Mar 28, 2017 10:58 am

Federal criminal prosecutions fall to lowest level in nearly two decades

After peaking in 2011, the number of federal criminal prosecutions has declined for five consecutive years and is now at its lowest level in nearly two decades, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of new data from the federal court system. The decline comes as Attorney General Jeff Sessions has indicated that the Justice Department will reverse the trend and ramp up criminal prosecutions in the years ahead.

Federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against 77,152 defendants in fiscal year 2016, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. That’s a decline of 25% since fiscal 2011, when 102,617 defendants were charged, and marks the lowest yearly total since 1997. The data count all defendants charged in U.S. district courts with felonies and serious misdemeanors, as well as some defendants charged with petty offenses. They exclude defendants whose cases were handled by magistrate judges.

Prosecutions for drug, immigration and property offenses – the three most common categories of crime charged by the federal government – all have declined over the past five years. The Justice Department filed drug charges against 24,638 defendants in 2016, down 23% from 2011. It filed immigration charges against 20,762 defendants, down 26%. And it charged 10,712 people with property offenses such as fraud and embezzlement, a 39% decline.  Read More

Topics: Criminal Justice, Federal Government

Mar 27, 2017 6:56 am

About one-in-seven Americans don’t think men should be able to take any paternity leave

Americans overwhelmingly say that parents should be able to take leave from work following the birth or adoption of a child. And they say the same about workers who need to care for a family member with a serious health condition or to deal with their own serious health condition. But while most Americans support paid leave in each of these situations, about one-in-seven (15%) say men shouldn’t be able to take paternity leave at all, paid or unpaid, according to a new Pew Research Center study.

By comparison, just 3% say women shouldn’t be able to take any type of maternity leave, while 5% say workers shouldn’t be able to take leave to care for an ill family member and 2% say they shouldn’t be able to take leave to deal with their own health problems.

Older adults, particularly older men, are the least supportive of fathers taking time off from work after the birth or adoption of a child. In fact, roughly three-in-ten Americans ages 65 or older (28%) – and 36% of men in this age group – say fathers should not be able to take paternity leave, compared with 16% of Americans ages 50 to 64 and about one-in-ten of those 30 to 49 (10%) and 18 to 29 (9%).

Read More

Topics: Gender, Work and Employment, Family and Relationships, Family Roles, Parenthood, Household and Family Structure

Mar 24, 2017 2:37 pm

Applications for U.S. visa lottery more than doubled since 2007

A U.S. visa program that faces elimination under several bills being considered by Congress has attracted more than 156 million applicants from around the world over the past decade, even though only a small fraction of those applicants end up receiving visas through it.

During the application period for fiscal year 2017, about 19 million people applied for the U.S. diversity visa program, otherwise known as the visa lottery. That’s more than twice as many as the 9 million who applied a decade ago, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. State Department data. During the same period, the number of visas issued to the principal applicants, spouses and children via the lottery has remained stable at about 50,000 per year (due to an annual ceiling set by Congress), or a little more than 500,000 since 2007.

In operation since 1995, the visa lottery seeks to diversify the U.S. immigrant population by granting visas to underrepresented nations. Citizens of countries with the most legal immigrant arrivals in recent years – such as Mexico, Canada, China and India – are not eligible to apply. Legal immigrants entering the U.S. on a diversity visa account for about 5% of the roughly 1 million people who are awarded green cards each year.

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Topics: Immigration, Immigration Trends, Migration

Mar 23, 2017 1:30 pm

Access to paid family leave varies widely across employers, industries

Americans generally support paid family and medical leave, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. But relatively few workers have access to paid leave, and access varies considerably by industry and by the type and size of the employer.

In 2016, 14% of civilian workers had access to paid family leave, according to the National Compensation Survey (NCS), conducted annually by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. The share has grown only slightly since 2010 (the earliest year with directly comparable data), when paid family leave was available to 11% of civilian workers. By contrast, unpaid family leave is available to 88% of all civilian workers; that’s due in part to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which guarantees eligible workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year. (Workers may, of course, have access to both paid and unpaid leave.)  Read More

Topics: Work and Employment, Family and Relationships

Mar 23, 2017 12:04 pm

Key takeaways on Americans’ views of and experiences with family and medical leave

The issue of paid family and medical leave has captured the attention of policymakers and advocates on both sides of the political aisle, as a growing share of working parents and an aging population put mounting pressure on American workers to balance family caregiving responsibilities and work obligations. A new Pew Research Center study finds that large shares of adults express support for paid family and medical leave, and most supporters say employers should cover the costs. Still, about half of Americans say the federal government should require employers to provide this benefit.

These findings are based on two new surveys of randomly selected U.S. adults conducted by Pew Research Center with support from Pivotal Ventures: one of adults in general, and the other of those ages 18 to 70 who were employed for pay and have taken – or who needed or wanted but were unable to take – parental, family or medical leave in the past two years.

The study also finds that the experiences of Americans who have taken family or medical leave in recent years – including the amount of time they took off, whether they received pay, and how they coped with the loss of wages and salary if they didn’t receive full pay during their leave – vary sharply by income.

Here are six key takeaways from the report:

1Support for paid family and medical leave is widespread, but it is greater under some circumstances than others. About eight-in-ten Americans (82%) support paid leave for mothers following the birth or adoption of a child, while 69% support paid paternity leave for fathers. And while 85% support paid leave for workers dealing with their own serious health condition, fewer (67%) support paid leave for those caring for a family member who is seriously ill.

