Friday, December 17, 2010

"Culturomics," Google Labs Ngram and "Quantitative Analysis of Culture Using Millions of Digitized Books"

I'd like to close out the year by spreading the word on Google Labs' new tool for searching its digital storehouse of words and phrases and mapping how they appear over time in literature.

You may have seen the original paper published in Science Magazine:

Quantitative Analysis of Culture Using Millions of Digitized Books

We constructed a corpus of digitized texts containing about 4% of all books ever printed. Analysis of this corpus enables us to investigate cultural trends quantitatively. We survey the vast terrain of "culturomics", focusing on linguistic and cultural phenomena that were reflected in the English language between 1800 and 2000. We show how this approach can provide insights about fields as diverse as lexicography, the evolution of grammar, collective memory, the adoption of technology, the pursuit of fame, censorship, and historical epidemiology. "Culturomics" extends the boundaries of rigorous quantitative inquiry to a wide array of new phenomena spanning the social sciences and the humanities.

Or yesterday's article in the New York Times:
In 500 Billion Words, New Window on Culture

"...represents the first time a data set of this magnitude and searching tools are at the disposal of Ph.D.’s, middle school students and anyone else who likes to spend time in front of a small screen. It consists of the 500 billion words contained in books published between 1500 and 2008 in English, French, Spanish, German, Chinese and Russian.

The intended audience is scholarly, but a simple online tool allows anyone with a computer to plug in a string of up to five words and see a graph that charts the phrase’s use over time — a diversion that can quickly become as addictive as the habit-forming game Angry Birds."

I agree that it can be addictive and a huge time suck - I was almost late for work today comparing the popularity of dog vs. cat or Mickey Mouse vs. Abraham Lincoln.

The tool can be accessed via:
The raw data is downloadable, and you can read more about the tool at:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Older women, breast cancer, and social support

One in ten women over the age of 65 will develop breast cancer. Despite this high incidence of breast cancer among older women, social support for them is often inadequate. This paper describes a qualitative study of the impact of a breast cancer diagnosis on older women from racially/ethnically diverse populations and their subsequent need for social support. Forty-seven older African American, Asian American, Caucasian and Latina women between the ages of 65 to 83 participated in a larger study examining the impact of breast cancer on women from racially/ethnically diverse populations and the meaning and nature of social support. The women completed an in-depth qualitative interview on the psychosocial impact of breast cancer and the meaning and nature of social support. The results indicate that there are variations in reactions to a breast cancer diagnosis among older women, and that these reactions impact their experiences with seeking social support at diagnosis and during treatment. Respondents were concerned about their aging bodies, potential dependency on others, and loss of autonomy. At the same time, the severity of cancer treatment and existing co-morbidities often meant they needed to learn to receive support, and to reach out if they had no support. The implications of these findings underscore the older cancer patient’s need to strengthen her supportive networks at the time of diagnosis, during treatment, and post-treatment.

Source: Postprints, UC San Francisco [via eScholarship Repository]

Download full pdf publication
| Link to online record

Census Bureau Reports on Women-Owned Firms

In 2007, women owned 7.8 million businesses and accounted for 28.7 percent of all businesses nationwide, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's Survey of Business Owners. These firms generated $1.2 trillion in receipts, about 3.9 percent of all business receipts nationwide.

Source: Census Bureau

Link to press release and links to downloadable data tables.

Beauty Queens and Battling Knights: Risk Taking and Attractiveness in Chess

We explore the relationship between attractiveness and risk taking in chess. We use a large international panel dataset on chess competitions which includes a control for the players' skill in chess. This data is combined with results from a survey on an online labor market where participants were asked to rate the photos of 626 expert chess players according to attractiveness. Our results suggest that male chess players choose significantly riskier strategies when playing against an attractive female opponent, even though this does not improve their performance. Women's strategies are not affected by the attractiveness of the opponent.

Source: Institute on the study of Labor

Download full pdf publication
| Link to Institute on the Study of Labor

Writing to Read: Evidence for How Writing Can Improve Reading

Writing to Read is a new Carnegie Corporation report published by the Alliance for Excellent Education which finds that while reading and writing are closely connected, writing is an often-overlooked tool for improving reading skills and content learning. Writing to Read: Evidence for How Writing Can Improve Reading identifies three core instructional practices that have been shown to be effective in improving student reading.

Source: Carnegie Corporation [via docuticker]

Download full pdf publication | Link to more Carnegie Publications

The Foundation Years: Preventing Poor Children Becoming Poor Adults.

There are huge class differences in the range of children’s abilities measurable on their first day at school. For many poor children life’s race is by then already effectively over.

The report has two overarching recommendations. To prevent poor children from becoming poor adults the Review proposes establishing a set of Life Chances Indicators that will measure how successful we are as a country in making life’s outcomes more equal for all children.

To drive this policy of raising life chances the Review proposes establishing the first pillar of a new tripartite education system: the Foundation Years, covering the period conception to five. The Foundation Years will then lead into the school years, leading to further, higher and continuing education.

