A projected 50.7 million pre-K-12 students will return to the classroom in U.S. public schools this fall. They comprise a student body that is more racially and ethnically diverse, more likely to graduate from high school and go on to college, and perhaps more prepared than ever before for a world in which education plays an outsize role in determining their futures.
Here are key findings about America’s students and their experiences:
1America’s students are more racially and ethnically diverse than ever, while teachers remain overwhelmingly white. In fall 2015, the share of nonwhite students in U.S. public elementary and secondary schools hit a record 51%. That’s up from 30% in fall 1986. Growth has been especially fast among Hispanic students, who increased from 10% of students in 1986 to 26% in 2015.
At the same time, nonwhites continue to make up a relatively small share of teachers: In the 2015-16 school year, just 20% of public school elementary and secondary teachers were nonwhite, up from 13% in 1987-88. (In 2015, 39% of all Americans were nonwhite.)
While America’s overall student body has become more diverse, many nonwhite students go to public schools where at least half of their peers are of their race or ethnicity. Large shares of blacks (44%) and Hispanics (57%) attend public schools where people of their own race or ethnicity make up at least half the student body. Meanwhile, whites – who continue to make up a larger share of overall U.S. public school students than any other race or ethnicity – tend to go to schools where half or more of students are white.
Category: 5 Facts
About half of American adults lived in middle-income households in 2016, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of government data. In percentage terms, 52% of adults lived in middle-income households, 29% in lower-income households and 19% in upper-income households.
Our calculator below, updated with 2016 data, lets you find out which group you are in – first compared with other adults in your metropolitan area and among American adults overall, and then compared with other adults in the United States similar to you in education, age, race or ethnicity, and marital status.
About half (52%) of American adults lived in middle-class households in 2016. This is virtually unchanged from the 51% who were middle class in 2011. But while the size of the nation’s middle class remained relatively stable, financial gains for middle-income Americans during this period were modest compared with those of higher-income households, causing the income disparity between the groups to grow.
The recent stability in the share of adults living in middle-income households marks a shift from a decades-long downward trend. From 1971 to 2011, the share of adults in the middle class fell by 10 percentage points. But that shift was not all down the economic ladder. Indeed, the increase in the share of adults who are upper income was greater than the increase in the share who are lower income over that period, a sign of economic progress overall.
The United States has a religious makeup that’s broadly similar to that of many Western European countries. Most people on both sides of the Atlantic say they are Christian, for example. At the same time, substantial shares in the U.S. and Europe say they are religiously unaffiliated: Roughly a quarter of the American adult population identify as “nones” (23%), similar to the shares in Germany (24%), the United Kingdom (23%) and other Western European countries.
At that point, however, the similarities end: U.S. adults – both Christian and unaffiliated – are considerably more religious than their European counterparts by a variety of other measures, according to an analysis of data from Pew Research Center’s 2014 U.S. Religious Landscape Study in the U.S. and a 2017 survey of Western Europeans. For instance, about two-thirds of U.S. Christians pray daily (68%), compared with a median of just 18% of Christians across 15 surveyed countries in Europe, including 6% in Britain, 9% in Germany, 12% in Denmark and 38% in the Netherlands.
A sizable majority of U.S. adults use Facebook and most of its users get news on the site. But a new Pew Research Center survey finds that notable shares of Facebook users ages 18 and older lack a clear understanding of how the site’s news feed operates, feel ordinary users have little control over what appears there, and have not actively tried to influence the content the feed delivers to them.
The findings from the survey – conducted May 29-June 11 – come amid a debate over the power of major online platforms, the algorithms that underpin those platforms and the nature of the content those algorithms surface to users. Facebook’s broad reach and impact mean that its news feed is one of the most prominent examples of a content algorithm in many Americans’ lives.
When asked whether they understand why certain posts but not others are included in their news feed, around half of U.S. adults who use Facebook (53%) say they do not – with 20% saying they do not understand the feed at all well. Older users are especially likely to say they do not understand the workings of the news feed: Just 38% of Facebook users ages 50 and older say they have a good understanding of why certain posts are included in it, compared with 59% of users ages 18 to 29.
Significant shares of Facebook users have taken steps in the past year to reframe their relationship with the social media platform.
Just over half of Facebook users ages 18 and older (54%) say they have adjusted their privacy settings in the past 12 months, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Around four-in-ten (42%) say they have taken a break from checking the platform for a period of several weeks or more, while around a quarter (26%) say they have deleted the Facebook app from their cellphone. All told, some 74% of Facebook users say they have taken at least one of these three actions in the past year.
