Statistics » Absolute and relative


Absolute numbers or values are the real/precise numbers.
For example 3 apples or 573 inhabitants.


Relative numbers or values are dependent on other numbers.
In other words, they are relative to other (absolute) numbers.
Most often, those other absolute numbers are not even given.
For example 2 in 5 cars drive too fast on a road.
You still do not know the precise number of cars that drove too fast.

Percentages and fractions are relative

With percentages and fractions, you do not know the precise number, only which part.
So in the example above you could have used 40% or 25 of the cars.

Fraction that looks absolute

Let's look at a carton of milk with a contents of a 12 litre.
Is a half litre absolute? You can measure it in a measuring cylinder.
Remember that when you buy a 2 litre carton of milk, the 2 is also absolute.
The fraction seems to be absolute because it is a precise amount.
But the fraction relates to the 'litre' behind it and is therefore relative.