Are you in the American middle class?

About half of American adults lived in middle-income households in 2014, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of government data. In percentage terms, 51% of adults lived in middle-income households, 29% in lower-income households and 20% in upper-income households.

Our updated calculator below lets you find out which group you are in – first compared with other adults in your metropolitan area and among American adults overall, and then compared with other adults in the U.S. similar to you in education, age, race or ethnicity, and marital status.

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Click on graphic to reach article and calculator

New data has updated this calculator – released last December.

Are millennials living with mom and dad in your state?

Young adults, often unable to find good jobs, even with a college education, are increasingly staying with their parents…

Almost a third of young adults — 18 to 34 — lived with a parent in 2014, making it the most common living arrangement for that age group for the first time in modern history, according to a study published earlier this year by the Pew Research Center…

Multiple reasons are behind the trend, lingering effects of the Great Recession, high housing costs and student debt among them. Whatever the causes, millennials in some states are living with their parents in far greater numbers than in others.

In New Jersey, a whopping 43.9 percent of young people are living with at least one parent, according to a Stateline analysis of 2014 census data from IPUMS at the University of Minnesota. Connecticut (38.8 percent) was second and New York (37.4 percent) was third, followed by Florida (37.2 percent) and California (36.7 percent).

States with the fewest young people living with a parent were North Dakota (15.6 percent), Wyoming (18.7 percent), South Dakota (19.7 percent) and Nebraska and Iowa (both 20.7 percent).

In New York City and surrounding states, scarce and expensive rental housing is a major factor pushing young adults to return home, said Dowell Myers, a professor of urban planning and demography at the University of Southern California…

Full nests are also prevalent in other areas where renters are severely burdened by housing costs of more than half of their income, such as Los Angeles, Miami and Orlando.

The high cost of homeownership is also a factor. Renters who might otherwise be homeowners end up renting longer, tying up the supply for those coming up behind them…

Millennials are the most educated generation ever. But in areas where housing is extraordinarily expensive, a college degree is not necessarily a ticket out of your childhood bedroom…

But financial stress may be only part of the story. More young people were living with their parents even before the Great Recession hit. Some see cultural factors at work…

Resurgent ethnic traditions may be another factor: In the New York metropolitan area, most adult children of Italian heritage live with parents…

In the New York area, “co-residence” rates are also high for people with Irish, Dominican, Puerto Rican and African-American roots…

And underemployment among young people…who can’t find the work they trained for, is also a factor, said Christopher McCarty, director of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

Florida’s official unemployment rate is 5 percent. But McCarty points out that 10.6 percent of workers are unemployed or underemployed, with low-paid jobs they are overqualified for or part-time jobs when they would rather work full-time.

Whatever the reasons, change is often difficult for the families involved, parents and children alike. Some of this brings smiles, scripts for TV sitcoms. Some of it can end in explosive differences, exaggerated intrafamily conflict.

Looks like compulsory voting helps to make voters better politically informed?

voting in Oz

US college graduates are far better informed about basic political facts than Americans with only a high school education, according to studies by the Pew Research Center. And men tend to know more about politics than women. At the same time, the US also has infamously low voter turnout compared with the rest of the world. Recent scholarship on voting laws suggests that requiring citizens to vote would not only up turnout — it might also help boost overall political awareness…

…In 2012, just 53.6% of Americans turned out to vote, according to Pew Research Center. Compare that with 80.5% turnout in Australia, where voting has been mandatory since 1924 and failing to vote is punishable with a fine of A$20. In addition to Australia, 25 countries make national voting mandatory, including Belgium and Turkey…

But compulsory voting has the potential to do more than just increase voter turnout, according to a recent analysis by Jill Sheppard, a political scientist and survey researcher at the Australian National University. Her findings suggests that in nations that enforce mandatory voting, a wider demographic spectrum is politically informed than in other countries…

For the analysis, Sheppard uses data from the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems, which measures political knowledge by how many correct answers a survey respondent gives to three country-specific questions. The CSES data come from 133 election studies, from 1996 and 2013, held in 47 countries.

The CSES data splits countries into four categories by voting policy: strongly enforced compulsory voting, moderately enforced, weakly enforced, and voluntary.

