A set of maps from Eric Fischer illustrate racial/ethnic populations in a number of U.S. cities, based on Census 2000 data. They’re great for showing levels of segregation, as well as comparing racial/ethnic diversity and population density in different regions.
On the maps, red = White/Caucasian, blue = African American, green = Asian, orange = Hispanic, and gray = Other. Each dot represents 25 people. At Fischer’s website, if you hover over the images you can identify individual neighborhoods/regions.
Here’s NYC, which not surprisingly has the highest apparent population density of any of the cities mapped and a high level of diversity, though also clearly the racial/ethnic groups are residentially segregated to a large degree:
Vegas still shows the distinctive residential segregation of African Americans that first emerged when they were forced to live in a segregated neighborhood called Westside, physically separated from other parts of town by Boulder Highway (see Las Vegas: The Social Production of an All-American City for a history of its development), and the predominantly-White neighborhoods ringing the Vegas Valley:
Fischer has up 102 different city maps, so there’s lots to play with and compare.
Originally posted in September, 2010.
Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.
It’s International Women’s Day–a day to celebrate the social, cultural, economic, and political achievements of women. It’s a day we often take stock of gender inequality, look at how far we’ve come and where we still need to go. This is a day people in my corner of the world share posts about the gender wage gap, statistics surrounding the enduring reality of violence against women, information about women’s access to health care, and more. It’s a day that sociologists have the tools to make lots of charts.
In my feed, sociologist Jane Ward shared a post about a feminist bookstore in Cleveland, Ohio that chose to celebrate Women’s History Month in a unique way: they flipped all of the books written by men in the fiction room of the store around on the shelf. The room will be left that way for for two weeks – through March 14, 2017. Take a look at the result!
It’s a powerful piece of feminist installation art. And it’s sociological. While a sociologist might have produced a content analysis of the room (or genre) and produced a proportion of books written by women, this feels different. They’ve entitled the exhibit “Illustrating the Fiction Gender Gap” and explain the project with this simple sentence: “We’ve silenced male authors, leaving works of women in view.”
They could have simply counted the books and produced figures made available to the public. That’s what most sociologists I know would have done. But something critical would have been missing when compared with the illustration of the gender gap they produced here. Think about it this way: in 2015, the Census calculated that the poverty rate was 13.5% in the U.S. (that was a drop from the year prior). In actual numbers, there were 43.1 million people in poverty in the U.S. that year. Just to think about the size of that group, that’s a number that is basically the same as the total combined state populations of New York, Florida, and Iowa. Can you imagine everyone in all three states being in poverty. That’s the scale of poverty as a social problem in the U.S.
In a similar way, Loganberry Books, produced a really clever piece of feminist installation art to make a reality about literature more visible. It’s different from telling us the proportion of books written by women in the fiction section. In Loganberry, we get to see what that means. If you went in, you could feel it as you looked around. Works by women who be jumping off the shelves, rather than hidden between piles of books by men.
The owner of the bookstore, Harriet Logan, put it this way: “Pictures are loud communicators. So we are in essence not just highlighting the disparity but bringing more focus to the women’s books now, because they’re the only ones legible on the shelf” (here). In an interview with Cleveland Scene, she further explained: “To give the floor and attention to women, you need to be able to hear them. And if someone else is talking over them, that just doesn’t happen.”
It’s a small way of asking the question, What would this corner of the world look like if women’s accomplishments had not been systematically, structurally, and historically drowned out by men’s? What does women’s signal sound like here when we get rid of men’s noise? Books by men are still there. They’re not being banned, removed, or even mentioned as “unworthy” in any way. Men’s books are simply being silenced for two weeks to let women’s work shine. What a powerful, feminist, sociologically imaginative statement.
Democrats and Republicans are deeply divided. By definition, political parties have differences of opinion. But these divisions have widened. Twenty years ago, your opinions on political issues did not line up the way we have come to expect them. Today, when you find you share an opinion with someone about systemic racism, you’re more likely to have like minds about environmental policies, welfare reform, and how they feel about the poor, gay and lesbian people, immigrants and immigration, and much more. In other words, Democrats and Republicans have become more ideologically consistent in recent history.
A recent Pew Report reported that in 1994, 64% of Republicans were more conservative than the median Democrat on a political values scale. By 2014, 92% of Republicans were more conservative than the median Democrat. Democrats have become more consistently liberal in their political values and Republicans have become more consistently conservative. And this has led to increasing political polarization (see HERE and HERE for smart posts on this process by Lisa Wade and Gwen Sharpe). You can see political polarization happening below.
