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By: Anthony Kane

Proposed Headline: Is There A Correlation Between Ones Commute Time and Their Happiness?

News Hook: Staten Island’s South Shore has one of the longest commute times in the city. Meanwhile data has been released explaining that the longer time spent commuting leads to a less satisfactory life. Are people from Staten Island’s South Shore really less happy than someone working down the block from their job?

Data:

Description of Data: Information showcasing the average life happiness of people who commute to work and a map showcasing the average commute time in NYC

Potential Sources: Alfredo Morabia- Queens College Professor who conducts studies regarding the effects of commuting.

The U.S. trade deficit decreased in September as exports rose and imports fell, a sign that U.S. economy is strengthening despite the global meltdown.

The international trade deficit, the amount by which a country’s import costs exceeds that of its export costs, in goods and services fell to $40.8 billion down $7.2 billion from $48.0 billion in August, revised.

While the total export increased around $3.0 billion in September up from $184.9 billion in August, the import decreased around $4.3 billion.

U.S. Trade Deficit by Selected CountriesCreate pie charts

The goods deficit with European Union decreased while that with China and Mexico increased. The plunge is an optimistic sign since Germany, U.K. and France feature in the top ten countries with whom U.S. has international trade relations.

Why do we care?

There is a growing concern about the global economy especially with the economic slowdown in China and the strengthening of dollar. The well-being of the U.S. economy has an impact on the global economy and so it is important to know where the nation stands with respect to the world.

U.S. has taken a long time to recover from the recession of 2008, and its impact could be felt in the job market for a long time. But the latest job report, which came out on Friday, shows a robust growth in non-farm payroll which shows that the country has come out of the recovery phase and is strengthening.

Data Visualization:

I plan to trace the trade deficit over the decade, how it went up and down during the rough phases of the economy. I also plan to show the relation between the strong dollar and its effect on the global economy and U.S.’s international trade relations. I want to show a chart pointing out the top countries with whom U.S. does its business and what are the goods it exports and imports primarily.

Contacts:

Matthew Przybocki,

Goods-U.S. Census Bereau, # 301-763-3148

Maria Iseman,

Goods-U.S. Census Bereau, # 301- 763- 2311

Jeannine Aversa,

News Media, #202-606-2649

Links to the Data:

http://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/international/trade/tradnewsrelease.htm

http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/data/index.html

http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/statistics/highlights/congressional.html

 

Fewer murders by weapon from 2007 to 2011 in the US

  • Nut graph

Data shows that there have been almost 25% fewer murders by weapon from 2007 to 2011 in the US. In 2007 the number of murders by weapon in the US was 14.916 and in 2011 this number has decreased to 12.664.

At the same time in the US and in Europe there is massive focus on the US easygoing weapon legislation, the increasing school shootings etc.

That give us an image of a growing problem not a decreasing one.

In several polls we also see that Americans believe that the number of murders are increasing – even though the opposite is actually the case.

 

  • Why do we care?

25% is a pretty significant number. And this decrease has happened even though we don’t hear about stricter gun legislation. So why is this the reality? Has there been more legislation than we hear about – or is the reason for the drop another?

It is a positive development that most people don’t recognize, because they don’t know, that this is in fact the reality – so just to tell the story is important. Also to figure out what the US is doing right, so the development can continue like this – is another good reason to care.

 

  • Sources to contact

Official spokesman

National Institute of Justice

http://www.nij.gov/about/pages/contact.aspx

Daniel Webster, ScD

Director, Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research

http://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-and-institutes/johns-hopkins-center-for-gun-policy-and-research/

http://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/3845/daniel-webster

Law Center to prevent Gun Violence

http://smartgunlaws.org/about-gun-laws/

Polls that shows that the Americans actually believe, that the numbers are increasing.

 

  • Description and link to the data

The data is from the FBI – posted August 2013. These are the latest numbers.