Source: (UK)Commissioned by the Prime Minister, the report is published by the Independent Review on Poverty and Life Chances

Download full pdf publication
| Link to Poverty Review website

Monday, December 13, 2010

After Foreclosure: The Displacement Crisis and the Social and Spatial Reproduction of Inequality

The current foreclosure crisis has led to large-scale displacement of former homeowners and their families. From 2005-2010, this crisis has produced a wave of displacement, which still shows little sign of slowing, and is predicted to continue until 2012. Research shows that those who have been the most heavily impacted by foreclosure are people of color, homeowners with low educational attainment, the elderly, and women homeowners. This paper engages the foreclosure and displacement literatures and discusses five pilot interviews to examine the ways in which households have been impacted, at the level of the individual and the household. While the popular press and academic literature have focused on the impacts of foreclosures on the financial and mortgage industries, the impacts of foreclosure and displacement on families and neighborhoods continue to be profound and are silently undermining stability and producing deep social uncertainty. The literature on displacement due to natural disaster, urban renewal, and gentrification foregrounds the ways the current foreclosure crisis may operate differently from past large-scale displacements, and provides insight into the social and equity implications of the foreclosure crisis. Interviews with individuals who have been foreclosed upon, and church pastors from communities with high rates of foreclosure, show how displacement contributes to uncertainty and hardship for many families. This paper examines the variety of realms affected by foreclosure, from the social to the spatial, and analyzes the ways in which the foreclosure crisis is becoming a displacement crisis that may be reproducing social inequalities.

Source: ISSC Fellows Working Papers, Institute for the Study of Social Change, UC Berkeley [via eScholarship Repository]

Download full pdf publication
| Link to online abstract

An analytical review: 10 years on from the adoption of the UN Trafficking in Persons Protocol

The United Nations and key relevant international organizations launched a first joint publication detailing recommendations for coordinated future action to combat trafficking in persons during the 6 th meeting of the Inter-agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons (ICAT).

The relevant organizations are members of the Inter- Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons (ICAT), established by the United Nations General Assembly

The publication, entitled 'An analytical review: 10 years on from the adoption of the UN Trafficking in Persons Protocol' , is significant as it not only provides an overview of mandates and activities of all ICAT member organizations, but provides gap analysis within the various fields of work related to trafficking in persons undertaken over the last 10 years. The publication additionally, offers recommendations for coordinated future action to combat trafficking in persons.

The report's recommendations address the following (four) key areas: Prevention, Protection, Prosecution and Partnerships.

Source: United Nations

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| Link to online summary and information

The Great Winter Break Workbook

Natalie M. Houston from the University of Houston and ProfHacker Blogger created a free downloadable guide for getting what you want out of your Winter Break.

... for anyone whose schedule and responsibilities will change during the winter break and who wants to be able to honestly say in January “yes, I had a great break!”

Read more on her post

Download "The Great Winter Break Workbook" (pdf - registration required)

Criminal Prohibitions on the Publication of Classified Defense Information

The recent online publication of classified defense documents and diplomatic cables by the organization WikiLeaks and subsequent reporting by the New York Times and other news media have focused attention on whether such publication violates U.S. criminal law. The Attorney General has reportedly stated that the Justice Department and Department of Defense are investigating the circumstances to determine whether any prosecutions will be undertaken in connection with the disclosure. This report identifies some criminal statutes that may apply, but notes that these have been used almost exclusively to prosecute individuals with access to classified information (and a corresponding obligation to protect it) who make it available to foreign agents, or to foreign agents who obtain classified information unlawfully while present in the United States. Leaks of classified information to the press have only rarely been punished as crimes, and we are aware of no case in which a publisher of information obtained through unauthorized disclosure by a government employee has been prosecuted for publishing it. ...

Source: Congressional Research Service

Download full pdf publication | Link to online summary

Deradicalizing Islamist Extremists

Considerable effort has been devoted to understanding the process of violent Islamist radicalization, but far less research has explored the equally important process of deradicalization, or how individuals or groups abandon extremist groups and ideologies. Proactive measures to prevent vulnerable individuals from radicalizing and to rehabilitate those who have already embraced extremism have been implemented, to varying degrees, in several Middle Eastern, Southeast Asian, and European countries. A key question is whether the objective of these programs should be disengagement (a change in behavior) or deradicalization (a change in beliefs) of militants. Furthermore, a unique challenge posed by militant Islamist groups is that their ideology is rooted in a major world religion. An examination of deradicalization and counter-radicalization programs in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Europe assessed the strengths and weaknesses of each program, finding that the best-designed programs leverage local cultural patterns to achieve their objectives. Such programs cannot simply be transplanted from one country to another. They need to develop organically in a specific country and culture.

Source: RAND Corporation

Download full pdf publication | Link to RAND Corp. Record

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Least Developed Countries Report 2010

From the Description:
The global financial and economic crisis highlight the urgent need to move beyond business as usual and, through concerted international action, foster more stable and inclusive global development. The crisis has been a sober reminder that economic and social imbalances and inequalities, both within and between countries, if left to correct themselves, are likely to produce damaging and destructive outcomes, particularly for vulnerable countries and communities. This Report focuses on the boombust cycle of the past decade in the least developed countries (LDCs) and offers alternatives for the coming decade.

