Jul 8, 2014 7:00 am

CDC: Two of every five U.S. households have only wireless phones

wirelessOnlyMore Americans than ever have cut the (telephone) cord, but the growth rate of wireless-only households slowed last year.

About two-in-five (41%) of U.S. households had only wireless phones in the second half of 2013, according to a report released today by the National Center for Health Statistics. The center, the statistical arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, estimated that 39.1% of adults and 47.1% of children lived in wireless-only households.

The share of wireless-only households was 2.8 percentage points higher than the same period in 2012. That’s slower than in previous years. In 2010, the wireless-only share grew by 5.2 percentage points; 4.3 percentage points in 2011; and 4.2 percentage points in 2012. Read More

Topics: Mobile, Technology Adoption

Jul 7, 2014 12:45 pm

What is a ‘closely held corporation,’ anyway, and how many are there?

Hobby Lobby is one of the plaintiffs in a Supreme Court case challenging a requirement in the health care law to provide coverage for contraception services.
Credit: Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

In last week’s Hobby Lobby decision, Justice Samuel Alito held that the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate violated the rights of “for-profit, closely held corporations” under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA. Which left a lot of people, including us, wondering: Just what did Alito mean by a “closely held” corporation, and how many such businesses (and their employees) might be affected by his ruling?

In general, a closely held corporation is one with only a limited number of shareholders. By definition, they are private companies, meaning their shares don’t trade publicly. Alito didn’t specify how many shareholders a company could have in order to assert a RFRA claim, noting only that Hobby Lobby and the other companies in the case were “owned and controlled by members of a single family.” Different government agencies, though, have their own rules regarding corporations with relatively few shareholders. Read More

Topics: Religion and Government

Jul 7, 2014 10:22 am

For gay newlyweds in some states, ‘limbo’ may last another year

FT_14.07.07_SSMlegalIt has happened in four states so far, and may well happen in others – a kind of marital limbo where licenses have been granted and vows exchanged, but the marriages themselves have not been officially recognized.

The most recent instance occurred June 25 in Indiana, where hundreds of same-sex couples married during a brief two-day window created after a federal district court struck down the Hoosier State’s gay marriage ban, and before an appeals court put that ruling on hold. The Indiana newlyweds now join thousands of other similarly situated same-sex couples from Michigan, Utah and Wisconsin.

Supporters argue that marriages conducted while same-sex marriage was legal – even if only for a few days – are valid and should be recognized. But so far, most state officials have refused to recognize the marriages, citing ongoing court proceedings. In Indiana, for instance, the attorney general’s office stated that the status of same-sex marriage licenses issued during the two-day window is currently “undetermined.”

Read More

Topics: Church-State Law, Gay Marriage and Homosexuality

Jul 7, 2014 7:00 am

1-in-10 Americans don’t give a hoot about politics

Profile of Political BystandersAs Republicans and Democrats gear up for midterm elections this November, there’s one group of Americans that is paying very little, if any, attention to the whole ordeal.

Overall, 10% of Americans are what we call Bystanders, or the politically disengaged, according to Pew Research Center’s Political Typology report. None of this cohort say they’re registered to vote, and none say they follow government and public affairs most of the time (this compares with 48% of Americans overall). Virtually all of this group (96%) say they’ve never contributed money to a candidate running for public office.

In our typology, we categorized Americans into eight groups–among them, Solid Liberals and Steadfast Conservatives–using 23 questions about a wide range of political values. Most of the analysis is focused on seven main groups in the political typology that are defined by these political values. But the Bystanders, defined by their lack of political engagement, give a glimpse of the views of those on the political sidelines. (Note: For that reason, it is not possible in our online quiz to be categorized as a Bystander.)  Read More

Topics: Political Attitudes and Values, Political Typology

Jul 3, 2014 3:02 pm

Chart of the Week: How the Supreme Court justices line up


Now that the Supreme Court has finished its 2013-14 term, legal scholars and court watchers have another 67 decisions (in argued cases) to analyze and refine their models of how the Court works. One development was noted by several commentators: Despite the oft-described ideological and jurisprudential divisions among the justices, they agree a lot more often than they disagree.

The chart above, from The New York Times, shows how often each justice has sided with every other justice in the 280 decisions issued since 2010 (the Court’s lineup has been stable since Elena Kagan joined it in 2010). The highest agreement rates, as might be expected, are between justices appointed by the same President: Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, 94% (both appointed by Obama) and John Roberts and Samuel Alito, 93% (both appointed by George W. Bush). But even the two most disparate justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Clarence Thomas, have been on the same side nearly two-thirds of the time.

That has much to do with the large number of unanimous decisions the Court has issued. Two-thirds of this past term’s decisions, the Times notes, were 9-0 — the highest percentage since at least 1953 — including ones on abortion-clinic protests and police searches of smartphones.

Chief Justice Roberts, Court observers say, has worked hard to try to have the Court speak with a single voice as often as possible. But even when they agree on the outcome of a case, the justices frequently disagree on the legal reasoning, spelling out their views in concurring opinions that sometimes read almost like dissents.

