May 5, 2014 3:02 pm

Supreme Court affirms town council’s right to prayer

The Supreme Court brought some clarity to the role of prayer in civic life today by reaffirming that prayer before legislative bodies is not only constitutional, but that it can contain Christian and other faith-specific language. At the same time, today’s 5-4 ruling in Town of Greece v. Galloway largely upheld existing case law rather than significantly breaking new ground.

The high court said that it does not violate the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause to begin a legislative body’s meeting or session with a prayer, even one that uses explicit Christian or other religious language. The allowance of prayer that includes language specific to a particular religious tradition builds on a 1983 Supreme Court ruling, Marsh v. Chambers, which first found legislative prayer to be constitutional.  Read More

Topics: Christians and Christianity, Religion and Government, Religion and Society, Religious Beliefs and Practices

May 5, 2014 2:48 pm

More women than men earn the federal minimum wage

Substantially more women than men are in jobs that pay the minimum wage or less, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data analyzed by the Pew Research Center. Men make up a larger share of the U.S. labor force than women (53%-47%). But among those who earn the minimum wage or less, 62% are women and 38% are men.

More women than men have jobs paying them minimum wage or lessCongress is debating a hike to the federal minimum wage (currently $7.25 per hour), an idea that has strong support among the American public. Last week, a bill backed by the White House that would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 failed to advance in the Senate. (Meanwhile, 21 states and some cities have a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum.)

In 2012, women’s hourly wages were 84% those of men – meaning that women earned about 84 cents for every $1 made by men, a gender pay gap of 16 cents, according to a Pew Research Center report.

Among those paid by the hour, some 5.4% of women (2.1 million workers) made the federal minimum wage or less in 2013. For men, that share is 3.3%, or 1.2 million workers. (Some people may be paid below the federal minimum wage, including those who make tips.) The difference has narrowed since 1979, when the share of hourly workers who earned federal minimum wage or less was 20.2% for women and 7.7% for men.  Read More

Topics: Economic and Business News, Economic Policy, Gender

May 5, 2014 12:37 pm

Millions of Americans changed their racial or ethnic identity from one census to the next

2010censusraceMillions of Americans counted in the 2000 census changed their race or Hispanic-origin categories when they filled out their 2010 census forms, according to new research presented at the annual Population Association of America meeting last week. Hispanics, Americans of mixed race, American Indians and Pacific Islanders were among those most likely to check different boxes from one census to the next.

The researchers, who included university and government population scientists, analyzed census forms for 168 million Americans, and found that more than 10 million of them checked different race or Hispanic-origin boxes in the 2010 census than they had in the 2000 count. Smaller-scale studies have shown that people sometimes change the way they describe their race or Hispanic identity, but the new research is the first to use data from the census of all Americans to look at how these selections may vary on a wide scale. Read More

Topics: Race and Ethnicity, U.S. Census

May 2, 2014 12:46 pm

Chart of the Week: How America’s poor can still be rich in stuff

chart of 30-year price changes for various goods and services

In 21st-century America, it’s entirely possible for poor people to have much of the same material comforts — cars, TVs, computers, smartphones — as more affluent people, yet be trapped in low-paying jobs with little prospect of improvement.

That’s the takeaway from this eye-opening chart, produced by The New York Times. As it and the accompanying story make clear, prices for a wide range of manufactured goods have plummeted in recent years, making yesterday’s luxuries widely affordable despite stagnating wages for most workers. (Though the chart only covers 2005-2014, the larger trend extends back to at least the 1980s.) As the Times put it, “the differences in what poor and middle-class families consume on a day-to-day basis are much smaller than the differences in what they earn.”

The differences, though, show up in services — particularly the sort of services (education, health care, child care) that enable people to find and keep better-paying jobs and, over time, move themselves and their families up the socioeconomic ladder.

“Without a doubt, the poor are far better off than they were at the dawn of the War on Poverty,” James Ziliak, director of the University of Kentucky’s Center for Poverty Research, said in the Times story. But relative to middle- and upper-income Americans, he added, “they have also drifted further away.”

