Jan 24, 2014 6:00 am

10 facts about Americans and public libraries

Technology and the internet are changing Americans’ reading habits and also their relationship with libraries. Half of Americans now own a tablet or e-reader and libraries have responded by expanding their digital offerings.

But what hasn’t changed is Americans’ love for books. American adults still read about as much as ever and overwhelmingly say libraries play an important role in their communities. In advance of the American Library Association’s Midwinter Convention (#alamw14) in Philadelphia, here are some key facts and trends we have chronicled in our research on America’s public libraries.

1E-book reading is growing, but printed books still dominate the reading world. 28% of American adults ages 18 and older read an e-book in the past year, up from 17% in 2011. Still, 69% read a printed book, about the same as last year. Only 4% of readers are “e-book only” readers. The vast majority of e-book readers also read a printed book. (Report)

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Topics: Libraries

Jan 23, 2014 2:07 pm

Anti-poll tax amendment is 50 years old today


The value in today’s dollars of the annual poll tax once imposed by several Southern states.

Fifty years ago today, the 24th Amendment, prohibiting the use of poll taxes as voting qualifications in federal elections, became part of the U.S. Constitution. Poll taxes were among the devices used by Southern states to restrict African Americans (as well as poor whites, Native Americans and other marginalized populations) from voting. The taxes had been ubiquitous across the old Confederacy earlier in the 20th century, but by 1964 only five states — Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas and Virginia — retained them.

The nominal amount of the taxes wasn’t very much, then or now. Alabama, Texas and Virginia set theirs at $1.50 per year, or $11.27 in today’s dollars; Arkansas had the lowest tax, $1 (or $7.51 today), while Mississippi’s was highest at $2 ($15.03 today). But the taxes were more onerous than they might appear. In Virginia, Alabama and Mississippi the taxes were cumulative, meaning a person seeking to vote had to pay the taxes for two or three years before they were eligible to register. Often only property owners were billed for the taxes, and the due dates were several months before the election. Virginia, Mississippi and Texas allowed cities and counties to impose local poll taxes on top of the state charge. And in some jurisdictions taxes had to be paid in person at the sheriff’s office, an intimidating prospect for many.

Also, as voting historian J. Morgan Kousser noted, the taxes had to be paid in cash, at a time when many black southerners had extremely low cash incomes: “[B]ecause sharecroppers, small farmers, factory workers, miners, and others bought most of their necessities on credit, they might not see more than a few dollars in cash during a year. To such men, who composed majorities or near-majorities of the adult male populations of every southern state at the turn of the century, a levy of a dollar or two might seem enormous and a cumulated poll tax, impossibly high.”

The 24th Amendment didn’t, however, mark the end of poll taxes in the United States. While it ended taxes as factors in federal elections, poll taxes remained in place for state and local elections. Arkansas effectively repealed its state poll tax in November 1964; it wasn’t till 1966 that the taxes in the four remaining states were struck down in a series of federal court decisions.

Category: Daily Number

Topics: Elections and Campaigns, Race and Ethnicity, Voting Issues

Jan 23, 2014 12:02 pm

Hispanics prioritize legalization for unauthorized immigrants over citizenship

FT_Deportation123After some movement in Congress in 2013, and then a stall, there are signs that immigration reform might move ahead in 2014. House Speaker John Boehner has indicated a new willingness to bring discussion about immigration reform to the House floor, and House Republicans are expected to issue specific proposals for changing the nation’s immigration laws in the coming weeks.

One sticking point has been what to do with the nation’s 11.7 million unauthorized immigrants. Should there be a path to citizenship for them or should they be offered a chance to remain in the country legally, but without a special path to citizenship? Just last year, the U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill that included the possibility of citizenship with a 13-year waiting period for those who meet certain requirements, such as satisfying any applicable federal tax liability and learning English. It remains to be seen if House Republicans will include something similar in their immigration reform plans or if those plans will offer some other form of legalization for unauthorized immigrants.

