Data or Statistics?

What is the difference between data and statistics?

Statistics are derived from data, and basic questions that can be asked to help decide if you need to use statistics or data are:

  1. Do I need a fact or facts, or a number? (in which case you likely need statistics)
  2. Do I need to do analysis for my work? (in which case you likely need data)


Data are numeric files created and organized for analysis. There are two types of data –   aggregate and microdata.   Aggregate data and microdata are two sides of the same coin – they offer the user more control over the variables offered for analysis.

Aggregate data are statistical summaries organized in a specific data file structure that permits further computer analysis, that is, data processing.  Aggregate data can also be used for display purposes since the data structure consists of statistics previously processed.  Aggregate data are found in numerous formats, some of the more common ways to access aggregate statistics are through CANSIM.  Aggregate data can be found in many formats, including: Beyond 20/20 tables, spreadsheets, databases, etc.

Microdata consist of the data directly observed or collected from a specific unit of observation. For a typical Statistics Canada microdata file the unit of observation is probably an individual, a household or a family.

The microdata file is composed of individual records consisting of a row of numbers. Microdata require processing before they become ready for interpretation. In order to make use of a microdata file, metadata must be consulted to identify variables and statistical software employed to analyze the data.   You will find more detailed information about using microdata files below in the section

Statistics are the tables and cross-tabulations that have been formulated from the raw data   files.  These can take the form of   e-publications, e-tables or databases.

Definitions outlined above can be found in the Statistics Canada Data Liberation Initiative (DLI) training materials, DLI Survival Guide.


Finding and Using Statistics A guide on how to find and use statistics from the Statistics Canada web site.

Definitions, Data Sources and Methods - Source Statistics Canada