Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Gender and Politics: Can Women Make a Difference in the Midterm Elections?

The results of a new Wall Street Journal/ NBC News poll, discussed in a recent Wall Street Journal article, indicate that voters' views of President Obama and Congress are divided along gender and age lines.

According to the poll, support for the president is highest among women ages 18-49: 46 percent of them report positive feelings.  Men of all ages and women older than 50, on the other hand, are more likely to report negative feelings toward the president.

Women in general, and those between the ages of 18 and 49 in particular, also say they would favor a Democrat-controlled Congress in the fall.

Nationally, the voting age population leans toward women--it is 51.4% female and 48.5% male--and women tend to turn out to vote in higher numbers than men.  This could be good news for Democrats, especially in some close Senate races in states like Georgia and North Carolina where women outnumber men by 30,000 to 140,000 in the 18- to 49-year-old age range.  As Dante Chinni explains in the article, "the Democrats' appeal to women could have an impact in some states where the demographics work better for the party and its Senate candidates. That could be crucial in stemming any Democratic losses in November when every race looks like it will matter."

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Where Do Our State and Federal Tax Dollars Go?

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a non-partisan think-tank working at the federal and state levels on fiscal policy and public programs that affect low- and moderate-income families and individuals, recently published two reports explaining how our tax dollars are put to use by state and federal governments.

In 2013, the federal government spent $3.5 trillion (21 percent of the US GDP),  $2.8 trillion of which was financed by federal revenues, and the remaining $680 billion by borrowing.  According to the CBPP report, three categories account for the bulk of federal spending: defense (19 percent of the budget), Social Security (24 percent), and Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) (22 percent).  Only one percent of the federal budget was spent on education.

While state spending varies from state to state, data from the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO) suggest that most state dollars go toward education (K-12 and higher education) and healthcare.  On average, these areas make up over 50 percent of state budgets.  The remaining half is spent on various programs, such as transportation, corrections, and cash assistance to the poor.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

How Americans Spend Their Time, in Six Charts

In six charts Danielle Kurtzleben of Vox gives a glimpse of how Americans spend their time.  The charts are based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' American Time Use Survey (ATUS). Time-use surveys measure the amount of time people spend doing various activities, such as work, childcare, housework, watching television, volunteering, and socializing.  The ATUS has been collecting data (through telephone interviews) since 2003.

The most recent available data (2012) show, for example, that the average working American spends 8.8 hours at work.  Women tend to spend less time at work than men, but when housework, childcare, and shopping are factored in, women end up working more.  "What do dads do with that extra time? They relax. Working dads in this group spend a little over four hours a day, on average, in leisure time. Moms spend just over three hours."

The charts also show that Americans spend much of their free time watching television.  The younger they are, the less likely they are to spend time reading, and the more likely they are to spend time on the computer for fun (playing games, for instance).

For more charts, go to: or

Read more: resources:
Exploring the Second Shift: A Data-Driven Learning Guide (

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

After Decades of Decline, Rise in the Number of Stay-At-Home Mothers

A new report by the Pew Research Center shows a reversal in the long-term decline in "stay-at-home" mothers that had taken place in the last three decades of the twentieth century.  Analyzing data from the Current Population Survey and the American Time Use Survey, the Pew Research Center found that after reaching a modern-era low of 23 percent in 1999, the percentage of mothers who do not work outside the home increased to 29 percent in 2012.

"The recent turnaround appears to be driven by a mix of demographic, economic and societal factors, including rising immigration as well as a downturn in women’s labor force participation, and is set against a backdrop of continued public ambivalence about the impact of working mothers on young children."

  • Stay-at-home mothers (SAHMs) tend to be younger and less educated than their working counterparts. Among all stay-at-home mothers in 2012, 42 percent were younger than 35, compared to 35 percent of working mothers, and 49 percent have a high school diploma or less, compared with 30 percent of working mothers.
  • SAHMs are less likely than working mothers to be white (51 percent are white, compared with 60 percent of working mothers) and more likely to be immigrants (33 percent vs. 20 percent).
  • A third of SAHMs are living in poverty, compared with 12 percent of working mothers, but those who are married with working husbands tend to be better off financially: they are more highly educated, and relatively few are in poverty (15 percent).
  • Among all mothers, the share of SAHMs with working husbands fell from 40 percent in 1970 to 20 percent in 2012. Among all SAHMs, those who are married with working husbands make up the largest share (68 percent in 2012), but that has declined significantly from 1970, when it was 85 percent.
  • A small but growing share of SAHMs (6 percent in 2012, versus 1 percent in 2000) say they are home with their children because they cannot find a job. With incomes stagnant in recent years for all but the college-educated, less educated workers in particular may weigh the cost of child care against wages and decide it makes more economic sense to stay home.

