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To be successful, public administrators need to be able to analyze and evaluate policies, and to understand analyses and evaluations. They need to have some understanding of statistics.
Statistics for Public Administration: Practical Uses for Better Decision Making 2nd Edition, offers research design and basic applied statistics. However, the primary purpose is not to help public managers master statistical theory but to demonstrate how statistics can help them do their jobs better. At the same time, a minimal understanding and appreciation of statistical theory is necessary to use data correctly. The goal is to make public administrators educated consumers of statistical information.
Statistics is a language. A secondary goal of this book is to make public administrators effective translators. That is, a public employee needs to be able to communicate information to the appropriate audience, whether it is a local government manager, the city council, the board of trustees, the board of commissioners, a department head, or the public. After reading this book, you should be able to:
- Understand and describe general approaches to and problems with public sector research and data measurement
- Conduct basic statistical analyses of raw data
- Evaluate statistical research performed by others.
Statistics for Public Administration: Practical Uses for Better Decision Making 2nd Edition, follows the same general order as the first edition. It progresses through roughly four stages:
- First, it introduces “research.” What does it mean to “do” research? How do you recognize research that is well done as opposed to poor or weak research?
- Next, it covers the basic use of numbers: how to analyze data using descriptive statistics. What does data look like? The reader will understand the importance of getting a feel for the data in order to assess its usefulness. What kind of data is used in statistical research? How can you differentiate between good and bad data? How can data be manipulated? What are the most common ways to summarize and present data? What do the most common statistics tell us about our data? More importantly, what can our data tell us about our issue (can’t forget about that!)? What can’t our data tell us?
- Third, you’ll learn how to use data to draw conclusions and test for relationships. For example, is one thing, such as marketing, related to something else, such as the use of a recycling program? How can probability be useful to managers? How can probability be used to assess risk? How can managers tell when something unusual has occurred? How do you move from merely describing a situation to evaluating it? How can you test an idea and be confident of your conclusions?
- Finally, the book introduces the principles of regression analysis, the most common of the more sophisticated social science research tools, and one that is used in the work of analysts in budget and management offices of major departments or the city manager’s office in larger jurisdictions. Regression helps us understand how things are related. Is the relationship strong or weak, major or minor? Can we actually say something is causing something else? How does regression work? Why is it so popular in program analysis? What are its weaknesses and strengths? How does one interpret research using regression? Is it a useful tool for managers?
This edition has a number of new features that make it easier to read, find the exact information you need, and understand concepts through an array of examples. While the first edition of this book was designed to provide local government officials with the tools necessary to design analyses; gather, analyze, and interpret information; present results; and make recommendations, the second edition emphasizes using real public safety data on issues important to all local governments. A full index helps readers quickly go straight to the topic they need. A new glossary supports the text definitions with easy to understand, matter-of-fact explanations. It has been road-tested with real students and real practitioners. This book benefits local government managers and students hoping to make their career in the finest profession for people interested in leading their community.
About the Author
Maureen Berner first joined the School of Government in 1998, teaching program evaluation, statistics, and budgeting. Between 2003 and 2005 she directed efforts to provide new outreach activities for local governments based on the UNC model at the University of Northern Iowa. In 2005 she returned to teaching and writing for MPA students and public officials at the School of Government. Berner has been active in research and teaching in both academia and in government, and her publications include a variety of books, textbooks, and journal articles. She worked for four years with the Budget Issues Group at the U.S. General Accounting Office, including a rotation to the U.S. House of Representatives Budget Committee while serving as a Presidential Management Intern. Berner received an MPP from Georgetown University and PhD in public policy from the LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin.