Tag Archives: pew

State of economy for less-educated young people compounds growing Opportunity Gap

Pell City 2007 HS graduation; Flick/kwsanders

Pell City 2007 HS graduation; Flick/kwsanders

While parts of the economy have rebounded since the Great Recession of 2008, the effects have been much worse for the poor, and especially the less-educated young Americans, and those not fortunate enough to graduate from college.

Since 2008, the housing market has started to bounce back.

The stock market, for those fortunate enough to have net savings rather than a negative net worth has more than recovered its recessionary losses (pictured is the S&P500 index).

Recovery in S&P500 since 2009 recession

The economy has created 6.15 million jobs from March 2010 through April 2013 (based on provisional numbers for March/April 2013), enough to lower unemployment but only through many people giving up on finding jobs.  The  percentage of Americans employed in the population hasn’t budged over the last 3.5 years and remains fixed at between 58% and 59%. Larry Summers thinks that the numbers of long-term unemployed is the biggest problem facing this country and is at historically unprecedented in the period since the Great Recession of the 1920s and 1930s.

Put this together with the data that David Leonardt released (“The Idled Young Americans“) showing that the impact has disproportionately fallen on young folks.  Moreover, levels of employment among 16-24 year olds, even as recent as May 2013 remain stubbornly at 45%, at levels not seen in the US since the early 1960s.

Our own research on the fact that children born to less educated families are facing a growing opportunity gap.  American young adults from the bottom socioeconomic quarter are graduating from high school or dropping out with less of the hard academic skills or soft non-cognitive skills necessary for life success.  [We find significantly growing gaps between children from the top third or quarter of socioeconomic families and the bottom third or quarter on measures as diverse as involvement in extra-curriculars, involvement in sports, K-12 test scores, obesity, social trust, involvement with religion, social connectedness, volunteering, college attendance, and college completion.]

And the intersection of these two trends — consequences of the current lackluster economy being borne by the young adults and the growing opportunity gap — means that these gaps are borne disproportionately by less educated young adults.

For example, if one looks at employment to population ratios for 25-34 year olds in 2012, it was only 69.8% for those with a high-school degree (but no college), whereas it was 84.4% for those with 4-year college degrees or more.  Another way of putting this is that only 16% of college-educated 25-34 year olds were out of the labor market versus 30% of those with only a high school degree.

And if that were not enough, there is growing body of literature suggesting that experiences of unemployment or involuntarily being terminated from jobs create long-term scarring effects both on the lifetime earnings of these young people, but also their civic and social connectedness throughout their lives.  [See for example Davis/von Wachter or Gregg/Tominey or Brand/Burgard.]

[There is also unpublished data on this scarring effect in: Laurence, James, and Chaeyoon Lim. “The Long-Term and Deepening Scars of Job  Displacement on Civic Participation over the Life-course: A Cross-National Comparative  Study between the UK and the US.”]

We are brewing a recipe for long-term adverse consequences for these young Americans, especially the less educated ones, and our government ought to be POUND-wise, even if it is “PENNY-foolish” in the eyes of others and invest in jobs for these young 16-25 year olds to avoid the much longer long-term adverse effects.


Putnam: The Perfect (Temporary) Storm in Declining Trust

(Flickr photo Kalieye)

Robert Putnam appeared on Talk of the Nation yesterday concerning the recent Pew Research Center surveys on Trust in Government showing that trust in government is at a several decade low.

Putnam noted that  surveys of trust in local or national government mainly flow from macro assessments of how well things are going in society and whether government is honest and trustworthy, not personal experiences with bureaucracy.

Putnam observed that record high levels of trust in government post WW-II “stemmed from the success of the U.S. government in…getting out of the Great Depression and winning the War….It didn’t mean that they were necessarily happy or unhappy when they…filled out their IRS form…. That high level of trust collapsed first …  around the time of intervention in Vietnam and then another big drop when Watergate was revealed….”

Putnam noted the strong connections between the condition of the economy and trust. Pew’s work and others shows rising trust in the 1980s and much of the 1990s. Given that the economy is now in the worst shape it has been since the Great Depression, Putnam  thinks “it’s not at all surprising that people are expressing very low levels of trust in government…Americans have always been a little skeptical about government. We historically have had a much smaller – and still do today – a much smaller government than most other countries at our stage in rate of development and so on. So it is true that Americans are a little more skeptical than most people in the world about government.”

While Putnam comments that it is hard for any government to overcome recession, mount a new health insurance effort, if the government succeeds, which he is fairly confident it will, the part in power will get credit for that.  “So I am not one of those who thinks that … we’ve entered some kind of dark hole in …which we spiral ever downward to lower trust in the government. I think we are in the midst of a perfect storm, but even perfect storms pass.”