Source: United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

Download full pdf publication | Link to report web page

Managing Information Overload: Examining the Role of the Human Filter

With the increasing processing power and plummeting costs of multimedia technologies, our ability to ubiquitously access and disseminate information continues to become indefinitely easier. However, emerging research shows that we are struggling to process information as fast as it arrives. The problem of information overload is a significant one for contemporary organisations as it can adversely affect productivity, decision-making, and employee morale. To combat this problem, organisations often resort to investing in technical solutions such as business intelligence software or semantic technologies. While such technical approaches can certainly aid in making sense of information overload, less attention has been directed at understanding how social behaviours within inter-personal networks – the primary conduit of information – have evolved to deal with the surge of digital information. Using social network analysis and interview evidence from two information intensive firms, this study finds a small number of information specialists who emerge to filter useful information into and around the intra-organizational network. The article concludes with a discussion of the theoretical and practical implications of our findings.

Source: SSRN

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| Link to online abstract

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Rise of College Student Borrowing

Undergraduate college student borrowing has risen dramatically in recent years. Graduates who received a bachelor’s degree in 20081 borrowed 50% more (in inflation-adjusted dollars) than their counterparts who graduated in 1996, while graduates who earned an associate’s degree or undergraduate certificate in 2008 borrowed more than twice what their counterparts in 1996 had borrowed, according to a new analysis of National Center for Education Statistics data by the Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends project.

Source: Pew Research Center

Download full pdf publication | Link to online overview

The State of Our Unions

From Executive Summary:
In middle America, marriage is in trouble. Among the affluent, marriage is stable and appears to be getting even stronger. Among the poor, marriage continues to be fragile and weak.

But the newest and perhaps most consequential marriage trend of our time concerns the broad center of our society, where marriage, that iconic middle-class institution, is foundering. Among Middle Americans, defined here as those with a high-school but not a (four-year) college degree, rates of nonmarital childbearing and divorce are rising, even as marital happiness is falling. This "moderately educated" middle of America constitutes a full 58 percent of the adult population. When Marriage Disappears argues that shifts in marriage mores, increases in unemployment, and declines in religious attendance are among the trends driving the retreat from marriage in Middle America.

The State of Our Unions monitors the current health of marriage and family life in America. Produced annually, it is a joint publication of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values.

Download full pdf publication
| Link to National Marriage Project Home Page

Socioeconomic Rights and Theories of Justice


This paper considers the relation between theories of justice (like John Rawls’s theory) and theories of socio-economic rights. In different ways, these two kinds of theory address much the same subject-matter. But they are quite strikingly different in format and texture. Theories of socio-economic rights defend particular line-item requirements: a right to this or that good or opportunity (e.g., housing, health care, education, social security). Theories of justice tend to involve a more integrated normative account of a society’s basic structure (though they differ considerably among themselves in their structure). So how exactly should we think about their relation? The basic claim of the paper is that we should strive to bring these two into closer relation with one another, since it is only in the context of a theory of justice that we can properly assesses the competition that arises between claims of socio-economic right and other claims on public and private resources.

Source: New York University Public Law and Legal Theory Working Papers. Paper 245.

Download full pdf publication | Link to online abstract

Basic Facts About Low-income Children

Children represent 25 percent of the population. Yet, they comprise 36 percent of all people in poverty. Among children, 42 percent live in low-income families and approximately one in every five live in poor families. Winding up in a low-income or poor family does not happen by chance. There are significant factors related to children’s experiences with economic insecurity, such as race/ethnicity and parents’ education and employment. This fact sheet describes the demographic, socio-economic, and geographic characteristics of children and their parents – highlighting the important factors that appear to distinguish low-income and poor children from their less disadvantaged counterparts.

Download full pdf fact sheet | Link to online description and graphs

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

UNAIDS Report - 2010 Edition

The 2010 edition of the UNAIDS Report on the global AIDS epidemic includes new country by country scorecards on key issues facing the AIDS response. Based on the latest data from 182 countries, this global reference book provides comprehensive analysis on the AIDS epidemic and response. For the first time the report includes trend data on incidence from more than 60 countries.

Source:United Nations

Download full pdf report | Link to UNAIDS site

Persistence and Attainment of 2003–04 Beginning Postsecondary Students: After Six Years

This First Look report provides a brief description of the persistence and degree attainment of a nationally representative sample of students who began postsecondary education for the first time in the 2003-04 academic year. The report provides a first look at the experience of these students over six academic years, from 2003-04 to 2008-09, and provides information about the rates at which students completed degrees, transferred to other institutions, and left postsecondary education without attaining degrees. It provides direct comparisons of the institutional retention and completion rates of undergraduates at the first institution attended versus the persistence and attainment rates of the same group of students anywhere in postsecondary education after six years. Findings show that 49 percent of students who began postsecondary education in 2003-04 earned a credential by June 2009, ranging from an educational certificate to a bachelors degree. Another 15 percent remained enrolled, but had not yet completed a program of study; and about one-third (36 percent) left postsecondary education without a credential of any kind by June 2009.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

Download full pdf publication
| Link to online description