The data shows the number of homicides by year broken down by weapon type. You can download the data in Excel.

https://www.quandl.com/data/FBI/WEAPONS11-US-Murders-by-Weapon-Type-2007-2011

 

By Anthony Kane, Christina Jensen and Maria Arcel

Fewer children are being placed in foster care, in New York State, than ten years ago. According to data from New York State, there has been a 38% drop of children in the foster care system, from 2004 to 2014. An average of 29.656 children, in care in New York state, were in the foster care system in 2004, while an average of 18.488 children, were in the system in 2014.

Kathleen J. Ledesma, Director of Adopt US Kids, has been working in the child welfare system for 40 years. Ledesma believes that there are different contributors forcing these changes, one of which is that there has been an increased focus on helping the families who have problems to create a better environment, as opposed to placing children in the system.

“A greater effort has been made over the last five years to deliver service and support to families that are in crisis, to prevent the removal of the children from their home,” says Ledesma.

Alma J. Carten, an associate professor at the New York University School of Social Work – and formerly a New York City child welfare official agrees. Carten believes the main reason for the decrease is that the prevention services have been improved.

“Earlier a lot of children were unnecessary going to foster care. But now the focus is on prevention. The prevention services, such as abuse and counseling services, has increased while the numbers of children has decreased,” Carten explains.

The NY State Office of Children and Family Services, has been working to improve the situation within NY’s foster care system. The office wants to keep children out of the system and with their family, however possible.

“New York State provides an uncapped funding stream to local social services districts for programs aimed at keeping children in their homes,” said a press representative from OFCS. “The state reimburses counties at 62% after deducting any available federal funds, combined with a capped foster care allocation, this provides a financial incentive to counties to develop a community-based infrastructure of services including case management and home-based supports.”

To some, this may seem like good development, however, it might not all be positive.
Kathleen J. Ledesma points out that the children ending up in the foster care system are staying there for a longer time, than earlier. States and countries now have limited resources to help get the kids out of the system, than they used to.

With these limited resources, comes a higher turnover rate of employees, since there has been a drop in funding. Thus leaving the same levels of children, with less available options through the system.

“So we see caseloads that are not being covered, that ends up meaning that children are in care longer,” said Ledesma. “They are still using the resources but are not getting all the social work that they need to have, along with the financial support to address their safety.”

Even though the numbers are showing that children may end up in the foster care system longer, Alma J. Carten believes the numbers are showing a generally positive development. Considering that there are fewer children within the system.

“It is complicated, but the bigger picture is that it is a good thing, that fewer children end up in foster care,” said Carten.

According to research performed at the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, children in foster care are three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. One in four foster care children were diagnosed with ADHD, compared with only one in fourteen kids not in foster care. About 50 percent of the ADHD diagnosed children, in foster care, also suffer from other disorders, such as depression or anxiety.

Therefore children in the system need more care, than children outside of foster care.
According to a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the US foster care system needs to do a better job providing consistent quality healthcare to the children in foster homes. Caseworkers don’t spend the necessary time on health care, and treatment, for the children – even though 80% of the children have a “significant mental health need,” according to AAP.

Despite the research, experts, like Alma J. Carten, are not convinced that it is the amount of treatment that’s causing the problem.

“The children need a lot of care, and I think they are getting the right amount they need,” said Carten. “But that doesn’t mean that there can’t be issues with the quality of that care and treatment.”

Due to these problems, NY state was required to hire professionals to serve as watchdogs of the New York City foster care system, in order to settle a federal class-action lawsuit alleging that children in foster care endure irreparable harm after lingering too long without permanent families. This occurred after several advocates, for foster children, had found that children, in New York State, spent twice as much time in the foster system as children throughout the country.

The ‘professional team,’ hired in NY includes a monitor and a research expert. The monitor will keep track of any mistreatment of foster children for a period of three years. While the research expert has been retained for a minimum of a two-year time frame, and will conduct yearly reviews of case records for compliance.

New York State’s situation, having children remain in the foster care system longer, isn’t a unique situation, in the U.S. Numbers from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service, and the Administration for Children and Families, show that fewer children have exited the foster care system within the last five years, throughout the country. In 2014, there were 264,746 children entering the foster care system but only 238,230 exited.

