Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Marriages Benefit From Reversal of Gender Gap in Education

In their article published in the latest issue of the American Sociological Review, Christine Schwartz (University of Wisconsin-Madison) and Hongyun Han (Northwestern University) examine whether the reversal of the gender gap in education has affected the rate of marital dissolution in the U.S.

In the mid-1980s female college graduates started outnumbering male college graduates.  This decline and reversal of the gender gap in education has resulted in a growing number of marriages in which wives have more education than their husbands--a factor known to increase the likelihood of divorce.  At the same time however, partnerships have become more egalitarian; the breadwinner-homemaker ideal no longer dominates U.S. family life, and wives' higher levels of education may not pose as serious a threat to men's gender identity as household heads as they used to.

Using data from the National Survey of Family Growth (1973-2010), the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (1968-2009), the U.S. Census (1960-1980), and the Current Population Survey (1971-1995), Schwartz and Han set out to test the following four hypotheses:

  1. Marriages in which wives have the educational advantage were once more likely to dissolve, but this association has declined since the 1950s. 
  2. Marriages in which spouses share similar education levels are increasingly stable relative to other marriages.
  3. Marriages in which wives have the educational advantage are more likely to dissolve, and there has been little change in this association since the 1950s.
  4. The pace of decline in the positive relationship between wives' educational advantage and divorce accelerates as these relationships become more common.

Schwartz and Han found that:

  • hypogamous couples (couples in which wives have more education than their husbands) were once more likely to divorce than other couples, but this is no longer the case.
  • homogamous couples (couples in which both spouses have similar levels of education) have become less likely to divorce than hypergamous couples, whereas there was once no difference.
  • changes in these associations between 1950-54 and 2000-04 were large and cannot be explained by changes in spouses' earnings and employment.

The authors argue that these results
"provide an important counterpoint to claims that progress toward gender equality has stalled" and "speak against fears that women's educational success has had negative effects on their marital outcomes--at least with respect to wives' educational advantage and marital dissolution.  While these couples were once more likely to divorce, this is no longer the case."

Read more: resources:
Gender in STEM Education: A Data-Driven Learning Guide (
Economics of Education - Lecture Notes (
U.S. Population Education Tables (NCES) (
Marriage and Divorce (
Education in America (
Women's Education (
Trends in Marriage Behavior (
Family Change 1950-1990 (
Marital Trends (

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Urban Ideologies and Their Influence on City Governments

The Economist's Daily Chart recently featured an article by researchers from MIT and UCLA soon to be published in The American Political Science Review.  Using pooled data from seven large-scale opinion surveys conducted between 2000 and 2011 the researchers, Chris Tausanovitch (UCLA) and Christopher Warshaw (MIT) developed measures of public policy preference (city policy conservatism) in 51 cities with populations of more than 250,000 and investigated the degree to which city governments are responsive to the policy preferences of their citizens.

Their measure of city policy conservatism shows, unsurprisingly, that "San Francisco, Washington DC, and Seattle are three of the most liberal cities in the country [while] Mesa, AZ, Oklahoma City, OK and Virginia Beach, VA are three of the most conservative cities."

Their findings concerning the responsiveness of city governments go against "the consensus in the literature on municipal politics [...] that the policy decisions of city governments are unresponsive to the views of their citizens."  Indeed, Tausanovitch and Warshaw found that liberal cities get more liberal policies, collect more taxes and have substantially higher expenditures per capita, and have less regressive tax systems.  These bivariate relationships held even when accounting for possible confounding factors, such as the size, wealth, and ethnic diversity levels of each city:
"City policy conservatism has a robust, statistically significant, and substantively important relationship with the type of policy that cities implement. [...]  In contrast to much of this literature, we find that a broad array of city policy outcomes are not apolitical, nor are they divorced from national political schisms.  This suggests that not only is city government political, but that it may have more in common with state and national politics than previous scholars have recognized." 

Read more: resources:
Attitudes toward Electoral Accountability: A Data-Driven Learning Guide (
Theories of American Politics (
History and Politics Out Loud (

Monday, August 11, 2014

New Teaching Tool From the Pew Research Center: Political Typology Quiz (Community Version)

The Pew Research Center has announced a new, community version of the 2014 Political Typology Quiz!

"Go beyond red vs blue:
The Pew Research Center’s Political Typology sorts voters into cohesive groups based on their political attitudes and values – not partisan labels. Are you a Steadfast Conservative? A Solid Liberal? Or somewhere in between? What about your students, your civic group or your Facebook friends? Find out how your group compares with the nation as a whole with the community version of the Political Typology quiz.

Engage your students:
Educators have often used the Political Typology, and its accompanying online quiz, as a teaching tool in high school and college classes about American government and politics, as well as social studies and research methods. With the “community version” of the Political Typology quiz, students can learn how their political views compare with those of each other – and the rest of the country, based on results from our national survey.  You can invite your students or group members to participate by creating a group and then sharing a unique URL.

Get started:
Set up your version of the Pew Research Center’s Political Typology quiz. You can also visit our help center to get answers to frequently asked questions, plus useful materials to invite your group members to participate.

Tell us what you think!
Whether you incorporate this quiz into your classrooms, or in discussions with civic groups, please let us know. We would love to get your feedback and see if our materials have been helpful in informing and engaging your classroom or community. You can send us any questions, comments or feedback at"

Read more:

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Jobs Charted by State and Salary

A new interactive graphic created by FlowingData shows what people do and what they get paid in each state and in the country as a whole.  The graphic is based on employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Users can select a state from the drop-down menu, hover over an occupational area to see the estimated employment and median annual salary for that occupation, and adjust the median annual salary slider to get a sense of which occupations have median salaries above that level.

