Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Growing Percentage of Americans Favor Taxing the Rich To Fix Unfair Wealth Distribution

The latest Gallup Economy and Personal Finance survey indicates that about two-thirds of Americans believe that money and wealth distribution is unfair in the United States.  This percentage has remained largely unchanged since 1984, when Gallup started polling respondents about their attitudes toward wealth distribution.

These attitudes are strongly correlated with partisanship and income.  Large majorities of Democrats, Liberals, and those with incomes below $30,000 believe that wealth distribution is unfair.

Fifty-two percent of Americans believe that a better wealth distribution can be achieved by taxing the rich more heavily.  This number has increased steadily over the last 75 years: in 1940, 35 percent supported taxing the rich more, while 54 percent opposed this idea.

Gallup analysts conclude, based on these results, that:

"Analyzing how Americans respond to both questions about inequality shows that nearly half of Americans (46%) are strong redistributionists -- in the sense that they believe the distribution of wealth and income is not fair, and endorse heavy taxes on the rich as a way of redistributing wealth. One in four are in essence free-market advocates -- sanguine about the distribution of wealth and income and not supporting heavy taxes on the rich. Another 16% say the income and wealth distribution is not fair, but don't endorse heavy taxes as a remedy. A small percentage have the somewhat contradictory views of believing that the distribution is fair but favoring heavy taxes on the rich."

Read more:

Wealth Inequality in America (http://www.teachingwithdata.org/resource/3922)
Interacting with America (http://www.teachingwithdata.org/resource/3041)
Studies in Income and Wealth (http://www.teachingwithdata.org/resource/3255)
Social Class and Attitudes about Inequality: A Data-Driven Learning Guide (http://www.teachingwithdata.org/resource/3459)
Income Inequality In the United States (http://www.teachingwithdata.org/resource/3182)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Condoms And Hookups: Sexual Risk-Taking Behaviors Among College Students

In an article recently published in Social Forces, Jonathan Bearak of New York University investigates the sexual risk-taking behaviors of undergraduate students, specifically their use of contraception (condoms) during casual sexual encounters (hookups).  Bearak is particularly interested in how these behaviors change over the course of a four-year education.

Prior research suggests that:

  • Students use condoms inconsistently. 
  • While health behavior is generally positively associated with socio-economic status, higher SES adolescents in relationships actually tend to use condoms less than their lower SES counterparts.
  • Contraceptive practices may be affected by relationship type (romantic relationship vs. hookup).
  • Contraceptive practices may be affected by peers and the college environment.

Bearak analyzed data on more than 10,000 hookups reported by students in the Online College Social Life Survey (2005 and 2011).  His sample is restricted to self-identifying heterosexual students.  Respondent' mother's educational attainment is used as a proxy for family SES.  He found that:
  • Students can be grouped into three categories: a small group who avoids intercourse altogether, a larger group who has sex only in a relationship, and a larger group still who engages in hookups (intercourse outside of a relationship).
  • Among students who have had intercourse, 57 percent of freshmen, and fully two-thirds of seniors reported engaging in intercourse outside of a relationship.
  • The odds of intercourse when hooking up double between the freshman and senior years.
  • When coitus occurs during hookups, the odds of condom use decrease by half by the sophomore year.
  • The entirety of the decline in condom use is accounted for by lower-SES students adopting the behavior exhibited by higher-SES students at the onset of college.
  • Change in female behavior is somewhat sensitive to a school's gender composition: the odds of intercourse increase more at schools with above average ratios of females to males.  School gender composition does not appear to affect odds of intercourse for men.
  • The decline in condom use is especially pronounced in cases where the partner attended the respondent's college.
He concludes that:
"the college environment substantially affects undergraduate sexual behavior. [...] College may not discourage condom use directly, but rather, expose undergraduates to a pool of potential partners with whom they feel safer or otherwise place them in social situations that do not encourage condom use. [An] interpretation of these findings is that becoming embedded within certain environments encourages students to take on the role of high SES individuals, among whom condom use appears less normative.  Consistent with this, changes in condom use rates as undergraduates progress through college decline as low SES students adopt the lower rates of condom use of their high SES peers.  One possibility is that changing perceptions of safety and trust affect condom use, but students may adopt roles irrespective of these concerns, if they ascribe these behaviors to individuals they wish to or feel pressure to emulate."

