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LESSON

Unequal Unemployment

The United States recovered from a very deep recession that began in 2007. In the years immediately afterwards, however, unemployment continued to be a problem for many Americans. The unemployment rate varies greatly between states and different races/ethnicities. In this lesson, students will examine and interpret racial unemployment rates across different states and three racial/ethnic groups (African Americans, Hispanics, and whites) from data in 2007 and 2015.
Grade Level

Objectives

At the end of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • examine and interpret unemployment data related to Hispanics, African Americans and whites in different states in 2007, when the recession began, and in 2015, after the recovery
  • identify key findings by completing mathematical and statistical operations with the data.
Essential Questions
  • Why do unemployment rates differ across racial and ethnic groups?
  • How can data help us understand the nature and scope of a problem?
  • Enduring Understandings
    • Unemployment rates differ across racial and ethnic groups because of many factors, including level of education, geographical location, occupation and industry, and workplace discrimination.
    • Data can help us understand the nature and scope of a problem by providing concrete evidence of what is happening.
Materials

Vocabulary 

data [ dey-tuh or dah-tuh ] (noun) facts and statistics collected together for reference or analysis

recession [ ri-seh-shuhn ] (noun) a period with a decrease in economic activity

unemployment [ uhn-em-ploi-ment ] (noun) the state of being unemployed; the number of unemployed people

 

Suggested Procedure

1. Ask students what they know about the 2007 recession, and the current economic situation. Read the first paragraph aloud to students from the Economic Policy Institute regarding the unemployment rate. Tell students they will examine and interpret racial unemployment rates across six states (California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, New York and Texas) and three racial/ethnic groups (African Americans, Hispanics, and whites) from data in 2007 and 2015.

2. Assign students a partner or small group, and distribute the Calculate the Average handout to each group. Ask students to use a computer or device to visit the Economic Policy Institute’s interactive map to fill in the missing data for 2015 on their handouts. Then have them work together to calculate the averages for each table.

3. Direct student attention to page two of the handout, the Puzzle of Unemployment. Have students complete the “difference” and “average” calculations. Then have each pair or group 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 2015.” Have them write their answers on the handouts.

4. Have students share and discuss their findings with the class. Then have each group write a summary statement describing what they learned in this activity about unemployment, working with data and working with each other. Ask and discuss: Why do unemployment rates vary across race/ethnic groups?

Alignment to Common Core State Standards/ College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards CCSS R.7, W.7, SL.1, SL.2, SL.4 

 

Extension Activity

Modification for advanced students

Invite students to revisit the Economic Policy Institute’s interactive map to read the article and look at the overall unemployment rate (under “All”) for each of the six states (California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, New York and Texas) listed on the handout to compare it with the unemployment rates for the three racial/ethnic groups. Include their analysis of that data in their summary statements.