Jan 5, 2017 7:24 am

Federal prison population fell during Obama’s term, reversing recent trend

President Barack Obama is on pace to leave the White House with a smaller federal prison population than when he took office – a distinction no president since Jimmy Carter has had, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

The number of sentenced prisoners in federal custody fell 5% (or 7,981 inmates) between the end of 2009, Obama’s first year in office, and 2015, the most recent year for which BJS has final, end-of-year statistics. Preliminary figures for 2016 show the decline continued during Obama’s last full year in office and that the overall reduction during his tenure will likely exceed 5%.

By contrast, the federal prison population increased significantly under every other president since 1981. Read More

Topics: Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, U.S. Political Figures

Jan 4, 2017 12:12 pm

5 facts about the minimum wage

Even though the federal minimum wage has remained at $7.25 an hour since 2009, most Americans are now covered by higher minimums set by state and local laws – from Los Angeles to New York state to Washington, D.C. Organized labor and anti-poverty groups continue to push for $15 an hour as the new standard for all workers paid hourly, though given Republican control of Congress that prospect appears dim.

While the idea of raising the minimum wage is broadly popular, a Pew Research Center survey this past August found clear partisan and racial differences in support. Overall, 52% of people favored increasing the federal minimum to $15 an hour, but that idea was favored by just 21% of Trump supporters (versus 82% of Clinton backers). And while large majorities of blacks and Hispanics supported a $15 federal minimum wage, 54% of whites opposed it,

Here are five facts about the minimum wage and the people who earn it:

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Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Business and Labor, Economics and Personal Finances

Jan 4, 2017 7:03 am

Among high school seniors, interest in science varies by race, ethnicity

Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post
Photo by Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post

A majority of high school seniors in the U.S. say they enjoy science and around four-in-ten (44%) would like to have a job in the field, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). These sentiments, however, tend to vary by race and ethnicity – a pattern that also is reflected in American students’ test scores in science.

Overall, 71% of 12th-grade students agree with the statement, “I like science.” While majorities of all major racial and ethnic groups report having a fondness for science, Asian and Pacific Islander high school seniors are the most likely group to say this, while blacks are the least.

Similar racial and ethnic differences emerge when 12th-graders are asked whether they want a career in science. Six-in-ten Asian and Pacific Islander high school seniors say they would like a job that involves science and 64% say it is important that they do well in the subject to get the kind of job they want. By comparison, 45% of whites, 40% of Hispanics and 39% of blacks say they want a science-related job, and no more than half of these respective groups agree that they need to do well in science to get the kind of job they desire.  Read More

Topics: Education, Race and Ethnicity, Science and Innovation

Jan 3, 2017 2:04 pm

No consensus among Israeli Jews about settlements’ impact on security

Israel recently vaulted back onto the front pages when the UN Security Council on Dec. 23 voted 14-0 to condemn the continued construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The United States, in a rare show of public displeasure with Israel, abstained from the vote, forgoing the opportunity to veto the resolution. In the days following, the two countries traded criticisms, culminating a week later with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry saying that settlements pose a “threat” to peace and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issuing a critical response.

Some Israeli politicians in the current governing coalition have mentioned security implications as one argument in favor of West Bank settlements, but Pew Research Center polling in late 2014 and early 2015 found that there is no clear consensus among Israeli Jews over whether settlements help or hurt the country’s security.

Indeed, while roughly four-in-ten Israeli Jews (42%) said that the continued building of settlements helps the security of Israel, three-in-ten (30%) said the settlements hurt the country’s security, while a quarter (25%) said they do not affect Israel’s security one way or another. Roughly a year earlier, Israeli Jews were less sanguine about the benefits of settlement building: In 2013, only 31% said such construction improved Israel’s security.

Among Israeli Jews, opinion about the role of settlements varies greatly depending on a number of factors.  Read More

Topics: International Governments and Institutions, Jews and Judaism, Middle East and North Africa, Muslims and Islam, Wars and International Conflicts

Jan 3, 2017 11:31 am

More than a million Millennials are becoming moms each year

Some 1.3 million Millennial women gave birth for the first time in 2015, according to recently released data from the National Center for Health Statistics, raising the total number of U.S. women in this generation who have become mothers to more than 16 million.

All told, Millennial women (those born from 1981 to 1997) accounted for about eight-in-ten (82%) U.S. births in 2015. At the same time, Millennials make up 31% of the adult U.S. population, and just over a third (34%) of the U.S. workforce.