Category: Chart of the Week

Topics: Income Inequality, Poverty, Socioeconomic Class

May 2, 2014 9:00 am

How religious harassment varies by region across the globe

In nearly three out of every four countries of the world, religious groups experience harassment by individuals or groups in society. The harassment and intimidation take many forms, including physical or verbal assaults; desecration of holy sites; and discrimination against religious groups in employment, education and housing. Read More

Topics: Religion and Society, Restrictions on Religion

May 2, 2014 7:00 am

Support for al Qaeda was low before (and after) Osama bin Laden’s death

views of al qaeda among muslims

Three years ago, U.S. Navy Seals led a raid into Abbottabad, Pakistan, which resulted in the death of the most infamous terrorist of our lifetime, Osama bin Laden. His death was met with more relief than happiness among the American public at the time, but it’s also worth remembering that, prior to his killing, confidence in the mastermind of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks had slipped among Muslims in many of the countries we surveyed.

The Pew Research Center has been polling on issues of extremism in majority-Muslim nations for many years. Support for al Qaeda, the terrorist organization that bin Laden founded, was low among the Muslim publics surveyed when we first asked the question in 2010, and remained low in 2013, two years after bin Laden’s ignominious end. Read More

Topics: Asia and the Pacific, Middle East and North Africa, Terrorism

May 1, 2014 2:48 pm

In Germany, U.S., polls find little support for military aid to Ukraine

U.S., German public opinion on UkrainePresident Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel meet at the White House on Friday, and likely to be high on the agenda is an issue that has been the subject of public opinion polls in both countries — what stance to take towards Russia in the Ukraine crisis.

Six-in-ten Germans say their country should stand together with the U.S. and the western allies in the face-off with Russia, according to the ARD-DeutschlandTREND poll conducted April 28-29. But the survey suggests there are some different currents at work in looking at sentiment in both countries.

The action most favored by Germans (69%) in response to Russia’s incursion into Ukraine is economic and financial support for Ukraine, a measure that both governments have backed.

Germany has big economic interests in Russia, and while solid majorities support standing with the allies and giving economic aid to Ukraine, Germans are more skittish about the imposition of economic sanctions against Russia; half of those surveyed said they were in favor. (That represents a 12-point increase since March.)  Read More

Topics: Eastern Europe, Foreign Affairs and Policy, Foreign News, International Threats and Allies, Wars and International Conflicts

May 1, 2014 7:00 am

5 facts about prayer

May 1 is the National Day of Prayer in the U.S.

Today is the National Day of Prayer, on which presidents annually proclaim that “the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.” The day has spawned a rival National Day of Reason on the same day, started by opponents of the National Day of Prayer.

Here are five facts about prayer, including survey data on Americans’ prayer habits and historical instances of prayer intersecting with the government:

Read More

Category: 5 Facts

Apr 30, 2014 3:56 pm

Botched execution in Oklahoma renews death-penalty debate

chart of death penalty support over timeTuesday night’s botched execution of Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett is renewing debate about how, and whether, the U.S. should continue to impose the death penalty. Though a majority (55%) of Americans in a 2013 Pew Research Center survey said they favored the death penalty for convicted murderers, that was the lowest support level in four decades; support has been falling for the past two decades. (Gallup’s most recent poll on the subject, from this past October, found 60% support, also the lowest in more than 40 years.)

While that survey didn’t ask people why they supported or opposed the death penalty, a 2011 survey (which found 62% support for capital punishment), did. Roughly half (53%) of supporters said death was the appropriate punishment for murder; as one respondent put it, “You kill someone, you get the same deal.” 15% of supporters cited the cost of keeping prisoners locked up for life (or, as one respondent said, “If you took a life you should lose your life rather than the people having to pay for you to watch TV and sit around in jail”). Only 6% of death-penalty supporters cited a deterrent effect. Read More

Topics: Death Penalty

Apr 30, 2014 2:27 pm

5 facts about the modern American family

The classic nuclear family, the kind imprinted on the American imagination by TV shows like Leave It To Beaver, has been left behind. In 1960, 37% of households included a married couple raising their own children. More than a half-century later, just 16% of households look like that.

Here are 5 facts about the modern family:  Read More

Topics: Birth Rate and Fertility, Family and Relationships, Household and Family Structure, Intermarriage, Marriage and Divorce