Read more:

TeachingwithData.org resources:
Gender and Racial Differences in Teens' Attitudes about Sexuality: A Data-Driven Learning Guide (http://www.teachingwithdata.org/resource/3445)
Guttmacher (http://www.teachingwithdata.org/resource/3139)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Support For The Death Penalty Lowest In 40 Years In The US

A new Pew Research Center survey indicates that while a majority of Americans continue to favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder, the number who support the use of the death penalty is the lowest it has been in 40 years.  Support for the death penalty was highest in the 1980s and 1990s, peaking at 78 percent in 1996 before declining steadily to 56 percent in 2015.  The decline can be seen in all political groups, but has been steepest among Democrats, only 40 percent of whom now support the death penalty.  Women and minorities are significantly less likely to support the death penalty than men and Whites.

Overall, Americans tend to think that the death penalty is morally justified in cases of murder, but they express doubts about how the death penalty is applied and whether it deters serious crime.  They are also concerned about racial disparities in the application of the death penalty.

Perhaps as a reflection of this public opinion shift, death sentences are becoming rarer and death row populations are declining.
"Most of the 32 death-penalty states have fewer people on their death rows now than they did in the peak year of 2000. The big exception is California, where dozens of convicted criminals have been sentenced to death in recent years (25 in 2013) but no one has been executed since 2006, when court rulings forbade the state from using its three-drug lethal-injection protocol. [...] The other notable exception to the trend of smaller death rows: the federal government. In 2000, only 20 prisoners were facing federal death sentences. That figure has more than tripled since, to 62 as of the beginning of this year, according to the NAACP report."

Read more:

TeachingwithData.org resources:
The Death Penalty (http://www.teachingwithdata.org/resource/3114)

Monday, April 27, 2015

America's Missing Black Men

A recently published analysis by the New York Times' The Upshot indicates that while most Whites live in places with roughly equal numbers of White men and women, most Blacks live in places with a significant shortage of Black men: "More than one out of every six black men who today should be between 25 and 54 years old have disappeared from daily life."  As a result, prime-age black women outnumber prime-age black men by 1.5 million.

The gap is highest in states where a substantial share of the population is African-American: in the South, as well as in cities across the Midwest and Northeast.  Ferguson, MO, with 60 men for every 100 black women in the 25-54 age group, is the city with the single largest proportion of missing black men.

This is not a new phenomenon.  According to The Upshot, "each government census over the past 50 years has recorded at least 120 prime-age black women outside of jail for every 100 black men."  Young Black men have long been disproportionately more likely to be incarcerated or to suffer an early death (due to homicides, heart disease, and accidents).  It is estimated that higher imprisonment rates account for almost 600,000 of the 1.5 million missing prime-age black men. "Both homicides and H.I.V.-related deaths, which disproportionately afflict black men, have dropped [since the 1990s]."  But the legacy of the country's imprisonment binge in the 1980s and 1990s continues to be felt acutely among this demographic.

The staggering numbers of missing black men highlight troublesome racial disparities with far-reaching implications, not only for black men themselves, but for their female partners, their families, and their communities.

