A short recap of the previous assignment: I’m using the Outlook on Life Surveys dataset and I’m interested in the relation between union membership and political participation (details here).
We’re required to write a programme that outputs frequency tables for a number of variables and discuss the output. The output’s supposed to be ‘interpretable (i.e. organized and labeled)’. I’m not entirely what is meant by that, but I’ve decided to recode the variables (e.g. 1 = ‘Yes’) and print the variable names and questions above the output. (If you’re logged in as a student, see the forum.)
The programme itself is posted here. Below I’ll discuss some of the output. For the sake of convenience, I’ll only show percentages (the raw counts can be obtained by running the programme). First, the current employment status of respondents.
PPWORK: Current Employment Status
Not working - retired 21.011334
Not working - on temporary layoff from a job 1.264167
Not working - looking for work 10.854403
Not working - disabled 8.456844
Not working - other 6.451613
Working - self-employed 6.190061
Working - as a paid employee 45.771578
One of the variables I’m interested in, is union membership. My understanding of the American situation is that union membership is often dependent on whether your workplace is organised (by contrast, in the Netherlands it’s not uncommon for unemployed or retired people to be union members). For that reason, it makes sense to look specifically at respondents who are working as paid employees. (The fact that union membership is measured at the household level complicates matters but that doesn’t change my preference to focus on paid employees.)
1,050 respondents (46%) are paid employees. This would seem to be a sufficiently large group for the purposes of the analyses I plan to do. In the programme, I created at subset of respondents who indicated they are working as paid employees. The output below is based on this subset.
Next, the numbers for the variable on union membership (as indicated, at the household level).
W1_P8: Does anyone in your household currently belong to a union?
Within the subset of respondents with paid employment, little over 20% indicate that at least one person in their household is a union member. This compares to a union density of 11.1% among wage and salary workers in the US according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics.
Some of that difference can be explained by the fact that the 20% figure will include some respondents who aren’t union members themselves but who have someone in their household who is. On the other hand, the BLS is a bit more persistent in assessing union membership, and would likely classify some people as union members who wouldn’t be classified as such in the OOL surveys. All in all, I’m inclined to say the 20% figure in the OOL surveys is higher than expected and that there is a possiblity that the survey sample is in some way biased towards union members.
And finally the political participation measures.
W1_L4_A: [Contacted a public official or agency ] Please indicate if you have done any of the following activities in the last 2 years.
W1_L4_B: [Attended a protest meeting or demonstration ] Please indicate if you have done any of the following activites in the last 2 years.
W1_L4_C: [Taken part in a neighborhood march ] Please indicate if you have done any of the following activites in the last 2 years.
W1_L4_D: [Signed a petition in support of something or against something ] Please indicate if you have done any of the following activites in the last 2 years.
Respondents are more likely to have signed a petition or contacted an offical than to have hit the streets. This is as expected.
Finally a word on missing values. For all variables considered here, the percentage ‘refused’ is below 2.5%. This would seem sufficiently low not to expect any problems arising from this.
PS One of the students who reviewed my first assigment suggested I include ‘canvassing’ as a measure of political participation, which seems to make sense. Unfortunately the dataset doesn’t seem to include this aspect, but there are variables on other types of political participation that I may add in the future.