May 29, 2014 2:45 pm

Census says it will count same-sex marriages, but with caveats

Credit: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

The U.S. Census Bureau said that it will count same-sex spouses as married couples for the first time, rather than grouping them with cohabiting partners. The agency said it would make the change with the September release of data from its largest household survey.

The new approach reflects the bureau’s evolving policy on reporting household relationships, as it tries to keep pace with social change. Same-sex marriage is now legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia, and only one state (North Dakota) has a ban that has not been challenged in court.

Previously, the Census Bureau categorized same-sex spouses as unmarried partners, even if they said they were married, and the bureau included the figures in published statistics about cohabiting couples.

Supporters of gay marriage describe the bureau’s changes as long overdue and say that recognition by the Census Bureau reflects Americans’ growing acceptance of same-sex relationships and legal recognition by courts in a growing number of states. In the long term, the impact will be to broaden and deepen the statistics available about the families, economic circumstances and other characteristics of same-sex married couples.

However, demographic data researchers are not sure how much of a real impact there will be from the data right away. Read More

Topics: Gay Marriage and Homosexuality, U.S. Census

May 29, 2014 7:00 am

Americans are somewhat more open to the idea of an atheist president

Many Americans remain uncomfortable with electing a president who doesn’t believe in God, as evidenced by a recent Pew Research survey. Asked about a list of traits and how each would impact their likelihood of supporting a presidential candidate, about half (53%) of Americans said they would be less likely to support an atheist.what traits americans want in a president

No other trait, including being gay or having never held elected office, garnered a larger share of people saying they’d be less likely to support the potential candidate. But some of the stigma associated with atheists may be fading as the number of U.S. adults self-identifying as atheist or agnostic rises. Even though roughly half of Americans say they’d be less likely to support an atheist for president, that number has gone down since 2007, when six-in-ten Americans (61%) said the same. Read More

Topics: Religiously Unaffiliated

May 28, 2014 4:40 pm

El-Sisi likely to win Egypt election, but questions about mandate remain

Desire for honest elections losing support in EgyptAs the polls close in an unexpected third day of voting in the Egyptian presidential elections, there are concerns among Egypt-watchers that a low turnout victory for former general Abdel Fattah El-Sisi would leave the government without a sufficient mandate to deal with the unrest that has rattled the country since the initial 2011 revolution and last year’s military ouster of Mohamed Morsi. And there are signs in our pre-election April survey that the Egyptian public has become wary of politics and is showing a decline in enthusiasm for democracy and democratic values.

Read More

Topics: Democracy, Middle East and North Africa, World Elections

May 28, 2014 2:23 pm

Which countries still outlaw apostasy and blasphemy?

apostasy laws around the world

Apostasy and blasphemy may seem to many like artifacts of history. But in dozens of countries around the world, laws against apostasy and blasphemy remain even today.

Earlier this month, the U.S. embassy in Khartoum said it was “deeply disturbed” that Sudan had sentenced a pregnant woman to death for apostasy, the act of abandoning one’s faith — including by converting to another religion. (The woman later gave birth in jail.) And in Pakistan, the country’s most popular TV station was the latest target in a rash of recent government accusations of blasphemy, defined as speech or actions considered to be contemptuous of God or the divine.

A new Pew Research analysis finds that as of 2012, nearly a quarter of the world’s countries and territories (22%) had anti-blasphemy laws or policies, and one-in-ten (11%) had laws or policies penalizing apostasy. The legal punishments for such transgressions vary from fines to death. Read More

Topics: Religion and Government, Restrictions on Religion

May 28, 2014 9:00 am

As the New York Times’ first black executive editor, Dean Baquet is in a distinct minority

Credit: AP Images
Credit: AP Images

Just as the May 14 dismissal of New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson sparked a debate about gender roles in journalism, the ascension of Dean Baquet—the first African-American to run the paper’s newsroom—has renewed the focus on minority hiring in the news industry.

If Baquet is an historic figure at the Times, he is also part of a small minority at U.S. news outlets. Our data analysis finds that in newspaper newsrooms, the percentage of overall staffers and supervisors who are black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American or multiracial has remained virtually unchanged in the past two decades—accounting for about one in every 10 positions. The situation is slightly different in broadcast news, where minority staffers are still vastly outnumbered, but their presence has, in some cases, risen modestly.  Read More

Topics: Newspapers, Race and Ethnicity, Television

May 28, 2014 7:00 am

Obama charts a new foreign policy course for a public that wants the focus to be at home

President Obama delivers a speech at West Point. Credit: Roger L. Wollenberg-Pool/Getty Images
President Obama delivers a speech at West Point in 2009. Credit: Roger L. Wollenberg-Pool/Getty Images

President Obama is expected today to lay out his vision for navigating the many foreign challenges now facing the nation at a West Point commencement address. Republican leaders have criticized the administration for failing to exert American leadership abroad, but the speech also comes at a time when the American public has less of an appetite for foreign involvement and believes American clout is not what it used to be.

President Obama addresses cadets at West Point Military AcademyA growing number of Americans want to see the U.S. less involved abroad after more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a Pew Research Center survey last fall, 52% of the public said the U.S. should “mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own” — the first time since 1964 than more than half the public held that view. About four-in-ten (38%) disagreed. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll last month produced similar results.