Read more: resources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics: Databases, Tables & Calculators by Subject (
Labor participation rate, female (% of female population ages 15+) (
Family Change 1950 to 1990 (
Exploring the Second Shift: A Data-Driven Learning Guide (

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Democrats Represent Country’s Richest, Poorest, and Most Unequal Districts

Two recently published articles may help explain why Democrats are more focused on income inequality than Republicans.

In the first article, Stephen Ohlemacher of the Associated Press, shows that Democrats represent most of the country's richest congressional districts (only two of the ten richest districts have Republican congressmen), but also a lot of poor districts.
That alone might lead us to draw a reasonable conclusion about the party leadership’s focus on income inequality: If their caucus is made up of members who disproportionately represent the poorest and richest districts, Democratic leaders—taking a bird’s-eye view of the party’s overall constituent base—might be quicker to recognize the yawning gap between the rich and poor than their Republican counterparts. The Democratic rank-and-file, comparing districts, could reason the same among themselves.

Furthermore, as Michael Zuckerman explains in his article ("The Polarized Partisan Geography of Inequality") in The Atlantic, it appears that Democrats also represent districts that are more unequal than Republican districts.  Using Gini indices computed by the U.S. Census Bureau, Zuckerman examines income inequality by congressional district and shows that, on average, both Democrats in Congress and their constituents tend to have more direct experience with income inequality than their Republican counterparts.  Income inequality would therefore be a more salient issue for Democrats than for Republicans, Zuckerman hypothesizes, which might help to explain why the parties are locked into polarized positions.
It’s not impossible to imagine this effect playing out in Congress. Given that [Democratic Representatives] Maloney (N.Y.-12) and Fattah (Pa.-02) regularly pass between some of the richest and poorest neighborhoods in America within a few minutes, it’s not shocking that they might see income inequality as a bigger problem than, say, Republican Representative Michele Bachmann (Minn.-06), a staunch conservative who (perhaps ironically) represents the district with the least income inequality in America (Gini index of 0.385). Likewise, it’s not impossible to imagine that Maloney’s and Fattah’s constituents—who look across the street at people with wildly different incomes than their own—think of income inequality as a bigger deal than Bachmann’s constituents do.

Read more: resources:
Wealth Inequality in America (
Social Class and Attitudes about Inequality: A Data-Driven Learning Guide (
Income Inequality in the U.S. (
Income Differences (

Monday, April 7, 2014

Race Reporting on the Census: Hispanics Don't Identify With the American Concept of Race

Census race data are used for many purposes, from enforcing civil rights laws, monitoring racial disparities in education and health, and distributing federal aid, to redrawing state legislative and local school districts and reapportioning congressional seats.  In an effort to improve the validity and reliability of race reporting on the decennial census, the U.S. Census Bureau implemented in 2010 a Race and Hispanic Origin Alternative Questionnaire Experiment (AQE).  Nearly 500,000 households received the experimental questionnaire, in which the race and ethnicity questions were worded differently (including combining them as a single question) than the official form.  Households that received the official form were first asked to indicate whether they were of Hispanic or Latino origin, before being asked to check one of the five official government racial categories boxes (white, black or African Am. Or Negro, American Indian or Native Alaskan, or one of several Asian options) or, optionally, to select a box called “some other race”—and to write in a response in a box below.

A new U.S. Census Bureau report analyzing the results of the 2010 Census indicates that :
  • Many people, particularly Latinos and immigrants, don't identify with the American concept of race: whereas the U.S. government categorizes Hispanic as an ethnicity, many Hispanics think of it as a race. As a result, 22 million people — 97 percent of whom were Hispanic — chose "some other race" as racial category.
  • One-third of the 47.4 million self-identified Hispanics chose “some other race” when describing their racial identity. Among them, 44.3 percent wrote in Mexican, Mexican American or Mexico in the box provided. An additional 22.7 percent wrote in Hispanic or Hispano or Hispana as their race and another 10.0 percent wrote in Latin American or Latino or Latin.  This finding is consistent with findings from other surveys from the Pew Research Center, for instance, showing that Hispanics prefer to be identified by their country of origin.

"The 'some other race' option in the census form's race question was never intended to be a category selected by so many respondents. The category was added to the 1980 census form to capture the small numbers of people who did not select one of the official race categories. But since then, it has grown to become the third-largest race category in the census."

Read more: resources:
Identity Politics and the Latino vs. Hispanic Debate: A Data-Driven Learning Guide (
Hispanic Trends Project, Pew Research Center Interactive (
Exploring Race and Ethnicity Using Census 2000 Data (

Friday, April 4, 2014

State Actions on the Minimum Wage

President Obama's proposal to raise the federal minimum wage faces some push-back from the Republican-controlled House, but several states have taken the initiative to increase the local minimal wage.  A chart published in the New York Times shows the current minimum wage in each state and the District of Columbia, along with recent increases enacted or being considered.

Note: to see the full chart, please go to:

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