Aug 15, 2014 11:00 am

As machines take on more human work, what’s left for us?

For decades, labor economists have sought to quantify and predict the the impact of computer technology on both current and future employment, a subject that a new Pew Research Center report  probed with a survey of nearly 1,900 experts. Computers had typically been thought of as best suited for jobs that involve routine, repetitive tasks that can easily be reduced to lines of code. But with computer-controlled devices and systems already capable of doing far more than projected even a few years ago, many experts now see more complex jobs coming into play.

The first approach is perhaps summed up by MIT economist David Autor and David Dorn, an economist at Spain’s CEMFI institute, who’ve done much of the spade work in this line of research. They wrote in a 2013 paper: “The adoption of computers substitutes for low-skill workers performing routine tasks — such as bookkeeping, clerical work, and repetitive production and monitoring activities — which are readily computerized because they follow precise, well-defined procedures.” Read More

Topics: Emerging Technology Impacts, Work and Employment

Aug 15, 2014 9:00 am

5 facts about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program

Two years ago today, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services began accepting applications for the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Known as DACA, the program provides temporary relief from deportation and a two-year work permit to qualifying young adults ages 15 to 30 who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Many of those approved are now eligible to re-applyto renew their work permit. The program does not provide a pathway to citizenship.

Here are some facts and figures on DACA.

Most applications received for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) have been approved.1The vast majority of young unauthorized immigrants who applied have received relief from deportation and a temporary work permit. Through March 31, 2014, 86% of 643,000 applications accepted have been approved, according to government data. When the program started, the Pew Research Center estimated that up to 950,000 young unauthorized immigrant youths were immediately eligible to apply for the new program, but not all those eligible have applied for the program. Each application carries a $465 fee.

2Some 77% (428,000) of those who have received a temporary work permit are Mexican. Those from El Salvador, at 4%, have the next highest number of approvals. No other country accounted for more than 3% of approvals.

3 California has 162,000 deferred action recipients, compared with 88,000 from Texas. Both states border Mexico and have the highest populations of Mexican immigrants. Arizona, another border state with many Mexican immigrants, has the highest application rate. Some 66% of 34,000 eligible people have applied, according to the Migration Policy Institute. Read More

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Barack Obama, Immigration, Unauthorized Immigration

Aug 15, 2014 7:00 am

Chart of the Week: The hype cycle of emerging technologies

The 20th edition of the Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies tracks the rising (and falling) expectations for various emerging technologies.

Have you been hearing a lot about “the internet of things” lately? Maybe you even read our recent report collecting expert predictions on the subject. The 2014 Gartner Hype Cycle might help explain why this volume of attention has risen. This annual report plots the rising expectations and enthusiasm (and subsequent disappointment and disillusionment) for various emerging technologies. As Quartz’s Leo Mirani points out, the Internet of Things has “reached the zenith of its hype,” egged on by copious, “breathless” news coverage.

Also at or near peak hype and headed for the downward slope, according to the Gartner analysts: natural language question-answering systems, like Apple’s Siri, which help computers to understand human thoughts; wearable user interfaces, like Google Glass or Apple’s anticipated iWatch; and autonomous vehicles, like Google’s driverless cars. Read More

Topics: Emerging Technology Impacts

Aug 13, 2014 7:00 am

Birth rate for unmarried women declining for first time in decades

Fertility RatesFor the first time in decades, the non-marital birth rate in the U.S. has been declining, according to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics. The rate peaked in 2008 at about 52 babies per 1000 unmarried women of childbearing age, before dropping to 45 births in 2013. Like declines in overall fertility that have occurred since 2007, it’s quite likely that this recent decline in the non-marital birth rate also occurred as a result of the economic recession of 2007-2009.

Will the non-marital birth rate continue to drop as the economy slowly recovers? It’s difficult to know, but many experts believe that overall fertility will bounce back as the economy improves, as has been the case with past recessions — and indeed, the sharp fertility declines that occurred during the recession have already begun leveling off, and it appears as though non-marital birth rates may be following the same course.  Read More

Topics: Birth Rate and Fertility, Demographics, Economic Recession

Aug 12, 2014 2:10 pm

Iraqi Yazidis: Hazy population numbers and a history of persecution

The Yazidis fleeing the advance of the Sunni militant group ISIS in Iraq are a religious group of uncertain numbers and a long history of persecution.
Displaced Iraqis from the Yazidi community cross the Iraqi-Syrian border on August 11, 2014. (Credit: AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)

One of the groups caught in the path of Sunni militants fighting under the banner of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are the Yazidis, members of a minority religious group whose members were among the thousands of civilians who had been trapped in the Sinjar mountains of Iraq without food or water. Last week, President Obama authorized airstrikes on ISIS as well as humanitarian aid to help the refugees.

The Yazidis are an ethnically Kurdish religious group whose beliefs include elements similar to Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam. They are mainly concentrated in northern Iraq, but some also live in Syria, Turkey and a few other countries. Violence against Yazidis predates the current offensive, although ISIS represents a more systematic threat to the group.

