BASS Social Anthropology and Philosophy / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Measuring Inequalities (Unequal Societies)

Course unit fact file
Unit code SOST10021
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This module will provide an introduction to accessing and using quantitative data and evidence with a focus on health, well-being and happiness. Such skills are in demand across the public and private sector.

After reviewing different data types (relating this specifically to the students’ own discipline areas where possible), we consider how to access and analyse such data. This in part will include developing the student’s critical data skills and will involve hands on training and practice analyses of social survey data using on-line interfaces and software such as Excel.

Lecture Schedule

  1. Health, well-being, and happiness in the UK. Introduction to quantitative survey and administrative data.
  2. Measuring health, well-being, and happiness. Key data and variables.
  3. Objective and subjective well-being, poverty - Understanding survey questions (groups generate example questions)
  4. Who lives longest? Looking at individual differences in health, well-being, and happiness. Basic statistical skills for data analysis: counts, %s, means, SD, bar charts, histograms, scatterplots.
  5. Measuring health, well-being, and happiness and the Spirit Level debate. Comparing across areas and countries. Sampling and inference for survey data.
  6. Practical session (1) Key Variables - Excel/NESSTAR workshop (Lab).
  7. Analysing survey data. Developing research hypotheses, distributions, confidence intervals, Z scores and testing.
  8. Practical session (2) Key Variables - Using Excel (Lab)
  9. Measurement debate (bivariate analysis). Data quality issues and survey data - missing data/non- response/satisficing. Other data sources for measuring health, well-being, and happiness.
  10. Report writing skills, presenting tables, course overview and assignment.


The tutorials will be linked to each lecture and based around embedding practical skill learning using tasks and group work.

The tutorials will form part of the formative assessment for the course where students present ideas and draft outlines for discussion and feedback. In addition, students will be given the opportunity to do a practice essay and will get feedback on their writing. The essay will be linked to Lectures 7 and 8. Feedback will be given during tutors’ office hours in the last week of the semester.


The unit aims to:

  • To develop the students’ knowledge of the evidence for understanding inequality in relation to health, well-being, and happiness.
  • To introduce students to the key analytical skills required and provide basic training in the use of software for analysing quantitative data.
  • To develop students understanding of sampling, sample bias and statistical inference in social research.
  • To enable students to develop and write a dissertation research proposal based on such data analysis should they choose to in their subsequent years of study.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding:  An understanding of the evidence and debates regarding health, well-being and happiness in the UK and internationally.

Intellectual skills: An understanding of good practices in evaluating evidence and data and assessing scientific robustness. Development of critical skills in evaluating data and methods through: lectures, lab classes, group work and independent reading.

Practical skills: Skills in using social statistics and practical experience of data analysis including using software (Excel) and use of on-line tools such as NESSTAR.

Transferable skills and personal qualities: Critical data analysis and evaluation skills will be developed. Social statistics and data analysis skills are in high demand in the labour market. The group work will also aid the student in development of their communication and team working skills.

Teaching and learning methods

The course will involve lectures, group work and lab classes. Extensive use will be made of relevant on-line resources including: NESSTAR, data archives (ESDS/UK Data Archive, Question Bank) analysis and visualisation tools and literature resources as well as video and radio recordings.

Blackboard resources will be used to enable students to access teaching data and example pilot /test questions on health, well-being and happiness.

The lecture component will provide a theoretical and methodological framework for learning about how to understand, access and analyse quantitative data. Practical sessions will give students hands on experience in aspects of data analysis and interpretation and in using appropriate software for data manipulation. Such skills are highly transferable.

The emphasis on the use of real data to answer real questions is designed to engage students and enable students to consider using such approaches as part of their own dissertation research at a later date.

Please note the information in scheduled activity hours are for guidance only and may change.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 70%
Written assignment (inc essay) 30%

Feedback methods

All Social Statistics courses include both formative feedback – which lets you know how you’re getting on and what you could do to improve – and summative feedback – which gives you a mark for your assessed work.


Recommended reading

Bryman, A. (2021) Social Research Methods. Oxford University Press.

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) (2019) Child Poverty Facts and Figures

Dorling, D. (2013) Unequal Health: The Scandal of Our Times. Policy Press.

Goldacre, B. (2009). Bad Science. London, Harper Perennial.

Joseph Rowntree Foundation (2022) Poverty in the UK.

Making Sense of Statistics (2010) Sense About Science and Straight Statistics.

Purdam, K., Garratt, E. and Esmail, A. (2015) Hungry in the UK? Hungry? Food Insecurity, Social Stigma and Embarrassment in the UK. Sociology. (On-line first 0038038515594092 August 11, 2015).

Shaw, M., Mitchell, R. and Dorling D. (2002). Health, Place and Society. London, Prentice Hall

Wilkinson, R. and Pickett, K. (2010) The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone. Penguin.


On-line Resources

World Happiness Report

World Inequality Database

Inequality Index

Social Mobility Reports UK

Sutton Trust UK

ONS Well Being UK

The Joy of Stats by Hans Rosling

More or Less Radio 4. Spirit Level

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Practical classes & workshops 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Jacqueline Carter Unit coordinator

Return to course details