SOC451 Population & Society
(Read this document carefully during the 1st week of class, and refer to it often during the course!)
LAPTOP POLICY Laptops for note-taking in
class are okay; however, surfing the web, texting, and
not. I generally will give you one warning if you violate this
then you will no longer be allowed the use of your laptop, electronic
or other mobile device during class.
PRELIMINARY REMARKS The study of population deals with events--births, sicknesses, deaths, migrations--that are of momentous importance in the lives of individuals, though it concerns itself with these events chiefly in the aggregate. Population study also deals with "macro" quantities--the size, increase or decrease, composition, and distribution of human populations--that are major considerations in the social and economic policies of states as well as in international relations. There is, in fact, scarcely a problem or issue, practical or theoretical, that lacks a demographic dimension. Since this dimension is often overlooked by commentators and interpreters who are ignorant of demographic phenomena, the introduction of a demographic perspective often provides new insights into social and historical events.
1. apply selected demographic constructs as independent variables in explaining a variety of social events and situation, as well as their uses for business and government organizations in planning and marketing;
2. describe and interpret the complex set of factors predicting morbidity and mortality—at both the individual and aggregate levels of analysis;
3. describe and interpret the complex set of factors predicting fertility—at both the individual and aggregate levels of analysis;
4. describe and interpret the complex set of factors predicting migration—at both the individual and aggregate levels of analysis;
5. understand and be able to use the rudiments of basic social research; part and parcel of this will be understanding the difference between concepts (theoretical variables) and their measurements (empirical variables), as well as the ability to construct and read cross-tabulation tables, graphs, and data plots;
6. apply some of the universal principles of “causal analysis” in your interpretations of empirical facts, in your critiques of interpretations offered by others, and in your own research and writing..
Demographic and associated sociological concepts tend to be quite abstract and difficult to appreciate at first wash. As such, they need to be approached from more than one angle. In this course, our approaches emphasize readings, lectures, discussions, and actually “doing” population research.
CLASS TIME Class time will be divided between lectures, reviewing homework (computer work), and directed discussions. Attendance is mandatory!
STUDY PARTNERS Very early in the semester you should find a "study partner." Many of your homework assignments will be turned in as two-person projects (you and your study partner). On rare occasions, I allow 3 individuals to form a study-partner team, but never more than 3. Your study partner will serve as a valuable resource in preparing for tests and for better understanding the lectures and workbook assignments.
GRADES are based on the following:
1. A mid-term examination. This exam is take home and involves computer-assisted analyses of cross-national population and economic data and/or of items taken from the General Social Survey.
2. An original research paper, based on computer analyses of primary data taken from a General Social Survey or cross-national sources. These analyses will be done with an interactive, very-easy-to-use program called Student CHIP. Prior experience with computers is helpful, but not necessary (everything you will need to do is taught to you, in class, as part of this course). Prior experience with statistical analysis is also helpful, but again is not necessary; all techniques needed to do your paper will be covered in class. The details of doing your take home exams and research paper will be given in-depth coverage in class.
3. An in-class final test. The last regular class day I will give a cumulative objective test, based primarily on the lecture notes (consistent attendance and good note-taking are premiums in this course!), but with some consideration of your readings in the Weeks, as well your workbook.
4. Homework. You will be assigned a dozen or so computer exercises from Data Happy. The exercises complement our readings and class discussions, allowing you to test the sociological concepts being introduced; they form the foundation for your ability to do the take-home exams and final paper. As these exercises are intended to help you prepare for the take-home exam and final paper, their real importance will be reflected then. However, to keep everyone honest, I will grade several of the homework assignments at random. Graded homework assignments are temporarily returned and discussed in detail in class; nongraded assignments are typically not returned, but their contents are incorporated into the lectures and class discussions. Ideally, the homework represents the last line in the Confucian homily:
I hear and I forget
I see and I remember
I do and I understand
I keep all exams and graded homework assignments on file for 60 days after the end of the semester, after which they are discarded.
Class participation and attendance. Part of "class participation"
is doing the homework, showing up with it in class on time, and being
able to discuss it. As part of your
participation in this class, you are responsible for reading your
Please note that we often show one or more DVDs in class on selected population topics. I usually ask for a short “reaction essay” after viewing one of these.
Weights for each of the above are as follows:
Mid-term Examination: 25% of your final grade.
Research Paper: 35%
Final Test: 15%
I only look to class participation and attendance if your total number of points at the end of the semester puts you on the borderline between two grades (say a "B" versus a "B+").
Please let me know if you have a physical condition or learning disability that may impact your academic activities in this class.
Depending on the topic you select for your major paper, each of you will have an individualized reading list. However, everyone in the class is expected to read the Weeks text (cover-to-cover), as well as selections from Data Happy, in the following order of chapter blocks. Begin block I at the beginning of the semester; when I say we will start mortality (or whatever topic) the next class session, I expect you to begin--and finish in a timely manner--the appropriate block of assigned readings. Of the greatest importance is to have your computer workbook assignments ready to turn in on the day I say they are due. Do not despair if early in the semester you struggle with the Advanced exercises--eventually you will not only be able to do them but to understand their importance in helping you to become a critical thinker. Please do not confuse the "Exercise #" versus the Chapter # in Data Happy (e.g., Exercise #8, HIV/AIDS, is in Chapter 4; the assignments for Data Happy below are given by Exercise #!). For every Exercise, you should do all of the Basic and Advanced problems, as well as the Exploratory section at the end of the chapter; the Exploratory sections will prepare you for the kind of thinking required to prepare a quality research paper.
Reading Block Population (Weeks Text) Data Happy Topics
2, 3, 4
concepts / Overview
Demographic Theory /
10 (Physical Health)
11 (Psychological Health)
20 (The Wealth
Take-Home Midterm Handed Out
IV 7 1 (Suicide) Migration
V 8 Age/Sex Structures
(Intergroup Contact & Demographic Background)