Cross-posted at Reports from the Economic Front.

The Pew Research Center recently published a report titled “Pervasive Gloom About the World Economy.” The following two charts come from Chapter 4 which is called “The Causalities: Faith in Hard Work and Capitalism.”

The first suggests that the belief that hard work pays off remains strong in only a few countries: Pakistan (81%), the U.S. (77%), Tunisia (73%), Brazil (69%), India (67%) and Mexico (65%). The low scores in China, Germany, and Japan are worth noting. This is not to say that people everywhere are not working hard, just that many no longer believe there is a strong connection between their effort and outcome.

The second chart highlights the fact that growing numbers of people are losing faith in free market capitalism.  Despite mainstream claims that “there is no alternative,” a high percentage of people in many countries do not believe that the free market system makes people better off.

GlobeScan polled more than 12,000 adults across 23 countries about their attitudes towards economic inequality and, as the chart below reveals, the results were remarkably similar to those highlighted above.  In fact, as GlobeScan noted, “In 12 countries over 50% of people said they did not believe that the rich deserved their wealth.

It certainly seems that large numbers of people in many different countries are open to new ways of organizing economic activity.

Martin Hart-Landsberg is a professor of economics at Lewis and Clark College. You can follow him at Reports from the Economic Front.

Urban Demographics posted some graphs from the UN’s State of the World’s Cities 2010/2011 report on global urbanization trends. A snapshot of urbanization in 11 countries:

You can see a few other notable trends here that illustrate various national trajectories, as Phil McDermott at Cities Matter points out. For instance, notice that while Russia underwent rapid urbanization between 1950 and 1980, it has leveled off since then. Similarly, Indonesia’s urbanization slowed significantly in the late ’90s and has continued at a much slower pace since then. We also see quite different patterns between the world’s two most populous nations: While China’s urbanization rate sped up in the early ’90s (after urbanization actually dipped in the ’70s), India has experienced fairly slow urbanization.

Credit Suisse released a report on urbanization and emerging markets, if you’re interested in the impacts of urbanization on a wide array of economic development indicators, from electricity and steel consumption to projections of future housing needs to incomes and standards of living.

Norton Sociology recently posted an image that illustrate differences in rates of imprisonment in a number of countries. Imprisonment rates are influenced by a number of factors — what is made illegal, how intense law enforcement efforts are, preference for prison time over other options, etc. The U.S. does not compare favorably, with 74.3 per 100,000 10,000 of our population behind bars (click here for a version you can zoom in on, and sorry for the earlier typo!):

Here’s a close-up of the breakdown of the U.S. prison population:

Via Urban Demographics.

The declining birth rate in Latin America, depicted in this graph, is a nice example of the way that both cultural and social change affects individual choices.  Brazil is highlighted as an extreme case. It’s birthrate has fallen from over six children/woman in 1960 to under 1.9 today.

The accompanying Washington Post article, sent in by Mae C., explains that the decrease in the birthrate since the 1960s is related to migration to cities.  In rural areas children are useful. They can help with crops and animals.  In crowded and expensive cities, however, they cost money and take up space.  Economic change, then, changed the context of individual choices.

This transition — from a largely rural country with high birthrates to an industrialized one with lower birthrates — has been observed across countries again and again.  It’s no surprise to demographers (social scientists who study changes in human population).  But Brazil did surprise demographers in one way:

…Brazil’s fertility rate fell almost uniformly from cosmopolitan Sao Paulo, with its tiny apartments and go-go economy, to Amazonian villages and the vast central farming belt.

The decline in birthrate, in other words, has occurred across the urban/rural divide. Demographers attribute this to cultural factors.  The idea of “an appealing, affluent, highflying world, whose distinguishing features include the small family” has been widely portrayed on popular soap operas, while Brazilian women in the real world have made strong strides into high-status, well-paid, but time-intensive occupations.  They mention, in particular, Brazil’s widely-admired first female president, Dilma Rousseff, who has one child.

Ultimately, then, the dramatic drop in the birthrate is due to a combination of both economic and cultural change.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Photography projects can draw our attention, poignantly, to class inequality.  Consider Vivian Mayer’s vintage photographs of New York and Chicago, for example, or Peter Menzel’s What We Own series.  We need these projects because most of us are in class-segregated occupations and neighborhoods, not to mention a profoundly unequal world.

Photographer James Mollison has embarked on a similar project, Where Children Sleep, sent in by Kristina Killgrove, an anthropologist at Vanderbilt University, Yvette M., Amanda B., Dmitriy T.M., and my sister, Keely.  Mollison has documented children and their bedrooms around the world.  It’s heartbreaking to see how much some children have, and how little others do.


