Tag Archives: state comparisons

Saturday Stat: Smoking Keeps Its Hold on the Poor

At the New York Times, Sabrina Tavernise and Robert Gebeloff discuss the tenaciousness of tobacco in low-income areas.  Smoking rates are declining, but much more slowly in some counties than others.  Local residents suggest that smoking is the least of their worries:

“Just sit and watch the parking lot for a day,” Mrs. Bowling said. “If smoking is the worst thing that’s happening, praise the Lord.”

Smoking rates, 1996:1a

Smoking rates, 2013:1

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. Rare in Spending More Money on the Education of Rich Children

“The United States is one of few advanced nations where schools serving better-off children usually have more educational resources than those serving poor students,” writes Eduardo Porter for the New York Times.  This is because a large percentage of funding for public education comes not from the federal government, but from the property taxes collected in each school district.  Rich kids, then, get more lavish educations.

This means differences in how much we spend per student both across and within states.  New York, for example, spends about $19,000 per student.  In Tennessee they spend $8,200 and in Utah $5,321.  Money within New York, is also unequally distributed: $25,505 was spent per student in the richest neighborhoods, compared to $12,861 in the poorest.

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This makes us one of the three countries in the OECD — with Israel and Turkey — in which the student/teacher ratio is less favorable in poor neighborhoods compared to rich ones.  The other 31 nations in the survey invest equally in each student or disproportionately in poor students.  This is not meritocracy and it is certainly not equal opportunity.

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.

48% of U.S. Schoolchildren Live in Poverty

A new study has discovered that 48% of the nation’s 50 million public school students are in poverty, as measured by whether they qualify for free or reduced-priced lunches.  In 17 states, the majority of schoolchildren are poor.  Poverty rates are led by Mississippi, where 71% of children are in poverty.

These data represent a startling rise since 2000:

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While the statistics are the worst for states in the South and the West, the percent increase in poor children was the highest in the Midwest (up 40% since 2001, compared to 33% in the South, 31% in the West, and 21% in the Northeast).  All, of course, extraordinary increases.

h/t @Miel_Machetes.  Cross-posted at Pacific Standard.

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.

The War on Blacks: Arrests for Marijuana Possession

Black Americans are 3.7 times more likely than Whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite having equivalent use rates.  It’s a war on what again?

Screenshot_2New York Times, via Gin and Tacos, one of my favorite blogs.

Cross-posted at Racialicious.

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.

Is Gun Control a City vs. Country Debate?

Cross-posted at Jennifer Carlson’s Blog.

In national gun debates, we often think about America as “divided” geographically along the issue of guns. USA Today recently reduced the American gun debate to “urban vs. rural,” saying that “[o]ne of the biggest factors in where you stand on gun ownership and gun violence depends, literally, on where you lay your head at night.” This captures an important truth about American gun politics, but relying too much on the rural/urban divide across states obscures how this plays out within states.

The urban/rural divide in gun cultures suggests that guns are a necessary and practical tool for rural Americans who need them for the purposes of hunting, self-protection, and so forth. But these same factors should become irrelevant in the urban setting: between supermarkets and public services (combined with denser living), urbanites should see guns either as a hobby (for some urbanites) or a hazard (for most urbanites) rather than a practical tool of everyday life.

Following this logic, public law enforcement officials in urban areas should also oppose gun rights, and in fact, many do. Ken James, police chief of the Emeryville Police Department and head of the firearms task force of the Police Chief’s Association of California, recently called the notion that guns are defensive weapons a “myth” has said in the past that he prefers that his officers do not carry guns off-duty. Likewise, a number of national police associations have come out in support of Obama’s gun control proposals.  In contrast, over 400 county sheriffs have publicly stated that they will not enforce any “unconstitutional” laws signed by the Obama administration.  Perhaps the rural/urban divide is driving gun politics.

But maybe not.  Let’s take a closer look at the county-level politics of gun control attitudes in California, a state with some of the most restrictive gun laws in the US, and Arizona, a state with some of the most permissive laws.

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Interestingly, both states have roughly the same number of counties with sheriffs that have aligned themselves with this pro-gun platform: in Arizona, 40% of county sheriffs have signed on, while in California, this figure is 31%. These numbers aren’t that different, considering how different their gun laws are. But here’s where it gets interesting: the expected urban/rural divide appears in California, but not Arizona, where urban counties have more pro-gun sheriffs.  What this means is that the rural/urban divide — at least in terms of sheriff support for gun rights — is flipped between gun-phobic California and gun-crazed Arizona.

No doubt, these two maps raise the question of how other issues intersect with, and structure, gun politics: for example, the politics of immigration likely have much more to say about the differences between Arizona and California than any straightforward divide between rural and urban America. Indeed, these maps suggest that there are logics about the role of guns in the pursuit of social order and policing at work in California versus Arizona that are not captured by neat dichotomies between “rural” and “urban” Americans.

Jennifer Carlson, PhD is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Toronto. She is working on a book manuscript entitled, “Clinging to their Guns? The New Politics of Gun Carry in Everyday Life.”

Marriage is Over: “Live With It”

Cross-posted at The Atlantic and Family Inequality.

In 1996 the Hoover Institution published a symposium titled “Can Government Save the Family?”  A who’s-who list of culture warriors — including Dan Quayle, James Dobson, John Engler, John Ashcroft, and David Blankenhorn — were asked, “What can government do, if anything, to make sure that the overwhelming majority of American children grow up with a mother and father?”

There wasn’t much disagreement on the panel.  Their suggestions were (1) end welfare payments for single mothers, (2) stop no-fault divorce, (3) remove tax penalties for marriage, and (4) fix “the culture.” From this list their only victory was ending welfare as we knew it, which increased the suffering of single mothers and their children but didn’t affect the trajectory of marriage and single motherhood.

So the collapse of marriage continues apace. Since 1980, for every state in every decade, the percentage of women who are married has fallen (except Utah in the 1990s):

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Red states (last four presidential elections Republican) to blue (last four Democrat), and in between (light blue, purple, light red), makes no difference:

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But the “marriage movement” lives on. In fact, their message has changed remarkably little. In that 1996 symposium, Dan Quayle wrote:

We also desperately need help from nongovernment institutions like the media and the entertainment community. They have a tremendous influence on our culture and they should join in when it comes to strengthening families.

Sixteen years later, in the 2012 “State of Our Unions” report, the National Marriage Project included a 10-point list of familiar demands, including this point #8:

Our nation’s leaders, including the president, must engage Hollywood in a conversation about popular culture ideas about marriage and family formation, including constructive critiques and positive ideas for changes in media depictions of marriage and fatherhood.

So little reflection on such a bad track record — it’s enough to make you think that increasing marriage isn’t the main goal of the movement.

Plan for the Future

So what is the future of marriage? Advocates like to talk about turning it around, bringing back a “marriage culture.” But is there a precedent for this, or a reason to expect it to happen? Not that I can see. In fact, the decline of marriage is nearly universal. A check of United Nations statistics on marriage trends shows that 87 percent of the world’s population lives in countries with marriage rates that have fallen since the 1980s.

Here is the trend in the marriage rate since 1940, with some possible scenarios to 2040 (source: 1940-19601970-2011):

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Notice the decline has actually accelerated since 1990. Something has to give. The marriage movement folks say they want a rebound. With even the most optimistic twist imaginable (and a Kanye wedding), could it get back to 2000 levels by 2040? That would make headlines, but the institution would still be less popular than it was during that dire 1996 symposium.

If we just keep going on the same path (the red line), marriage will hit zero at around 2042. Some trends are easy to predict by extrapolation (like next year’s decline in the name Mary), but major demographic trends usually don’t just smash into 0 or 100 percent, so I don’t expect that.

The more realistic future is some kind of taper. We know, for example, that decline of marriage has slowed considerably for college graduates, so they’re helping keep it alive — but that’s still only 35 percent of women in their 30s, not enough to turn the whole ship around.

So Live With It

So rather than try to redirect the ship of marriage, we have to do what we already know we have to do: reduce the disadvantages accruing to those who aren’t married — or whose parents aren’t married. If we take the longer view we know this is the right approach: In the past two centuries we’ve largely replaced such family functions as food production, healthcare, education, and elder care with a combination of state and market interventions. As a result — even though the results are, to put it mildly, uneven — our collective well-being has improved rather than diminished, even though families have lost much of their hold on modern life.

If the new book by sociologist Kathryn Edin and Timothy Nelson is to be believed, there is good news for the floundering marriage movement in this approach: Policies to improve the security of poor people and their children also tend to improve the stability of their relationships.  In other words, supporting single people supports marriage.

To any clear-eyed observer it’s obvious that we can’t count on marriage anymore — we can’t build our social welfare system around the assumption that everyone does or should get married if they or their children want to be cared for. That’s what it means when pensions are based on spouse’s earnings, employers don’t provide sick leave or family leave, and when high-quality preschool is unaffordable for most people. So let marriage be truly voluntary, and maybe more people will even end up married. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Philip N. Cohen is a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, College Park, and writes the blog Family Inequality. You can follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Who is the Highest Paid Employee of Your State?

Hint from Dmitriy T.C.: he probably wears shorts to work.

Here’s the infographic, sent in also by sociologist Michael Kimmel, revealing the highest paid employee in each state.  Yellow, orange, and green states are all ones in which the most money goes to an athletic coach.  More details at DeadSpin.

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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.

Demographics and the Future of the GOP

Cross-posted at Montclair SocioBlog.

Jeb Bush told CPAC that the Republican party had an image problem.

Way too many people believe that Republicans are anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-science, anti-gay, anti-worker.

People have good reason to believe those things.  But the “way too many” suggests that the GOP’s problem is not image or brand, it’s demography.  For five years or longer, the Republican faithful have been complaining that “their” country was being taken away from them, and they were going to take it back (e.g., see my “Repo Men” post).

They were right.  Their country, a country dominated by older white men, is fading in the demographic tide.  The groups whose numbers in the electorate are on the rise don’t look like them.  Andrew Gelman (here) recently published these graphs as an update to his 2009 Red State, Blue State.  They reveal the tendency for different groups to vote more Democratic (blue) and Republican (red):

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(The exit poll the data are based on sampled only in the 30 most competitive state. Texas and Georgia are large, and they have significant non-White populations. But demographic changes there are unlikely to have much effect on which party gets their electoral votes.)

Unfortunately for the GOP, the non-White proportion of the electorate will continue to grow. The female proportion may also increase, especially as education levels of women rise (more educated people are more likely to vote than are the less educated).

The key factor is party loyalty.  And, at least in presidential elections, people do remain loyal. I think I once read, “If you can get them for two consecutive elections, you’ve got them for life.”  Or words to that effect.  If that’s true, the age patterns of the last two elections should be what the Republicans are worrying about.

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Trying to make themselves more attractive to younger people will not be easy.  Oldsmobile tried it not so long ago (a post on that campaign is here).  “This is not your father’s GOP” might have similar lack of success.  But insisting that this is still your father’s GOP (or more accurately, some white dude’s father’s GOP) seems like a formula for failure.

Jay Livingston is the chair of the Sociology Department at Montclair State University. You can follow him at Montclair SocioBlog or on Twitter.