Electoral College: How Equal Is It?

Once again, we have an election where the candidate with the most vovotetes did not win the Presidency. As things stand now on December 1, 2016, according to CNN, Trump has 306 Electoral Votes and Clinton has 232. Put another way, Trump is projected to have 57% of the Electoral College votes. But in the popular vote, Clinton has almost 65 million votes compared to Trump’s almost 63 million votes. By CNN’s calculations, Clinton won 48 percent of the popular vote to Trump’s 46 percent. See CNN Click Here

This mismatch has provoked questions about the Electoral College.

The Constitution says Electors from each state will be equivalent to its Congressional delegation: the number of Senators and Representatives. Every state has two Senators, regardless of population size. The House of Representatives is proportional, with number of Representatives reflecting the population of each state.

The Constitution further stipulated: “The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative.” That requirement was deleted when Congress capped the number of Representatives at 433 in the Apportionment Act of 1911 and finalized in 1929 at 435. Given our current population of over 300 million, the House of Representatives would have over 10,000 members to maintain that 1/30,000 ratio.  The current ratio is around 1 representative for every 720,000 people.

The problem for the Electoral College is that it includes the two senators from each state: Alaska, with 735,000 people gets 2 Senators, and California, with 38 million gets 2 Senators. At the time of the Constitution was being written, compromises were made. The Senate was one of those compromises; small states did not want to be swallowed up by the large states so each state was guaranteed equal representation. The People’s House was reflected the states’ population.

However, when translated into Electoral College votes, there is a bias towards the small states. Alaska has a small population and gets 3 Electors. CNN reported that 246,591 ballots were counted in the Presidential race in Alaska. This means that there are 82,197 voters for every 1 Electoral College voter. California, being a large state, gets 55 electors. Almost 12 million ballots were counted in California, resulting in 217,351 voters for every 1 Elector. An Alaska voter has a louder voice than a voter in California. Continue reading »

Minimum Wage

PEW:  Minimum Wage

pew_minwage_1938_2016

 

Five Facts:

  1. Adjusted for inflation, the federal minimum wage peaked in 1968 at $8.68 (in 2016 dollars). Since it was last raised in 2009, to the current $7.25 per hour, the federal minimum has lost about 9.6% of its purchasing power to inflation.
  2. Less than half (45%) of the 2.6 million hourly workers who were at or below the federal minimum in 2015 were ages 16 to 24. An additional 23.3% are ages 25 to 34, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics; both shares have stayed more or less constant over the past decade. That 2.6 million represents less than 2% of all wage and salary workers. (See more about the demographics of minimum-wage workers
  3. Twenty-nine states, plus the District of Columbia and nearly two dozen cities and counties, have set their own higher minimums.
  4. About 20.6 million people (or 30% of all hourly, non-self-employed workers 18 and older) are “near-minimum-wage” workers.
  5. The restaurant/food service industry is the single biggest employer of near-minimum-wage workers.

See data:Click Here

Hate Crimes In America

In the wake of the mass shooting in Orlando, the NY Times pulled together data about hate crimes in America. Click Here.

The articles leads: “Even before the shooting rampage at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people were already the most likely targets of hate crimes in America, according to an analysis of data collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” Continue reading »

A Guide to Statistics on Historical Trends in Income Inequality

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities released a new report of income inequality in the U.S. Click Here.

The report provides detail about the data used to analyze income and wealth inequality and a serious analysis. Excellent for use in a research methods class.

The summarized the basic facts of income inequality over the past six decades :

  • “The years from the end of World War II into the 1970s were ones of substantial economic growth and broadly shared prosperity.
    • Incomes grew rapidly and at roughly the same rate up and down the income ladder, roughly doubling in inflation-adjusted terms between the late 1940s and early 1970s.
    • The income gap between those high up the income ladder and those on the middle and lower rungs — while substantial — did not change much during this period.
  • Beginning in the 1970s, economic growth slowed and the income gap widened.
    • Income growth for households in the middle and lower parts of the distribution slowed sharply, while incomes at the top continued to grow strongly.
    • The concentration of income at the very top of the distribution rose to levels last seen more than 80 years ago (during the “Roaring Twenties”).
  • Wealth — the value of a household’s property and financial assets, minus the value of its debts — is much more highly concentrated than income.  The best survey data show that the top 3 percent of the distribution hold over half of all wealth.  Other research suggests that most of that is held by an even smaller percentage at the very top, whose share has been rising over the last three decades.”

 

John Oliver on Scientific Studies

John Oliver does a great job in critiquing scientific studies as they often are portrayed by the media.

Click Here

The website Five Thirty Eight posted the results of the American Statistical Association’s expert panel, with the heading: Statisticians Found One Thing They Can Agree On: It’s Time to Stop Misusing P-Values.

While there were heated discussions about what the p-value means, the authors stated, “If there’s one takeaway from the ASA statement, it’s that p-values are not badges of truth and p < 0.05 is not a line that separates real results from false ones. They’re simply one piece of a puzzle that should be considered in the context of other evidence.”

Click Here

The Shrinking Middle Class

PEW posted a report on the shrinking middle-class. See link: PEW Report. The bottom line is:  “The national trend is clear—the middle class is losing ground as a share of the population, and its share of aggregate U.S. household income is also declining.”

The first question: how do they define middle-class? It is complicated. They start by basing the calculations on household income and family size. They state: In this report, “middle-income” Americans are defined as adults whose annual household income is two-thirds to double the national median, after incomes have been adjusted for household size. In 2014, the national middle-income range was about $42,000 to $125,000 annually for a household of three. Lower-income households have incomes less than 67% of the median and upper-income households have incomes that are more than double the median.”

According to PEW, a family of 4 is middle-class if their income is between $48,083 and $144,250.

Who is 'middle income' and 'upper income' in 2014?

Continue reading »

Welcome!

Welcome to Rresearch methods 3rd edesearch Demystified where the mysteries of social science research will be explored in the context of politics, policy, public administration, program evaluation, measuring for results and advocacy.

This site will provide some “how to do it” guidance as well as focus on how to assess the credibility of research results.

I have set up this blog to look at current issues in the news from a research perspective. The basic question is always: are these research results–the statistics and the conclusions–credible? I invite you to join the conversation and share what makes sense to you, what does not, and why.

I will be posting material that professors can use in classes as well as material for the general public who want to enhance their skills in critiquing research results.

The third edition of my textbook is distributed by Routledge: Click Here
To View Inside: Click here

Gail

Happiness: A Function of Ideology?

The New York Times reported a story today that looked at research about happiness and ideology. The research suggests what while conservatives are more likely to report being happy, liberals are more likely to evidence happy behaviors.

See NY Times article: Click Here

happy catThe article described several studies. You can get a sense of the challenges by looking at the different measures and methodologies. For example, “One study analyzed the emotional content of more than 430 million words entered in the Congressional Record over 18 years. Liberal-leaning politicians, the researchers found, were more likely to use positive words and no more likely to use sad or negative words.” Continue reading »