Exploring Society By The Numbers

Family Change 1950 to 1990

Chris Carlson, Cornell College

Summary

Students will trace changes in family behavior from 1950 to 1990 and assess their magnitude, considering the pace and timing of these changes. Marital status, number of children and household type will be examined by both race/ethnicity and class. Additional team questions will be introduced that focus on marriage and intimate relationships; fertility and childrearing; divorce; and families and poverty. Students will present answers and supporting data to these questions via class presentations.

Learning Goals

Skill
  • Using software to access and analyze census data
  • Identifying independent and dependent variables
  • Employing control variables
  • Quantitative writing
  • Learning how to construct, read, and interpret bivariate tables displaying frequencies and percentages
  • Creating visual tools representing quantitative data in the form of charts or graphs
  • Identifying population trends over time
  • Using real world data to enhance and support key course concepts

Substance
  • As a part of this examination, we will consider changes in family patterns between 1950 and 2000-a set of changes we will call "the second transformation." In this exercise, you will use census data to trace some of these changes.
    • In the first part of this exercise, you will examine marital status, number of children born to women, and household type in 1950, 1960, 1970, 1980, and 1990. The purposes are to identify the changes that have taken place, to assess their magnitude, and to consider the pace and timing of these changes.
    • In the second part of this exercise, you will examine one of these family variables in 1990. First, you will examine the relationship between race and ethnicity and the family variable. The purpose is to see if racial and ethnic groups differ on this measure of family behavior. Next, you will examine the relationship of family income to the family variable. You will control for "class" to see if racial and ethnic differences remain or diminish. The purpose is to see if the racial/ethnic differences are due primarily to class differences.

Context for Use

This activity is used in a Sociology class for undergraduate students. This activity explores topics of households/family, race/ethnicity, and childbearing to look at family change over time in the United States.

Description and Teaching Materials

Exercises: PDF (Acrobat (PDF) 99kB Mar24 09)
Exercises: DOC (Microsoft Word 75kB Mar24 09)
Answer Sheet: PDF (Acrobat (PDF) 56kB Mar24 09)
Answer Sheet: DOC (Microsoft Word 61kB Mar24 09)

Teaching Notes and Tips

This activity uses four customized data sets; one made from census trend data combining census information from 1950-2000, one made from combining census information fro 1950-1990 and one from the 1990 Census. It guides students through data manipulation using WebCHIP software found at DataCounts!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!

Assessment

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References and Resources

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