Aug 31, 2017 11:02 am

Smartphones help blacks, Hispanics bridge some – but not all – digital gaps with whites

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

Blacks and Hispanics remain less likely than whites to own a traditional computer or have high-speed internet at home, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in fall 2016. But mobile devices are playing important roles in helping to bridge these differences.

Roughly eight-in-ten whites (83%) report owning a desktop or laptop computer, compared with 66% of blacks and 60% of Hispanics. There are also substantial racial or ethnic differences in broadband adoption, with whites more likely than either blacks or Hispanics to report having a broadband connection at home. (There were not enough Asian respondents in the sample to be broken out into a separate analysis.)

But despite these inequalities, blacks and Hispanics have mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers in shares similar to whites. There are differences between Hispanics born inside and outside the U.S.: 88% of native-born Hispanics own a smartphone, compared with 62% of Hispanics born abroad. About three-quarters of whites and blacks own a smartphone.

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Topics: Mobile, Digital Divide, Race and Ethnicity

Aug 30, 2017 11:32 am

Most Americans – especially Millennials – say libraries can help them find reliable, trustworthy information

Americans struggle to determine what news and information sources they should trust and how to discern reliable information online. They worry that fake news is sowing confusion about current events. And many express a desire to get help.

About six-in-ten adults (61%) say they would be helped at least somewhat in making decisions if they got training on how to find trustworthy information online, according to a new analysis of Pew Research Center survey data from 2016. What’s more, a majority of Americans say public libraries are helpful as people try to meet their information needs.

About eight-in-ten adults (78%) feel that public libraries help them find information that is trustworthy and reliable and 76% say libraries help them learn new things. Also, 56% believe libraries help them get information that aids with decisions they have to make.

On each of these questions, Millennials (those ages 18 to 35 in 2016) stand out as the most ardent library fans. Young adults, whose public library use is higher than that of older Americans, are particularly likely to say the library helps them with information.

A large majority of Millennials (87%) say the library helps them find information that is trustworthy and reliable, compared with 74% of Baby Boomers (ages 52 to 70) who say the same. More than eight-in-ten Millennials (85%) credit libraries with helping them learn new things, compared with 72% of Boomers. And just under two-thirds (63%) of Millennials say the library helps them get information that assists with decisions they have to make, compared with 55% of Boomers.

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Topics: Emerging Technology Impacts, Technology Adoption, Information Seeking, Libraries, Race and Ethnicity, Generations and Age

Aug 29, 2017 1:00 pm

Views of racism as a major problem increase sharply, especially among Democrats

The share of Americans who say racism is a “big problem” in society has increased 8 percentage points in the past two years – and has roughly doubled since 2011.

Since 2015, the increase in perceptions of racism as a big problem has been almost entirely among Democrats, making an already wide partisan gap in these attitudes even larger.

Overall, 58% of Americans say racism is a “big problem in our society,” while 29% say it is “somewhat of a problem.” Just 12% say racism in the U.S. is a small problem or not a problem, according to a new Pew Research Center survey, conducted Aug. 15-21 among 1,893 adults.

Two years ago, 50% of the public viewed racism as a major problem for society, and in 2011 just 28% did so.

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Topics: Political Party Affiliation, African Americans, Political Polarization, Race and Ethnicity

Aug 29, 2017 10:30 am

Over the past 25 years, immigrant moms bolstered births in 48 states

Immigrant women boosted the annual number of births nationwide and in all but two U.S. states – California and Rhode Island – between 1990 and 2015, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of National Center for Health Statistics data.

Nationally, the annual number of births declined 4% from 1990 to 2015 – the result of a 10% decline in total births attributable to U.S.-born women. This was partially offset by a 6% increase in total births attributable to immigrant women. In other words, without these births to foreign-born women, the total decline in annual U.S. births would have been more than twice as large.

