Optional Mini-Essay Assignments

You may decide to do some, all or none of these mini-essay projects. It's entirely your choice. Please comply with the expected submission dates if you want to get your final grade computed on time.

 Project 1: Are Young People More Accepting of Gay Rights Than Middle-aged or Older Folks?

The General Social Surveys have found over the last 30 years that Americans have become much more accepting of gay rights and less antagonistically disposed to homosexuals in general. But, we may wonder whether there are differences in how people of different ages feel about homosexuality and whether they show any differences in support for gay rights. For this mini-essay go to the SDA GSS website and examine these variables: marhomo, spkhomo, colhomo, libhomo, homosex, homosex1. Next, cross-tabulate each by age with this recode for age (r:18-35 "18-35"; 36-56 "36-56"; 57-90 "57-90"). Present all six tables and evaluate whether younger people are any more (or less) accepting of gays than middle-aged or older folks on these six different criteria. Remember to apply the .05 chi-square significance criteria; and carefully compare percentage differences between these age subcategories. Pay close attention to which sub-table differences are the most substantial ones.  Also, pay attention to very large overall sample sizes. (With very large samples of 8,000 cases or more, a subcategory difference of a few percentage points could be a "statistically significant" one but be analytically meaningless.) Reports should include your tables and analysis.

 Project 2: Is Gun Ownership Becoming More or Less Pervasive in our Cities, Suburbs, Small Cities and Rural Areas in Recent Years?

Many analysts have observed the high rates of gun ownership in America and see a connection between them and high rates of violence and homicide. It has also been observed that guns fare significantly not just in violent crimes and killings but also in accidental gun deaths and in deaths by suicide. Some may wonder whether all these problems may have worsened in the US in recent years as guns may have become more prevalent than before. But then, the gun ownership question ultimately becomes an empirical one as we wonder whether guns have become more or less widely owned among the public-at-large. Using the General Social Survey data at the SDA Berkeley Website analyze whether gun ownership has changed any over the more than 35 year history of GSS surveys. The variable title for gun ownership is "owngun". You should make that your row variable. Following the SDA instructions for recoding recode out all respondents who refused to give answers to the gun ownership question. Run "year" as your independent variable. After you get your results make a line graph table showing the dips and rises by year of personal gun ownership nation wide. Discuss the results. Next, repeat this same analysis separately for different size communities: big cities, suburbanites, small city residents and for rural residents. Use "xnorcsiz" or "srcbelt" as your urban/rural measure. Present four separate line graphs displaying the trends in gun ownership for the people living in these different kinds of  places. Explain your findings. And what can you say about whether it is urbanites, suburbanites, small city residents or rural residents who are most or least likely to own guns. Last, what other correlates can you identify with the data as significantly associated with gun ownership?

Project 3: Using The US Census to Better Understand the Causes & Consequences of Poverty

For this assignment you will asked to compare and contrast two adjacent communities that you may be familiar with: Far Rockaway and Lawrence, NY. Perhaps, you 've lived in one or the other place or both. If you live somewhere else you can also compare your community to these other two for extra credit. According to US Census data the two designated places display a stark contrast to one another in terms of poverty, with average incomes in Far Rockaway (based on 1999 data) showing close to $30,000 a year; while in Lawrence, the comparable figure was over $103,000 median household income.

For this assignment you will need to go to a particular US Census data source:

www.census.gov

On the first Census web page at the top of the page select the Data option; then select American FactFinder and then enter the first five-digit zipcode specified in this assignment, namely for Far Rockaway--11691 and later do it again for Lawrence--11559. After pressing the submit button for 11691 you will see tables available offering information on Far Rockaway's population, age, education, income, poverty, etc. Select the information available there vso that you can answer the questions on Far Rockaway specified in the next paragraph. Then repeat the same process so that you can compare and contrast these same attributes for Lawrence. You'll probably want to print this output. Next, you'll want to do the same for Lawrence, NY--11559. Last, if you decide to contrast your home community zip code to the other two enter that zipcode to obtain the listings of important demographic attributes.

In your analyses you will want to make a set of tables comparing your two or three communities. Several important things should be investigated in your comparisons. Are there differences in the percentages of female headed households? ; do they differ in the percent of married people as a percent of all those living in families? Which community has the greater percent of children and people over the age of 65 ? Compare and contrast the educational attainments of the people over 25 years of age. What are the differences in racial compositions between the selected places? Also contrast the differences in employment and unemployment between your communities. How do the people differ in terms of their occupations and in the types of jobs people have in each place? Of course, discuss the percent of persons below the poverty level in each community. Examine and contrast any other feature that you feel is relevant to explain poverty differences in these communities. Also explain how that and the other aspects may be related to poverty and to differences in poverty.