You might think ideological commitments naturally come in groupings. But there are lots of illogical pairings without natural connections. Why, for instance, should how you feel about school vouchers be related to how you feel about global warming, whether police officers use excessive force against Black Americans, or whether displays of military strength are the best method of ensuring peace? The four issues are completely separate. But, if your Facebook feed looks anything like mine, knowing someone’s opinion about any one of these issues gives you enough information to feel reasonably confident predicting their opinions about the other three. That’s what ideological consistency looks like.
Consider how this process affects understandings of important systems of social inequality that structure American society. Discrimination is an issue that sociologists have studied in great detail. We know that discrimination exists and plays a fundamental role in the reproduction of all manner of social inequalities. But, people have opinions about various forms of discrimination as well—even if they’re unsupported by research or data. And while you might guess that many Americans’ opinions about one form of discrimination will be predictive of their opinions about other forms, there’s not necessarily a logical reason for that to be true. But it is.
The following chart visualizes the proportions of Americans who say there is “a lot of discrimination” against Black people, gay and lesbian people, immigrants, transgender people, as well as the proportions of Americans who oppose laws requiring transgender people to use bathrooms that correspond to their sex at birth. And you can see how Americans identifying as Democrat and Republican compare.
The majority of Americans understand that social inequalities exist and that discrimination against socially marginalized groups is still a serious problem. By that, I mean that more than half of Americans believe these things to be true. And data support their beliefs. But look at the differences between Democrats’ and Republicans’ opinions about important forms of discrimination in U.S. society. The gap is huge. While just less than 1 in 3 Republicans feels that there is a lot of discrimination against Black people in the U.S., almost 8 in 10 Democrats support that statement. That’s what political polarization looks like. And Pew found that the trend is even more exaggerated among voters.
Republicans and Democrats are not just divided about whether and what to do about forms of social inequality. They’re divided about whether these inequalities exist. And that is an enormous problem.
In a humorous article, Gloria Steinem asked, “What would happen, for instance, if suddenly, magically, men could menstruate and women could not?” Men, she asserted, would re-frame menstruation as a “enviable, boast-worthy, masculine event” about which they would brag (“about how long and how much”). She writes:
Street guys would brag (“I’m a three pad man”) or answer praise from a buddy (“Man, you lookin’ good!”) by giving fives and saying, “Yeah, man, I’m on the rag!”
Military men, right-wing politicians, and religious fundamentalists would cite menstruation (“men-struation”) as proof that only men could serve in the Army (“you have to give blood to take blood”), occupy political office (“can women be aggressive without that steadfast cycle governed by the planet Mars?”), be priest and ministers (“how could a woman give her blood for our sins?”) or rabbis (“without the monthly loss of impurities, women remain unclean”).
Of course, male intellectuals would offer the most moral and logical arguments. How could a woman master any discipline that demanded a sense of time, space, mathematics, or measurement, for instance, without that in-built gift for measuring the cycles of the moon and planets – and thus for measuring anything at all?
Perhaps in homage to this article, the artist Käthe Ivansich developed an installation titled “Menstruation Skateboards” for the Secession Museum in Austria. Drawing on the same sort of re-framing, the exhibition was marketed with ads with bruised and bloody women and tag lines like “I heart blood sports” and “some girls bleed more than once a month.” See examples at Ivansich’s website.
The exhibition included skateboards that generally mocked sexist language and re-claimed the blood of menstruation. This blood, the message is, makes me hardcore. The art project nicely makes Steinem’s point, showing how things like menstruation can be interpreted in many different ways depending on the social status of the person with whom it is associated.
The New York Times (here) has maps (chloropleths, if you want to show off your vocabulary) showing the popularity of the nominees for best picture. The maps look like different countries. “Fences,” for example, did best in the Southern swath from Louisiana to North Carolina but nowhere else except for Allegheny County, PA (it was filmed in Pittsburgh, where the story is set). In those same areas, “Arrival” and “Manchester by the Sea” basically don’t exist. The maps of “Fences” and “Arrival” look like direct opposites.
The map that puzzled me was “La La Land.” It’s big in LA, of course (like “Fences” in Pittsburgh). But its other strongholds are counties with a high proportion of Mormons: Utah plus Mormonic counties in neighboring states – Idaho, Wyoming, New Mexico, Colorado, and Nevada.
The maps match even for distant counties in Missouri and Virginia, where those dark spots on the map might indicate only 5-10% of the population. Most counties in the US are below 3%.
How to explain the “La La Land” – Latter Day Saints connection? The movie is rated PG-13, but so are “Fences,” “Arrival,” and “Lion.” And “Hidden Figures” is PG. But then, the cast of “La La Land” has very few non-Whites and zero aliens. That might have something to do with it.
