Monday, May 15, 2017

Outgunned on Campus

This just occurred to me: I'm gonna be outgunned on the UGA campus.

Georgia's new "campus carry" law makes an exception for faculty offices. That's good. I don't want to tell a student why he/she/it didn't get the grade he/she/it wanted while he/she/it is packing a sidearm. By Georgia law, in my office at least, we're both unarmed and, well ....

Here's the rub ... and why I'm outgunned: I don't drive to campus. I ride with my wife every morning, who works elsewhere on campus, on the far side, and I often take a bus home. So by law, if I get a permit for my .357, I can't bring it to work, or at least to my office. So other than hiding it in a bush outside my building, I'd go to class unarmed while my students can arrive armed.

So I'm already outgunned. I'll be bringing a briefcase to a gun fight.

The answer? Spring for a parking permit, I suppose, though I haven't had one for five or so years, mainly as both of my kids, as students, had parking permits, and I saw no reason to pay for a fourth parking place. Now that both of my kids have graduated I may have to reconsider.


Just hit me. The college needs a gun locker. That's the solution. When I see the dean, I'm sure he'll be open to spending money on that.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Describe Donald Trump

There's a new Quinnipiac poll out with the usual bad news about President Trump, at least in terms of favorability numbers, but let's look at a different question. Scroll down the page to Question 9. It asks:
What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of Donald Trump? (Numbers are not percentages. Figures show the number of times each response was given. This table reports only words that were mentioned at least five times.)
I've limited this to the Top Ten. See my chart below. Idiot gets the most responses, followed by incompetent and liar. Ouch. It's not until #4 do we see a positive, leader. Then comes a list of either negative terms (like ignorant) or factual ones (like president).

This survey was a mix of landline and cell phones of 1,078 voters nationwide. That means out of over a thousand responses, only 39 called the president an idiot. Looking at the list of descriptors that received at least five mentions, most are negative. By my count, 28 of the 46 words are negative (61 percent), while only 12 of them are positive (26 percent). The rest I coded as either neutral or factual, such as president or rich (the latter could have negative connotations, depending on the respondent, but I put it as factual).

I'd love to see the entire list. No doubt there are some colorful responses in there, though asshole got 13 responses.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Campus Carry in Georgia

Georgia's governor has not (at this writing) signed or vetoed the so-called "campus carry" law. He may allow it to become law without his signature, which could happen sometime next week, I believe. Regardless, odds are it's going to become law and go into effect later this summer.

Which raises an important question -- do I get a gun?

By this I mean a campus gun. I own a handgun but it's a .357 magnum and heavy for everyday campus wear, so let's hold it in reserve. In fact, to not be tacky, I need a gun for every day of the week. A Monday gun is different than, say, a Friday gun. A Monday gun is all business. Serious. Angry, even. A Wednesday gun is hopeful but tired. A Friday gun is happy.

What's a happy gun? Small caliber, like a .22. A little funky. What's a Monday gun? Maybe my trusty .357, but I'm thinking that's still too big to lug across campus. A Glock 9 mm sounds good. By Wednesday I need a weapon that reflects hump day. Suggestions welcome, but a snubnose .38 sounds good to me. As to Tuesdays and Thursdays, I'm thinking the same gun for those days, but I have no idea yet what it should be. And I'm talking handguns here.

Seriously, how many students will be packing once this becomes law? I'm guessing on my campus, maybe a hundred, no more than a couple hundred. I can see this become a "thing" among the frat guys, but the cost and paperwork may dissuade most folks from bothering. I certainly hope so.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Income Inequality Revisited

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about income inequality but now I'm digging deeper into 2017 national data to see just how my town, Athens-Clarke, looks. The picture ain't pretty, but it can be explained. Here are the top counties nationally in terms of income inequality.

Greatest Income Inequality
  1. Radford City, Virginia
  2. New York, New York
  3. Clarke County, Alabama
  4. Twiggs County, Georgia
  5. Terrell County, Texas
  6. Watauga County, North Carolina
  7. Oktibbeha County, Mississippi
  8. Rolette County, North Dakota
  9. Suffolk county, Massachusetts
  10. Carroll County, Mississippi
  11. Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana
  12. Orleans Parish, Louisiana
  13. Clarke County, Georgia
I extended the list to #13 for the obvious reason, to make a point and show how lousy Athens-Clarke does in the national rankings. Think about it. We're #13 out of over 3,000 counties

So what is income inequality? By the data here, it's the proportion of the 80th percentile median income to the 20th percentile median income. (80th percentile means you make more than 80 percent of all other residents) So if you have really high and really low salaries in a county, you get a higher inequality statistic. New York has an 8.8, meaning the 80th percentile median salary is nearly nine times greater than the 20th percentile median salary. Athens-Clarke comes in at 7.4. 

Fun fact -- the least inequality in the U.S. can also be found in Georgia (Chattahoochee, at 2.7). Go figure. 

Blame College Kids?

To some degree the Athens-Clarke data may be skewed by college students, some of whom fill out census or other information as living locally and often have little if any significant income. After all, 29.9 percent of Clarke County's population is age 20-29 -- that's double the Georgia and U.S. rate. I looked at Census tract 4.02, which is around campus with 7,761 people, to see if students are indeed skewing the data and 86 percent are listed as below the poverty line. The median age is 19.2. Still think students aren't messing with the data?

