Apr 11, 2017 12:33 pm

U.S. private prison population has declined in recent years

After a period of steady growth, the number of inmates held in private prisons in the United States has declined modestly in recent years and continues to represent a small share of the nation’s total prison population.

In 2015, the most recent year for which data are available, about 126,000 prisoners were held in privately operated facilities under the jurisdiction of 29 states and the federal Bureau of Prisons. That’s an 83% increase since 1999, the first year with comparable data, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). By comparison, the total U.S. prison population increased 12% during that span.

In more recent years, however, both the private and overall U.S. prison populations have declined at modest rates. The private prison population has shrunk by 8% since its peak in 2012, while the overall prison population has fallen by 5% since its peak in 2009. (The state private prison population peaked in 2012 with 96,774 prisoners, while the federal private prison population reached its peak a year later in 2013, with 41,159 prisoners.)

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Topics: Domestic Affairs and Policy, Criminal Justice, Federal Government, State and Local Government

Apr 11, 2017 10:18 am

Government harassment, use of force against religious groups increased sharply in Europe in 2015

Government harassment and use of force against members of religious groups surged around the world in 2015, according to a new Pew Research Center study on global religious restrictions. But nowhere was this trend more pronounced than in Europe, where over half of countries (53%) saw an increase from the previous year.

More specifically, governments of 38 European countries (84%) harassed religious groups in limited or widespread ways in 2015, while the governments of 24 countries in Europe (53%) used some type of force against religious groups.

The increase in Europe in 2015 occurred as a record 1.3 million migrants applied for asylum on the continent. Over half of the asylum-seekers came from the Muslim-majority countries of Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. While many of the government incidents involved long-standing tensions between religious communities and European governments, some were focused on this new, incoming population.

In addition to recording the biggest increase in government harassment and use of force against religious groups, Europe also had the second-largest overall share of countries (89%) that exhibited these types of actions. Only the Middle East-North Africa region (95%) had more governments that harassed or used force against religious groups. Sub-Saharan Africa, the Americas and the Asia-Pacific region had lower shares of government harassment or use of force against religious groups, although over seven-in-ten countries in each region had these types of government restrictions.  Read More

Topics: Europe, Religion and Society, Religion and Government, Religious Affiliation, Restrictions on Religion

Apr 10, 2017 11:30 am

Americans have mixed views on policies encouraging broadband adoption

As the Federal Communications Commission continues to address broadband infrastructure and access, Americans have mixed views on two policies designed to encourage broadband adoption, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

A substantial majority of the public (70%) believes local governments should be able to build their own broadband networks if existing services in the area are either too expensive or not good enough, according to the survey, conducted March 13-27. Just 27% of U.S. adults say these so-called municipal broadband networks should not be allowed. (A number of state laws currently prevent cities from building their own high-speed networks, and several U.S. senators recently introduced a bill that would ban these restrictions.)

At the same time, fewer than half of Americans (44%) think the government should provide subsidies to help lower-income Americans pay for high-speed internet at home. A larger share (54%) says high-speed home internet service is affordable enough that nearly every household should be able to buy service on its own.  Read More

Topics: Federal Government, Technology Adoption, Broadband, Emerging Technology Impacts

Apr 10, 2017 7:00 am

Immigration offenses make up a growing share of federal arrests

Federal law enforcement agencies are making more arrests for immigration-related offenses and fewer arrests for other types of offenses – including drug, property and gun crimes – than they were a decade ago, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of new data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Half (50%) of the 165,265 total arrests made by the federal government in fiscal 2014 – the most recent year for which statistics are available – were for immigration-related offenses, such as crossing the border illegally or smuggling others into the United States. A decade earlier, immigration-related offenses accounted for 28% of all federal arrests.

At the same time, arrests for drug crimes fell from 23% of the total in 2004 to 14% in 2014. Those for supervision violations, such as probation or parole infractions, fell from 17% to 14%. Arrests for property crimes, including fraud and embezzlement, declined from 11% to 8%. And arrests for weapon offenses, such as possession of an unregistered firearm, fell from 7% to 4%.  Read More

Topics: Immigration, Unauthorized Immigration, Criminal Justice, Federal Government

Apr 7, 2017 9:30 am

Why people with no religion are projected to decline as a share of the world’s population

For years, the percentage of Americans who do not identify with any religion has been rising, a trend similar to what has been happening in much of Europe (including the United Kingdom). Despite this, in coming decades, the global share of religiously unaffiliated people is actually expected to fall, according to Pew Research Center’s new study on the future of world religions.

To be clear, the total number of religiously unaffiliated people (which includes atheists, agnostics and those who do not identify with any religion in particular) is expected to rise in absolute terms, from 1.17 billion in 2015 to 1.20 billion in 2060. But this growth is projected to occur at the same time that other religious groups – and the global population overall – are growing even faster.

These projections, which take into account demographic factors such as fertility, age composition and life expectancy, forecast that people with no religion will make up about 13% of the world’s population in 2060, down from roughly 16% as of 2015.

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Topics: Religious Affiliation, Population Projections, Religiously Unaffiliated

Apr 7, 2017 7:02 am

Disabled Americans are less likely to use technology

This is the second in a series of posts about how different demographic groups in the U.S. have fared in the digital age.