More Americans say that employers, rather than the federal or state government, should be responsible for providing pay for workers who take leave. For example, roughly six-in-ten adults say employers should provide pay for workers who need to deal with their own serious health condition (62%) and for mothers following birth or adoption (61%).

Read More

Topics: Gender, Demographics, Work and Employment, Income, Family and Relationships, Family Roles, Parenthood, Household and Family Structure

Mar 23, 2017 11:30 am

Many lower-income Republicans see ensuring health coverage for all as a government responsibility

With the U.S. House preparing to vote on a proposal to repeal and replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act, Republicans continue to overwhelmingly oppose the law, and most say it’s not the government’s responsibility to make sure all Americans have health care coverage. But the views of lower-income Republicans stand out: They are somewhat more likely than higher-income Republicans to support the health care law, and many say it is the government’s responsibility to ensure that all Americans have coverage.

Just 15% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents approve of the health care law passed by President Barack Obama and Congress; a greater share (32%) says the government has a responsibility to ensure health care coverage for all Americans.

Among Democrats and Democratic leaners, comparably large majorities approve of the health care law (83%) and say the government is responsible for making sure all Americans have coverage (85%).  Read More

Topics: Income, Entitlements, Health Care, Congress, U.S. Political Parties, Political Attitudes and Values, Government Spending and the Deficit

Mar 22, 2017 11:07 am

How much does science knowledge influence people’s views on climate change and energy issues?

Many in the scientific community believe that if the American public were more informed about the science behind climate change and energy issues, people would hold views that aligned more closely with those of scientific experts. But how much people know about science only modestly and inconsistently correlates with their attitudes about climate and energy issues, while partisanship is a stronger factor in people’s beliefs, according to a 2016 Pew Research Center survey.

There have been wide political divides in public views over climate and energy issues over at least a decade of public polls. The 2016 survey showed these political divisions reached across every dimension of the climate debate, from the causes and potential cures of climate change down to people’s trust in climate scientists’ understanding of the issue and the motivations behind their research.

These political orientations appear to serve as an anchoring point for how knowledge influences peoples’ attitudes. This pattern is consistent with an array of scholarly literature which suggests that people’s political worldviews shape how science knowledge influences attitudes on climate-related matters.  Read More

Topics: Energy and Environment, U.S. Political Parties, Political Attitudes and Values, Public Knowledge, Political Party Affiliation, Science and Innovation, Political Polarization

Mar 22, 2017 6:54 am

Digital divide persists even as lower-income Americans make gains in tech adoption

This is the first in a series of posts about how different demographic groups in the U.S. have fared in the digital age.

Nearly 30 years after the debut of the World Wide Web, internet use, broadband adoption and smartphone ownership have grown rapidly for all Americans – including those who are less well off financially. But even as many aspects of the digital divide have narrowed over time, the digital lives of lower- and higher-income Americans remain markedly different.

Roughly three-in-ten adults with household incomes below $30,000 a year don’t own a smartphone. Nearly half don’t have home broadband services or a traditional computer. And a majority of lower-income Americans are not tablet owners. By comparison, many of these devices are nearly ubiquitous among adults from households earning $100,000 or more a year.

Higher-income Americans are also more likely to have multiple devices that enable them to go online. Two-thirds of adults living in high-earning households have home broadband services, a smartphone, a desktop or laptop computer and a tablet, compared with 17% of those living in low-income households.

Read More

Topics: Income, Technology Adoption, Digital Divide, Socioeconomic Class, Income Inequality, Emerging Technology Impacts

Mar 21, 2017 7:12 am

Majority of states have all-Christian congressional delegations

As has been the case in prior Congresses, the 115th Congress is more Christian than the U.S. population as a whole. The vast majority of the nation’s federal lawmakers (91%) describe themselves as Christians, compared with 71% of U.S. adults who say the same, according to a recent Pew Research Center analysis of congressional data compiled by CQ Roll Call.

Here are some other facts about the religious makeup of the current Congress, focusing on state congressional delegations.  Read More

Topics: Religion and Society, Religion and Government, Congress, Religion and U.S. Politics, Federal Government, Religious Affiliation, Christians and Christianity, Mormons and Mormonism, Jews and Judaism

Mar 20, 2017 1:30 pm

Despite gains, women remain underrepresented among U.S. political and business leaders

Jeannette Rankin made history 100 years ago this year when she took office as the first female member of Congress. “I may be the first woman member of Congress, but I won’t be the last,” the Montana Republican predicted after winning election to the U.S. House of Representatives the year before.

Rankin was right: In the century since she began her service as a member of Congress, hundreds of women have followed in her footsteps. But women remain underrepresented in all major political offices and top business leadership positions in the United States.

In 2017, 21 women serve in the U.S. Senate and 83 serve in the House of Representatives, comprising 19.4% of Congress. While this share is nearly nine times higher than it was in 1965, it remains well below the 51.4% of women in the overall U.S. adult population. (An additional five women serve as nonvoting delegates in the House, representing American Samoa, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.)

(See our updated interactive, “The Data on Women Leaders”)

Nancy Pelosi is the highest-ranking woman in congressional history, serving as House speaker from 2007 to 2011 and currently serving as the chamber’s minority leader. Her home state, California, has sent more women to Congress than any other state – a total of 41 as of 2017.

Read More

Topics: Gender, Work and Employment, Congress, Business and Labor, State and Local Government, U.S. Political Figures