In countries where compulsory voting is strongly enforced, those who scored well on the political knowledge questions hailed from all educational backgrounds. Not so in other countries (including the ones where mandatory voting is less rigorously enforced), where well educated voters tended to be much better informed than everyone else.

The effect on the gap in political knowledge between men and women was illuminating as well. In general, men tended to answer more of the political knowledge questions correctly than women. However, in countries with compulsory voting, this gender gap in political knowledge was much less pronounced than in other countries.

In other words, compulsory voting somehow relates to the more even distribution of political knowledge throughout the electorate.

Sheppard’s study isn’t alone. Of course, there may be other variables as important to the process as compulsory voting – which may be an effect rather than a cause. But, this certainly merits further attention here in the GOUSA.

Of course, the likelihood of states and the federal government agreeing to mandate greater participation in one of the features of our democracy much abused by lousy choices ain’t better than the proverbial snowball in Hell.

Escalating enforcement along the Mexican border backfired

The rapid escalation of border enforcement over the past three decades has backfired as a strategy to control undocumented immigration between Mexico and the United States, according to new research that suggests further militarization of the border is a waste of money…

Advocated by bureaucrats, politicians and pundits, the militarization of the U.S. border with Mexico transformed undocumented Mexican migration from a circular flow of predominantly male workers going to a few states into a settled population of about 11 million in all 50 states, Douglas Massey said. From 1986 to 2010, the United States spent $35 billion on border enforcement and the net rate of undocumented population growth doubled, he said.

❝ “By the 1990s border enforcement had become a self-sustaining cycle in which rising apprehensions provided proof of the ongoing ‘illegal invasion’ to justify more resources allocated to border enforcement, which produced more apprehensions, even though the actual number of undocumented migrants seeking entry was not increasing,” Massey said…

❝ “Greater enforcement raised the costs of undocumented border crossing, which required undocumented migrants to stay longer in the U.S. to make a trip profitable,” he said. “Greater enforcement also increased the risk of death and injury during border crossing. As the costs and risks rose, migrants naturally minimized border crossing — not by remaining in Mexico but by staying in the United States.”

But, hey, if you’re one of those Americans who refuses to accept even an accounting of the size of the illegal immigrant population you’re not likely to accept any analysis of directionality much less efficiency of means and methods. Fear doesn’t make for a whole boatload of science floating down your political river.

Especially the Rio Grande.

Meanwhile, RTFA. Try to understand the conclusions from people like Mary Waters, immigration researcher at Harvard, who says — “Throwing money at militarizing the border led to the growth of undocumented immigration and if we had just done nothing, undocumented immigration would be much lower.”

The Republican myth about white voters

…In politics, for many Republicans the most unassailable truth is that winning the presidency is easy if only…and here everyone finishes the sentence with their pet theory of electoral politics.

That there is so much conviction that it might be easy for Republicans to win a national election is an odd one given history. Over the last six presidential elections, Democrats have won 16 states every time for a total of 242 electoral votes out of the 270 needed to win. In those same six elections, Republican presidential candidates carried 13 states for 103 electoral votes…

But still the myth survives that there are these masses of untapped white voters just waiting for the right candidate…The simple truth is that there simply aren’t enough white voters in the America of 2016 to win a national election without also getting a substantial share of the non-white vote. Romney won 17 percent of the non-white vote. Depending on white voter turnout, a Republican needs between 25 percent and 35 percent of the non-white vote to win…

The Trump campaign talks about being able to reach out to Hispanics and African Americans but it’s not an overstatement to say he would be the most unpopular candidate with either group to ever lead a national ticket. Only 12 percent of Hispanics have a favorable view of Trump with 77 percent unfavorable. Even among Hispanic Republicans, he has a 60 percent unfavorable ranking. Among African Americans, 86 percent have an unfavorable view of Trump…

We can go on. But of course none of this will dissuade the Trump believers who will point to his dismantling of the Republican field as proof that he is a new force in politics and to use that popular phrase I loathe, “There are no rules.” It’s a legitimate point and one impossible to argue as there is no alternative universe in which there was an alternative election in which the Republican candidates ran better campaigns against Trump.

It’s true that voter registration and turnout is up in the Republican primaries and I don’t see any reason not to credit Trump with those increases. We’ve seen this before with little impact on the general election but more voters and more voter enthusiasm are positive…

But let’s not kid ourselves. Even if John Kasich or Ted Cruz, the remaining two candidates, were to emerge, the advantage is still very much with the Democrats. And until the party grows its appeal with non-white voters, it’s going to take an inside straight to win the White House.