Category: Chart of the Week

Topics: Supreme Court

Jul 2, 2014 11:49 am

The Hobby Lobby impact: A Q&A

Robert Tuttle, George Washington University
Robert Tuttle, Berz Research Professor of Law and Religion, George Washington University

The U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing for-profit businesses to opt out of the contraceptive mandate in the new health care law has raised questions about what the ruling might mean for businesses, for future challenges to the contraception mandate, and even for the future of church-state law. We posed these questions to Robert Tuttle, one of the nation’s experts on church-state issues. He is the Berz Research Professor of Law and Religion at the George Washington University, and is a Pew Research Center consultant.

1) Are there other aspects of the Affordable Care Act that are likely to face religious-liberty challenges? If so, does the Hobby Lobby decision support those challenges?

Alito’s opinion, and Kennedy’s concurring opinion, repeatedly stress the narrow scope of the decision. Both justices say the ruling applies only to coverage of contraceptives, not to other health care services that might also face religious objections. At the same time, it’s not hard to imagine a business owner having a sincere religious objection to subsidizing coverage of particular treatments – such as blood transfusions, which are opposed by Jehovah’s Witnesses – or to traditional health care in general.  Read More

Topics: Church-State Law, Health Care, Supreme Court

Jul 2, 2014 9:00 am

Most Americans think the U.S. is great, but fewer say it’s the greatest

A declining percentage of Americans say the U.S. is among the greatest countries in the world.As Americans prepare to celebrate the country’s birthday, a clear majority considers the U.S. to be one of the greatest countries in the world. But the view that the U.S. is exceptional – standing above all other countries in the world – has declined 10 points since 2011.

About three-in-ten (28%) think that the U.S. “stands above all other countries in the world,” while most (58%) say it is “one of the greatest countries in the world, along with some others.” Few Americans (12%) say there are other countries in the world “that are better than the U.S.”

Three years ago, 38% said the U.S. stood above all others, while 53% said it was one of the greatest nations and 8% thought some others were better than the U.S.

Read More

Topics: Global Balance of Power, Political Attitudes and Values, U.S. Political Parties

Jul 2, 2014 7:00 am

Facebook’s experiment causes a lot of fuss for little result

A study in which Facebook manipulated the news feeds to more than 600,000 users sent social media users into a cyber-swoon this week and spilled over into the mainstream media: “Facebook Tinkers With Users’ Emotions,” began the headline on the New York Times website.

But the controversy over what these researchers did may be overshadowing other important discussions, specifically conversations about what they really found—not much, actually—and the right and wrong way to think about and report findings based on statistical analyses of big data. (We’ll get to the ethics of their experiment in a moment.)

Because they are so large, studies based on supersized samples can produce results that are statistically significant but at the same time are substantively trivial. It’s simple math: The larger the sample size, the smaller any differences need to be to be statistically significant—that is, highly likely to be truly different from each other. (In this study, the differences examined were between those who saw more and those who saw fewer emotion-laden posts compared with a control group whose news feeds were not manipulated.) Read More

Category: Social Studies

Topics: Research Methodology, Social Media

Jul 1, 2014 2:54 pm

DHS: Violence, poverty, is driving children to flee Central America to U.S.

DHS map of where unaccompanied children are coming from in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador
See larger version

Of the thousands of unaccompanied children apprehended at the U.S. border in recent months, many can be attributed to poverty and regional violence in three Central American countries, a new U.S. Department of Homeland Security document finds. The document says the reasons driving the migration are different for each country, attributing it to local conditions.

“For example, many Guatemalan children come from rural areas, indicating they are probably seeking economic opportunities in the U.S. Salvadoran and Honduran children, on the other hand, come from extremely violent regions where they probably perceive the risk of traveling alone to the U.S. preferable to remaining at home.” Read More

Jul 1, 2014 9:00 am

Wage gap between high and low earners rising most among Hispanics

Growing Earnings Gap Especially Sharp among HispanicsThe earnings gap in the nation’s workforce has widened in recent years as the pay of high-wage workers has risen and the pay of low-wage workers has fallen. But while this double-edged phenomenon affects all racial and ethnic groups, Hispanics may be feeling the impact more acutely than others, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.

The median weekly earnings of Hispanics at the low end of the wage scale fell by 9.4%, from $278 to $252 (in fourth quarter 2013 dollars) between 2007 and 2013, years that span the Great Recession and the fitful economic recovery. Meanwhile, the median weekly earnings of Hispanics in the highest wage bracket increased 4.4%, from $1,604 to $1,675.

The earnings gap also stretched among other groups of workers, but to a lesser extent.

Among blacks, the median weekly earnings of those in the lowest wage bracket of the U.S. income distribution decreased 7.7% from the fourth quarter of 2007 to the fourth quarter of 2013 while the earnings of those in the highest wage bracket increased 1.9%. Over the same period, the pay of white low-wage workers fell 5.6% and the pay of white high-wage workers rose 3.4%. Among Asians, the earnings of low-wage workers were unchanged but the earning of high-wage workers increased 6.8%.  Read More

Topics: Economic Recession, Economics and Personal Finances, Hispanic/Latino Demographics