Putnam’s takeaway from the Pew survey:

I think that the survey shows how big the hole is we’re in at the moment. And I do think that this level of distrust in government is a problem for all of us, actually. It’s a problem actually for even those of us who are, regardless of our political views, because we need government to get some basic things done, and it’s harder to get things done … when many of us don’t trust it.

[It’s also]… harder to motivate good workers….I’m not basically deeply pessimistic. I think that this is basically a decent country and that when government starts doing things demonstrably – I don’t mean just passing bills, I mean things start improving, the economy, people’s health care and so on, the government will get credit for it. And so I think this – at the moment, we’re in a particularly unpleasant downward vicious circle, but I think we can turn that around, and I think it’ll be good for the country if we do.

On partisanship: The increased partisanship “… is a serious problem. I think that’s a somewhat unrelated issue, but it is no doubt that…the degree of partisanship has changed enormously, even just over the last 10 or 15 years, and I think that’s bad for the country.”

On variation of trust from place to place: Depending on how good (non-corrupt, efficient) the local government is, in some places residents trust the local government more than the national government.  “Blacks, especially in the South before the civil rights movement, …had extremely low levels of trust in local government and extremely high levels of trust, extremely high levels of trust in the national government. That was not kind of something that was just in their minds, and it didn’t have anything to do with the particular actions about how they were treated at the post office. It had to do with the fact that local government was more racist, and the national government was less racist.”

Hear NPR Talk of the Nation story “What’s It Like to be a Government Worker” (4/19/10)

Growing Disapproval of Congress and government

(Photo by Lergik)

Gallup’s recent Ethics survey showed how low opinions of Congress have fallen.

In late August, a Rassmussen survey suggested that 57% of Americans would prefer getting rid of all Congresspersons and re-electing a new slate.

In a Pew survey from November, 2009: “About About half (52%) of registered voters would like to see their own representative re-elected next year, while 34% say that most members of Congress should be re-elected. Both measures are among the most negative in two decades of Pew Research surveys.”

Of course, there is always a strange discrepancy here:  Americans say that Congress is terrible, but most Americans think highly (or at least more highly) of their OWN representative.  [For example, a 2006 FOX poll found that 27% approve of Congress’ performance but 53% approve of their own representative’s performance.] And more than 90% of Congresspersons are re-elected each year.

Between 1980 and 1994 net ratings of own representative (% approve minus % disapprove) ranged from 40 to 60 points positive (with highs in 1984 and 1988). Net ratings of Congress ranged from 20 points positive to almost -40.  The trends in both net ratings (Congress and own representative) have been sharply down since 1988.  (See “Great Theatre: The American Congress in the 1990s.”)  See also recent NY Times poll (4/10) that showed 17% approving of Congress and 73% disapproving (or a net approval of -56); this was even stronger among Tea Party sympathizers where net approval of their representative was -9 percentage points and net approval of Congress was -95 (1% approved and 96% disapproved).

Since 1994, net approval ratings have fallen further.  For example, polls by Gallup and FOX in late 2008 had negative net ratings of Congress of -60 (generally with approval rates in teens and disapproval rates in the -70s).   For some of these trends, see here.  Net approval ratings of one’s own Congressperson fell to the high twenties or low thirties by 2006/2007 (in ABC/Washington Post polls).  But a most recent NY Times poll conducted of the general public (in conjunction with a poll on Tea Party sympathizers), found that 46% approved of the job of their representative versus 36% that disapproved.

How is it possible that most Congresspeople are highly rated by constituents but the collective body is poorly rated?  Few bad apples.  Everyone doing a relatively job of representing their constituents but relatively few putting national priorities ahead of their parochial interests.  Ratings are lower for individuals who they just don’t know.  Political parties as an institution are more interested in making other party look bad (to increase number of seats in the next election) than in getting things done.  Increasing role of special interests, PACs, lobbyists.  And the decline of the numbers of moderates in Congress (as articulated by Mo Fiorina and McCarty/Poole/Rosenthal) are decreasingly enabling Congress to find important middle ground.

And this is the graph over time of trust of government from Pew Surveys (darker blue line), which staged a resurgence from 1996-2001 but has been declining steadily since then, and is now at a near all time low.