At the same time, deportations of unauthorized immigrants have continued at near record levels. In fiscal year 2013, 368,644 immigrants were deported. That is down from the nearly 400,000 deported annually during the first term of the Obama administration, but remains above the level of deportations that occurred annually during the eight years of the Bush administration.  Read More

Topics: Immigration

Jan 23, 2014 11:40 am

Data Feed: Obama approval, inequality and mobility, cesarean births

A daily roundup of fresh data from scholars, governments, think tanks, pollsters and other social science researchers.

Obama’s fifth-year job approval ratings among most polarized, Gallup
Voters say U.S. still in recession; glad to know Snowden secrets, Fox News
Poll: Snowden, marijuana and Obama approval, CBS News
Obama seen as nice guy, so-so president, with topline, AP/ GfK
Economy/ jobs and healthcare are top voter priorities, Quinnipiac
Implications of this year’s Senate races for 2016, Real Clear Politics
How better educated whites are driving political polarization, The Washington Post

Most see inequality growing, but partisans differ over solutions, Pew Research Center
U.S. economic mobility hasn’t changed much over time, but varies across places, Equality of Opportunity Project
Widespread growth in GDP across industries in 2012, Bureau of Economic Analysis
Cities face a good, but not great, economic outlook, The Wall Street Journal
Household income trends: December 2013, Sentier Research
Size of gender pay gap varies by state, job,  The Pew Charitable Trusts
State governments spent more in 2012 than they took in, Census Bureau

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Category: Data Feed

Jan 23, 2014 7:00 am

World Economic Forum survey identifies top 10 global risks for 2014

FT_Risks122The World Economic Forum is meeting in Davos this week, and as part of the agenda, the international organization released its annual Global Risks for 2014 survey to help identify potential pitfalls for the global economy in the year ahead. The survey of more than 700 representatives of the Forum’s global networks asks respondents to identify the five global risks that most concerned them among 31 pre-selected potential risks. Generally, economic and environmental woes topped the rankings.

The number one identified risk is fiscal crises in key economies, including the Eurozone, Japan and the U.S. Next in line at number two is structurally high unemployment and underemployment, as “people in both advanced and emerging economies struggle to find jobs.” The third ranked risk is water crises, which along with climate change (#5), extreme weather (#6), and food crises (#8), makes environmental risks high on the minds of these global experts. Severe income disparity, or inequality, is the fourth highest risk. Rounding out the top ten are failures in global governance (#7), failures in major financial mechanisms (#9), and profound social instability (#10).  Read More

Topics: World Economies

Jan 22, 2014 2:25 pm

5 facts about abortion

Today is the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s decision establishing a woman’s constitutional right to abortion in the first three months of pregnancy. The March for Life, the annual anti-abortion rally in Washington, also takes place today, and abortion remains a divisive political issue.

Here are a few key facts about Americans’ views on the topic, based on recent Pew Research polling:

1More than six-in-ten (63%) U.S. adults say they would not like to see the Supreme Court completely overturn Roe v. Wade, while about three-in-ten (29%) want to see the ruling overturned. These figures have remained relatively stable for more than 20 years. Read More

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Abortion

Jan 22, 2014 2:02 pm

Middle East tensions top global trend for 2014


The top score (on a 1-to-5 scale) in a World Economic Forum survey of globally significant trends was “rising Middle East tensions.”

The world’s biggest challenge in 2014? Rising societal tensions in the Middle East and North Africa, followed by widening income disparities and persistent structural unemployment, according to the annual Survey on the Global Agenda conducted by the World Economic Forum.

The WEF, which opened its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday, surveyed nearly 1,600 businesspeople, academics, government officials, nonprofit leaders and others to come up with its ranking. Nearly eight-in-ten respondents were from Europe (31%), North America (27%) or Asia (20%); 70% were male, and nearly half (47%) were ages 40 to 59. (We provided an overview of the survey results back in November.)


The survey identified and ranked trends on a 1-to-5 scale, with 1 indicating “not significant at all” and 5 indicating “extremely significant”. Rising tensions in the Middle East/North Africa came in at 4.07; it was the highest-ranking challenge among respondents from Europe, North American and the Middle East/North African region itself. 45% of respondents cited political instability as the region’s most pressing challenge, while 27% cited unemployment.

