Tag Archives: race/ethnicity: Asians/Pacific Islanders

Assault Deaths Within the United States

Cross-posted at Kieran Healy’s blog.

The chart in “America is a Violent Country” has been getting a lot of circulation. Time to follow up with some more data. As several commentators at CT noted, the death rate from assault in the U.S. is not uniform within the country. Unfortunately, state-level and county-level mortality data are not easily available for the time period covered by the previous post — though they do exist, going back to the 1940s. What I have to hand is a decade’s worth of US mortality data courtesy of CDC WONDERcovering 1999 to 2009. I extracted the assault deaths according to the same criteria the OECD uses (for the time period in question, ICD-10 codes X85-Y09 and Y87.1). The estimates are adjusted to the 2000 U.S. population, which isn’t identical to the standard OECD adjustment. But the basic comparability should be OK, for our purposes.

First, it’s well-known that there are strong regional differences in the assault death rate in the U.S. by state and region. Here’s what the patterns look like by state from 1999 to 2009 (click for a larger PNG or PDF):

This figure excludes the District of Columbia, which has a much higher death rate but is also a city. Also missing are a few states with small populations and low absolute numbers of assault deaths — Wyoming, North Dakota, Vermont — such that the CDC can’t generate reliable age-adjusted estimates for them. If you want a “small-multiple” view with each state shown separately from high to low, here you go.

The legend for the figure above arranges the states from high to low, reading top to bottom and left to right. Although it’s clear that geographical region isn’t everything, those tendencies are immediately apparent. Let’s look at them using the official census regions (click for a larger PNG or PDF):

As is well known, the South is more violent than the rest of the country, by some distance. Given the earlier post, the natural thing to do is to put these regional trends into the cross-national comparison and see — for the decade we have, anyway — how these large U.S. regions would fare if they were OECD countries. Again, bear in mind that the age-adjustment is not quite comparable (click for a larger PNG or PDF):

Despite their large differences, all of the U.S. regions have higher average rates of death from assault than any of the 24 OECD countries we looked at previously. The placid Northeast comes relatively close to the upper end of the most violent countries in our OECD group.

Finally, there’s the question of racial and ethic incidence of these deaths within the United States. Here are the decade’s trends broken out by the race of the victim, rather than by state or region (click for a larger PNG or PDF):

The story here is depressing. Blacks die from assault at more than three times the U.S. average, and between ten and twenty times OECD rates. In the 2000s the average rate of death from assault in the U.S. was about 5.7 per 100,000 but for whites it was 3.6 and for blacks it was over 20. Even 3.6 per 100,000 is still well above the OECD-24 average, which – if we exclude the U.S. – was about 1.1 deaths per 100,000 during the 2000s, with a maximum value of 2.9. An average value of 20 is just astronomical. And this is after a long period of decline in the death rate from assault.

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Kieran Healy is a professor of sociology in the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University.  His research is primary concerned with the moral order of a market society. You can follow him on twitter and at his blog.

Women, Opportunity, and the Military

Pew Research Center reports that, as of 2010, women make up about 15% of enlisted soldiers and commissioned officers:

Not all types of women are entering the military at the same rate.  Nearly a third of women in the military are Black, about twice their proportion in the general population.  In contrast, about half are white, about 2/3rds their proportion among civilian women.

A larger proportion of women, compared to men, said that they joined the military because it was difficult to find a good civilian job:

They were just as likely as men, however, to report other more common reasons for joining:

Interestingly, women reported high levels of strain re-entering the civilian population and the majority believe that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are not worth fighting:

Nevertheless, a large majority felt that entering the military was good for their personal growth and career opportunities:

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

U.S. Birth Rate Drops to Lowest on Record

In 2011 the U.S. birth rate dropped to the lowest ever recorded, according to preliminary data released by the National Center for Health Statistics and reported by Pew Social Trends:

The decline was led by foreign-born women, who’s birthrate dropped 14% between 2007 and 2010, compared to a 6% drop for U.S.-born women.

Considering the last two decades, birthrates for all racial/ethnic groups and both U.S.- and foreign-born women have been dropping, but the percent change is much larger among the foreign-born and all non-white groups.  The drop in the birthrate of foreign-born women is double that of U.S.-born and the drop in the birthrate of white women is often a fraction that of women of color.

It’s easy to forget that effective, reversible birth control was invented only about 50 years ago.  Birth control for married couples was illegal until 1965; legalization for single people would follow a few years later.  In the meantime, the second wave of feminism would give women the opportunity to enter well-paying, highly-regarded jobs, essentially giving women something rewarding to do other than/in addition to raise children.  The massive drop in the birthrate during the ’60s likely reflects these changes.

In addition to a drop in the number of children women are having, this data reflects a steady rise in the number of women deciding not to have children at all.  The decision to eschew parenting altogether is disproportionately high among highly educated women, suggesting that the there-are-now-other-things-in-life-to-do phenomenon might be at play.

