The difference between population and sample is easy to understand. Whether you study statistics in school or work as a statistician, the words population and sample will be used a lot. Hence, it is important to have a really good understanding of the meaning of these two words and the difference between them.

Population versus sample

What is a population?

For example, suppose a statistician is trying to find out:

  • Number of students living in the UK who can earn a bachelor’s degree before age 21.
  • Percentage of mothers who prefer to breastfeed their children in the United States
  • The prices of all Toyota Camrys sold in a country in the past three years.
  • Companies around the world starting their workers on $ 14 minimum wage.

The population is made up of students, mothers, Toyota Camrys, or companies.

The population for the above examples is

  • All students living in the UK.
  • All mothers living in the United States.
  • All Toyota Camrys sold in this country.

As you can see, the word population doesn’t just refer to people. It could refer to people or things like books or cars.

A population is the set of all elements in a statistical study.

In reality, you may never be able to get in touch with every single mom in the US or every single company around the world.

You may not be able to contact even half of all mothers, or even a tenth of all businesses around the world.

Sampling or sampling is important here.

What is a sample?

Since it is not always possible to come into contact with all members of a population, research is usually only carried out with part of the population.

For example, a study to find out how many mothers breastfeed their children could be done with just a few thousand mothers.

A sample is a fraction of the population.

In 2009, the estimated number of mothers in the United States was about 85 million.

For example, suppose you select ten thousand mothers to find out who is breastfeeding their children.

  • 85 million is the population
  • 10 thousand is the test.

For example, let’s say you want to know the prices of all Toyota Camrys sold in the United States. There’s a lot of data here because even if you focus on a single company, prices can vary a lot.

Suppose there are 50,000 variations of the price and you choose 300 variations.

  • 50,000 is your population

In some cases it may well be possible to get in touch with every member of the population.

Of course, your population has to be small. For example, let’s say a school has 5,000 students.

5000 is your population.

With good planning and organization, you can potentially get in touch with all of this population’s students.

In summary, here is the difference between population and sample

The population is the set of all elements, while the sample is a subset or a small part of the population.


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Difference between population and sample quiz


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