Social Explorer paper draft instructions:

(draft instructions updated Feb 2013)


* papers should be short: 2 pages of text plus 1 or 2 figures generated by Social Explorer.

I suggest that you follow the "Census 1790-2010" link, but there are other kinds of maps and other data sources on Social Explorer that you can use.

2 Figures that show the same phenomenon at different at different census years is good strategy (but not the only strategy).


* If you want to show change over time, pick two census years that are far apart, like 1960 and 2010.


* Note that census income is in nominal dollars (not inflation corrected), so $20,000 household income was rich in 1940, but working poor in 2010. Percent of households in poverty is reasonably consistent over time (because the income that is used in the poverty measure is indexed to inflation).


* Be cautious of the ecological fallacy. The ecological fallacy occurs when you infer things about individuals based on area means or medians. The Social Explorer maps give you area (for local maps, this is census tract) means or medians. Not everyone in the area has values equal to the area mean or median. You may be able to show that, for instance, Hispanics are over-represented in the neighborhoods with low household income. This suggests that Hispanics themselves have low income, but there are other possibilities, such as well-to-do Hispanic families living nearby to poor whites, because the well-to-do Hispanics are unable to buy in the exclusive or more well-to-do neighborhoods. You can certainly make inferences by comparing maps of race and income, but you should do so cautiously.


* National level maps are very difficult to judge because most of the US population lives in metropolitan areas that are tiny in size, whereas the big rural counties that are most visible in the national level maps have few people in them. I suggest you use maps at a more local level. If you use national maps you need to be cautious as to interpretation.


* In some situations it can be useful for the student to make their own annotations on the Social Explorer map, for instance labeling a key street, or where the high school and its district boundaries are, or circling the spot where a big housing project was built, etc.


* Papers are electronic only, in Word or PDF format. PDF files with embedded graphics are more likely to be readable, so PDF format for submission is probably your best option.


* Print your Social Explorer maps to files, and then embed the files into your paper, preferably each on a separate page at the end, labeled Figure 1, Figure 2, etc.


* Drafts are Due Thursday, Feb 21 [note the change!], upload the draft to Coursework.

* Final papers (Still 2 pages plus 1-2 figures!) are due to be uploaded to Coursework by March 8. Don't over-write.


* The paper should probably reference something in the literature from the class, but the paper should be mainly about the observed data, and only secondarily about the literature in the class.


* Your figures need to have notes below them indicating which data source, which year, and which variables were used.

It can be a little tricky to get Social Explorer to export the figures with the titles and the legend (you need both the title and the legend in order for the figure to make sense). The best way to get the slides to look the way you want is to save the slides on the slide tray at the bottom of the screen, and then use the Social Explorer File menu option to “export to PowerPoint.” Then you will have a set of PowerPoint slides that you can save on your computer, and each slide will have a proper title and legend. You should probably also create a free account on Social Explorer, and save your slide show to Social Explorer so that you can go back later and make changes.



* Your final paper should take the feedback you received on the draft version into account.