Lesson plan: Census findings on U.S. poverty levels
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- Analyze statistical evidence as presented by the U.S. Census Bureau.
- Make inferences about the level of poverty in the United States.
- Theorize about correlation vs. causation of ethnicity and poverty level.
- Chart average income per year in a bar graph (include whites, African-Americans and Hispanics.)
- Predict patterns for the next five years.
National Council for the Social Studies
VII. Production, Distribution and Consumption
High school students develop economic perspectives and a deeper understanding of key economic concepts and processes through a systematic study of a range of economic and sociopolitical systems, with particular emphasis on the examination of domestic economic policy options related to matters such as health care, resource use, unemployment and trade.
BOCES Education Standards
Reference category 6, Statistics and data analysis
High school students will:
- 17. Estimate probabilities and predict outcomes from actual data.
- 18. Understand sampling and recognize its role in statistical claims.
CNNfyi.com article, "Rising economic tide lifts all boats, census report shows"
Graph or chart paper
One to two class periods
1. Ask the class to discuss problems caused by poverty. List students' points on the board. Tell students that this lesson will focus on statistics regarding the U.S. poverty rate as defined by the latest Census Bureau report. Explain to students that deciphering statistics can be difficult. For example, getting beyond the numbers to a full understanding of the data is a challenging task.
2. Ask students to read the CNNfyi article "Rising economic tide lifts all boasts, census report shows." Then ask the following:
- Who is reporting the information? How was the information gathered? What, if any variables, are missing? Does the conclusion directly follow the reported information? Does the report make sense? What does the report show regarding the poverty rate? How does the Census Bureau define its annual poverty level for a family of four? What did the 1999 data reveal about median incomes and racial groups? Which states showed an increase in median income level?
- Is the Census Bureau's definition of poverty an acceptable one in your opinion? Explain and give a more reasonable definition, if applicable. What do you think President Bill Clinton meant when he said, "The rising tide of the economy is lifting all boats." Do you believe this statement to be true for the people of the United States? Defend your position.
3. Assign students or groups of students to research various states. Have them investigate data to cite possible explanations for the relationship of race to poverty. Direct students to use online or media resources to obtain information about a particular area's economy, job market, crime rate, etc.
4. Direct students to show average income per year in a bar graph, including data about whites, African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian-Americans. Students may use the Internet sites below.
Mathematical-logistical: Students can calculate the yearly income of someone who works 40 hours a week and makes minimum wage. Ask if such a person falls below the poverty level? How does this person's income compare with the median income levels of various groups?
Instruct students to present the findings. Encourage them to use colorful graphs, maps or multimedia programs to bring the statistics alive. Direct them to explain causes of the discrepancies for racial income gaps as well as possible solutions.
World Bank Poverty Net
U.S. Census Bureau
State-by-state breakdown of population estimates
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