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The Modern Family:Changes in Structure and Living Arrangements in the United States

The Modern Family:Changes in Structure and Living Arrangements in the United States

Activity Description

Modern Family

Students will learn why families are important social institutions and how family structures, household sizes, and living arrangements have changed substantially since the 1970s. In part 1, students will work in groups of three to four to analyze census data so that they may understand these changes. In part 2, students will watch a clip from the show “Modern Family” and compare their observations with census data.

Suggested Grade Level


Approximate Time Required

60 Minutes

Learning Objectives

  • Students will understand how sociologists interpret data and will learn how to make empirical statements.
  • Students will become familiar with past and present census data about family structures and living arrangements in the United States.
  • Students will be able to discuss how different families are defined and how structures of families have changed since the 1970s.

Materials Required

  • The student version of this activity, 8 pages; it contains images that should be printed in color
  • Projector with Internet access (to show an online video to the class)

Activity Items

The following items are a part of this activity.

  • Figure 1, Households by Type, 1970–2012
  • Figure 3, Households by Size, 1970–2012
  • Distribution of Same-Sex Couple Households by States Grouped by Legal Recognition of Same-Sex Couple Marriages and Unions: 2010
  • Couple Households With Children: 2010

Teacher Notes

Blooms Taxonomy

Blooms Taxonomy

Students will analyze census data to examine families as social institutions.


High School Sociology


  • Family
  • Social institutions

Skills Taught

  • Analyzing change over time
  • Analyzing data


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