Sep 22, 2015 8:55 am

The many ways to measure economic inequality

Issues of economic inequality have pushed their way back into the national and global conversation – from Pope Francis and Sen. Bernie Sanders to Thomas Piketty and ongoing debates about raising the minimum wage. Surveys, though, show a wide partisan gap in views of whether inequality is a problem that should be addressed. For instance, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll in January found that, while 67% of Democrats identified reducing income inequality as an “absolute priority,” just 19% of Republicans did.

The View From the TopAnd economists are also divided on just how to define and measure inequality. As Federal Reserve economist Arthur Kennickell wrote in a 2009 paper, “‘Inequality’ may seem a simple term, but operationally it may mean many different things, depending on the point of view.” Most researchers agree that wealth is more unevenly distributed than income, while consumption is less concentrated at the upper end than either wealth or income.

The most-cited measures of inequality involve income. In a recent report, for instance, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development noted that “in OECD countries, the richest 10% of the population earn 9.6 times the income of the poorest 10%.”

The U.S. Census Bureau publishes two measures of income inequality each year. According to the most recent report, the top 5% of households received 21.8% of “equivalence-adjusted” aggregate income in 2014, while the bottom 60% received just 27.1%. (Equivalence-adjusted estimates factor in different household sizes and compositions.) Read More

Topics: Economics and Personal Finances, Income, Income Inequality, Research Methods, Socioeconomic Class, Wealth

Sep 21, 2015 10:00 am

Among Catholics, fewer Latinos than whites seek changes to the church

When Pope Francis – the first Latin American pontiff – arrives in the U.S., he will find a Catholic public that increasingly has roots in Latin America, as Latinos now make up 34% of all American Catholic adults.

But what may be less commonly known is the divide between Latino and white American Catholics on some church teachings. On a variety of issues – such as recognizing gay marriages and determining eligibility for Holy Communion – Latino Catholics tend to be more aligned with the church than are white Catholics, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. And Latino Catholics are more likely than white Catholics to view a variety of behaviors as sins.

Hispanic Catholics Less Likely Than White Catholics to Support Changes to Church Teachings

For example, while majorities of white Catholics believe the Catholic Church should allow those who are living with a romantic partner without being married (69%) or who have divorced and remarried without an annulment (74%) to receive Communion, roughly half of Latino Catholics say the same (49% and 44%, respectively). Read More

Topics: Catholics and Catholicism, Hispanic/Latino Demographics, Religion and Society, Religious Beliefs and Practices, Social Values

Sep 21, 2015 6:45 am

A closer look at Catholics in Washington, New York and Philadelphia

On his first papal trip to the U.S., Pope Francis will visit three Northeastern cities that are within a few hundred miles of each other. But while New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., may be geographically close, their Catholic populations look different from one another in several ways, according to data from the 2014 Religious Landscape Study.

For instance, 85% of Catholics in the Philadelphia metropolitan area are non-Hispanic whites. Whites, however, make up smaller shares of the Catholic populations in New York (57%) and Washington (50%).

From a racial and ethnic perspective, Catholics in the NYC metro area look very similar to U.S. Catholics overall, including about a third who are Hispanic. Fewer D.C.-area Catholics are Hispanic (23%), while more in the capital are black (15%) or Asian (10%) compared with the country overall.

Race and Ethnicity of Catholics in New York City, Philadelphia and Washington

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Topics: Catholics and Catholicism, Population Geography, Religion and Society, Religious Beliefs and Practices, Religious Leaders

Sep 17, 2015 9:55 am

Indians adore Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks during a press conference in Canberra, Australia, on Nov. 18, 2014. (Photo credit: Mark Graham/AFP/Getty Images)

One year after history-making political change swept the country, Indians’ fervor for their leader Narendra Modi has not abated. A new poll in India shows the public’s views of the country’s direction and the economy are on the rise.

Even so, Indians continue to see problems in their daily lives and in foreign relations. Nevertheless, in advance of Modi’s visit to the United States later this month, Indians are confident in relations between the two countries. Here are some of the key findings from a new Pew Research Center report:

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Topics: Asia and the Pacific, Energy and Environment, International Governments and Institutions

Sep 16, 2015 11:00 am

The art and science of the scatterplot

63% of American Adults Can Correctly Read This ChartSPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t yet taken our Science Knowledge Quiz, please do so before reading this any further because we give away one of the answers.

In a recent survey of what Americans know about science, we asked people to interpret the chart you see here and tell us what it showed. Six-in-ten (63%) identify the best interpretation of this chart as “the more sugar people eat, the more likely they are to get cavities.”

This kind of chart — known as a scatterplot — is very familiar to people who are used to working with numbers, such as economists, scientists, researchers and data journalists. It is a good way to show a relationship between two variables.

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Topics: Educational Attainment, Research Methods, Science and Innovation

Sep 16, 2015 9:00 am

Polls show Republicans in a restive mood

Even before Donald Trump and Ben Carson roiled the GOP presidential race by surging past more traditional candidates in the polls, the nation’s Republicans were a restive bunch. Over several surveys, many expressed disapproval of their own party and leaders even after Republicans captured both houses of Congress in the 2014 midterm elections.

