Page:American Journal of Sociology Volume 15.djvu/284

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270 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY

certainly the best in English. In such an investigation, however, there are many difficulties. The great importance of the subject itself (see especially the paper by Mr. Tucker, pp. 253-61), the conspicuous character of this undertaking, the timeliness of the investigation, the unquestionable merit of the conclusions, and the fact that already the results are being incorporated in both the economic and sociological literature of the country — these are sufficient reasons why some of the difficulties should be pointed out, both for the sake of evaluating the work under review, and in the interest of method.

Aside from the difficulties of textual composition and schematic representation that are great in such a statistical study, there are not many difficulties that a little experience and thought cannot overcome after the original entries have been finally accepted. True, there are many pitfalls in the interpretation of accepted figures, but expert criticism may readily correct them. But even a novice in social investigation cannot fail to recognize that the uncertainties, the approximations, and the personal equation that operate before the first tables are made up make fractional percentages in derivative combinations seem ridiculous, unless, perchance, the original process was simply counting and the induction very extensive, as in mortality tables, for example. The figures having been accepted, tables, per- centages, and variations come easily, but there is a travail of tables.

One of the first questions that comes up is whether an intimate knowledge of the personal affairs of the family and household, necessary to fill the schedule used in this investigation, can be obtained by one visit, or at best by a few visits, by an enumerator or investigator. The nature of the information necessary for de- termining the standard of living is such that only a sustained per- sonal contact of the investigator and family can yield very complete and accurate data. The inconsistency of the intimate nature of the information desired, and the impersonal method of the schedule may throw some light on the omission from the final report of any information concerning the personal habits, capacities, and char- acteristics of the members of the family, although the schedule called for information on these points.

On this point it is suggestive to compare the method used by Mrs. Moore^ in a study of two hundred families with whom she or her small number of helpers already had and continued to maintain

'Mrs. Louise Bolard Moore, Wage Earner's Budgets.