Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Job Networking Goes Virtual

By Christy Rogers , Senior Research Associate at Kirwan Institute

Recently, a friend mentioned that he got a new job through LinkedIn, and then built his entire sales team by posting a job notice on Facebook. No sheets of paper were ever exchanged. No print ads. No phone calls. He’s not alone. As a recent CNN article “I Found My Job on Twitter” notes, social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and MySpace are increasingly used to post and fill job notices. As my friend said happily, “it’s perfect – essentially, everyone is a friend or referred by a friend.”

The old saying used to be, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Today, it’s not just who you know, but how you know them. If this trend continues, it makes job hunting easier for those of us with computer access, gadgets, and the knowledge and time to use them. But for the millions of people who don’t, the “digital divide” may only get wider. People with disabilities are about half as likely to have internet access as those who do not. Rural access is improving, but still lags behind. Two-parent households are twice as likely to have access as single-family households. Nationally, Blacks and Latinos are roughly half as likely to have internet access as the national average, and about as third as likely to have access as Asian Americans. The US Department of Commerce ran estimates of what internet access rates for Black and Hispanic households would have been if they had incomes and education levels as high as the nation as a whole, and found that these two factors account for only one half of the difference. How do we make up that other half of the difference? Well, my guess is it’s about the cultural and social networks that start on the ground – in our neighborhoods, in school, at work – about being friends, or friends of friends. And those arenas are still largely segregated by race and class. Until we do better at making a wide variety of friends in the “real world,” we’re not going to do any better in the virtual one.

Link to CNN article:

Link to 2000 Dept. of Commerce Digital Divide report

Monday, May 18, 2009

Summer Just Days Away, What’s A Kid to Do?

By Wendy Smooth, an assistant professor in the Department of Women’s Studies with a joint appointment at the Kirwan Institute

Last week, on the front page of our local paper, The Columbus Dispatch, we learned that summer camps are being hit hard by the financial crisis. The city and other groups that deliver camp services in the local community did not receive some $2.2 million dollars in federal assistance that sent 2,000 low income children to camp last summer. In the absence of these funds, the city is not sure whether it will be able to deliver these services to low income children of the city. This is coupled with parents in all tax brackets across the city saying that they may not be able to afford camp fees this year in light of the economy. I didn’t realize the costs of sending children to camp! The fees range from a low of $85 per week to hundreds of dollars per week to send one child to camp. Well, to some relief, I learned that it is customary to give families with multiple children, a whopping $10 off camp fees $100 or more a week for each child. Now, to be clear I am talking day camps here, not the delightful fancy sleep away camps of Hollywood feature films. I immediately chalked this story up to just another casualty of the financial crisis, another indicator of the reach of the country’s economic despair. Then, I thought more and became critically concerned about what this will mean to thousands of kids. What would these kids do all summer?

I am no big summer camp enthusiast. In fact, I HATED summer camp as a kid, day camp, sleep away or otherwise. As a southerner, camp meant one thing to me—no air conditioning in 95 degree weather with 100% humidity and no rain! Despite my camp history, I still recognize the importance of occupying kids’ time in the long hot summer months. It’s in summer camp that kids get exposed to new adventurous things and meet new people. Some of my great friends were made at one summer camp or another over the years. (No doubt we were kindred souls converging under a shade tree lamenting the whole experience.)

I am sure that Columbus is typical of many cities that are quickly running through its rainy day funds in the wake of the recession. For Columbus, this summer camp situation comes on the heels of the city closing eleven recreation centers, traditionally summer havens for young people. To add to this brew, the city is in battle with the police force over reducing the number of overtime hours for the city’s police force. What a mix we are brewing. Added to the heat of summer we will have young people with no summer camps, no recreation centers and fewer policing hours.
It seems that for the city of Columbus and others like it, the financial crisis is hitting young people quite hard. I can only imagine what the summer will bring for young people with no place to go and no new challenging supervised adventures to constructively occupy their time.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ohio’s Not-Exactly-Arbitrary Death Penalty

By Andrew Grant-Thomas, Deputy Director at the Kirwan Institute

This past Saturday the Kirwan Institute hosted a panel called “Perspectives on Ohio’s Death Penalty” at the Moritz College of Law at OSU.

