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8.1: Crosstabs for Research Methods

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    Statistics in Action: Women Directors Across Top-Grossing Films

    Introduction to Crosstabs

    Let's take a look at the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative's report on "Inclusion in the Director's Chair," which analyzed the gender for directors of the100 top-grossing domestic fictional films in North America from 2007 to 2022 (fewer films were included in 2020 and 2021 due to pandemic-related performance).

    As part of the data collection and analysis, the institute collected a list of directors for each of the 1,488 films, and classified them by gender:

    Screenshot 2023-10-09 at 8.59.53 AM.png

    They also classified directors by studio:

    What if you wanted to know if there is a relationship between studio and the proportion of women directors? Do some studios do a better or worse job when it comes to women's representation in directing their top films?

    Here are the frequency tables we have for both variables:

    Directors by Gender

    Screenshot 2023-10-09 at 9.15.41 AM.png

    Directors by Studio

    Screenshot 2023-10-09 at 9.15.29 AM.png

    So, is there a relationship? We can't answer this question with the data above. We don't know, using the data above, because we don't know the gender breakdown by studio. If there was no relationship / differences, we would expect all the studios to have the same proportion of women directors---we would expect 5.63% of directors in each studio to be women (just over 1/20). However, that's not the case.

    Going back to the raw data, we can make a new table of directors that crosses gender and studio. For example, Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck were co-directors for Frozen II in 2019, which was a Walt Disney Studios production. Here you can see the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative's table of studios again, but this time they have counted how many of directors within each studio are women.

    Screenshot 2023-10-09 at 9.27.06 AM.png

    So, are some studios doing better when it comes to women's representation? Universal Pictures has the most women directors, but it also has the most films. Paramount Pictures and STX Entertainment have the fewer women directors, but over 13% (over 1/10) of STX Entertainment directors were women, and 1.8% (under 1/50) of Paramount Pictures directors were women. It's hard to compare studios using frequencies, because the studios do not have an equal number of films.

    To make comparisons, we can calculate the percent of directors that are women for each studio.

    Screenshot 2023-10-09 at 10.09.19 AM.png

    This table is called a crosstabulation, or crosstab for short. It can also be called a contingency table. It tabulates (count up systematically and arranges in table form) our data across two variables.

    Definition: Crosstabulation

    A crosstabulation, or crosstab, is a table that shows subgroup distribution of data, enabling examination of potential relationships between variables.


    When I look at the percent of women by studio, I can make comparisons, going across the row and comparing how similar or different the percentages are. Here we can see that STX Entertainment actually has the highest proportion of women directors, at 13%, and Paramount Pictures the lowest proportion, at 1.8%. Universal Pictures has the second highest proportion of women directors, at 8.5% (over 1/12), and Lionsgate has the second lowest proportion, at 3.1% (about 3/100).

    (Conversely I could compare the percent of directors that are men, though with a dichotomous variable (there were no non-binary directors), this will just be the inverse of the above, e.g., 87.0% of STX directors were men compared to Paramount with 98.2% men directors. Still, before I give an award to STX Entertainment, I might want to be cognizant that they did not have that many films, comparatively (1.4% of all directors). Because their total number of directors is 23, if just one woman director had instead been a man, they would have dropped to below 9% (though still the highest proportion!), or if just one man director had instead been a woman, they would have jumped up to over 17%. Percentages can fluctuate a lot more with smaller sample sizes, something to be cognizant of when you are comparing percentages.

    Note that the percentages in the table above are column percentages. I wanted to look at whether studio has an effect on women's representation. Studio is my independent variable and gender is my dependent variable. I needed to look at the percent of women directors within each studio. My independent variable is represented in the columns and my dependent variable in the rows.

    This is what the table would have looked like with row percentages:Screenshot 2023-10-09 at 10.10.58 AM.png

    If I had instead used row percentages and compared them, I would have mistakenly thought Universal Studios had the highest proportion of women directors out of any studio! They don't, but because they have the most movies (and the second highest proportion of women directors), they have the highest proportion of women directors out of all women directors. Almost 1/4 of women directors from these top 1,488 films were from Universal Studios.

    You will see crosstabs in a variety of formats. Oftentimes in journal articles multiple crosstabs will be combined into one table, and they may not give redundant information (e.g., if they give the percent of women directors, they might not give the percent of directors who are not women). In the infographic above from the report, only frequencies and not percentages were given, and the number of non-women directors was left out.

