I have seen lots of graphs showing rates of immigration to the U.S. over time, but I just found this graph showing the rates of emigration from Mexico from 2006 to early summer of 2008 (from the Migration Information Source website; this is all emigrants, regardless of destination, though of course the vast majority will be to the U.S.):

A quick note on the data: Since it required someone from a family to be left in Mexico to be asked about family emigration patters, it doesn’t include those situations where an entire family left all at once; however, my understanding of immigration patterns is that this type of immigration is a minority of all movements, since most families prefer to send one or two family members to get a foothold in the host country.

As we see, there’s a general overall downward trend during that time period, which isn’t surprising given the downturn in the U.S. economy, especially the construction industry. The Mexican government reports that remittances sent back to Mexico are down this year as well.

 There is also a seasonal pattern, with the period from August to February of each year being the lowpoint and then picking up again in the spring. My first thought, since I study agriculture, was that this might have something to do with the growing season and when agricultural workers are needed in the U.S., but of course it’s a stereotype that most Mexican immigrants are field workers, so that’s probably not it.

Any thoughts on what might explain that pattern?

If there are any method-heads out there who want to tell me this isn’t as bad as it looks, I’m ready to listen.

Actually, I just thought of one.  The line looks like it drops to the bottom, but the scale starts at 61 and ends at 65.  Even still… method-heads?

(Found here, via Alas!)

Have you ever wondered why many stores now no longer require a signature when you make a purchase of $25 or less with a credit card?  Today, I found out why.

It has to do with the pressure to increase employee efficiency.  So how do you make employees more efficient?  According to this article from the Wall Street Journal, you change practices.  Consider:

Then, you start clocking employees.  For example:

Daniel A. Gunther has good reason to keep his checkout line moving at the Meijer Inc. store north of Detroit. A clock starts ticking the instant he scans a customer’s first item, and it doesn’t shut off until his register spits out a receipt.

To assess his efficiency, the store’s computer takes into account everything from the kinds of merchandise he’s bagging to how his customers are paying. Each week, he gets scored. If he falls below 95% of the baseline score too many times, the 185-store megastore chain, based in Walker, Mich., is likely to bounce him to a lower-paying job, or fire him.

According to the article, the cost is, in large part, paid by the employee in the form of comfort on the job, the ability to make human contact with regular customers, and having to be mean to old ladies to get them to hurry up. 

Jay Livingston has a nice analysis.

Sandra F. sent in a link to “Prop 8: The Musical,” a parody starring Jack Black, Margaret Cho, Andy Richter, John C. Reilly, Neil Patrick Harris, and other celebrities:

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

The clip, though a parody, brings up a reason some groups that might not care about the reasons gays and lesbians want to get married, or about gay rights more broadly, nonetheless supported gay marriage: money. The New York Times discussed this issue here. Weddings are big business, and the more people who are eligible to be married, the more money is potentially available to wedding-related businesses. In 2004, the Congressional Budget Office estimated the impact legalizing same-sex marriage would have on the budget (end result: an estimated $1 billion a year for the 10-year estimation period). That’s just the federal budgetary effect; it doesn’t include private-sector benefits.

This anti-Prop 8 video makes an explicitly economic argument for gay marriage:

You might compare these videos to the commercials in this post; in those ads, advocates of gay marriage try to rhetorically frame the issue as being about love–that is, gay marriages are equated with straight marriages by focusing on the idea that what is important in a marriage is love, regardless of the sex of the spouses. Clearly you could use them to discuss gay marriage, but they might also be good for illustrating the idea of framing of social issues.

Thanks, Sandra!

This ad — found at the height of the foreclosure crisis in a magazine for the obscenely rich — points out that, for obscenely rich people, the crisis is a bonus.  What struck me most was the double meaning in the headline. “Above It All” has both descriptive and moral meaning. 

It is also a good example of how the rich see the economic struggle of the masses as an “opportunity” to get richer.

Text below.


Above It All.

Despite the headlines, high-end properties still in demand among affluent set.

What do recent headlines proclaiming a dip the [sic.] current real estate market mean for upper-income vacation-home buyers? Opportunity! A survey released in April by American Express and Harrison Group revealed that among Americans with a household income of more than $500,000, 77 percent say real estate presents a ‘real opportunity’ right now, and 40 percent say they’re in the market for property this year. Of those in the market, 33 percent are looking for a second home, and 25 percent are looking for a third.

Here are some graphs about income inequality over time:

From the Working Group on Extreme Poverty.

In this McCain-Palin ad which, I believe, started running yesterday, it is stated that an Obama presidency will bring on international military conflict (at least that’s my reading of the images), while a McCain presidency means no international military conflict.

Sociologically what is interesting about this ad is the way in which danger can be socially constructed. What we fear most is not necessarily what is most likely to cause us harm. Consider, most of us are more afraid of riding in hot air balloons than cars but, even proportionally, your chances of dying in a hot air balloon crash are much smaller than your chances of dying in a car crash. People around us–e.g., our parents and friends, but also politicians–try to shape the degree of fear we have for any given situation. Politicans, especially, are not necessarily doing it out of a concern for our well-being.

What do we really need to fear in the next four years? This McCain ad nicely tries to draw our attention away from the fear of, say an economic depression or climate change, in favor of an international military conflict. Though he doesn’t say so explicitly, it seems obvious to me that he’s implying a terrorist attack. It’s not obvious to me, though, that a military conflict or terrorist attack is more likely to cause extreme and extended suffering than any other potential crisis, but it would useful to McCain if I thought so, because it’s the one sphere in which it is widely agreed that McCain is superior to Obama. Thus, as an extremely powerful figure, he attempts to shape our collective understanding of what is (most) dangerous, what we should (most) fear, and win the presidency through the cultivation of a culture of fear.

Here are some graphs on the income and wealth gap between Whites and Blacks in the U.S.

This next one shows homeownership rates. I know some people are going to point out that Blacks are more concentrated in urban areas than Whites are, and so it might make more sense to break down homeownership by area (rural, urban, suburban). While that might be a legitimately useful comparison, it also brings up the question of why African Americans would be more concentrated in urban areas, which could lead to a discussion of government programs that encourage Whites to buy homes in the suburbs after WWII while denying those opportunities to Blacks.

One way of explaining higher unemployment rates among Blacks is that there is some individual or cultural deficiency–African Americans are lazy, or want a hand-out, or don’t look for work, etc. etc. I like to show trend comparisons like these because they undermine those types of explanations. If African American unemployment was due to laziness, a “culture of poverty,” or other deficiencies, it would be unlikely for Black and White unemployment rates to show the same pattern (or, for that matter, any pattern–unless you believe African Americans just got a lot lazier in, say, 1982). What we see here is that Black and White unemployment rates follow a very similar pattern, but that during hard economic times, sugh as the early 1980s and around 1992, African Americans suffer disproportionately.

This one shows the slow but steady trend toward resegregation of our schools:

All of these were found at the Working Group on Extreme Inequality website.