More evidence. Look at some other college towns high in the rankings. I plucked a few out for a closer look. Keep in mind we're talking over 3,000 counties nationwide.

  • Lee County, Alabama, home of Auburn University, is ranked 69th nationally
  • Alachua County, Florida, home of the University of Florida, is ranked 74th
  • Orange County, North Carolina, home of UNC, is 131st
  • Boulder County, Colorado, home of University of Colorado, is 412th
  • Richland County, South Carolina, home of University of South Carolina, is 1076th
So in just looking at a few nearby examples, we see several college towns rank higher in income inequality than you might expect (Bama, UF, UNC), but a few are not so very high (Colorado, S.Carolina). 

Poverty ratings can be misleading for college towns, and often it's better to examine the percent of children under the age of 18 living in poverty, which will largely exclude college students. For example, the Census has 36.6 percent living in poverty in Athens-Clarke and a different data set has it at 38.1 percent. If we look at under 18 it's 39.4 percent, somewhat higher. Even more dramatic, 60.6 percent of a single female households with kids are below the poverty level. 

If I had time I'd download the raw census data and compute an age breakdown, but duty calls elsewhere. I'm willing to bet the income inequality numbers are boosted by the presence of college students. To what degree is unclear, and the presence of college students willing to work at low-paying service jobs can suppress the incomes for less educated folks in the county, so in some ways this is a double attack on income equality, or lack thereof.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Food and Obesity

Access to healthy food and obesity are often linked. Basically, the most obese counties tend to be the poorest and where people rely more heavily on fast food. It's cheaper to eat poorly than it is to eat healthy.

So let's look at Georgia and how the 159 counties rank in terms of available food quality and obesity and see if it holds. Look at the table below. In the left column I've ranked the Top 10 worst in terms of "food environment," a measure of access to healthy food. The right column reflect each county's rank in terms of obesity out of all 159 Georgia counties. Discussion below the table.

Ranked Worst in
Food Environment

Rank out of 159
In Obesity Measure


A couple of things jump right out. Clayton County is 10th in lousy access to healthy food and 1st in terms of obesity, and most of the Top Ten food counties are in the upper ranks of obesity, the exception being Clarke County, where I live and home of UGA. I suspect students are affecting the results here, both in lots of fast food and lots of fit people (sigh ... I'm always a year older, they're always 20).

For the statisticians out there, the correlation between lousy food and obesity is .38, which is a moderately strong but not overwhelming relationship. Poverty, of course, is a huge predictor of food environment and the best food environment counties are, no surprise, the least poor. There's a .40 correlation between obesity and income in the data.

With more time and motivation it'd be fun to run a regression and control for lots of factors and see which ones truly pop out as significant.

Monday, April 24, 2017

You Cheaters You

I'm scouting out the data available in an early release of the ANES 2016 surveys and in particular I've looked to see what questions may have a mode effect -- that is, when the survey is done one way versus another, in this case a random national sample of folks who were interviewed face-to-face (F2F) and a random sample that completed the questionnaire online.

Interesting differences do occur. I wrote about some the other day.

Today let's look at how well people answered political knowledge questions, F2F versus online. The four below ask respondents to identify the holders of four offices. I think we have some cheaters here, folks who went and looked up the answers when completing the online questionnaire. My evidence? You be the judge. In the table below I provide the percent correct to the questions using what's called scheme 1 (some folks were randomly assigned to scheme 1, others scheme 2. The results were similar and I didn't want to take the time to combine the groups).

Percent Correct

Speaker of House
German Chancellor
Russian President
U.S. Chief Justice

Clearly the online folks were either much smarter, which is unlikely as people were randomly assigned to either the F2F or online group, or some of them took the time to go look up the answer. Tsk tsk tsk. Cheaters cheaters cheaters. How else can we explain 7.4 percent of the F2F getting a question right and 33.6 percent getting it right in the online group?

Which makes for an interesting methodology question. How do you handle this if you're studying political knowledge? Instead, there might be an interesting study here in who cheats, if only we knew whether they did or not, but with some massaging of the data we might get a clue. Will look harder at this over summer.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Survey Says ...

There's a survey-based story in today's The Red & Black about how students pay for college. Good idea for a story and it includes lots of useful information and interviews, so I'm not nitpicking the story so much as I am the survey itself, which is what I do given I also teach Grady's graduate public opinion class. Here's a key graf:
The Red & Black completed a survey in which 100 UGA students shared their own encounters with payments throughout college and found over half of respondents have their rent and utilities paid for by their parents.
First let's go with the information provided. A sample size of 100 means the margin of error is 10 percent. That means the 49.5 percent who do not consider themselves financially independent could actually be between 39.5 and 59.5 percent, and a 10 percent MOE means some of the results are actually statistical ties. And that assumes it's a random sample, which is the only kind in which you can truly apply a margin of error. We don't get a lot of methodological detail here. How was the survey conducted? When? How were respondents selected? Is this a convenience sample? A SLOP?

In fairness to the audience you should make clear in a sentence or two how the survey was conducted, and if it's non-scientific, say so high in the story so the reader can approach it with healthy skepticism.  If that's in the story and I missed it, please let me know.

Finally, a journalism point. A survey of 100 is really more of a man-on-the-street approach, but on steroids given we often interview at most six people in that sort of thing.