Jul 13, 2015 1:29 pm

Learning a foreign language a ‘must’ in Europe, not so in America

Foreign Language Study Requirements in EuropeA popular stereotype of Americans traveling abroad is the tourist who is at a loss when it comes to coping with any language other than English. Fair or not, the fact is that while the U.S. does not have a national requirement for students to learn a foreign language in school, the typical European pupil must study multiple languages in the classroom before becoming a teen.

Studying a second foreign language for at least one year is compulsory in more than 20 European countries. In most European countries, students begin studying their first foreign language as a compulsory school subject between the ages of 6 and 9, according to a 2012 report from Eurostat, the statistics arm of the European Commission. This varies by country and sometimes within a country, with the German-speaking Community of Belgium – one of the three federal communities of Belgium– starting its 3-year-olds on a foreign language, but parts of the United Kingdom (excluding Scotland) waiting until age 11.

Ireland and Scotland are two exceptions that do not have compulsory language requirements, but Irish students learn both English and Gaelic (neither is considered a foreign language); Scottish schools are still obligated to offer at least one foreign-language option to all students ages 10-18. English is the most-studied foreign language across almost all European countries and at all education levels. Fully 73% of primary students in Europe and more than nine-in-ten secondary students were learning English at school in 2009-10, the most recent years with available data. Read More

Topics: Education, Europe, Language

Jul 13, 2015 12:09 pm

Where teens are finding summer jobs: More food service, less retail

more teens serving food, fewer in retail

Far fewer U.S. teens are working during the summer compared with years past, as we reported last month. But it turns out that teens who are finding work these days are more likely to be busing tables or tending a grill than staffing a mall boutique or T-shirt stand.

To get a sense of the kinds of jobs teens are working and how that’s changed, we looked at Bureau of Labor Statistics data from July 2000 through July 2014. (Pre-2000 data aren’t comparable.) One trend jumped out immediately: a dropoff in teens working retail.  Read More

Topics: Teens and Youth, Work and Employment

Jul 13, 2015 7:00 am

Some major U.S. religious groups differ from their members on the death penalty

When the Nebraska Legislature voted in May to ban the death penalty in the state – overriding the governor’s veto – supporters of the ban shared some of the credit with religious leaders who had spoken out on the issue, including several Catholic bishops. In fact, many large religious groups have taken positions in opposition to the death penalty even though that stance is sometimes at odds with the opinions of their adherents.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says the death penalty is acceptable if it is “the only possible way of effectively defending human lives.” In recent years, however, both the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Pope Francis have spoken firmly against capital punishment.

Where Religious Groups Stand on the Death PenaltyThey are not the only religious leaders to take this position; when it comes to the official teachings of large U.S. religious groups, opposition to the death penalty is more common than support for capital punishment. This is in contrast with public opinion: A majority of U.S. adults (56%) still favor the death penalty, although support has been dropping in recent years.

There also is a disparity between religious groups’ positions and the views of their adherents, particularly among mainline Protestants. Two-thirds of white mainline Protestants (66%) favor the death penalty, but several of the biggest mainline churches are against it. This includes the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the American Baptist Churches USA, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and many others. Read More

Topics: Catholics and Catholicism, Death Penalty, Hindus and Hinduism, Jews and Judaism, Mormons and Mormonism, Muslims and Islam, Religion and Government, Religion and Society, Religious Beliefs and Practices

Jul 10, 2015 9:55 am

‘Mestizo’ and ‘mulatto’: Mixed-race identities among U.S. Hispanics

A Third of Hispanics Identify as Mixed RaceFor many Americans, the term “mixed race” brings to mind a biracial experience of having one parent black and another white, or perhaps one white and the other Asian.

But for many U.S. Latinos, mixed-race identity takes on a different meaning – one that is tied to Latin America’s colonial history and commonly includes having a white and indigenous, or “mestizo,” background somewhere in their ancestry.

When asked if they identify as “mestizo,” “mulatto” or some other mixed-race combination, one-third of U.S. Hispanics say they do, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey of Hispanic adults.

The term mestizo means mixed in Spanish, and is generally used throughout Latin America to describe people of mixed ancestry with a white European and an indigenous background. Similarly, the term “mulatto” – mulato in Spanish – commonly refers to a mixed-race ancestry that includes white European and black African roots.

Across Latin America, these are the two terms most commonly used to describe people of mixed-race background. For example, mestizos represent a racial majority in Mexico, most of Central America and the Andean countries of South America. Read More

Topics: Hispanic/Latino Identity, Race and Ethnicity

Jul 10, 2015 7:00 am

How Bosnian Muslims view Christians 20 years after Srebrenica massacre

Bosnia Srebrenica War Crimes Genocide Commemoration
Family members mourn over coffins in Srebrenica on July 9. One hundred thirty-six bodies found in mass grave sites in eastern Bosnia will be reburied on 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre. (Photo by Dimitar Dilkoff/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

This weekend marks 20 years since the Srebrenica massacre – the killing of 7,000-8,000 Muslim men and boys by Bosnian Serb forces in a Bosnian town that had been designated a United Nations safe haven.

The worst atrocity to take place in Europe since World War II occurred during a brutal three-year war following the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. The war was fought largely along ethno-religious lines, among predominantly Orthodox Christian Serbs, Muslim Bosniaks and Catholic Croats.

