Theory and Research
This paper will focus on the quantitative correlation study method used in survey based researches such as the attached article entitled "Horatio Alger lives". Social research is a collection of methods people use to systematically combine theories and ideas to produce knowledge. Because of it's complexity, researchers must be able to carefully select a method or methods that will best suit their study objectives. Quantitative research method consists of: experiment, content analysis, existing statistics (correlation), and survey. The correlation and survey will be the two main methods that will be emphasized. In a survey research, people are asked questions either through the use of questionnaires or during an interview. Unlike the experiment approach, the condition and situation in a survey requires no manipulation. All the subject have to do is to answer questions. Good quantitative research is determined by validity and reliability of the research method used (Teevan, 1995:161). Therefore, the straight correlation study method used in the survey research of "Horatio Alger lives" lack components of validity and reliability.
News Article Summary
This article entitled "Horatio Alger lives" is basically a survey correlation study done on two distinct social classes; sons of wealthy fathers and sons of lower income fathers. The goal in this research was to determine which sons of the two distinct social groups mentioned, were to likely make more money in the future. Therefore, they surveyed 400,000 males age 16 and 19 that was still living with their fathers. After the eleven year period the same groups of men were again surveyed, and their incomes was correlated with their fathers. The research revealed that overall sons of wealthy fathers was more likely to earn higher salaries than their dads. Based on this fact the researcher further generalized that sons of wealthy fathers was more than likely to obtain a higher income than those sons of lower income fathers. Despite the overall results a small percentage of sons of fathers in the lower income families made more money than their father.
The class discussion evolved around two questions. The first question was; do you agree with the researcher's angle in which he derived a general assumption that, sons of wealthy fathers will make more money than sons of lower income fathers? Before allowing anyone to answer I quickly brought up the third variable which was attitude, in addition to the previous question. This question had two very interesting but opposing points of views brought to light by two very different opinionated classmates. One classmate (female) agreed with the researchers measures and assumptions, arguing on the bases that if your father had more money than you are more than likely to get a better education therefore, with this education one will be able to earn more money. She further added that wealtheir families had higher expectations on their children and as a result the child were likely to live up to that expectation. On the contrary, the other classmate (male) disagreed with the researcher's approach and generalization. His argument was that regardless of how rich one's father may be it is solely dependent upon the individual's attitude. He further argued that if that individual had a good attitude (ambitious and motivated) then the wealth and connection on his/her father's behalf will only enhance his/her success financially. However, given a hypothetical situation both the classmate including myself and others agreed that on a general basis, sons of wealthier fathers will be more likely to secure better jobs than those sons of fathers in lower income. We further discussed the importance of the third variable which was attitude and agreed on how important it is to be motivated. The question of validity was also brought up during discussions because the researcher measured wealth using only the income of the father. Further discussions of this suggested that to get a better measure the average of both mother and father's income should be taken. Finally, there was the last question; in the case of this article what is the independent and dependent variable? Independent variable is the cause and the dependent is the outcome resulting from the cause. The article suggested independent variable was the sons of either rich or poor dads and the dependent variable was did they make more than their fathers. Discussions of this topic concluded that the independent variable be the attitude of the son and the dependent was how much they made.
Sociological Analysis of Article
The research "Horatio Alger lives" uses a inductive reasoning logic. This means that the researcher begins with a specific result. In this case the results are based on 400,000 male subject (aged 16-19) taken from one area, and generalizes the results to the overall population. Due to the results of this research, the researcher concluded that overall, sons of wealthy fathers were making more money than those sons who's fathers were in less favorable financial status. This generalization yields questions of reliability because of the fact that the research was done on 400,000 males in one area. Reliability is defined as when a the method of conducting a study where the results can be replicated or duplicated by another researcher without a change in result. For example, measuring height with an elastic ruler may not be as reliable as measuring it with a stiff ruler because the elasticity would cause the results to vary from one time to the next (Gray, 1994:39). Several criticisms can be made about the reliability of this research due to the method used to derive a conclusion. First of all, if this same research was to be done in another area, the results may differ. Differentiation in results may be attributed to the different attitudes that the men have in the different areas-the group measured may have totally different attitudes than those not measured in other areas. Attitudes play a crucial role in determining how successful an individual will be financially. For example, if you are ambitious and motivated to be successful than you are more likely to be one step closer to that goal compared to those who are less motivated and ambitious. It is another way of saying "if you don't do your road-test how are you going to get your license". Secondly, the type of research method incorporated in the study is longitudinal. Longitudinal research is when the same individuals are studied at a different age, in this case it's over an eleven year period (Nueman, 1994:133-138). The problem here is that the only means of measure is correlation of the sons income over the eleven year period with the fathers. Also, researches could have included only fathers of wealthier families which poses a problem because the fathers of the wealthier family may not be the ones making the top dollars bringing the family as a whole to be classified as wealthier. Moreover, it may be the mothers that are making the higher salaries in the wealthier families. Which in turn means that no matter how many years have past it would yield the same result. Meaning that the only way this research would be reliable is providing that on the overall average, the so-called wealthier fathers made more money than poorer ones. Whereas, if this were to be the opposite (poorer fathers made more money on average than wealthier ones) then it would simply mean that this research is unreliable.
On the other hand, the validity in this kind of research can also be questioned. A validity is the degree to which a measure actually measures what it claims to. In the case of this article, it claims to measure the financial future of the sons of both rich and poor fathers. Threats of validity stems from researches done on a survey or interview basis. First of all, the respondents may not answer the questions truthfully or lie by giving socially approved answers that reflect well on them and avoid responses that put them in unfavorable light (Teevan, 1995:174). Let's suppose that hypothetically, respondents of the wealthier fathers lied on the questionnaire that they made more than their fathers, putting themselves in a more favorable and socially approved status. If this was the case then the study would be considered invalid. Secondly, survey researchers must be careful of spurious relationships in these correlation's (Reaves 1992:130-131). A spurious relationship assumes that a relationship is causal, when in fact each is effected by a common third variable. For example, this article claims that the sons of wealthier fathers will make more money then those of poorer fathers, does this also mean that the richer the father the more money the son will make in the long-run? If so, then is the wealthier the father the independent variable and how much the son makes the dependent variable? The answer is no because the real relationship is between attitudes of sons of wealthy fathers and making more money and attitudes of sons of wealthier fathers and making even more money (Bower, 1990). This third common variable in the spurious relationship stems back to what was said earlier about attitudes, if you don't have a good attitude the chances of you being independently successful financially in the future are very slim despite the financial positions of your family. However, if you do have a good attitude and a wealthy father than you would have an edge of being more successful over the sons of poorer fathers.
Summary and Conclusion
In order to make a survey valid and reliable researchers must consider all factors involved. Survey's must include subjects from varying social and economic backgrounds. This survey could have been made more concise if random sampling (is a method in which subjects are randomly selected from various areas) was used (Teevan, 1995:162). This would ensure that there would not be any biases involved when choosing subjects. The researcher when initializing this survey overlooked the possibility of double-income households and therefore, documented the fathers as the only means of income in a family. As a result, the research is only accurate in measuring single income families, providing that the wealthier fathers made more on average compared to the poorer ones. In conclusion, straight correlation study methods used in survey research like "Horatio Alger lives" will lack components of validity and reliability due to these facts previously mentioned.
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