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Social Change in a Metropolitan Community

Social Change in a Metropolitan Community

Otis Dudley Duncan
Howard Schuman
Beverly Duncan
Copyright Date: 1973
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 136
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  • Book Info
    Social Change in a Metropolitan Community
    Book Description:

    How has American society changed over the last fifteen years? Do we raise our children differently now than in 1953? Has women's liberation produced a shift in attitudes toward marriage or altered our idea about appropriate activities for women? Have our attitudes toward race undergone a significant revision?

    In this challenging volume, three eminent sociologists examine questions like these in the light of hard data which have become available, year by year, over the last two decades. The major purpose of the book is to demonstrate how measures of social change can be developed, capitalizing on past efforts in survey research. An omnibus survey, carried out in 1971, was designed almost entirely as a selective repitition of questions originally asked in the 1950s. It provides precise and reliable measures of change in such areas as marital and sex roles, social participation, child rearing, religious behavior, political orientations, and racial attitudes.

    Lucid and authoritative,Social Change in a Metropolitan Communitypresents a unique body of information on changes in public opinion, social norms, and institutional behavior. Its large number of statistical measurements are presented in an extremely accessible form-almost always as simple percentage comparisons. The research findings included here are unduplicated by any other study, and as a source of information on current social trends they provide fascinating reading for anyone who wishes to enlarge his understanding of the temper of our times.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-170-4
    Subjects: Sociology, Population Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)

    It was during 1967–1969 that Otis Dudley Duncan and I had several opportunities to discuss the emergence and development of a sub-field of social science investigation—that which is now commonly referred to as “social indicators.” In one product of these discussions¹ Duncan presented an elegant case for employing “replications of baseline studies” as a strategy for developing measurements of social change. In a 1971 omnibus survey, Duncan, the other authors of this volume, and their colleagues carefully replicated a set of social facts initially observed in the Detroit Area Studies dating from 1953 through 1959. An impressive record...

  4. The Study
    (pp. 1-6)

    The subject of social change is much discussed these days, both by those who put forward “demands for meaningful change in the system” and those who regret the seeming “erosion of values embodied in the traditions of our national life.” There can be no doubt that things really are changing, whatever our individual desires for change may be. Yet, when so much is in flux, it is not easy to be sure exactly what is going on. Casual observers may secure biased impressions and commentators may stress selectively the sensational aspects of change. While interpretations of change and reactions to...

  5. Marriage
    (pp. 7-20)

    Most of our material on changes in marriage takes the wife’s point of view since in the principal base-line study dealing with marriage only wives were interviewed. The questions were framed to elicit their reports on the marriage relationship and their evaluations of marriage in general or their own marriage in particular. It would be interesting to know if wives and husbands seek the same things in marriage and if the two sexes are finding equal gratification (or frustration!) in marriage, but unfortunately our data do not deal with these questions.

    It may be that most adults marry because this...

  6. Women and Work
    (pp. 21-26)

    The rapid change in the frequency of women working outside the home is widely recognized. The trend may be summarized by noting that 21 percent of married women living with their husbands were in the labor force in 1950 as compared with 35 percent in 1970, according to U.S. Census data for the three-county Detroit metropolitan area. There continues to be lively discussion in the mass media regarding the questions of whether, or under what circumstances, women should work, and of the reasons why they may want to work.

    Our material does not relate to the factors that directly determine...

  7. Rearing Children
    (pp. 27-44)

    How children grow up is significant for social change in two ways. First, social changes affecting family, neighborhood, community, school, and other institutions may induce changes in the way children are raised and the impact of their environment on them. Hence, one would be interested in the effects of other changes on child rearing. Second, if we know something about changes in the ways children grow up, we may have some basis for anticipating future change in the adult world, for today’s children are tomorrow’s citizens. Thus, changes in child rearing may precipitate other changes. Although these concerns amply justify...

  8. Social Participation
    (pp. 45-52)

    The idea of informal social participation that was communicated to our respondents is contained in the wording of the question: “We are also interested in how Detroiters spend their spare time. Many people get together every once in a while to visit, or play cards, or do something else. How often do you usually get together with any of your relatives other than those living at home with you?”Beginning with, “How often . . . ,” the question was repeated for “any of your neighbors,” “outside of work with any people you (or your husband) work(ed) with,” and “any other...

