Apr 5, 2017 10:16 am

Christians remain world’s largest religious group, but they are declining in Europe

Christians remained the largest religious group in the world in 2015, making up nearly a third (31%) of Earth’s 7.3 billion people, according to a new Pew Research Center demographic analysis. But the report also shows that the number of Christians in what many consider the religion’s heartland, the continent of Europe, is in decline.

Christians had the most births and deaths of any religious group in recent years, according to our demographic models. Between 2010 and 2015, an estimated 223 million babies were born to Christian mothers and roughly 107 million Christians died – a natural increase of 116 million.  Read More

Topics: Christians and Christianity, Europe, Muslims and Islam, Religious Affiliation

Apr 5, 2017 6:55 am

Americans hold very negative views of North Korea amid nuclear tensions

Americans have uniformly negative views of North Korea and its nuclear ambitions – a subject likely to be high on the agenda when President Donald Trump meets in Florida this week with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Roughly two-thirds of Americans (65%) are very concerned about North Korea having nuclear weapons. And 64% say that in the event of a serious conflict, the United States should use military force to defend its Asian allies, such as Japan, South Korea or the Philippines, against the Pyongyang regime, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. A further 61% think sanctions, rather than attempts at closer ties, are the best way to deal with the nuclear threat posed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Overall, 78% of Americans have an unfavorable view of the communist nation ruled by Kim Jong Un, with 61% holding a very unfavorable opinion. Negative attitudes toward North Korea are shared across demographic groups, though more college-educated Americans hold negative views (91%) than do Americans with a high school education or less (69%). Unlike public opinion on other aspects of U.S. foreign policy, there are no significant partisan divides on attitudes toward North Korea.  Read More

Topics: Asia and the Pacific, Country Image, International Governments and Institutions, International Threats and Allies, North America, Nuclear Threats

Apr 4, 2017 3:01 pm

Why workers don’t always take family or medical leave when they need to

Most Americans say they have taken or are very likely to take family or medical leave at some point (62%), but many, particularly among lower-income workers, aren’t able to take time off from work when these situations arise, according to a new Pew Research Center study.

About one-in-six adults (16%) who have been employed in the past two years say there was a time during this period when they needed or wanted to take time off from work following the birth or adoption of their child, to care for a family member with a serious health condition or to deal with their own serious health condition, but were unable to do so. This figure rises to 30% among those with household incomes under $30,000.  Read More

Topics: Family and Relationships, Family Roles, Health, Health Care, Income, Parenthood, Work and Employment

Apr 4, 2017 7:02 am

What does the federal government spend your tax dollars on? Social insurance programs, mostly

It’s springtime, which means the start of the budgeting process for Congress and a mad dash for many Americans to file their income taxes. That makes it a good time to look at the federal government’s spending habits in a broader context than just this year’s battles.

When thinking about federal spending, it’s worth remembering that, as former Treasury official Peter Fisher once said, the federal government is basically “a gigantic insurance company,” albeit one with “a sideline business in national defense and homeland security.” In fiscal year 2016, which ended this past Sept. 30, the federal government spent just under $4 trillion, and about $2.7 trillion – more than two-thirds of the total – went for various kinds of social insurance (Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, unemployment compensation, veterans benefits and the like). Another $604 billion, or 15.3% of total spending, went for national defense; net interest payments on government debt was about $240 billion, or 6.1%. Education aid and related social services were about $114 billion, or less than 3% of all federal spending. Everything else – crop subsidies, space travel, highway repairs, national parks, foreign aid and much, much more – accounted for the remaining 6%.

It can be helpful to look at spending as a share of the overall U.S. economy, which provides a consistent frame of reference over long periods. In fiscal 2016, total federal outlays were 21.5% of gross domestic product, or GDP. For most of the past several decades, federal spending has hovered within a few percentage points above or below 20%. The biggest recent exception came in the wake of the 2008 mortgage crash: In fiscal 2009, a surge in federal relief spending combined with a shrinking economy to push federal outlays to 24.4% of GDP, the highest level since World War II, when federal spending peaked at nearly 43% of GDP. (We relied on archived historical data from former President Barack Obama’s final budget for our spending data; President Donald Trump’s initial budget proposal doesn’t include any historical data.)  Read More

Topics: Congress, Economic Policy, Entitlements, Federal Government, Government Spending and the Deficit, Taxes

Apr 3, 2017 11:10 am

The narrowing, but persistent, gender gap in pay

The gender gap in pay has narrowed since 1980, particularly among younger workers, but it still persists. In 2015, women earned 83% of what men earned, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of median hourly earnings of both full- and part-time U.S. workers.

Based on this estimate, it would take an extra 44 days of work for women to earn what men did in 2015. (By comparison, the Census Bureau found that women earned 80% of what their male counterparts earned in 2015 when looking at full-time, year-round workers only.)

But for adults ages 25 to 34, the 2015 wage gap is smaller. Women in this group earned 90 cents for every dollar a man in the same age group earned.

Read More

Topics: Business and Labor, Family and Relationships, Family Roles, Gender, Generations and Age, Income, Income Inequality, Work and Employment

Apr 3, 2017 6:57 am

As Republicans’ views improve, Americans give the economy its highest marks since financial crisis

What a difference a year, and possibly an election, makes. Nearly six-in-ten people in the United States (58%) say the economic situation is very or somewhat good, according to a new Pew Research Center survey conducted Feb. 16-March 15. Last spring, 44% of the American public described the economy as good.

This is the most positive assessment of U.S. economic conditions since 2007, and only the second time that half or more of those surveyed have given the economy a thumbs-up. Driving the latest increase is a jump among Republicans over the past year.

