For whatever reason, there has been a real slump in the number of people typing “obama gun” (will he take our guns away?), “obama muslim” (the idea used to run at about 20%), “obama socialist” (the republic “hangs in the balance“), and “obama citizen” (thank you, Snopes) into the Google search box since the 2008 election.

Here’s the Google trend (and the search link):

We don’t know how much these fears, versus other concerns, will affect votes against him this year, although there have been some good efforts to track the effects of anti-Black racism on his vote tally.

Naturally, not everyone who Googles these things believes the underlying stories or myths. But it seems likely they either believe them, are considering them, heard someone repeat them, or are arguing with someone who believes them, etc. So I’m guessing – just guessing – that these trends track those beliefs.

But maybe four years of Obama as an actual president has softened up the hard-line hatred in some quarters. What do you think?

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.

The Russell Sage Foundation and the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality have put together Recession Trends, an interactive website that lets you create graphs about issues related to the recession. It takes a couple of steps to get to the database (you have to agree to the terms before entering), but once you’re there, you can choose data about a variety of topics — crime, housing, immigration, income, political attitudes, family life, and a lot more. It’s a great way to quickly get an overview of many aspects of life in the U.S.

I looked at the ratio of median family income between African American and White families. Between the early 1970s and 2010, we’ve seen a consistent gap in earnings, with Black median household income hovering between about 52 and 60% that of Whites:

The graph of the mean net worth of the individuals on Forbes’s list of the 400 richest people in the U.S. shows that while they certainly saw their wealth take a tumble during the recession — it fell to a mere $3.3 billion or so — they’re recovering well:

Unsurprisingly, the number of job seekers per job opening went up sharply after 2007; it’s finally starting to drop off slightly, though we still have about 5 people looking for every 1 job that’s available:

You can add more than one dataset for many topics. Here’s the growth in the prison population since 1980, by gender:

There’s lots, lots more. Whatever topic you’re particularly interested in, there’s a good chance there’s something there that’ll grab your attention for a bit.

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

Last year I posted about a map several geographers put together showing the distribution of last names across the U.S. Historical immigration and internal settlement patterns are reflected in the concentrations of names across the country.

Now one of the geographers involved in that project, James Cheshire, has done the same for London. Using 2001 electoral rolls, Cheshire plotted the 15 most common surnames in 983 separate London districts. Here’s a section of the map of the most common name:

The size of the font is scaled to represent the number of people with each name. They’re color-coded by place or origin (though since many immigrants have Anglicized names, origin of a name may not reflect a person’s ancestry).

As Cheshire points out, a few names fill the top slot throughout most of London. As you go a bit further down the list, London’s diversity becomes more apparent. Here’s a small slice of the map of the 10th most common surnames:

Those of you with more knowledge of London, what noteworthy patterns do you see?

Scholars are busy attempting to predict the effects of climate change, including how it might harm people in some parts of the globe more than others.  A recent report by The Pacific Institute, sent in by Aneesa D., does a more fine-grained analysis, showing which Californians will be the most harmed by climate change.

They use a variety of measures for each Census tract to make a Vulnerability Index, including natural factors (like tree cover), demographic factors (like age), and economic factors (like income).  At the interactive map, you can see the details for each Census tract.  Their compiled index looks like this:

You can also see the Vulnerability Index for each measure individually.  Here is the data for the percent of people over age 65 who live alone, a variable we know increases the risk of death from heat wave.

And here’s the data for the percent of workers who labor outside:

There’s lots more data at the site, but what’s interesting here is that, even in incredibly wealthy parts of the world, climate change is going to have uneven effects.  When it does, the most vulnerable people in the more vulnerable parts of the state are going to migrate to the other parts.  Most Californians don’t imagine that their cities will be home to refugees, but this is exactly what will happen as parts of California become increasingly difficult to live in.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

The Pew Hispanic Center has released a new report on trends in migration from Mexico. For the first time in 40 years, immigration from Mexico has slowed:

This is a notable change, as Mexican immigration has been the single largest immigrant flow to the U.S. form a single country, in overall numbers (though in the late 1800s, German and Irish immigrants made up a larger percent of all immigrants annually than Mexicans make up today). The report attributes this change to a range of factors, from changing economic conditions in Mexico, the recession’s effects on the U.S. economy, border enforcement, and the dangers of border crossings.

Indeed, we may now be seeing more people moving from the U.S. to Mexico than vice versa:

The change is due primarily to a drop in undocumented immigration, which peaked around 2007 and has dropped off significantly since:

There’s a lot more information available on changes in border enforcement and socio-economic changes in Mexico, so check out the full report.

