A federal statistical agency is a unit of the federal government whose principal function is the compilation and analysis of data and the dissemination of information for statistical purposes.
The theory and methods of the discipline of statistics and related fields and the practice of the profession of statistics are brought to bear on the compilation of data, on producing information from the data, and on disseminating that information.
The unit is generally recognized as a distinct entity. It may be located within either a cabinet-level department or an independent agency, or it could itself be an independent agency.
Compilation may include direct collection of data from individuals, organizations, or establishments or the acquisition of information from administrative records. It may include assembling information from a variety of sources, including other statistical agencies, in order to produce an integrated data series, such as the national income and product accounts.
Analysis may take various forms. It includes methodological research to improve the quality and usefulness of data. It also includes substantive analysis—for example, developing indicators, modeling, making projections, interpreting data, and explaining relationships among survey statistics at various levels of aggregation and other variables. Analysis by a statistical agency does not advocate policies or take partisan positions.
Dissemination means making information available to the public, to others in the executive branch, and to Congress.
Statistical purposes include description, evaluation, analysis, inference, and research. For these purposes, a statistical agency may collect data from individuals, establishments, or other organizations directly, or it may obtain data from administrative records, but it does not do so for administrative, regulatory, or law enforcement purposes. Statistical purposes relate to descriptions of groups and exclude any interest in or identification of an individual person or economic unit. The data are used solely to describe and analyze statistical patterns, trends, and relationships involving groups of persons or other units.