Societal-scale data is playing an increasingly prominent role in social science research; examples from research on geopolitical events include questions on how emergency events impact the diffusion of information or how new policies change patterns of social interaction. Such research often draws critical inferences from observing how an exogenous event changes meaningful metrics like network degree or network entropy. However, as we show in this work, standard estimation methodologies make systematically incorrect inferences when the event also changes the sparsity of the data. To address this issue, we provide a general framework for inferring changes in social metrics when dealing with non-stationary sparsity. We propose a plug-in correction that can be applied to any estimator, including several recently proposed procedures. Using both simulated and real data, we demonstrate that the correction significantly improves the accuracy of the estimated change under a variety of plausible data generating processes. In particular, using a large dataset of calls from Afghanistan, we show that whereas traditional methods substantially overestimate the impact of a violent event on social diversity, the plug-in correction reveals the true response to be much more modest.