    Here is another table from the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative's report, this one focused on representation of historically marginalized racial and ethnic groups.

    Screenshot 2023-10-09 at 10.21.48 AM.png
    Here there are frequencies and percentages for underrepresented directors, no frequencies or percentages for white directors, and then frequencies for the total number of directors. This table uses row percentages, with the independent variable represented the rows and the dependent variable in the columns.

    While crosstabs can be displayed in a variety of ways, we will use a standard convention in setting ours up, which will allow us to have the information we need in the table and have a consistent method to analyze them. For our tables, the independent variable will be on top, displayed in the columns, and the dependent variable will be on the side, displayed in the rows. We will include both counts and column percentages. Column percentages are the percent of the count for that cell out of the total for that column (for that independent variable category/subgroup).

    For example, if we did want to look at how women directors among these top films are distributed by studio, and our independent variable was gender and dependent variable studio, instead of the table above with row percentages, we would put gender on the top, studio on the side, and use column percentages. The table below shows this, with percentages out of gender. Out of all women directors, how are they distributed by studio?
    Screenshot 2023-10-09 at 10.42.48 AM.png
    Here we can view the percent of total women directors that come from each studio. Comparing the column percentages as we go across the row, we can also see that some studios are making relatively similar proportional contributions to the totals for women directors and men directors (e.g., Walt Disney Studios has about 11% of all women directors and 11% of all men directors), while others are making differential contributions (e.g., Paramount Pictures had 3.2% of all women directors but 10.7% of all men directors).

    Crosstabs are important for us to be able to analyze relationships. When you read poll results or analyze summary statistics by variable, you cannot compare relationships unless you are also given this information already broken down for you or have the raw data and can analyze it yourself. This chapter will teach you how to make crosstabs from a dataset.

    When to use crosstabs

    Crosstabs is useful when you want to compare two categorical variables. Note that in the analysis above, there were 9 studios and 2 genders. The 9th studio was actually a conglomerate catch-all, "other." You want to use crosstabs when you have a limited number of categories. What if there were 100 different studios included? That would have been a really long table and make comparisons difficult. You can use variables with a lot of categories if you are making a reference table (e.g., if you want to compare all 50 states and D.C., or all countries in the world), but in general you will want variables with a small number of categories. For example, if you wanted to use age and have data with adults, having every year from 18 to 89+ is going to be a big table that will also obscure patterns. Instead, you would want to use a variable that has age in categories (e.g., 18-35, 40-64, 65+). If you are using a ratio-level variable like number of siblings, you would likely want to have an upper cut-off like how the above report used "other" for studios, for example "5 or more siblings." If a table looks overwhelming or you have a number of column totals close to 0 (categories with a very low sample size), you may want to consider collapsing variables into fewer categories.

    Statistics in Action: Schools, Race, & Security Measures

    In this section you'll learn how to run a crosstab and chi-square using SPSS, and also learn about what chi-square is.

    This section uses data from the National Crime Victimization Survey's School Crime Supplement, collected by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2019. The sample is representative of its target population, U.S. primary or secondary education (K-12) students ages 12 to 18. Students in private schools were included, but home-schooled children were not. The analyses below are adjusted using provided weighting, which adjusts the sample "to produce estimates of the number of persons ages 12 to 18."

    Below you can see frequency tables for race. NH means non-Hispanic. The unweighted sample sizes are the actual number of student respondents. The weighted sample sizes reflect estimates of their actual proportion, e.g., there are just over 16 million non-Hispanic white students ages 12 to 18 in the United States.
    Screenshot 2023-10-09 at 11.51.10 AM.png

    The school-to-prison pipeline is a term describing how "children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems," disproportionately children of color.

    Here is a infographic from the American Civil Liberties Union about the school-to-prison pipeline:
    School-to-Prison Pipeline: School disciplinary policies disproportionately affect Black students

    In the School Crime Supplement, students are asked whether their school has security guards or assigned police officers, and whether their school has metal detectors, including wands. Race is a categorical variable (in this case I separated race into 6 categories), and so is whether or not students have these in their schools.

