DMV Assignment 2: My first SAS Program!

Assignment instructions: Following completion of your first program, create a blog entry where you post 1) your program 2) the output that displays three of your variables as frequency tables and 3) a few sentences describing your frequency distributions in terms of the values the variables take, how often they take them, the presence of missing data, etc.

(Apologies for those of you not interested in reading raw SAS code, but for those of you who are, I’m open to suggestions for how to improve. This is fairly basic code, but useful for someone who’s never used SAS.)

Behind the jump for all the details.. Continue reading


DMV Assignment 1: Exploring institutionalized racism: Race and perception of law enforcement and opportunity for achievement between Blacks and Whites during the beginning of the #BlackLivesMatter movement

(A general note: I’m taking this course mostly for the opportunity learn SAS for data analysis. That said, my intent is to keep up with the course assignments, though likely with a lower level of rigor than desired by the instructors. While the topic I’ve chosen is of personal interest, and has some bearing on my professional work in higher education, it’s not within my main professional focus. Therefore, I will be cutting corners on conducting a full and proper lit review and may take the liberty of similar shortcuts in later assignments.)

Of the five data sources made available through the course, I’ve chosen to use the Outlook on Life Surveys data. Conducted in 2012 – in the midst of the recent spike in attention and interest by mainstream media in systemic/institutionalized racism prompted by the creation of the #BlackLivesMatter movement – the Outlook Surveys consist of responses to two internet surveys fielded between August and December 2012. The first survey yielded 2,294 responses (a 55.3% response rate) from a nationally representative panel of US adults (aged 18 and older) divided into four groups: African American/Black males, African American/Black females, White/other race males, and White/other race females. The survey sample contained a large oversample of African American/Black respondents. Panel members (and therefore members of the included sample) were randomly recruited using random-digit dialing and address-based sampling methodologies and households, where necessary, were provided with access to the internet and hardware to do so. The second wave of the survey consisted of interviews with 1,601 of the respondents from the first wave (a 75.1% response rate).

I’m most interested in exploring the relationships between race, social class, respondents perception of opportunity for success, and relations with law enforcement. Given a variety of evidence supporting a pattern of systemic racism (link is to a PDF) in the United States, specifically manifesting in police interactions with African Americans/Blacks, and the increased attention by mainstream media drawn to incidents of unequal response by police to incidents involving African Americans/Blacks starting with the death of Trayvon Martin, I expect to find that relations with law enforcement for African Americans/Blacks will be significantly more negative than for their white counterparts, and that, in particular, African American/Black males will report more negative relations than African American/Black females. I also expect to find interactions that may mitigate or exacerbate relations with law enforcement related to social class. Specifically, I expect that respondents who are both African American/Black and of lower social class will also report more negative relations with law enforcement. Further, given that systemic racism is not limited to interactions with law enforcement, but rather embedded and ingrained in our culture more broadly, I expect to find that African American/Black respondents also expressed lower expectations about their opportunities for success.

There are a number of items included in the Outlook Surveys that relate to the variables I am most interested in. By way of example, an indicator of social class could be created by combining responses to questions on personal income sources, access to cable television and the internet,  reliance on social services, highest level of education received, and/or home ownership status. Similarly, perception of opportunities for success could include respondent’s beliefs regarding their personal current and/or expected progress toward achieving the American dream, their expectations of success for their children or their children’s children, and/or beliefs about the relative equality of opportunity for Blacks and Whites. Relations with law enforcement are (fortunately) covered with only a small number of questions on the survey, though this simplicity may ultimately result in too broad a brush to describe the relationships in which I’m interested with sufficient specificity.

As I begin to work more directly with the data from the Outlook Surveys in the coming weeks, I expect that my variable selection will become more refined. For now, I have reviewed the codebook for the Outlook Surveys and highlighted those variables most likely to be of interest as I proceed. I expect that additional exploration of the data, specifically disaggregating the responses by race and gender into the four groups included in the responses, will prompt additional questions and the need for further review of the available data.

Fair warning

For various and sundry reasons, I’m participating in a few MOOCs this month on data analysis and interpretation. Yes, I already know these things and so the MOOCs are at best refresher content. However, we are likely becoming a SAS shop at work, which I’ve never had to learn, and the MOOCs – offered through Coursera by Wesleyan* – include specific guidance on learning SAS for data analysis.

One of the requirements of the courses is to maintain a public blog for various assignments related to the courses. I though briefly about starting a new tumblr for this purpose, but decided that adding another social media outlet to my existing bouquet might just put me over the edge. Therefore, I’ll be posting assignments here. You’re all welcome to comment (either directly on the blog or on the posts that push to Facebook or Twitter) if you wish, or to ignore them if you wish (I should hope that’s fairly obvious generally).