Many European countries are facing less than replacement levels of fertility and scrambling to figure out what to do about it (the health of most economies in the developed world is predicated on population growth), the U.S. is likely not far behind.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Colonial Circus: The Case of “Giraffe-Necked Women”

***TRIGGER WARNING for racism and enslavement***

Last month I posted about the human zoo captives popular during the 1800s and early 1900s in Europe and America.  Today I discovered an archive documenting the capture and display of members of a Burmese ethnic minority, the Kayan (also called Padaung), who have historically practiced neck-lengthening.

The archive, at Sideshow World, includes posters from the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus and the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus, as well as promotional photographs of the captives.  This material typically referred to the women as “giraffe-necked.”

Promotional posters:

Promotional photograph:
Kayan women with circus performers:


This political cartoon reveals the degree to which the “giraffe-necked woman” had become a well-known icon in the U.S.:

These women and the many others from various parts of the colonized world were typically kidnapped from their communities and put on display.  Many died young, exposed to diseases their bodies were not prepared to fight.  In some cases their remains — sometimes preserved as “freakish” samples — are still being repatriated.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

U.S. Racial/Ethnic Demographics: 1960, Today, and 2050

Barack Obama won just over 50% of the popular vote last week, but he earned 80% of non-white votes.  According to USA Today exit poll data, he secured 93% of the Black vote, 73% of the Asian vote, 71% of the Hispanic vote, and 58% of the non-white Other vote.

This data suggests are real and palpable difference between how (some) Whites and (most) non-Whites see the world, a difference that will become increasingly influential.

Earlier this month the Pew Research Center released an updated prediction for the racial/ethnic composition of the U.S. in 2050.  They expect that, by 2050, Whites will be a minority, adding up to only 47% of the population.  By that time, they expect Hispanics to account for 29% of the population, and Blacks and Asians to account for 13% and 9% respectively.

Paul Taylor and D’Vera Cohn, at Pew, observe that the demographics of the voting population will change a bit slower since the majority of the demographic change is from births and deaths, not immigration.  In 2011, for example, whites were 66% of those ages 18 and older, but only 56% of 18-year-olds.  In other words, it takes 18 years to grow a voter.

Whatever the pace of change, the era of winning U.S. elections by pandering to the worldview of a single group is ending.  Future politicians will likely have to put effort into attracting a wide range of voters, as Obama did on Tuesday.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Who’s Reporting the News? An Analysis by Race and Ethnicity

Larry Harnisch, of L.A.’s The Daily Mirror, let us know that 4th Estate analyzed the racial and ethnic breakdown of reporters covering the presidential election for 38 major print media outlets. The analysis included front-page articles published between January 1st and October 12th of this year.

Here’s the key for all of the following images:

For every major topic, the overwhelming majority of front-page articles were written by non-Hispanic Whites, while racial/ethnic minorities were underrepresented compared to the overall U.S. population:

Major newspapers varied in the diversity of those writing their feature articles. The Dallas Morning News was the most diverse, with a particularly large percentage (18.8) of front-page stories written by African American reporters. The San Francisco Chronicle had the least diversity; 100% of its feature political stories were written by White non-Hispanics:

Overall, 93% of the feature articles analyzed in the database were written by White non-Hispanics, 4% by Asian Americans, about 2% by African Americans, and less than 1% by Hispanics. Compare that with each group’s proportion of the overall U.S. population:

These numbers clearly matter in terms of career opportunities and exposure for minorities within the industry. But they also should concern us readers. What does the lack of diversity mean in terms of the issues covered, the political contacts and average-Joe-voters spoken to, the topics seen as important enough to cover?

Also see our earlier post on the gender of those quoted in news stories about the election.

Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.

Human Zoos at the Turn of the 20th Century

***TRIGGER WARNING for racism and enslavement***

During a dark period of world history, intellectuals pondered where to draw the line between human and animal.  They arrayed humans hierarchically, from the lightest to the darkest skin.  Believing that Africans were ape-like, they weren’t sure whether to include apes as human, or Africans as apes.

One artifact of this thinking was the “human zoo.”  Kidnapped from their homes at the end of the 19th century and into the next, hundreds of indigenous people were put on display for white Westerners to view.  “Often they were displayed in villages built in zoos specifically for the show,” according to a Spiegel Online sent in by Katrin, “but they were also made to perform on stage for the amusement of a paying public.”  Many died quickly, being exposed to diseases foreign to them.

This group of captives is from Sri Lanka (called  Ceylon at the time):

This photograph commemorates a show called “Les Indes,” featuring captives from India:

These captives are from Oromo in Ethiopia:

A German named Carl Hagenbeck was among the more famous men involved in human zoos.  He would go on expeditions in foreign countries and bring back both animals and people for European collections.  In his memoirs, he spoke of his involvement with pride, writing: “it was my privilege to be the first in the civilized world to present these shows of different races.”

The zoo in Hamburg still bears his name.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Overview of the Social Construction of Race

Dalton Conley’s newest animated video provides an overview of the social construction of race: the categories we define as race aren’t based in biology, yet they’re incredibly important factors that influence our opportunities, constraints, and life outcomes.