Tag Archives: google

How big will the drop in weddings be? Big

With data snapshot addendum at the end.

In the short run, people are canceling their weddings that were already booked, or not planning the ones they were going to have this summer or fall. In the long run, we don’t know.

To look at the short run effect, I used Google Trends to extract the level of traffic for five searches over the last five years: wedding dressesbridal shower, wedding licensewedding shower, and wedding invitations (here is the link to one, just change the terms to get the others). These are things you Google when you’re getting married. Google reports search volume for each term weekly, scaled from 0 to 100.

Search traffic for these terms is highly correlated with each other across weeks, between .45 and .76. I used Stata to combine them into an index (alpha = .92), which ranges from 22 to 87 for 261 weeks, from May 2015 to last week.

For the graph, I smoothed the trend with a 5-week average. Here is the trend, with dates for the peaks and troughs (click to enlarge):

wedding plans searches.xlsx

The annual pattern is very strong. Each year people people do a lot of wedding searches for about two months, from mid-January to early-March, before traffic falls for the rest of year, until after Thanksgiving. There is a decline over these five years, but I don’t put too much stock in that because maybe the terms people use are changing over time.

But this year there is a break. After starting out with a normal spike in mid-January, searches lurched downward into February, and then collapsed to their lowest level in five years — at what should have been the height of the wedding Google search season.

Clearly, there will be a decline in weddings this spring and summer, or until we “reopen,” whatever that means. A lot of people just can’t get married. When you think about the timing of marriage, most people getting married in a given year are probably already planning to at least half a year in advance. So even if no one’s relationships are affected, and their long term plans don’t change, we’ll still see a decline in marriages this year just from canceled plans.

Beyond that, however, people probably aren’t meeting and falling in love as much. People who are dating probably aren’t as likely to advance their relationships through what would have been a normal development – dating, love, kids, marriage, and so on. So a lot of existing relationships – even for people who weren’t engaged – probably aren’t moving toward marriage. Even if they get back on track later, that’s a delay of a year or two or however long. This says nothing about people being stressed, miserable, sick (or worse), and otherwise not in any kind of mood.

In the longer term, what does the pandemic mean for confidence in the future? The crisis will undermine people’s ability to make long term decisions and commitments. Unless the cultural or cognitive model of marriage changes, insecurity or instability will mean less marriage in the future. This could be a long term effect even after the acute period passes.

What about a rebound? Eventually – again, whenever that is – there probably will be some rebound. At least, just practically, some people who put off marriage will go ahead and do it later. Although, as with delayed births, some postponed marriages probably will end up being foregone. On a larger scale, when people can get out and get together and get married again, there might well be a marriage bounce (and also even a baby boom). Presumably that would depend on a very positive scenario: a vaccine, an economic resurgence, maybe a big government boost, like after WWII. A surge in optimism about the future, happiness. That’s all possible. This also depends on the cultural model of marriage we have now, so that good times equals more marriage (and childbearing). In real life, any such effect might be small, dwarfed by big declines from chaos, fear, and uncertainty. I can’t predict how these different impulses might play against each other. However, on balance, my out-on-a-limb forecast is a decline in marriage.

kissing sailor

Data snapshot addendum

I didn’t realize there was monthly data available already. For example, in Florida they release monthly marriage counts by county, and they have released the April numbers. These show a 1% increase in marriages year-over-year in January, a 31% increase in February, then a 31% drop in March and a 72% drop in April [Since I first posted this, Florida added 477 more marriages in April, and a few in the earlier months, changing these percentages by a couple points as on June 5. -pnc.] Here is a scatter plot [updated] showing the count of marriages by county in 2019 and 2020. Counties below the diagonal have fewer marriages in 2020 than they did in 2019. Not surprising, but still dramatic to see it happening in “real time” (not really, just in quickly available data).

florida marriages.xlsx

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Googling “Lost in Translation” versus “nativity scenes” across state political identities

Gallup’s tracking poll asks people “whether they describe their political views as liberal, moderate or conservative.” They released state rates for these identities yesterday. It’s useful for people who need current data on political characteristics of states. This is their map:

vbxijunpyuoyr2wdggsc3g

I put the conservative-liberal gap, and the liberal-conservative gap, into Google Correlate, to see what searches are correlated with each index. The results are quite similar to the ones I got in September 2016 when I did this with 538’s predicted Clinton versus Trump margins. (Google doesn’t say exactly what period the searches cover.)

Google gives you the top 100 most-correlated searches with each index you upload. These are the ones correlated with the conservative-liberal difference, with my coding categories:

conlib

Here are the liberal-conservative correlated terms:

libcon

Draw your own conclusions. Fun coding exercise. Remember these aren’t the most common searches in conservative or liberal states, they’re the most correlated, meaning the most common ones in liberal states that are also uncommon in conservatives states, and vice versa.

Google outputs the numbers as z-scores, each search term having a mean of 0 and standard deviation of 1. And once you get them for the two different sets of correlations you can merge them together to see, for example, the negative correlation between searches for Lost in Translation (liberal) and nativity scenes (conservative):

litnat

Or vegetarian food and cook steaks:

vegcook

I did look at the “moderate” rates, and they yielded a bland list with nothing remarkable — things like “men’s volleyball shoes” and “print screen.” Also, Google couldn’t find a lot of search terms highly correlated with the “moderate” prevalence, the top correlation was only .73, versus .90-.92 for the liberals and conservatives. The average state is 36% moderate but the category seems to mean little.

Anyway, I love this stuff. You can see a whole series of these under the Google tag.

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What if you left your kid alone with YouTube

crazyyoutubevideos

Google Image search for “crazy youtube videos”

YouTube is the educator entertainer that never sleeps. One video leads to the next, literally forever. (YouTube does have a kids channel which is supposed to be a safe space for kids.) They have “YouTube Kids,” which was supposed to help reassure parents. But if your kid is at a random computer and just goes to YouTube.com, or clicks on a link and ends up there, they’re off down Recommendation Alley.

In response to fears that YouTube was promoting bad things to children, unintentionally or not, and thinking about a possible sociology class exercise, I decided to do an exercise where I start from a Disney princess video and then select from one of the top-10 recommended videos on each page to try to get to things that are bad for children. (In the possibly-vain hope that my experiment wouldn’t be contaminated by my own use history, I used an incognito window without logging in to Google.) My goal was Nazi propaganda, and my strategy was to aim for adult stuff, then look out for disturbing, racist, or violent content. As children do.

I gave up after 113 videos, without getting to Nazi stuff. I would love to know — as YouTube surely does — how children really use YouTube when no one’s looking. I know from limited experience they click around a lot — covering a lot of videos in a short time — and they don’t vet their “content” carefully. So this seems like a plausible browsing session. Anyway, still thinking about how to do something like this, and thought I’d share my notes here:

How fast can I get to Nazi stuff from “Disney kids” using videos from the first 10 recommended? (Spoiler, I couldn’t, but still.)

After searching for “Disney kids,” I chose this innocent Disney Princess video, and starting clicking on recommendations.

  1. Kids Makeup Disney Princesses Pretend Play with Cleaning Toys & Real Princess Dresses https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yl-dYcHTAYg
  2. Emily Became a Princess-Real Princess Dresses https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euGnK3OGU_A
  3. PRINCESS SCHOOL TEST 🎓 Lilliana Helps Isabella To Cheat! – Princesses In Real Life | Kiddyzuzaa https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dD-bDjWwtjA
  4. Kaycee and Rachel in Wonderland # 26 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhuGyvxZb3Y
  5. 24 Hours in Box Fort Jail Challenge! 24 Hour Challenge with No LOL Dolls https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=noJv8tV0FF8

By #6 I’ve gotten as far as icky

  1. Father & Son PLAY DON’T STEP IN IT! / Avoid The Poo! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CoNBU6alsjA
  2. Escaping Hello Neighbors Maximum Security Box Fort Prison / Jake and Ty https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BPdjI697GU
  3. 9 Weird Ways To Sneak Food Into Class / Summer Pranks! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99n2OLtIUwY

A reference to a shooter video by #9. This leads into family conflict…

  1. FORTNITE DANCE CHALLENGE !! In Real Life With Ckn Toys https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k96FHPngnwU
  2. FORTNITE Dance Challenge! IN REAL LIFE | NINJA KIDZ TV https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBR0onumDq4
  3. Sister VS Brother Battle! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8AERX2Rolw
  4. Katherine is a Barbie! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pK7idnorApQ
  5. How To Remove White Marks From Your Baby Alive! Commercial Style https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOOWYej1KNc
  6. Lalaloopsy school adventure episode 1: bullying! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvJIODxOTeo
  7. Sketch Smell Challenge https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bjj8O8rhedU
  8. NEVER HAVE I EVER!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ix5_v8uLiuk
  9. Older Siblings vs Younger Siblings!! Sisters Trinity and Madison https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqX3nnL2fOE
  10. EXPECTATIONS vs REALITY of Having a Sibling https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U88fcNfrKXQ
  11. EXPECTATION vs REALITY OF BEING A PARENT!!!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SIXQjkf4Y4
  12. Amelia and Avelina beach vacation adventure https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m80SpeAncyI
  13. HOTEL HOUSEKEEPER CHASED BY COPS AT RESORT!!! POLICE UNDERCOVER https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44bft2AfUWU
  14. A CREEPY STALKER FAN STALKS ME OUTSIDE MY OWN HOUSE *HE HAD MY PHONE NUMBER* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrNLHlL2OEE
  15. Is Nicole a Zombie, Forever? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDouUbA4oME
  16. The Girl Who Collects Cockroaches | My Kid’s Obsession https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9W7J7iW39E
  17. QUEEN BABY: Bath Time https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arSknXl8sko
  18. Power Tool Wins and Fails https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2bAlONGEPw

First real violence by #27. Not that bad, just a skateboard injury, which introduces the people-behaving-badly-in-real-life genre

