Historical Social Research

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Laurent Thévenot, Conventions for Measuring and Questioning Policies. The Case of 50 Years of Policy Evaluations through a Statistical Survey [Abstract]

Statistics are used to make critical judgments about society and fuel policy debates through different configurations that link together three components: a) the questioning of policy appropriateness and fairness; b) the categories and statistical tools used in evaluations; c) the economic, social and political theories invoked in interpretations and explanations. Using convention theory and the sociology of engagements, the article offers a perspective view of how these configurations have changed over nearly half a century in France, based on a single statistical source. This approach to “the politics of statistics” identifies four main configurations around four main measurements of human characteristics: social origin, occupational skills, human capital, migration history.