Prison populations from big cities have been dropping since 2006, while those from small rural counties have been rising. The New York Times Upshot examines this trend:
Just a decade ago, people in rural, suburban and urban areas were all about equally likely to go to prison. But now people in small counties are about 50 percent more likely to go to prison than people in populous counties.
The stark disparities in how counties punish crime show the limits of recent state and federal changes to reduce the number of inmates. Far from Washington and state capitals, county prosecutors and judges continue to wield great power over who goes to prison and for how long. And many of them have no interest in reducing the prison population.
The Pew Research Center recently did a survey on abortion. Views have remained quite stable for the last 20 years: in 1995, 60% of Americans believed abortion should be legal in most cases and 38% believed it should be illegal, and in 2016, 56% believe it should be legal and 41% believe it should be illegal.
Max Ehrenfreund of Wonkblog writes about a new study by former PSC trainee Geoffrey Wodke showing that more intelligent people are no more interested in supporting policies designed to improve racial equality (such as Affirmative Action or school busing):
When you get down to the brass tacks of dealing with racial prejudice, though, more intelligent people seem to tunnel back into the woodwork. The new study revealed that smarter respondents are no more likely to support specific policies designed to improve racial equality — even though they are more liberal on other issues and are more likely to see discrimination as a problem.
Jay Ulfelder, writing for FiveThirtyEight, argues that the widely held belief that economic inequality causes political upheaval is a difficult thing to prove:
Just because a belief is widely held, however, does not make it true. In fact, it’s still hard to establish with confidence whether and how economic inequality shapes political turmoil around the world. That’s largely because of the difficulty in measuring inequality; on this subject, the historical record is full of holes. Social scientists are busy building better data sets, but the ones we have now aren’t sufficient to make strong causal claims at the global level.
Philip Cohen’s response to the piece is on his blog, Family Inequality.
The Pew Research Center released it’s new report “U.S. Public Becoming Less Religious“.
Ana Swanson of Wonkblog examines a new study by Nolan McCarty, John Voorheis and Boris Shor that shows that the growing ideological gap between Republicans and Democrats may be due in part to the widening gap between rich and poor.
By looking at extensive data on U.S. states over the last few decades, the researchers show that the widening gap between the rich and the poor in recent decades has moved state legislatures toward the right overall, while also increasing the ideological distance between those on the right and those on the left.
The paper is Unequal Incomes, Ideology and Gridlock: How Rising Inequality Increases Political Polarization
Anne Sutherland of the Family Studies blog writes about why women are so scarce in certainly STEM fields. In the article, she examines a 2009 study (PDF) by Vanderbilt scholars Kimberley Ferriman, David Lubinski, and Camilla P. Benbow which looked at the work preferences, lifestyle values, personal views, and life satisfaction of more than 500 young people who, in 1992, were first- and second-year graduate students in the country’s top 15 math and science departments.
Eric Kelderman of the Chronicle of Higher Education writes about the context and history of Scott Walker’s views and policies on higher education in Wisconsin:
In January, when Governor Walker released his proposed budget for the next two years, he put the finances and mission of Wisconsin’s university system front and center. He recommended granting the system autonomy from several state regulations, but as part of the deal he proposed to cut $300 million from the University of Wisconsin budget over two years while freezing tuition. In addition, he pushed to remove protections for tenure and shared governance from state law.
Note: this article is behind a paywall. University of Michigan readers may use this link to access the article.
See also Sarah Brown’s article on Washington States’s plan to cut tuition rates for public colleges.
The Pew Research Center released a new report on the ways teenagers make and maintain friendships in the digital age.
For American teens, making friends isn’t just confined to the school yard, playing field or neighborhood – many are making new friends online. Fully 57% of teens ages 13 to 17 have made a new friend online, with 29% of teens indicating that they have made more than five new friends in online venues. Most of these friendships stay in the digital space; only 20% of all teens have met an online friend in person.
See also: 6 takeaways about teen friendships in the digital age and 5 facts about America’s students.
The Pew Research Center released a report examining the results of a new poll, Across Racial Lines, More Say Nation Needs to Make Changes to Achieve Racial Equality.
Over the past year, there has been a substantial rise in the share of Americans — across racial and ethnic groups — who say the country needs to continue making changes to give blacks equal rights with whites, and a growing number of Americans view racism as a big problem in society.
Download the full report (PDF)
See also the Wonkblog write-up.