I’m not sure how frequently I’ll need to post for the courses, or whether I’ll work in posts between the required ones on other topics throughout the next month. The next post, though, will include information on the research question and data set I’ll be using for the courses, so you’ll know more then about whether you’ll want to tune in or tune out in the interim.

* Wesleyan offers the courses free if you take them as individual courses**, or you can choose to pay a certification fee to earn a specialization in Data Analysis and Interpretation. At the moment, I’m opting not to pay the fee for the specialization – it’s hopefully duplicative given my Masters degree! – but you, of course, have the option to “upgrade” later.

** The courses I’m taking (all at once because why not?) are:

‘Tis the Season..

I don’t really do resolutions. Some of it is that I tend to eschew trends on stubborn principle, but most of it is knowing that my motivation comes from something other than the turning of the clock from one day to the next. That said, as many others who also don’t do resolutions note, the start of a new calendar year is a convenient time for reflection and re-evaluation. And with that in mind, there are things I’m working to make a more regular part of my life, as well as a few I’d like to make less so.

Previously I talked about having started running for cardio. I think it’s fair to say that it’s become enough a part of my regular routine, given that I have maintained it (well enough) through both work travel and the holidays. In the end, even on the days I don’t want to, I can often cajole myself into it by noting that “it’s only half an hour” and noting what time it will be when I’m finished. I’m not sure why that works as a mental kick start, but it does. In any case, my regular weekly routine these days includes 3-4 Pilates reformer classes and at least three days of 30-minutes of cardio (either elliptical or running/walking on the treadmill). I also regularly get 10k steps at least 6 of 7 days in a week. All that is good, and good for me, so I will be conscious of not letting myself slip out of those habits.

I rather enjoy live theatre, but tend not to go regularly because coordinating schedules with people to accompany me ends up being more work than enjoyment. However, I’m learning to enjoy going alone, which also has the benefit of meaning I can sometimes get very good seats – an empty seat between two parties in an otherwise full section of the theatre, for instance. My family was visiting this past week for the holidays and we saw a choral performance at the Kennedy Center and Motown at the National Theater, both of which were grand. On a whim this afternoon, I took advantage of a last minute ticket deal on Goldstar for their last available ticket for tomorrow night’s performance of Kiss Me Kate by the Shakespeare Theater Company. Next weekend, I’m meeting a friend – again, pretty much on a whim prompted by a good hotel deal in Manhattan – in NYC for a weekend of theatre. We’ll likely only be able to make two shows – a matinee and an evening performance Saturday – due to travel schedules and the like, but all the same, I’m rather terribly looking forward to it. So, something I’d like to make a more regular part of my life is going to the theatre, and I’ll endeavor to do more of it in the coming year.

In terms of things I’d like to be less a part of my life, top of that list is my nearly constant internal monologue worrying about what other people think of me. I have a deep-seated fear of disappointing people – which leads to other manifestations like Impostor Syndrome and near constant second-guessing of myself. While it is undoubtedly a very good motivator to do things well, the drawback is a perpetual nagging doubt about whether I’ve done it “well enough” or been “good enough”, which quickly leads to questioning whether I am “enough”. This is different than egotism – I don’t want to be the best, or be the center of attention, or even receive public accolades for anything I’ve done. Rather, I want *not* to be noticed *because* I’ve done what’s expected (and not less). This, as is likely fairly obvious, is insidious and has so many pitfalls and traps as to be quickly self-sabotaging, all the while looking externally as if everything is going exactly as it should. For me, making this less a part of my life will involve taking to heart the advice I’ve given others: we are all human, we will all make mistakes and let people down, sometimes without ever knowing it, and that’s just part of *living*.

Things I Believe, an Unnumbered and Unordered Series

People, including and perhaps especially politicians, need to be allowed to change their mind on something when presented with evidence without being accused of being soft or indecisive or waffling. I believe in hypothesis testing and the Scientific Method and that those principles apply not only to theorems and experiments, but to every day life as we work, individually and collectively to find the best way through.

Corollary: I believe we have to learn to be okay with being wrong, and allow both ourselves and others to be able to admit being wrong without it being perceived as a fault of their character.

Now playing: Dear Mr. President, P!nk

I know what day it is. I think.

Today is Friday. I had to check to be sure, which might tell you a bit about this week.

I also know that I’m currently in Austin, despite spending a good chunk of the morning with the vague feeling I was in Dallas. (Not for any specific reason – the only part of Dallas I’ve ever been in is the airport, but I’ve been in it twice already this week and am about to be there a third time.) It’s fairly common for me to travel for work – about once a month-ish – but less common that two conferences stack up in the same week, much less that they do so in the same state. Even with the oddities of airline flight schedules – which made them think it made sense for them to get me from Houston to Austin via Dallas – I’ve had a good balance of time on my own this week to recoup energy, so I’m not feeling quite as crispy as I can after a week of travel. I do, definitely, miss my bed, though.

