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The Battleground States: Where It All Goes Down

Includes maps and videos

Watch Map Center: What If the Battleground States Go Red? on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

Because nearly every state in the nation has a winner-take-all presidential electoral system (except Nebraska and Maine), the outcome on election day in most states is fairly predictable. No Republican presidential candidate, for instance, has won California since 1988, and there’s no sign of that trend changing anytime soon. So it wouldn’t be the smartest move to put your money on Mitt Romney here.

Likewise, Texas hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1976. So Barack Obama’s chances of winning over the Longhorn State this election? Pretty slim.

Of course, on the rare occasion there have been some monumental upsets. Take Indiana, which hadn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964, but in 2008 picked Obama (albeit narrowly and ephemerally: the state is back to it’s solid red roots this year).

The majority of the presidential race is downright predictable.

So where’s the suspense? Where’s the action? Continue reading

Who Do We Lock Up? Four Key Characteristics of Cal’s Prison Population

Includes: interactive charts and maps

Who’s actually behind bars in California? Here are four key characteristics of California’s prison population:

Geography

The majority of inmates come from the southern part of the state. A whopping 50,000 – or 34 percent of all prisoners – come from Los Angeles County alone. But the highest incarceration rates are concentrated in poorer counties in the Central Valley and the Inland Empire. Leading the charge is Kings County in the San Joaquin Valley, where nearly 1 percent of the entire population is in state prison.

Click on the map below for info on the number of prisoners who come from each county in California, what percent of the prison population each county contributes, and what percent of each county’s total population is in prison.

Source: CDCR 2011 data

Race

The majority of prisoners are non-white. The largest group is Hispanic. But African Americans – who make up less than 7 percent of the general population and almost 30 percent of the prison population – are dramatically more likely to be imprisoned than any other group.

prison stats

Source: Public Policy Institute of California (using 2010 CDCR and 2010 Census data)

 

Age

The prison population is aging. Currently nearly 20 percent of inmates are age 50 and up, about quadruple the rate from 20 years ago. Meanwhile, the percent of prisoners under age 25 has steadily dropped.

Source: CDCR 2010 data

Gender

California’s prison population is overwhelmingly male. Men make up nearly 95 percent of all inmates. 30 of the system’s 33 facilities are for men.

Source: CDCR 2010 data

California’s 33 State Prisons (and the people inside them): An Interactive Map

As of August 15, 2012, California’s 33 prisons (30 for men, 3 for women) held about 120,000 inmates. That’s a lot of people behind bars, for sure, but it’s also a pretty significant drop from the year before, when there were roughly 27,000 more prisoners in the system. Today, most of the state’s prisons still remain overcrowded – about 150 percent above intended capacity – but progress has undoubtedly been made in thinning out the ranks. California no longer has the largest prison system in the country (things really are bigger in Texas). And it can almost entirely be attributed to the state’s public safety realignment program, which was put into effect last October with the goal of reducing the inmate population by about 33,000 within two years.

Mouse over the map below for information about each prison in California’s system, the current number of inmates, the change in population since realignment began, and each facility’s intended design capacity. Note that marker size is relative to the current inmate population in each prison. (It may be necessary to adjust the map zoom in to see specific details.)
Data source: California Department of Corrections

Realignment Explained

Last October California began a dramatic overhaul of its severely overcrowded prison system. Assembly Bill 109 – known as realignment – had the objective of shedding more than 30,000 inmates from in-state prisons and significantly cutting the prison budget. At the time the law took effect, there were more than 143,000 inmates behind bars in California’s 33 prisons. That’s almost twice the system’s design capacity. Meanwhile, California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation received about $10 billion a year from the state’s thinning general fund – over 11 percent of last year’s entire spending plan, more than was spent on the University of California and California State University systems combined. Continue reading

Shouldering the Burden: California’s New Jail Boom (interactive map)

California’s realignment process has resulted in many more new low-level offenders placed under county supervision rather than being put in the state prison system. Although the overall jail population has not changed significantly, many counties across the state have experienced a significant increase in their local sentenced inmate populations.

Click on each county below for average jail population rates of sentenced inmates between the third quarter of 2011 (before realignment began) and the first quarter of 2012.

jail legend

Data Source: California Board of State and Community Corrections

Eight Neighboring Nations with the World’s Largest Wealth Disparities (in GDP per Capita)

The world is not an equal place, and some places are a lot more unequal than others.

