Tag Archives: google

What do Jews Google on Christmas?

I don’t know. But I do know what Google searches are geographically correlated with searches for “Hanukkah,” and it includes “Chinese food.”

Here are the maps:


The map looks close to the Jewish population map from the 2010 U.S. Religion Census (a private outfit).


Here are the top-100 most Hanukkah-like searches, in the obvious categories: Religious/cultural, Howard Stern, Food, Travel and People.


Merry Christmas.



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Signs of the times, mass shooting edition

Couple ngram associations. See them here.


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Obama Top Chef Romney Founding Fathers


If you don’t collect data on individual web users, and don’t have a big-data budget, you can still learn a lot about how people voted in this presidential election from some creative probing of the Google Correlate database. The power of the tool is in uploading your own data (such as vote tallies) to see what searches mirror your target pattern.

For example, the map on the left is what I uploaded: the ratio of Obama votes to Romney votes in each state, as of Thursday morning. The map on the right, from Google, is the relative frequency of searches for “top chef.” The two patterns have a correlation of .88 on a scale of 0 to 1.

cohen_topchef.pngMaybe it’s a complete coincidence that Michelle Obama appeared on a Top Chef program earlier this year. But out of the 100 Google searches that most closely match that vote pattern, eight are aboutTop Chef. Others on the list include “spliff” (never heard of it), “mos def” and various reggae artists, as well as “itchiness.”

On the other hand, searches for “founding fathers quotes” follow the Romney/Obama ratio just as closely:

cohen_foundingfathers.pngMost of the searches on the top-100 Romney-state list (all correlated about the same .84) are about simple, non-obscene pleasures, such as “clean jokes,” “clean funny jokes,” “funny commercials”; and home-schooling materials, like “flag clipart,” “in god we still trust,” and “printable scrapbook.” After the kids are in bed, though, someone is Googling “hot cheerleader,” before quickly toggling back over to “sean hannity” when he hears mom coming up the stairs.


Filed under Politics

Have Obama haters lost traction?

Maybe it’s because Donald Trump isn’t really a true hero to anti-socialist, anti-Muslim, racist Americans.

For whatever reason, there has been a real slump in the number of people typing “obama gun” (will he take our guns away?), “obama muslim” (the idea used to run at about 20%), “obama socialist” (the republic “hangs in the balance“), and “obama citizen” (thank you, Snopes) into the Google search box since the 2008 election.

Here’s the Google trend (and the search link):

We don’t know how much these fears, versus other concerns, will affect votes against him this year, although there have been some good efforts to track the effects of anti-Black racism on his vote tally.

Naturally, not everyone who Googles these things believes the underlying stories or myths. But it seems likely they either believe them, are considering them, heard someone repeat them, or are arguing with someone who believes them, etc. So I’m guessing – just guessing – that these trends track those beliefs.

But maybe four years of Obama as an actual president has softened up the hard-line hatred in some quarters. What do you think?


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Word signs of the times

A quick look at some of the trends that help shape (some of) our lives, via Google Ngrams.

As a proportion of references to “theory” and “academic,” uses that begin with “just” are on the rise:

After a lot of talk about “good parenting” in the 1970s, references to “bad parenting” as a share of all references to parenting are gaining rapidly.

As “capital” is increasingly modified, “human capital” took an early lead, but lost it to “social capital,” while “cultural capital” established itself as a third-party niche.

After a tipping point (up) in “tipping point” use in the late 1990s (Gladwell’s New Yorker article was in 1996), will there be a tipping point (down) to end the epidemic?

Finally, to capitalize on all the brouhaha over political forecasting, I offer my own prediction of the rank ordering in this year’s election: Democrat, Republican, Green, Libertarian.

If I am wrong, who cares? I only spent 5 minutes on the forecast — that’s the least of our problems. If I am right, I’ll accept offers for next time.

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Filed under In the news, Politics

Gun Google searches and suicide

A quick addition to the post the other day about gun searches and their association with Mitt Romney, accidental deaths of young people, and divorce rates: suicide.

The Centers for Disease Control has a tool for mapping fatal injuries. It allows mapping down to the county level, with nice options. Here’s their national map for suicide rates:

If you take the list of state suicide rates over to Google Correlate, the answer is, mostly: Guns. I entered the male and female suicide rates separately, and the total rates combined, and guns searches dominate. That is, the searches that are most common where there are more suicides (age adjusted), and least common where there are fewer suicides, are almost all about guns. Again, I’m not expert on the types of guns and paraphernalia, but this is not (just) about hunting: it includes assault weapons, ak-47s, “armor piercing,” “tactical sling,” etc. The correlations between suicide rates and search frequencies across states are high: between .82 and.90. (The full list is below).

I used age-adjusted rates for all ages and race/ethnic groups from the years 2000-2006.

Off the gun subject, there were some interesting other patterns. Both men’s and women’s suicide rates (which are highly correlated, about .90 across states) were strongly associated with searches for the artist Luis Royo, a Spanish artist who specializes in dark, violent and apocalyptic art. Here’s his homepage:

For women’s suicide rates, there was also a strong correlation with searches for “divorce help” and “divorce paperwork.” That’s interesting because suicide is more common among divorced people:

Further, both men’s and women’s suicide rates were correlated with searches for “war footage.” That’s interesting because of the high rate of suicide among soldiers and veterans:

Given how similar the male and female suicide pattnern is, the difference between searches on the male list and those on the female list is interesting, and reveals how sensitive the Google search data are, with millions of searches to sift through. Anyway, maybe someday search patterns can help with identifying risks or contribute to suicide prevention. (Here are my past posts on suicide.)