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Topics: Middle East and North Africa, Religious Affiliation, Religious Extremism, Restrictions on Religion, Wars and International Conflicts

Aug 12, 2014 10:07 am

Vast majority of blacks view the criminal justice system as unfair

Over the weekend, Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen was shot and killed by a police officer in a St. Louis, Missouri, suburb. Following the shooting, the predominately black city of Ferguson erupted into protests, prompting U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to launch a federal investigation into the incident.

Vast majority of blacks view the criminal justice system as unfair The shooting comes only weeks after the New York City Police Department was criticized for subduing a black man who later died in police custody. Both deaths have led to questions of whether discriminatory practices contributed to these incidents.

Blacks are much more likely than whites to say that blacks faced unfair treatment in dealing with police or in the courts, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey. And blacks perceived racial biases to be greater in the criminal justice system than in other institutions.

Seven-in-ten blacks said that blacks in their community were treated less fairly than whites in dealings with the police. In comparison, 37% of whites and 51% of Hispanics held that view. Also, 68% of blacks said that the court system was unfair to blacks, far more than whites (27%) or Hispanics (40%).

While half or more blacks said that blacks were treated less fairly than whites at work (54%) or at school (51%), those are still smaller percentages when compared with perceptions of unfair treatment by police or in the court system.

Additionally, younger black men are more likely to report unjust treatment by the police. Nearly one-quarter of black males ages 18-34 said they had been treated unfairly by the police in the last 30 days, according to a Gallup poll conducted June to July 2013. This represents a similar percentage with those 35-54 (22%), but double the rate cited for those 55 and older (11%).

Topics: African Americans, Criminal Justice, Discrimination and Prejudice

Aug 12, 2014 7:00 am

6 facts about South Korea’s growing Christian population

29% of South Koreans were Christian in 2010

Pope Francis will travel to South Korea this week for Asian Youth Day, making his third international trip as pontiff. He’ll be visiting a country that has experienced considerable religious change in recent decades. Here are six facts about Christianity in South Korea:

1South Korea has no majority religious group. Its population includes a plurality of people with no religious affiliation (46%) and significant shares of Christians (29%) and Buddhists (23%). South Korea’s current president, Park Geun-hye, is an atheist with connections to Buddhism and Catholicism, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

Christian share of South Korea's population2In 1900, only 1% of the country’s population was Christian, but largely through the efforts of missionaries and churches, Christianity has grown rapidly in South Korea over the past century. In 2010, roughly three-in-ten South Koreans were Christian, including members of the world’s largest Pentecostal church, Yoido Full Gospel Church, in Seoul.

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Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Buddhists and Buddhism, Christians and Christianity, Religious Affiliation, Religious Leaders

Aug 11, 2014 9:00 am

The growing pay gap between journalism and public relations

After years of grim news for the news industry marked by seemingly endless rounds of staff cutbacks, it’s not unusual for those thinking about a career in journalism or veterans trying to find a new job to look at options in related fields. One field outpacing journalism both in sheer numbers and in salary growth is public relations.

The growing income gap between PR specialists and reporters.The salary gap between public relations specialists and news reporters has widened over the past decade – to almost $20,000 a year, according to 2013 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data analyzed by the Pew Research Center. At the same time, the public relations field has expanded to a degree that these specialists now outnumber reporters by nearly 5 to 1 (BLS data include part-time and full-time employees, but not self-employed.)

In 2013, according to BLS data, public relations specialists earned a median annual income of $54,940 compared with $35,600 for reporters. In other words, journalists on average earn just 65% of what those in public relations earn. That is a greater income gap than in 2004 when journalists were paid 71 cents of every dollar earned by those in public relations ($43,830 versus $31,320).

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Topics: News Media Sectors, Newspapers, Newsroom Investment and Resources

Aug 11, 2014 7:00 am

5 facts about Honduras and immigration

Honduras Migration
A child walks toward his mother outside the Honduran Center for Returned Migrants in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. Photo Credit: Reuters/Jorge Cabrera

The number of unaccompanied minors from Honduras apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border shot up from less than 7,000 in fiscal year 2013 to more than 17,500 through July this year, making Honduras the country of origin for the highest number of those minors.

Here are some facts and figures to help understand the conditions that Hondurans face in their home country and their ties to the U.S., in the years leading up to the surge.

1The wave of all immigrants in the U.S. coming from Honduras — both authorized and unauthorized — is relatively new. Over half of Honduran immigrants currently living in the U.S. arrived in 2000 or later, and about a quarter since 2006, according to a Pew Research analysis of 2012 census data.

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Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Immigration, Immigration Trends, Latin America, Unauthorized Immigration

Aug 8, 2014 11:14 am

U.S. nuns face shrinking numbers and tensions with the Vatican

The number of American nuns is on the declineThe Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), which includes representation from more than 80% of American nuns, is set to hold its annual assembly next week in Nashville. The meeting comes as the organization continues to draw scrutiny from the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church, and also at a time when there has been a steep decline in the number of nuns.

The Vatican first began taking a hard look at some organizations of U.S. nuns about five years ago, eventually ordering an investigation and a “doctrinal assessment” of the LCWR – and a plan for organizational reform.

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Topics: Catholics and Catholicism, Religious Beliefs and Practices