Apr 11, 2014 12:38 pm

Chart of the Week: Making sense of the Medicare data dump

Wall Street Journal chart on Medicare spending

This weeks’ massive release of 2012 Medicare billing and payment data stimulated a rush of creativity among data visualizers. But the sheer size of the data dump — covering $77 billion paid in 2012 to 880,000 doctors and other health care providers — posed challenges in deciding what to chart and how to display it, from high-level overviews to detailed interactive maps to graphics focusing on the biggest recipients of Medicare reimbursements.

Among the trove of charts, we chose this one, from The Wall Street Journal, for conveying a great deal of nuance in a reasonably simple, straightforward graphic. It not only makes the point that Medicare reimbursements are gross, not net, income, but that specialties differ considerably on overhead costs. Oncologists, for example, use expensive chemotherapy drugs, while many ophthalmologists administer pricey drugs such as Lucentis (for macular degeneration) in their offices.

Overall, according to The Washington Post’s analysis, 43% of the roughly $64 billion paid by Medicare to doctors in 2012 went to office overhead, while 13% went to drugs and other costs and 3% paid for malpractice insurance. That still left 41%, or $26.2 billion, as compensation for the doctors.

Category: Chart of the Week

Topics: Health Care

Apr 11, 2014 11:19 am

Data Feed: Congress’ shrinking middle ground, internet ad revenue, U.S. global leadership

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

Category: Data Feed

Apr 11, 2014 7:00 am

Birth rates lag in Europe and the U.S., but the desire for kids does not

Ideal family size in Europe, USIn many developed nations, the average number of children that a woman has in her lifetime is now less than two, falling short of the approximate fertility necessary for a generation to “replace” itself. While there are many factors driving what some deem a ‘Baby Bust’ in Europe and—to a lesser extent—the U.S., a lack of desire for children is not among them.

Fully 87% of women in 27 European Union (EU) member states reported that the ideal family size for them personally is two or more children, according to a 2011 Eurobarometer survey. Some 57% said that two is the ideal, and an additional 30% said three or more is ideal. These numbers are based on the 92% of respondents who provided a numerical ideal; the rest said that “there is no number, it depends” or said “don’t know.” Some 87% of EU men who had a preference also reported that their own ideal family would include two or more children. Read More

Topics: Birth Rate and Fertility

Apr 10, 2014 1:03 pm

Near Civil Rights Act anniversary, only a quarter of blacks report recent improvement in black people’s lives

Percent of blacks who say the situation is better today compared with five years ago.President Obama today plans to commemorate the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, signed into law 50 years ago this summer, at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Tex.

The historic legislation sought equal access to employment opportunity, public accommodations, public education and voting rights. A poll conducted six years after the landmark bill became law found signs of perceived improvement: 64% of African Americans said things were “getting better” for most black people compared to four or five years ago, according to a national Harris Survey. Read More

Topics: African Americans, Race and Ethnicity

Apr 10, 2014 11:30 am

Data Feed: Obamacare’s influence on GOP voters, global image of U.S. leadership, fears of low inflation

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

Category: Data Feed

Apr 10, 2014 10:51 am

Gay marriage battle moves back to courts

Court action states same sex marriage A federal appeals court today will hear arguments in a constitutional challenge to Utah’s same-sex marriage ban – the first of five court challenges to state bans taking place over the next two weeks. This flurry of court activity comes on the heels of a number of other decisions striking down same-sex marriage bans in three other states.

Just a year ago, most of the battles to legalize same-sex marriage were occurring in the halls of state legislatures or at the ballot box. Of the 17 states that currently allow gay marriage, 11 have legalized the practice via legislative action or through a ballot initiative. But in the last six months, two states – New Jersey and New Mexico – have legalized same-sex marriage through state court rulings. And in five other states, lower federal courts have struck down gay marriage bans, although these rulings have been stayed pending appeals. Read More

Topics: Gay Marriage and Homosexuality, Supreme Court

Apr 10, 2014 9:00 am

What kinds of Supreme Court cases interest Americans? Not campaign finance

Last week’s Supreme Court decision to strike down limits on overall campaign contributions by individuals landed on front pages across the country, but the public was paying attention to other stories.

Public paid little attention to Supreme Court campaign finance case last week compared to missing Malaysia plane and other storiesJust 13% of American adults say they followed the campaign finance story “very closely” last week, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Roughly half (49%) say they followed the story “not at all closely,” which is the category in the survey that represents the lowest level of interest.

