Data Mining Exercises

WHAT CONTRIBUTES TO THE SOCIAL CLASS IN COMMUNITIES?

As you learned in Chapter 7, stratification exists among different groups of individuals and has important consequences. These structured inequalities influence opportunities for achieving economic prosperity, referred to as life chances by sociologists. As the authors of your textbook point out, in our society the social class of the family into which people are born and the community in which they grow up affect their life chances. Regardless of their own social class, individuals living in upper-class or upper-middle-class communities have many more resources and opportunities than individuals living in lower-middle-class or lower-class communities. In this exercise we will look at how communities in this country differ in terms of the income, wealth, education, and occupation of the residents of the community. You will also analyze the social class of your own community. 
Four communities will be profiled in this exercise. Darien, CT, is a community of 20,732 people located in the New York City metropolitan area; Naperville, IL, is a suburb in the Chicago metropolitan area with population of 141,853; Oakland, CA, is part of the San Francisco metropolitan area with a population of 390,724; and Camden, NJ, with a population of 77,344, lies within the Philadelphia metropolitan area. If you are not already familiar with these communities, you might want to browse their respective Web sites in order to learn more about each. The data on income, wealth, education, and employment for these four communities was obtained at the U.S. Census Web site. Before you start the data analysis, go to the U.S. Census Web site, and discover the wide range of statistical information about the U.S. population available there.

Part I

Wealth, defined as all of the assets an individual owns, is difficult to measure because many times it is hidden. Here we will use the median value of homes and the degree to which this value appreciates over time as approximate measures of wealth. At the time the census was done in 2000, the median value of homes for the United States as a whole was $119,600; however, housing values reflect local markets, so we can expect to see wide variations in the communities we are researching. Table 1 provides information on housing values for the four communities we are investigating.

Table 1. Wealth (as measured by housing values), 2000

Darien, CT

Naperville, IL

Oakland, CA

Camden, NJ

Median housing value

$711,000

$254,200

$235,500

$40,700

% valued at less than $200,000

2.2

27.2

43.1

99.5

% valued between $200,000 and $499,999

27.1

68.0

43.3

0.5

% valued at $500,000+

70.8

4.6

13.6

0.0

Source: American Fact Finder, Fact Sheet, "Housing Characteristics," U.S. Census 2000.

Writing Assignment 1

After comparing these communities, summarize the differences among them, as well as how each stands in relation to the national median housing values.

As a generator of wealth, housing is important if it increases in value over time. Table 2 provides you with information on the housing values for these same communities in both 1990 and 2000, as well as the percentage change in the values between these two points in time (the percentage change was calculated by subtracting the value in 2000 from the value in 1990, dividing this amount by the 1990 value, then multiplying by 100).

Table 2. Housing Values in 1990 and 2000 and the Percentage Change in These Values

1990 Housing Value

2000 Housing Value

Change, 1990–2000

Darien, CT

$460,100

$711,000

54%

Naperville, IL

$176,200

$254,200

44%

Oakland, CA

$172,100

$235,500

37%

Camden, NJ

$ 31,100

$ 40,700

30%

Source: U.S. Census 1990 and 2000.

Writing Assignment 2

Which of the communities had the greatest appreciation in housing values over the ten -year period? Overall, what was the pattern of change? What can you conclude about the accumulation of wealth by individuals within these four communities?

Finally, before we turn to some of the other indicators of social class, look at the patterns of home ownership among these communities. Table 3 presents information on the percentage of housing units that are owner occupied as well as those that are renter occupied. As you can see, our four communities differ in terms of these two types of households. Using concepts associated with stratification, how can you explain this pattern of differences?

Table 3. Percent of Households Living in Different Types of Housing Units for Selected Communities, 2000

Darien, CT

Naperville, IL

Oakland, CA

Camden, NJ

Owner occupied

88

83

46

41

Renter occupied

12

17

54

59

Source: American Fact Finder, U.S. Census 2000.

We will now investigate the differences in median and mean income, as well as the way in which income is distributed among the residents of the community. Income refers to the wages and salaries earned from paid labor, plus unearned money from investments. Without a doubt, income and wealth are related; those with higher incomes have more money with which to invest in property as well as other forms of wealth. For the United States as a whole, the median household income in 2000 was $41,994. You will analyze the incomes of households living within each of these communities.

Table 4. Income Characteristics of Households in Selected Communities, 2000

Darien, CT

Naperville, IL

Oakland, CA

Camden, NJ

Median income

$146,755

$88,771

$40,055

$23,421

Mean income (with earnings)

$225,316

$101,169

$57,924

$23,201

% of with income of less than $15,000

3.3

3.8

19.8

34.7

% with income between $15,000 and $35,999

7.0

9.7

24.5

31.9

% with income between $35,000 and $74,999

17.0

26.1

32.0

27.6

% with income between $75,000 and $149,999

23.5

42.4

17.9

5.1

% with income of $150,000 or more

49.2

18.0

5.9

0.6

Source: American Fact Finder, Fact Sheet, "Economic Characteristics," U.S. Census 2000.

Writing Assignment 3

As you look at the numbers, what can you conclude about the differences in income levels between these communities? How do differences in income levels and distribution impact the overall quality of life? Go back and explore the Web sites for each of these communities and see if you can find some evidence of difference.

Let’s try to further penetrate the social class differences between the individuals living in these places. Specifically, let us look at their educational differences and the kinds of jobs they hold.