  9. Religious Participation
    (pp. 53-62)

    Some of the problems of measuring change in informal participation and membership in voluntary associations are observed again in our measurements of change in religious participation. The latter, however, seem to be on a somewhat firmer basis. Table 19 shows frequency of attendance at religious services for seven different years in the 1950s as well as 1971. The distributions are not entirely comparable for the reasons detailed in the notes to the table. However, with as many as eight observations we can make a plausible conjecture as to which differences between years reflect discontinuities in measurement and which represent real...

  10. Communal Involvement
    (pp. 63-66)

    According to Lenski, whose 1958 survey provides the base line for many of our measures of religious change, communal involvement refers to the degree to which an individual’s primary relations are limited to members of his own religious group.¹ In Table 24 we have three indicators of communal involvement, two of which take a normative form: is it wiser to marry within one’s group; is it wiser to choose one’s friends within the group? The third is behavioral: what proportion of one’s friends actually are members of the same religious category?

    A general summary applies to all three indicators and...

  11. Religious Beliefs
    (pp. 67-70)

    In addition to estimates of change in religious beliefs, we shall provide some evidence on ambiguities that are inherent in the attempt to measure such beliefs. Given this evidence, the skeptic may wonder whether the estimates of change are to be given any credence at all. But some of the changes are too large to be explained easily on grounds of errors of measurement.

    We begin with a question on belief in God (Table 26). Here the change, if any, concerns a very small fraction of the population, and we must resort to showing a decimal value for the percentages...

  12. Values
    (pp. 71-76)

    As is true of the other topics presented in this study, we do not have a comprehensive or well-structured set of measurements on changes in the values people affirm. Our opportunistic selection of questions from earlier studies has, however, resulted in some interesting, if fragmentary, evidence of shifts in what people hold to be moral and desirable.

    From Table 28 we learn that there is an increased moral tolerance for gambling in the population now, as compared with 1958. The matter remains an issue that divides the citizenry, however, with a strong one-fourth of the respondents in 1971 (as compared...

  13. Political Participation
    (pp. 77-80)

    Our only direct question on the citizen’s actual involvement in the political process, as distinct from his opinions and attitudes about such involvement, is the following: “Have you ever helped campaign for a party or candidate during an election—like putting in time or contributing money?” One-sixth (16 percent) of the respondents answered affirmatively in 1954; by 1971, the fraction had risen to one-third (33 percent). In view of the large supply of official data on voting, supplemented by repeated national surveys of the American electorate, we did not investigate election turnout or other such indicators of political interest. Perhaps...

  14. Public Affairs
    (pp. 81-88)

    Whereas the material on political participation looks at the citizen in an active role—taking part in elections or informing himself about politics—the data in this section treat him as a passive consumer of the outputs of public institutions or evaluator of their performance. With the well-advertised rise of “consumerism” in recent years, we shall not be surprised if the public seems more critical of the services it receives than it was in the past.

    In Table 32 we show the distribution of “good,” “fair,” and “poor” scores awarded by respondents to the performance of seven kinds of institutions...

  15. Political Orientations
    (pp. 89-96)

    In this study, we did not try to measure trends in political partisanship, changes in the distribution of “liberal” and “conservative” ideologies, and reactions to transitory political issues, since these matters are dealt with by the public opinion polls and well-known studies of electoral behavior. We did, however, choose a few questions to elicit respondents’ views of how the polity should be run. Some of the issues broached are clearly related to classical controversies in political philosophy which have been before the country since its founding and give every promise of being perennial. For example, it is gratifying that we...

  16. Racial Attitudes
    (pp. 97-112)

    Although the years 1952 to 1959 were important from the standpoint of American race relations, national surveys of racial attitudes and beliefs were rare during that period.¹ This is equally true for the Detroit Area Study, which included only a handful of such questions addressed to whites and none at all specifically to blacks. Perhaps this is an instance where the absence of questions itself constitutes a social indicator of the degree of concern or lack of concern over a social problem.

    All told, we located only four DAS questions from the 1950s for replication, two from 1956 and two...

  17. The Complexity of Social Change
    (pp. 113-124)

    This report contains no summary chapter. We want to explain why this omission seems like a wise decision since the statement of our reasons may contain instructive cautions.

    First, we were deliberately eclectic in our selection of topics, so that we would be able to give as many diverse illustrations as possible of the strategy of measuring change via replication of base-line surveys. Although the design of the study does not reflect an attempt to develop a comprehensive or unified theory of social change. we fear that post hoc interpretation of our results will be all too easy for anyone...

  18. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 125-126)