Social Activism and Data Analysis


Create a public information product of your choice that is based on data related to a diversity issue and is at least 1,500 words long.

By successfully completing this assessment, you will demonstrate your proficiency in the following course competencies and assessment criteria:

  • Competency 1: Describe theoretical ideas of power in relation to policy.
    • Create a public information piece that conveys a central tenet regarding institutional inequality.
  • Competency 3: Analyze the effects of social policy using aggregated data.
    • Analyze data to make valid sociological inferences.
  • Competency 4: Analyze how laws are applied or created based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, and social class.
    • Describe factors contributing to racial and ethnic disparities within the criminal justice system.
    • Assess the impact that institutional discrimination within the justice system has had on minorities and minority communities.
    • Explain ways in which public policies are linked to racial and ethnic disparities within the criminal justice system.
    • Describe policy strategies for reducing institutional discrimination.
  • Competency 6: Communicate effectively.
    • Write coherently to support a central idea in appropriate format and with few errors of grammar, usage, and mechanics.


    Often, discrimination is discussed as a primarily individual phenomenon—one-on-one actions in which one person discriminates against another. But as you have learned through your studies and research, some discrimination occurs at the institutional level, despite laws and policies that have been created to reduce or eliminate structural racism.

    It is important to consider how different experiences for minority groups may reflect a dominant culture that practices systemic discrimination in terms of treatment or access to valued resources. In other words, if there are many individuals in a society who are not racist or discriminatory, can the same also be said of the institutions in U.S. society as a whole? Often, institutional discrimination involves the intersection of race or ethnicity with other variables, like social class and gender. For example, patterns of residential segregation may be connected to both race and ethnicity, as well as socioeconomic status.

Questions to Consider

To deepen your understanding, you are encouraged to consider the questions below and discuss them with a fellow learner, a work associate, an interested friend, or a member of your professional community.

  • What are some examples of institutional discrimination in U.S. society? To what extent are these examples the result of historical patterns of relationships between whites and minorities or among upper, middle, or lower classes?
  • Why do discussions of discrimination often focus on individual acts of discrimination rather than systemic discrimination built into institutions like the education or health care systems?
  • In the justice system, what factors explain why certain racial or ethnic groups are more likely to be stopped, searched, or arrested by the police? What is the connection between policing strategies and incarceration rates?
Internet Resources

Access the following resources by clicking the links provided. Please note that URLs change frequently. Permissions for the following links have been either granted or deemed appropriate for educational use at the time of course publication.

Library Resources

The following e-books or articles from the Capella University Library are linked directly in this course:

Internet Resources

Access the following resources by clicking the links provided. Please note that URLs change frequently. Permissions for the following links have been either granted or deemed appropriate for educational use at the time of course publication.

Bookstore Resources

The resources listed below are relevant to the topics and assessments in this course and are not required. Unless noted otherwise, these materials are available for purchase from the Capella University Bookstore. When searching the bookstore, be sure to look for the Course ID with the specific –FP (FlexPath) course designation.

  • Healey, J. F., & O’Brien, E. (2015). Race, ethnicity, gender, & class: The sociology of group conflict and change (7th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
    • Chapters 6 and 8.

Assessment Instructions

This assessment asks you to demonstrate a deep understanding of institutional discrimination through both research and data analysis.

For the purposes of this assessment, you will assume that you are a consultant working for a bipartisan think tank studying institutional discrimination within the justice system. In particular, you have been asked to research and analyze issues related to minority incarceration for drug use. You will concentrate on one of the key arguments related to the issue of institutional discrimination—namely, that U.S. criminal justice policies and practices in place as a result of the “War on Drugs” since the 1980s have disproportionately affected racial and ethnic minorities.

It is your job to create a public information piece that highlights your findings regarding racial and ethnic inequities within the justice system. You will need to support your conclusions with data and research, rather than relying on opinion.

The first step to prepare for this assessment is to research the topic of institutional discrimination in the criminal justice system, locating reliable, scholarly sources. Some suggested sources can be found in the Resources for this assessment.

