Государственные практики конструирования статистических иллюзий, или «мёртвые зоны» отечественной статистики
The reflection of the disclosed observations and in-depth interviews (conducted with state and municipal officials and employees of state and municipal institutions), conducted by the author throughout the course of 6 years of field research in over 150 municipalities, including ones collected within the framework of 2 projects specially focused on the quality of statistical and registration activities, in conjunction with the thematic systematization of scientific literature on this subject, has allowed to identify 3 basic groups of reasons for the restrictions and distortions of statistics.
The first group contains an unavoidable often over-simplified representation of socio-economic processes on behalf of the state for the sake of registrability. A number of other conceptual and methodological factors also form this group. The second focuses on the problems of unintended systematical real methods of primary data collection and processing differences from the formal, and also on the distortions of statistics associated with the specifics of the administrative-territorial information gathering system. In other words, the technological restrictions and distortions are gathered in the second section. The third group includes the deliberate falsification of indicators to improve the assessment of authorities’ efficiency, together with other deformations of socio-psychological origin arising due to the fact that statistics are not a neutral tool.
The purpose of this article is to systematize and give a detailed description of the mechanisms of socio-economic and other processes of distortion by means of the optics of authorities, as well as to formulate possible ways of improving the quality of information. The following tasks are identified in order to achieve the main objective: a consistent detailed consideration of the causes and consequences of the restrictions and distortions, a rethinking and factor classifying of the content of domestic and foreign research on this topic through the results of our own field qualitative research.
The author concludes that official statistics in the Russian Federation have lost their referential function; also there is an increasing gap between those indicators accumulated by the subjects of official statistical accounting, together with the image of reality formed on their basis, and the reality itself. “The dead zones” (processes, objects, aspects and features which are not visible to the managers) are found in all sectors of society and authority’s activity: in the assessments of economic activity, social status and living standards of the population, recording offences and crimes, registration of municipal property — in some cases it can be large-scale and in other cases it could be relatively insignificant.
The author assumes that poor quality of information is one of the major reasons for the inefficiency of domestic public administration. The described conditions of the system seem to be an institutional trap; the transformation of official statistics, registration processes and authorities’ vision system can only come at significant a cost, and so the status quo remains standing. The author offers possible ways to solve the considered issues, in case the government does see the need to improve the quality of statistical data.