  1. Skateboarder Crashes into Kid https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ec4LNeV4CTQ
  2. Lady Yells at Kid on Alpine Slide in Winter Park CO (Fight) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7c82c7ay5s
  3. ex-wife acting out in front of kids https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=toz-JgqhI94
  4. Baby Mama manipulating again (Arizona) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcwFYTN_w7o
  5. CPS NOT WANTING TO GO ON CAMERA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=juahHP_xYDc
  6. CPS murdered my family https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpIihXia0Yo
  7. CPS Supervisor Calls Parents “White Trash”!!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnPmQgekBog
  8. Crazy lady at skate park https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zRmrIG3ehk
  9. Crazy lady yells at kids for standing on table https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJkXQvuTG1A
  10. Lady yells at kids https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C141zVXqrY0
  11. Super mad bus driver and kid trys to escape https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0hhaCVP1Uc
  12. BUS DRIVER REFUSES TO LET CHILDREN ON BUS!!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDJOmzwBQv4
  13. Bus Driver Kicks Girl Out of Bus.Miles Away from Home https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xvj4Kg6Ll9I
  14. Mean bus driver https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSrMgZe5UC0
  15. Creepy little girl brings me to bathroom stall and locks the door https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjyb1IMeEpA
  16. My humps remix (Barbie and crazy) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZX150oaD2H0
  17. Two girls fighting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNpq1GnCaCc
  18. Two boys and two girls fighting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0czg5hVzld0
  19. This wat happen when a 2nd and 4th grader fight https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8vn7wEQ_Lk
  20. 3rd Grade fight in school https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDAcnde8P3s
  21. Bullying 3rd Grade https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6uOT-A3ZaE
  22. WORLD’S MEANEST LITTLE GIRL – IDIOTS ALWAYS ASK #12 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V22Xw0y7LsY
  23. Little kids fight https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h50amm_gXCY
  24. 8 vs 10 year old fighting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amovxJrgZx4
  25. 8 year old vs 13 year old fighting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNLqypr2Xuc

Trying to get out of the kids-fighting loop, I chose this one, which led to stuff for parents…

  1. Kid Pukes at Dentist after Getting Mold Removed https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tT6pw58CWKU
  2. 10 year old Isabella shouldn’t know The ‘C’ Word #LyttleFight https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CcIVTZxnTkU
  3. Slap Her https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6CDvSDkeAM
  4. Doll test – The effects of racism on children (ENG) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QRZPw-9sJtQ
  5. Disturbingly Racist Moments in Cartoons https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cftUIdSr_T8
  6. Top 10 Insanely Racist Moments In Disney Movies That You Totally Forgot About https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKWGQyz-oLw
  7. 10 Dark Theories About Dead Disney Characters https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbfpJ7gZl44
  8. Sausage Party: 10 Important Details You Totally Missed https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bSiQkslhg7A
  9. 15 Moms You Won’t Believe Actually Exist https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0OlmYhaGkGI
  10. Most Inappropriate Children Coloring Book Drawings! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UD81kn5L7O0
  11. Bunk’d Stars ★ Before And After https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jhm01EsBEkU

Somehow this led to freaky or scary images and general danger…

  1. 10 STRONG KIDS That Can Lift More Than You https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZoG5_LWChVQ
  2. World’s Strongest Kids Girl https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EV39CR7v7gA
  3. Remember This Viral Photo Of A Nigerian ‘Witch’ You Should See Him Now https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7zN75E7rOg
  4. 10 SHOCKING Incidents When Kids Left Alone With Pets https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B56hVR8QhoE
  5. 10 Times TOYS Got Kids In TROUBLE With Police Officers https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-XH7ylO5ls
  6. ILLEGAL and BANNED Fidget Spinners https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLG4sL_MF5Q
  7. WORLD’S MOST DANGEROUS FIDGET SPINNERS!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZiRxVFdDsw
  8. NAUGHTY BABY DOES SECRET TOY RITUAL AND SUMMONS GHOSTS FROM CARTOON!! || Baby Hands Gameplay Part 15 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rb0wgPFYAIQ
  9. Creepy texts from babysitter.. | TEXT STORY REACTION https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRFccgkGQ9w

No idea why this Trump parody was here but I thought it might lead to more political content. Instead it took me into a video game loop, which I only got out of by going back to bad parenting…

  1. SAVE TRUMP! \ Mr. President https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ClhcQYRqig
  2. Realistic Minecraft – Highschool Girlfriend ❤ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kR98shYOpYo
  3. You Can’t Say No To Ella! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F66gmHWTks8
  4. CAN PARENTS GUESS WHAT THEIR KID DOES WITH 100 DOLLARS? Ep. # 2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVjHOyKQn3M
  5. What would your kid do if they found a gun? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VkcfQTavqyk
  6. Kids found home alone https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cM7a_BppUIE
  7. 19 kids found alone in filthy, hot Kentucky home https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_i-7BbEr9YI
  8. Baby Buried Alive https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_1ykYYRcyI
  9. Newborn baby found abandoned near Tampa intersection https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDwkUG0qQNI
  10. angry lady yells at kid for no reason… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNv-ToebU8U
  11. Man slaps crying baby in it’s mothers arms on Delta airline flight, calls it n-word https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrhZuG3zAGM
  12. Boy Passes After Putting Blue Stain In Carpet. 14 Years Later Mom Floored By Real Meaning https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTCaZzsQPMg

Then we’re back to freak shows, and from there to child brides, poverty, and then – fake poverty…

  1. she was born with an elephant’s trunk, this is what they did to her… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WflgtnSvtMs
  2. Worst Bug Invasions Ever https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Wl7aF4qUyI
  3. Mom Thinks She’s Having Twins, But Drs Quickly Learn She’s Making History With Rare Delivery https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfVdG6crFAg
  4. Child Marriage in Ethiopia’s Amhara Region HD https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYk37j9g300
  5. Mamoni’s Story: The Child Bride https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCxcfEOEMoI
  6. The Ugly Face of Beauty: Is Child Labour the Foundation for your Makeup? (RT Documentary) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOpZkstB5jc
  7. The Poorest of the Poor – On the Edge of Europe https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEZSjtpHo44
  8. Fake Homeless People CAUGHT On Camera And EXPOSED! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KbYRqSeqJIg

Fake stuff leads to the “what would you do” genre…

  1. White Woman Introduces Asian Fiance To Disapproving Parents | What Would You Do? | WWYD https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kom9wMpLIzE
  2. Christian Discrimination for Praying in Public | What Would You Do? | WWYD https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4SkVFrQFW4
  3. Foster Care Cruelty | What Would You Do? | WWYD | ABC News https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bvn91N92VCw

And from there back to suffering children.

  1. Foster Care Support – They Come In The Night – With Nothing! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7hICHJOiAI
  2. Annie’s Story (Neglect) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lB2iujfv5A
  3. Russian Orphans – Master Thesis Documentary https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adPF39ozmMs
  4. Inside AK Orphanage https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSy6vc7Jijo
  5. Nigeria Beggar Abandons 3 Babies on Street https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyeE1K6yziU
  6. Hungry Kids In Africa https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_Zt_J0UEb4
  7. child survival in Africa | survive a tout prix https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrDuVwCSF94
  8. AIDS Orphans in South Africa https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0oSR9SM0Se0

Don’t know why sassy girl was here, but it got me away from sad orphan stories and back to bad parenting…

  1. Sassy little girl blocks the slide at the zoo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQ8VPezlOg0
  2. MOST SPOILT BRAT KIDS https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BqTmuuzXek
  3. Most Spoiled Kids Compilation 6 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bexSD2uD3Ms
  4. Kids Who Are Crying For The Most Ridiculous Reasons https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzrqyB62IVA
  5. What Would You Do: Mother Uses Harsh Punishments on Son | What Would You Do? | WWYD https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RpiSeuSU8EE

Bad parenting is related to sappy family stories, like soldier homecomings, which led to family separations…

  1. Soldiers Coming Home || Emotional Compilation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oT8j2Vm8PaY
  2. Military Homecoming – Meeting Baby Elijah https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oIOkrjMrW_I
  3. Babies Behind Bars – Part 2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWaZ34Vmaf4
  4. Mom Puts Baby Girl To Bed. Hours Later Hears Screaming & Realizes Hidden Danger In Her Room https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dvg1nSpmdIE

Which led to bad parenting again…

  1. Police officer finds pregnant mom and toddler asleep on sidewalk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cHzrUBtnZg

And finally back to Disney Princesses. Phew!

  1. Moms Dress Like Disney Princesses For Maternity Photos https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cW15sbLH-Ts

 

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Racist, sexist, and anti-Semitic jokes in Trump land

This post contains racist language.

Updated: See comment note and data caution at the end.

This is purely observational, not causal. People Google for racist, sexist, and anti-Semitic jokes more in states that are more favorable toward Trump in the presidential election.

The point of the exercise, as suggested by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz in a 2012 paper published here and discuss here, was to look for population traits that might skew votes in ways the polls did not predict. If people were racist, maybe they would not admit they opposed Obama, but they would still Google “nigger jokes” in their spare time. We don’t yet know whether the polls will accurately capture the vote outcome this year, but I’m interested in the underlying patterns anyway.

I use state data from Google Trends, which coughed up relative search frequencies for the past fives years by state. Each search term is scaled from 100 in the state with the highest search frequency of the term to zero for the lowest (except they don’t go down to zero). For example, West Virginia scores 100 on searches for “nigger jokes” and Oregon scores 17 (the lowest score). Trends does not report the actual number of searches, and some small states are not reported for some jokes, presumably because the data are too sparse.

So here I compare search frequencies for three offensive kinds of jokes, “blonde jokes” (N=48), “nigger jokes” (N=38), and “holocaust jokes” (N=29), with controls for two kinds of innocuous jokes “puns” (favored by Clinton supporting-states) and “knock knock jokes” (favored in Trump states). This might capture the general tendency to Google for jokes. I compared these relative search frequencies to the state polling summary from FiveThirtyEight, which has the Clinton lead from +32.8 in Hawaii to -30.4 in Wyoming (DC is not included here).

