Dec 17, 2014 10:00 am

America’s wealth gap between middle-income and upper-income families is widest on record

The wealth gap between America’s high income group and everyone else has reached record high levels since the economic recovery from the Great Recession of 2007-09, with a clear trajectory of increasing wealth for the upper-income families and no wealth growth for the middle- and lower-income families.

Wealth Gap RatiosA new Pew Research Center analysis of wealth finds the gap between America’s upper-income and middle-income families has reached its highest level on record. In 2013, the median wealth of the nation’s upper-income families ($639,400) was nearly seven times the median wealth of middle-income families ($96,500), the widest wealth gap seen in 30 years when the Federal Reserve began collecting these data.

In addition, America’s upper-income families have a median net worth that is nearly 70 times that of the country’s lower-income families, also the widest wealth gap between these families in 30 years. Read More

Topics: Economic Recession, Economics and Personal Finances, Income, Income Inequality, Socioeconomic Class, Wealth

Dec 16, 2014 1:09 pm

With fewer new arrivals, Census lowers Hispanic population projections

The Hispanic population is expected to reach about 106 million in 2050, about double what it is today, according to new U.S. Census Bureau population projections. But the new Hispanic population projection for 2050 is lower — by nearly 30 million — than earlier population projections published by the bureau.

The nation’s Hispanic population has been one of its fastest growing in recent decades. Since 1970, the Hispanic population has grown 592%, largely because of the arrival of new immigrants from Latin America — especially Mexico. By comparison, the U.S. population overall has grown 56% over the same period. Between 2000 and 2010 alone, Hispanics made up more than half of U.S. population growth.

Slowdown in Latin American migration among drivers of lower Hispanic population projections

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Topics: Hispanic/Latino Demographics, Immigration, Immigration Trends

Dec 16, 2014 10:30 am

Do lower gasoline prices make for confident consumers?

gas prices consumer confidence

Gasoline prices have been dropping since midsummer, and consumers’ confidence about the economy has been on the rise. Could there be a connection?

According to a new Pew Research Center report, 70% of Americans now report hearing mostly good news about gas prices, up from just 15% in August. In truth, gas prices have been falling for months: As of Monday, the national average price of a gallon of self-serve regular was $2.554 — $1.15 less than in late June (representing a nearly one-third drop), according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That’s the cheapest gas has been since October 2009. Also, Brent crude oil has fallen more than $45 a barrel since June and is now below $59 a barrel for the first time since May 2009.

Meanwhile, the University of Michigan’s Index of Consumer Sentiment stood at 88.8 in November, up 7 points since July and its highest reading since mid-2007. The preliminary December reading is even higher, at 93.8, though that’s still subject to revision. Read More

Topics: National Economy

Dec 15, 2014 10:00 am

Conflicts continue over nativity scenes on public property

Conflicts continue over nativity scenes on public property
(Credit: Matthew Roberts)

It’s become a holiday tradition.

Each year, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, countless towns and localities around the United States allow a Christmas nativity scene or crèche to be put on government property, often in front of a town hall or a courthouse. And each year, in at least a few of these places, people object to these displays – sometimes through legal action, arguing that the displays violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution’s First Amendment.

Most Americans favor allowing religious displays like nativity scenes to be placed on government property.Already this year, controversies over the placement of nativity scenes have arisen in places like Portsmouth, Virginia; Baxter County, Arkansas; and Cherokee County, Texas. So far, officials in these and other places have not been forced to remove their crèches.

A new Pew Research Center survey finds that most Americans favor allowing religious displays like nativity scenes to be placed on government property. The survey found that 44% of U.S. adults say that Christian symbols should be allowed even if they are not accompanied by symbols from other faiths, such as Hanukkah menorahs, while another 28% say Christian symbols should be permitted as long as they are accompanied by symbols of other religions.

Read More

Topics: Christians and Christianity, Religion and Government

Dec 12, 2014 10:00 am

Wealth inequality has widened along racial, ethnic lines since end of Great Recession

Wealth Inequality by Race

The Great Recession, fueled by the crises in the housing and financial markets, was universally hard on the net worth of American families. But even as the economic recovery has begun to mend asset prices, not all households have benefited alike, and wealth inequality has widened along racial and ethnic lines.

The wealth of white households was 13 times the median wealth of black households in 2013, compared with eight times the wealth in 2010, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of data from the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances. Likewise, the wealth of white households is now more than 10 times the wealth of Hispanic households, compared with nine times the wealth in 2010. Read More

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

Dec 12, 2014 7:00 am

For some, the satiric ‘Colbert Report’ is a trusted source of political news

Americans have numerous sources of news — from radio to television and websites — to keep up with the latest coverage of politics and government. But what about political satire?

