Data include sets of raw numbers, usually with many variables, and with the capability of being manipulated.
Think about the census as data about numbers of people in a geographic region. Variables will include such things as male vs female, age, income levels, racial/ethnic background, education, etc. You can manipulate the numbers to answer questions about the data -- for example, does income level correlate with education? Raw data is just numbers – no correlations, no comparisons.
Use data … if you need to do in-depth analysis for research
Use statistics … if you need quick facts to make a point.
Statistics are data that has been analyzed in some way – percentages, graphs, charts – also called “statistical data.”
Statistics are usually presented in graphs or charts so you can visualize the data connections.
Read the description to find out what the chart and numbers are all about. Where would you go for the raw data? Always look at the source. If you found statistics from the US National Center for Education Statistics, would you trust it? Probably. But you should always evaluate the source.
Statistics can be used to make whatever point you want. For example, the statistics Planned Parenthood reports about abortion may be different from those used by the National Right to Life organization. Two groups can take the same data and present it to fit their needs. Always be alert for bias in statistics!