Understanding DemographicsPrint this Page
- Subject(s): Social Studies & Geography, Mathematics
- Region / Country: Latin America & the Caribbean / Dominican Republic
- Grade Level(s): 6–8
- Related Publication: Insights From the Field
Students will use demographic information to gain an understanding of the Dominican Republic.
- Students will be able to explain the term "demographics."
- Students will compare demographic data from the United States and the Dominican Republic.
- Students will be able to describe the difference between learning about a country from numbers (data) and from observations by people who have been there.
- Begin this learning activity by reminding students that one of the questions we're focusing on in this unit is How does where we live influence how we live? As they've seen, one way to learn about a country is to look at maps and listen to what people have to say in interviews. Another way to find answers to the question is to look at demographics?numerical data and statistical characteristics of human populations. Statistics deals mainly with numbers. And numbers can tell stories?about a class, a school, a community, a population, a nation, and the world.
- Clarify the meaning of the word demographics by noting that you can collect demographic data about your class. To do this, you need to determine the categories of information you want to collect about the class. For example, you can collect data on
- What percentage of the class is male. What percentage is female.
- What percentage of the class was born between January and June.
- What percentage of the class has grandparents who moved to the United States from another country.
- You may want to have students collect data on the questions above and convert the information into percentages. Explain to students that this represents demographic data about their class. Ask students what the numbers tell us. What don't the numbers tell us? Are they accurate? Do these data give us a small snapshot of our class or the big picture? What other questions do you want to ask? What else might be needed to give a complete picture of our class?
- Give students a copy of Worksheet #3: The Fact File for the Dominican Republic.
- Walk students through the following categories as an introduction to what you can learn about a country from numbers: population, birthrate (per 1,000), death rate (per 1,000), life expectancy at birth, age distribution, literacy, religions.
- Ask students what this demographic information tells them about the Dominican Republic that they didn't learn from reading the interviews with Peace Corps Volunteers or by looking at maps. What did the interviews and maps tell them about the Dominican Republic that the demographics do not? What can numbers tell them? What can't numbers tell?
- Suggest to students that numbers can sometimes "tell a story." Give students a copy of Worksheet #4, a data sheet adapted from a portion of The World Bank's World Development Report for 1999/2000, Entering the 21st Century. If students are interested in looking at more demographic data on the Dominican Republic, they can find it on the World Bank's website. The World Bank has extensive data on each developing country, updated annually. Once you have selected a country, choose the "Country Data Profile" link to see a table with complete information about the country.
- Provide students with a copy of Worksheet #5: A Comparison Matrix. Students will be able to use this comparison matrix to compare data on the United States and the Dominican Republic.
- Have students review the abbreviated World Bank Data Chart with selected information on both the United States and the Dominican Republic. Ask students to work in pairs to complete the Comparison Matrix, using the data sheet as a reference point.
- When they have finished, ask students to pair with another set of students to compare and discuss their findings. Next, ask students what story these numbers tell us. Looking at data from the United States and the Dominican Republic, what conclusions can they draw now about the question How does where we live influence how we live?
- In a class discussion, have students draw conclusions row by row in the Comparison Matrix and in the World Bank Data Chart.
- Journal Entry. Ask students to respond in their journals to these questions:
- How does where we live influence how we live?
- How have maps, interviews, and numbers helped you answer this question?
- What other information sources do you think you need to gain a complete picture of the Dominican Republic?
If your students enjoy working with data, have them visit the World Bank website to research other data categories that provide information about the Dominican Republic.
Demographics Matrix; Journal Entries
Framework and Standards
- Where we live influences how we live.
- Demographics are one source of information about a country.
- How much information do we need to gain a complete picture of a country?
National Geography Standards
- The World in Spatial Terms
- How to use maps and other geographic representations, tools (charts, graphs), and technologies to acquire, process, and report information.
- Human Systems: The characteristics, distribution, and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics.
- Data Analysis and Probability