To access the interactive version of this graphic, go to:
This interactive tool provides an easy way to see which sectors (and within them, which occupations) dominate a state's economy: watch the size of the production sector shrink as you compare Indiana and Maryland, for example.  You can also see, at a glance, where the highest earning occupations are in a given state, and how median annual salaries vary from state to state for a given occupation.  For instance, the median annual salary for police and sheriff's patrol officers is $39,440 in Alabama, but $90,880 in New Jersey.

Read more: resources:
Occupational Sex Segregation and Earnings Differences (
Economy Track: Employment to Population Ratio (
Gallup Interactives: Global Employment Tracking (

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Great Baby Bust

As shown in a recent Washington Post Storyline feature, since the official start of the U.S. economic recession in December 2007, the U.S. birth rate has dropped sharply--from 69.3 births per 1,000 women in 2007, to 63 in 2012.

This phenomenon is not unusual: lower birth rates and economic distress tend to be correlated as people decide to delay having children during tough economic times.  Not only did this happen during prior recessions in the 1970s and 1990s, for example, but the data indicate that the states where birth rates declined the most (like Arizona) were also the states that were hit the hardest by the economic downturn.

The author, Jeff Guo, further explains:
"Younger women, especially those in their early 20s, had the biggest declines in childbearing. This is in line with a long-term cultural shift. Young Americans are taking longer to settle down and start families, and the average age of motherhood has been rising along with the average age of first marriage. This recession, which has been especially hard on millennials, sharpened these trends. If you’re unemployed and living with your parents, how can you have a baby?"
Read more: resources:
Total Fertility Rate (
Fertility and Family Planning (
Family Change 1950 to 1990 (

Monday, August 4, 2014

New, Controversial, Survey Method Adopted by New York Times and CBS News

The New York Times and CBS News recently announced that they will begin adding online survey panels from YouGov to traditional phone surveys as part of their election coverage, arguing that "[a] deluge of cheap partisan polls has swamped a shrinking number of high-quality, nonpartisan surveys, making it hard to know who is really ahead in many political campaigns. The solution? More nonpartisan surveys."  YouGov is a  U.K.-based research firm founded in 2000 that is non-partisan and uses online survey panels.  The panel the New York Times and CBS are using counts more than 100,000 members.

This decision by the NYT and CBS has been controversial.  Until recently, public polling used random-digit dialing, as this method is considered the gold standard for producing probability--random--samples.  As the American Association for Public Opinion Research explains, "in a probability sample, everyone in the population of interest (e.g., all registered voters in a political poll) has a chance of being selected for an interview. Knowing those chances is critical to creating valid statistical estimates" and knowing the "margin of error."

But as Nate Cohn of the NYT points out, telephone surveys are not without their problems, the most important of which is declining response rates ("Only 9 percent of sampled households responded to traditional telephone polls in 2012, down from 21 percent in 2006 and 36 percent in 1997, according to the Pew Research Center"), especially among young and nonwhite voters who are "least likely to own a landline and least likely to respond to telephone pollsters."  The difficulty in reaching and interviewing people casts doubts on the ability of telephone polls to produce accurate, representative samples and do a good job of predicting elections, particularly as the people who are least likely to participate in telephone polls (young voters) become an ever greater share of the population.

YouGov does not use probability sampling.  Instead, the research firm "attempts to build a large, diverse panel and then match its panelists to demographically similar respondents from the American Community Survey, an extremely rigorous probability survey conducted by the Census Bureau. This step is intended to mimic probability sampling. But it can require significant assumptions about the composition of the electorate, including partisanship. These assumptions are contestable and based on varying amounts of evidence."  In addition, it is worth noting that the panels may not be nationally representative because not everyone is online, and non-internet users tend to be older, poorer, less educated, and Hispanic.

Nevertheless, it appears that YouGov produces results that are as good or even better than those derived from traditional survey methods, which explains why media organizations like the New York Times and CBS news have decided to incorporate it into their "diverse suite of surveys employing diverse methodologies, with the knowledge that none are perfect in an increasingly challenging era for public-opinion research."

Read more: resources:
Introduction to Statistical Methods in Economics (
Dancing statistics: explaining the statistical concept of sampling & standard error through dance (
Evaluating Polling Methods and Results (
Voting Behavior: The 2012 Election (

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Influx of Illegal Minors From Central America Rekindles Immigration Debate

A new Pew Research Center survey finds that Americans are growing impatient with President Obama for his handling of the recent surge of unaccompanied children from Central America entering the U.S. illegally.  While his overall approval ratings remain unchanged since January 2014 at 44 percent, only 28 percent approve of the way he has been handling this latest immigration issue.

The public (especially Republicans and Independents) now favors changing current immigration policy to speed up the process of returning the children to their home countries.  Democrats appear divided on the issue.

In addition, while "the public remains supportive of a broad revamp of the immigration system to allow people in the U.S. illegally to gain legal status if they meet certain requirements [...] overall support for a path to legal status has slipped to 68% from 73% in February."  This attitude change is most noticeable among Republicans and Republican leaners who agree with the Tea Party: whereas they favored a path to legal status 56-41 percent in February 2014, they now oppose it 56-41 percent.  By contrast, support for a path to legal status slipped only 4 percentage points among Democrats and Independents.

In-keeping with these findings, a growing share of Americans now views the passage of immigration legislation as an important priority. The increase can be seen among all surveyed, except Hispanics for whom there has been virtually no change in opinion over the last few months.

Read more: resources:
"Global Migration Patterns" Lesson Plan (
Spatial Variation in immigrant and minority incorporation: Are there advantages to being a racial or ethnic minority in a low or moderate immigration state? (
Immigration in the U.S. (
Migration Service Learning Plan (