The Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan “fact tank” that analyzes just about every aspect of American life, has enumerated some key takeaways from the many studies it conducted over the course of 2015. Their full report is worth a read in and of itself, but as the New Year began we focused on five aspects that particularly caught our attention.
First, everybody knows that America’s middle class is shrinking, but 2015 marked the first year that the middle class was not larger than those segments of the population above and below it.
Second, at the same time that more Americans are finding themselves stuck in poverty or falling into it, Americans’ trust in government is at only 19 percent — less than one in five of us think we can “trust the government” always or most of the time. The numbers show that we’re less trusting today than we were right after the Watergate scandal. It’s at one of the lowest levels in the past 50 years.
Third, for the first time since the 1940s — despite all the anti-immigration bombast spouted by the many GOP presidential candidates — “more immigrants from Mexico are leaving the US than coming into the country.” Pew attributes this to a number of factors, including stricter enforcement of immigration laws under the Obama administration and ongoing concerns about the post-recession economy.
Fourth, Pew finds that over the next four decades, Islam will grow more quickly than any of the world’s other major religions. This underscores the importance of Americans needing a basic understanding of a religion that many politicians and fear-mongering pundits continue to paint as a vague but serious threat to our country.
Fifth, some encouraging news: After holding steady from 2009 through 2014, the percentage of Americans who think that the country needs to make changes to give African-Americans more rights increased dramatically, by double digits. Both a majority of black and white Americans now support action to make our country more racially equal.