School vouchers bring more money to Catholic schools — but at a cost,

February 13, 2017

School voucher programs, which use government funds to support students attending private schools, are rising in popularity around the United States. Today, dozens of states offer this type of program to students, and that number is expected to increase. President Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, is a strong advocate for these programs.

These programs raise important questions about church-state issues. In the U.S., private schools are dominated by religious organizations. According to government data, more than 80 percent of all private school students attend religiously affiliated schools. By providing monetary support for enrollment in religious schools, vouchers have the potential to change the funding of religious activities in the U.S., at a time when many churches are already struggling financially.

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Forty years of evidence finds no link between immigration and increased crime

February 10, 2017

Political discussions about immigrants often include the claim that there is a relationship between immigration patterns and increased crime. However, results of a University at Buffalo-led study find no links between the two. In fact, immigration actually appears to be linked to reductions in some types of crimes, according to the findings.

“Our research shows strong and stable evidence that, on average, across U.S. metropolitan areas crime and immigration are not linked,” said Robert Adelman, an associate professor of sociology at UB and the paper’s lead author. “The results show that immigration does not increase assaults and, in fact, robberies, burglaries, larceny, and murder are lower in places where immigration levels are higher.

“The results are very clear.”

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The first humans arrived in North America a lot earlier than believed

January 16, 2017

The timing of the first entry of humans into North America across the Bering Strait has now been set back 10,000 years.

This has been demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt by Ariane Burke, a professor in Universita de Montreal’s Department of Anthropology, and her doctoral student Lauriane Bourgeon, with the contribution of Dr. Thomas Higham, Deputy Director of Oxford University’s Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit.

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Democrat senators vote for public health policies 4 times more often than GOP

January 10, 2017

Democrat senators are roughly four times as likely to use their vote to positively affect public health policies than their Republican colleagues, according to a Drexel University study that confirms political polarization around the issue.

Looking at numbers dating from 1998 through 2013, Jonathan Purtle, DrPH, an assistant professor in Drexel’s Dornsife School of Public Health, found that the average split between support is a whopping 67 percentage points when it comes to legislation endorsed by the American Public Health Association (APHA), a 140-year-old professional organization dedicated to advocating for improved public health in the United States. Democrats voted in line with APHA’s recommendations 88.3 percent of the time, on average, while Republicans’ average was just 21.3 percent.

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U.S. death rate from drugs, alcohol, and mental disorders nearly triples since 1980

December 14, 2016

More than 2,000 US counties witnessed increases of 200% or more in deaths related to substance abuse and mental disorders since 1980, including clusters of counties in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Ohio with alarming surges over 1,000%, according to a new scientific study.

The study examines deaths in 21 cause groups, ranging from chronic illnesses like diabetes and other endocrine diseases, to infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, to accidents, including traffic fatalities. It explores mortality rates and how they have changed in every US county between 1980 and 2014, creating the most comprehensive view to date of how Americans die.

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Liberals and Conservatives Both Driven by Utopian Ideals

December 6, 2016

Despite the ideological differences separating liberals and conservatives, they share similar motivations for their political engagement, according to a new study from a University of Illinois at Chicago social psychologist.

The study, published online by Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, suggests that people on the political left and right are both morally motivated more by promoting their hopes and vision of a preferred future than by their fears of non-preferred policies or to prevent harm.

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Extreme downpours could increase fivefold across parts of the US

December 5, 2016

Credit: Andreas Prein

Credit: Andreas Prein

At century’s end, the number of summertime storms that produce extreme downpours could increase by more than 400 percent across parts of the United States — including sections of the Gulf Coast, Atlantic Coast, and the Southwest — according to a new study by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

The study, published today in the journal Nature Climate Change, also finds that the intensity of individual extreme rainfall events could increase by as much as 70 percent in some areas. That would mean that a storm that drops about 2 inches of rainfall today would be likely to drop nearly 3.5 inches in the future.

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New evidence that inequality is driven by politics, not economics

October 27, 2016

One of the biggest surprises about rising income inequality in the United States may be that economic factors aren’t the biggest cause, a new study suggests.

Sociologists at The Ohio State University found that political factors, along with increases in college-educated adults, provided the best explanations for the rise in income inequality in the United States between 1978 and 2011. Read more

No increase in marijuana use by adolescents after states pass medical marijuana laws

October 19, 2016

Adults over the age of 25 increased their use of marijuana after their home states made changes to medical marijuana laws, according to new research by scientists at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. However, there was no difference in the prevalence of marijuana use reported for 12 to 17 or 18 to 25 year-olds after the laws passed. The findings are published online in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

The study is the first to link state medical marijuana laws with marijuana availability and use among adults. Results were based on 10 years of annual survey data from respondents to the National Survey of Drug Use and Health. Read more

US ranks in top 10 in empathy

October 16, 2016

A first-of-its-kind study that ranks nations by empathy puts the United States at No. 7, behind countries ranging from Peru to Korea to Saudi Arabia.

While a top 10 finish isn’t bad, Michigan State University’s William Chopik, lead author of the study, notes that the psychological states of Americans have been changing in recent decades – leading to a larger focus on the individual and less on others. Read more

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