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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Scientists and the Public

Pew polled the general public and members of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science:
[B]oth the public and scientists are critical of the quality of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM subjects) in grades K-12.
The key data:
Despite broadly similar views about the overall place of science in America, citizens and scientists often see science-related issues through different sets of eyes. There are large differences in their views across a host of issues.
The key data:

Friday, January 30, 2015

Citizenship Exam

Rick Rojas and Motoko Rich report at The New York Times:
This month, Arizona became the first state to pass a law requiring its high school students to pass the citizenship exam, stipulating that they must answer at least 60 of 100 questions correctly to receive a diploma. (Immigrants are given 10 of the 100 questions and must correctly answer six to pass.) Other states may follow suit: North Dakota’s House of Representatives has passed a comparable bill, and its Senate approved it Tuesday; legislators in Indiana, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and seven other states have recently introduced similar initiatives.


All but 10 states require students to take an American government course before graduating from high school. A handful, including Maryland and Florida, also administer statewide civics tests to students at some point during their school career.

Yet surveys of basic civics information among adults routinely expose a lack of knowledge. A survey last year by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania found that more than a third of respondents could not name a single branch of the United States government, while fewer than a quarter knew that a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate is required to override a presidential veto.

Such facts are the prerequisite of deeper knowledge, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. “One has to understand there are three branches of government before you can understand balance of power,” Ms. Jamieson said. She added: “It’s not as if we’re overwhelmed by high-quality civics education right now.”

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Kids on Food Stamps

The Census reports:
The number of children receiving food stamps remains higher than it was before the start of the Great Recession in 2007, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual Families and Living Arrangements table package released today.

The rate of children living with married parents who receive food stamps has doubled since 2007. In 2014, an estimated 16 million children, or about one in five, received food stamp assistance compared with the roughly 9 million children, or one in eight, that received this form of assistance prior to the recession.

These statistics come from the 2014 Current Population Survey’s Annual Social and Economic Supplement, which has collected statistics on families and living arrangements for more than 60 years. Today’s table package delves into the characteristics of households, including the marital status of the householders and their relationship to the children residing in the household. The historical data on America’s families and living arrangements can be found on  
Other highlights:
  • Of the 73.7 million children under 18 in the United States:
    • 10 percent live with a grandparent (7.4 million).
    • 79 percent live with at least one sibling (58.5 million).
    • 15 percent have a stay-at-home mother (10.8 million), and 0.6 percent have a stay-at-home father (420,000).
    • 38 percent have at least one foreign-born parent (28.3 million).
  • The share of children who live with one parent only has tripled since 1960, from about 9 percent to 27 percent.
  • Marriage and family
    • Less than half (48 percent) of households today are married couples, down from 76 percent in 1940.
    • The median age when adults first marry continues to rise. In 2014, it was 29 for men and 27 for women, up from 24 and 21, respectively, in 1947.
    • 36 percent of 30- to 34-year-olds have never been married.
    • Married couples have more children in the household, on average, than either single mothers or single fathers.
    • Married couples make up the majority (72 percent) of the 86.4 million family groups, which are defined as two or more people who live together and are related by birth, marriage or adoption. Unmarried mothers and unmarried fathers make up 12 percent and 2 percent of family groups, respectively.
    • 24 percent of married families with children under 15 have a stay-at-home mother, and 1 percent have a stay-at-home father.
  • Unmarried couples
    • 7.9 million opposite-sex unmarried couples live together.
    • 39 percent of opposite-sex unmarried couples have a child under 18.
    • Statistics about same-sex couples are available from the American Community Survey.
  • Older adults
    • There are about 13 million more householders 65 or older than there are householders under age 30. In 1960, the difference was just 2.5 million.
    • One quarter of all adults 65 or older are widowed; fewer than 5 percent have never been married.
    • About 12.5 million older adults live alone, representing 28 percent of adults 65 or older.
  • Households
    • The share of single-person households has more than doubled since 1960, from 13 percent to 28 percent (34.2 million households) today.
    • More than two-thirds (69 percent) of white households own their home, compared with less than half of black (43 percent) or Hispanic (46 percent) households.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Attack Ad, 1940

