Exploring Society By The Numbers

An Analysis of Earnings

Jeffrey Lashbrook, SUNY- Brockport

Summary

While a much larger percentage of American families are located in the top income bracket in 1990 compared to fifty years ago, there were still slightly over 1/4 of American families with income of $25K or less in 1990. Here, we will analyze some forces contributing to inequality in earnings.

Learning Goals

Skill
  • Learning outcomes for this assignment include further honing analytical skills in terms of generating, reading, and interpreting rudimentary forms of data analysis. We increase our sophistication though by introducing a third variable into our crosstab analysis. Other skills you will learn include:
    • Quantitative writing
    • Creating visual tools representing quantitative data in the form of charts or graphs
    • Translating data finding to inform decision making
Substance
  • Unfortunately, we don't have the type of data necessary to examine all of these ideas as fully as they might warrant, but we can use census data to shed some general light on individual versus structural factors. Objectives for this exercise include addressing the following questions:
    • Is there a relationship between education and earnings as human capital theorists contend?
    • Do the occupation or industry people work in influence at all the relationship between their education and earnings?
    • What about ascribed statuses like race and gender? Do blacks and whites, men and women earn the same amount if they have equal levels of education?

Context for Use

This exercise was developed for use in an upper-level sociology course. The exercise was presented as part of a unit to better understand the concepts of social class, wealth, and power by examining historical and contemporary data on financial resources. This is Part II of Jeffrey Lashbrook's exercise, continuing off of "Current and Historic Patterns in the Distribution of Income.

Description and Teaching Materials

Excercises: PDF (Acrobat (PDF) 126kB Feb16 09)
Exercises: DOC (Microsoft Word 76kB Feb16 09)

Teaching Notes and Tips

This activity uses two customized data sets made from the 2000 Census and guides students through data manipulation using WebCHIP software found at DataCounts!. To open WebCHIP with the dataset for the activity, please see instructions and links in the exercise documents under teaching materials. For more information on how to use WebCHIP, see the How To section on DataCounts!

Assessment

Visit DataCounts! for assessment tools

References and Resources

©2009 DataCounts!