Statistical population

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In statistics, a population is a set of similar items or events which is of interest for some question or experiment. [1] A statistical population can be a group of existing objects (e.g. the set of all stars within the Milky Way galaxy) or a hypothetical and potentially infinite group of objects conceived as a generalization from experience (e.g. the set of all possible hands in a game of poker). [2] A common aim of statistical analysis is to produce information about some chosen population. [3]


In statistical inference, a subset of the population (a statistical sample ) is chosen to represent the population in a statistical analysis. [4] Moreover, the statistical sample must be unbiased and accurately model the population (every unit of the population has an equal chance of selection). The ratio of the size of this statistical sample to the size of the population is called a sampling fraction . It is then possible to estimate the population parameters using the appropriate sample statistics.


The population mean, or population expected value, is a measure of the central tendency either of a probability distribution or of a random variable characterized by that distribution. [5] In a discrete probability distribution of a random variable X, the mean is equal to the sum over every possible value weighted by the probability of that value; that is, it is computed by taking the product of each possible value x of X and its probability p(x), and then adding all these products together, giving . [6] [7] An analogous formula applies to the case of a continuous probability distribution. Not every probability distribution has a defined mean (see the Cauchy distribution for an example). Moreover, the mean can be infinite for some distributions.

For a finite population, the population mean of a property is equal to the arithmetic mean of the given property, while considering every member of the population. For example, the population mean height is equal to the sum of the heights of every individual—divided by the total number of individuals. The sample mean may differ from the population mean, especially for small samples. The law of large numbers states that the larger the size of the sample, the more likely it is that the sample mean will be close to the population mean. [8]

Sub population

A subset of a population that shares one or more additional properties is called a sub population. For example, if the population is all Egyptian people, a sub population is all Egyptian males; if the population is all pharmacies in the world, a sub population is all pharmacies in Egypt. By contrast, a sample is a subset of a population that is not chosen to share any additional property.

Descriptive statistics may yield different results for different sub populations. For instance, a particular medicine may have different effects on different sub populations, and these effects may be obscured or dismissed if such special sub populations are not identified and examined in isolation.

Similarly, one can often estimate parameters more accurately if one separates out sub populations: the distribution of heights among people is better modeled by considering men and women as separate sub populations, for instance.

Populations consisting of sub populations can be modeled by mixture models, which combine the distributions within sub populations into an overall population distribution. Even if sub populations are well-modeled by given simple models, the overall population may be poorly fit by a given simple model – poor fit may be evidence for the existence of sub populations. For example, given two equal sub populations, both normally distributed, if they have the same standard deviation but different means, the overall distribution will exhibit low kurtosis relative to a single normal distribution – the means of the sub populations fall on the shoulders of the overall distribution. If sufficiently separated, these form a bimodal distribution; otherwise, it simply has a wide peak. Further, it will exhibit overdispersion relative to a single normal distribution with the given variation. Alternatively, given two sub populations with the same mean but different standard deviations, the overall population will exhibit high kurtosis, with a sharper peak and heavier tails (and correspondingly shallower shoulders) than a single distribution.

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In mathematics and statistics, the arithmetic mean, arithmetic average, or just the mean or average, is the sum of a collection of numbers divided by the count of numbers in the collection. The collection is often a set of results from an experiment, an observational study, or a survey. The term "arithmetic mean" is preferred in some mathematics and statistics contexts because it helps distinguish it from other types of means, such as geometric and harmonic.

In probability theory and statistics, kurtosis is a measure of the "tailedness" of the probability distribution of a real-valued random variable. Like skewness, kurtosis describes a particular aspect of a probability distribution. There are different ways to quantify kurtosis for a theoretical distribution, and there are corresponding ways of estimating it using a sample from a population. Different measures of kurtosis may have different interpretations.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Median</span> Middle quantile of a data set or probability distribution

In statistics and probability theory, the median is the value separating the higher half from the lower half of a data sample, a population, or a probability distribution. For a data set, it may be thought of as "the middle" value. The basic feature of the median in describing data compared to the mean is that it is not skewed by a small proportion of extremely large or small values, and therefore provides a better representation of the center. Median income, for example, may be a better way to describe center of the income distribution because increases in the largest incomes alone have no effect on median. For this reason, the median is of central importance in robust statistics.

There are several kinds of mean in mathematics, especially in statistics. Each mean serves to summarize a given group of data, often to better understand the overall value of a given data set.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Probability theory</span> Branch of mathematics concerning probability

Probability theory is the branch of mathematics concerned with probability. Although there are several different probability interpretations, probability theory treats the concept in a rigorous mathematical manner by expressing it through a set of axioms. Typically these axioms formalise probability in terms of a probability space, which assigns a measure taking values between 0 and 1, termed the probability measure, to a set of outcomes called the sample space. Any specified subset of the sample space is called an event. Central subjects in probability theory include discrete and continuous random variables, probability distributions, and stochastic processes . Although it is not possible to perfectly predict random events, much can be said about their behavior. Two major results in probability theory describing such behaviour are the law of large numbers and the central limit theorem.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Probability distribution</span> Mathematical function for the probability a given outcome occurs in an experiment

In probability theory and statistics, a probability distribution is the mathematical function that gives the probabilities of occurrence of different possible outcomes for an experiment. It is a mathematical description of a random phenomenon in terms of its sample space and the probabilities of events.

A parameter, generally, is any characteristic that can help in defining or classifying a particular system. That is, a parameter is an element of a system that is useful, or critical, when identifying the system, or when evaluating its performance, status, condition, etc.