Both conferences were good – both had good encounters and opportunities to promote both of the major projects I manage at work, which is mostly why I was at them and both had sessions that were interesting and provided food for thought as we continue to plan the future of our work.

Sunday night’s keynote (at the Southern Association of Colleges & Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) Annual Meeting in Houston) by Dr. Stephen Klineberg, Sociology Professor and Co-Director of Kinder Institute of Urban Research, was phenomenal and gave a brief introduction to the history of US immigration policy that was new to me and filled in some pieces in our national identity that help me make sense of some of the xenophobia we’re experiencing today. Using data from a variety of projects the Kinder Institute runs, Dr. Klineberg made a very convincing case for the need to close the racial achievement gap, using Houston as a case study for where the nation as a whole is heading. (When the recording and/or slides are made available next week, I’ll post a link to them for those interested.) Edited 1/4/16: You can view the slides from Dr. Klineberg’s presentation here.

Dr. Jeremi Suri provided a different flavor of historical perspective (at the Higher Education Government Relations Conference (HEGRC) in Austin) yesterday, emphasizing the difference in founding principles between US institutions of higher education (established by pioneers and frontiersmen) and those established in European countries (traditional established by religions or monarchs). Even with my understanding of the origins of the US land-grant institutions, the framing provided by Dr. Suri added depth and insight to the identities of our colleges and universities as bastions of knowledge and seedbeds for new ideas and life-long learning. (Dr. Suri has written on this previously and you can read an article that includes much of his talk here.) Dr. Suri challenged us to remember our frontier origins and resist the urge to close off conversations on campus.

Suffice it to say, there are a lot of ideas percolating and bouncing into each other in new ways in my head, and I’m sure over the course of the next several weeks (or longer) they’ll continue to do so, spawning their own tangents and tangles. For now, though, my head feels a bit overfull, so I’m looking forward to a weekend at home to putter and tidy things before the holidays (and my family) arrive.

Run Your Own Race

Three-ish or so month ago, I decided to start running. Before you roll your eyes and prepare yourself for a screed from the newly converted, let me assure you: I’m not a runner. But I’m also not getting younger, and though I’ve practiced Pilates regularly (3-4 classes/week) for the last two and a half years, I needed to get in the habit of doing more regular cardio. In the past, I’ve been a more or less regular cyclist and even farther back I was sporadically a swimmer, so why I decided it was time to start running is as much anyone’s guess as mine. (I tell myself, though, it’s because it’s something I know I’ll always be able to do even when I’m traveling, so I won’t be able to use lack of equipment/facilities as an excuse to skip workouts.)

So.. 21 days make a habit, or so they say. I’ve run more days than that, but I still don’t think it’s a habit and there are still days when I have to guilt-trip myself into doing it. It helps that a friend has an awesomely supportive, no-pressure, non-competitive Facebook group where people set their own monthly goals and then report out weekly (if not more often – I track in a single thread daily so I don’t forget). Even that little bit of accountability helps keep me on track and the genuine support and non-competitiveness of the group keeps me engaged even when I miss goals.

I started with the Couch-to-5k running plan app* – which I highly recommend until about week 5 or 6, but by the time it’s just “run 20-25-30” minutes, I found it a lot less useful. For me, for now, I’m still building endurance and while the difference between two 10-minute runs with a 1 or 2 minute walk in between and one 20 minute run doesn’t seem like that much, it is for me. And for awhile, I let that bug me – I felt like I wasn’t doing it right if I wasn’t running longer intervals every time.

And then, recently, I realized that was silly.** I’m running to improve my cardiovascular health so really, as long as I continue to do it – at whatever speed and for however long – I’m meeting that need. The important thing is that I’m doing it. So, days like today, when I wasn’t feeling up for longer intervals, I still clocked nearly 2.5 miles doing 3 minute run intervals at a comfortable pace. At some point, likely fairly soon, I run (well, run some and walk some) my first 5k (in a workout, not as a race), and I’m sure that will feel like a big accomplishment. But for now, days like today, it’s okay just to have done it.

* I’m now using Zombies, Run! with my own music, which is working better for me. The random story interjections and stuff you pick up is enough to keep my mind from dwelling on the time still to go. If you’re a walker and looking for something similar, the same company has an app called The Walk that I’ve also really enjoyed.

** The context in which I realized this had almost nothing to do with health and certainly wasn’t related to running, however. It was a more general conversation with a friend in which they pointed out (as they have in the past) that I’m *very* tough on myself. I am the poster child for high standards and the person I’m hardest on when they aren’t met is myself.

Now playing: Ani DiFranco – Amazing Grace