SPS 240 Final Project
Summer 2 2021
For this project, you will be working on a data collection project that seeks to understand variation across space. You will choose a U.S. state data collection or a cross-national data collection, depending on your major and areas of interest. Below are the two different options.
Option #1: U.S. State Data Collection
There are many interesting differences that occur across counties in the US, and the consequences of places on a variety of outcomes. You will sign up for one state, and will collect a variety of different kinds of data about all of the counties within that state. So, for example, if you sign up for California, you would be responsible for collecting data for all 58 counties in California. This sounds harder than it actually is! But, the data collection effort can take some time.
You will turn in your Excel spreadsheet with all of the data that you collect, as well as a report that includes visualizations of the data and a discussion of the data – what we can say, what we cannot say, etc. You will also create a presentation that you will share with your classmates
You are required to collect the following data for all of the counties in the state that you have signed up for:
The percent of the vote that Donald Trump and Joe Biden received in the 2020 election in each county in your state. This should be two columns of data.
Once on the above page, you will see a link to each state along the far-left side of the page. Click on your state. Then, scroll down and click on a link called “County Data (Graphs).” This will take you to a page that shows the percentage of the vote that Trump and Biden received in 2020 in each county. You will record this number in the appropriate cell in the Excel sheet. Do not put the “%” in the cell, just the number. For example, if Trump got 30.4% of the vote, you would just record 30.4.
The urban/rural code for each state. While there are a many measures of urban/rural/suburban, we are going to use the 2013 National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) Scheme Code.
Scroll down to Appendix II, which starts on pg. 25 of the pdf. This is where the county data for all counties in the country starts. Scroll down to find your state and counties. You are recording the 2013 NCHS Scheme which is listed as text. Record the text in the appropriate cell in the Excel sheet.
2019 Census demographic data – specifically the median household income in each county and racial composition in each county
You know how to collect Census data! But, as a refresher, you will want to use the advanced search feature, select Geographies to define that you are interested in counties, select your state, and select all counties within the state. Next, you want to select topics income and poverty income and earnings income (households, families, individuals). Once this is done you have defined your search, and you can look at the options the Census is giving you. Clicking the first link (Income in the Past 12 Months) should take you to the 2019 ACS estimates. You will see the county and a variety of other data. The number that you are going to record is the Median Income (dollars) estimate for households for each county in your state.
You will now do a new search for the racial composition of your state’s counties. You follow the same procedure to tell the Advanced Search engine that you want to see all of the counties in your state. Next, you want to select Topics Race and Ethnicity Race and Ethnicity. After you click Search, type “ACS Demographic and Housing Estimates” in the new search box at the top of the screen. This will take you to the 2019 ACS estimates. For this project, you are required to collect data on five racial/ethnic categories:
“Black or African American alone”
“Hispanic or Latino”
“American Indian and Alaska Native alone”
“White alone, not Hispanic or Latino”
The “White alone” number IS NOT the number next to White at the top of the Race section of the table. Rather, it is in the “Hispanic or Latino and Race” section, under the “Not Hispanic or Latino” subheading. These numbers can be a little challenging to find in the complicated way that the Census reports racial data, so feel free to check with me if you have questions. As with above, do not include the % sign in your Excel sheet. **Note: Do not collect the number in the “Estimate” column; only collect the number in the “Percent” column**
Your chosen measure that in some way relates to your major.
If you are a POLS major, it should be a county-level measure that has something to do with politics, campaigns, or policy. If you are an ENVS major, it should be a measure that in some way relates to the environment. For URBAN students, this might be county measures that pertain to topics like transportation, housing, homelessness, or public health. For CJ students there are a wide range of data available on crime rates, size of police forces, correctional populations, etc. For GLOBAL students, this project is a little more challenging in that we are collecting data that exists within the U.S. However, the outcomes that you might be interested in across nations (e.g., public health measures, literacy or education measures, etc.) also exist across states in the U.S. You can select a measure on anything that you find interesting. You have wide latitude with this; the only stipulation is obviously that the data must exist! This is designed to familiarize you with the kinds of publicly available data that are out there for topics you are interested in.
Option #2: Cross-National Data Collection
If you are a Global Studies major or an IR/Comparative politics focus in Political Science, I would strongly encourage you to select this option for your project. Others may select this option as well if it aligns with their research interests.
You may collect data on all 200+ countries, or you may collect data on a subset of countries. The subsets could be all countries within a certain continent, or they could be grouped by some other thing, like all democracies or all non-democracies. You could look at all countries that are a member of a trade agreement, or something like that as well. I would recommend thinking about a topic that you want to explore, and choosing a subset of countries based on that.
The only real stipulation I have about your country subsets, is that you must collect data on at least 20 countries, so do not propose collecting data on a subset that is fewer than that.
Regardless of which countries you choose, everyone will collect some common data across their chosen countries:
At least two measures of economic activity (i.e. GDP, GDP/capita, etc.). These could come from a variety of sources, but the World Bank is a good place to start: https://databank.worldbank.org/home.aspx
At least two measures of human health (i.e. life expectancy, infant mortality, etc.). These could come from a variety of sources, but the World Bank has this as well: https://databank.worldbank.org/home.aspx
At least one measure of war/conflict in each country. Could come from a variety of sources, but you can start here: https://www.acleddata.com/ or here: https://correlatesofwar.org/
At least one measure of individual freedoms/liberties. Could come from a variety of sources, but you can start here: https://freedomhouse.org/content/freedom-world-data-and-resources
A measure that you choose to collect that is related to your major or interests. Your chosen measure must be available in almost all of the countries that you are researching; in other words, don’t choose a measure that is only available in 5 of the 20 countries you are collecting data on.
What you will produce and turn in:
Your raw data in excel
This will be submitted to me by the day that the project is due.
You will create visuals to communicate the data that you have collected in a clear and compelling manner. These visuals will be used in your presentations, and will be in your report. It is up to you to decide the most appropriate visuals to use, and I want you to justify why you have chosen to communicate data in the way that you have. My recommendation would be to look for associations between your data, especially as they pertain to the measure you collected that is related to your major. For example, let’s say that you collected data on exposure to pollutants across a state’s counties. You could show whether exposure to pollutants is higher in urban or rural areas, areas with higher or lower percentages of different racial groups, or in places with higher or lower incomes. This is just an example and what you actually do will depend on your counties and measures.
You will turn in a written report that includes the data visualizations that you make. In this report, you will do the following: describe the data, talk about why you chose to visualize the data in the way that you did, and discuss what we can and can’t say about any trends in the data.
You will present your research to the class during the last week of class. The presentation must be 4-6 minutes. More details will be forthcoming.
In total, this project is worth 25% of your final grade for the course. This grade will be based on the following:
Dataset: Did you collect the appropriate data, was it compiled in the correct manner, and did you get the right numbers?
Report: Did you make appropriate visualizations and justify why you chose these visualizations? Did you make a good interpretation of the data trends that you observed where you accurately described and relayed information without drawing inappropriate conclusions?
Presentation: You will be presenting your data collection and visualizations to the class during the last week. More details will follow on this.
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