Data Review and Analysis Instructions

The following data sources should be used as a basis for this assessment. Links to these can be found in the Required Resources for this assessment.

  • National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) data. Review the Quick Tables page to access this data from the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research.
    • When you select one of the quick tables, such as one for heroin use, you can specify how the data is presented. To see statistics for heroin use based on race and ethnicity, for example, select the “Heroin Use” link. Then select the following options in the dropdown lists:
      • Measure of Heroin Use: Select “Ever Used Heroin” first. Then select the other options to create additional graphs and charts as you would like.
      • Respondent Characteristics: Select “Race and Ethnicity.”
      • Confidence Intervals: Use the default option, “(None displayed).”
      • Chart Options: Choose any of the options for viewing the chart, depending on how you would like the data to appear.
    • Repeat this procedure for the other illegal drugs on the list, including marijuana (illegal in most states), crack, and cocaine. You can open each table in a new tab in your browser, which makes it easier to compare the data.
  • FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports data. Review the Person Arrested page for data on drug arrests by race and ethnicity.
    • You will see a list of table numbers on this page. Tables 43, 49, 55, 61, and 67 show data that include categories for race and ethnicity. Click on each table number to see the full tabular data. You will need to scroll down each table to look for the line labeled “Drug abuse violations.”
    • Note that Table 43 provides the overall national picture regarding drug abuse arrests, while the other tables provide specific regional data based on the classifications of cities, counties, suburbs, and nonmetropolitan areas.


Using research and the provided data, support and communicate the position of a special interest group by creating a public information product. The final product should convey the central tenet that U.S. criminal justice policies and practices disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minorities. Choose from one of the following public information pieces:

  • Information booklet targeted to the general public.
  • Position paper or brief targeted at state or federal legislators.
  • Mock Web page (or pages) or blog.
  • Public service announcement (a script for a radio or television program).
  • PowerPoint presentation targeted to a specific audience, with a description of the audience and detailed speaker’s notes.
  • A script for a speech to be given at a national meeting of practitioners who work in the criminal justice system.

Note: Be sure to reference—include the citations on a separate reference sheet—specific data from the tables, charts, and graphs from the sources listed above to illustrate your points. Make sure to identify the titles of those that you cite; for example, “Ever Used Heroin by Race” is the title of the table and graph produced when you followed the initial steps above.

The final, professional-quality product should accomplish the following:

  • Convey the causes and consequences of the problem of institutional discrimination in the criminal justice system.
  • Use formatting and design principles that are appropriate for your chosen product.
  • Include graphics—such as photos, charts, graphs, and figures—to enhance the presentation when appropriate.
  • Be supported by data and scholarly research.
  • Describe differences in illegal drug use based on race and ethnicity, and explain the factors that account for discrepancies between who uses illegal drugs and who is most likely to be arrested for drug abuse violations.
    • Keep in mind that to be accurate in your assessment, you will need to not just look at raw data and percentages but also consider the data in relation to each racial or ethnic group’s percentage within the overall U.S. population.
  • Discuss the extent to which drug policies or law-enforcement strategies have contributed to racial and ethnic disparities in drug use arrest rates.
    • Consider any historical or contemporary influences that may have contributed the disparities you have identified.
  • Share your assessment of the impact these disparities, along with institutional discrimination within the justice system more broadly, have had on minorities and minority communities.
  • Present at least two potential solutions or strategies to combat the problems identified in your analysis.
    • These can be community-based, legislative (at the state or federal level), or law-enforcement strategies.

Additional Requirements

  • Written communication: Written communication is free of errors that detract from the overall message.
  • Length: The completed public information piece should contain at least 1,500 words.
  • Format: Cite your sources in current APA style and format, including a reference list at the end of your document or presentation.
  • Sources: Cite the NSDUH and FBI Uniform Crime Reports data, and at least two additional scholarly sources. When you mention the NSDUH and FBI data, identify the titles of any specific charts you refer to.
  • At least 4 references.