The report added that, while the most visible split in the region is “between those who want political Islam to play a role in public life, and others who want to keep religion and government separate, [w]e also see a trend of rising sectarian tensions within communities.” A recent Pew Research Center report found that, from 2011 to 2012, the Middle East/North African region had the sharpest increase in social hostilities involving religion.

“The lack of trust among competing parties, an atmosphere of intolerance in the public arena and, more generally, the failure to put inherently fragile transitions on a stable path, are all to blame for the increased tensions,” the Global Agenda report stated. “There is a battle of ideas taking place within the Arab world, and it is polarizing a region whose long-term outlook remains uncertain.”

Topics: Middle East and North Africa

Jan 22, 2014 11:15 am

Data Feed: Dissatisfaction with government, the impact of Citizens United, data for Davos

A daily roundup of fresh data from scholars, governments, think tanks, pollsters and other social science researchers.

65% dissatisfied with how the U.S. government system works, Gallup
Poll: Voters concerned about income inequality, George Washington University
Poll: Bridgegate takes toll on Christie’s 2016 hopes, Quinnipiac
How politically moderate are Americans? Less than it seems, The Washington Post
How Citizens United changed politics, in 6 charts, The Washington Post
Obama’s job approval points to 2014 trouble for Democrats, Real Clear Politics

Foreign ownership of U.S. assets, Council on Foreign Relations
Median weekly earnings of full-time workers rises 1.4% to $786, Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Category: Data Feed

Jan 22, 2014 7:00 am

Most young Americans say Snowden has served the public interest

Young adults are significantly more supportive than their elders of Edward Snowden and his leaks of classified details of the National Security Agency’s telephone and internet surveillance programs, a new Pew Research Center/USA TODAY survey finds.Edward Snowden Meets With German Green Party MP Hans-Christian Stroebele In MoscowFT_14.01.21_Snowden_2 (1)

57% of 18- to 29-year olds said the leaks have served rather than harmed the public interest — almost exact mirrors of the 65-and-over age group. These youngest adults were the only age group without majority support for prosecuting Snowden — they split 42%-42% on whether the former NSA contractor should be tried. (Snowden was charged in June 2013 with three criminal counts related to the leaks, though he’s apparently not yet been formally indicted.)

But when it comes to the programs themselves, there’s much less difference between age groups. Young adults express similar levels of disapproval about the NSA surveillance programs Snowden disclosed than older groups: 59% of 18- to 29-year-olds, compared with about half of adults ages 50 and over. And about half of each age group say there aren’t adequate limits on what phone and internet data the government can collect.FT_14.01.21_Snowden_1

The divide between younger and older people on Snowden and his leaks resembles the attitudinal split more than three years ago following the Wikileaks release of secret U.S. diplomatic cables. In a December 2010 Pew Research survey, 39% of young adults said the Wikileaks disclosures served the public interest and 40% said they had harmed it; adults 65 and over overwhelmingly (65% to 24%) said the Wikileaks disclosures harmed the public interest.

More generally, strong majorities of all age groups agree that “Americans shouldn’t have to give up privacy and freedom in order to be safe from terrorism.” But people younger than 50 were significantly more supportive of that position than 50-and-overs were.

Topics: National Security, Surveillance

Jan 21, 2014 12:10 pm

Pope Francis moves beyond Europe with first class of cardinals


Pope Francis named his first group of new cardinals,  often called “princes of the church,” last week. The 19 men will be formally appointed next month. Media reports have observed that Francis, the first pope from outside Europe in modern times, chose several cardinals from the developing world.

FT_14.01.16_cardinals_table_420pxFrancis’ immediate predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, selected 90 cardinals over five consistories during his nearly eight-year papacy. More than half of those (52) were from Europe, and the conclave that elected Francis was heavily European. By contrast, just eight of Francis’ 19 picks are from Europe and six are from the Latin America-Caribbean region, which is home to 39% of the world’s Catholics. Nine of Benedict’s 90 cardinals (10%) were from Latin America and the Caribbean.

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Topics: Religious Leaders