Read more:

TeachingwithData.org resources:
White/Black Racial Segregation in U.S. Cities (http://www.teachingwithdata.org/resource/3163)
Race and Poverty in the United States (http://www.teachingwithdata.org/resource/3169
Exploring Race and Ethnicity Using Census 2000 Data (http://www.teachingwithdata.org/resource/3176
Race and Ethnic Inequality (http://www.teachingwithdata.org/resource/3101)
Gender, Education, Family, Poverty, and Race (http://www.teachingwithdata.org/resource/3128)
Race in America: Tracking 50 Years of Demographic Trends (http://www.teachingwithdata.org/resource/3863)
Attitudes about Racial Discrimination and Racial Inequality in the US: A Data-Driven Learning Guide (http://www.teachingwithdata.org/resource/3431)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Beauty Bias In Hiring Decisions: It Depends On The Context

A large body of research has shown that attractiveness confers many advantages: we tend to see attractive people as healthier, friendlier, more intelligent, and more competent, which means that attractive people are more likely to be hired and promoted than average-looking candidates, more likely to receive a loan from the bank, less likely to be convicted by a jury, more likely to be elected if running for office, ...   This bias toward attractiveness is pervasive and leads to "attractiveness discrimination"--the differential treatment of individuals based on their physical appearance.

But a new study by Sunyoung Lee (University College, London), Marko Pitesa (University of Maryland), Madan Pillutla (London Business School), and Stefan Thau (INSEAD, Singapore), suggests that attractiveness is not always an asset in the workplace.  They argue that a job candidate's perceived competence is tied to:

  • diffuse status characteristics such as gender (men are generally seen as more competent than women) and attractiveness (more attractive individuals enjoy higher status in society, and are therefore seen as more competent).
  • the organizational context: when one employee's success positively affects another employee's success (cooperative interdependence), the person making hiring decisions will be motivated to select the candidate seen as the most competent because this candidate would be the most instrumental to personal outcomes.  However, when one employee's success negatively affects another employee's success (competitive interdependence), the decision-maker will be motivated not to select the most competent candidate, because such a person would represent the most capable competitor to the detriment of the decision-maker's interest.

Using four experiments using different samples, selection tasks, manipulations of candidate attractiveness, and manipulations of interdependence, they tested the following four hypotheses:

  1. Decision makers perceive attractive male, but not female, candidates, as more competent.
  2. When decision makers expect to cooperate with the candidate, they prefer an attractive to an unattractive male, but not female, candidate.
  3. When decision makers expect to compete with the candidate, they prefer an unattractive to an attractive male, but not female, candidate.
  4. Higher perceived competence of attractive male candidates leads to a higher (lower) relative perceived instrumentality of the attractive candidate to the decision maker when cooperation (competition) is expected, in turn resulting in a higher (lower) selection preference for the attractive candidate.

The results of the experiments support the researchers' hypotheses: "Decision-makers associate attractiveness with competence in male, but not female candidates."  In addition, "cooperative and competitive interdependence result in opposing patterns of attractiveness discrimination.  When decision-makers expect to cooperate with the candidate, they perceive attractive male candidates as more capable cooperators and discriminate in their favor.  When decision-makers expect to compete with the candidate, they perceive male candidates as more capable competitors and discriminate against them."

Read more:

Monday, April 20, 2015

Marijuana In 24 Maps And Charts

As many across the country celebrate the unofficial marijuana holiday, Vox compiled 24 maps and charts that explain marijuana, its history, and the policies that surround it.

The visualizations are based on data from a variety of sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the Economist, Gallup, the Pew Research Center, and the Marijuana Policy Project.

Those interested in the history of drug prohibition in the United States can find a timeline covering anti-drug laws and policies all the way back to the late 19th century in this related Vox article: http://www.vox.com/2014/9/9/6104179/the-history-of-the-war-on-drugs

Read more:

TeachingwithData.org resources:
Respondants' perception of the Nation's progress in coping with illegal drugs (http://www.teachingwithdata.org/resource/2926)
Characteristics of Teen Substance Users: A Data-Driven Learning Guide (http://www.teachingwithdata.org/resource/3435)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The "Dark Figure" of Police Killings in the US

The recent killings of several unarmed black men by police have prompted outrage throughout the country.  Amid calls for sanctions and police training reforms, governments, policymakers, and researchers alike are scrambling to figure out just how widespread the problem is.  This is a tricky endeavor because "no one collects data that answers exactly that question. There is no national database that police departments are required to submit a record to when they complete an investigation after a police officer shoots a civilian."