“That just confirms that there is a need for foster care”, says Ledesma from Adopt US Kids. But that there’s obviously “a need for more resources.”

By Pilar Belendez, Aliza Chasan, Maura Ewing

People on Social Security will not get an increase in benefits next year.

People on Social Security will not get an increase in benefits next year.

This year, for the third time during the Obama administration, there was no adjustment to Social Security payout amounts.

The reason for not bumping the payout amount is that there was no rise in the cost of living (CPI), according to the Department of Labor. This is largely because of falling energy prices. So, the argument goes, payout rates to retired seniors should also remain steady.

“This should not be happening,” said Mary Johnson, policy consultant at the Senior Citizens League.

Johnson argues that the cost of living rates the government uses, CPI-W, are not accurate to the costs that seniors face—and the cost of living for seniors is rising based on a consumer price index tailored to their needs. The index, calculated by the Bureau of Labor statistics, is called the CPI-E.

percentchange1 copy

Both measures of for cost of living have fallen in recent years. But CPI-W has fallen more because of decreased energy costs that don’t impact CPI-E as much.

When the inflation rate stays the same, cost of living remains steady and the costs of goods and services don’t change enough to mandate a cost of living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security recipients.

However, these calculations are based on an index called the CPI-W, which represents households that earn more than half of their income from jobs—not retired seniors.

The major differences between CPI-W and CPI-E are that CPI-E weights medical care and housing more heavily, because these are the two sectors where elderly people spend more than younger Americans. And, relevant to this year, energy prices are weighted less heavily because seniors drive less often.  

Seniors spend more money on housing and medical care than urban wage earners, but less on transportation.

Seniors spend more money on housing and medical care than urban wage earners, but less on transportation.

“The CPI-W it is not measuring some of the most important buying patterns and costs that relate to older consumers,” said Johnson.

The government uses CPI-W instead of CPI-E as a cost-cutting measure, according to some experts and advocates for the elderly. Monthly payouts would be higher if  CPI-E were used, but according to the BLS, the index is not used because being elderly and being a Social Security beneficiary isn’t the same thing.

About a third of Social Security recipients are younger than retiring age and get Social Security benefits as disabled workers or as the widows of deceased workers. Their spending patterns aren’t tracked by CPI-E.

The limitations of the measurement means seniors are losing out. According to a study conducted by the Senior Citizens League, seniors have lost 22 percent of their buying power since 2010 because of slowed Social Security growth rates. In other words, Social Security payouts today are worth about 80 percent of what they were just five years ago. This is related to rising healthcare costs as well as a lack of increases in payouts.

In 2013, the President proposed a measure cost of living adjustments be measured with chained CPI – a metric that would have depressed cost of living adjustments even further. Chained CPI assumes that consumers faced with inflation will substitute higher priced goods for lower priced ones, ground beef instead of rib eye.

Critics of the measure and advocates for retirees argued that seniors have a much harder time replacing goods with substitute items. It can be difficult to find cheaper medical options. The elderly also don’t have as much flexibility in how they shop to get deals and cut corners, according to critics of chained CPI.

Obama dropped the proposal last year even though his plan could have reduced deficits by $233 billion over a decade, according to 2013 estimates from the Congressional Budget Office. His proposed shift in measure could also have cut thousands from retirees’ incomes.

“One of the overriding needs is to try to create an actuarial balance for social security so it’s not going to run out of money,” said Social Security expert Philip Moeller. “So the CPI measure used in the COLA is an important determination.”

Despite the limitations of CPI-E, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) and Rep. Michael Honda (D-CA) recently introduced a bill to tie future COLAs to CPI-E. The bill is pending in the House.

Aliza Chasan, Pilar Belendez, Maura Ewing
Data Story 1 Pitch
October 21, 2015

Proposed Headline: The High Cost of Social Security, for Seniors

News Hook: For the third time in the past six years, there will be no adjustment to Social Security payouts—despite rises in cost of living.

