Tag Archives: guns

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:

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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.

Divorce

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.

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Divorce, handguns, Obama, Top Chef, Tea Party

I’ve done some experimenting with “rapid response demography,” using Google tools to track time trends for marriage and divorce, recession and divorce and unemployment. Beyond time, we also could look at spatial variation, less for trends than for clues to cognitive, cultural, or subtle demographic patterns we weren’t expecting. Since my thinking is exploratory, and this is a blog, I’ll share what I found without attempting to draw conclusions. This uses the Google Correlate tool, a free tool (login required) described in some detail in this whitepaper.

With the new American Community Survey marital event data, for the first time we have recent divorce incidence data for every state (the weak vital records apparatus for divorce in the US is slower, inconsistent, and doesn’t include all states). I combined 2008 and 2009, and calculated the rate of divorce per 1,000 married women.

So, what were people searching Google for in the states with the highest divorce rates? Handguns.

This isn’t just a fluke with Colt 45. Out of the 90 terms most correlated – across states – with the divorce rate, 28 are about guns, and not the hunting kind but things like “kel-tech sub 2000″ and “glock custom.” I don’t see a clear pattern in the rest of the list, though “splenda cake” and “low carb thanksgiving” are intriguing.

Way down the list, though, at #93, with a correlation of only .60, is “tea party.” After #90, Google doesn’t give you a state map, so I made this scatterplot:

The states where people search for “tea party” are also those where the divorce rate is higher. Which made me think of politics, and the simple correlation between divorce and the red-state-blue-state thing. Some writers have reported that red (politically conservative) states have high teen marriage/pregnancy and divorce rates, which is partly because of how much Evangelical Christians get pregnant and married at young ages.* But I haven’t seen a direct comparison with recent data. So here is the divorce rate with the Obama vote in 2008:

The states with higher divorce rates gave smaller shares of the vote to Obama in 2008. But this correlation isn’t so strong, just -.48 on a scale of 0 to 1. What if you put the Obama vote into the blender and ask what Google searches follow the Obama pattern? The answer is overwhelming: Top Chef:

Again, not a fluke. No less than 13 of the top 90 correlated search terms are about Top Chef (“bravo top chef,” “top chef episode,” etc.). Someone who has seen this show might have to give me some hypotheses for why Top Chef states went for Obama.**

Aside: Am I just cherry-picking results according to some preconceived agenda? No and yes. The green graphs are by Google, and they represent the #1 search correlations with the real-world state indicators I uploaded (divorce and Obama votes). The blue scatter plots are things that struck me as interesting, that I chose to pursue. That’s how exploration works: look at the pattern, dig around, repeat.

* Jennifer Glass and Philip Levchak presented a paper at the Population Association of American conference this year which analyzes divorce rates in all U.S. counties as a function of a variety of factors, including religious affiliations. The paper, which does not seem to have been published yet, concludes in part:

The results here show that communities with large concentrations of religious conservatives actually produce higher divorce rates than others. … The major pathway linking religious conservatism and divorce seems to be the tendency of conservative Protestantism to encourage the early cessation of education in favor of marriage and childbearing. [Although, they add, much of the conservative Protestant effect remains unexplained in their models.]

** Two nights ago, a Tweet from @MrBrwnIYZ: “Well ain’t this about a bitch… President Obama decides to do an address to the nation when Top Chef comes on!”

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