Sociology 320

Read the Syllabus

(If you are an instructor interested in materials for the course, please feel free to email me.)

Beginning this fall, we will be offering a new seminar course in which students and two members of the faculty will work together to explore a current sociological question using quantitative data. Through a semester-long engagement around a single substantive question, the course will provide a way to acquire key skills involved in working with and reasoning about quantitative data.  The seminar format allows for more individualized attention and support in developing data analysis skills. Participants in the course will then be prepared to take SOC 305: Quantitative Social Science (the current statistics requirement for sociology concentrators) in their Senior year, strengthened with the additional preparation provided by the seminar.  Thus the seminar does not provide a replacement for SOC 305 but instead serves as an on-ramp to this important course.

This year the seminar is called SOC 320: Growing Up Poor Across America: An Introduction to Reasoning With Data, and will meet on Monday and Wednesday from 11-12:20. 

The course will focus on the topic of intergenerational mobility, the idea that children born into poor or disadvantaged families can, through education or hard work, eventually break into the middle and upper classes. Intergenerational mobility is a fundamental process in sociological research and an important aspect of social policies aimed at reducing income inequality.  We will work together to explore a mystery that has emerged recently: why do certain cities in the US see higher levels of intergenerational mobility than others? This question has received considerable academic and media attention in the past couple of years, for example the New York Times here, here, and here. Yet to date, no clear answer to this question has emerged.  We will search together for an answer by using a single dataset, the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study.

A key part of the course is that it is a small seminar setting. As we anticipate substantial interest, we have designated the course to be application-only.  We will make selections based on who we believe would benefit the most from the preparation for SOC 305.

We see the seminar as providing a few key benefits

  • learn more about intergenerational mobility
  • learn quantitative reasoning in the context of a single applied example
  • obtain a strong preparation for SOC 305
  • learn the ins and outs of a single dataset which can form the basis of your JP or thesis

To learn more about the course please see the syllabus.  We hope to see you in the Fall.

Professors Frye and Stewart