Exploring Society By The Numbers

Analysis of Occupational Change Data, 1950-1990

Jim Jones, Mississippi State University


In this three-part module, students develop a practical understanding of the sociological imagination through data analysis. Students will investigate how social events between 1950 and 1990 led to changes in occupation.

Learning Goals

  • Use data to describe and analyze statistical information.
  • Identify independent and dependent variables.
  • Calculate and read a cross-tabulation to describe the relationship between multiple variables.
  • Draw conclusions from data analysis.
  • Develop a practical understanding of the sociological imagination.
  • Recognize the existence of social structure by observing occupational shifts and how they vary by social group.
  • Learn how to analyze census data.
  • Understand the logic of control variables in bivariate tables.
  • Understand how sociologists use empirical data, such as the US Census, to generate knowledge.

Context for Use

This module is used in a large (~200 students) introductory course at Mississippi State University. A rubric is included (see PowerPoint file or 'Part 2'), which allows graduate teaching assistants to assist with grading the assignments. This module has been modified in the past for use in a smaller class without assistants.

Description and Teaching Materials

The Analysis of Occupational Change Data - Part 1 (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 19kB Mar15 12)
Part 2: Organization and Presentation of Data (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 24kB Mar15 12)
Part 3: Analysis and Write-up of Interpretation of Data (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 24kB Mar15 12)
PowerPoint on Module (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 145kB Mar15 12)

Teaching Notes and Tips

This activity uses a customized dataset made from information in the 1950-1990 US Censuses. It guides students through data manipulation using WebCHIP software found at DataCounts! (http://ssdan.net/datacounts/). To open the dataset in WebCHIP discussed in the activity, please follow the instruction found in the teaching materials. For help, please contact ssdan@isr.umich.edu.


Students are assess individually. Rubrics for assessing progression toward learning goals are included at the end of Parts 2 and 3.

References and Resources

Students choose and analyze datasets from SSDAN's DataCounts site. All state files can be found at http://ssdan.net/cgi-bin/datacounts/webChipLauncher_choice2.cgi.
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