Here are the complete lists of search terms correlated with suicide rates for men and women across states, in no particular order (all the correlations are similar), condensed a little with the use of asterisks for repeated terms and plurals:


Filed under Me @ work

Guns dividing America (Google edition)

Whenever I get a good indicator broken down by state, I head over to Google Correlate to see how it connects to America’s search behavior. Often what I find is a gun connection. This is very big in searches related to the election, so I’ll start with that before giving a couple other examples.

Odds of Romney winning

Taking yesterday’s New York Times 538 forecast chance of Mitt Romney winning each state, I entered the numbers into the search correlation machine. As you can see from the map on the left, these are very polarized numbers, with 42 of the states being above 90% or below 10%. Of the 100 Google searches whose relative frequency is most correlated with this pattern across states, 31 are about guns. Here is the search most correlated (.82) with Romney’s odds of winning: “marlin 30-30,” which is a classic rifle (available at Walmart):

Unintentional deaths

News the other day was about the lives lost to unintentional injuries for people under age 20 — the most common causes of death in that age range. About half of this is from motor vehicle accidents, with most of the rest distributed between drowning, suffocating, fires, falls, and poisoning. The CDC put out a report that included a state breakdown, reported in terms of “years of potential life lost” per 100,000 population. That is just the number of deaths times the number of years between the age at which the death occurred and age 75 (so a death at age 1 is 74 years lost, a death at age 19 is 56).

The big inequalities here are in gender and geography. Males are about 1.8-times more likely to die from this stuff. And the most dangerous state (Mississippi) has more than 4-times the losses of the safest (Massachusetts). There are race differences as well — with American Indians having high rates — but the Black/White difference is not that large (Latino ethnicity wasn’t identified).

How are these rates of lost life correlated with search behavior? Guns. Among the 100 searches that most closely follow the pattern of deaths, 62 were about guns, starting with number 1: “shotgun for sale,” with a correlation of .93.

There were also 14 searches about cars and trucks on the list (mostly Ford F150s and Chevy trucks), four about wedding dresses and rings (“discount wedding dresses”) and three about Fox News.


I did this twice with divorce rates. Using the 2008-2009 divorce rates per 1,000 married women, I found a good gun correlation with gun searches, with “colt .45 automatic” scoring a .86:

There were 27 more gun-related searches on that 08-09 divorce-correlation list. I updated that for the new 2011 rates, and again came up with a list of gun-related searches (and other military or survivalist stuff). Here is the Norinco SKS and 2011 divorce rates, correlation .84:

Someone who knows more than me could probably read more into the searches for different kinds of guns and gun-related stuff — for example, the difference between sniper accessories, shotguns and handguns. These different gun results show variations in their geographic patterns.

Anyway, I can’t think of what else besides search data tells us so much about so many people’s behavior — not their stated interests, their reported behavior, their tax forms, or their consumption patterns. And yet I can’t really put my finger on what it does tell us. It’s a million miles wide and not that deep, but it’s endlessly fascinating. If someone can figure out how to explain the value of what this all shows, I’m all ears.


Filed under In the news

Which comes first, getting divorced or Googling “vasectomy reversal”?

Quick follow up to the last post on the new 2011 divorce data.

I just noticed that the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey release included a calculation of the divorce rate, calculated as the number of divorces in the last 12 months per 1,000 people age 15+, with a table listing them by state (Factfinder tables GCT1253 and GCT1254).

They did it for men and women, and the rates are a little different, so I averaged them. Then, the first step in the research process is to run the state rates through Google Correlate

Of the top 100 searches most correlated with divorce rates — that is, searches that are most common where there are more divorces, and least common where there are few divorces — about 99 of them are about guns, military paraphernalia, survivalist stuff, etc.

And then, right between “radio software” and “shotgun pistol” there is “vasectomy reversal.” I am not making this up:

That’s the divorce rate on the left, and the “vasectomy reversal” searches on the right. It’s a correlation of .79 — pretty good.

Here are the other things on the list, all correlated with the divorce rate at between .77 and .84.


Filed under In the news, Me @ work

Where did we go wrong, or did we? (love and sex edition)

For ever – or at least for 70 years – make love was many times more common than have sex, at least in the Google Ngrams database of millions of books in American English. And, then — well, you can guess what happened then:

The results are the same with “making” and “having” (you can play with the search here).

Why? What happened? Could it be “the culture”? Zooming in on the period since 1950, preliminary evidence is mixed:

I’m open to hypotheses.




Filed under Me @ work

Strat theorists, ngram waves

As followup to today’s stratification syllabus, here’s how our leading theorists (at least the ones in my class) have fared in American English book references since the 1860s.

Two things. First is the waves. Marx, Weber and Parsons have their peaks in the early 1970s; Durkheim and MacKinnon peaked in the 1990s; Bourdieu may not have peaked yet as of 2008 (why doesn’t Google update this thing?).

Second is something about generational ripples, with within-theorist peaks repeating at intervals, such as Weber, Durkheim and (to a lesser degree) Parsons in 1970s and 1990s. The 70s and 90s might just be peaks in sociology publishing.

Anyway, the generational wave theory bodes well for a MacKinnon rebound.

You can play with this here.


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