In part, the lack of attention might be related to the fact that there were other big stories dominating the news last week. Four weeks in, one-third of the country (33%) was still paying very close attention to the missing Malaysia Airlines plane. In addition, about one-quarter very closely followed the shooting at Fort Hood, the situation between Russia and Ukraine and the health care rollout, which had just passed its March 31 deadline to sign up for coverage.

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Topics: Elections and Campaigns, News Interest, Supreme Court

Apr 10, 2014 7:00 am

Small digital news sites: young, lean and local

Although Huffington Post, BuzzFeed and Ezra Klein’s new Vox.com generate considerable attention as representatives of the digital media future, they are in fact, not typical representatives of the native digital news landscape.  A new Pew Research Center State of the News Media analysis finds that the growing digital news world is largely comprised of hundreds of smaller sites, often local in scope, that are  working to fill gaps left by legacy reporting cuts.

Small digital news sitesWhile there is variation within this universe of digital native news outlets, our  analysis of 438 of them has found that many fit a different composite: The typical outlet is between four and six years old; editorially, it is focused on coverage of local or even neighborhood-level news; it is just as likely to operate as a nonprofit organization as for-profit model; and it has a lean full-time editorial staff of three or fewer people.

In total, these small digital operations have created about 2,000 of the roughly 5,000 full-time editorial jobs we identified in the digital news world, and they represent a growing and increasingly important part of a shifting media ecosystem. Here’s what they’re like:

  • Youth Shall Be Served. Exactly half of the 414 outlets for which we had a founding date came into existence from 2008 through 2010. Those are the years when about 11,000 newspaper newsroom jobs were lost as the economic recession took its toll. While the pace of small digital startups has slowed notably in recent years, 16% (65) of them were created between 2011 and the first few months of 2014. At the same time, several dozen of the outlets in the Pew Research accounting (28, or 7%) predate the year 2000. One such digital news graybeard is the 17-year-old Cape Cod Today.
  • A Lean Workforce. Small budgets tend to mean small staffs and that is the case for a large majority of the digital native news outlets. All totaled, nearly three-quarters (241) of the 329 sites for which we could determine staffing levels had three or fewer full-time editorial staffers. Indeed, the most common staffing level was three employees, which was the case at 128 (or 39%) of these sites. Another 63 outlets, or 19%, employed somewhere between five and 10 full-time staffers. The size of these organizations hews closely to the results of a Pew Research survey of nonprofit outlets in which slightly more than three-quarters of them reported having a total paid full-time staff (not simply editorial) of five or less.
  • Most News is Local. A slight majority (53% or 231) of the smaller digital natives in the sample identify themselves as having a general or local focus, with a local community sometimes defined as narrowly as a single neighborhood.  That close-to-home focus is not surprising, given the small staffs at these outlets. But the next biggest group of sites (45, or 10%) identify themselves as investigative outlets. Another 6% (28) focus primarily on the state or state government while about 6% (25) identify their focus as politics and public affairs. Few of these sites tend to focus in on events abroad (2%), but one of them, the Seattle Globalist, identifies itself as a “hyperglobal” news site.
  • Opting for the Nonprofit Model. Of the 402 outlets that identified a business model, slightly more than half (204) are nonprofits compared with 196 that are commercial entities. In recent years, the nonprofit model has attracted a significant amount of foundation funding for news gathering. The State of the News Medial 2014 report estimated that roughly $150 million in philanthropy now goes to journalism annually. Some of that is used as seed money for digital nonprofit news organizations: 61% of the nonprofit news organizations surveyed by Pew Research began with a large start-up grant. The goal for these organizations is ultimately finding a sustainable business model less reliant on big giving.

Topics: Digital Media, News Media Sectors, News Media Trends, Newsroom Investment and Resources, Non-Profit News, State of the News Media

Apr 9, 2014 1:39 pm

The Civil Rights Act at 50: Racial divides persist on how much progress has been made

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act as Martin Luther King, Jr. and others look on
President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act as Martin Luther King, Jr. and others look on. (Credit: Photo by Cecil Stoughton, White House Press Office, via Wikimedia Commons)

One of the landmark pieces of legislation in the battle against discrimination was the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which President Lyndon Johnson signed into law on July 2 of that year — an event that will be commemorated tomorrow with a keynote address by President Obama at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Tex.

President Kennedy had called on Congress in 1963 to take action on a broad civil rights measure, but it was only after his death that Johnson was able to win its passage.  More than half of Americans (58%) considered the act to be one of the most important events of 20th century, ranking fifth on a list of 18, according to a 1999 Gallup poll.

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Topics: African Americans, Discrimination and Prejudice, Race and Ethnicity

Apr 9, 2014 11:35 am

Data Feed: Rising state tax revenue, falling metro-area unemployment, what college students are really like

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

Category: Data Feed