Shifting Attitudes on the Second Shift: A Statistical Analysis of Women and Work

Liz Raleigh, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Carleton College
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This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project


In this sociology of the family assignment, students investigate whether and how public attitudes regarding women and work changed over the past 25 years. Data are derived from the 1988 General Social Survey (GSS), a longstanding survey of Americans attitudes. Using the Survey and Documentation Analysis (SDA) web interface, students will be able to analyze statistical data without using specialized software. Based on their analysis and findings, students then write a report modeled after social demographic data briefs.

Learning Goals

  • Teach students how to examine and make sense of social survey data
  • Develop a historical context for how attitudes towards women and work have evolved over time
  • Improve skills writing and creating charts about quantitative data
  • Foster connections among students via a group work setting

Context for Use

This assignment is geared towards an undergraduate introductory class on the sociology of the family. Suggested class size is less than 30 students. The group work assignment will last about a week (although students will likely get started on it sooner), and is designed to complement reading excerpts from "The Second Shift" by Arlie Hochschild. Since Hochschild conducted her qualitative research during the same era of the GSS module, the reading and assignments provide a way to show the relative strengths and weaknesses of qualitative and quantitative data.

Taking place about half-way through the term, students will have already had ample experience contextualizing family demographics, but this is the first time students are asked to analyze data themselves. Even though students will likely have varying statistical knowledge, the assignment is geared for those without any prior background. Outside of an internet connection, no other special equipment is necessary.

Because the GSS deals with a broad array of issues, the assignment could be easily adapted to other sociological sub-fields or to other social science disciplines.

Description and Teaching Materials

Prompts for students as they go through the assignment:

As you conduct your statistical analysis of the 1988 GSS, consider Hochschilds findings, think about how do the qualitative and quantitative data complement each other? How do the stories from Hochschild's respondents fit with the larger demographic data?

Assignment (Microsoft Word 365kB Sep4 13)

Teaching Notes and Tips

This assignment is best run by someone with a strong understanding of statistics. It is helpful to play around with the SDA site before presenting the assignment to students. In order to trouble shoot questions, it is best to show students how to use the SDA in class, perhaps even asking students to bring their laptops or scheduling some computer lab time for them to play around with the interface. For students with a strong background in statistics, encourage them to go further by recoding their own variables (age, for example).

Also, it is vital to stress that analyzing the data is only the first part of the assignment, emphasizing the importance of contextualizing the numbers within the historical and contemporary debates.


On the technical level, assessment is based on whether students correctly analyzes the data (i.e. are the row and column variables backwards) and whether students accurately present and interpret their findings.

On the bigger picture level, assessment is based on whether students are able to connect their historical data to the larger discourse about work, family, and gender. Students are expected to draw on the relevant literature and identify recent studies as a point of comparison.

Even though its a group project, the final report should have a cohesive voice, effectively use charts and graphs, and link the statistical analysis to the bigger picture.

In order to check whether individual students are pulling their weight in this group project, members will have the opportunity to grade their peers and these evaluations are an integral part of the grade.

References and Resources

This is the website for the SDA, run by UC Berkeley

This is the link to the teaching guide that accompanies it

The Second Shift by Arlie Hochschild