There is wide variation among states in birth trends and in the relative impact foreign-born women have had on those trends. In some places, broader population shifts have played an important role: Nevada, for instance, experienced the largest increase in births of any state (68%), largely because the number of women of childbearing age – both U.S. and foreign born – more than doubled there. At the same time, many states with notable birth decreases, such as Rhode Island (-28%), have experienced declines in the number of women of childbearing age in recent decades.

In 11 states, the annual number of births grew from 1990 to 2015 as a result of increases in births among both U.S.-born and immigrant women. For example, Nevada’s overall increase in births included a 38% rise in total births accounted for by U.S.-born women and a 30% increase in births accounted for by immigrant women. In the absence of births to immigrant moms, growth in annual births in Nevada would have been substantially lower, though still quite robust (38%).

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Topics: Immigration Trends, Birth Rate and Fertility, Immigration, Parenthood

Aug 29, 2017 7:02 am

Congressional productivity is up – but many new laws overturn Obama-era rules

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., ascends the Capitol steps shortly before the Senate began its recess on Aug. 3, 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., ascends the Capitol steps shortly before the Senate began its recess on Aug. 3, 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Republican-controlled 115th Congress may not have been able to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, but it hasn’t been without legislative accomplishments. In fact, this Congress is among the most productive in recent years – though a sizable share of its laws to date have been aimed at scrapping Obama-era rules.

To date, Congress has passed 55 measures that have been signed into law, 46 of which we consider “substantive” by our deliberately generous criteria – that is, any legislation other than renaming buildings, awarding medals, commemorating historic events or taking other purely ceremonial actions. The current Congress is tied with the 110th (2007-08) for the fifth-highest count of substantive laws among the past 16 Congresses at this point in their respective first sessions. (This analysis of 30 years of records obtained from Congress.gov counts all measures that received final legislative approval before Congress left on its traditional August recess, even if they weren’t formally signed into law until later.)

The 46 laws we’ve tagged as substantive include 14 whose sole purpose was to overturn various rules adopted by the Obama administration, under the 1996 Congressional Review Act. This is by far the heaviest use Congress has ever made of the CRA. Before this year, in fact, only one regulation had ever been undone via the procedure specified in that law. Those 14 “resolutions of disapproval” account for about 30% of the substantive laws, and a quarter of all the laws, enacted so far by this Congress. (A 15th rule repeal, targeting a Transportation Department regulation that would have required many metropolitan planning organizations in the same region to merge, did not use the procedure outlined in the CRA.)

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Topics: Congress, Federal Government

Aug 28, 2017 11:30 am

U.S. Muslims are religiously observant, but open to multiple interpretations of Islam

Thousands of Muslims gather at the Diyanet Center of America mosque in Lanham, Maryland, to observe Eid al-Fitr during the holy month of Ramadan in 2015. (Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Thousands of Muslims gather at the Diyanet Center of America mosque in Lanham, Maryland, to observe Eid al-Fitr during the holy month of Ramadan in 2015. (Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

For American Muslims, being highly religious does not necessarily translate into acceptance of traditional notions of Islam. While many U.S. Muslims say they attend mosque and pray regularly, sizable shares also say that there is more than one way to interpret their religion and that traditional understandings of Islam need to be reinterpreted to address the issues of today.

By some conventional measures, U.S. Muslims are as religious as – or more religious than – many Americans who belong to other faith groups. Four-in-ten (43%) Muslim Americans say they attend mosque at least once a week, including 18% who say they attend more than once a week, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey. An additional 32% say they attend once or twice a month, or a few times a year. These attendance levels are comparable to those of U.S. Christians, 47% of whom say they attend services weekly or more, and greater than the 14% of American Jews who say the same.

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Topics: Muslims and Islam, Religious Affiliation, Religious Beliefs and Practices, Muslim Americans

Aug 28, 2017 6:58 am

4 charts on how people around the world see education

(Dave Thompson/PA Images via Getty Images)
(Dave Thompson/PA Images via Getty Images)

Publics around the world disagree about which is more important to emphasize in school: creative thinking or basic academic skills and discipline. Here are four key findings about educational preferences from a 2016 Pew Research Center survey of 19 countries.