The bivariate correlations with the Clinton lead are -.67 for “blonde jokes,” -.61 for “nigger jokes,” and -.48 for “holocaust jokes.” Here are the scatters (click to enlarge):

Again, nothing causal claimed here. Just accounting for other joke telling (which is interesting in itself, here are the multivariate results:

jokes-clinton-ols

Blonde provides the best fit but they all are still pretty good with the innocuous jokes controlled.

Incidentally, “puns” has no bivariate correlation with Clinton lead, but with “knock knock” controlled it’s very strong. Go figure!

OK, there you have it. Deplorable joke behavior is strongly correlated with Trump support. Nothing causal claimed here.


I put the data and Stata code, including code for the figures, on the Open Science Framework here.

For other relevant posts follow the Google tag and the Trump tag.


Update

Thanks to the efforts of University of Wisconsin graduate student Nathan Seltzer (see the comment below), it’s come to my attention that the “past five years”data is unstable. Looking just at the “holocaust jokes” data, s/he found non-trivial noise comparing the downloads just a few hours apart. To check this, I just went and repeated the search: “holocaust jokes” for “past five years,” and this is that I got:

holocaust-change-table

Yuck. Thanks for the free data, Google! I’m thankful for Nathan pointing this out. Good lesson in the benefits of sharing data so we can find problems like this — and the trouble with counting on non-open, private data providers like Google. When they’re good, they’re good, but they’re non-transparent and unaccountable when they’re not. It would be great if Google figured out what’s going on and fixed their public access tool. If anyone else can explain this I would be interested to hear.

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Vasectomy reversal, divorce, and American optimism

That would be a good title for a longer essay (feel free to use it).

“Studies suggest that up to 6% of such men will request vasectomy reversal,” wrote the authors of a chapter in Clinical Care Pathways in Andrology. “Divorce with remarriage is by far the most common reason for vasectomy reversal.”

So, when in the divorce process do people start Googling “vasectomy reversal”? Is it men with younger girlfriends, considering leaving their wives? Women considering marrying a divorced man? Divorced couples considering another round of kids?

I don’t know, but Google does, or they could if they looked into it. I’ve only gotten as far as the strong relationship between searches for “vasectomy reversal” and state divorce rates:

vasectomy-divorce

I like to think of it as the optimism rooted in the American spirit. We always look forward to the next renewal, the next reboot, rebranding, or escape. Not because I really think it’s true, I just like to think of it that way.

The Google data is from their Trends tool, the divorce data is from the ACS via IPUMS.org.)


(This is a return to an old post, in which I first noticed this relationship, with new data. Now I think divorce per population makes more sense for Google correlations, rather than divorce per married population, which I used before.)

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Polarization written on the body Google

These are polarizing times in America. And what better to understand that then a highly polarized  measure?

I took the forecast margin of victory for each state for Clinton and Trump, as of today, on Five Thirty Eight. The scores range roughly from -28 to +28, and I reverse them to get the positive score for each candidate (I excluded DC). Then I asked Google Correlate what searches were most correlated with each list of state scores. All the searches here are correlated with the candidate margins at .83 or higher.

Here’s the map as of today:

538map

The Clinton list is dominated by vegetarianism and yoga, Top Chef, and the kind of annoying movies that liberals just love (Before Sunset).

The Trump list is racist anti-Obama stuff, patriotism, and, mostly, the kind of guns you don’t use for hunting. Google gives 100 for each list; I deleted those that weren’t easily categorized. (You can see the full lists here and here.) Here are the highlights:

clinton-margin-searches

trump-margin-searches

Really, you people are so predictable.

But what of the Before Sunset-lover working in the Obama Jokes town? The Biggest Gun husband and the Vegetarian Sushi wife with their Ayurvedic Massage therapist next door? Of course, this method will never show the nuances of social life, the moments when people reach out from their silos and grasp, however fleetingly, the hands of those whom the winds of fortune and arbitrary social divisions have attempted to sweep away from them forever. And it won’t show the big, messy middle, the people who do use guns for hunting, eat tofu but aren’t vegetarian, listen to Tom Tom Club and also learn country guitar. I’d be happy to see something about them out there today.

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Teen birth rate low but Bible remains a concern

In 2012 I did a post about teen birth rates, abstinence, and Google searches for Antichrist stuff. The most important point was that abstinence education doesn’t work. In this post I use the percentage of teen (women) having a birth, and see what people are Googling in places with more teen births.

This is an inductive approach that generates ideas and surprises. Out of the billions of things people search for, which searches are most correlated with a demographic or social pattern across states? For example, the relationship between low marriage rates and searches about Kanye West is very strong (even controlling for a bunch of demographics), and state suicide rates are highly correlated with lots of searches about guns. If you think these are random flukes, you may be right — but then look at what searches correlate with racial/ethnic composition of states.