The 14-percentage-point rise in overall public opinion about the economy since last year is the largest one-year improvement in public sentiment about economic conditions in the history of this survey. The current rosy assessment stands in stark contrast to where opinion stood immediately after the beginning of the financial crisis in spring 2008, when just 20% said economic conditions were good.  Read More

Topics: Economic Recession, Generations and Age, Income, National Economy, U.S. Political Parties

Mar 30, 2017 12:44 pm

Partisans in ‘safest’ counties for their party more willing to discuss political differences

In the wake of the 2016 election, Republicans and Democrats who live in the “safest” counties politically – those that their party’s presidential candidate won by overwhelming margins – expressed more willingness to address political differences in conversation than did partisans living in counties where the vote was more competitive.

At the national level, there was almost no difference in these views between Republicans and Republican-leaning independents and Democrats and Democratic leaners. About half of Republicans and Democrats (51% of each) said it was better to avoid talking about political differences, while nearly as many said it was better to address differences to try to find common ground.

But a new analysis of Pew Research Center survey data collected in fall 2016, along with county-level election data, finds that partisans living in counties in which their party was politically dominant that year were much more likely to support seeking common ground when it comes to political differences than were those who lived in politically mixed places, or in which the other party was dominant.

A majority (62%) of Republicans and Republican leaners in counties that went very strongly for Donald Trump in the general election (those where his share of the two-party vote was at least 40 percentage points greater than Hillary Clinton’s) said that when these disagreements happened, it was better to try to find common ground. In counties that Trump won less resoundingly, or those where Clinton prevailed, Republicans were less likely to seek common ground on politics and more likely to prefer to avoid talking about differences, according to the national survey conducted Nov. 29-Dec. 12 among 4,138 adults on Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel.

Read More

Topics: 2016 Election, Donald Trump, Political Attitudes and Values, Political Polarization, U.S. Political Parties

Mar 30, 2017 10:28 am

About one-in-four U.S. workers have taken leave to care for a seriously ill family member

About one-in-four Americans (23%) say there has been a time when they took leave from work to care for a family member with a serious health condition. An additional one-in-four say that if this hasn’t happened to them already, it’s at least somewhat likely that it will in the future.

The current debate over paid leave often focuses on maternity and paternity leave. Yet among adults who were employed in the past two years, more took time off from work to care for a sick family member (11%) than did so following the birth or adoption of a child (7%), according to a new Pew Research Center study.

Roughly two-thirds of all adults (67%) say workers should receive paid leave when they need to take time off to care for a sick family member, and most (60%) of those who took family leave in the past two years say they did receive at least partial pay while they were out of work. But the vast majority of those who received at least partial pay (86%) say some of that pay came from vacation, sick leave or personal time off. Relatively few of these workers (15%) say they received pay from a family and medical leave benefit provided by their employer. Workers who took maternity or paternity leave with at least some pay in the past two years are significantly more likely to report that they were paid, at least in part, through an employer-provided family or medical leave policy (28%).

Read More

Topics: Family and Relationships, Family Roles, Health, Household and Family Structure, Parenthood, Work and Employment

Mar 29, 2017 6:55 am

Key findings about Puerto Rico

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the U.S. government granting American citizenship to the residents of Puerto Rico. The island became a U.S. territory in 1898 after Spain ceded control of it following the Spanish-American War. However, Puerto Ricans did not gain U.S. citizenship until Congress passed the Jones-Shafroth Act in 1917.

Today, Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory with its own constitution and government (though the extent of the island’s legal independence from the United States has been the subject of debate). Island residents elect their own governor and members to the island’s legislature, but they may not vote in U.S. general elections for president and they do not have a voting member of Congress.

Here are answers to some key questions about Puerto Rico based on previously published Pew Research Center reports.

How many people live in Puerto Rico?

The population of the island was 3.4 million in 2016, down from a peak of more than 3.8 million in 2004. It is projected to decline in the coming decades, to about 3 million in 2050.

Puerto Rico’s population has grown steadily since at least the 1700s, and it increased each decade between 1910 (1.1 million) to 2000 (3.8 million). The population grew even during the Great Migration that occurred after World War II and into the 1960s, when hundreds of thousands left the island for the mainland.  Read More

Topics: Christians and Christianity, Demographics, Hispanic/Latino Demographics, Hispanic/Latino Identity, Income, North America, Population Geography, Population Trends, Poverty, Religious Affiliation

Mar 28, 2017 10:58 am

Federal criminal prosecutions fall to lowest level in nearly two decades

After peaking in 2011, the number of federal criminal prosecutions has declined for five consecutive years and is now at its lowest level in nearly two decades, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of new data from the federal court system. The decline comes as Attorney General Jeff Sessions has indicated that the Justice Department will reverse the trend and ramp up criminal prosecutions in the years ahead.

Federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against 77,152 defendants in fiscal year 2016, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. That’s a decline of 25% since fiscal 2011, when 102,617 defendants were charged, and marks the lowest yearly total since 1997. The data count all defendants charged in U.S. district courts with felonies and serious misdemeanors, as well as some defendants charged with petty offenses. They exclude defendants whose cases were handled by magistrate judges.

Prosecutions for drug, immigration and property offenses – the three most common categories of crime charged by the federal government – all have declined over the past five years. The Justice Department filed drug charges against 24,638 defendants in 2016, down 23% from 2011. It filed immigration charges against 20,762 defendants, down 26%. And it charged 10,712 people with property offenses such as fraud and embezzlement, a 39% decline.  Read More

Topics: Criminal Justice, Federal Government