More than 56 million people in the United States are living with a disability, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But even as a growing share of these Americans report going online or owning a smartphone, the digital divide between those who have a disability and those who don’t remains large.

Disabled Americans are about three times as likely as those without a disability to say they never go online (23% vs. 8%), according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in the fall of 2016. When compared with those who do not have a disability, disabled adults are roughly 20 percentage points less likely to say they subscribe to home broadband and own a traditional computer, a smartphone or a tablet.

Adults who report having a disability are also less likely to have multiple devices that enable them to go online. One-in-four disabled adults say they have high-speed internet at home, a smartphone, a desktop or laptop computer and a tablet, compared with 42% of those who report not having a disability.  Read More

Topics: Health, Technology Adoption, Digital Divide, Mobile

Apr 6, 2017 12:00 pm

Why Muslims are the world’s fastest-growing religious group

In the next half century or so, Christianity’s long reign as the world’s largest religion may come to an end, according to a just-released report that builds on Pew Research Center’s original population growth projections for religious groups. Indeed, Muslims will grow more than twice as fast as the overall world population between 2015 and 2060 and, in the second half of this century, will likely surpass Christians as the world’s largest religious group.

While the world’s population is projected to grow 32% in the coming decades, the number of Muslims is expected to increase by 70% – from 1.8 billion in 2015 to nearly 3 billion in 2060. In 2015, Muslims made up 24.1% of the global population. Forty-five years later, they are expected to make up more than three-in-ten of the world’s people (31.1%).

The main reasons for Islam’s growth ultimately involve simple demographics. To begin with, Muslims have more children than members of the seven other major religious groups analyzed in the study. Muslim women have an average of 2.9 children, significantly above the next-highest group (Christians at 2.6) and the average of all non-Muslims (2.2). In all major regions where there is a sizable Muslim population, Muslim fertility exceeds non-Muslim fertility.  Read More

Topics: Demographics, Population Trends, Religious Affiliation, Christians and Christianity, Muslims and Islam, Population Projections

Apr 6, 2017 10:31 am

Public confidence in scientists has remained stable for decades

Recent surveys by Pew Research Center and other organizations have shown wide public divides in the U.S. over climate change, food science and other science-related issues. But public confidence in the scientific community as a whole has remained stable for decades, according to data collected by NORC, an independent research organization at the University of Chicago. The group’s 2016 General Social Survey results, released March 29, show that 40% of Americans have a great deal of confidence in the scientific community, while half (50%) have only some confidence and 6% have hardly any confidence.

Public confidence in scientists stands out among the most stable of about 13 institutions rated in the GSS survey since the mid-1970s. While a similar share of Americans report having a great deal of confidence in the medical community, that confidence declined in the early 1990s and has ticked downward again in more recent years, from 41% in 2010 to 36% in NORC’s most recent survey.  Read More

Topics: Business and Labor, Science and Innovation

Apr 6, 2017 9:30 am

Americans remain divided on how the Supreme Court should interpret the Constitution

The contentious Senate debate over Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court has cast a spotlight on deep partisan and ideological divisions in Congress – and in the public – over how the high court should interpret the Constitution when making its decisions.

About half of the public (46%) says the U.S. Supreme Court should make its rulings based on its understanding of what the Constitution “meant as it was originally written,” while an identical share says the court should base its rulings on what the Constitution “means in current times,” according to a survey conducted in October. Public opinion about this issue has changed little in recent years.

Republicans and Democrats continue to have very different views about how the Supreme Court should base its rulings: About three-quarters (74%) of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say it should base its rulings on its understanding of the Constitution’s original meaning, while about a quarter (23%) of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say the same. This gap is slightly wider than it was in February 2014, when 68% of Republicans and Republican leaners and 27% of Democrats and Democratic leaners said the Supreme Court should interpret the Constitution based on how it was originally written.  Read More

Topics: U.S. Political Parties, Supreme Court, Political Party Affiliation, Political Polarization

Apr 6, 2017 6:55 am

Number of U.S. adults cohabiting with a partner continues to rise, especially among those 50 and older

As marriage rates have fallen, the number of U.S. adults in cohabiting relationships has continued to climb, reaching about 18 million in 2016. This is up 29% since 2007, when 14 million adults were cohabiting, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

Roughly half of cohabiters – those living with an unmarried partner – are younger than 35. But an increasing number of Americans ages 50 and older are in cohabiting relationships, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of the Current Population Survey. In fact, cohabiters ages 50 and older represented about a quarter (23%) of all cohabiting adults in 2016.

Since 2007, the number of cohabiting adults ages 50 and older grew by 75%. This increase is faster than that of other age groups during this time period and is driven in part by the aging of Baby Boomers. In 2016, 4 million adults ages 50 and older were cohabiting – up from 2.3 million in 2007. By comparison, 8.9 million adults ages 18 to 34 were cohabiting last year, up from 7.2 million.  Read More

Topics: Lifestyle, Family and Relationships, Marriage and Divorce, Baby Boomers, Generations and Age, Household and Family Structure, Older Adults