So for teen births, this is easy to get from the American Community Survey via IPUMS (I used the 2010-2014 combined file), which asks of each person if they had a baby in the previous year. Teen birth rate is the percentage of women ages 15-19 who did. Then you surf over to the Google Correlate tool and upload the teen birth rates file. The result is the 100 searches that are most highly correlated with the state file you uploaded. Someone with the keys to Google could get more, but this is what any member of the public can do.

We know that teen births are most common in the Southwest and South, and that broad pattern is really what’s most important: Republican-dominated states, the Bible belt, and places with a lot of poor young people.* Here’s the broad strokes:

db46_fig1

The Google searches is just for thinking about subtler cultural relationships and generating ideas.

Among the top 100 searches most correlated with teen births, American muscle cars stand out: Mustangs (13), Camaros (5), Hummers, Chargers, along with related things like transmissions. Next, however, is Bible stuff. There are 12 searches that correlate with the teen birth rate at .80 or higher on the list:

nephilim
original bible
book of enoch
bible talk
the book of enoch
i believe in god
yeshua
book of enoch pdf
bible names
the truth shall set you free
yhwh
truth shall set you free

Here’s a map showing the ACS teen births rates on the left and searches for “original bible” on the right, correlation .83:

teenbible-map

(A little disturbingly, “what is cinnamon” is also high on the list [correlation .81] — cinnamon is often promoted as a “natural” medicine to cause miscarriage.)

I exported the correlation file from Google and then averaged those 12 searches, producing a bible searches index that correlates with teen births at .87 (all the search correlations come out as z-scores, so the average has mean of 0 and s.d. of .93). Here are the results:**

teen-birth-bible-searchs

I’m no Bible expert, and this could all be a total coincidence, but I think some real research on it might be pretty interesting. Maybe the people who say the Bible is awesome for families and teen births are bad should look into it.***

Followup: Of course, if you only look at the highest correlations out of billions, you find high correlations. So I don’t expect a research award for discovering that. And that fact that these bible searches are from certain niches of Christianity is an interesting tidbit but just as food for thought. The more theory-driven version of this research might start with searches for just the word “bible”and test the hypothesis that it’s correlated with teen births.  That relationship is not as strong (correlation .74), but it’s still plenty to go on:

teen-birth-bible-searchs2

I take from this weaker finding that the stronger pattern above is not just a fluke or an artifact of the method.

  • Follow the Google tag to see the many posts using this stuff.
  • Follow the teen birth tag for more, including the argument that the teen birth rate is a myth, and the racial implications of promoting delayed births.

 


* This survey measure is correlated .89 with the 2008 list of state teen birth rates published by the National Center for Health Statistics. I would have a better sense of which is the right one to use if Google Correlate would say what time period is used for their analysis, but I can’t find that anywhere. When I used the NCHS list instead of my ACS list, it was more dominated by muscle cars and had less Bible stuff, as only “book of enoch” was in the top 100, correlated .87 with teen births.

** Here's the Stata command for making this figure (which I then prettied up a little):
gr twoway (scatter teenbirth biblesearch , mlabel(state) mlabposition(0) msymbol(i)) (lfit teenbirth biblesearch)

*** The 2010-2014 teen birth rates, from the IPUMS release of ACS data are these:

State State Teen birth rate (%)
Alabama AL 2.44
Alaska AK 2.727
Arizona AZ 2.385
Arkansas AR 2.886
California CA 1.901
Colorado CO 1.755
Connecticut CT 0.902
Delaware DE 1.644
District of Columbia DC 2.088
Florida FL 2
Georgia GA 2.578
Hawaii HI 1.991
Idaho ID 2.202
Illinois IL 2.009
Indiana IN 2.69
Iowa IA 1.477
Kansas KS 2.432
Kentucky KY 2.936
Louisiana LA 2.36
Maine ME 0.852
Maryland MD 1.783
Massachusetts MA 0.941
Michigan MI 1.881
Minnesota MN 1.428
Mississippi MS 3.545
Missouri MO 2.756
Montana MT 2.065
Nebraska NE 1.304
Nevada NV 2.449
New Hampshire NH 1.135
New Jersey NJ 1.005
New Mexico NM 3.5
New York NY 1.494
North Carolina NC 2.48
North Dakota ND 2.328
Ohio OH 1.901
Oklahoma OK 3.214
Oregon OR 1.568
Pennsylvania PA 1.928
Rhode Island RI 1.978
South Carolina SC 2.829
South Dakota SD 2.271
Tennessee TN 2.974
Texas TX 3.303
Utah UT 1.666
Vermont VT 1.073
Virginia VA 1.636
Washington WA 1.688
West Virginia WV 2.146
Wisconsin WI 1.305
Wyoming WY 1.6

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Demographic Intelligence, low bar edition

U.S. marriage rates are falling generally, so that’s the real news. And it’s important. In fact, one classic projection has the rate hitting zero at 2042. But the news shenanigans are in the prediction business.

I first wrote here about Demographic Intelligence, a profit-making venture founded by Brad Wilcox (full file). They prey on companies’ ignorance about demography and the news media’s desire to stay ahead of the story, making ridiculous claims like “99% accuracy” in their forecasts. Here’s an update.

