U.S. Housing Patterns, Living Arrangements, and Life Chances


Diane Kayongo-Male, South Dakota State University

Learning Goals

Technical data base and data analysis skills

As you complete this exercise you will learn how to:
Access U.S. census data from the SSDAN site
Set up cross-tables properly (including the correct way to total percentages to 100)
Write simple generalizations from selected tables
Understand basic causal analysis including the difference between independent and dependent variables
Use a control variable to further examine your cross-tabulated data
Construct a bar graph using the webCHIP site
Get information from CensusScope on housing
Get information from the U.S. Census Bureau website

Sociological reasoning skills

By completing this exercise you will
Gain knowledge of how age, race, gender, disability status, and household type affect housing patterns and living arrangements
Gain knowledge of some of the housing patterns and living arrangements of older citizens
Gain knowledge of the complex meaning of social diversity in terms of gender, race, marital status, within-age cohort differences, and disability as it relates to home ownership, type of housing and living arrangement
Find out what percentage of American families could afford to purchase a modestly priced home
Find out whether rent as a percentage of household income increased or decreased from 1989 to 1999
Compare your analysis based on census data with a report of the
National Fair Housing Alliance or with any one of a number of articles listed at the end of this assignment
Learn what is meant by co-housing and be asked to suggest how it might improve residential living experiences in the U.S.

Context for Use

This exercise was developed for use in an introductory sociology course. The exercise was presented as part of a unit to better understand the concept of “life chances” in relation to achieving one of the components of the American Dream: housing.

In this assignment you will use U.S. census data to get an overview of housing patterns (ownership and types of housing) and living arrangements as a way of understanding more about one example of what Weber referred to as life chances (or, basically, the ability to access to resources we need to live a good life). As well, access to housing is considered one of the main features of the American Dream. Unfortunately, as the need for low-income housing units has doubled over the last three decades, the number of low-income housing units nationwide has been cut in half. Minneapolis and other cities have established annual goals for increasing the stock of affordable housing in response to a severe shortage of low-cost housing. 

Teaching Notes and Tips

This activity uses a three customized data set made from the 1990 Census and guides students through data manipulation using WebCHIP software found at DataCounts!. To open WebCHIP with the dataset for the activity, please see instructions and links in the exercise documents under teaching materials. For more information on how to use WebCHIP, see the How To section on DataCounts!

References and Resources