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Using County-Level Health Data to Examine the Social Determinants of Health

This assignment prompts students to apply understandings of the social determinants of health to analysis of publically available socioeconomic and health data, with the ultimate goal of encouraging students to critically engage in and personally relate to course material. Students are asked to use data from the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program (, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, in order to analyze the county-level social and economic contributors to health within a county of their choosing. This assignment (1) tests understanding of social conditions as fundamental causes of disease, (2) evaluates students’ ability to interpret population data, and (3) garners interest in the material by providing the opportunity to study a county of personal relevance to the student.

Understanding Poverty (Beginner Level)

In this exercise, we will investigate the characteristics of poverty in the United States. Through an analysis of current data on poverty, we will begin to evaluate the measurement of poverty and policies intended to alleviate poverty. In the process, we will work with demographic tables and basic descriptive statistical techniques, using data collected by the Bureau of the Census in the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Two Hypothesis Testing Assignments Using the Survey Documentation and Analysis Website

These assignments are intended to provide Introductory Sociology students an opportunity to gain a better understanding of the hypothesis testing process by analyzing General Social Survey data available at the Survey Documentation and Analysis website. Students are provided with a series of paired independent and dependent variables from which they choose any four pairs. Students are required to write a hypothesis regarding the possible relationship between those pairs, in addition to providing a brief rationale behind each hypothesis. Students are then directed to U.C. Berkeley’s SDA website to run the relevant statistical procedure to test their hypotheses. Students must summarize the results of these statistical tests, decide whether or not their hypotheses were supported, and include copies of their statistical output with their completed assignment. While the assignments (or variations of them) can be used in a variety of sociology courses, the assignment is designed particularly for online Introductory Sociology courses.