Bar GraphsI’m a strange kind of social studies teacher. I like math, and I like numbers. Although I appreciate the various graphs and charts available in my textbooks, sometimes I wish I had a source for more up to date statistics, graphs, or data to use in analyzing certain ideas.

You can find a lot of data on the Internet, some of good quality and some of dubious quality. One source I’ve used repeatedly this year for my AP United States Government class this year is the U.S. Census Bureau’s statistical abstract.

For example, in our unit on federalism, we were discussing federal outlays and grants-in-aid. There was one table in our textbook that broke down federal grants by program for the fiscal year 2006, but I wanted to a) investigate a trend over time and b) get more recent data that showed the effects of the recession on federal grants.

As it turns out, there is a section of the abstract on Federal Aid to State and Local Governments. This included several tables that provided detailed accounts of various grant categories over the last twenty years. I was able to print out these tables to have my students analyze them, and I was also able to collect the data into a bar graph to use in my introduction.

Today, we examined voter participation. A key issue in this unit is determining trends in voter turnout and voter registration. Again, there was some data in the textbook, but I found the Elections – Voting Age Population and Voter Participation section of the statistical abstract had a wealth of data to use. I found one table that showed voter turnout in presidential and midterm elections (Table 397), and another that tracked registration and voting by demographic (Table 399).

If you’re a social studies teacher and you’re looking for some real data for students to analyze, check out the statistical abstract. There areĀ tons of useful tables that you could hand out. You just need to come up with the right questions to scaffold the students’ analysis.