are considered more accurate. Yet the National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Throwaway Children (NISMART) produced an estimate for family abductions far higher than the figures offered by missing-children activists. Extrapolations for family abductions based on official statistics from eight statewide missing-children clearinghouses are much lower than the NISMART estimate. In explaining the anomaly, this paper notes that NISMART's methods defined family abductions broadly, thereby producing a large figure, while police probably underreported cases to the state clearinghouses. Statistics, especially statistics gathered through social research, play an important role in policy debates because they tend to be regarded as indisputable facts. The operational definitions, coding practices, and other methodological choices that underlie every social statistic tend to be ignored or overlooked. Unquestioning acceptance of statistical data by the press and by policymakers illustrates society's limitations for critically assessing social statistics. The article includes a discussion of the politics of statistical research and the implications of a statistical anomaly such as the one examined here. Notes, tables, references
Main Term(s): Juveniles
Index Term(s): Criminal justice research; Criminology; Data collections; Data integrity; Kidnapping; Research uses in policymaking; Statistical analysis; Statistical bias; Victims of Crime
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