One undercurrent in recent surveys – and a theme of the campaign itself – is the negative sentiment many hold for the political establishment. Seven of the 16 GOP presidential candidates are either sitting senators or have held office in Washington. But many of them are running as anti-Washington candidates, and others have battled party leaders, such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz; he made headlines by taking on his own party’s leader on the Senate floor.

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Topics: Political Attitudes and Values, Political Party Affiliation, U.S. Political Figures, U.S. Political Parties

Sep 16, 2015 6:45 am

Key findings about Africans’ views on economy, challenges

Sub-Saharan Africans are feeling positive about their current and long-term economic prospects compared with people in other regions of the world. However, Africans still see the need for more foreign aid and are concerned about the serious challenges facing them, especially when it comes to better health care and jobs.

This new snapshot of public opinion in nine African nations comes at a time when the United Nations is preparing to ratify new global goals that will shape the development agenda in Africa and elsewhere for the next 15 years. Africans’ views of their region’s development also come at a time when the U.S. and China are competing to be major players in Africa. Most in the region express favorable views of both countries – in fact, the U.S. and China are viewed more positively in Africa than in any other part of the world.

Here are some key findings from the 2015 survey of nine African nations:

1Africa More Positive Than Other Regions About Economic FutureAlthough there is a pervasive gloominess about the state of the economy throughout much of the world, Africans are relatively positive about their short- and long-term economic future. Across the nine African nations polled, a median of 60% say they expect their country’s economy to improve over the next 12 months, the highest of any region. A median of 56% believe children in their country today will be financially better off than their parents, and about seven-in-ten or more hold this view in Nigeria, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso. Read More

Topics: Country Image, Health, Health Care, Sub-Saharan Africa, World Economies

Sep 15, 2015 11:59 am

The race gap in science knowledge

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t already done so, test yourself with our new Science Knowledge Quiz.

Science Knowledge Varies by Race, EthnicityThere is a significant gap in knowledge about scientific concepts along racial and ethnic lines in the U.S., according to a new Pew Research Center report released last week.

When asked a series of 12 science-related questions, whites, on average, fared better than blacks or Hispanics. While the average number of questions whites answer correctly is 8.4, for Hispanics that number is lower – 7.1 – and drops to 5.9 for blacks. (There were not enough Asian respondents in the sample to be broken out into a separate analysis.)

Our latest findings are consistent with previous Pew Research surveys and with data from the General Social Survey (GSS) conducted by the National Opinion Research Center. These differences tend to span multiple scientific disciplines, from life and earth sciences to physics and energy-related questions.

But why is this? Research suggests there might be several factors at play, and they often are interconnected. Educational attainment – such as the different shares of blacks and whites to have college degrees – may be one. Another issue might relate to the underrepresentation of blacks and Hispanics in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) workforce. And access to science information may also play a role in how well people cultivate an understanding of the subject.

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Topics: Education, Public Knowledge, Race and Ethnicity, Science and Innovation

Sep 15, 2015 7:00 am

Half of U.S. adults raised Catholic have left the church at some point

Some older American Catholics might remember a time when people thought of the Catholic Church like a family: hard to ignore and even harder to leave. But a new Pew Research Center survey of U.S. Catholics shows that at least some of these perceptions may no longer be entirely true.

About Half of Those Raised Catholic Leave the ChurchIndeed, about half (52%) of all U.S. adults who were raised Catholic have left the church at some point in their lives. A significant minority of them returned, but most (four-in-ten of all those raised Catholic) have not.

Roughly two-thirds of those who have not returned (28% of all those raised Catholic) are now ex-Catholics. These are people raised in the church who no longer consider themselves Catholic in any way. We classified the remaining 13% as “cultural Catholics” – those who now have no religion or are part of another religious tradition (other than Catholicism), but nevertheless still identify as Catholic in some way. Read More

Topics: Catholics and Catholicism, Christians and Christianity, Religious Affiliation

Sep 14, 2015 9:00 am

A closer look at Catholic America

The face of Catholic America is changing. Today, immigrants make up a considerable share of Catholics, and many are Hispanic. At the same time, there has been a regional shift, from the Northeast (long home to a large percentage of the Catholic faithful) and Midwest to the Western and Southern parts of the U.S.

Our research also has documented the decline of Catholics as a share of the U.S. population. Still, roughly one-in-five U.S. adults say their primary religious affiliation is with the Catholic Church. Here are a few key demographic characteristics of the American flock that Pope Francis will find when he visits the U.S. for the first time, based on data from the 2014 Religious Landscape Study:

Catholics are more likely than other Americans to be immigrants or children of immigrants. Indeed, more than a quarter of U.S. Catholic adults (27%) were born outside the country, compared with 15% of U.S. adults overall; most of these Catholic immigrants (22% of all U.S. Catholics) are from elsewhere in the Americas.

As of 2014, an additional 15% of Catholic Americans have at least one foreign-born parent. That leaves 57% of Catholics who were born in the U.S. to two native-born parents. By comparison, nearly three-quarters (74%) of American adults overall were born in the country to two U.S.-born parents.

Catholics More Likely Than Other Americans to Be Hispanic, Immigrants

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Topics: Catholics and Catholicism, Christians and Christianity, Demographics, Population Geography, Race and Ethnicity, Religion and Society