Stuart Stevens is an American travel writer and political consultant…In 2013, he became a founding partner in Strategic Partners & Media, the consulting firm with the best record in statewide races. He served as a top strategist for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign.

He helped elect more governors and US Senators than any other current Republican media consultant.

Not exactly a left-wing advocate.

26 states sue to stop Clean Power Plan – 61% of their public support the policy

On October 23rd, President Obama’s signature climate change program The Clean Power Plan was entered into the Federal Register. Almost immediately, 26 US states sued to stop the policy, which sets strict limits on coal-fired power plants.

However, according to our model of state-level public opinion, a majority of the public in 23 out of the 26 states filing suits actually support setting strict limits on coal-fired power plants. Across all 26 suing states, 61% of the public supports the policy, ranging from 73% public support in New Jersey to 43% in Wyoming and West Virginia. Furthermore, only 38% of the public in those states on average opposes the policy.

America’s history of controversy over climate change and the legal and political challenges to the Clean Power Plan might suggest that the nation is divided over regulating carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants. Our research finds the opposite: a large majority of Americans overall support the approach. Our models find that a majority of Americans in almost every state support setting strict emission limits on coal-fired power plants.

Please visit our interactive Yale Climate Opinion Maps to explore more public opinion around energy and climate policy including: regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant, requiring utilities to generate at least 20% of their electricity using renewable sources, and other climate change policies and beliefs at the national, state, congressional district, and county levels.

Or you could behave like the average Republican and rely exclusively on what your dearest pundit tells you to think. One of the things I always do in my blog posts is link to the original article. Often in that post you will find a link to the science referenced. In the case of climate change, just wander over to the links listed on the RH side of this blog. I can especially recommend realclimate.com and 350.org as sites specifically chartered to discuss climate science.

My experience tells me that folks who take the time to read the science on any question end up with greater understanding, enhanced reason when it comes to making sensible political decisions.

Republicans now control the cemetery vote

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It turns out that one of the Grand Old Party’s biggest—and least discussed—challenges going into 2016 is lying in plain sight, written right into the party’s own nickname. The Republican Party voter is old—and getting older, and as the adage goes, there are two certainties in life: Death and taxes. Right now, both are enemies of the GOP and they might want to worry more about the former than the latter.

There’s been much written about how millennials are becoming a reliable voting bloc for Democrats, but there’s been much less attention paid to one of the biggest get-out-the-vote challenges for the Republican Party heading into the next presidential election: Hundreds of thousands of their traditional core supporters won’t be able to turn out to vote at all.

The party’s core is dying off by the day.

Since the average Republican is significantly older than the average Democrat, far more Republicans than Democrats have died since the 2012 elections. To make matters worse, the GOP is attracting fewer first-time voters. Unless the party is able to make inroads with new voters, or discover a fountain of youth, the GOP’s slow demographic slide will continue election to election. Actuarial tables make that part clear, but just how much of a problem for the GOP is this?…

By combining presidential election exit polls with mortality rates per age group from the U.S. Census Bureau, I calculated that, of the 61 million who voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, about 2.75 million will be dead by the 2016 election. President Barack Obama’s voters, of course, will have died too—about 2.3 million of the 66 million who voted for the president won’t make it to 2016 either. That leaves a big gap in between, a difference of roughly 453,000 in favor of the Democrats…

“I’ve never seen anyone doing any studies on how many dead people can’t vote,” laughs William Frey, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who specializes in demographic studies. “I’ve seen studies on how many dead people do vote. The old Daley Administration in Chicago was very good at that.”

RTFA for details and especially variables critical to both of the two parties if anyone is to take advantage of demographics.

One thing is certain. Dead people don’t vote, at least not as much as they did in Chicago in 1960. Core Republican voters not only oppose change, they fear progress. Core Democrats not only support change broadly, they welcome progress and equal opportunity.

Republicans hope for a narrow discussion of anything but the foolishness that actually guides their decision-making.