Or maybe it’s just because Ryan Gosling grew up with seriously Mormon parents. He is no longer a Mormon and says he never really identified as one. He has long since left the church. He is neither a singer nor a dancer but has to sing and dance in this film. His character is supposed to be a jazz purist, but the music he plays is what you might call Utah jazz (one of the great oxymorons of our time). But those minor quibbles mean little compared with the fact the for the first years of his life, he was raised as a Mormon.
Facts about all manner of things have made headlines recently as the Trump administration continues to make statements, reports, and policies at odds with things we know to be true. Whether it’s about the size of his inauguration crowd, patently false and fear-mongering inaccuracies about transgender persons in bathrooms, rates of violent crime in the U.S., or anything else, lately it feels like the facts don’t seem to matter. The inaccuracies and misinformation continue despite the earnest attempts of so many to correct each falsehood after it is made. It’s exhausting. But why is it happening?
Many of the inaccuracies seem like they ought to be easy enough to challenge as data simply don’t support the statements made. Consider the following charts documenting the violent crime rate and property crime rate in the U.S. over the last quarter century (measured by the Bureau of Justice Statistics). The overall trends are unmistakable: crime in the U.S. has been declining for a quarter of a century.
Now compare the crime rate with public perceptions of the crime rate collected by Gallup (below). While the crime rate is going down, the majority of the American public seems to think that crime has been getting worse every year. If crime is going down, why do so many people seem to feel that there is more crime today than there was a year ago? It’s simply not true.
There is more than one reason this is happening. But, one reason I think the alternative facts industry has been so effective has to do with a concept social scientists call the “backfire effect.” As a rule, misinformed people do not change their minds once they have been presented with facts that challenge their beliefs. But, beyond simply not changing their minds when they should, research shows that they are likely to become more attached to their mistaken beliefs. The factual information “backfires.” When people don’t agree with you, research suggests that bringing in facts to support your case might actually make them believe you less. In other words, fighting the ill-informed with facts is like fighting a grease fire with water. It seems like it should work, but it’s actually going to make things worse.
To study this, Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler (2010) conducted a series of experiments. They had groups of participants read newspaper articles that included statements from politicians that supported some widespread piece of misinformation. Some of the participants read articles that included corrective information that immediately followed the inaccurate statement from the political figure, while others did not read articles containing corrective information at all.
Afterward, they were asked a series of questions about the article and their personal opinions about the issue. Nyhan and Reifler found that how people responded to the factual corrections in the articles they read varied systematically by how ideologically committed they already were to the beliefs that such facts supported. Among those who believed the popular misinformation in the first place, more information and actual facts challenging those beliefs did not cause a change of opinion—in fact, it often had the effect of strengthening those ideologically grounded beliefs.
It’s a sociological issue we ought to care about a great deal right now. How are we to correct misinformation if the very act of informing some people causes them to redouble their dedication to believing things that are not true?
Bewildered by Nazi soldiers’ willingness to perpetuate the horrors of World War II, Stanley Milgram set out to test the extent to which average people would do harm if instructed by an authority figure. In what would end up being one of the most famous studies in the history of social psychology, the experimenter would instruct study subjects to submit a heard, but unseen stranger (who was reputed to have a heart condition) to a series of increasingly strong electric shocks. The unseen stranger (actually a tape recording) would yelp and cry and scream and beg… and eventually be silent. If the study subject expressed a desire to quit administering the shocks, the experimenter would prod four times:
1. Please continue.
2. The experiment requires that you continue.
3. It is absolutely essential that you continue.
4. You have no other choice, you must go on.
If, after four prods, the subject still refused to administer the shock, the experiment was over.
In his initial study, though all participants at some point required prodding, 65 percent of people (26 out of 40) continued to submit the stranger to electric shocks all the way up to (a fake) 450-volts, a dose that was identified as fatal and was administered after the screaming turned to silence. You can watch a BBC replication of the studies.
I love gender and sexual demography. It’s incredibly important work. Understanding the size and movements of gender and sexual minority populations can help assess what kinds of resources different groups might require and where those resources would be best spent, among others things. Gary J. Gates and Frank Newport initially published results from a then-new Gallup question on gender/sexual identity in 2012-2013 (here). At the time, 3.4% of Americans identified as either lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. It’s a big deal – particularly as “identity” is likely a conservative measure when it comes to assessing the size of the population of LGBT persons. After I read the report, I was critical of one element of the reporting: Gates and Newport reported proportions of LGBT persons by state. As data visualizations go, I felt the decision concealed more than it revealed.