See the pictures, with details about the children, at the New York Times.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Ilysse W. sent in a link to a story about a recent response to homophobia at a men’s volleyball match in Brazil, which she thought was particularly interesting given L.A. Lakers star Kobe Bryant’s recent homophobic outburst at a game and the conversations it has sparked about homophobia in sports. Bryant has been in the news for apparently calling a referee a “fucking faggot” (video at TMZ). The NBA has fined him $100,000, though Bryant says he will appeal the fine and that his words shouldn’t be “taken literally” (via ESPN):

The concern that I have is for those that follow what I say and are inspired by how I play or look to me as a role model or whatever it is, for them not to take what is said as a message of hate or a license to degrade or embarrass or tease. That’s something I don’t want to see happen. It’s important for me to talk about that issue because it’s OK to be who you are, and I don’t want this issue to be a part of something or to magnify something that shouldn’t be.

At a recent men’s volleyball match in Brazil, members of the crowd chanted “bicha”, the equivalent of “faggot,” at a gay player:

Afterward, due to media scrutiny, the player, Michael, publicly acknowledged that he is gay.

In a gesture of solidarity, at the team’s next match, the players wore pink warmup shirts, and one wore a rainbow-colored jersey:

A banner was unfurled in the stadium that said Vôlei Futuro Against Prejudice, and fans held up pink thundersticks (noisemakers) with Michael’s name on them in support:

(Images via Asterisk.)

Meanwhile, back in the U.S., the Lakers say they are teaming with GLAAD to try to eliminate homophobic slurs in basketball. I suspect they’ve got plenty of work to do.

Emory University has a very detailed database about the Atlantic slave trade, titled Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, which I don’t believe we’ve posted before (my apologies if we have). It includes nine maps providing information on major points of departure and destination ports for the trans-Atlantic trade; here’s a general overview:

Initially the vast majority of slave voyages were organized by firms or individuals in Spain and Portugal; however, over time the slave trade was dominated by groups from northern Europe. Great Britain eventually played a major role, and over 1/3 of documented slave voyages were organized there.The description of Map 6 explains, “vessels from the largest seven ports, Rio de Janeiro, Bahia, Liverpool, London, Nantes, Bristol, and Pernambuco carried off almost three-quarters of all captives removed from Africa via the Atlantic Ocean.”

This map shows where voyages were organized, and the % of all documented African slaves that voyages from that country/area transported:

In the U.S., students generally learn about slavery in relation to cotton plantations and, to a lesser extent, tobacco. However, overall those two crops played a relatively minor role in the growth of the global slave trade. It was the growing taste for sugar, and the creation of sugar plantations, particularly in the Caribbean and South American coastal areas, that produced such an enormous demand for African slaves in the Americas. According to the Voyages website, less than 4% of all Africans captured were sold in North America.

The website also has a database of thousands of documented trips in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, including everything from point of origin, destination, number of slaves, % who died during voyage, length of trip, and so on. Some include many more details than others, as you’d expect. You can also create tables to display the variables you’re interested in. Here’s the table showing the slave trade, broken into 25-year intervals and by destination. We can clearly see that the slave trade made one big jump in the late 1500s (going from 4,287 in the 1551-1575 interval to 73,865 between 1576 and the end of the century) and another huge jump in the late 1600s, with the height of the slave trade occuring in the 1700s through the mid-1800s:

You can also create various graphs and charts. Here is a graph of the % of slaves who died during the trip, by year:

I presume the extremely high numbers in the 1550s must be skewed by some ships that sank or met some other disaster that led to the death of everyone aboard.

Over time, ships carried larger numbers of individuals per trip:

The individuals taken as part of the slave trade were predominantly male:

Documented types of resistance from captives or from Africans trying to free them:

You can spend quite a bit of time on this, I warn you — creating timelines, graphs, and so on. It’s taken me an hour to write this post because I keep getting distracted creating charts and tables. Overall, the site is a fantastic resource for both specific information and for helping illuminate the enormity of the Atlantic slave trade. Thanks to Shamus Khan for the tip.

Katrin drew our attention to the Christmas character of the Christkind, found in regions as diverse as Austria, Italy, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Rebublic, Croatia, Slovenia, Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and, according to Wikipedia, “…parts of Hispanic America, in certain areas of southern Brazil and in the Acadiana region of Louisiana.”

The Christkind was introduced by the German Protestant priest Martin Luther (1483-1546).  At the time, tradition held that gifts were given by St. Nicholas.  Protestants, however, didn’t acknowledge saints, so they needed an alternative mythological gift giver.  The Christkind was originally depicted as baby Jesus, but in many places today is instead an angelic blond child or adult woman.

In Nuremberg, Germany, a Christkind is chosen every two years in a pageant reminiscent of American beauty pageants (source).  This year the Christkind is Rebekka Volland (source):

More photographs of the Christkind:




Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.