This article describes how statistics are scrutinised as evidence. It focuses on the uses of a labour market statistic during House of Commons select committee evidence sessions. The statistic in question was ‘55.5% of economically active black men, aged 16‐24, are unemployed’. The article describes how this individual piece of evidence was scrutinised through ‘ordinary’ interactional practices. By drawing on ethnomethodology and conversation analysis, the article describes how questions and answers about this piece of evidence were organised by politicians, policymakers and witnesses. These members accounted for this statistic by expressing horror, questioning and interrupting witnesses, giving analyses of educational attainment, critiquing the validity of the statistic, citing factors such as ‘unconscious bias’, professing they were working hard, and sanctioning witnesses’ answers. The article shows how statistical evidence is both a tool and an object of scrutiny, a basic component for policy deliberation, and how it is interactionally organised through ‘ordinary’ practices.
- ethnomethodological studies of work
- labour market statistics
- parliamentary select committees