Chapter Activities

Experiential Exercises

(1) Divide the class into groups of 3–4 students and have each go to the American Fact Finder website ( Have each select a data summary for a common geographic site (such as the city in which your college or university is located). Have each student review the data under each of the following categories: general characteristics, social characteristics, economic characteristics, and housing characteristics. Have each student summarize these data in a paragraph or two to provide a profile of the area under study.

(2) Have groups of students search the ICPSR database for a subject of interest to them. Use the list of related studies to designate at least one article per student in the group. Have the students get copies of these articles and read them, taking note of how each study used the data, including which variables or cases were selected, any modifications to the database variables, conclusions that were drawn, and limitations in the database identified by the research. What does this brief literature review tell them about the database they selected?

(3) Have groups of students visit the Eurobarometer ( Have each group select a research question based on the available data, assigning individual country or countries to individual students. Ask the group to report on their cross-national study and to consider explanations for the patterns that they see. This is particularly useful if students know nothing about the countries, for it emphasizes the need to know something about the countries’ norms, values, and so on, before any meaningful analysis can take place.

(4) Have groups of students access the GSS data analysis feature on their website. Have each group provide some summary characteristics of the GSS sample in different years, (e.g., 1998, 1996, and 1994). Have them examine SEX and RACE in terms of distributions and AGE in terms of average age. Next ask them to look up the sex, race, and age statistics from the U.S. Census from the data closest to their GSS sample. Based on this comparison, will each group conclude that the GSS had a representative sample (It should not, since the GSS uses a disproportionate stratified random sample)?

Individual and Group Activities

(1) Go to and review the instructions on how to use the program to display census information on maps. Create a series of maps of the census tracts near your home, using any of the data available. From this write up a social profile of your neighborhood.

(2) Download the GSS variables HAPMAR and SEX and upload into a local statistical package or analyze these variables online. Using crosstabs to determine whether men or women appear to be happier in marriage. Write a brief explanation of your findings. Also explain any methodological problems with your results. How would you recommend resolving those problems in future research?