SOC451 Population & Society


Bryant University


 Prof. Carter


(Read this document carefully during the 1st week of class, and refer to it often during the course!)

Office K215; ph. 401.232.6186; fax 401.232.6435; e-mail; office hours Wed. 3:00--6:25, Thurs. 12:30--4:30 p.m., and by appointment.


LAPTOP POLICY   Laptops for note-taking in class are okay; however, surfing the web, texting, and e-mailing are not.  I generally will give you one warning if you violate this policy, then you will no longer be allowed the use of your laptop, electronic notebook, 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.

By the end of this course, you should have a better understanding of the demographic approach to the study of study and the predictors and effects of the major constructs in the study of population: fertility (births), morbidity, (sicknesses), mortality (deaths), migration (movements of people across significant borders, often political), distribution (rural vs. urban), and composition (including age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, marital status, and class). As the semester unfolds, you will be introduced to all four of the broad educational goals of the Sociology program at Bryant: (1) the use of sociological theory to understand the relationship between larger social forces and individual experiences; (2) an understanding of sociological methods, both quantitative and qualitative; (3) knowledge of the core content of sociology; and (4) the ability to apply sociological insights to the understanding or solution of complex problems. More specific to this course, by the end of the semester you should be able to:


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.


READINGS Reading assignments (see the next page) are given out on a weekly basis from the 10th edition of Weeks's Population (ISBN-10: 0495096377; ISBN-13: 9780495096375) and the 5th edition of Doing Sociology with Student Chip: Data Happy (Carter, 2010; ISBN-10: 0-205-78001-6; ISBN-13: 978-0-205-78001-3). Your take-home exams and final paper will require library work and the reading of several scholarly essays related to the specific topics you choose to investigate.


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.


5. 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 Bryant e-mail on a regular basis; if you use another e-mail server (e.g., Yahoo or Hotmail), please be sure that you set up your Bryant e-mail account to forward to the e-mail account that you prefer using.  It is not uncommon for me to send the class general informational e-mails on upcoming examinations and on other matters as well.

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%

Homework:                   25%


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.

Reading and Computing Assignments for the Semester


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

                             (Chapter #)                             (Exercise #)

             I                  1, 2, 3, 4                             Both Primers                        Intro. conceptsOverview of
                                                                                                  the world's
population /
                                                                                                  Methodology /

                                                                                                                          Demographic Theory /


           II                         5                                  8 (HIV/AIDS)                     Mortality & Health

                                                                         10 (Physical Health)

                                                                         11 (Psychological Health)

                                                                         20 (The Wealth of  Nations)

          III                        6                                 37 (Status of Women)            Fertility


                                                            Take-Home Midterm Handed Out


           IV                        7                                 1 (Suicide)                            Migration


V                         8                                                                             Age/Sex Structures




          VI                        10                                13 (Divorce)                        Population Characteristics
14 ( (Internet Use,                   & Life Chances           
                                                                                  Emotional Well-Being, &
                                                                                  Demographic Background)
                                                                          22 (Race, Ethnicity, & Poverty)

                                                                          24 (Intergroup Contact & Demographic Background)
                                                                          26 (Sex Differences in Income)

         VII                    11,12                              29 (Civil War)                       Population Growth:

Final Test