Unemployment likely affects at least some students in your classroom. To learn more about how you can support children living in homes with new, or deepened, financial insecurities, see Teaching in the Downturn.
Students will work in pairs and groups to:
- Examine and interpret unemployment data related to Latinos, African Americans and whites in different states in 2007, when the recession began, and in 2009, as the “recovery” takes shape.
- Identify key findings by completing mathematical or statistical tests with the data.
For grades 4-7:
- “Calculate the Average” cards, so that each student pair has one card
- The Puzzle of Unemployment data for each pair
- Pencils and erasers
- Calculators may be used at the teacher’s discretion.
For grades 8 and up:
- Copies of pages 1 and 2 of Quarterly Unemployment Rates by Race, State and Sex, from the Economic Policy Institute.
- Sticky notes (or small pieces of paper and tape)
- Eight markers of different colors, one for each small group (different colored ink will make it much easier for students to locate the information they’ll need)
- Large map of the U.S. (or create one using chalk or tape on the floor)
- Calculators, sheets of paper and colored pencils or computers with Excel (PCs) or Numbers (Macs), one for each of the eight groups
- How can data help us understand the nature and scope of a problem?
- Why is it important to be accurate in mathematical or statistical calculations? What can happen if we are not accurate?
(noun) the result obtained by adding several quantities together and then dividing this total by the number of quantities; the mean
data |’datə; ‘dātə|
(noun) [treated as sing. or pl. ] facts and statistics collected together for reference or analysis.
(noun) a fraction whose denominator is a power of ten and whose numerator is expressed by figures placed to the right of a decimal point.
(noun) one part in every hundred; the rate, number, or amount in each hundred; percentage
unemployment | ənim’ploimənt|
(noun) the state of being unemployed; the number or proportion of unemployed people
For Grades 4-7:
- Find a partner. (Distribute a “Calculate the Average” card to each pair.) Work together to calculate the average. Double-check your work.
- Find another pair with the same Average card. Do you have the same answer? Double check your work one more time.
- Your pair now holds one of six clues that’s required to create a fuller picture of unemployment in these states. (Distribute a copy of the Puzzle to each pair.) Write your clue in the appropriate box and circle it.
- Locate pairs with a different box circled than yours. Share your information. Keep going until you’ve filled in all of the six numbered shaded boxes.
- Working with your partner, complete the “difference” and “average” calculations on the Puzzle handout. Team up with another pair to double check your work.
- Your small group of four should list two facts or trends the compiled data reveals about unemployment in these six states, e.g., “All three racial and ethnic groups experienced an increase in unemployment between 2007 and 2009.” Write your answers on your handouts.
- Share your findings with the class. Add two findings from other groups that you found particularly interesting on one of your group’s Puzzle sheets.
- Write a summary statement on that Puzzle worksheet describing what you learned in this activity about unemployment, working with data and working with each other. Each member of your group should sign the worksheet before you hand it in.
For Grades 8-12:
- Count off from one to eight. Gather into a group with peers who have the same number.
(Provide several copies of Quarterly Unemployment Rates by Race, State and Sex to each group, sticky notes, and one of the markers.)
Here are the group assignments:
Group 1: Data for Latinos in 2007
Group 2: Data for Latinos in 2009
Group 3: Data for African Americans in 2007
Group 4: Data for African Americans in 2009
Group 5: Data for Whites Living in States Listed from Alabama to Missouri, 2007
Group 6: Data for Whites Living in States Listed from Alabama to Missouri, 2009
Group 7: Data for Whites Living in States Listed from Mississippi to Wyoming, 2007
Group 8: Data for Whites Living in States Listed from Mississippi to Wyoming, 2009
- For those states where data is available for your assigned racial or ethnic group, write 1) the unemployment rate, 2) the racial or ethnic group name, 3) the name of the state, and 4) the year of the data onto a sticky note, e.g., “4.5%, Whites in Alaska, 2007.”
- Move to the map and place your sticky notes in the appropriate places.
- Take several moments to examine the map as a whole now that all the sticky notes have been placed on it. Look for trends that seem to emerge across states, years and/or racial or ethnic groups.
- Your group should select one trend or pattern members think they spotted and craft a hypothesis statement, e.g., “In 2009, unemployment seems to be highest among African Americans living in the Southern region.” Write that hypothesis down at the top of a sheet of paper (or at the top of a spreadsheet).
- Work as a group to collect the data from the map that you’ll need to prove or disprove your hypothesis, for example:
In 2009, unemployment seems highest for African Americans living in the Southern region.
- Next, run the mathematical or statistical tests you need to prove or disprove your hypothesis, for example:
- Illustrate your findings through an appropriate chart or graph, for example:
- Share your original hypothesis and final illustration with the class. Explain how you reached your conclusion.
- As a class, discuss: What does this data tell us about unemployment? Did some of us ask similar questions, but get different answers? How could that be? What does this activity tell us about the importance of testing data appropriately? About running calculations accurately?
- Researchers often are unable to create valid samples for some racial/ethnic groups (e.g., Asian Americans) at the state level. At the national level, however, data is available. For example, unemployment for Asian Americans stood at 7.5% in October 2009, lower than the rates for Whites, African Americans or Latinos. On November 10, 2009, USA Today published Cultural factors help limit recession’s impact. Read this article as a class and discuss the protective factors present within the Asian American community as a whole.
It is important to remember, however, that the “Asian American” moniker represents people from 48 different national origins, and that vast disparities exist between those sub-groups. For example, Economic Characteristics of Asian Americans in the New York Metropolitan Area from the Asian American Federation of New York documented sizable differences between the six largest Asian ethnic groups living in the city. Review the report’s data on pages 4 and 5 against New York City’s unemployment rate (10.2% in September 2009). How might the employment landscape differ today?
- Examine the political cartoon. What is the symbolism represented? What opinion does this cartoon give you of the economy? How does it apply to this lesson?
Re-create this political cartoon, adapting it to reflect information you learned about unemployment in this lesson.
Reprinted with permission. Teachers may purchase individual cartoons for other lesson plans at PoliticalCartoons.com.
- Economy Track: An Interactive Look at the U.S. Labor Market, from the Economic Policy Institute
- The BBs of Wealth, a short video from United for a Fair Economy, illustrates the wealth gap, which left some populations better equipped to withstand the recession than others
- Race and Recession: How Inequity Rigged the Economy and How to Change the Rules (PDF), from the Applied Research Center
- Blacks Hit Hard by Economy's Punch
Standard 3. Uses basic and advanced procedures while performing the processes of computation
Standard 6. Understands and applies basic and advanced concepts of statistics and data analysis
Standard 8. Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes
Technology (Grades 8 & up, if software was used)
Standard 2. Knows the characteristics and uses of computer software programs
Life Skills: Working with Others
Standard 1. Contributes to the overall effort of a group