Pew Research Center’s recent report on Americans’ media habits finds that a portion of online adults get their news from two Comedy Central staples, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. And other studies have shown that people do, in fact, learn from these programs while they laugh.

As The Colbert Report ends this month after 10 seasons, here are some key facts and new analysis about the show’s audience, including who has heard of, gets news from and trusts it as a source of political news.

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Topics: News Audience Trends and Attitudes

Dec 11, 2014 10:00 am

Retailers still rely on holiday sales, but not quite as much as they used to

seasonal sales patterns of selected retail sectors

Americans like to complain about holiday-season shopping: In a Pew Research Center survey conducted last year, people’s three least-favorite things about the holidays were commercialism, holiday-related expenses and crowds in the malls and stores. But they sure do a lot of it anyway. The same survey found that 86% of adults planned to buy gifts for friends and family, and according to the Census Bureau’s Monthly Retail Trade Report, retail sales last December totaled $437.1 billion.

Holiday sales reliably spike in December for a number of retail categories, according to the census data — notably department stores and other general-merchandise stores; clothing and accessories stores; electronics and appliance stores; and e-commerce sites, catalog companies and other “non-store retailers.” While other types of retailers (such as home-improvement stores and car dealers) exhibit different seasonal sales patterns, overall U.S. retail sales are tilted toward the holiday season: November-December 2013 sales made up 18.14% of sales for all of 2013, according to the census data.

Read More

Topics: National Economy

Dec 11, 2014 7:00 am

Texas tops list of states where this year’s unaccompanied child migrants ended up

Where unaccompanied immigrant children apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border now live.One-in-three (36%) of the nearly 54,000 unaccompanied children released to sponsors over the past year after their apprehension by immigration authorities have been placed in homes in three states – Texas, New York and California, according to Office of Refugee Resettlement data.

A House Judiciary subcommittee on immigration and border security held a hearing this week on the impact of unaccompanied children on communities. Children are placed with sponsors, often relatives, while they wait for their next court appearance in immigration court. These cases can be delayed if asylum is sought.

Last summer’s surge in the number of children without their parents apprehended at the Southwest border overwhelmed federal resources. Many of the children were making the dangerous journey from Mexico and Central America to the U.S., with sharp increases in apprehensions among children under 12. Since last summer, apprehensions of unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S.-Mexico border has decreased dramatically, from 10,508 in June alone to 2,529 in October, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data.

Read More

Topics: Immigration, Unauthorized Immigration

Dec 10, 2014 10:48 am

The New Republic and the state of niche news magazines

Late last week, after the firing of two top editors at the century-old New Republic magazine, more than a dozen staff members departed in protest over the editorial direction and digital strategy. In a note to readers yesterday, Guy Vidra, the magazine’s newly installed CEO, wrote: “We will build a platform that lets us create unique and compelling experiences on our web site and on mobile platforms, as well as the means to reach audiences outside our walls.”

New Republic, CirculationThe data suggest they have a tough road ahead. While single copy sales of the New Republic (considered the most objective measure of a magazine’s print appeal) more than doubled from the fourth quarter of 2012 to the first half of 2013, following Facebook founder Chris Hughes’ purchase of the magazine, they have steadily declined since. Between the first and second halves of 2013, newsstand sales fell by 57%, and fell a further 20% in the first half of 2014, according to the Alliance for Audited Media.

The New Republic’s troubles are reflected in the data for its fellow niche news magazines, which all target an elite audience consisting of older, educated and wealthier readers. Looking at three comparable magazines (The Atlantic, The New Yorker and The Economist), the digital side of the business has been making some gains, but single copy sales for this group were down or flat since 2008, according to the Alliance for Audited Media. For the first half of 2014, The Atlantic saw its sales rise 20% from a year before. The New Yorker, however, fell 5% during the same period, while The Economist fell 16%. Read More

Topics: Digital Media, Magazines, Media Economics, Media Performance, News Media Trends, State of the News Media

Dec 9, 2014 12:30 pm

Americans’ views on use of torture in fighting terrorism have been mixed

The so-called enhanced interrogation techniques put into practice by the Central Intelligence Agency after the September 2001 terrorist attacks and continued in subsequent years during the Bush administration are the focus of a report being released by the Senate Intelligence Committee — and a subject on which Americans have had mixed views.

FT_14.12.9_torture2The use of practices like waterboarding began to surface publicly in press reports not long after 9/11, and when the Pew Research Center first surveyed on the subject in July 2004, a narrow majority (53%) said the use of torture to gain important information from suspected terrorists could be only rarely or never justified.

Opinion has shifted since then, with more Americans finding torture acceptable. In August 2011, a narrow majority (53%) of Americans said the use of torture could be often or sometimes justified, while 42% said it could only rarely be justified or not be justified at all. Read More

Topics: Terrorism, U.S. Global Image and Anti-Americanism, Wars and International Conflicts