In a Washington Post Wonkblog entry meaninglessly titled, “Why parents should stop hoping their kids will get married,” we read:

“Millennials are such a big generation, we’re going to have more people of prime marriage age in the next five years than we’ve had at any time in U.S. history. For that alone, we’d expect an uptick in marriage rates,” said Sam Sturgeon, president of Demographic Intelligence.

Setting aside the knowledge-sucking obsession with generational marketing terms, let’s just hold the president of a company with “demographic” in the title to a slightly-higher-than-complete-nonsense standard of demographic intelligence. The median age at marriage is now 28 (combining men and women). At that age there were 4.3 million people in 2013. That is actually the highest number of people ever at the median age at marriage. For example, in 1900, when the median age at marriage was 24, there were only 1.5 million people that age. Wow!

However, intelligent demographer Sturgeon said “for that alone, we’d expect an uptick in marriage rates.” And marriage rates are based on population size. that 4.3 million people at age 28 in 2013 was only 1.35% of the population, while the 1.5 million people at age 24 in 1900 was 1.96% of the population. In fact, the pattern is the opposite of what Sturgeon said: we have never had fewer people — proportionately — in the prime marrying age. Double wow!

Here is the population distribution by age from 1900 to 2013, from the IPUMS.org online table maker (try it, it’s easy!). The color coding helpfully shows where the number is above average (red) versus below average (blue). I’ve highlighted the five-year age interval that contains the median marriage age for each decade:

Microsoft PowerPoint - uspop-age-dist-marriage-age.pptx

That the marriage rate is falling — Sturgeon’s expert prediction (see below) is that it will reach an all-time low in 2016 (as it has in 16 of the last 33 years) — is in large part driven by this age composition trend.

How accurate is that forecast?

Demographic Intelligence boasts “99% accuracy” in its wedding forecasts. And these forecasts, they say, are very useful:

This unique forecast is especially valuable as the federal marriage statistics are usually released 12 to 24 months after the date to which they apply, making official data of limited usefulness to the wedding industry. Our forecast is available 24 months before weddings happen, thereby offering a tremendous value to companies that focus on weddings and ancillary businesses.

Now, I’m all in favor of wasting the wedding industry’s money, but I don’t like deceiving the public. So I have to tell you: for every year from 2001 to 2012, if you had simply used last year’s marriage rate to predict this year’s, you would have averaged 98.3% accuracy. That is the deer-in-headlights method of forecasting. In fact, the deer-in-the-headlights forecast for 2012 — that is, assuming no change from 2011 — yields an astonishing accuracy of 99.87% (see below). Not bad! I’ll sell that to you for just 98% of what Demographic Intelligence is charging (except you’re already paying for my services, so you’re welcome).

Of course, demographers like projections, and I’m no exception. It is frustrating that official marriage statistics lag “real time” so much more than other important statistics, such as the unemployment rate or the number of named storms per season. That’s why in 2013 I announced a marriage forecast contest to predict the 2012 marriage rate, and provided some trends in key variables for you to experiment with (in a spreadsheet here): Google searches for wedding invitations, bridal showers, and wedding gifts; the unemployment rate, the Index of Consumer Sentiment, and the number of women ages 20-39:

There was so little interest in my contest (go figure), that I never got around to updating the results. So here goes. We now know from official statistics that there were 2,131,000 marriages in 2012, which, for a population of 313,914,040, yields a marriage-per-1000 rate of 6.788, down from 6.797 in 2011. Using different combinations of these variables, I generated projections using linear regressions. As I noted, the no-change performed very well, at 99.87% accuracy. But the winning model was actually the one that used the Google search trends only, which predicted 2,133,647 weddings, an astonishing 99.88% accurate. If Google is not using their data to get filthy rich — oh wait.

Anyway, in this exercise I’m just predicting the next year in the series — it gets a little trickier if you want to go four years out. And demographic projections are a serious science. But this prediction business is just wasting money and confusing people.

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Data snapshot: Married before

Among newlyweds in the United States, 30% have been married before. Here’s the breakdown by state (click to enlarge):

married-before-2012-marriages

 

Here’s a list of states and DC, from highest to lowest percent married before:

married-before-2012-marriages-table

And here is the Google search most highly correlated with this pattern: Kerrelyn Sparks (correlation = .83):

kerrelynsparks

The top 100 correlated searches is shot through with romance and fantasy novels: Lynsay Sands, romance series, Sherrilyn Kenyon, vampire book, fever series, Jeaniene Frost.

Coming soon: Crouching Tiger, Forbidden Vampire (and your next marriage?):

crouching

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The persistence of gender differences, Catholic furor edition

The Pope’s convention of male moral pontificators is convening to discuss family matters. One of the most important questions, as Ross Douthat has described at great length, is how to strike the right balance between laxity and rigorism on the question of divorce, to maximize Church membership by keeping divorced people (and their children) on the rolls while sending the minimum of those members to hell for adultery after they remarry.

catholic-laxity-game

(This is a great project for a sociologist interested in simulations.)

