Exploring Society By The Numbers

About Census in the Classroom



The SSDAN Census in the Classroom Project, funded by the National Science Foundation Division of Undergraduate Education, helps college teachers introduce Census data analysis into their classes. Datasets from the 1950-2000 Censuses can be used in courses on race relations, gender studies, marriage and the family, U.S. income inequality, and other timely social issues.

Census in the Classroom seeks to make empirical data analysis exploration an accessible, available, and desirable component of introductory social science courses. It combines engaging course material on American society with basic data analysis exercises that utilize data from the U.S. census and other sources. By marrying theory and method in an active learning setting, these courses illustrate that quantitative reasoning skills are relevant to social issues.

Project Objectives

Census in the Classroom operates primarily through the creation, dissemination, and implementation of exercise modules, which direct students in the use of datasets to investigate social and demographic issues as an integral component of classroom curricula. These modules, created by faculty from colleges and universities across the country, cover a wide variety of sociological and other topics and are designed to satisfy the following objectives:


It is important that data analysis modules introduce quantitative reasoning skills that can be carried to upper-level courses that introduce more complex statistical and methodological techniques. While these early exercises do not need to use advanced techniques, they should introduce students to how social trends can be examined with empirical data.


We believe it is very important that topics examined are relevant to current social issues. Many topics of policy and theoretical concern can be addressed using U.S. census materials, including issues of clear importance at the state and local level.


Since our target group is first and second-year college students, the curricular materials must be easy to understand and clearly integrated into a course which examines social issues. We promote data analysis exercises that can be performed very easily by students, without the complications often encountered in typical social science statistical programs.


The fourth and most innovative objective of this project is to introduce networking capabilities that link data and research expertise at the University of Michigan PSC with queries and interactive feedback on development of curricular materials, over the Internet, with faculty at two and four year colleges.

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