    Interpreting Crosstabs

    Screenshot 2023-10-09 at 3.04.48 PM.png

    Looking at this crosstab, we can see six different races, as well as a total that includes everyone in the sample. For each racial category, it shows the distribution of whether respondents said they do or do not have a security guard or assigned police officer in their school. With the particular weighting used here, the frequencies are estimates of the target population. So for example, we would estimate that 3,019,402 non-Hispanic white only U.S. students ages 12 to 18 do not have a security guard or assigned police officer in their school (25.9% of respondents, just over 1/4), and that 8,646,732 U.S. students ages 12 to 18 do have a security guard or assigned police officer in their school (71.4% of respondents, just under 3/4).

    How to look for and analyze relationships

    The table's story includes answers to three questions:

    1. Is there a relationship?
    2. If so, how substantive it it?
    3. If so, what is the relationship? (E.g., what is its direction?)

    1. Is there a relationship?

    To analyze whether or not there is a relationship, look across rows and see if the percentages are the same or if they are different. Overall, 77.8% of student respondents report having security guards or police officers in their school. If there was no relationship between race and having security guards/police officers in one's school, then we would expect each racial category to have about 77.8% of student respondents reporting this. Look across and see what you notice.

    Overall, 77.8% of students ages 12 to 18 are estimated to have a security guard or police officer in their school. That's over 3/4 of students. Each racial group also has somewhere between 74.1% and 84.6% of their respondents who reported having a security guard or police officer in their school. But don't make a common mistake of getting fooled into thinking there is no relationship just because most people have a security guard or police officer in their school, regardless of / across racial categories. We are trying to analyze variation. When I look across, I see that the percentage of students varies by race.

    2. How substantive is the relationship?

    Small percentage changes indicate a weak relationship. Substantial percentage changes indicate a strong relationship.

    The biggest difference I see is that NH Black only respondents are over 10% more likely to report having a security guard or police officer in their school compared to NH White only respondents (84.6% vs. 74.1%). While what constitutes a substantive relationship is subjective, a good rule of thumb is that anytime there is at least a 5% difference to definitely characterize it as being substantial.

    3. What is the relationship (e.g., what is its direction)?

    If these were ordinal variables (e.g., age and income), we could classify the relationship by direction (e.g., as age increases, income increases). However, race is nominal so we cannot do that.

    Looking at the crosstab, I am looking for which racial groups are more likely to have security guards or police officers in their school and which are les likely. I see that over 4/5 of NH Black only, Hispanic & White only, and NH AAPI only student respondents have security guards or assigned police officers in their school, between 3/4 and 4/5 of other multiracial and NH U.S. indigenous students do, and just under 3/4 of NH White only students do.

    Try again with the crosstab below. Answer the three questions:

    1. Is there a relationship? (Do column percentages vary as you move across rows?)
    2. If so, how substantive it it? (Do they vary a lot?)
    3. If so, what is the relationship? (E.g., what is its direction?) (Which IV categories have higher and which have lower column percentages?)

    Screenshot 2023-10-09 at 5.50.54 PM.png

    Overall, just over 1/10 of student respondents report having metal detectors in their school (about 2.6 million children). When I compare the different column percentages for different racial groups, I see differences, with column percentages ranging from 3.8% to 28.4%. With a difference of over 25% between two of the racial groups, there appears to be a relationship, and it is a substantial one.

    • 15.1% of NH AAPI only respondents and 15.6% of Hispanic & White only respondents reported having metal detectors in their schools. These are pretty similar. However, just because there is no substantive difference between two racial groups does not mean there is not an overall relationship between race and having metal detectors in one's school. It just means that the relationship only applies to differences between certain racial groups.

    NH Black only students (respondents) are most likely to report having metal detectors in their school. Over 1/4 of these respondents reported this. Over 10% lower are Hispanic & White only and NH AAPI students, where over 1/7 of students reported this. Less than 1/10 of NH White only, other multiracial, and NH U.S. indigenous only students reported this. There are substantive differences. Indeed, while there are over 8 million more NH White only students ages 12-18 in the U.S. than NH Black students, only about 160,000 more NH White only students than NH Black only students are estimated to have metal detectors in their schools. NH Black students are over 20% more likely than NH White students to report having metal detectors in their schools. That's over 1 student out of every 5.

    This page titled 8.1: Crosstabs for Research Methods is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Ezra Temko (Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois (CARLI)) .

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