Nut Graf:
The cost of living for seniors is rising, and yet Social Security payouts remain flat. This year, for the third time during the Obama administration, there was no adjustment to Social Security payout amounts. The argument for keeping the payout rate flat is that cost of living has been relatively stable, largely because of falling energy prices—however, the calculations used in this argument are for the general population, not the specific needs of the elderly.

The Data –
all data can be found here:
1) Social Security monthly payouts: see sheet in folder labeled payouts. Data from SSA.
2) Cost of living over time: see sheet in folder labeled CPI. Data from SSA.
3) Annual cost of living adjustments for social security: see sheet in folder labeled COLA. Data from SSA.
4) # of beneficiaries http://ssa.gov/oact/ProgData/icpGraph.html
5) CPI-E: see sheet in folder labeled CPI-E. Data from BLS.

Description of Data:
1) Social Security Monthly Payouts – this data shows how much seniors receiving Social Security get each month based on how old they are when they start receiving Social Security. The older you are when you start, the more you get each month.
2) Cost of living over time – this data shows the CPI over time used to generate the cost of living adjustment for Social Security. The CPI has increased since 2000, but has remained relatively flat recently.
3) Annual cost of living adjustments for social security – this data shows the percentage increase in Social Security payouts each year based on cost of living adjustments.
4) # of beneficiaries – this shows the number of of people receiving Social Security, the population of people receiving SS has increased over time.
5) CPI-E – this data shows a special measure of CPI generated to match a basket of consumer goods that matches how seniors live, rather than how the general population lives. The CPI-E has increased over time and is larger than the regular CPI the government uses in its calculations.

One source you’ve spoken to or 3 potential sources:
Philip Moeller, expert on retirement; talked with him about:
-the different measures of CPI
-what role medicare plays in the Social Security situation
-impact on seniors who are living without a cost of living adjustment

We also plan to talk to:
1) AARP – (202) 434-2560
2) Henry Aaron, social security expert at The Brookings Institution – 202-797-6128
3) Mary Beth Franklin, expert on social security – 703-609-4764, mbfranklin@investmentnews.com
4) National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare – Pamela Causey, Director of Communications, 202-216-8378/ mobile 202-236-2123, causeyp@ncpssm.org

Data driven journalism

Pitch – Foster care in New York State

Group
Anthony Kane
Maria Arcel
Christina Nordvang Jensen

Fewer children in foster care the last ten years

Nut graph
In the past ten years New York State has experienced a dramatic fall in the number of children in foster care, it has fallen by 50% throughout the state.
In 2004 there were 29,656 children in care, ten years later, in 2014, that number was 18,488.
11,168 children were living in foster care throughout NY, in 2014, compared to 2004. That is a 38% drop of children in the system.

The decline has been driven by a number of things. For example a healthy economy and a shift in local child welfare policy, which now seeks to keep children in their own homes whenever possible. But it might not all be positive. Some children can end up staying with a family even though it is not good for them.

Why do we care?
We want to look into the factors behind the development. The drop in children in foster care is quite a big change, in a 10 year span, so we want to break down the subject and focus on why this has changed so dramatically. Maybe this isn’t a positive sign – maybe the children are living in the street instead. We should always care about dramatic changes like this to find out what the reason is behind them.

Sources to contact:

The National Coalition for Child Protection Reform
http://nccpr.info
Office of children and family services
Sheila J. Poole – Acting Commissioner
http://ocfs.ny.gov/main/fostercare/
Social service – contact
https://www.health.ny.gov/health_care/medicaid/ldss.htm
A child in foster care
Foster Care and Adoption Agency
For example this one in New York City: http://www.adoptuskids.org/for-families/state-adoption-and-foster-care-information/new-york

Description and link to the data
The data is from New York State and shows how the total number of admissions, discharges, children in foster care, the type of care and total Child Protective Services (CPS) reports during have developed in the period from 1994 to 2014.

https://data.ny.gov/Human-Services/Children-in-Foster-Care-Annually-Beginning-1994/hfc5-3hsu