A statistic (singular) or sample statistic is any quantity computed from values in a sample which is considered for a statistical purpose. Statistical purposes include estimating a population parameter, describing a sample, or evaluating a hypothesis. The average of sample values is a statistic. The term statistic is used both for the function and for the value of the function on a given sample. When a statistic is being used for a specific purpose, it may be referred to by a name indicating its purpose.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Standard deviation</span> In statistics, a measure of variation

In statistics, the standard deviation is a measure of the amount of variation or dispersion of a set of values. A low standard deviation indicates that the values tend to be close to the mean of the set, while a high standard deviation indicates that the values are spread out over a wider range.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Skewness</span> Measure of the asymmetry of random variables

In probability theory and statistics, skewness is a measure of the asymmetry of the probability distribution of a real-valued random variable about its mean. The skewness value can be positive, zero, negative, or undefined.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Variance</span> Statistical measure of how far values spread from their average

In probability theory and statistics, variance is the expectation of the squared deviation of a random variable from its population mean or sample mean. Variance is a measure of dispersion, meaning it is a measure of how far a set of numbers is spread out from their average value. Variance has a central role in statistics, where some ideas that use it include descriptive statistics, statistical inference, hypothesis testing, goodness of fit, and Monte Carlo sampling. Variance is an important tool in the sciences, where statistical analysis of data is common. The variance is the square of the standard deviation, the second central moment of a distribution, and the covariance of the random variable with itself, and it is often represented by , , , , or .

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Beta distribution</span> Probability distribution

In probability theory and statistics, the beta distribution is a family of continuous probability distributions defined on the interval [0, 1] in terms of two positive parameters, denoted by alpha (α) and beta (β), that appear as exponents of the variable and its complement to 1, respectively, and control the shape of the distribution.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chi-squared test</span> Statistical hypothesis test

A chi-squared test is a statistical hypothesis test used in the analysis of contingency tables when the sample sizes are large. In simpler terms, this test is primarily used to examine whether two categorical variables are independent in influencing the test statistic. The test is valid when the test statistic is chi-squared distributed under the null hypothesis, specifically Pearson's chi-squared test and variants thereof. Pearson's chi-squared test is used to determine whether there is a statistically significant difference between the expected frequencies and the observed frequencies in one or more categories of a contingency table. For contingency tables with smaller sample sizes, a Fisher's exact test is used instead.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Confidence interval</span> Range to estimate an unknown parameter

In frequentist statistics, a confidence interval (CI) is a range of estimates for an unknown parameter. A confidence interval is computed at a designated confidence level; the 95% confidence level is most common, but other levels, such as 90% or 99%, are sometimes used. The confidence level represents the long-run proportion of CIs that theoretically contain the true value of the parameter. For example, out of all intervals computed at the 95% level, 95% of them should contain the parameter's true value.

In mathematics, the moments of a function are certain quantitative measures related to the shape of the function's graph. If the function represents mass density, then the zeroth moment is the total mass, the first moment is the center of mass, and the second moment is the moment of inertia. If the function is a probability distribution, then the first moment is the expected value, the second central moment is the variance, the third standardized moment is the skewness, and the fourth standardized moment is the kurtosis. The mathematical concept is closely related to the concept of moment in physics.

In statistics and optimization, errors and residuals are two closely related and easily confused measures of the deviation of an observed value of an element of a statistical sample from its "true value". The error of an observation is the deviation of the observed value from the true value of a quantity of interest. The residual is the difference between the observed value and the estimated value of the quantity of interest. The distinction is most important in regression analysis, where the concepts are sometimes called the regression errors and regression residuals and where they lead to the concept of studentized residuals. In econometrics, "errors" are also called disturbances.

In probability and statistics, a mixture distribution is the probability distribution of a random variable that is derived from a collection of other random variables as follows: first, a random variable is selected by chance from the collection according to given probabilities of selection, and then the value of the selected random variable is realized. The underlying random variables may be random real numbers, or they may be random vectors, in which case the mixture distribution is a multivariate distribution.

This glossary of statistics and probability is a list of definitions of terms and concepts used in the mathematical sciences of statistics and probability, their sub-disciplines, and related fields. For additional related terms, see Glossary of mathematics and Glossary of experimental design.

In statistical theory, a U-statistic is a class of statistics that is especially important in estimation theory; the letter "U" stands for unbiased. In elementary statistics, U-statistics arise naturally in producing minimum-variance unbiased estimators.

In statistics, L-moments are a sequence of statistics used to summarize the shape of a probability distribution. They are linear combinations of order statistics (L-statistics) analogous to conventional moments, and can be used to calculate quantities analogous to standard deviation, skewness and kurtosis, termed the L-scale, L-skewness and L-kurtosis respectively. Standardised L-moments are called L-moment ratios and are analogous to standardized moments. Just as for conventional moments, a theoretical distribution has a set of population L-moments. Sample L-moments can be defined for a sample from the population, and can be used as estimators of the population L-moments.


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  2. Weisstein, Eric W. "Statistical population". MathWorld .
  3. Yates, Daniel S.; Moore, David S; Starnes, Daren S. (2003). The Practice of Statistics (2nd ed.). New York: Freeman. ISBN   978-0-7167-4773-4. Archived from the original on 2005-02-09.
  4. "Glossary of statistical terms: Sample". . Retrieved 22 February 2016.
  5. Feller, William (1950). Introduction to Probability Theory and its Applications, Vol I. Wiley. p. 221. ISBN   0471257087.
  6. Elementary Statistics by Robert R. Johnson and Patricia J. Kuby, p. 279
  7. Weisstein, Eric W. "Population Mean". Retrieved 2020-08-21.
  8. Schaum's Outline of Theory and Problems of Probability by Seymour Lipschutz and Marc Lipson, p. 141