Is it worth completing university?


In this activity, students learn how to use census data from E-STAT with data analysis software. Students investigate the correlation between the proportion of people with a completed university degree and average income using census tract data for a large urban centre. Data are graphed in a scatter graph and mapped with E-STAT, then brought into a data analysis software program for regression and correlation analysis. This lesson is intended to serve as an introduction to using census data on E-STAT for analysis projects.

Contributors: Joel Yan and Jennifer Hall, Statistics Canada


Suggested grade levels and subject areas

Mathematics (Data Management)


One 75-minute period


Classroom instructions

  1. Ask the students how they think education levels correspond to income levels. Does it really make that much difference to your earning potential if you have a university education?
  2. Introduce them to E-STAT as a database from Statistics Canada that provides a tremendous amount of statistical data on Canada and Canadians, including census data from 1986 to 2006 and historical censuses. Give a brief overview of the E-STAT web site.
  3. Use E-STAT to produce a scatter graph of the data on education levels versus income for your city (or the nearest large centre), based on the E-STAT student instructions and the E-STAT worksheet. Ask the class to describe the trend shown in the graph.
  4. Ask the class to brainstorm possible explanations for this trend. Discuss.
  5. Provide the username and password for E-STAT.
  6. Distribute the E-STAT student instructions and worksheet, as well as the data analysis software instructions and worksheet.
  7. Guide the students on how to import the E-STAT data into the analytical software.


  1. Students can repeat the entire process outlined in the worksheets by using the percentage of the population with less than Grade 9 education. This will involve returning to E-STAT to retrieve new data.
  2. This analysis can be repeated at any geographic level. Using E-STAT, students can extract the same variables for the 49 counties, districts, and regional municipalities in Ontario and repeat the analysis. For further analysis of the relationship, students should look at the Census results on the relationship between education and income.
  3. The same process can be repeated using similar data available on E-STAT from other censuses so that changes in the trends over time can also be examined.
  4. More in-depth analysis can also be carried out on the same topic using the 2001 or 1991 Census microdata file subsets available on the Data tab of Statistics Canada's Learning Resources Mathematics page.


Students can be evaluated formally using the rubric provided and/or informally evaluated on their work habits and computer skills. See sample map and graphs produced using Oshawa data.