Millennials, Religion and Civic Engagement

[cross posted on American Grace blog)

Flickr photo by Echobase

American Grace co-author David Campbell appeared on a Pew-sponsored panel called Portrait of the Millennial Generation with Neil Howe, Andy Kohut and Judy Woodruff, among others. Allison Pond, research associate at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, discussed some of Pew’s findings re Millennials and religion. Millennials, in comparison to earlier generations, according to Pond, are  less likely to pray, less likely to assert that religion is important to them, just as likely to believe in heaven/hell or in the afterlife, and more likely to tinker with religion (finding ways to cobble together a spiritual life although they are less connected to religious institutions).

As David Campbell points out on the panel:

If you look over the long haul from the ’60s to the ’70s, you do see a slight increase in the overall percentage of Americans who were evangelicals, and much of that growth was concentrated among young people.

That, however, ceased to be the case over the last 10 or 15 years. You have seen evangelical churches remain on the American landscape. And anyone who has been to the Saddleback Church in California or the Willow Creek Church in Chicago — these are massive megachurches — will know what I mean. It’s not that Millennials are streaming out of these churches, but they’re not being attracted to them the way that young people were in the past. That suggests to me that there’s an opening for religious entrepreneurs to somehow reach that segment of the population. They haven’t yet done so, and evangelicalism as it exists today does not seem to be reaching them.

On a later panel that same day Scott Keeter et. al. discussed differences between the Millennial Generation and earlier generations on abortion (more pro-choice) and religiosity (less religious).   And one questioner alluded to Pew’s findings that Millennials much more strongly believe that  “Houses of worship should express views on social and political issues”, to which Andy Kohut observed that these differences have to be interpreted in light of Millennials growing up in a context of greater separation of church and state than previous generations.

[In other discussions on the morning panel and afternoon panel there was a discussion of Millennials and community engagement.  For our  (Robert Putnam’s and my) take on this, see “Still Bowling Alone?” in the January Journal of Democracy.]

Some of findings to come in American Grace are consistent with Pew’s findings and some appear to differ. Stay tuned.

No gap in black-white turnout in 2008 elections; youth gap narrowing

pewturnoutgraph-050109The Pew Research Center, in partnership with CIRCLE released a report showing that Asians, Hispanics and Blacks voted in record numbers in the 2008 election, partially spurred by the magnetic candidacy of Barack Obama.  America’s three biggest minority groups — blacks, Hispanics and Asians — comprised almost a quarter of all voters for president in 2008. The increases in minority voting were driven by increases both in numbers of voters and the rate of election turnout.

The second table shows especially large increases in the turnout rate among blacks, and especially black women (not charted), although all non-white groups showed increases.  [Black turnout rose from 60% in 2004 to 65% in 2008, virtually indistinguishable from the voting rates of whites at 66%.]

68.8% of eligible black female voters voted in 2008 (an increase of 5.1 percentage points, from 63.7% in 2004), so that black women were the highest voting of any racial-gender pairing.

pewturnoutgraph2-050109So the interesting takeaway from all this was that although the voting rate in November (despite all the money spent on the campaign and the telegenic candidacy of Obama) was relatively unchanged, but the composition of the voters definitely did change, with whites continuing to disengage and non-whites becoming more active.

The region of the country that saw the most dramatic increases in black voter turnout rate was in the South.

Obviously the $1,000,000 question is whether these behavioral changes are likely to continue beyond the Obama candidacy.  One piece of good news for those interested in seeing non-white voting rates continue to rise, is the behavior of younger Americans, as youth tend to keep the civic habits they demonstrate in their teens and twenties.  And this was also good news, especially for blacks.

CIRCLE’s analysis revealed that the “youth gap” ( younger Americans voting at lower rates than older Americans) continued to shrink in 2008. [For example, voters 18-29 voted at rates 24 percentage points less than Americans 30 and older in 2000 but this narrowed to a gap of 16 percentage points less in 2008.]  But minorities also saw good news in the turnout of various ethnic groups.  Young black adults’ voting rates (ages 18-29) increased by 17% from 49.5% in 2004 to 58.2% in 2008.  For the first time, the turnout among 18-29 year old blacks was higher than any other racial and ethnic group in 2008.  While white youth voting rates were relatively flat from 2004 to 2008, mixed race youth voting at 55%, almost 10 percentage points higher than in 2004 (perhaps motivated by voting for a mixed-race president).  Latino and Asian turnout rates continued to increase, but they significantly trailed turnout rates of whites, mixed race and black youth voters.  (The only youth group to see a decline in voting rates in 2008 was Native American Non-Hispanics.)

So the increases in youth turnout, if they persist could help change the distortion in our democratic process toward politicians being more responsive to the needs of older voters, and if non-white voters continue to increase their voting turnout rates and white turnout rates continue to decline, this may also start to change the voices heard in the democratic process.

See also: No Racial Gap Seen in ’08 Turnout (NYT, 5/1/09)