As crises like the ongoing civil war in Syria and Russia’s annexation of the Ukraine have tested his administration, Obama complained last month about criticism that he was not being tough enough. For example, Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said that the administration had led on anti-government forces in Syria and pro-western elements in Ukraine without doing enough to back them up. Obama said that some of these critics “would go headlong into a bunch of military adventures that the American people had no interest in participating in and would not advance our core security interests.”

In his West Point speech, a top White House foreign policy aide told the New York Times that Obama will make “a case for interventionism but not overreach” when it comes to addressing crises abroad.

About half (51%) of Americans agreed last fall that Obama was not tough enough on foreign policy and national security issues while 37% considered his policies about right. More specifically, an April survey on public reaction to events in the Ukraine found that 40% considered Obama’s response about right while 35% said he was not being tough enough.

Read More

Topics: Foreign Affairs and Policy

May 27, 2014 9:00 am

Mexicans, Dominicans are more Catholic than most other Hispanics

FT_14.05.27_ReligiousAffiliation2The share of Latino adults who identify as Catholic is declining as the share of Protestants and the religiously unaffiliated rise. Today, 55% of Latinos say they are Catholic, a drop of 12 percentage points in the last four years, while the share of those who are Protestant and unaffiliated with any religion has risen, according to a Pew Research Center survey of Latino adults.

But differences exist among Hispanics when they are looked at by their country of origin: Mexicans and Dominicans are more likely than most other Hispanic origin groups to say they are Catholic. Meanwhile, Salvadorans are more likely to say they are evangelical Protestant than Mexicans, Cubans and Dominicans.  Read More

Topics: Hispanic/Latino Demographics, Religious Affiliation

May 27, 2014 7:00 am

From Germany to Mexico: How America’s source of immigrants has changed over a century

Where US immigrants come from, state by state today and a century agoWith more than 40 million immigrants, the United States is the top destination in the world for those moving from one country to another. Mexico, which shares a nearly 2,000-mile border with the U.S., is the source of the largest wave of immigration in history from a single country to the United States.

But today’s volume of immigrants, in some ways, is a return to America’s past. A century ago, the U.S. experienced another large wave of immigrants. Although smaller at 18.2 million, they hailed largely from Europe. Many Americans can trace their roots to that wave of migrants from 1890-1919, when Germany dominated as the country sending the most immigrants to many of the U.S. states, although the United Kingdom, Canada and Italy were also strongly represented. Read More

Topics: Hispanic/Latino Demographics, Immigration, Immigration Trends

May 26, 2014 7:00 am

About half of veterans of post-9/11 wars served with someone who was killed

Veteran Salutes Flag During Parade
Retired Army 1st Sgt. William Staude, of Elliott, Pa., salutes the U.S. flag being carried by soldiers from the 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command. Credit: The U.S. Army

The practice of dedicating a day to honoring America’s war dead has its roots in the years immediately after the Civil War and was officially declared a national holiday by Congress in 1971 to honor the fallen of all wars.

47% of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans served with someone who was killed during their serviceThe day will be an intensely personal experience for many veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts — about half (47%)  said that they served with a comrade that had been killed, according to a Pew Research Center survey of veterans conducted in 2011. That number rises to 62% among soldiers who were in combat.

Service members who were seriously wounded or knew someone who was killed or seriously wound were more likely to say the wars were worth fighting. In the case of Iraq, 48% of these veterans said the war was worth fighting compared with 36% who said it was not. For Afghanistan, the margin saying the war was worth fighting was higher — 55% to 40%.  Read More

Topics: Military and Veterans, Wars and International Conflicts

May 23, 2014 1:00 pm

Chart of the Week: Is food too cheap for our own good?

chart of food expenditures as percent of disposable income

As you scarf down burgers and potato salad this long Memorial Day weekend, consider this: Americans have the cheapest food in history, and that unprecedented abundance is largely responsible for why we’re so fat.

According to a new article in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, Americans in the 1930s spent a quarter of their disposable income on food. That share has fallen steadily through the decades, to the point where today less than 10% of Americans’ disposable dollars go for food. (That varies across income groups, of course: The poorest 20% of Americans still spend about a third of their disposable income on food.)

And even as the real cost of food goes down, each dollar we spend buys us more calories than it used to. The average American’s total caloric intake (adjusted for spoilage and other waste) rose from 2,109 calories in 1970 to 2,568 calories in 2010, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data — the equivalent of an extra steak sandwich every day. Little surprise, then, that more than 78 million U.S. adults, or 34.9%, were obese in 2011-12 — more than twice the rate found in a 1976-1980 health survey.

It’d be nice to think that all we as a people need to do is exercise more and eat more fruits and vegetables. But as the authors of the new paper point out, we’re already doing that: 51% of people in a 2009 study reported exercising regularly, up from 46% in 2001. Americans, as a whole, also ate more fresh fruits and vegetables in 2010 than they did in 197o (though again, that varies considerably among different groups). “[I]f people had access to more produce or cheaper produce, or just ate more of it, would they eat less candy and be thinner?” the researchers ask in conclusion. “Probably not.”

Category: Chart of the Week

Topics: Health