Table 5. Educational and Occupational Characteristics for Selected Communities, 2000

Darien, CT

Naperville, IL

Oakland, CA

Camden, NJ

Educational attainment of population aged 25+ (percentage)

< than high school diploma

4.3

3.7

26.1

49.9

High school diploma only

10.6

11.6

17.7

28.6

Some college

10.5

17.9

19.9

14.5

A.A.

4.2

6.1

5.5

2.5

B.A.

40.2

37.0

18.0

3.5

Graduate or professional

30.3

23.7

12.9

1.9

Occupational category of population aged 16+ (percentage)

Management/professional

59.6

56.0

39.2

16.8

Services

6.3

7.5

15.8

25.5

Sales and offices

29.4

28.0

25.1

25.1

Farming, fishing, forestry

0.0

0.0

0.2

0.3

Construction, extraction, maintenance

3.0

3.6

7.4

6.7

Production, transportation, material moving

1.6

4.7

12.3

25.7

Source: American Fact Finder, Fact Sheet, "Social and Economic Characteristics," U.S. Census 2000.

Writing Assignment 4

How would you characterize the patterns of educational attainment for each of these communities? How about their occupational structures? What conclusions can you draw about the relationships between education, occupation, and income?

Part II

Now let us examine the differences between these four places in terms of a few other social attributes. We suspect that a community’s patterns of income, wealth, education and occupation would be influenced by several other factors as well. There are a number of different hypotheses that we could test. For instance, a community with a high percentage of middle-aged residents is likely to be wealthier than a community with a higher percentage of children and/or old people. Having higher percentages of children or elderly reduces the potential work force. Given the patterns of discrimination found within our society (something about which you will learn more in subsequent chapters), we are likely to find that concentrated "minority" communities have more concentrated poverty. Also, a community with a higher percentage of foreign-born residents is likely to be poorer than one composed of predominantly native-born residents.

The following table contains information taken from the 2000 Census and found on the U.S. Census Web site.

Table 6. Selected Community Attributes, 2000

Darien, CT

Naperville, IL

Oakland, CA

Camden, NJ

Age Distribution (percentage)

19 and under

33.5

34.0

27.4

38.2

20–64

53.9

59.8

62.0

54.0

65 and older

12.5

6.2

10.5

7.6

Median Age

38.0

34.2

33.3

27.2

Race and Ethnicity (percentage)1

White

96.7

86.2

34.7

19.0

Black or African American

0.6

3.3

37.6

55.3

American Indian or Alaska Native

0.2

0.3

1.7

1.2

Asian

2.9

10.3

16.6

3.0

Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander

0.1

0.1

0.8

0.3

Other

0.5

1.1

14.1

25.4

Hispanic (any race)

3.2

21.9

38.8

Place of birth (percentage)

Born in U.S.

87.9

87.6

72.4

76.5

Born outside the United States in U.S. territory

1.5

0.8

1.1

14.6

Foreign born

10.5

11.7

26.6

8.9

Source: American Fact Finder, Fact Sheet, "General Characteristics," U.S. Census 2000.

1 In combination with one or more other races listed on the 2000 Census form. The percentages add to more than 100 percent because individuals may have reported more than one race and the "Hispanic" category includes individuals of any race.

Writing Assignment 5

Having examined the information in the table, consider whether the hypotheses are supported. Are there other attributes of socioeconomic status that contribute to the socioeconomic differences between communities? Try generating some hypotheses and testing them with data from the U.S. Census Web site, using the American Fact Finder.

Overall, how would you classify these four communities within the U.S. social class system? You might want to refer back to the discussion in your textbook of the characteristics of the four social classes —upper, middle, working, and lower class— to help you determine the social class character for each of them.

Part III

Your final project is to research your own community and compare it with the communities you’ve been working with up to this point. If you haven’t been to the U.S. Census Web site yet, you will need to go there now in order to complete the assignment. You will be using the American Fact Finder

  • First, click on the light-blue box on the left-side of the page labeled "Geographies." A new window will pop up. Click on the tab labeled "address," enter your home address, and click "GO." From the list that appears, look in the right-hand column labeled "Geography Type" and find the one labeled "Place." Click on the name of your hometown located in the left-hand column across from the geography type labeled "Place." Close the pop-up window. Your hometown will now appear in the upper left-hand box labeled "Your Selections."
  • Next, find the "Search within Results for…" box on the left-hand side of the page, which is located just underneath the "Your Selections" box. In that box, type "DP-1: Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 2000" and then click the gray-box labeled "GO." In the right-hand column labeled "Dataset," find the file labeled "2000 SF4 Sample Data" and click on the title to the left. Review this data, taking notes as appropriate. When you are finished browsing the data, click on the gray box labeled "back to search" in the upper left-hand corner of the screen.
  • Repeat the previous steps three more times, substituting the following selections for "DP-1…": "DP-2: Profile of Selected Social Characteristics: 2000," "DP-3: Profile of Selected Economic Characteristics: 2000," and "DP-4: Profile of Selected Housing Characteristics: 2000." Make sure that in the box labeled "Your Selections," you click on the red "X" next to the "DP" file that you previously selected, otherwise the new dataset will not load. Browse this data to get a sense of the demographic, social, economic, and housing characteristics of your hometown.

Writing Assignment 6

Based on what you found, how would you rate your community, as mostly upscale, mostly middle class (upper or lower), or mostly working class? What did you learn about social stratification in America and in your community from this assignment?

Part IV

Writing Assignment 7/Essay

Based on what you have learned in this activity regarding the social class characteristics of communities, write an essay in which you discuss how our individual opportunities for economic success are affected by the wider social environment in which we live. Use some of the evidence that was provided in this exercise in making your case.

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