1Publics in advanced economies prefer creative education more than people in emerging economies do. Among advanced economies, half or more in six of the 14 countries surveyed said it is more important that schools teach students to be creative and think independently than to teach students basic academic skills and encourage discipline. By comparison, in all five of the emerging economies included in the survey, fewer than half said the same. Among advanced economies, Americans are in the middle of the pack: 48% support education that emphasizes creative and independent thinking and 42% prefer to prioritize basic academic skills.

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Topics: Educational Attainment, China, Education, World Economies, Generations and Age

Aug 25, 2017 1:30 pm

Most Americans say K-12 schools have a lot of responsibility in workforce preparation

As millions of U.S. students start school, and economists and educators grapple with how best to prepare workers for jobs in today’s economy, there is evidence that a majority of Americans look to elementary and secondary schools to provide the building blocks people need for a successful career.

Six-in-ten adults say the public K-12 education system has a lot of responsibility in making sure the U.S. workforce has the right skills and education to be successful in today’s economy, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in association with the Markle Foundation in 2016. The only entity or institution that more people say has a lot of responsibility is “individuals themselves,” cited by 72% of adults.

Americans express a bit more ambivalence toward the role of colleges and universities in workforce preparation, with around half of adults (52%) saying these higher-education institutions should have a lot of responsibility in making sure workers have the right skills and education to succeed. About half (49%) say employers should have a lot of responsibility in this role, but people are less likely to assign a lot of responsibility to state (40%) and federal governments (35%).

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Topics: Educational Attainment, Education, Work and Employment

Aug 24, 2017 2:31 pm

5 facts about student loans

Americans owed more than $1.3 trillion in student loans at the end of June, more than two and a half times what they owed a decade earlier. The increase has come as historically high shares of young adults in the United States go to college and the cost of higher education increases.

Here are five facts about student loans in America, based on a Pew Research Center analysis of recently released data from the Federal Reserve Board’s 2016 Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking:

1About four-in-ten adults under age 30 have student loan debt. Among adults ages 18 to 29, 37% say they have outstanding student loans for their own education. (This includes those with loans currently in deferment or forbearance, but excludes credit card debt and home and other loans taken out for education.) Looking only at young adults with a bachelor’s degree or more education, the share with outstanding student debt rises to 53%.

Student debt is less common among older age groups. Roughly one-in-five adults ages 30 to 44 (22%) have student loan debt, as do 4% of those 45 and older.

While age differences may partly reflect the fact that older adults have had more time to repay their loans, other research has found that young adults are also more likely now than in the past to take out loans to pay for their education. About two-thirds of college seniors ages 18 to 24 took out loans for their education in the 2011-2012 school year, up from about half in the 1989-1990 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

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Topics: Educational Attainment, Education, Economics and Personal Finances, Generations and Age

Aug 24, 2017 11:02 am

Jury duty is rare, but most Americans see it as part of good citizenship

(Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images)
(Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

The chances of serving on a jury in any given year are small, but most Americans still see it as part of being a good citizen.

In an April Pew Research Center survey, two-thirds of U.S. adults (67%) said serving on a jury “is part of what it means to be a good citizen.” Just 31% took the opposite view and said jury duty service “does not have much to do with being a good citizen.”

Majorities in most demographic groups connect jury duty service with good citizenship, but younger people, racial and ethnic minorities and those without a college education are less likely to do so.

For example, only half of those ages 18 to 29 say jury service is part of being a good citizen, compared with seven-in-ten or more in older age groups. Blacks and Hispanics are less likely than whites to see jury duty as a part of good citizenship, as are those with a high school diploma or less when compared with people with at least some college education.

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Topics: Criminal Justice, Democracy