Thanks to my favorite recovering Republican

Uninsured rate for Americans below 12%


Connecticut opened the first health insurance storefront in the nation

The uninsured rate among U.S. adults declined to 11.9% for the first quarter of 2015 — down one percentage point from the previous quarter and 5.2 points since the end of 2013, just before the Affordable Care Act went into effect. The uninsured rate is the lowest since Gallup and Healthways began tracking it in 2008.

…The uninsured rate has dropped sharply since the most significant change to the U.S. healthcare system in the Affordable Care Act — the provision requiring most Americans to carry health insurance — took effect at the beginning of 2014. An improving economy and a falling unemployment rate may also have accelerated the steep drop in the percentage of uninsured over the past year. However, the uninsured rate is significantly lower than it was in early 2008, before the depths of the economic recession, suggesting that the recent decline is due to more than just an improving economy.

While the uninsured rate has declined across all key demographic groups since the healthcare law fully took effect in January 2014, it has dropped most among lower-income Americans and Hispanics — the groups most likely to lack insurance. The uninsured rate among Americans earning less than $36,000 in annual household income dropped 8.7 points since the end of 2013, while the rate among Hispanics fell 8.3 points. The significant drop in uninsured Hispanics is a key accomplishment for the Obama administration, which led targeted efforts to insure this group as they had the highest uninsured population of all key subgroups. However, despite the gains in insurance coverage among Hispanics and lower-income Americans, these groups still have higher uninsured rates than other key subgroups.

Americans aged 26 to 34 have also seen gains in coverage since the healthcare law went into effect — the uninsured rate among this group is down 7.4 points since the end of 2013, the largest drop among any age group. Blacks have also seen a substantial drop in their uninsured rate since the fourth quarter of 2013 — 7.3 points.

RTFA for lots of stats, predictably conservative analysis.

The most important thing we will all be forced to recognize about this successful start-up is that Republicans hate it. Today’s conservatives, their bigot allies, economics failures whose knowledge made it only a half century beyond Henry Clay – will dissect every step of growth in coverage, savings for working people and the working poor, Americans in general – to try to find the socialist plot behind the whole endeavor. Socialist ethics really frustrates folks who consider protecting greed the 11th Commandment.

I’ll tell you the socialist plot, right now. Folks who care – want a true single-payer system with the right to negotiate fixed prices on procedures and meds. Just like the the freaking military. Just like every other sensible, frugal, industrial democracy. It works and has been working for over a half-century in some cases.

I realize that’s still too modern for some folks; but, try an honest debate grounded in real numbers and real needs sometime. Walk away from the sleaze and deceit today’s Republicans have to rely upon to justify their existence on this planet – and their opposition to true socialized healthcare.

Arsenic levels in rice and rice products aren’t a health risk

The Food and Drug Administration announced Friday that it had found no evidence that current levels of arsenic in rice pose an immediate health risk.

The finding comes two months after the agency proposed new limits on arsenic in apple juice. A public outcry had caused the agency to look at the issue more closely.

The agency tested more than 1,300 types of rice and rice products, like rice cakes and infant cereals, and found that arsenic levels ranged from 3 to 7 micrograms per serving, amounts that the agency said were not hazardous to human health in the short term.

Most rice contains much higher levels of arsenic than apple juice does, said Keeve Nachman, a scientist who studies arsenic in food at the Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins University, but because there is such a wide variety of products made with it, and because it is present at such different levels, the analysis for rice is more complicated.

Arsenic is a carcinogen when consumed in large enough quantities. It occurs naturally in the environment, but it can also be an effect of industrial contamination.

Arsenic in the food supply was brought to the public’s attention in 2011 by the physician and television personality Mehmet Oz, who charged that levels in apple juice were too high.

In July, the F.D.A. proposed a new limit for acceptable levels in apple juice, though it said it had conducted a broad study with many samples and had found apple juice to be safe…

A microgram is one-millionth of a gram, and a F.D.A. spokeswoman said the levels they found in the rice and rice product samples were too low to cause harm in the short term, citing a toxicological profile for arsenic published by the federal government…

It will also examine whether there are variations in health effects for certain demographic groups. For example, children, who are undergoing rapid neurological development, could be hurt more by high levels of arsenic.

Appropriate scientific responses. One to be expected from inherently conservative scientists.

Not that this will diminish wild-eyed conclusions from the class of individuals who should be wearing tinfoil hats full-time.