In the 1940 election, Wendell Willkie took to the screen in a 15-minute Republican National Committee film to attack his presidential campaign opponent, Franklin D. Roosevelt. It involved the Founding Fathers. (Prelinger Archives)  -- via National Journal:

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Differences Among House Republicans

David Byler writes at RealClearPolitics:
Last November, Republicans made impressive gains in the House, winning their largest majority since the 1920s. The GOP wave added 43 freshmen, more than 40 percent of whom are “Obama Republicans” – Republicans from districts that Mitt Romney either won by less than five points or lost to President Obama.
How do these freshmen “Obama Republicans” differ from the rest of the GOP?
The Brookings Institution recently released data that helps answer this question. The researchers at Brookings scoured nearly every 2014 congressional candidate’s press releases, websites and endorsements to create a dataset describing their positions on a variety of issues. By using this data instead of voting records or third party sites,
Brookings measured how these candidates advertise themselves to their constituents.
Brookings Senior Fellow Elaine Kamarck already used this data to analyze how Obama Republicans – both freshmen and non-freshmen – differ from the rest of their party on gun control, climate change, immigration and same-sex marriage. We took a somewhat different approach. We looked at how freshmen Obama Republicans differed from other GOP freshmen on abortion, the Affordable Care Act and taxes, along with the issues Kamarck examined. This approach not only drives home the divide between the Obama Republicans and the rest of the party, but also shows how the freshmen Republicans differ from the more senior members of their caucus.
Specifically, Obama Republicans and the rest of the party are deeply divided in their approach to hot-button social issues, but they are united on taxes and Obamacare. More complex generational patterns emerge on immigration and climate change.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Union Membership in 2014

From the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
In 2014, the union membership rate--the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions--was 11.1 percent, down 0.2 percentage point from 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions, at 14.6 million, was little different from 2013. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent, and there were 17.7 million union workers.

The data on union membership are collected as part of the Current Population Survey(CPS), a monthly sample survey of about 60,000 households that obtains information on employment and unemployment among the nation's civilian noninstitutional population age 16 and over. ...

Highlights from the 2014 data:

--Public-sector workers had a union membership rate (35.7 percent), more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers (6.6 percent). (See table 3.)
--Workers in education, training, and library occupations and in protective service occupations had the highest unionization rate, at 35.3 percent for each occupation group. (See table 3.)
--Men had a higher union membership rate (11.7 percent) than women (10.5 percent) in 2014. (See table 1.)
--Black workers were more likely to be union members than were white, Asian, or Hispanic workers. (See table 1.)
--Median weekly earnings of nonunion workers ($763) were 79 percent of earnings for workers who were union members ($970). (The comparisons of earnings in this release are on a broad level and do not control for many factors that can be important in explaining earnings differences.) (See table 2.)
--Among states, New York continued to have the highest union membership rate (24.6 percent), and North Carolina again had the lowest rate (1.9 percent). (See table 5.)
At The Daily Beast, Daniel DiSalvo writes:
How does it happen that citizens of modest means suffer as public sector unions gain? A big part of the problem is that many states and cities have been providing more public services and promising to pay for them later by back-loading public employee compensation into retirement. And as the share of state and local budgets devoted to public employee pension and health benefits increases, the latter “crowds out” government spending on parks, education, public safety, and other services on which the poor and middle class rely. Democrats find themselves in the difficult position of defending governments that spend more but do less.
For example, Chicago’s ailing pension system, only 33 percent funded, is the back-story behind the city’s teacher strike last fall, its struggle with a surge in the murder rate in 2012, and the closure of dozens of schools. In New York City, pension, health, and other fringe benefits for city employees constituted 15 percent of the city budget in 2002, but by 2014 those items gobbled up 34 percent of the budget. New York now employs fewer cops, firefighters, and sanitation workers than it did in 2002.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Texas Jobs

PolitiFact reports:
Gov. Perry said that starting in December 2007, "1.4 million jobs were created in Texas. In that same period, the rest of the country lost 400,000 jobs."
His figures mostly hold up according to household surveys by the federal government looking into civilian employment including self-employment, though positions not yet recovered outside Texas totaled closer to 350,000, according to the latest available data when Perry spoke.
We rate this statement Mostly True.
From the Joint Economic Committee of Congress: