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Constructing public statistics: the history of the Argentine cost of living index, 1918-1943

Lanata Briones, Cecilia (2016) Constructing public statistics: the history of the Argentine cost of living index, 1918-1943. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Statistics contribute to the understanding of events by objectifying phenomena, as they are perceived to reflect or be an approximation of reality. This perception is based on the premise that statistical tools are straightforward, apolitical facts. However, quantification and its results are not objective. Definitions are needed beforehand to determine the phenomenon to be measured and the aim of the quantification. Thus, statistics face debates on methods, interpretation and use. Using the Argentine cost of living indices released in 1918, 1924 and 1935 as a case study and following a process of de-construction/construction/re-construction of the series, this thesis studies how, why and by whom statistics are made and used. It suggests that the political economy plays a crucial role in the history of the Argentine cost of living index in the first half of the twentieth century. In the de-construction phase, the thesis analyses various reports to arrive at an understanding how the indices were originally estimated. The construction stage then discusses the people and institutions involved in the production of each index and the methodology that they used, placing both within the political, economic and social context. It looks at how and why each index was produced by analysing their context, uses, contemporary reception and significance. Moreover, the pitfalls that come from the assumptions and methods underlying the indices are demonstrated using data available to those who produced them. Lastly, each CLI estimate is re-constructed by correcting its main pitfalls using the information available when the series were initially developed to depict how different assumptions result in different series. This leads to an alternative cost of living index being presented for the period 1912-1943. The re-construction also comprises a comparison in tandem of the Argentine, US, British and German cost of living indices.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2016 Cecilia T. Lanata Briones
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
Sets: Departments > Economic History
Supervisor: Minns, Chris and Lewis, Colin M.

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