Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

June 17, 2016 12:00 PM

State of the Nation

63% of respondents say that the country is on the wrong track. 30% say the country is headed in the right direction. [NYT/CBS 5/17]

First, let’s take a look at the “official” unemployment numbers.

The official BLS seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for May 2016 is 4.7%, up from 5.0% last month. Unfortunately, this is not good news. The rise is the result of a half million fewer people looking for work.

If one takes into account the total number of unemployed + those marginally attached to the labor force + those working part-time who want full-time work, the current rate is 9.7%. [BLS data is based on those 16 years of age and older.]

There is some additional bad news. The number of jobs created in May was only 38,000 (not adjusted). This compares with an average of 228,600 jobs created in each month in 2015 and an average of 182,000 jobs created in the first four months of 2016.

In the first week of June, Gallup found an unadjusted unemployment rate of 5.5%. It also found an under-employment rate (unemployed + those working part-time but wanting full time) of 13.7%. [This is based on those 18 years of age and older.]

Between 2000 and 2014 the life expectancy of whites has seen the lowest increase in comparison to a number of other groups.

Non-Hispanic blacks – up 3.6 years
Hispanics – up 2.6 years
All origins – up 2.0 years
Non-Hispanic whites – up 1.4 years

[WP 6/4/16]

“The birthrate among American teenagers has fallen to an all-time low,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The birthrate was 61.8 births per 1,000 in 1991, the peak year. In 2014, the birthrate was 24.2 births per 1,000, a 60% drop. This was the lowest birthrate in history. [WP 4/29/16]

Medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the United States. The top three causes of death are (1) Heart disease: 614,348 deaths; (2) Cancer: 591,699 deaths; (3) Medical error: 251,454 deaths. [WP 5/3/16]

Roughly half of all Americans live in the 144 largest counties while the other half occupies the remaining 2,998 counties. In fact, the two largest counties—California’s Los Angeles County and Illinois’ Cook County– contain roughly the same share of the national population (4.82%) as the 1,437 smallest counties. [Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Thomas F. Schaller]

In 2014, for the first time in the last 130 years, adults ages 18-34 were slightly more likely to be living in their parents’ home than with a spouse or partner in their own household.

Living in Parent(s) home 32.1%
Married or cohabiting in own household 31.6%
Living alone, single parents and other heads 14.0%
Other living arrangements 22.0%

Men are more likely than woman to be living with parents 35% to 29%.

[Pew Research Center 5/24/16]

The number of people going to law school has dropped precipitously since 2006. In that year there were 88,000 admissions at U.S. Law Schools. In 2015 there were 51,000 admissions. Only 60% of 2015 law schools graduates were employed in the legal industry ten months after graduation. However, those who do find jobs, especially in major law firms, can make as much as $180,000 per year.

The following is an excerpt from an article by Carol Graham in Brookings Brief.
“My research finds deep divisions in our country—not just in terms of income and opportunity, but in terms of hopes and dreams. The highest costs of being poor in the U.S. are not in the form of material goods or basic services, as in developing countries, but in the form of unhappiness, stress, and lack of hope. What is most surprising, though, is that the most desperate groups are not minorities who have traditionally been discriminated against, but poor and near-poor whites. And of all racial groups in poverty, blacks are the most optimistic about their futures.

“Based on a question in a Gallup survey asking respondents where they expected their life satisfaction to be in five years (on a 0-10 point scale), I find that among the poor, the group that scores the highest is poor blacks. The least optimistic group by far is poor whites. The average score of poor blacks is large enough to eliminate the difference in optimism about the future between being poor and being middle class (e.g. removing the large negative effect of poverty), and they are almost three times more likely to be higher up on the optimism scale than are poor whites. Poor Hispanics are also more optimistic than poor whites, but the gaps between their scores are not as large as those between blacks and whites.” [Brookings Brief, May 27, 2016]

In no presidential campaign to date has the internet played a larger role than it is playing in 2016.

Certainly the internet played a big part in the 2008 and 2012 campaigns, primarily as an organization and fundraising tool. But today with the cooperation of the traditional TV and cable media, Donald Trump has set a new standard with his use of Twitter. And while it is an old fashioned form of communication he has also succeeded in getting the media to treat him as if he was in their studios by calling in and having his voice and message carried live.

An item in the FiveThirtyEight Significant Digits newsletter, originally published in the Financial Times, produced a PricewaterhouseCoopers forecast stating that next year web advertising will hit $75.3 billion compared to an estimated $70.4 billion in advertising revenues for traditional television broadcasters.

Political data is often based on generations. The following is a reminder of the definition of those generations as of 2016.

Millennials (age of adults in 2016) – 18-35 years
Generation X (age in 2016) – 36-51 years
The Baby Boom generation (age in 2016) – 52-70 years
The Silent and Greatest generations (age in 2016) – 71 years and older

Millennials are now roughly equal to the Boomers as the largest generation.

Millennials – 75 million
Baby Boomers – 75 million
Generation X – 66 million
Silent – 28 million

Eligible voters by generation in millions:

Millennials – 69.2 million
Generation X – 57 million
Baby Boomers – 69.7 million
Silent – 28 million

Voter turnout rates in presidential elections:

  2012 2008 2004 2000
Millennial 46% 50% 46% --
Gen X 61% 61% 57% 47%
Boomer 69% 69% 69% 64%
Silent 72% 70% 72% 70%

[Pew Research Center 5/19/16 and 4/25/16]

Women in America

According to a study by the Economic Policy Institute, the male/female wage gap significantly widened for young workers in 2015. Young female college graduates received paychecks that were about “79% as large as those received by their male counterparts”. This is a drop from 84% the year before. In 2000, female graduates received 92% of their male counterparts.