The massacre continues to stir political passions today. On Wednesday, Russia vetoed a U.N. resolution that would have condemned the action as a “crime of genocide”; 10 other Security Council members voted in favor of the resolution. Read More

Topics: Christians and Christianity, Eastern Europe, Europe, Muslims and Islam, Religious Beliefs and Practices, Russia

Jul 9, 2015 11:59 am

Where do the oldest Americans live?

Counties With the Largest, Smallest Shares of Seniors

As the oldest Baby Boomers reach retirement age and older generations live longer, more counties across America are graying. A new Pew Research Center analysis of the Census Bureau’s 2014 population estimates finds that 97% of counties saw an increase in their 65-and-older population since 2010.

On average, a U.S. county’s 65-and-older population grew by 12.4% from 2010 to 2014. (Our analysis of population change over time included only counties or county equivalents with a population of 1,000 or more adults ages 65 and older in 2014.)

And some counties are “aging” much more rapidly than others. Several counties in Colorado are among them. Douglas County, Colo., just south of Denver, led the nation with a 53.7% increase in the 65-and-older group from 2010 to 2014. Two other Colorado counties, Routt, on the Wyoming border, and Elbert, southeast of Denver, rounded out the top three, with growth rates above 50%. Read More

Topics: Demographics, Generations and Age, Population Geography

Jul 9, 2015 8:55 am

How Americans compare with the global middle class

56% of Americans Are High-Income

By some key measures, the typical American household has slipped behind economically since the beginning of the 21st century.

In 2013, the median income of U.S. households was $51,939, down substantially from $55,562 in 2001 (figures in 2013 dollars). In addition to two recessions – in 2001 and from 2007 to 2009 – longer-run trends such as globalization, the decline of unions, technological change and the rising cost of benefits such as health care are factors that limit prospects for many Americans.

But how does the well-being of the American family compare with the well-being of people in other countries? Read More

Topics: Economics and Personal Finances, World Economies

Jul 9, 2015 7:00 am

Financial crises surprisingly common, but few countries close their banks

For Americans, the sight of Greeks lined up outside shuttered banks evokes images from the Great Depression – the last time all banks in the U.S. were closed on government orders. In fact, while banking crises are depressingly common around the world, governments typically only impose such “bank holidays” as a last resort, to keep funds from fleeing the banking system and sending it crashing down.

timeline of banking crisesWe examined a comprehensive database of financial crises from 1970 through 2012 compiled and maintained by two economists for the International Monetary Fund to see just how unusual the current situation in Greece is. The IMF economists defined “systemic banking crises” as those with both “significant signs of financial distress in the banking system,” such as major bank runs, losses and liquidations, and significant policy interventions in response, such as deposit guarantees, nationalizations, recapitalizations, deposit freezes and bank holidays. Read More

Topics: Economic Recession, World Economies

Jul 8, 2015 3:02 pm

6 key takeaways about the world’s emerging middle class

Poverty Plunges from 2001 to 2011 and the Global Middle-Income Population IncreasesDuring the first decade of this century, the world experienced a dramatic drop in the number of people living in poverty and a significant rise in the number who could be considered middle income, according to a new Pew Research Center report. But the majority of the global population remains low income.

Our analysis includes 111 countries, which accounted for 88% of the global population in 2011, the latest year that could be analyzed with the available data.

Here are six key takeaways from the report on how these big global changes have played out recently:

1The world’s middle-income population – people living on $10-20 per day – nearly doubled, increasing by 385 million from 2001 to 2011. In the 111 countries included in the report, some 784 million people were middle income in 2011, compared with 399 million in 2001. Looked at by share, the global middle class increased from 7% of the world’s population in 2001 to 13% in 2011.

2The emergence of a truly global middle class is still more promise than reality. The growth in the middle-income population was concentrated in particular regions. China, South America and Eastern Europe are home to some of the biggest increases. China alone accounted for more than half the additions to the global middle-income population from 2001 to 2011, with 203 million. Countries in South America and in Eastern Europe added 50 million and 39 million to the global middle class, respectively. By contrast, Africa and much of Asia, including India, have lagged behind. Read More

Topics: Europe, Income, Middle Class, North America, Poverty

Jul 8, 2015 11:56 am

Russians warm to China as relations with U.S. cool

Russian views of China and the U.S.As Russia plays host this week to a critical summit of leaders of the emerging market nations of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS), Russian President Vladimir Putin is especially keen on bolstering ties with the leading economic power of the group – China. And he likely won’t have much opposition from the Russian people, who now see China more favorably than at any point since 2002.

Our recent survey on the global balance of power between the U.S. and China included a number of questions about the world’s two most powerful countries, including a basic measure of favorability – whether Russians have a favorable or unfavorable view of China and the U.S. And on this simple question, the trend is clear: China is gaining popularity in Russia as attitudes toward the U.S. turn sharply negative.

In just the past two years, favorable views of China have jumped 17 percentage points among Russians, from 62% in 2013 to an all-time high of 79% today. Meanwhile, favorable views of the U.S. have taken a nosedive, falling from 51% in 2013, to 23% in 2014, to an all-time low of 15% today. Read More

Topics: Barack Obama, China, Europe, International Threats and Allies, Non-U.S. Political Leaders, Russia, World Economies