Divorce is a leading issue, but homosexuality looms. In yesterday’s New York Times, Frank Bruni writes about the American Catholic Church leadership’s obsession with homosexuality:

…Catholic officials here have elected to focus on this one issue and on a given group of people: gays and lesbians. Their moralizing is selective, bigoted and very sad. It’s also self-defeating, because it’s souring many American Catholics, a majority of whom approve of same-sex marriage, and because the workers who’ve been exiled were often exemplars of charity, mercy and other virtues as central to Catholicism as any guidelines for sex. But their hearts didn’t matter. It was all about their loins. Will the church ever get away from that?

As Bruni reports, employees at Catholic institutions are still being fired for acknowledging their homosexuality (the starting point, incidentally, of the new movie Love Is Strange, for the couple played by John Lithgow and Alfred Molina).

loveisstrange

Bruni may speak for the majority of American Catholics when he condemns the Church’s witch-hunt. But as the synod approached, a group speaking for the academic right wing of the anti-gay movement within American Christianity beseeched the Holy Father to use the occasion to “express timeless truths about marriage,” which are that cohabitation, divorce, homosexuality, and pornography are wrong.

(Aside: Academics will appreciate the funny requests for money for themselves and their movement in the letter. They want money for “cross-discipline, longitudinal research on the role of pornography and ‘no fault’ divorce in the marriage crisis,” and they want “mandatory courses [for seminarians] covering social science evidence on the benefits of marriage, threats to marriage, and the consequences of divorce and cohabitation to children and society.”)

The letter calls for opening a new front in the war on modern marriage law, using the language of religious freedom to prevent divorce (as they have urged with regard to marriage equality):

Many do not know that religious freedom is routinely violated by divorce judges who ignore or demean the views of a spouse who seeks to save a marriage, keep the children in a religious school, or prevent an abandoning spouse from exposing the children to an unmarried sexual partner.

In other words, they want to argue — in court — that divorced spouses who have new partners are violating the religious freedom of their ex-spouses. (By this logic, I guess, I could argue that them even making this argument violates my religious freedom not to live in a society where someone makes this argument.)

They would like the Pope to:

Support efforts to preserve what is right and just in existing marriage laws, to resist any changes to those laws that would further weaken the institution, and to restore legal provisions that protect marriage as a conjugal union of one man and one woman, entered into with an openness to the gift of children, and lived faithfully and permanently as the foundation of the natural family.

Regnerus himself (follow the Regnerus tag for background) is taking the long view in his new role as movement intellectual. And the logic he uses helps explain Bruni’s puzzle over the Church’s homosexuality obsession. In an interview on a Christian radio station last month, Regnerus said there are a lot of objectionable marriage laws outside the same-sex marriage debate. He went on:

It’s important for us to not sort of just get caught up in the big kahuna around same-sex marriage, and to remember, as we’ve seen with the abortion debate, incremental change, legally, can occur even after all hope seems lost. But there’s also sort of – nobody’s holding us back from creating a marriage culture in, say, the Catholic Church or broader evangelicalism. We hold ourselves back, right? I tend to think the way things are rolling at the moment, it’s not just as if same-sex marriage fell out of the sky, and was on our plate. I mean, it was paved, right? The road to there was paved in part by all sorts of poor laws around opposite-sex marriage, right? And the giving away of what we might call the sort of functional definition of marriage, visions of complementarity, you know? We have bought, hook, line, and sinker, the idea that essentially men and women are interchangeable in our marriages. And it’s hard to get away from that, but I think we’re going to have to. So in some ways we want to fashion a counter-cultural movement regardless of what the states signal.

The way I see the way he sees it, the mission is to protect and restore gender differentiation itself. That agenda, not just old-fashioned patriarchal views, underlies the anti-homosexual obsession, the opposition to marriage equality and single motherhood, and the effort to protect the male religious hierarchy.

Different genders

I object to this agenda personally on moral grounds, naturally. But my scientific opinion is that the concern is misplaced. In some broad ways, of course, gender differences have eroded — for example, as women have gained political rights and access to gainful employment. And on the rare occasions when they choose to, men can even be nurses, teachers, and stay-at-home parents. You might call all that a convergence of gender roles. But gender differentiation is alive and well.

boysactivities

In some respects the gender binary is resurgent after a brief surge of androgyny in popular culture around 1970 (which Jo Paoletti traces in the fascinating forthcoming book, Sex and Unisex). A visit to the Sociological Images Pinterest board on pointlessly gendered products helps reinforce this point — there are even gendered kids’ Bibles:

kidsbibles

Or consider the relative frequency of the phrases “toys for boys” and “toys for girls” in American English as a fraction of references to “toys for children,” from Google ngrams:

toysngrams

In fact, it seems to me that gender difference is proliferating. But it’s not just the binary difference.

One of the benefits of the high visibility of the marriage rights movement has been its exposure of gender variance. Far from a convergence around a single gender, as the traditionalist Christians fear — or the elimination of gender — instead I think we have a growing diversity of gender perspectives and identities. The very narrow interpretation of this is that “men and women are interchangeable.” The reality is that no one is.

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