Below I offer a grid that you can use to make the tabular part of your presentation easier. The grid looks best under the Internet Explorer browser. Print it out and fill in the specific information requested .When you use it, make sure to combine the correct specific categories requested for your comparisons. Press Button-1 to get the blank table file in html. If you have Microsoft Word installed on your computer and wish to incorporate this table into a Word document file press Button-2.

Project 4: The Capital Punishment Evaluation Project

For this project you will evaluate the utility of capital punishment as a mechanism to deter killings. This will be done by answering two questions listed below : 1) Do the US states with the death penalty have lower, higher or no different rates of murders than the states without the death penalty? 2) Do those US states executing more criminals have lower, higher, or no different rates of murders than those executing fewer criminals?

To do this assignment you will need to consult the latest statistics on capital punishment, violent crimes, and homicides at the Bureau of Justice Statistics website:

http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/

 

 Once you go to this website you will have to search around the topics to find first, capital punishment then violent crimes. Try to find the listings of US states that have and do not have current death penalty laws and the numbers of death penalties that have been carried out by each state for a recent year period. Then look for violent crime and homicide data by states at this same website. Present the relevant tables that satisfactorily address the above questions. Print out and include all relevant tables that bear on the above questions. Then tabulate your answers for violent crimes and homicides by states that have and do not have current death penalty laws, those that execute more criminals from those executing fewer criminals. Summarize your findings and answer the above questions and discuss the potential significance of the results.

Project 5:Analyze Your Community: Has it Changed Much Since 2000?

You could live in a place like Floral Park Village, NY that may not have changed very much since the 2000 Census. To get census information on the racial distribution of Floral Park village for 2000 go to the Census website:

http://www.census.gov

The 2000 information can be obtained by following these steps:

Select Data on the first Census webpage. Then select American Factfinder and input New York State and also Floral Park Village. Then choose General Demographic Characteristics for 2000 to get the 2000 data on the racial characteristics of Floral Park. To get the comparative 2010 racial characteristics data on the same page select General Population Characteristics for 2010 and gather the data for the appropriate rows and columns. 

 

Floral Park Village

 

2000 (N)

2010 (%)

2010 (N) 2010 (%)

Gain /Loss (N)

Gain /Loss (%)
Total pop.            

White Pop.

 

 

 

 

Black Pop.

Asian Pop.

     

 

 

 

 

 

Other Pop.

   

 

 

 

 

 

Bi-race Pop.

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gather the same same data for Queens County and input the race characteristics and changing race makeup for Queens over this same 10 year period.

 

 

Queens

 

2000 (N)

2010 (%)

2010 (N) 2010 (%)

Gain /Loss (N)

Gain /Loss (%)
Total pop.            

White Pop.

 

 

 

 

Black Pop.

Asian Pop.

     

 

 

 

 

 

Other Pop.

   

 

 

 

 

 

Bi-race Pop.

   

 

 

 

 

Prepare a similar table for your own community of residence from these above two web-sites and compare and contrast all three communities. Speculate on the other kinds of social changes likely to accompany changes in size or racial composition over the ten year time span. For extra credit consult any reputable sociological source materials addressing population and racial composition change issues and see how this supports or takes issue with your speculations of consequences.

 

Your community

 

2000 (N)

2010 (%)

2010 (N) 2010 (%)

Gain /Loss (N)

Gain /Loss (%)
Total pop.            

White Pop.

 

 

 

 

Black Pop.

Asian Pop.

     

 

 

 

 

 

Other Pop.

   

 

 

 

 

 

Bi-race Pop.

   

 

 

 

 

 

All reports must be typewritten.

 

Project 6: Documentary Film Analysis Project

For this assignment you will see any of the films suggested below: An Inconvenient Truth, Super Size Me, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, or Farmingville, Taxi to the Dark Side which may be found at Netflicks, your local public library or at the NCC library. After viewing whichever film you select, summarize it and evaluate its contribution to a better understanding of the sociology of social problems or the specific subject matter it addresses: like crime and violence, health problems or race and ethnic relationships. If you wish to consult other source materials about the film contents you are encouraged to do so, but please make sure to cite this in your report. All reports should be about two to three typewritten pages.