The interactive map below is based on data from Fatal Encounters, a nonprofit trying to build a national database of police killings from reports from the public, media, and FBI. It shows some of the deaths by law enforcement since 2000.  The creator of Fatal Encounters estimates that the database captures only 35 percent of police killings.

The only official (i.e. governmental) source of data on police killings is the FBI's Supplemental Homicide Reports (SHR).  The SHR, published annually, contain information about "justifiable homicides," which can be used as a very imperfect proxy for police killings (note: there's no effort at all to record the number of unjustifiable homicides by police).

The SHR statistics are problematic for a number of reasons, as explained in this article by FiveThirtyEight:

  1. As is the case for the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), the SHR rely on voluntary reports by police agencies.  But fewer local police agencies report SHR data than report standard Uniform Crime Reports data and some states, like Florida, don't participate at all.
  2. "Felon killed by police" refers narrowly to justifiable police homicides, and "unjustifiable homicide by police" is not a classification. This means it's difficult to combine unjustifiable police homicides — which could be listed as crimes elsewhere in the database — with "justifiable" police homicides.
  3. It's likely there are homicides recorded in the SHR that should be attributed to police as "justifiable" but aren't. And there's an unknown number of unjustifiable police homicides that aren't marked with any evidence of police involvement.
  4. If the legality of a police homicide is in question, it may not be reported to the SHR until the investigation is resolved. If the investigation concludes in a new reporting year, the old SHR data may not be updated, regardless of whether the killing was found to be justifiable or not. Criminology professor Geoff Alpert of the University of South Carolina, an expert on police violence, said he has "never seen a department go back and audit their numbers and fix them." (In a statement provided in response to emailed questions, the FBI confirmed that it generally does not reopen master data files to add or correct reports.)
  5. Killings in federal jurisdictions, such as federal prisons or military bases, are not included in the database.

As a result of these flaws, a study from the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that official statistics under-count the number of people killed by police by more than half.  According to criminologist David Klinger (University of Missouri, St. Louis): "The available data (FBI, Vital Stats, BJS) are worse than miserable.  They suck and no one should do any sort of analysis with them beyond using them to say that we have some floor [regarding] shootings and perhaps note that there are all sorts of circumstances involved when shootings occur."

The SHR do contain some information about the demographic characteristics of both victims and perpetrators of homicides, as well as the circumstances surrounding the homicide.  For example, there are six different subcategories of "felon killed by an officer": attacking the officer, attempting flight, killed in the commission of a crime, resisting arrest, ... However the reports often rely on the word of the officer involved in the killing and contain no information about whether victims were armed when killed by police.

It difficult, if not impossible, to know the actual level of racial disparities in police use of force, but an analysis of SHR "justifiable homicides" in 2012 suggests that victims of "justifiable homicide" are "overwhelmingly male, heavily young, disproportionately black," and that the majority were not attacking anyone when they were killed.

Note: The dark (or hidden) figure of crime is a term employed by criminologists and sociologists to describe the amount of unreported or undiscovered crime.

Read more:

TeachingwithData.org resources:
Gun Violence in America (http://www.teachingwithdata.org/resource/3864)
Fear of Crime (http://www.teachingwithdata.org/resource/3155)
Crime Victimization in the US: A Data-Driven Learning Guide (http://www.teachingwithdata.org/resource/3437)
Generational Trends in Attitudes about Gun Ownership: A Data-Driven Learning Guide (http://www.teachingwithdata.org/resource/3448)
Crime and Victims Statistics (http://www.teachingwithdata.org/resource/3261)