In 1970, the U.S. Census added a “country of origin” question to its demographics section, which asks respondents if they are “of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin.” But a new Pew Hispanic Center report indicates that, while these might be the official terms for those from Spanish-speaking countries and/or Latin America, they aren’t the preferred or most popular labels among those they’re supposed to identify. Only about 1 in 4 use the terms Hispanic or Latino most frequently to describe themselves:

Not surprisingly, identification with different labels differs among recent immigrants and those born in the U.S. Among the first generation, country of origin is the overwhelming preference, but by the third generation, just over 1 in 4 choose that as their most common self-identifier:

Most respondents had no preference between the terms Hispanic or Latino, but for those who did, Hispanic was more popular:

White was the most commonly-chosen racial identification:

Most respondents also said that while they think it’s important that Hispanics be able to speak Spanish in the U.S., that learning English is very important for success. By the second generation, almost all rate themselves as knowing English “pretty” or “very” well:

Conversely, among third-generation Hispanics, under half say they speak or read Spanish equally well:

Check out the full report for tons of additional information on identification, language use, etc.

Cross-posted at Global Policy TV.

Recent research has unearthed the interesting finding that most Americans dislike atheists.  In fact, they strongly dislike atheists. Surveys suggest that they’d rather share a beer with almost anyone, even members of historically-hated groups: homosexuals, African-Americans, or Muslims (yes, even after 9/11).  This phenomenon is new in American society, as I’ll discuss below, and reflects a significant change in our social alliances.

But first, consider this data published by Penny Edgell and her colleagues in the American Sociological Review (full text).  It reveals that Americans believe that atheists, more than many other groups, are not likely to agree with their “vision of American society.”  Atheists topped the list, beating out the second contender, Muslims, by 13 percentage points.  Likewise, among the types of people Americans would not want their children to marry, atheists come first, beating out Muslims (again) by 14 points and African Americans by a full 20.

This dislike for atheists, by the way, isn’t on the wane.  While dislike of gays and lesbians has been easing, racism has become increasingly unacceptable, and religious diversity has become less contentious, intolerance for non-believers has held steady.

An even more recent article revealed that the reason people dislike atheists so much has to do with trust (cite).  Many people are skeptical that someone who doesn’t believe in God would do the right thing, given that they don’t imagine that a higher power is watching them and keeping score.  Atheists were more distrusted than Muslims, Jews, gay men, and feminists.  The only group that was as strongly suspected of bad behavior as atheists?  Rapists.

What is interesting in all this – above and beyond a clear prejudice against atheists – is the change in how Americans think about religion.  Until recently, members of different religious saw each other as enemies, not friends.  American history is characterized by “long-standing divisions among Protestants, Catholics, and Jews” (Edgell et al.). Many of us can remember how significant it was to elect the first Catholic president (something we take for granted as unremarkable now) and we are on the precipice of nominating a Mormon to run on the Republican ticket.

Indeed, historical data shows that Americans have been increasingly willing to vote for a Catholic or Jewish Presidential Candidate (as well as an African American and homosexual candidate), but their willingness to vote for an atheist is lagging behind:

The take home point has to do with shifting social alliances.  Now that most Americans have abandoned a strong dislike for members of other religions, it’s possible for The Religious to emerge as a socially-meaningful identity group.  In other words, once members of different religions begin to see each other as the same instead of different, they can begin to align together.  Suddenly atheists become an obvious foe.  Instead of one of many types of people who had lost their way (along with people of different faiths), atheists could emerge as uniquely problematic.  It is the building of cross-religious alliances, then, that undergirds the strong dislike for atheists specifically.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

A couple of years ago I posted a segment from the PBS series Faces of America focusing on the legal efforts by Syrian immigrants in the late 1800s and early 1900s to be officially recognized as White (and thus eligible for naturalized citizenship). It nicely illustrates the social construction of race and ethnicity, and the way  power struggles are embedded in the categories we recognize and who is assigned to each one.

In Not Quite White: Arabs, Slavs, and the Contours of Contested Whiteness, directors Jamil Khoury and Stephen Combs integrated scenes from Khoury’s play WASP: White Arab Slovak Pole and interviews with scholars from the Arab American and Polish American communities to “reflect upon contested and probationary categories of whiteness and the use of anti-Black racism as a ‘whitening’ dye.”

Thanks to Katrin for the link!