A Sociological Almanac for the United States

A Sociological Almanac for the United States

A Sociological Almanac for the United States

A Sociological Almanac for the United States

Excerpt

One learns a great deal about society simply by living in it. However, we often need a picture of our society that is not limited by the horizon of any one individual. To have such a comprehensive view is essential not only for the student of society but also for decision makers in law, government, investment, marketing, transportation, welfare, et cetera. The most common way we have to achieve such an over-all view is through statistics. Statistics condenses into one figure, or into a few lines in a table, information about thousands of individuals. Admittedly, statistical summaries and tables do not make particularly easy reading, and few people ever get excited about them. But they do reveal in a quick and precise way what would take numerous man-hours to discover by merely participating in and observing the life around us.

This book features an essay (by Hans L. Zetterberg) giving a statistical summary of the contemporary United States, and a selection of statistical tables (edited by Murray Gendell) presenting some of the sources of the essay in greater detail.

Most every field has its own special set of statistical tables, and experts watch constantly over the variations that occur in the statistical series. In this book we have not collected tables for specialists in any one field. Our collection is designed for those who want to be generally informed about American society as it appeared in 1960 or the (late) 1950s. We want to emphasize gross patterns, and are not overly concerned with the latest fluctuation. By making some comparisons with the past we hope to convey a feeling for long-range trends, and by making some comparisons with other countries we want to give the reader a basis to judge whether the U.S. figure is high or low. If statistical tabulations leave you at a loss, you may do well to study the points in "How to Read a Table" (by Murray Gendell) on pages 87-88 of this book.

Our collection of tables grew out of a feeling that American college students know too little about their nation. We thought it particularly misplaced that so many sociology students knew more about the terminology and method of sociology than they knew about their society. We are glad to acknowledge that the Department of Sociology at Columbia University shared this feeling to the extent of providing (during the academic year 1959-60) a position for Mr. Murray Gendell to work on this Almanac.

The present version of the Almanac is the result of considerable sifting of statistical source material in the light of experiences gained by teachers and students in several undergraduate classes using it as a supplement to their textbooks. Since it is likely to be revised again we would be happy to receive comments from its users.

New York in January 1961.

MURRAY GENDELL

City College of New York

HANS L. ZETTERBERG

Columbia University . . .

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