In dollar terms this results in an annual difference of $9,000 between young men and young women. [WP 4/29/16]

The following are excerpts from a March 28, 2016 report by the Voter Participation Data Center and Lake Research Partners.

The median income of a man in 2015 was $50,170 while the median income of a woman was $40,010.

The following is an outline of how long the average woman in each of the following categories must work to make as much as a man made in 2015.

Man: 1/1/15 – 12/31/15 (1 year)
Woman: 1/1/15 – 4/1/16 (1 year, 4 months)
Unmarried Woman: 1/1/15 – 8/31/16 (1 year, 8 months)
Unmarried African-American Woman: 1/1/15-12/31/16 (2 years)
Unmarried Latina: 1/1/15 – 1/30/17 (2 years, 1 month)
Unmarried Native American Woman: 1/1/15 – 2/16/17 (2 years, 2 months)

Nearly half (45%) of women report having been paid less than a man for the same job or knowing someone who has been paid less than a man for the same job.

Girls Beat Boys in Eighth-Grade Tech, Engineering Literacy Tests: Survey

By Erik Ortiz

American eighth-grade girls on average scored better than their male peers in technology and engineering literacy tests, according to a national report card released Tuesday.

Girls scored three points higher than boys overall — a reversal of gender expectations because boys typically score higher than girls in math and science testing, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

American girls, however, have already been gaining ground in those subjects in recent years, the organization said.

The findings of this latest test — the first ever of its kind administered by the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2014 — provide a snapshot of how well American students are versed in an era of rapidly changing technologies. Female students also did better than males when the questions were related to communication and collaboration (five points higher) and information and communication technology (six points higher).

"It is clear that girls have the abilities and critical thinking skills to succeed in tech and engineering," said Peggy Carr, acting commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which collects and analyzes education data under the federal government.

Forty-five percent of girls scored proficient or better on the test — compared to 42 percent of boys. [NBCNews.com May 17, 2016]

Read more.

73% of women believe it is easier for men to get elected to high political offices. 58% of men share this view. This view is held by 69% of Republicans, 78% of Democrats and 78% of Independents.

When asked why fewer women than men hold high political office, the answers are:

  Men Women
Women are held to a higher standard than men 28% 47%
Many Americans aren’t ready to elect a woman to higher office 31% 41%
Women who are active in politics get less support from party leaders 21% 33%
Fewer women have the experience required to run for office 19% 19%
Family responsibilities don’t leave time for politics 15% 18%
Women aren’t tough enough for politics 8% 8%

Americans say that in general, women in high political offices are better than men at

  Men Women
Working out compromises 27% 41%
Being honest and ethical 30% 37%
Working to improve quality of life for Americans 22% 30%
Standing up for beliefs despite political pressure 19% 30%
Being persuasive 18% 25%

[Pew Research Center 5/19/16]

43% of all reported contributions to federal candidates have come from women. Women have also contributed a fifth of all contributions to Super PACs compared with just 1% in 2010. Nearly half of Clinton “bundlers” are women. Some of the biggest contributors to Republican Super PACs during the primary period are women.

However, men have contributed two-thirds of all the money raised by federal candidates in 2016. [WP 5/8/16]

Transgender in America

The rights of transgender people, folks who do not identify with their birth gender, are now under assault in various parts of the country. The issue of the moment is the right of a person who does not identify with their birth gender to use a restroom designated for people of the gender for which they now identify.

In general, 33% of registered voters say that we have gone too far in the way we deal with transgender people. A year ago only 24% thought we have gone too far. 33% say we have not gone far enough, about the same number as a year ago. 28% say we have now reached a reasonable balance which is less than the 34% who had that view a year ago.

In April 2015 when asked the same question about homosexuality generally only 20% said society had gone too far, 44% said we have not gone far enough and 32% said we have reached a reasonable balance.

North Carolina recently passed a law that prevents transgender people from using public restrooms that match the gender with which they identify and requires them to use public restrooms based on their gender at birth.

40% agree that transgender people should be allowed to use the public restroom of the gender with which they identify. 31% say transgender people should be legally prevented from doing so.

The U.S. Department of Justice has informed North Carolina that it is violating federal law, that it could file a lawsuit to block the law and that the state could potentially lose millions in federal funds.

49% oppose the Justice Department taking these actions while 28% support the Department.

38% say that state governments should pass no laws at all on this issue. 22% say state governments should pass laws preventing transgender people from using public restrooms that match the gender with which they identify. 19% say that states should pass laws allowing transgender people to use public restrooms that match the gender with which they identify.

39% say they personally know or work with someone who is transgender. 59% say they do not know a transgender person. (This number may be overstated as compared to when people are asked if they really know a transgender person.) [NBC/WSJ 5/19/16]

75% of all Americans favor “laws that guarantee equal protection for transgender people in jobs, housing and public accommodations”. This includes 87% of Democrats, 75% of Independents and 60% of Republicans.

57% of Americans oppose laws that require transgender persons to use “facilities that correspond to their gender at birth rather than their gender identify.” This includes 62% of Democrats, 58% of Independents and 48% of Republicans. [CNN/ORC 5/1/16]

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