Exploring Society By The Numbers

Putting Census Data to Work

Peter Meiksins, Cleveland State University


This module introduces students to using census data through three distinct scenarios. First, students must decide where two grocery store chains should go, each with a different target income class. Second, students are responsible for developing an anti-poverty program for each state in the United States. In the third assignment, students will be asked to advise a bookstore called "REALLY BIG BOOKS" about whether it would make sense to locate in Ohio and in Cleveland. REALLY BIG BOOKS is a bookstore specializing in books for collectors, academics, and sophisticated readers.

Learning Goals

  • You will gain some experience describing and analyzing simple descriptive statistical information.
  • You will learn the US Census is a good source of information about the characteristics of the population living in different parts of the country.
  • You will learn that you can get data on states and cities, as well as the United States as a whole, from the Census.
  • You will learn that there are practical uses for the information about the characteristics of the population of a given region.

Context for Use

This exercise was developed for use in an lower-level sociology course that focuses on demographics. For this exercise, students will play the role of consultants and policymakers as they examine datasets pertaining to geography and income level. There are three different versions of this module, each with a different scenario.

Description and Teaching Materials

Exercises - Part 1: PDF (Acrobat (PDF) 78kB Mar2 09)
Exercises - Part 1: DOC (Microsoft Word 47kB Mar2 09)
Exercises - Part 2: PDF (Acrobat (PDF) 91kB Mar2 09)
Exercises - Part 2: DOC (Microsoft Word 41kB Mar2 09)
Exercises - Part 3: PDF (Acrobat (PDF) 78kB Mar2 09)
Exercises - Part 3: DOC (Microsoft Word 43kB Mar2 09)

Teaching Notes and Tips

This activity uses the charts, rankings and maps on CensusScope.org. CensusScope is an easy-to-use tool to investigate U.S. trends using census data.


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References and Resources

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