Exploring Society By The Numbers


Richard Bulcroft, Western Washington University


This module is designed to illustrate the effects of selection bias on the observed relationship between premarital cohabitation and later divorce. It also serves as a review of key methodological concepts introduced in the first part of the course.

Learning Goals

  • Learning about survey methodology and sampling methods
  • Using software to access and analyze census data
  • Employing control variables
  • Learning how to construct, read, and interpret bivariate tables displaying frequencies and percentages
  • Review the Following Methodological Concept:
    • Randomization vs. Random Sampling
    • Causality vs. Spuriousness
    • Self-Selection Bias
    • Social Measurement
    • Hypothesis Formation
    • Independent and Dependent Variables
  • Review Substantive Material:
    • The Effects of Cohabitation on Marital Success
    • Selection vs. Experience Effects
    • Unconventionality Hypothesis
    • Risk Differences Hypothesis
    • Deviance Hypothesis

Context for Use

This activity is used in a Sociology class for undergraduate students. This activity explores topics of household/family and marriage, divorce, cohabitation and childbearing in the United States.

Description and Teaching Materials

Exercises: PDF (Acrobat (PDF) 144kB Mar24 09)
Exercises: DOC (Microsoft Word 94kB Mar24 09)

Teaching Notes and Tips

This activity uses one customized data set made from from the 2000 Census. It 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!


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References and Resources

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