A national political border can have incredible significance; an abstract line separating neighboring peoples, economies, even life expectancies. Using GDP per capita as an indicator (sourcing the most recent Central Intelligence Agency data), the wealth divide between these four pairs of countries is vast … even though they geographically sit side by side.

(GDP defined)

Click on each country below to see the extent of the financial divide.
(I’ll leave it to you to figure out why this is.)

1.Kuwait and Iraq

Difference in GDP per capita: $38,300

2.United States and Mexico
Difference in GDP per capita: $34,200

3. Brunei and Malaysia
Difference in GDP per capita: $34,200 (tied with U.S.- Mexico)

4. North Korea and South Korea

Difference in GDP per capita: $30,000

GDP per Capita Around the World

Now that you can drop the concept of GDP per capita like the pros do, check out this interactive map that lists just about every country in the world (226) and their respective GDP per capita ranks in U.S. dollars. These figures are based on the most recent CIA data, with estimates derived from purchasing power parity (a complicated theory used to determine the relative value of currencies). It’s also worth noting that both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank compile their own GDP per capita data with slightly differing results.

The highest GDP per capita goes to Liechtenstein. Never heard of it? It’s really, really tiny, has a population of less than 40,000 and a GDP per capita of more than $141,000. In short,  Liechtensteinians are living large.

At the bottom of the list is the Democratic Republic of Congo in Sub-Saharan Africa, where more than 71 million people on an average of $400 a year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Are Israelis So Much Wealthier Than Their Palestinian Neighbors? (and yes, there’s a bit more to it than “culture”)

Includes Daily Show clip; radio clip

Romney was absolutely correct when noting that Israel’s GDP per capita is significantly higher than that in the Palestinian territories. But he was actually way off on the specifics: in suggesting that Israelis produced roughly twice as much as do the Palestinians, he vastly understated the disparity. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency estimated Israel’s per capita GDP at about 10 times (or 1000% more) that of the Palestinians.

In 2011 Israel had a per capita GDP of roughly $31,000, while in 2008 — the last year the CIA listed data for the Palestinians — the per capita GDP. of the West Bank and Gaza combined was about $3,000.

That’s a 1000% difference! Continue reading

Who Votes in California? (Hint: it’s not the majority)

Includes interactive map of voting rates and party affiliation throughout California
Click each county on the map below for stats on California’s eligible and registered voters, as well as a breakdown of political party affiliation (but keep in mind there’s a big difference between registered and “likely” voters). The darker the shade, the higher the percentage of registered voters.

(Source: California Secretary of State, May 2012 data)

President Lyndon B. Johnson, who signed the Voting Rights Act into law in 1965, called voting “the basic right, without which all others are meaningless.”

But in California – where nearly 24 million adults are eligible to vote – the number of people who actually take advantage of this right is surprisingly small.

Consider these California voting stats (approximated):

                  • 24 million: People who are eligible to vote
                  • 17 million: People registered to vote (about 72% of those who are eligible)
                  • 6 million: “Likely voters” (those who regularly vote)
                  • 5.3 million: The number of votes cast in the June 2012 primary election

Public Policy Institute of California survey also found that California’s “likely voters” are not  representative of the state’s racial and economic diversity. About 65 percent of them are white (even though whites make up only 44 percent of the state’s adult population) and only 17 percent Latino (who make up about one-third of the state’s population). Likely voters are also generally older, more educated, more affluent, and far more likely to own a home than the average Californian. And more than 80 percent were born in the U.S.

For more on how to register to vote and who is eligible, go here.

The Deal with the Delta (California’s big watering hole)

Includes: map and video


View Larger Map

About two-thirds of Californians drink, bathe, brush their teeth, and flush their toilets with water that comes from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. That’s roughly 25 million people who get at least some portion of their hydration from one big triangular watering hole.

But ask most folks what the Delta is, and you’re guaranteed to get a lot of blank stares. One recent poll found that about 4 out 5 people in California had pretty much no idea about it.

 

It’s pretty easy to take for granted that water magically pours out of the tap when you turn your faucet on. But chances are, that H20 has gone through a pretty serious journey to reach you – and it’s probably worth knowing where it comes from, and how safe the supply is. Continue reading