From 2015-2016, Gallup collected a second round of data. These new data allowed Gates to make some really amazing observations about shifts in the proportion of the U.S. population identifying themselves as LGBT. It’s a population that is, quite literally on the move. I posted on this latter report here. The shifts are astonishing – particularly given the short period of time between waves of data collection. But, again, data on where LGBT people are living was reported by state. I suspect that much of this has to do with sample size or perhaps an inability to tie respondents to counties or anything beyond state and time zone. But, I still think displaying the information in this way is misleading. Here’s the map Gallup produced associated with the most recent report:
During the 2012-2013 data collection, Hawaii led U.S. states with the highest proportions of LGBT identifying persons (with 5.1% identifying as LGBT)–if we exclude Washington D.C. (with 10% identifying as LGBT). By 2016, Vermont led U.S. states with 5.3%; Hawaii dropped to 3.8%. Regardless of state rank, however, in both reports, the states are all neatly arranged with small incremental increases in the proportions of LGBT identifying persons, with one anomaly–Washington D.C. Of course, D.C. is not an anomaly; it’s just not a state. And comparing Washington D.C. with other states is about as meaningful as examining crime rate by European nation and including Vatican City. In both examples, one of these things is not like the others in a meaningful sense.
In my initial post, I suggested that the data would be much more meaningfully displayed in a different way. The reason D.C. is an outlier is that a good deal of research suggests that gender and sexual minorities are more populous in cities; they’re more likely to live in urban areas. Look at the 2015-2016 state-level data on proportion of LGBT people by the percentage of the state population living in urban areas (using 2010 Census data). The color coding reflects Census regions (click to enlarge).
Vermont is still a state worth mentioning in the report as it bucks the trend in an impressive way (as do Maine and New Hampshire). But I’d bet you a pint of Cherry Garcia and a Magic Hat #9 that this has more to do with Burlington than with thriving communities of LGBT folks in the towns like Middlesex, Maidstone, or Sutton.
I recognize that the survey might not have a sufficient sample to enable them to say anything more specific (the 2015-2016 sample is just shy of 500,000). But, sometimes data visualizations obscure more than they reveal. And this feels like a case of that to me. In my initial post, I compared using state-level data here with maps of the U.S. after a presidential election. While the maps clearly delineate which candidate walked away with the electoral votes, they tell us nothing of the how close it was in each state, nor do they provide information about whether all parts of the state voted for the same candidates or were regionally divided. In most recent elections traditional electoral maps might leave you wondering how a Democrat ever gets elected with the sea of red blanketing much of the nation’s interior. But, if you’ve ever seen a map showing you data by county, you realize there’s a lot of blue in that red as well–those are the cities, the urban areas of the nation. Look at the results of the 2016 election by county (produced by physicist Mark Newman – here). On the left, you see county level voting data, rather that simply seeing whether a state “went red” or “went blue.” On the right, Newman uses a cartogram to alter the size of each county relative to its population density. It paints a bit of a different picture, and to some, it probably makes that state-level data seem a whole lot less meaningful.
The more recent report also uses that state-level data to examine shifts in LGBT identification within Census regions as well. Perhaps not surprisingly, there are more people identifying as LGBT everywhere in the U.S. today than there were 5 years ago (at least when we ask them on surveys). But rates of identification are growing faster in some regions (like the Pacific, Middle Atlantic, and West Central) than others (like New England). Gates suggests that while this might cause some to suggest that LGBT people are migrating to different regions, data don’t suggest that LGBT people are necessarily doing that at higher rates than other groups.
The recent shifts are largely produced by young people, Millennials in the Gallup sample. And those shifts are more pronounced in those same states most likely to go blue in elections. As Gates put it, “State-level rankings by the portion of adults identifying as LGBT clearly relate to the regional differences in LGBT social acceptance, which tend to be higher in the East and West and lower in the South and Midwest. Nevada is the only state in the top 10 that doesn’t have a coastal border. States ranked in the bottom 10 are dominated by those in the Midwest and South” (here).
When we compare waves of data collection, we can see lots of shifts in the LGBT-identifying population by state (see below; click to enlarge). While the general trend was for states to have increasing proportions of people claiming LGBT identities in 2015-2016, a collection of states do not follow that trend. And this struck me as an issue that ought to provoke some level of concern. Look at Hawaii, Rhode Island, and South Dakota, for example. These are among the biggest shifts among any of the states and they are all against the liberalizing trend Gates describes.
Presentation of data is important. And while the report might help you realize, if you’re LGBT, that you might enjoy living in Vermont or Hawaii more than Idaho or Alabama if living around others who share your gender or sexual identity is important to you, that’s a fact that probably wouldn’t surprise many. I’d rather see maps illustrating proportions of LGBT persons by population density rather than by state. I don’t think we’d be shocked by those results either. But it seems like it would be provide a much better picture of the shifts documented by the report than state-level data allow.