While they now account for the vast majority of annual U.S. births, Millennial women are waiting longer to become parents than prior generations did. Among Millennial women ages 18 to 33 in 2014, for instance, 42% were moms. But when women from Generation X – those born between 1965 and 1980 – were in the same age range, 49% were already moms, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey data. (The rising age at first birth is hardly limited to the Millennial generation. It has been a trend since at least 1970. Many factors may contribute, including a shift away from marriage, increasing educational attainment and the movement of women into the labor force.)

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Topics: Generations and Age, Millennials, Parenthood

Jan 3, 2017 6:55 am

About seven-in-ten Americans oppose overturning Roe v. Wade

More than 40 years after the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, 69% of Americans say the historic ruling, which established a woman’s constitutional right to abortion in the first three months of pregnancy, should not be completely overturned. Nearly three-in-ten (28%), by contrast, would like to see it overturned.

Public opinion about the 1973 case has held relatively steady in recent decades, though the share saying the decision should not be overturned is up slightly from four years ago, Pew Research Center’s December survey found. In January 2013, 63% said this, which was similar to views measured in surveys conducted over the prior two decades. Read More

Topics: Abortion, Political Attitudes and Values, Religion and Society, Religious Beliefs and Practices, Social Values, Supreme Court, U.S. Political Parties

Dec 29, 2016 3:09 pm

Pew Research Center’s most-read research of 2016

Pew Research Center published 125 reports and more than 400 blog posts in 2016, covering a wide array of topics, from race and immigration, to the U.S. presidential election and religion. As the year draws to a close, we look back at our research that attracted the most readers, as measured by web visitors to our site.

1. America’s shrinking middle class: A close look at changes within metropolitan areas

The American middle class is shrinking in most metropolitan areas, according to our analysis of government data. From 2000 to 2014, the share of adults living in middle-income households fell in 203 of the 229 U.S. metropolitan areas examined. However, in 119 of the 229 areas, the share of adults in the upper-income tier increased more than the share of adults in the lower-income tier. To see if you are part of the American middle class, use our calculator to find out which income group you are in. The results will compare you first with other adults in your metropolitan area and among American adults overall, and then with other adults in the U.S. similar to you in education, age, race or ethnicity, and marital status. Read More

Dec 29, 2016 6:56 am

Tillerson would be first secretary of state without military or government experience

Exxon Mobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson addresses the World Gas Conference in Paris on June 2, 2015. (Eric Piermont/AFP/Getty Images)

Rex Tillerson, President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for secretary of state, faces questions over potential conflicts of interest because of his current job as chairman and chief executive of Exxon Mobil, the international oil giant. While Tillerson wouldn’t be the first secretary of state to come from a big-business background, he would be the first whose past experience was entirely in the private sector.

At least four secretaries of state previously worked as top executives for large private-sector companies, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of biographical data from the State Department and other sources. Some of them sparked concerns that their business interests might affect their future diplomatic duties. But, unlike Tillerson, all four also had worked in high-level government or military posts before becoming the nation’s top diplomat.

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Topics: Business and Labor, Foreign Affairs and Policy, International Threats and Allies, U.S. Political Figures, World Economies

Dec 28, 2016 2:00 pm

U.S. ends year with fewest executions since 1991

With public support for the death penalty at its lowest point in more than four decades, the U.S. will end the year with its fewest executions in a quarter century.

Nationwide, 20 inmates were executed in 2016, according to a report from the Death Penalty Information Center. That’s the fewest since 1991, when 14 inmates were executed. In every other year since 1992, the U.S. executed at least 28 people.  Read More

Topics: Criminal Justice, Death and Dying, Domestic Affairs and Policy, Political Attitudes and Values, Religion and U.S. Politics, State and Local Government

Dec 28, 2016 7:02 am

Health issues topped the list of scientific studies reaching wide audiences in 2016

About 2.5 million scientific journal articles are published annually, and the growth of social media and online news outlets have given scientists powerful ways to share their findings – so much so that new measures are being developed to help capture the impact these outlets have on scientific work.

A Pew Research Center analysis of the top 100 most-discussed scientific journal articles of 2016 shows that the science articles getting news and social media attention stretched across multiple fields. Health care policy, space and evolution led the way.

This analysis is based on data produced by Altmetric to capture the reach of scientific journal articles in online news outlets, social media and other online platforms. Articles are ranked according to their “Altmetric Attention Score,” a weighted average of the number of times the article was mentioned across a pool of more than 2,000 English and non-English global news outlets, blogs, Twitter posts and other online platforms.

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Topics: Health, Science and Innovation