The findings come from a survey of U.S. adults conducted May 29-June 11, following revelations that the former consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had collected data on tens of millions of Facebook users without their knowledge.
Western Europeans and Americans tend to trust their militaries much more than other national institutions.
Large majorities in eight Western European countries surveyed by Pew Research Center late last year said they trust the military, ranging from 84% in France to 66% in Spain. And on a similar survey question asked in the United States earlier this year, 80% of Americans said they have confidence that the military will act in the best interests of the public.
Other institutions received far lower marks on both sides of the Atlantic.
For example, across the eight European nations polled, a median of only 53% expressed confidence in banks and financial institutions. This trust varied by region: While about half or more in each of the five northern European countries surveyed said they trust banks, only 18% in Spain, 29% in Italy and 39% in France said the same.
The U.S. survey did not ask about banks and financial institutions, specifically. But it found that just 45% of American adults had confidence in business leaders to work in the best interests of the public.
In both Europe and the U.S., elected officials and the news media received even lower marks than banks and business leaders did.
About four-in-ten Europeans said they trust their parliament and the national news media (medians of 43% and 41%, respectively). Northern Europeans again expressed higher levels of confidence in these two institutions: Roughly half or more people in the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany and Denmark said they trust the news media and parliament. Notably, however, British adults reported far lower levels of trust than people in other northern European countries did: Only about a third of British adults said they trust the news media (32%) or the country’s parliament (36%). These levels of trust were more similar to those found in the southern European countries of France, Spain and Italy.
Private companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are becoming increasingly important players in space exploration. Many Americans are confident these companies will be profitable, but they’re more skeptical they will keep space clean of debris, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.
Over the past 60 years, more than 5,250 space launches have spawned an orbital junkyard consisting of around 23,000 objects large enough to be detected, with a combined (Earth) weight of over 8,000 tons. While that’s a small amount compared with the more than 3.5 million tons of garbage the world produces every single day, it’s enough to pose a growing hazard to satellites and space stations.
There is at least one terrestrial clean-up strategy that could be applied to space junk: recycling. Among the estimated 4,500 satellites in orbit, only about 1,500 are still functional. But those roughly 3,000 dead satellites contain valuable components that could be repurposed for other uses. Some could be towed to Mars, to assist missions to the red planet, where they could be repaired. Other satellites with valuable building materials could be melted down by a solar-powered orbiting forge.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to begin confirmation hearings on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. If confirmed, Kavanaugh would replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired in July after three decades on the court.
In a Pew Research Center survey just after Kavanaugh’s nomination, Americans were divided: 41% said he should be confirmed, 36% said he should not and 23% offered no opinion. There was far more agreement over the importance of the selection itself: 83% of U.S. adults said the choice of the next Supreme Court justice is important to them personally, including 63% who said it is very important.
Ahead of the Senate’s deliberations over Kavanaugh, here’s a look at where the public stands on some of the major legal, political and social issues that could come before the justices in the years ahead, based on surveys conducted by Pew Research Center.
Most Americans like labor unions, at least in the abstract. A majority (55%) holds a favorable view of unions, versus 33% who hold an unfavorable view, according to a Pew Research Center survey from earlier this year. For most of the past three decades that the Center has asked that question, in fact, Americans have viewed unions at least somewhat more favorably than unfavorably.
Despite those fairly benign views, unionization rates in the United States have dwindled in recent decades (even though, in the past few years, the absolute number of union members has grown slightly). As of 2017, just 10.7% of all wage and salary workers were union members, matching the record low set in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Back in 1983, when the BLS data series begins, about a fifth (20.1%) of wage and salary workers belonged to a union. (Unionization peaked in 1954 at 34.8% of all U.S. wage and salary workers, according to separate data from the Congressional Research Service.)
The long-term decline of organized labor has affected most parts of the U.S. economy, but not uniformly. In general, the biggest declines in unionization have come in those occupations and industries that were – and to a large extent still are – the foundations of the American labor movement, according to our analysis of BLS data going back to 2000.
Among the 22 broad occupational categories into which the BLS sorts U.S. wage and salary workers, the biggest decline in union membership from 2000 to 2017 was in transportation and material moving occupations, a broad grouping that includes everything from airline pilots and long-haul truckers to taxi drivers, train conductors and parking-lot attendants. In 2000, nearly 1.8 million of the 8.1 million workers in those occupations, or 21.7%, were union members. By last year, only 1.3 million transportation and material moving workers (14.8%) were unionized, even though total employment in the sector had grown to more than 8.8 million. Read More →