Exploring Society By The Numbers

Gender, Martial Status, and Earnings

Kristin Anderson, Western Washington University


Berk (1985) proposed that the family is a "gender factory"; that is, families are social institutions in which ideas about gender are formed, enforced, and reproduced across generations. This exercise examines the relationships between marital status and earnings among women aged 25 and over, using data from the 1990 U.S. Census. We will attempt to answer the following question: Does marital status influence earnings among women?

Learning Goals

  • Read a cross-tabulation to identify and describe the relationship between two variables.
  • Develop hypotheses and identify independent and dependent variables.
  • Describe the conditions necessary for causation and evaluate relationships based on the criteria for causation.
  • Be familiar with how controls are used to identify spurious relationships.
  • To discuss the topic of marital status and earnings among women.

Context for Use

This activity is used in a Gender and Society class for undergraduate students. This activity includes the topics of income, poverty and gender, includes an investigation of historical patterns of the interaction between gender and income.

Description and Teaching Materials

Exercises: PDF (Acrobat (PDF) 94kB Mar24 09)
Exercises: DOC (Microsoft Word 58kB Mar24 09)

Teaching Notes and Tips

This activity uses a customized data set made from the 1990 Census and guides students through data manipulation using WebCHIP software found at http://www.ssdan.net/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!


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References and Resources

Berk, Sarah Fenstermaker. 1985. The Gender Factory: The apportionment of work in American New York: Plenum Press.

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