Here are some takeaways.

Don’t kill a white person, don’t kill a woman, and definitely don’t kill a white woman if you want to escape the death penalty.

Stay away from the South, especially Texas, and stick to the stretch of states extending from Michigan west to North Dakota – no death penalty in those states.

In Ohio, if you’re indicted on a capital charge in Hamilton County, you’re five times more likely to end up on death row than if you’re indicted in Cuyahoga County.

And if you find yourself before a 3-judge panel at the 6th circuit court of appeals, the main review panel for death sentences in Ohio, pray that you draw at least two judges appointed by a Democrat.

Panels controlled by Republican presidential appointees uphold death penalty convictions three-quarters of the time. Panels controlled by Democratic appointees REVERSE the sentence three-quarters of the time. That means that half the time life or death rides, literally, on the luck of the draw.

Moreover, the weight of the evidence says that the death penalty has little deterrence value, if any. And many victims’ families reject the argument we often make on their behalf that the death penalty helps with closure.

So with all that, why, according to a recent Ohio Poll, do only one in four Ohioans want to abolish the death penalty, less than want to legalize marijuana (37%) or same-sex marriage (39%)?

Here are my guesses.

For one, the pollsters asked a bad question. If the choice is simply between having the death penalty or not, Americans want it. But if the choice is between the death penalty and life without parole – which IS an option in Ohio – support for the death penalty goes way down.

Second, even some people who agree that the death penalty should only be used rarely want to preserve it for especially hideous crimes. However, in practice, the link between the ugliness of the crime and the use of capital punishment is weak.

I suspect that the two biggest reasons we generally support the death penalty are related: we don’t know the facts very well and we don’t really care in any case. As one panelist said on Saturday, few of us expect to be in a position to be victimized by the system’s unfairness.

I wonder how many of the 180 inmates on Ohio’s death row right now once felt the same way.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Deep Faith

By Hasan Kwame Jeffries, Assistant professor in the Department History with a joint appointment at the Kirwan Institute

A recent New York Times/CBS News Poll found that two-thirds of Americans say that race relations are generally good, up significantly from slightly more than half in July 2008. (note 1) Most notably, the percentage of African Americans who say that race relations are good has doubled during the same period, from 29 percent to 59 percent, reaching a historic high. The presence of Barack and Michelle Obama in the White House is clearly the source of this newfound optimism.

According to the Times/CBS poll, Barack Obama’s approval rating among African Americans is a statistically unheard of 96 percent, while the percentage of African Americans who disapprove of his performance is 0. Meanwhile, Michelle Obama’s approval rating is 88 percent, falling 8 percentage points below her husband because 12 percent of the respondents were either undecided or did not have enough information to make a reasonable judgment. But like her husband, the percentage of African Americans who disapprove of her performance is 0. These are the highest favorable ratings accorded any president and first lady by African Americans.

There is a direct correlation between the Obamas’ high rating among African Americans and the rise in the percentage of African Americans who say that race relations are generally good. The Obamas’ favorable ratings not only reflect a lingering euphoria over his election and a genuine satisfaction with his and the First Lady’s first 100 days in the White House, but also the widely held view among African Americans that the spotlight shining brightly on the Obamas will reflect positively on African Americans as a whole, prompting white Americans to abandon long held prejudicial beliefs and behaviors. When asked in the same poll if, in the next four years, Barack Obama’s presidency will bring together or divide different groups of Americans, 94 percent of African Americans said that it would bring people together and only 3 percent said that it would drive people apart. At the same time, however, 55 percent of white Americans said that Obama’s presidency would bring different groups together, while 31 percent said that it would not.

The difference between the two groups is telling, pointing to the very real possibility that African Americans are overestimating the power of the Obamas’ presence and effectiveness in the White House to improve race relations. Only time will tell if they are right or wrong. At the very least, though, these poll numbers for African Americans demonstrate the deep faith that black people have in the Obamas, a faith that transformed a presidential campaign into a social movement and seeks to transform a presidency into the salvation of the nation.

1 For complete poll results see: