The Public Eye

Reports from the Bee's investigative team

June 23, 2011
New national, state statistics on the uninsured

Fresh data from the Centers for Disease Control shows 48.6 million Americans of all ages (16.0 percent of the population) lacking health insurance at the time of the survey in 2010. Also at that point in time 7.8 percent of children under 18 and 33.9 percent of young adults (19-25) were uninsured.

CDC researchers also crunched the 2010 numbers for the 20 largest states. The percentage of uninsured people ranged from 4.0 percent in Massachusetts to 26.1 percent in Arizona. California came in bit above the national average at 18.6 percent.

In 2010 60.2 percent of Americans had health insurance coverage provided by private (non-governmental) sources; 31.4 percent had coverage provided by government -- including Medicaid, Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), state-sponsored or other government-sponsored health plan, Medicare (disability), and military plans. In California the private/public split was 56.1 and 28.8 percent, respectively.

June 16, 2011
Hate crimes decreasing in nation

A new federal report shows the number of hate crimes falling from 239,400 in 2003 to 148,400 in 2009. In addition the rate of violent crime victimizations dropped from 0.8 to 0.5 per 1,000 persons over the same period. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics about 87 percent of hate crime victimizations involve a violent crime, the rest involve property.

In nearly 90 percent of hate crime victimizations, victims judged the offender was motivated by racial or ethnic prejudice or both. Overall, motivation for hates crimes breaks down this way:

Race: 58 percent
Ethnicity: 30 percent
Association (with a particular group): 25 percent
Sexual orientation: 15 percent
Perceived characteristics: 13 percent
Religion: 12 percent
Disability: 10 percent.

In 54 percent of such crimes, the offender was not known to the victim. The offender had a weapon in about 20 percent of cases. And the victim suffered an some type of injury in 23 percent of cases.

June 8, 2011
Economy of most states grew in 2010

Driven by gains in durable goods manufacturing, retail trade, and finance and insurance, U.S. real GDP grew 2.6 percent in 2010 following a 2.5 drop in 2009.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis also reported yesterday that GDP grew in 48 states and Washington, D.C. North Dakota lead the nation in percent change (7.1). New York (5.1), Indiana (4.6), Massachusetts (4.2) and West Virginia (4.0) trailed behind. California ranked near the bottom with a modest 1.8 percent increase.

The Golden State saw the biggest growth in the durable-goods manufacturing and information sectors (0.76 and 0.53 percent, respectively). Sectors that suffered during this period include non-durable goods manufacturing (-0.35) and construction (-0.20).

June 1, 2011
Over one-third of California teens not getting gym classes at school

PE.JPGMore than 38 percent of the California's adolescent students (12-17) are not receiving any physical education at school -- despite state mandates. In addition only 42 percent of teens participate in PE on a daily basis, according to a study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

School-based PE add an average of 18 minutes of exercise per week to the overall physical activity needed to maintain good health. UCLA researchers found only 19 percent of state teens getting the 60 minutes of activity per day recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Student participation physical education has been reduced -- if not cut completely -- at many schools due to budget cuts and various exemptions (such as making room for driver's training). The study suggests that PE class requirements be re-instituted for teens of all ages. (Participation tends to fall dramatically as students get older.)

PHOTO CREDIT: Sheldon High School students begin their PE class with calisthenics and stretching exercises in the school's main gymnasium. 1999 Sacramento Bee photo by Jay Mather

May 26, 2011
U.S. Hispanic population grew four times faster than nation in past decade

A study by the Census Bureau found that Hispanics accounted for more than half of the growth of the U.S. population from 2000 to 2010. In that decade, the Hispanic population grew 43.0 percent compared to 9.7 percent for the overall population.

The Bureau also found that the percentage of U.S. Hispanics citing Mexican ancestry increased from 58.5 percent to 63.0 percent over the same period.

In California Hispanics accounted for 90.0 percent of the state's increase, the Hispanic population growing 27.8 percent compared to an overall 10.0 percent change.

In the four-county Sacramento region Hispanics accounted for 44.1 percent of the increase, with the Hispanic population growing 55.9 percent compared to an overall 19.6 percent change.

May 24, 2011
California prisoners: the stats

The U.S. Supreme Court's order to reduce the California prison population by 33,000 prompts the question: just who are the men and and women housed in these facilities?

For comprehensive inmate demographics, we can turn to the most recent California Prisoners & Parolees 2009, the annual "compendium of tables, graphs and charts detailing the inmate and parole populations supervised by the California Department of Corrections." The 132-page report contains dozens of tables broken out by age, gender, race, offense and other factors going back 20 years.

As of Dec. 31, 2009 the institutionalized population looked like this:

Total number: 168,830 (reflecting a state inmate rate of 436.4 per 100,000 population).

Gender: Male, 158,018 (93.6 percent); female 10,812 (6.4 percent).

Mean age: 37 (male and female).

Race/ethnic group: White, 43,226 (25.6 percent); Hispanic, 66,374 (39.3 percent); Black, 48,990 (29.0 percent); other, 10,240 (6.1 percent).

Offense: Crimes against persons, 93,674 (55.5 percent); property crimes, 32,677 (19.4 percent ); drug crimes, 28,736 (17.0 percent); other crimes 13,743, (8.1 percent).

May 17, 2011
Latest U.S. crime victimization stats

The Bureau of Justice Statistics recently released its annual compendium of data on the victims of crime. The 110 tables in Crime Victimization in the United States, 2008 cover virtually all angles of the subject: types of crimes -- violent, property, etc.; demographics of victims -- age, gender race, etc.; circumstances of crimes -- time, place, weapons used, etc.; reporting/non-reporting of crimes, police response time, etc.

It's a lot of numbers. Some bullet points:

* There were 21.3 million crime victimizations in 2008. 23.4 percent were personal crimes (assault, rape, robbery, etc.). 76.6 percent were property crimes (burglary, theft, car theft, etc.).

* Younger people are more likely to be victims of personal crime. The personal crime rate for children 12-15 is 43.6 per 1,000 people. Other age groups: 16-19 (37.4), 20-24 (38.4), 25-34 (23.8), 35-49 (17.4), 50-64 (11.1), 65 or older (3.5).

* African Americans are more likely to be victims of personal crime than other racial/ethnic groups. White only (18.6 per 1,000 people), Black only (26.6), other race only (15.5), Hispanic (17.1).

* Men (21.9) are more likely to be victims of personal crime, compare to women (17.8).

May 12, 2011
Fatal traffic accidents cost U.S. $41 billion a year

Nearly 31,000 people died in vehicle crashes in 2009. Aside from the incalculable human toll on families, traffic fatalities cost the nation about $41 billion a year in medical expenses and work loss. That estimate comes from a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control of 2005 data -- the latest available for this sort of cost analysis.

More than half of the national costs were incurred in ten states: California ($4.16 billion), Texas ($3.50 billion), Florida ($3.16 billion), Georgia ($1.55 billion), Pennsylvania ($1.52 billion), North Carolina ($1.50 billion), New York ($1.33 billion), Illinois ($1.32 billion), Ohio ($1.23 billion), and Tennessee ($1.15 billion).

California's total costs break down with $40 million for medical expenses and $4.12 billion for work losses. Slicing the total by age of victims: children ($280 million), teens ($606 million), young adults ($1.84 billion), adults ($1.34 billion), older adults ($93 million).

May 10, 2011
Divorced after 25 years of marriage: some stats

Today's announcement that former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver are separating after 25 years of marriage prompts the question: how many couples are still married on their silver anniversary?

The Census Bureau tracks the percentage of Americans still married at various milestones. The latest data available -- for couples wed between 1974 and 1979 -- shows that less than half of this group will still be married at the 25-year mark. Only 46.4 percent of women and 49.5 percent of men will still be in their first marriage. (The numbers are naturally less for second marriages: 36.7 and 42.0 percent, respectively.) Couples married in earlier years display more longevity in marriage.

The divorce rate varies a lot among the states. And surprisingly the divorce rate is generally lower in cosmopolitan coastal states than in many heartland states. Oklahoma leads the country with 16.5 divorces per 1,000 women over 15 (i.e., divorces in 2007 per 1,000 women). Kentucky (15.0), Idaho (14.5) and Arkansas (14.1) are next in line. North Dakota has the smallest rate of divorce, 6.0, followed by New York (7.1), Hawaii (7.7) and Pennsylvania (8.0). California does better than the national average, 9.9 compared to 10.5.

May 9, 2011
Food deserts in Sacramento

One aspect of Michelle Obama's fight against obesity is an initiative to eliminate so-called "food deserts" in urban and rural areas across the country. A food desert is a low income neighborhood whose residents have little access to healthy and affordable food. Specifically this is a census tract with a significant number of families living in poverty who -- because of distance and lack of transportation -- cannot easily get to a grocery store that sells fresh, nutritious food items. Often the only accessible outlets are fast food restaurants and convenience stores.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture unveiled its Food Desert Locator, an interactive map that allows you to zoom down to the census tract level. Areas in pink are considered areas with limited access to supermarkets or large grocery stores.

Sacfooddesert.JPGSource: USDA Economic Research Service.

May 6, 2011
Food allergies costing nation half billion a year

Around one to two percent of U.S. adults and four to six percent of U.S. children suffer from allergic reactions of milk, eggs, peanuts and other foods. The resulting visits to hospitals, emergency rooms and doctors' offices, plus lost productivity, cost the nation a lot of money -- an estimated $500 million a year, according to a new study.

CDC researchers, writing in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, say total medical costs associated with food allergies range from $225 to $307 million of which $45 million goes to emergency room visits. Non-medical costs, such as lost work days, are estimated at $115 to $203 million every year.

Another CDC study found that the number of children with food allergies increased 18 percent between 1997 and 2007. A helpful CDC brief on food allergies in young people lists symptoms and summarizes essential statistics.

May 4, 2011
Where do you stand in Pew's "political typology?"

The American electorate is increasingly "doctrinaire and ideological" in their political convictions, says a new study by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. Although many voters have gravitated from the political center toward the partisan extremes, there is still a sizable percentage of independents.

To better understand current political attitudes among voters, Pew devised a typology that "sorts Americans into cohesive groups based on their values, political beliefs and party affiliation." These nine groupings range from Solid Liberals on the left to Staunch Conservatives on the right. Generally those on the extremes show considerable consistency in their views along with strong allegiance to the Democratic or Republican parties, as the case may be. But rather than being wish-washy in their beliefs, independents do have strong opinions about issues, but "they combine these views in ways that defy liberal or conservative orthodoxy."

According to Pew. "Mostly Republican" groups constitute 25 percent of US. voters. "Mostly Democratic" ones, 40 percent. And "Mostly Independent" 35 percent. In the full report, you can see how these types correlate to a large number of social, economic and demographic characteristics.

So where do you fit in Pew's political schema? Take this brief quiz to find out.

April 29, 2011
State releases newest population, housing estimates

Another indication of the recession's impact on the state: California's population grew just 0.8 percent to 37,510,766 between Jan. 2010 and Jan. 2011. Sacramento County increased 0.8 percent to 1,428,355 over the same period. Compare that percent change to the boom year 2000-2001 when the state and county grew 1.97 and 3.13 percent, respectively.

More factoids gleaned from statistics released today by the Demographics Research Unit of the state Department of Finance:

* Riverside continues to be the fastest growing county (1.7 percent), having taken the top spot from Placer (1.5 percent) two years ago.

* Lassen (-0.6), Amador (-0.3), Alpine (-0.2), Mariposa (-0.1), Plumas (-0.1) and Tuolumne (0.1) Counties all lost population between 2010 and 2011.

* Desert Hot Springs (Riverside County) is the fastest growing city in the state (5.9 percent). Twenty-seventh ranked Rocklin is the fastest growing town in the region (2.1 percent).

* Sacramento (469,566) moved ahead of Long Beach (463,894) to become the 6th largest city in the state as of Jan. 2011.

* California added only 44,649 housing units in 2010, compared to 197,477 new ones in the peak year of 2005. Sacramento County added 1,041, compared to 11,188 in 2005.

April 28, 2011
California sees big drop in accidental firearm deaths

Gun accidents killed fewer Californians during 2009 than in any other year in at least a decade, according to new data from the state Department of Public Health.

Firearm accidents caused 31 deaths during 2009, down from 36 in 2008. Such deaths have steadily fallen since peaking during 2005.

Californians under 24 are the most likely age group to die from the accidental discharge of firearms. Two children under 15 were killed during firearm accidents in 2009.

Homicides involving firearms also decreased from 2008 to 2009, reflecting the falling number of murders in the state.

But suicides involving firearms continued to increase. Almost 1,500 Californians killed themselves with guns during 2009, up about 175 from 2005. More Californians died from suicides involving firearms last year than died from homicides involving firearms.

April 27, 2011
Maternal mortality rising in California

Back in December this blog noted the steady increase in U.S. maternal mortality (pregnancy-related deaths) since dropping to its lowest point in 1986. Now the California Public Heath Department is reporting that the mortality rate in the state has almost doubled between 1999 and 2008 (8.0 to 14.0 deaths per 100,000 live births.

Maternal mortality is rare, but the rising rates are a warning sign of increasing health risk factors among women (obesity, hypertension, diabetes, etc.) and of problems with maternal health care.

The CDPH report found disparities in mortality related to race, income and education:

* The risk of maternal death was four times higher for African American women than for other groups in 2002-03 (46.1 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to 12.8 for Hispanic women, 12.4 for White women, and 9.3 for Asian women).

* Low-income women in the state died at a higher rate than others. Fifty-seven percent of maternal deaths involved Medi-Cal recipients, though this group constituted only 45 percent of all women giving birth.

* Although women with less than a high school diploma constituted 11 percent of women who gave birth in the state, 31 percent of all maternal deaths occurred within this group.

April 26, 2011
Hispanic voter clout lags population gains

Although the number of Hispanics in America increased from 35.3 to 50.5 million between 2000 and 2010, their participation in elections continues to lag behind. An analysis of Census data by the Pew Hispanic Center found that while Hispanics are 16.3 percent of the U.S. population, they account for only 10.1 percent of eligible voters and only 6.6 percent of the total casting ballots in 2010.

According to Pew, the relatively small proportion of eligible voters who are Hispanic is due to the larger number of children and non-citizens in that group. In addition, eligible Latino voters go to the polls at a lesser rate than other groups (a 31.2 percent voter turnout compared to 48.6 percent for whites and 44.0 percent for blacks).

California is home to 13.4 million Hispanics (37 percent of the state's population) and 5.4 million eligible voters (24 percent of the electorate). But again, due to the "youth bulge" and non-citizenship, only 40 percent of Hispanics are eligible to voter, as opposed to 79 percent of whites.

As the Hispanic population ages, it's expected that the influence of Latino voters will increase in both the state and national elections.

April 26, 2011
During last session, legislators missed 48,600 votes

One of the most basic responsibilities of a legislator is to cast votes on bills. But 48,600 times during the 2009-2010 session, legislators either abstained on or were not present for votes, according to a Bee review of data from the Legislative Counsel's Office. Roughly one of every 12 votes during the session were abstentions.

The Legislative Counsel doesn't distinguish between votes where legislators were absent or votes where legislators didn't state a preference. Some abstentions were clearly due to illness, such as many of the missed votes by Jenny Oropeza, who died in office after a long battle with illness. Other abstentions are due to lawmakers seeking higher office, like Fresno Republican Jeff Denham, who campaigned and won a seat in Congress while serving as a state senator. And other abstentions are just due to lawmakers "taking a pass" on a controversial measure.

Here are the 10 lawmakers who failed to vote the most during the last session.

There are a few legislators who aren't part of this trend, and who rarely miss a vote. Here are the five legislators that abstained the fewest times during the last session.

Update: To answer a question from a few different people: If a legislator served a partial term during the last session, only votes taken when they were in office are counted toward their tally of abstentions. For example, if they came into office on Oct. 1, 2010, they would not be deemed as abstaining on votes taken during or prior to Sept. 30, 2010. And, for those interested, here's a spreadsheet showing abstention tallies for all legislators.

April 25, 2011
One in 46 local households declared bankruptcy last year

About 54,000 households in the federal court district that includes the Sacramento region declared bankruptcy last year, up 20 percent from 2009.

The rate of bankruptcy filings in the eastern district of California is now about 50 percent higher than the national average.

Most filers asked for Chapter 7 protection, a liquidation which addresses unsecured debt like credit cards. About 10,000 filed for debt restructuring under Chapter 13, which is often done to try to save a home from foreclosure -- a gambit that usually fails in the long run.

Note: Bankruptcies decreased in 2006 because of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act.

Source: U.S. Federal Courts

April 22, 2011
Personal income falls in the region

Personal income (the aggregate amount of money individuals receive from all sources) fell 1.3 percent in the Sacramento region between 2008-09. In its latest data release, the Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that personal income decreased from $86.9 to $85.7 million in the 4-county area. Given the economic hit Sacramento has suffered during the current recession, this drop is not so surprising.

After a steady climb since the early 90s, per capita income in the region (adjusted for inflation) fell for the past two years, 2007-09, from $41,924 to $40,306.

The BEA provides some very handy interactive tools for retrieving income data for states, counties and MSAs over the long term. They also allow you to break out the various sources of income, such as wages, unemployment compensation, welfare, etc. In a prior Public Eye blog posting, Phillip Reese used the BEA data to show the growth of Medicare/Medicaid payments in the Sacramento region.

April 22, 2011
Medicare, Medicaid payments skyrocket in Sacramento region

Congress is talking a lot about what to do with the federal government's two largest health insurance programs, Medicare and Medicaid. Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee Chair, is proposing massive changes to the programs, saying the country can no longer afford them.

In the Sacramento region, Medicare and Medicaid payments to individuals have more than doubled during the last 10 years, according to new personal income figures from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. The government paid six times as much to local individuals under Medicare and Medicaid during 2009 as it did to individuals on welfare (unemployment), the data show.

A few things are likely behind the trends. Medicare is the government's health insurance program for the elderly, and the elderly population is growing fast. Medicaid helps the poor, and there are more poor Sacramentans because of the recession. Also, health care costs of all types tend to jump sharply each year, creating a bigger bill for the government.

One note: Medicaid in California is known as Medi-Cal. The Medicaid figures above also include a few other smaller government health insurance programs.

April 21, 2011
Number of Sacramentans with jobs nears ten-year low

The Sacramento region has about as many jobs today as it did ten years ago -- despite the fact that the number of people wanting to work has grown by almost 100,000. The region's unemployment rate will remain above 10 percent until 2014, according to a new study from economists at the University of the Pacific.

April 20, 2011
California lags nation in "wireless" households

landline.JPGMore than a quarter (26.6 percent) of U.S. households use no landline telephones, relying solely on wireless (cell or mobile) phones. In addition, people in 15.9 percent of homes with landlines report that they use wireless phones for all or nearly all of their calls.

Those figures were compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics, which has been tracking telephone equipment preferences since 2007. Why does a federal health agency care what phone you use? Well it matters a lot to people who conduct health (and political) surveys, since up to recently these were directed only at people with wired phones, thereby missing a growing segment of the population. Consider that the percentage of wireless-only households has increased significantly in just four years, from 13.6 percent in Jan-June 2007 to 26.6 percent in Jan-June 2010.

Surprisingly, tech-savvy California in 2010 ranked low in terms of the proportion of U.S. adults living in wireless households. Arkansas was tops with 35.2 percent. Rhode Island was at the bottom with 12.8 percent. And the Golden State was 41st with 18.2 percent.

PHOTO CREDIT: Dorothy Hawkinson is one person who doesn't even have a cell phone. She holds her rotary dial, ivory with gold trim phone, she bought in 1981. 2009 Sacramento Bee photo by Paul Kitagaki.

April 20, 2011
UC Davis, CSUS student loan debt nearly doubles over decade

First-time, full time undergraduates at UC Davis and Sacramento State took out an average of about $5,000 in federal student loans during the 2008-09 school year, up 75 percent from the start of the decade, according to the latest federal data. Last school year, all students at the two schools took out roughly $242 million in federal loans. Because of the budget crisis, tuition at the two schools continues to increase rapidly, setting off protests.

April 19, 2011
During budget crisis, legislators, aides accepted $75,000 in gifts

The state budget was 100 days late last year. During that time, legislators, their staff and other state leaders accepted gifts from special interests that included free golf at Pebble Beach; Rihanna concert tickets; dinner at Morton's and seats at the baseball All-Star game. Gifts taken over this period worth more than $150 are shown below. Also, check out The Bee's database of all gifts given to state leaders.

April 18, 2011
Immigrant population in California growing sharply

The percentage of foreign born people in California grew from nine percent in 1970 to 27 percent in 2009, according to a new analysis of Census data by the Public Policy Institute of California. In raw numbers that's an increase of 1.8 million to almost 10 million. Currently, 46 percent of immigrants are citizens.

Crunching figures from the 2009 American Community Survey, PPIC researchers also found that California's share of the foreign born was the highest in the country. Most California immigrants come from Latin America (55 percent) and Asia (35 percent). Mexico leads the originating countries with 4.3 million, followed by the Philippines (783,000), and China (681,000).

About one quarter of all U.S. immigrants live in California. Although California still leads the states as the first destination for new immigrants, that percent has dropped from 31 percent (1985-90) to 17 percent (2008-09).

Last year the PPIC estimated that California is home to roughly 2.6 million undocumented people.

April 1, 2011
Workplace violence is declining

Good news for those of us who toil in cubicles: the number of violent incidents in workplaces has decreased in the past decade.

In a new publication Workplace Violence, 1993-2009, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that nonfatal violent crimes against employees (rape, robbery and assault) fell from 2.1 million in 1993 to 572,000 in 2009. The number of homicides dropped from 1,068 to 591 over that same period.

In terms of occupation, law enforcement personnel, security guards and bartenders suffered the highest rates of nonfatal workplace violence between 2005 and 2009. Preschool, elementary school and college teachers enjoyed the lowest rates.

The majority of offenders in workplace homicides are robbers and other assailants (70.3 percent), followed by work associates (21.4 percent), relatives (4.0 percent) and other personal acquaintances (2.3 percent).

March 24, 2011
Government and construction workers not seeing income bump

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis revealed this week that personal income across the state rose by 2.5 percent during 2010. That's great news for the state economy, but little comfort to workers in the government and construction sectors. They saw another compensation drop last year.

Construction compensation has plunged every year in California since start of the 2007 recession. State and local government pay has dropped each year since 2008.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis
Note: "Government" in chart shows state and local government compensation; "Technology" in chart is short for professional, scientific, and technical services.

March 23, 2011
The growing U.S. nuclear waste problem

ranchoseco.JPGThe continuing battle to cool spent fuel rods at Japan's Fukushima's nuclear power station puts a spotlight on the growing amount of radioactive waste accumulating at American nuclear power plants.

Because there is yet no permanent storage facility for spent fuel, this very hazardous material is kept near the reactors which generated it. According to a new Associated Press investigation, the nation now maintains nearly 72,000 tons of nuclear waste. And this amount is growing by about 2,200 tons every year.

Nuclear fuel waste -- which stays toxic for thousands of years -- is currently housed in two types of temporary storage: cooling pools and dry casks. Fuel rods must first cool in the pools for at least five years before transfer to the casks that keep the material safe for about 100 years. AP reports that many of the pools are overloaded, some with four times what they were designed to hold. Almost 55,000 tons of waste are still in pools.

U.S. commercial nuclear waste is housed at 119 power plants in 31 states. (Fifteen of these plants are no longer operating.) California has four such facilities. (Two are producing electricity, two are closed.) California's current waste totals 3,186 tons (2,180 in pools, 956 in dry casks). See AP's interactive map for statistics on other states' inventory.

PHOTO CREDIT: A SMUD technician walks over the pool where the first fuel rods are being kept before being loaded into the new Rancho Seco nuclear reactor. 1974 Sacramento Bee photo by Andrew DeLucia.

March 23, 2011
Interactive: See school districts in worst financial shape

Almost 2 million students--roughly 30 percent of pupils in California--now attend school in a district facing serious financial jeopardy, state Department of Education officials said this week.

This map shows school districts in California with a "negative" or "qualified" certification. A qualified certification is assigned when a district may not meet its financial obligations for the current or two subsequent fiscal years. A negative certification is assigned when a district will be unable to meet its financial obligations for the remainder of the current year or for the subsequent fiscal year.

March 21, 2011
Unemployment down slightly in Sacramento region

New data released for the nation's urban areas shows unemployment down in Jan. 2010 compared to Jan. 2009 in 282 of 387 MSAs. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found joblessness going up in 73 metros and staying the same in 17 others. Sixteen areas had unemployment rates of at least 15.0 percent.

Twelve of the fourteen regions with the most unemployment are located in California, lead by El Centro with 25.1 percent. Lincoln, Neb. looks the best with a mere 4.1 percent. Most of the other MSAs at the bottom are also in the nation's middle.

Joblessness in Sacramento region decreased very slightly over than same 12-month period: 13.0 to 12.9 percent. In Jan 2010 the region ranked 65th in unemployment among all MSAs and third (behind Riverside and Las Vegas) among large MSAs (with populations of a million or more).

March 18, 2011
Survey: 22.4 percent obesity in Sacramento region

More than a fifth of adults are obese in almost all the metropolitan areas surveyed by Gallup in 2010. The survey company found that 177 of 188 MSAs have at least 20 percent of residents who are seriously overweight. Evansville, Ind. leads the way with 38.7 percent. Boulder, Colo. has the least with 12.9 percent. Sacramento is about average with 22.4 percent.

The obesity data is part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, a collection of indicators that includes: diabetes, frequent exercise, frequent consumption of produce, city optimism, and the uninsured. There's also an overall well-being score which is calculated from "an average of six sub-indexes: life evaluation, physical health, emotional health, healthy behavior, work environment, and basic access."

In terms of overall well-being, Boulder leads again with a score of 73.7 in 2010. Bringing up the rear is Huntington-Ashland, W.Va. at 58.1. Sacramento lands in the top third of metropolitan areas with a score of 67.0.

You can easily see detailed health stats for each of the MSAs with Gallup's interactive tracking chart which has data from 2008 and 2009, as well as 2010.

March 17, 2011
Gap between California public, private union membership grows

For decades, the number of workers in California's private sector covered by unions has shrunk while the number covered in the public sector has grown.

That gap widened significantly during 2010. Public sector workers covered by unions now outnumber their private sector counterparts by 300,000, even though the public sector only comprises 15 percent of workers in California.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey via

March 14, 2011
Prescription drug costs rising faster than other health sectors

The cost of prescription drugs is increasing at a much faster rate than that of other medical services, according to the non-partisan Government Accountability Administration.

The GAO today released a report estimating that a "basket" of "100 commonly used prescription drugs increased at an average annual rate of 6.6 percent from 2006 through the first quarter of 2010 compared with a 3.8 percent average annual increase in the consumer price index for medical goods and service."

Escalating drug prices have significant implications for efforts to control the U.S. budget deficit, since the federal government spent $78 billion, or 31 percent, of the total $250 billion spent on prescription medicines in 2009.

March 7, 2011
Report: hospital costs higher in northern California than in southern counties

Hospital stays in northern California tend to be higher than those in the southern half, according to a new analysis by the Los Angeles Times. Using data from the Office of Statewide Health Planning, the Times found that cost per patient per day was 56 percent greater in the north's largest counties than in the south's.

Leading the way were San Francisco and Santa Clara with an average of $7,300, followed by Contra Costa with $6,900. Sacramento is the fourth highest county at $6,700. In contrast, San Bernardino is the most economical at $3,900.

Times writers attribute the difference to greater consolidation and relative lack of competition in hospital services in the north. For example, Sutter Health, with its huge system of 24 hospitals, 500 doctors in 100 cities, is one of the big players which tends to negotiate higher reimbursements from insurance providers.

Back in April, a Bee investigation concluded that California hospitals overall "are charging insurance companies, and by extension their customers, billions of dollars for expenses not directly related to care. These include new hospital wings, new technology and services for the uninsured."

March 4, 2011
Third of U.S. adults have sleep problems

Can't sleep? You're not alone. A new Centers for Disease Control study estimates 50-70 million American adults get less than the recommended 7-9 hours a night.

Researchers asked nearly 75,000 people in 12 states about their sleep habits and found "48.0% reported snoring, 37.9% reported unintentionally falling asleep during the day at least 1 day in the preceding 30 days, and 4.7% reported nodding off or falling asleep while driving in the preceding 30 days.

Sleep issues vary by age group. Adults, 25-34, are most likely to not get enough sleep (39.4 percent) and to fall asleep at the wheel (7.2 percent). Snoring most affects those 55-64 (62.4 percent). Seniors over 65 are most likely to fall asleep during the day (44.6 percent).

Of the 12 states studied, Hawaii has the highest percentage of people who lack proper sleep (44.6 percent) and Minnesota, the lowest (27.6 percent). California is about average (34.5 percent).

Aside from difficulties with concentration and memory, the CDC warns that sleep problems are correlated with chronic diseases, mental disorders, health-risk behaviors, limitations of daily functioning, injury, and mortality.

The National Sleep Foundation provides helpful information on all aspects of sleep disorders and their treatment. 

March 3, 2011
New statistical report describes status of U.S. women

There's still a wage gap, but the overall condition of women has improved in terms of employment, education, income, family, health and safety. That's the message of a new report, Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being, the first comprehensive statistical compilation from the federal government in 50 years.

Some highlights:

* Women are attending college at a rate on par with men, and the percent of younger women earning degrees has now surpassed that of younger men.

* The wage gap has improved, but in 2009 women at all educational levels earned about 75 cents for every dollar earned by men.

* Women continue to live longer than men, But they face special health challenges: mobility problems, arthritis, asthma, depression and obesity. The proportion of adult women, 18-64, without health insurance has been rising. In 2009, 18 percent of this age group lacked coverage.

* In terms of violent crime, women are less likely to be victims than men. But women continue to be victims of certain crimes, such as domestic violence and stalking, at a higher rate than men.

February 28, 2011
Public Eye: Have local fans already abandoned Kings?

Since 2009, no other NBA team has seen fewer fans come to home games than the Sacramento Kings.

Only three other teams in major professional sports -- the NHL's Thrashers, Coyotes and NY Islanders -- posted average attendance at home games during that period lower than the Kings.

Most NFL teams drew more total fans to their regular season games during 2009 and 2010 than the NBA's Kings -- even though NFL teams only play eight home games, albeit in much larger stadiums. No NHL or MLB team drew fewer total fans to home games during 2009 and 2010 than the Kings.

A lot of that comes down to the Kings recent losing ways, which arguably fall at the feet of decisions made by the team's owners. But if you owned the Kings, would you stay in a town showing the following attendance trend line?

Sources: databaseBasketball; ESPN

February 28, 2011
The unionized workforce, some national and state statistics

The battle in Wisconsin over proposed curbs on public-sector bargaining puts a spotlight on the organized labor in general.

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data released last month, U.S. union membership has declined steadily over the past three decades, dropping from 20.1 percent in 1983 to 11.9 percent in 2010. Last year, public-sector unionization far exceeded that in the private-sector, 36.2 percent to 6.9 percent.

On the state level, 2010 union membership ranged from 3.2 percent in North Carolina to 24.2 percent in New York. California is fifth with 17.5 percent of wage and salary workers belonging to a labor union.

California has defied the national trend by showing an increase in membership rate from 15.5 percent in 2000 to 17.5 percent in 2010. In comparison the U.S. rate fell from 13.4 percent to 11.9 percent over that period.

February 24, 2011
Metro GDP data shows recession's targets

New data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis shows vividly the toll the recession has taken on urban areas. Overall, U.S. metropolitan areas experienced a 2.4 percent fall in real GDP in 2009 after dropping 0.4 percent in 2008. (Real GDP is adjusted for inflation.) Declines occurred in 80 percent of the nation's 366 Metropolitan Statistical Areas.

U.S. metro GDP peaked in 2007. For all industries, the percent change in real GDP from 2007 to 2009 was -2.9 percent. The hardest hit sectors were construction (-20.63), accommodation and food service (-14.40), non-durable good manufacturing (-13.82) and leisure and hospitality (-13.07).

The Sacramento MSA was hit harder than the country as a whole. Its GDP fell -5.16 percent from 2007-09. The biggest losers were construction (-27.60), accommodation and food service (-18.45), leisure and hospitality (-15.91), retail trade (-14.52).

You can easily compile your own GDP tables for any metro area, by using BEA's online interactive database.

February 22, 2011
Study: hearing loss a significant problem for the middle-aged

The relatively high prevalence of hearing loss among seniors is no surprise, but a new study published in the latest Archives of Otolaryngology indicates the problem is significant among middle-aged adults, 45-54.

Researchers tested the hearing of some 3,300 adults ranging in age from 21 to 84. Overall, 14.1 percent were found to have some level of impairment. According to the study, hearing loss tends to increase with age:

21-34 -- 2.9 percent
35-44 -- 6.4 percent
45-54 -- 10.9 percent
55-64 -- 25.1 percent
65-84 -- 42.7 percent

In addition to age, other correlates to hearing impairment include noisy employment environment, lower educational level, being male, ear surgery history and diminished blood vessel health.

February 16, 2011
Latest CDC annual report on the nation's health

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services today released its 34th annual report to Congress on the nation's state of health. Health, United States, 2010: With Special Feature on Death and Dying is a large compendium of statistics on disease, mortality and medical care.

Among the report's highlights:

* Heart disease continued to be the leading cause of death in 2007, accounting for 25 percent of all deaths. Cancer followed closely behind with 23 percent.

* Between 2000 and 2007, life expectancy rose 1.3 years for males (to 75.4) and 1.1 years for females (to 80.4).

* The prevalence of obesity increased in all age groups over the past two decades. About 33 percent of adults over the age of 20 were obese in the period 2007-08.

* The percent of adults who smoke cigarettes has stayed flat at 21 percent for several years.

* Total visits to hospitals and doctors' offices increased from 861,000 in 1995 to 1.2 million in 2008. The number of visits per 100 persons rose from 329 to 405 over the same period.

* In 2007 health care spending accounted for 16 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product (compared to 11 percent in France). Between 1990 and 2008, per capita health expenditures rose $2,814 to $7,681 (in current dollars).

February 16, 2011
Sacramento vs. Detroit: Who has more misery?

Lots of ink has already been spilled about Forbes ranking Sacramento as the fifth most miserable city in America earlier this month. Marcos Breton talked about how the ranking ignored some of the city's finer points; Ryan Lillis noted how other ranking lists disagree with Forbes' conclusion.

When you dig into the data, though, the only way Sacramento can possibly be one of the most miserable cities in America is if you equate misery with unemployment and foreclosures. By most other measures, Sacramento ranks way ahead of a lot of cities Forbes considers happier.

To illustrate that, here's a chart comparing Sacramento to two Rust Belt cities Forbes says are much less miserable than Sacramento: Detroit and Buffalo.




Unemployment Rate12.511.18.2


Median Household Income$47,107$26,098$29,285


Adults with Bachelor's Degree30%12%23%


Poverty Rate19%36%29%


Median Home Sales Price$205,000$87,000$107,000


Percentage of Days with Sunshine78%53%48%


Obese Adults29%34%26%


Residents Who Own Homes48%54%44%


Homeowners Paying 1/2 Income on Mortgage14%16%7%


Murder Rate (per 100,000 residents)6.440.222.3

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau; CDC; NOAA; Wells Fargo; FBI

February 15, 2011
American consumers continue to pay down their debt

Aggregate U.S. consumer debt -- which reached a peak of $12.5 trillion in 2008Q3 -- has been steadily falling. In its newest Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit, the Federal Reserve of New York says total consumer indebtedness dropped to $11.4 trillion as of Dec. 31, suggesting that Americans are getting a better handle on their finances.

Total mortgage debt -- by far the largest part of family borrowing -- declined 9.1 percent from its peak in 2008Q3. Debt from home equity lines of credit also fell, 6.5 percent from its peak in 2009Q1.

The NY Fed estimates that 211 million credit accounts closed during 2010, compared to the 164 million that opened during the same period. The number of open credit card accounts fell 23 percent in 2010Q4 from its high in 2008Q2.

Debt delinquency rates have also been dropping. At the end of 2010, 10.8 percent of loans were in some stage of delinquency, compared to 11.1 percent at the end of the third quarter and 12.0 percent at the end of 2009.

Hat tip: The Washington Post.

February 10, 2011
PPIC: slight majority of Californians support Obamacare

Californians support the national health care reform bill by a margin of 51 to 36 percent. That's one of the findings of a state survey of health-related issues by the Public Policy Institute of California.

PPIC also reports that overall 81 percent of Californians judged their own health as "good," "very good" or "excellent." But there are significant demographic differences in that perception. Respondents were more likely to rate their health as "fair" or "poor," if they are low income, have less education, lack health insurance or are a member of a minority group.

Those surveyed generally rated local health and medical services as "good" or "excellent." But when asked if local services struck the balance between treatment and prevention, 60 percent wanted more focus on prevention.

Read the full report here.

February 8, 2011
Smoking shown a lot in TV shows popular with teens

A study published yesterday in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine finds substantial depictions of tobacco use in television programs with high teen viewership.

Researchers examined more than 70 episodes of prime-time shows like Family Guy and Gossip Girl and found 40 percent of them contained at least one instance of smoking, mostly of cigarettes. Fox lead the networks with 44 percent, followed by CBS with 41 percent.

All these episodes were rated TV-PG and TV-14 (the more stringent rating). Surprisingly, more TV-PG episodes showed smoking (50 percent) than ones rated TV-14 (26 percent).

The study was conducted by Legacy, a public interest group dedicated to reducing tobacco use by people of all ages.

Hat tip: Los Angeles Times Booster Shots blog.

February 5, 2011
Interactive: The California PHD Gender Gap

California universities award close to 50 percent of doctoral degrees to women, but there are still huge gender differences in what the state's brightest students choose to study. Women still lag in engineering and the sciences, with the exception of biology. Men continue to largely shun study of languages and psychology.

The below chart shows the percentage of doctoral degrees awarded to women by California universities during 2008, the most recent year for which complete data is available.

Source: California Postsecondary Education Commission

February 4, 2011
Californians keep playing lottery even after losing job

Despite losing their jobs, tens of thousands of Californians have stuck to their lottery habit. In fact, the proportion of lottery players who are unemployed has grown even faster than the proportion of the population without a job.

One reason for this is likely some recent, huge jackpots. Plus, even more than others, the unemployed might relish a $2 chance to solve all their monetary problems.

Source: California State Lottery, Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports.

February 1, 2011
Most people with hypertension and high cholesterol aren't properly treated

High blood pressure and cholesterol are major risk factors for heart attacks, strokes and related diseases, which kill more than 800,000 Americans annually. Despite the relative low-cost and effectiveness of treatment, the majority of people with these conditions aren't getting proper care, reports the Centers for Disease Control in a new report.

Individuals lacking health insurance are most likely to lack treatment. But even among those who are insured, many aren't controlling their hypertension and cholesterol adequately.

By the numbers:

High Blood Pressure
1 in 3 Adults has high blood pressure
1 in 3 Adults with high blood pressure does not get treatment
1 in 2 Adults with high blood pressure does not have it under control
High Cholesterol
1 in 3 Adults has high cholesterol
1 in 2 Adults with high cholesterol does not get treatment
2 in 3 Adults with high cholesterol do not have it under control

January 26, 2011
Top ten jury verdicts of 2010

A $505 million judgment in a Las Vegas civil case lead the 2010 ranking of U.S. jury awards.

Lawyers USA publishes the annual Top Ten list. The web site notes that the average size of the top ten verdicts grew from 2009 to 2010 ($145 to $157 million), but not as sharply as between 2008 and 2009 when the average jumped $33 million.

This ranking considers only verdicts in cases brought by individuals, families or small groups of people -- not large business or class-action suits. The Nevada lawsuit involved a man who contracted hepatitis C after a routine colonoscopy. He sued two pharmaceutical companies which made the anesthetic that carried the disease The jury awarded the plaintiffs $5 million in compensatory damages and $500 million in punitive damages.

A southern California jury gave the second largest judgment of the year to a woman who developed mesothelioma cancer. She claimed the asbestos exposure resulted from washing clothes her husband wore while working with asbestos-cement water pipes. The jury agreed and awarded $2 million in compensatory damages and $200 million in punitive damages.  

January 25, 2011
Interactive: Government provides health insurance to growing number of Californians

The U.S. House recently voted to repeal the president's health care plan. Much of the opposition over the plan has focused on a perceived government takeover of health insurance.

Roughly one-fourth of California's residents, though, already have public health insurance, primarily the poor (MediCal) and the elderly (Medicare) - a figure that is growing due to increased unemployment and the pending retirement of baby boomers.

Gov. Jerry Brown wants to cut MediCal reimbursement payments to providers -- an effort now before the U.S. Supreme Court. There's even talk of cutting Medicare - a longtime third rail because of the political clout of senior citizens.

This map shows the counties with the highest and lowest percentage of adults with public health insurance.

January 25, 2011
State of Homelessness in America 2011

RB Tent City.JPGThe National Alliance to End Homelessness has updated its census of the homeless population. The headline is that nationally this group increased in size by 20,000 between 2008 and 2009, a 3 percent rise. Thirty-one of 50 states saw increases with Louisiana leading the way with 100 percent growth. California grew 3.4 percent -- 128,785 to 133,129 -- during that period.

Broken out by sub-populations, the data shows the largest percentage growth among family households (4 percent).

In 2009 most homeless people lived in some type of shelter, but "nearly 4 in 10 were living on the street, in a car, or in another place not intended for human habitation."

Homelessness affects people of all ages, races, ethnicity and geography, say NAEH researchers, but some groups are at high risk: "people living in doubled up situations, people discharged from prison, young adults aged out of foster care, and uninsured people." California, Florida and Nevada are three states with high multiple risk factors, especially foreclosure and unemployment.

PHOTO CREDIT: Homeless people living in tents along the river parkway northeast of the Blue Diamond Almond facility in Sacramento, 2009. Sacramento Bee photo by Randall Benton.

January 24, 2011
Interactive: Local homes selling for the price of a car

The housing bust has made it possible to buy a home in Sacramento -- albeit a shabby, small, old one -- for roughly the price of a new Toyota Prius. Last year, several dozen homes sold in Sacramento for less than $30,000. Most of these homes sit within poverty-stricken neighborhoods; will need work to be habitable; or will be torn down for eventual new construction.

Here's a look at four Sacramento homes that sold for less than $27,000 last year. Would you rather have one of these or a new car?

Note: May take up to a minute for panoramas below to load; click and drag panorama to see surrounding neighborhood.

3262 23rd - Oak Park - 2 Beds, 1 bath, 828 square feet, built in 1935, sold for $25,000:

View Larger Map

4580 9th Avenue - Oak Park - 2 Beds, 1 bath, 788 square feet, built in 1925, sold for $25,000:

View Larger Map

3326 22nd Avenue - South Sacramento - 2 Beds, 1 bath, 835 square feet, built in 1935, sold for $26,000:

View Larger Map

2930 Branch Street - North Sac - 2 Beds, 1 bath, 744 square feet, built in 1938, sold for $27,000:

View Larger Map

Source: Sacramento Bee home sales database; Google Maps

January 21, 2011
CDC: past rise in childhood obesity leveling off

Obesity affects some 12.5 million U.S. children and teens, or about 17 percent of that population. The incidence of childhood obesity as been rising steadily since the 1960s, when it was around 5 percent.

But according to a new report issued by the Centers for Disease Control, childhood obesity rates appear to have leveled off in the few years. That's the good news. The bad news is there is a significant increase in obesity among the heavier boys, with the heaviest getting heavier. In addition, there are significant differences between racial, ethnic and age groups. Hispanic boys and non-Hispanic black girls, for example, are more likely to be obese. So are older children and teens, compared to preschoolers.

CDC researchers warn that severe overweight in youngsters can lead to psychological problems and medical risk factors, such as hypertension, high cholesterol, and abnormal glucose tolerance or diabetes. They point to a decline in healthy eating and exercise as primary determinants of obesity. So they recommend a multipronged strategy of encouraging more exercise, less television watching, greater consumption of fruits and vegetables and less of high-caloric foods.

January 21, 2011
Word Cloud: Mayor's State of the City address

This graphic shows the words used most often in Mayor Johnson's State of the City address Thursday.


January 19, 2011
New site allows citizens to monitor state legislators

Though we take it for granted, the Internet has greatly increased government transparency -- especially at the federal level. Now a new web site expands the potential of citizen scrutiny of government at the state level., a joint project of the Sunlight Foundation and Participatory Politics Foundation, aggregates many types of information on state lawmakers: brief biography; contact info; sponsored bills; key votes; committee memberships; campaign contributions; interest group ratings; news, blog and social media mentions; and videos. hopes to eventually cover all state and municipal governments, but initially the site is limited to five state legislatures: Louisiana, Maryland, Texas, Wisconsin and California.

January 17, 2011
Job discrimination claims reach a record high

seal.pngDiscrimination claims filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission hit a new high in fiscal 2010 (ending Sept. 30). According to the EEOC, private-sector charges rose to nearly 100,000, a seven percent increase over the prior year.

Agency statistics show a rise in all types of employment discrimination claims: race, gender, religion, national origin, etc. It's interesting to see the shifting proportion of cases between FY 1997 and FY 2010. In general, race has held steady at around 35 percent of total claims. Gender at 30 percent. But charges of age discrimination has jumped from around 19 to 23 percent, reflecting perhaps the aging workforce.

Despite the growth in filings, the EEOC says it's been keeping up with enforcement. Pending charges increased less than one percent between FY 2009 and 2010, compared to a 16 percent jump between 2008 and 2009.

January 14, 2011
Cost of cancer projected to rise 27 percent in ten years

Although cancer incidence is declining and cancer survival is increasing, the cost of treating cancer in the United States is expected to jump from $125 billion in 2010 to at least $158 billion in 2020. That's due in large measure to an aging population, say the authors of a new National Cancer Institute study.

NCI researchers note that cancer strikes older people disproportionately and so they project the number of cancer survivors rising 13.8 milion to 18.1 million in the next ten years. The biggest contributor to the overall cost in 2020 is care of prostate and breast cancer patients which will grow 42 and 32 percent, respectively.

Hat tip: Los Angeles Times Booster Shots blog.

January 13, 2011
Study: One in four California pregnancies ends in abortion

The abortion rate in California has declined sharply over the last two decades, but remains higher than the nationwide rate, according to a new study from the nonpartisan Guttmacher Institute.

About 24 percent of pregnancies in California ended with an abortion during 2008, the study found. Nationwide, about 19 percent of pregnancies ended in abortion.

Doctors performed roughly 214,000 abortions in California during 2008. About 18 percent of the nation's abortions happened here.

About 95,000 of California's abortions were publicly funded; about half of the nation's publicly-funded abortions that year occurred in California.

Researchers often talk about the abortion rate -- the number of abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age. That has declined sharply after peaking in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Access to abortion providers has recently increased. Roughly 99 percent of California women now live in a county with an abortion provider, the Guttmacher study found. Nationwide, 65 percent of women live in counties with an abortion provider.

Source: Guttmacher Institute

January 10, 2011
How much will you make in lifetime Social Security, Medicare benefits?

The President's fiscal commission has issued its recommendations for controlling federal spending and deficits. Its report includes suggestions for reining in future costs of Social Security and Medicare, and it's likely we'll see cutbacks in future benefits. But that prompts the question, what would you receive in total Social Security and Medicare benefits if nothing changes?

The non-partisan Urban Institute tries to answer that question in a new study, Social Security and Medicare Taxes and Benefits Over a Lifetime. It estimates the total taxes paid and the total benefits received for a hypothetical worker who began working at age 22, earned an average wage ($43,100 in 2010 dollars) and stopped working at the normal retirement age.

The results vary widely depending on marital status and when you reach age 65. A single man, for example, who turned 65 in 1960, paid in $17,000 for a total of $125,000 in lifetime benefits. That same man hitting 65 in 2030 would pay $476,000 in taxes for $569,000 in benefits. (All these figures are in 2010 dollars.)

January 6, 2011
States' revenue dropped nearly 31 percent in 2009

A stark indication of the impact of the recession on state budgets: state government revenue in the country plummeted 30.8 percent between 2008 and 2009. The U.S. Census Bureau, which annually tracks state finances, reported yesterday that total revenues fell to $1.1 trillion from $1.6 trillion. 

Much of this decrease was caused by declining "social insurance trust revenue," defined as "public employee retirement, unemployment compensation, workers compensation and other insurance trusts (i.e., Social Security, Medicare, veteran's life insurance)."

Total state taxes collected in the U.S. fell 8.5 percent from $781.6 billion in 2008 to $715.1 billion in 2009.

In California, total revenue dropped 43.6 percent from $201.1 billion to $113.3 billion over the same period. State taxes collected declined 14.0 percent from 117.4 billion to 101.0 billion. See this Census table for a full breakdown of California's revenues and expenditures in 2009.

January 5, 2011
State's condemned inmates dying in droves -- but not from executions

It's been five years since California executed a condemned inmate, a delay largely caused by a dispute over methods of lethal injection.

Since then, 26 condemned inmates have died as a result of natural causes or suicide, state figures show. That's a much higher death rate than previous years, likely because condemned inmates are getting old as their appeals and the lethal injection case move through the system.

Since the death penalty was reinstated in California during 1978, five times as many condemned inmates have died from suicide or natural causes as have died from executions.

About 720 inmates live on California's death row.

California condemned inmate deaths by cause, 1978 to present:

Note: "Other" category includes two murders, two drug overdoses and a heart attack following pepper spray exposure.

January 3, 2011
Disabled people have greater risk of dying in a home fire

Every year an estmated 2,655 people die and 13,025 are injured in residential fires, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. The agency warned recently that people with physical, mental and sensory disabilities are especially at risk of death and injury. A 2009 study found that physical disability played a factor in 13 percent of home fire fatalities. Further, the mortality rate for residential fire victims is 1.4 times higher for the physically disabled as compared to the overall victim population.

The USFA reminds disabled people, their families and caretakers that diminished health, mobility, sight, and hearing may limit an individual's capacity to act in a fire emergency. Therefore, it's vital that persons with disabilities develop and practice escape plans. This involving knowing your exit routes and insuring that you and your wheelchair/walker can pass through them. It's also essential to properly maintain smoke alarms that accommodate your particular sensory limitation. See the USFA Focus on Fire Safety for more helpful advice. 

December 30, 2010
Report: dialysis oversight in California weakest in nation

Almost 40 years ago Congress expanded Medicare to cover dialysis treatment for all Americans suffering from kidney failure--regardless of age or income. Today taxpayers shell out $20 billion annually to provide the life-saving procedure for some 400,000 patients. Although the United States spends more per patient than virtually every other country, its mortality rate for dialysis care is among the highest in the industrialized world, according to the watchdog group ProPublica.

In an ongoing investigation, ProPublica discovered an alarming number of clinics that provide substandard care in unsanitary conditions. The result are needless hospitalizations and avoidable deaths. Equally troubling is the weak oversight of the dialysis industry. Checks of clinics, known as recertification surveys, are supposed to be conducted by state regulators every three years. But the frequency of government inspections of these 5,000+ facilities varies widely by state. In California--which has the biggest backlog in the nation--at least half the dialysis clinics haven't been inspected in five years or more. And some 10 percent haven't been checked since 2000.

Federal authorities have pressed California to boost its inspections or face withholding of funds. But federal money for recertification hasn't kept up with the growing number of clinics. That and the state's budget crisis has hampered oversight. And so the backlog continues to grow.

December 30, 2010
Top ten Public Eye items of 2010

It's a journalistic tradition this time of year: top ten lists covering everything from local news to celebrity gossip. At The Public Eye we're looking back at the year's most significant blog entries -- as determined by reader interest. Here are 2010's top ten items. Most of these were written by The Bee's lead data cruncher Phillip Reese, who often showcases statistics with interactive maps.

10. Study: Sacramento residents smoke pot often, see no great risk.

9. Interactive: California's most troubled schools.

8. Local government workers earning $250,000+.

7. Five horses dead in San Joaquin County. Did heat kill them?

6. Map: Where local fatal car wrecks happen.

5. Most city, county leaders earn $200,000+ each year.

4. Interactive: Areas where Sacramento cops spend the most time.

3. Interactive: California's biggest tax dodgers.

2. California's budget deficit compares poorly to other states.

1. Interactive: Gang activity in Sacramento.
December 28, 2010
State data shows drop in preventable hospitalizations

New statistics by the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development show a significant decline in preventable hospitalizations over the period 1999-2008. The OSHPD report looked at 14 medical conditions "for which quality outpatient care or early intervention can potentially prevent the need for hospitalization or complications leading to a more severe illness."

Ten of these conditions, including chest pain, pediatric gastroenteritis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, showed decreases in hospitalization rates. The rate for diabetes (short-term complications) stayed the same. Diabetes (long-term complications), urinary tract infections and hypertension increased. 

The OSHPD study examined the hospital data at the county level and the results are displayed in color-coded maps for easy comparisons. Of particular concern are the hospitalization rates for childhood asthma in Alameda County, which 2.5 times that of the state's, as well as hypertension rates in South Central Los Angeles, which are 3.3 times that of the state's.  

In general, the four counties of the Sacramento region show average or below average hospitalization rates for the 14 preventable conditions.

Hat tip: HealthyCal.

December 21, 2010
2009 teen births drop to record low

The birth rate for U.S. girls aged 15-19 fell to 39.1 births per 1,000 in 2009. That's the lowest it's been since recordkeeping began in 1940, says the Centers for Disease Control. Birth rates for teens of all ages, races and ethnic groups dropped to historic levels.

In its new preliminary report, the CDC also found the first decline since 2002 in total births to unmarried mothers. But since total U.S. births declined even more, the percentage of births attributed to unmarried mothers actually rose to 41.0 percent in 2009 from 40.6 percent in 2008.

Married or not, women in their early 20s showed a 7.0 percent drop in birth rate in 2009. It's the biggest decrease for that age group since 1973. The birth rate also fell for women in their late 20s and 30s, but increased for women in their 40s. 

December 20, 2010
DOJ: estimated 11.7 million were victims of identity theft

An estimated 11.7 million Americans (aged 16 and over) were victims of identity theft, according to a 2008 U.S. Justice Department study whose results were released last week. The survey of 56,500 household residents is the first time the Bureau of Justice Statistics has collected data on these types of property crimes.

BJS estimates that only 23 percent of those victimized suffered some financial loss, but the total cost to society came to $17.3 billion during the two-year period of the study. It also calculates that 6.2 million people were victims of the unauthorized use of credit cards, the most common variety of identity theft.

A demographic breakdown of victims (p. 3) shows that wealthier people (i.e. those living in households making $75,00 and over) are more likely to experience at least one attempted or successful identity theft incident.

December 15, 2010
Teen pot use takes a jump

Illicit marijuana use by teens is increasing according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. That conclusion is based on the 2010 Monitoring the Future survey of eighth, 10th- and 12th-graders.

Eighth graders who reported illicit use of any type of drug in the past years rose from 14.5 percent in 2009 to 16.0 percent in 2010. That bump was largely due to an increase in pot smoking by this age group, whose daily use percentage rose from 1.0 to 1.2. Daily pot use also increased among high school sophmores and seniors, 2.8 to 3.3 percent and 5.2 to 6.1 percent, respectively.

Researchers also found a bump in the use of Ecstacy (MDMA) among youths. Reported use by eighth-graders rose 1.3 to 2.4 percent from 2009 to 2010. Tenth-grade use rose 3.7 to 4.7 percent.

December 15, 2010
Interactive: Gun crimes in South Sacramento

South Sacramento has long been one of the most dangerous spots in the county. During the first nine months of the year, Sacramento sheriff's deputies responded to reports of 113 shootings and other gun crimes in South Sacramento. On Tuesday, a shootout near Stockton and Florin left two woman dead and several injured.

Shootings and other gun crimes, South Sacramento, Jan.-Sep. 2010

View South Sacramento shootings, 2010 in a larger map
Note: Includes the following crimes: murder; assault with a firearm; assault with firearm on peace officer; assault with semiautomatic firearm; shoot at inhabited dwelling or vehicle; shoot at uninhabited dwelling or vehicle; discharge firearm in a negligent manor; exhibit firearm; grand theft: firearm.

Map shows gun crimes in Sheriff's Central District; click and drag map to see more. Updated at 1:45 p.m. 12/15 to correct some addresses that did not map properly.

December 13, 2010
Economic 'stress index' improves in nation, state and region

The nation's economic condition in October, as measured by the Associated Press' Stress Index, improved to its best level in 18 months.

AP launched the index in 2007 to track the overall effect of the recession on states and counties. It takes into consideration unemployment, foreclosures and bankruptcies. Scores run from one to 100, and the higher the score, the greater the economic stress. A place with a rating of over 11 is considered financially challenged.

In October California (16.01) fell to third place in the list of the most stressed states, giving up the second place slot to Florida (16.56) which struggles with a rising foreclosure rate. Nevada (21.68) continues to lead the pack by a large margin.

The most stressed county in the United States was California's Imperial County (33.26). It did show a 2.39 point improvement since September. In our region, all but Yolo County saw a monthly lessening of economic stress. The table below displays the latest figures, the monthly change and the pre-recession levels.

Associated Press Stress Index
Place Oct-10 Change from Sep-10 Oct-07
California 16.01 -0.13 7.23
Sacramento Co. 17.81 -0.33 9.20
Placer Co. 16.30 -0.39 7.37
El Dorado Co. 15.97 -0.23 6.82
Yolo Co. 14.80 0.13 6.86


AP's color-coded stress map provides comprehensive data for all states and counties and gives a good visual overview of which regions continue to be hit the hardest by the economic downturn.  

December 8, 2010
Debit card use up as Fed mulls fee controls

debitcard.jpgDebit card use has jumped in the United States, according to the Federal Reserve in a report on non-cash payments issued today. The Fed says debit card transactions grew 14.8 percent between 2006 and 2009. During the same period check transactions fell by 7.2 percent. For many consumers debit cards have become the dominant form of non-cash payment.

Legislation passed earlier this year will impose limits on "interchange fees," that is, the fees banks charge merchants for debit card transactions, which many believe are excessive. Next week the Federal Reserve will unveil its rules for such fees and the banking industry anticipates the loss of millions of dollars as a result of the new restrictions.

Major banks are reportedly shifting their marketing to reloadable prepaid cards that are not subject to Fed regulation. These cards are used increasingly by low-income families who don't have bank accounts. But Consumers Union and other advocacy groups warn that prepaid cards harbor a bevy of hidden fees buried in fine print. A CU report details the complicated fee structure of specific products, such as the WalMart Money and Account Now cards (p. 13). 

PHOTO CREDIT: A shopper swipes his debit card at a supermarket in Omaha, Neb., in 2007. AP Photo/ Nati Harnik

December 6, 2010
Pregnancy-related deaths creeping up in U.S.

Although it's rare for U.S. women to die of complications in pregnancy, a Centers for Disease Control study shows that such deaths are increasing in this country.

Researchers found that between 1998 and 2005 the national pregnancy-related mortality rate was 14.5 deaths per 100,000 live births. In 1986, the rate fell to a low of 7.4 per 100,000 before experiencing a gradual rise. (A pregnancy-related death is considered any death occurring during, or within a year after pregnancy, that is caused by a complication of pregnancy.)

The study doesn't identify a precise cause for the increase in these materal deaths. But it notes that in recent years more women of child-bearing age are dealing with obesity and chronic health issues such as hypertension and diabetes.

Back in February, California Watch reported that the rate of pregnancy-related deaths in the state tripled over the past ten years.

December 3, 2010
Nurses continue to dominate Gallup's 'honesty and ethics' ranking

Gallup, the public opinion research company, has been polling Americans since 1976 about their perception of the ethics and honesty of various professions. The survey covers such diverse jobs as pharmacists, politicians, car sellers, firefighters, teachers and lawyers.

But there's one profession that has ranked number one in all but one year since 1999. That's nursing. Nurses' honesty and ethical standards were judged "very high/high" by 81 percent of those Gallup polled last month. Nurses were trailed by military officers who were rated very high/high by 73 percent. At the bottom of the list are lobbyists with a score of just seven percent very high/high (61 percent rated them very low/low).

Television and newspaper reporters fall in the middle of the pack with scores of 23 and 22 percent very high/high in honesty and ethics.

December 2, 2010
Study: percentage of fatal accidents involving drugs is growing

In a first-time study of drug use and accidents, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found the percentage of fatalities involving legal and illegal drugs has grown over the past five years.

The NHTSA looked at post-mortem drug tests of drivers who died in vehicle accidents. Of the 27,491 drivers killed in 2005, 56 percent were tested. Of those tested, 3,710 or 13 percent tested positive for some type of drug. (Drug categories tested include: "narcotics, depressants, stimulants, hallucinogens, cannabinoids, phencyclidines (PCPs), anabolic steroids, and inhalants".) That percentage rose in 2009 when 18 percent of drivers tested positive after fatal accidents.

Authorities caution that positive test results do not mean the driver was impaired or that drug use was the main cause of the crash.

December 1, 2010
Interactive: The Sacramento housing market's lost decade

If you bought a home in Sacramento nine years ago and didn't make major changes, it's likely worth about as much today as you paid for it.

In mid 2001, the median home price in Placer, Yolo, El Dorado and Sacramento counties was $204,000. Today, it's $205,000.

Median home prices, U.S. and Sacramento, 1991 to 2010
Hover over lines to see data ...

November 30, 2010
CDC: foodborne diseases cause 5,000 U.S. deaths a year

In a strong bipartisan showing, the U.S. Senate today passed legislation bolstering the nation's food safety laws. The Food Safety and Modernization Act, among other things, gives the Food and Drug Administration greater authority to respond to disease outbreaks such as those affecting beef, spinach, peanuts and other products in recent years.

To get a sense of the scale of the problem, take a look at the CDC statistical report Food-Related Illness and Death in the United States. Drawing from multiple data sources, the authors estimate that "foodborne diseases cause approximately 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths in the United States each year." According to the tables, the biggest causes of illness are the Campylobacter and Salmonella bacteria, Giardia parasite and Norwalk-like viruses. The deadliest agents are Salmonella, Listeria and Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite found in undercooked meat.

November 23, 2010
Sacramento is the 72nd most dangerous city in the U.S.

ST LOUIS.jpgAlthough the FBI discourages the use of its crime data to compare and rank cities, CQ Press continues to publish its City Crime Rankings every year. The publisher uses violent crime (murder, rape, robbery, assault, etc.) stats per 100,000 population to compile the listing.

Last year, St. Louis crept past Camden, N.J., as the nation's "most dangerous city" of 75,000 or more. They are followed by Detroit and Fint, Michigan. The top California cities are Oakland, Richmond, Compton, Vallejo and Stockton. The "safest" cities in California are Mission Viejo, Irvine, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks and Murrieta.

Sacramento comes in at number 72 of 400 places.

PHOTO CREDIT: The St. Louis Gateway Arch frames a barge and tow making their way north along the Mississippi River in 2004. AP Photo/James A. Finley.

November 22, 2010
Illegal tobacco sales to children fall to historic low in the state

The California Public Health Department announced last week that sales of tobacco products to minors have dropped to an all-time low. That's based on an annual compliance check at retail outlets (supermarkets, drugstores, liquor stores, service stations, doughnut shops, etc.) The state began monitoring stores in 1995. Minors participating in the study were able to purchase cigarettes 37 percent of the time. That percentage has steadily fallen in the past 15 years. In 2008 the rate was 12.6 percent. In 2009, 8.6 percent. And this year, 7.7 percent.

That's good news. But it begs the question: is use of tobacco by children also dropping? CDC statistics indicate that it is. One report, Cigarette Use Among High School Students -- United States, 1991-2009, shows the percentage of students who have ever tried cigarettes falliing from 70.4 percent in 1999 to 46.3 percent in 2009. In addition, the percentage of students who reported current cigarette use also fell from 36.4 percent in 1997 to 19.5 percent in 2009.

November 11, 2010
Industry winners/losers in November election

As the postmorten on the November voting winds down, the campaign finance watchdog Center for Responsive Politics wonders which special interests emerged as winners (and losers) this cycle. But how do you measure success (or failure) in this arena? Well, if every member of Congress represents the industry or special interest that contributed the most to his or her campaign, as CRP suggests, then one can count the net number congressional seats each group gained (or lost) this time. 

The biggest winner in 2010 -- as a group -- were people who identify themselves as "retired" in campaign finance disclosure. They tend to favor Republicans, giving $60 million of their $109 million donations to GOP candidates this year. Retired donors gained two seats in the U.S. Senate and a whopping 20 seats in the U.S. House. Coming in second were leadership PACs (political action groups founded by prominent political figures) which gained a net 12 House seats.

The big losers in 2010 were lawyers and law firms. They suffered net losses of 15 seats in the House and four in the Senate.

November 10, 2010
Student debt rising at UC Davis, Sacramento State

The University of California and California State University systems are considering more student fee increases. UC would raise undergraduate tuition by 8 percent, which would follow a 32 percent hike this year. CSU is expected to hike tuition 15.5 percent by next fall, which would also follow a 30+ percent increase this year.

To deal with the increases, California students are increasingly saddling themselves with debt. At Sacramento State and UC Davis, federal student loan disbursements have doubled over the past decade, a trend only partially explained by enrollment increases. The $129 million in federal loan disbursements at UC Davis last year equates to about $4,000 per student, though some students took far more and others took no loans at all.

The chart below shows the amount of federal loans disbursed to UC Davis and Sacramento State students over the last decade, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

November 5, 2010
Brookings: could take 12 years for job recovery

The good news: the U.S. economy added a net 151,000 new jobs in October. Private sector employers added 159,000 positions. The public sector lost 8,000. The bad news: the national unemployment rate has been essentially flat since May, holding at 9.6 percent. That's about 14.8 million unemployed people. About 6.2 million (41.8 percent) of the jobless have been out of work for 27 weeks or more. (Some 1.01 million Californians are struggling with long-term unemployment, as reported in September by the state Employment Development Department.)

The Brookings Institution has been tracking the national employment situation through its Hamilton Project. In particular, it makes monthly estimates of the U.S. job gap, i.e."the number of jobs the economy needs to add in order to return to pre-recession employment levels while absorbing the 125,000 people who enter the labor force each month." Brookings researchers say the gap fell slightly from 11.9 million jobs in September to 11.8 million jobs in October.

Unfortunately the current job gap won't close any time soon. According to Brookings, if employment grows at a realistic 208,000 jobs a month (the average rate of growth during the best year of the 2000s), it would take 142 months (about 12 years) to recover to levels prior to the recent economic downturn.

November 3, 2010
November election not so good for self-funding candidates

In June this blog highlighted a study by the National Institute on Money in State Politics concluding that candidates who bankrolled their own campaigns fared poorer than those who didn't. The 2010 election cycle attracted a good many self-funders -- including Meg Whitman who poured $142 million of her own money into a failed gubernatorial bid. So how well did others do this time? Early indications suggest not so good.

At the federal level, only one in five self-funding candidates managed to win U.S. House and Senate seats. That's according to the watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics who compiled recent data on 58 congressional candidates including top spender Linda McMahon (R-Conn), who furnished virtually all the $46 million raised by her campaign. She lost the general election to Democrat Richard Blumenthal. Number two spender Jeff Greene (D-Fla), who provided almost all of his $23.8 million war chest, lost in the primary.

Also unsuccessful was California's Carly Fiorina, who gave $5.5 million to her $17.9 million race.

October 28, 2010
BJS releases prison/jail/arrest mortality stats

The Bee today reported the death of a man shot by Sacramento police after he charged them with a knife. By coincidence, the Bureau of Justice Statistics just updated its "deaths in custody" statistics. These cover "mortality in state prisons, local jails, and during the process of arrest by state and local law enforcement officers". The data is sliced by such factors as gender, race, age, offense and cause of death.

Nationally, there have been 2,686 arrest-related deaths between the years 2003 and 2006. Of these, 1,540 (57.3 percent) were killings by law enforcement officers and 289 (10.8 percent) were suicides. California lead the states in the overall number of arrest-related deaths (465).

Mortality in U.S. state prisons totalled 21,936 deaths between 2001 and 2007 (all causes). Illness accounted for 18,193 of the fatalities, homicide caused only 365. California trailed Texas in the overall number of prison deaths (2,491 to 2,811).

Local jail deaths totalled 8,097 in the United States between 2000 and 2007. Of these, illness caused 3,871 fatalities, suicide 2,361. According to the BLS, there were 2,851 deaths in the 50 largest jail jurisdictions. Los Angeles lead all counties with 273 deaths (178 per 1000,000 inmates). Sacramento County had 50 (170 per 100,000 inmates).

October 26, 2010
Early voting option depresses turnout?

A study of voting patterns in the 2008 presidential election has a counterintuitive finding. The early voting option -- intended to increase turnout by reformers -- actually decreases it. University of Wisconsin researchers who looked at the data and who factored in things like education, race, geography and political leanings, discovered "the availability of early voting reduced turnout in the typical county by three percentage points."

The paper's authors speculate that early voting doesn't address the larger problem of election laws which require citizens to register well in advance of the election. Many people simply miss the registration deadline. In addition, absentee voters aren't susceptible to the enthusiam, social pressure -- and party get-out-the vote efforts -- that stimulate voting on Election Day. So they tend to procrastinate until it's too late.

The Bee's Rob Lewis today reported that more and more Sacramento County voters are choosing to vote by mail. Half of the county's 680,000 registered voters have requested absentee ballots for the November election. About 79,000 of these have returned ballots so far. In California 44 percent of the state's 17.1 million voters have requested absentee ballots. So far, 1.4 million of these have been returned.

October 15, 2010
Election polls skewed by landline bias?

Political polling is ubiquitous this election season, but such polls may be skewed because of how respondents are contacted. With 25 percent of American households only using using cell phones for telephone service (according to the CDC), surveys directed only at Americans using wired service may be subject to what experts call "landline bias".

Just how big is landline bias and how does it affect current election polling? The Pew Research Center attempted to find out. In a recent report, Pew estimated the bias this year is as large, or larger, than in 2008. The researchers compared 2010 Congressional polls aimed at both landline and cell phone users versus those targeting only landline users. The difference is striking. For polls conducted between Aug. 25-Sept. 6 among likely voters, the spread is: Republican preference 50 percent, Democrat preference 43 percent (landline and cell sample) and Republican 53, Democrat 41 percent (landline-only sample).

You can get a sense of the demographics of the cell-only crowd in this CDC report on the "wireless substitution," published in May. In general, younger adults are more likely to live in homes with no landline service. In addition, those more likely to go wireless are renters, the poor, and those living alone or in households comprised of unrelated people.

UPDATE: Field Research -- whose California Polls are often cited in The Bee -- samples both landline and cell populations in its surveys. That's because it takes random names from voter registration records where people are increasingly listing their cell phone numbers. Mark DiCamillo of Field Research says the percentage of cell numbers his group finds in voter records has risen from eight percent in 2005 to 17 percent in 2010.

October 13, 2010
Region's loan modifications not keeping pace with foreclosures

It's been more than a year since the federal government's Making Home Affordable Program (HAMP) started facilitating loan modifications for troubled homeowners.

Since then, about 7,700 local homeowners have obtained permanent loan modifications under the program. That's obviously a big number, but it's clearly only a portion of the demand, as evidenced by 30,000 people showing up at a Cal Expo event this weekend hoping to get new loan terms.

Also, since September of last year, banks have foreclosed about two homes in the Sacramento region for every one loan modification, as the chart below shows.



October 8, 2010
The most politically generous ZIP codes

Out of the 44,000 ZIP codes in the United States, which one gave the most money to congressional candidates and PACS in 2010? (Drum roll.) According to a new analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics, it's 10021 (the Upper East Side of New York City), whose donors gave a total of $6.6 million.

Using federal campaign finance data, CRP built a donation database showing aggregate giving by state and ZIP and breaking out the figures by top recipients and contributors. It also calculated the relative proportion of money going to the two major parties. 10021, for example, gave 77 percent to Democratic candidates and groups identified with the Democrats. Twenty-three percent went to Republican ones.

On the state level, Beverly Hills 90210 lead California with total contributions of $3.13 million (76 percent Dem, 24 percent GOP).

On the regional level, the top ZIP turns out to be tiny Brooks 95606 giving a total of $467,050 (55 percent Dem, 45 percent GOP). (Not surprising, considering it includes the Cache Creek Casino.) Second in the Sacramento region is 95864 (home to a number of very politically-active business people). It gave $421,687 (60 percent Dem, 40 percent GOP). Coming in third is 95814 (center of state government and lobbying), which gave $308,225 (80 percent Dem, 20 percent GOP).

October 6, 2010
Projected doctor shortage bigger than previously reported

The Association of American Medical Colleges has revised its physician shortage predictions, and the figures are pretty grim. Instead of a shortfall of 39,600 doctors in 2015 as previously thought, the AAMC now estimates a deficit of 63,000 physicians in five years. In addition, the nation will face a shortage of 33,100 specialists in cardiology, oncology and other non-primary care fields. The AAMC reports that one-third of today's physicians will retire within 10 years.

The situation is made worse by the aging of the American population which will see a 36 percent increase in people over 65. The expanding elderly cohort will greatly increase the demand for medical care, especially specialist care. Demand will also rise as an estimated 32 million more people get insured as a result of federal health care reform.

The doctor shortage will be felt by everyone, but especially underserved groups in rural and inner-city settings.

Hat tip: Los Angeles Times Booster Shots blog.

October 5, 2010
A quarter of high school students, young adults binge drink

According to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control, 25 percent of high schoolers and young adults, 18-34, indulge in binge drinking (as defined as consuming multiple alcoholic drinks -- four or more for women, five or more for men -- in space of a few hours). Further, some 60 percent of those youths who drink alcohol have engaged in binge drinking at some time in the 30 days prior to the survey.

Among adults, men binge drink more than women do, 21 versus 10 percent. Such behavior, says the CDC, increases the risk of accidents, violence, drug overdose and sexually-transmitted disease. Binge drinking causes more than half of the 79,000 deaths attributed to excessive alcohol use during the period 2001-2005. 

The prevelance of binge drinking among adults varies among the states. It ranges form 6.8 percent in Tennessee to 23.9 percent in Wisconsin. California is in the middle at 15.8 percent.

October 1, 2010
A child well-being scorecard for California counties

kids.JPGThe Children Now advocacy group released its new 2010 California County Scorecard of Children's Well-Being, a collection of 26 data indicators reflecting the well-being of youngsters in California's 58 counties. The scorecard covers specific measures of health, safety, crime, abuse and education.

County rankings can be easily browsed using CN's color-coded table. The counties are grouped by their rural/urban and low/middle/high income status. Performance in each of the 26 indicators is illustrated by color: red for bottom third of county rankings; yellow for middle third; and green for top third.

You can also view the specific data for individual counties. Sacramento County, for example, falls in the middle tier for most indicators, but ranks in the bottom third in seven measures, including road safety, truancy and 8th-grade Algebra enrollment.

PHOTO CREDIT: Students and their parents arrive for the first day of school at the newly-built Cosumnes River Elementary School in Sloughhouse, August 2010. Jose Luis Villegas / Sacramento Bee

September 30, 2010
Substance use is up in the U.S., lead by marijuana

As Californians mull the pros of cons of marijuana legalization, the US. Health and Human Services Department released a national survey which shows illegal drug use rose between 2008 and 2009 from 8.0 to 8.7 percent of the population (over 12 years old). The report -- which also covers "past-month" use of alcohol and tobacco -- says the hike in marijuana consumption (6.1 to 6.6 percent) largely drove the overall increase in illicit substances.

In 2009 21.8 million people took some type of illegal drug (marijuana, cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, and inhalants, and the nonmedical use of prescription-type pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives). Of these, 16.7 million used pot. Among young adults (18-25), the percentage using illicit drug grew 19.6 to 21.2 percent between 2008 and 2009. The percentage using marijuana increased 16.5 to 18.1 percent over the same period. Among youth (12-17), overall illicit drug use rose 7.3 to 8.3 percent, and marijuana use rose 6.0 to 6.3 percent.

September 28, 2010
Latest Census release shows interesting trends in the Sacramento region

The U.S. Census Bureau today released the results of its 2009 American Community Survey. The ACS -- which replaced the 10-year "long-form" Census questionnaire -- annually collects a variety of socioeconomic, demographic and housing data from a large sample of Americans.

The Bee this morning reported on the significant drop (6 percent) in household income in the Sacramento MSA between 2008 and 2009, as well as the hike in the poverty rate (12.1 to 13.4 percent). There are other interesting changes that happened in the 4-county region in the past two years. You can browse them on this comparison chart. (An asterisk indicates a statistically significant change.) Among the 2008-09 changes:

-- The number of grandparents living with and taking responsibility for their grandchildren under 18 fell 33.9 to 26.8 percent.

-- The percentage of the foreign-born population coming from Asia decreased 43.4 to 41.2 percent, whereas the percentage born in Europe increased 14.2 to 16.4 percent.

-- The percentage of workers employed in the construction industry dropped 7.7 to 6.6 percent.

-- The percentage of people with no health insurance coverage rose 11.4 to 12.6 percent.

-- The median value of owner-occupy housing units tumbled from $350.500 to $298,000.

-- The median age of the region's population increased from 34.9 to 35.9.

-- The percentage of people identifying two or more races rose 4.3 to 5.0 percent.

September 27, 2010
Track congressional races with this handy interactive map

election.JPGThe fall election just five weeks away, political junkies are watching for signs of a political shift in the control of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate. To help them and the New York Times have launched an impressive online map that brings together much useful information on every congressional race. The main map color-codes states and House districts to show which are solidly (or continuing) Democrat or Republican and which ones are in play this November. (19  Senate seats and 101 House seats are in play.) Clicking on a race brings up a data profile on each candidate that includes:

Campaign finance: a general breakdown of donations by PAC, individual and self-financing sources, as well as an analysis of donations by top contributors, sectors, industries and geographies.

Legislation: bills sponsored and co-sponsored by the candidate.

Voting record: individual vote on major bills, plus the total chamber vote broken out by party. 

Demographics: a statistical snapshot of the state or House district that includes race, age education, income breakdowns.

September 24, 2010
'Super PACs' proliferate, spend big money on elections

Federal court decisions, Citizens United and, opened the door for political organizations to spend huge sums on advertising explicitly supporting or opposing candidates for office. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the Federal Elections Commission has so far authorized 33 "independent expenditure-only (IE) committees" that are legally allowed to raise unlimited funds from individuals, corporations, unions and other groups. CRP has been tracking the proliferation these so-called super PACs which advocate from both sides of the political spectrum. You can see the complete list here.

You can also browse the latest campaign spending of all IE groups with a searchable database created by the government watchdog The Sunlight Foundation. The data is sortable by committee, candidate and race. To date independent expenditures total some $57 million in the 2010 federal election cycle.

California races targeted by IE groups include the U.S. Senate and House districts 3, 10, 11, 19, 32, 36, 44, 45 and 47. Barbara Boxer's candidacy, for example, attracted $57,614 in IE funds ($3,484 in support; $54,130 in opposition). Carly Fiorina, in contrast, prompted $274,065 in independent spending ($235,362 in support; $38,703 in opposition). Boxer's biggest IE supporter is NARAL Pro Choice America. Fiorina's biggest is the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life political organization. 

September 22, 2010
A third of US homowners say walking away from mortage is ok

More than a third of Americans say that abandoning a home mortgage is "acceptable," at least under some circumstances, according to a new national survey. The Pew Research Center found that when homes are under water - worth less than owed on the mortgage - many Americans agree that the borrower can legitimately walk away. Currently 21 percent of U.S. homeowners are in that state. mortgage survey.JPG

Racial differences in the survey responses were modest, according to Pew. Not so political differences: "Democrats are about twice as likely as Republicans to say it is acceptable to walk away (23% vs. 11%)," the report noted.

In July, according to mortgage analyst RealtyTrac Inc., lenders foreclosed on about 93,000 properties - the second-highest total since the company began collecting the data in 2005.

-Charles Piller

September 21, 2010
Interactive: California's gay veterans

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday blocked a measure that would have allowed gays to openly serve in the U.S. military.

California gay men and women have historically -- but clandestinely -- served in military, even before "don't ask, don't tell."

Almost 20,000 Californians in 2008 were living with unmarried partners of the same sex, and were military veterans, according to U.S. Census figures. That represents about 1 percent of the state's veterans. There's likely considerably more gay veterans not living with a domestic partner.

This chart shows Californians who are living with unmarried partners of the same sex, and who are military veterans, broken down by period of military service.

Note: The Census Bureau does not ask people if they are gay. It does ask them their gender, and whether they are living with "unmarried partners." "Unmarried partners" are "those who share living quarters and who also have a close personal relationship with each other." They are not roommates, housemates or relatives, all of whom are identified separately by the census.
Source: 2006-2008 U.S. Census American Community Survey, Public Use Microdata

September 21, 2010
Drive-by shooting data hard to come by

Drive-by shootings seem to be a regular occurrence in Sacramento -- the last reported one happening in Oak Park on Aug. 31. Surprisingly, there is no national count of such crimes, as defined by the U.S. Dept of Justice as "an incident in which the shooter fires a firearm from a motor vehicle at another person, vehicle, building, or another stationary object".

But one non-profit group has tried to get a statistical handle on the problem. The Violence Policy Center tracked news accounts of drive-by shootings from July 1 through Dec. 31, 2008. The study reports 733 incidents, resulting in 631 injuries and 154 deaths. California led the nation with 148 incidents, 40 dead and 129 injured.

The VPC further analyzed the shootings in terms of victim age, time and location. The researchers found:

* Most of the victims were 18 or older. 145 of the 785 victims were identified as under 18.

* Nearly half of the incidents happened at a residence (314 of the 676 shootings where location was reported).

* 17 percent of the incidents involved shots at another vehcle.

* Most of the crimes happened between the hours of 7 p.m. and 12 am.

* Possible gang-involvement was mentioned in 17 percent of cases.

Hat tip: The California Research Bureau.

September 20, 2010
Map: Where local fatal car wrecks happen

About 160 people died on the Sacramento region's roads during 2009, similar to the number from 2008. Sacramento County saw an increase in fatalities from 84 in 2008 to 99 during 2009. That increase was offset completely, though, by a decrease in fatal wrecks in the suburbs.

This map shows the location of every 2009 fatal car wreck.

September 14, 2010
Interactive: Areas where Sacramento cops spend the most time

In June, Sacramento police officers were dispatched to 30,624 different locations to investigate possible crimes. Here's where they wound up the most:

September 13, 2010
Analysis: Second Saturdays no more dangerous than others

An early morning fatal shooting in midtown has some local residents and business owners questioning whether Sacramento's popular Second Saturday Art Walk is bringing crime to the area.

But Second Saturdays aren't more dangerous than any other summer Saturdays in midtown and downtown Sacramento, according to a Bee review of police data.

For instance, about one assault happens, on average, between 2 p.m. Saturday and 6 a.m. Sunday in midtown and downtown, regardless of whether there is an art walk, according to the review, which relied on police reports from July-September 2009 and May-July 2010. The same is true of burglaries (three per Saturday) and larcenies (two per Saturday). About the only crime that showed a real bump on Second Saturdays was car thefts.

Crimes in midtown, downtown Sacramento
Second Saturdays are GREEN.

Crimes noted are: homicide; assault; robbery; burglary; auto theft; drug offenses; weapon offenses; arson; larceny; vandalism; DUI.

Totals include the neighborhoods of midtown, downtown, Boulevard Park and Marshall School.
Source: Sacramento Police Department

September 10, 2010
CDC: prescription drug use continues to rise

pharm.JPGAnother stat that bodes ill for the effort to contain health care costs is this recent datum from the Centers for Disease Control: in the past decade the percentage of Americans taking at least one prescription drug per month rose 44 to 48 percent. Those taking two or more grew 25 to 31 percent. And those taking five or more increased 6 to 11 percent.

Of course the aging population contributed to the trend. In the period 2007-2008, 88.4 percent of people 60 and over were taking at least one prescription. Compare that to people aged 20-59 (48.3 percent), 12-19 (29.9 percent) and children 0-11 (22.4 percent).

According to the CDC, asthma medications are the most commonly prescribed drugs for children. For adolescents: nervous system stimulants (as treatment for attention deficit disorder). For adults: antidepressants. For older adults: cholesterol-lowering medicines.

PHOTO CREDIT: Frank Cable is a long time independent pharmacist at Leader Pharmacy in South Sacramento. Drug stores are expanding even in a bad economy. Sacramento Bee / Lezlie Sterling

September 8, 2010
Asia trade plummets as governor plans visit

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will lead a trade mission to Asia this week, hoping to promote California products.

The trip is controversial because California still does not have a budget. But Asia exports are a big part or California's economy.

Exports to Asia bring tens of billions of dollars to California each year. The recession has caused that trade to fall sharply.


Trade with Asia covers myriad industries, but is heavily focused on technology and raw materials. California even ships billions of dollars worth of trash to China each year, which that country recycles and uses to improve its own infrastructure.

Source: US International Trade Administration

September 8, 2010
RAND: diverting ER patients to clinics could save big bucks

urgent.JPGIt's no secret that too many people seek medical care unnecessarily at hospital emergency rooms. Those visits are not only costly -- to patients and the health care system as a whole -- they also lead to longer wait times at ERs. (A recent story from the Merced Sun-Star reported that wait times in 2009 rose to an average of four hours, seven minutes nationally and four-and-half hours in California.)

Yesterday the RAND organization released a study asserting that 16.8 percent of ER visits could have been handled by retail medical clinics or urgent care centers, saving the nation some $4.4 billion annually. Retail clinics can treat non-emergency conditions such as colds or urinary tract infections. Urgent care facilties can respond to more significant problems, such as minor fractures and serious cuts.

Limited hours at clinics and urgent centers restrict the percentage of ER visits that can be diverted. RAND researchers estimate that 27.1 percent of visits could be handled at alternative venues, if the latter were open longer hours.

PHOTO CREDIT: Viorica Bantea sees Lucille Cannon of Sacramento for her broken ankle at an after-hours urgent care clinic for the Family Medical Clinic office on L Street in 2008.  Autumn Cruz / The Sacramento Bee

September 7, 2010
Interactive: Gang activity in Sacramento

Like most large cities, Sacramento has struggled to cope with street gangs.

From January 2008 through June 2010, Sacramento police took 1,689 reports of suspected gang activity, according to the department's crime report database.

The map below shows which police grids saw the most reports of gang activity.

September 7, 2010
Survey: Local governments spare police from budget cuts

The number of police officers in California continues to rise, even as the number of other local government employees continues to fall, according to new census figures.

Local governments in California employed 69,429 police officers during 2009, up 11 percent from 2007. During that same period, the total number of local government workers declined 2 percent.

Those officers are getting less help, though. The number of support staff working for law enforcement agencies declined 6 percent from 2007 to 2009, the census figures show.

Local police officer employment in California, 2005-2009

September 3, 2010
Interactive: The coolest summer in recent memory

It's been more than 25 years since Sacramento last saw a summer with fewer days over 100 degrees, according to figures from the National Climatic Data Center. Here's the number of scorchers per year going back to 1985.

100+ degree days in Sacramento, by year

August 26, 2010
Commemorate the 19th Amendment with these voter stats

womenvoter.jpgNinety years ago today, women gained the right to vote with passage of the 19th Amendment. Despite gains made in the political arena, there remains a gender gap in the election of women to highest public office, including the U.S. Congress where women occupy only 17 percent of the seats.

In general, women register and vote at a great rate than men. According to Census statistics of the voting age citizen population from the Nov. 2000 election, 72.8 percent of American women were registered to vote, compared to 69.1 percent of men. In California, the registration gap was 70.5 to 65.8 percent in favor of women. As for actually casting a vote, nationally registered female voters cast ballots at a rate of 65.7 percent, males 61.5 percent. In California, registered women outvoted men, 65.7 to 60.9 percent. See the attached spreadheet with additional voter data broken out by gender and race.

A 2009 Gallup report reveals a considerable gender gap in terms of party affiliation. Regardless of age, race, ethnicity and marital status women more often identify themselves as Democrats than men of similar demographics. In a poll conducted between January and May of 2009, 41 percent of women identifed as Democrats, compared to 32 percent of men who identified as Democrats. On the GOP side, the spread was 28 percent for men and 25 percent for women of voters who identified as Republicans.

PHOTO CREDIT: Voters cast their ballots early on electronic voting terminals at a polling place inside the Westfield Main Place mall in Santa Ana, Oct. 2006. (AP Photo/ Damian Dovarganes)

August 25, 2010
Household health care spending leveling off?

It's a little counterintuitive. Although the portion of an average family's budget devoted to medical expenses rose from 1998 to 2003 (6.2 to 6.8 percent), the share fell slightly in 2008 (to 6.7 percent). That factoid comes from a recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Focus on Prices and Spending report analyzing consumer health care spending during years 1998, 2003 and 2008.

Between 1998 and 2008 the proportion of household health care dollars going to medical services versus medical insurance flipflopped. Medical services, as a percentage of total household health spending, fell from 31.1 to 25.9 percent, whereas insurance costs rose 51.5 to 57.9 percent of the total.

Not suprisingly, older people tend to spend much more of their money on health care. Households, whose "reference person" (head of household) was older than 65, spent on average 12.9 percent of their budgets on health expenses in 2008. Compare that to households with a reference person aged 35-44 that spent only 4.7 percent on average.

August 24, 2010
Data on the unemployed by race, ethnicity

Just as California and Sacramento regional jobless rates (12.3 and 12.7 percent, respectively) were released last week, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics published a new study that fleshes out the demographics of the unemployed. Labor Force Characteristics by Race and Ethnicity, 2009 describes the continuing decline of employment in all major racial and ethnic groups.

In general Blacks and Hispanics suffered higher joblessness than Whites and Asians last year (14.8 and 12.1 percent compared to 8.5 and 7.3 percent). Of course, unemployment also varies with such factors as education, age, gender, family status. occupation and industry. The BLS report also considers these. Here are some highlights:

Between 2008 and 2009 the overall employment rate dropped 0.6 percentage points to 65.4 percent. Black employment fell 1.3 points to 62.4 percent. Asian employment declined 1.0 to 66.0 percent. Hispanic and White employment both fell 0.5 to 68.0 and 65.8 percent, respectively.

Between 2008 and 2009 employment rates fell faster for men than women across all racial/ethnic groups. The drop was biggest for Black men, 59.1 to 53.7 percent.

Generally speaking, workers with more education were more likely to be employed in 2009. But at every educational level, Blacks and Hispanics were less likely to be employed as compared to Whites and Hispanics.

Unemployed African Americans tended to be out of work for longer periods than the other demographic groups. In 2009, the median length of joblessness was 19.7 weeks for Blacks, compared to 16.6 weeks for Asians, 14.2 weeks for Whites and 13.5 weeks for Hispanics.

August 18, 2010
California per pupil spending is 32nd in nation

New school finance data from the National Center for Education Statistics ranks states and the District of Columbia in terms of per pupil spending (median current expenditures) for the school year 2007-08 (fiscal year 2008). Alaska is far ahead of the pack with $21,730. New York is second with $16,183. California ranks 32nd with $9,015. That's slightly below the national median of $9,509.

The NCES report includes finanical data for the largest 100 public elementary and secondary school districts in the United States. Boston City Schools tops the list with current expenditures per pupil of $20,324. New York City School District follows with $17,923. Three local districts are included: Sacramento City Unified ($10,051, rank 29); San Juan Unified ($9,141, rank 44); and Elk Grove Unified ($8,554, rank 64). 

August 13, 2010
Mortgage loan delinquency rates continue to rise

Foresight Analytics, an Oakland-based research firm, recently reported that national delinquency rates for residential and commercial mortgages continue to rise in the second quarter of this year, despite modest growth in the national economy. bank delinq.JPG However, the group projected slower increases in problem mortgages than in recent periods. Problem construction, commercial and industrial loans are expected to hold steady or see a slight improvement compared to first quarter figures.

Foresight's projections over the last several quarters have been highly accurate - in some case just slightly understating the bad news.

-Charles Piller

August 12, 2010
Studies reveal minority graduation gap at nation's colleges

The Education Trust just published two reports examining graduation rates of white, black and Hispanics students at U.S. colleges and universities. Overall an average of 57 percent of all students enrolled in a 4-year program earn a degree within six years. But only 40 percent of African Americans and 49 percent of Hispanics graduate -- compared to 60 percent of whites. This "graduation gap" varies widely from institution to institution. Some do well at keeping the gap small between white and blacks, whites and Latinos. Others not so much.

California universities are represented in lists of both the biggest and smallest white/minority gap schools. UC Riverside, for example, graduates 66.9 percent of black students compared to 62.4 percent white (a gap of -4.5). Similarly, UCR awards degrees to 63.4 percent of Hispanic students compared to 62.4 percent of whites (a gap of -1.0). CSU Chico, on the other hand, shows a large black-white gap of 26.7 (30.8 to 57.5 percent) and a Hispanic-white gap of 16.0 (41.5 to 57.5 percent).

Here's the breakdown for the two local universities. The figures are six-year graduation rates for 2008, the latest year available.

White Grad Rate 82.5 45.7
Black Grad Rate 73.1 29.5
Hispanic Grad Rate 73.5 36.2
All Students 81.4 41.5
Source: College Results Online
August 11, 2010
Dueling polls disagree on who's ahead in the congressional elections

Recent polling for the November congressional races shows a very close contest between Republicans and Democrats. In fact two major pollsters, Pew and Gallup, disagree on who's ahead right now.

The Pew Research Center says "45% support the Democratic candidate or lean Democratic, while 44% favor the Republican or lean Republican" in the mid-term elections. (Compare that to the Pew survey conducted in August 2006 when Democrats had an 11-point lead of 50 to 39 percent.)

Gallup, on the other hand, reports a six-point advantage for the GOP this month, 49 to 43 percent. The parties have been see-sawing the lead since Gallup began polling on congressional races in March. Republicans also lead now in "voter enthusiasm," 44 to 28 percent. They've maintained this lead consistently since March.

August 10, 2010
Family economic insecurity balloons

It's no secret that many Americans are feeling insecure about their finances. But so far there hasn't been an objective measure of actual economic crisis in families. Yale's Institution for Social and Policy Studies has developed the Economic Security Index to track the percentage of people experiencing a major financial loss -- at least a 25 percent drop in available family income caused by a drop in pay, large medical bills or a combination of both.

The ESI lets users compare economic security over time and across different demographic groups. Data is available back to 1985 and projected to 2009. With some hills and valleys, the ESI has grown in the past 24 years from 12.2 percent to a high of 20.4 percent in 2009. Not surprisingly, economic risk affects groups disproportionately. Low-income, less educated, African American and Hispanic people are more likely to face major economic loss.

CHART CREDIT: Institution for Social and Policy Studies.

August 5, 2010
CBO: foreign-born a growing part of the U.S. workforce

The proportion of U.S. workers who are foreign-born has grown from 1 in 10 in 1994 to 1 in 7 in 2009. That statistic comes from the recent update of The Role of Immigrants in the U.S. Labor Market, a report by the Congressional Budget Office. CBO analyzes the immigrant workforce in terms of birthplace, age, gender, educational attainment, occupation, industry and residence.

In 2009, 40.2 percent of foreign-born workers came from Mexico and Central American; 26.3 percent came from Asian countries. Immigrant workers completed an average of 12.5 years of education -- compared to 13.9 years for the native born. The foreign-born labor force resides disporportionately in a handful of states: 6 million in California and another 9 million distributed between New York, Texas, Florida, Illinois and New Jersey. About 34 percent of all California workers in 2009 were born outside the United States.

July 30, 2010
Recession has downsized American expectations for future

A new survey by Pew Research paints a sobering picture of the psychological impact on American families of the economic downturn.recesion1.JPG

"The Great Recession has led to a downsizing of Americans' expectations about their retirements and their children's future; a new frugality in their spending and borrowing habits; and a concern that it could take several years, at a minimum, for their house values and family finances to recover," the report noted.

Perhaps most sobering, the report found that American adults have become increasingly concerned that their children will experience a lower standard of living than they have enjoyed.

-Charles Piller

July 30, 2010
Scant media coverage of African Americans during Obama term

The nation's first African American president does not seem to have caused a spike in media coverage of African Americans in the media, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center.

The biggest news story pertaining directly to African Americans during President Obama's term so far has been the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates by a white police officer. This eclipsed even the number of stories discussing the "race angle" with regard to Obama's presidency, the report noted.AA coverage.JPG

"The press coverage that did emerge tended to be a reaction to events involving black newsmakers rather than to issues relating to African Americans more generally," the report concluded. "The arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, the Obama presidency, the death of Michael Jackson and the attempted Northwest Airlines terrorist attack by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab accounted for nearly half (46.4%) of all coverage that had a substantial mention of African Americans during this time period."

-Charles Piller

July 29, 2010
More international students study in Golden State

The volume of international students getting visas to come to California colleges has jumped almost 50 percent during the past four years, according to new data from the Department of Homeland Security.

During 2005, about 101,000 international students received F1 visas to study in California; last year, that figure jumped to 147,000.

Some of the increase is due to state colleges relying on international students, who pay high tuition, to subsidize the education of domestic students. The trend also has a lot to do with the good reputation of California colleges.

These are temporary students visas; they don't allow a student to live here permanently or work off campus.

The map below shows 2009 student visas granted per 10,000 residents in each state: ...

July 28, 2010
Fewer foreign IT professionals coming to California

The number of skilled, temporary foreign worker visas issued for jobs in California has plummeted since the start of the recession, according to new data from the Department of Homeland Security.

H1B visas are a hot topic in California. A lot of high-tech companies use them to fill positions, saying there's not enough available American help to do the job. They've long infuriated local IT professionals having trouble finding work.

But since 2007, the number of H1B visas issued for work in California has fallen 30 percent. In 2009, there were about 54,000 such visas issued, compared to 76,000 during 2007.

Still, California drew more temporary specialty foreign workers during 2009 than most other states, as the map below shows. The District of Columbia has the highest per capita rate of these visas; Montana has the lowest.

July 21, 2010
Today's wars costlier than all other U.S. conflicts except WWII

Since 9/11, military outlays beyond the normal expenditures of maintaining a standing military capacity have topped $1.1 trillion -- an impressive price tag for a budget-strapped nation -- according to a recent report by the Congressional Research Service. Corrected for inflation, the agency estimated the price of the ongoing Iraq and Afghanistan wars as higher than any other conflict in U.S. history, except World War II, which cost more than $4 trillion in today's dollars. (An explosion in Kandahar, Afghanistan pictured here. AP photo by Allauddin Khan.)Afghanistan.jpg

The report contains a fascinating chart that compares every military conflict in the nation's history, including American Revolution ($2.4 billion), the Vietnam War ($784 billion) and World War I ($334 billion).

The author, defense specialist Stephen Daggett, warns that such comparisons can't be made with the same precision the numbers might suggest. That's in part because different historical eras experienced different demands for ever-more costly war-fighting technologies. And as a percentage of the nation's GDP, today's war costs are far lower than nearly all prior wars. Still, as a rough gauge, the new study shows that the current wars already rank among the costliest in history.

Other analysts, such as Nobel prize winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz and Linda J. Bilmes, have calculated vastly higher costs when including such items as support for soldiers who return from recent wars with grave medical or psychological problems.

-Charles Piller

July 20, 2010
Fresh data on the well-being of seniors

elderly.JPGAs the demographic bulge of baby boomers moves toward retirement, there's increasing interest in the physical, emotional and economic condition of seniors as they age. To help academics and public and private service providers understand the challenges ahead, a coalition of federal agencies published a new compendium of statistics on people aged 65 and up. Older Americans 2010: Key Indicators of Well-Being contains the latest data on 37 measures that best describe the status of seniors today. The volume is divided into five sections: population, economics, health status, health risks and behaviors, and health care. Some highlights:

The older population is projected to grow from 35 million in 2000 to 72 million in 2030, with their portion of the total population increasing from 13 to 20 percent.

The percentage of seniors (65+) with "functional limitations" (e.g., inability to walk a few blocks or lift a moderate weight) fell from 49 to 42 percent between 1992 and 2007.

Life expectancy among U.S. seniors has increased but has trailed behind other industrialized countries.

Obesity among seniors has increased 22 to 32 percent between 1988 and 2008.

Health care costs for seniors, adjusted for inflation, grew significantly from $9,224 in 1992 to $15,081 in 2006.

PHOTO CREDIT: Mavis Spotts raises her arms during exercise at the Sutter Respite and Recreation program held at the Twelve Bridges Library, July 15, 2010. Sacramento Bee / Randy Pench.

July 19, 2010
American Eagle leads airlines in involuntary passenger bumps

The U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics collects information on "passengers denied confirmed space". This includes airline-level data on the number of travelers bumped voluntarily and involuntarily. Recently, BTS released 2009 Q4 figures for 19 airlines. In absolute terms Southwest for and away lead the industry in involuntary bumps: a total of 13,113 in 2009. US Airways and Delta Air Lines followed with 7,297 and 6,774, respectively. But considered in terms of total boardings, American Eagle was number one in passenger bumps per 100,000 boardings.

Carrier Boadings Involuntary Bumps Bumps per 100,000 boardings
American Eagle 15,485,727 5,828 37.6
Comair 6,131,756 1,610 26.3
Atlantic Southeast 12,952,513 2,937 22.7
Alaska Airlines 14,692,489 2,980 20.3
ExpressJet 12,394,332 2,386 19.3
Frontier Airlines 9,419,052 1,769 18.8
Continental Airlines 37,524,185 5,893 15.7
Mesa Airlines 10,984,365 1,618 14.7
US Airways 51,741,773 7,297 14.1
United Air Lines 50,971,409 6,645 13.0
Southwest Airlines 101,770,164 13,113 12.9
Pinnacle Airlines 10,509,282 1,223 11.6
Delta Air Lines 60,431,943 6,774 11.2
SkyWest Airlines 20,721,633 2,134 10.3
Northwest Airlines 35,599,219 2,123 6.0
American Airlines 76,245,981 4,304 5.6
AirTran Airways 23,997,810 569 2.4
Hawaiian Airlines 8,344,628 22 0.3
JetBlue Airways 22,267,349 9 0.0

July 19, 2010
Sacramento International - passenger traffic sags

Amid the ongoing financial malaise -- in the airline industry and in the broader economy -- Sacramento International Airport traffic continues to decline, a trend since 2008. For the 12 months ending in April, 4.4 million passengers arrived here, and nearly the same number departed, both figures down more than 6 percent from the prior year, according to data from the U.S. Research and Innovative Technology Administration.
(Bee photo by Jose Luis
Villegas shows the new terminal under construction in the spring.)

By comparison, traffic at San Francisco International increased by about 6 percent, but at Oakland International, traffic fell by more than 8 percent. Sacramento International ranks 38th and 39th, respectively, among passenger arrivals and departures among 825 U.S. airports.

-Charles Piller

July 15, 2010
Report: not enough primary care physicians in parts of state

doc.JPGThe number of physicians in California has grown faster than the population since 1998. But with baby boomers aging, health reform opening insurance to more people and many doctors approaching retirement, the state may face a shortage of doctors in the future -- particularly a shortage of primary care physicians (PCPs) in certain parts of the state and among certain population groups. That's the conclusion of California Physican Facts and Figures, a new report by the California HealthCare Foundation.

Even now, most areas of Califoria barely meet national standards for primary doctors per 100,000 population, says the CHCF. Only the greater Bay Area, Orange County and the Sacramento region have the recommended supply of PCPs. In addition, the ethnic makeup of California physicians doesn't mirror the state's diversity. The biggest disparity is among Latinos, who comprise 40 percent of the population, but only five percent of doctors.

Hat tip: Healthy Cal

PHOTO CREDIT: Dr. Miguel Lizarraga looks at the knee of patient Traci Lucia at the Oak Park Primary Care Center. The Sacramento Bee / Anne Chadwick Williams.

July 15, 2010
During recession, local companies' stock underperformed market average

Anyone who purchased a piece of the Sacramento economy by buying stock in a large local company probably took a big hit during the last two years.

Of the region's five largest publicly-traded companies, four watched their stock price drop by more than 60 percent since December 2007, the start of the recession. By comparison, the Dow Jones Industrial Average declined about 18 percent during that period.

Folsom-based Waste Connections bucked the trend. Pacific Ethanol, the Sacramento-based alternative fuel broker, has fallen the most, watching its price drop more than 90 percent in 30 months.

July 14, 2010
Chart: Schwarzenegger's approval rating over the years

At one time, two of every three Californians approved of the way Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was doing his job. No longer:

Percent of registered voters approving Schwarzenegger's job performance, 2004-2010

Source: Field Poll

July 14, 2010
Women now running more local farms

Women are in charge of a growing number of farms in the Sacramento region, according to the latest federal statistics.

The new agricultural census shows the number of local farms with a woman as the primary operator rose 8 percent between 2002 and 2007.

Women now run about one of every four farms in the Sacramento region. Their farms, however, tend to be smaller -- about half the acreage, on average, as farms with men running the show.

July 14, 2010
Dropping home sales: bad local bank loans partly to blame

The Bee's coverage about new home sales continuing to fall off the cliff blames, in part, the end of a special tax credit. This chart from federal regulators gives a sobering picture of another reason: bad loans at small community banks. Local banks are often the best lenders for home buyers and small businesses, but delinquencies are sapping their available capital (chart below):small bank nonaccruals.JPG

The rate of bad loans is three times what it was just after the recession of 2001-2002. But things are far worse in the Pacific region, including California, where nearly 5 percent of small bank assets have gone bad (chart below):

small bank nonaccruals - pacific.JPG
-Charles Piller
July 14, 2010
California is second in closing the wage gap

The wage gap between men and women has been steadily closing over the years, according to a new report issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 1979 (the first year such data was gathered) women on average earned 62 percent as much as men. In 2009 full-time working women earned a median income of $627 per week compared with $819 per week earned by male counterparts -- a gap of 80.2 percent. In general pay disparity is less acute among younger and professional/managerial workers.

The smart foks at the New York Times Economix blog have taken 2009 state-level figures from the BLS and prepared an interactive map showing the wage gap across the United States (reproduced below). The District of Columbia had the narrowest gap (96.5 percent), followed by California (88.7 percent).

July 12, 2010
Sac County unemployment no longer bucks state trends

Since 2000, Sacramento County unemployment has managed, through both booms and recession, to keep a bit ahead of the rest of the state -- often, a full percentage point better than California as a whole. That is, until the most recent bust. The loss of local and state employment, plus the worse-than average housing bust has taken its toll. Here's a look at how bad it has gotten in the county:
Thumbnail image for Sacto County unemp rate since 2000.JPG

By comparison, the state as a whole fared worse historically, but has been little different from our area during the recent economic troubles.
CA unemp rate since 2000.JPG

-Charles Piller

July 12, 2010
Interactive: California's whooping cough outbreak

The number of whooping cough cases reported in California this year has jumped sharply from previous years, largely because of inconsistent vaccination. The outbreak is widespread, but has been particularly strong in the Central Valley and Marin County.

"We are facing what could be the worst year for pertussis that this state has seen in more than 50 years," said CDPH Chief of the Center for Infectious Disease Dr. Gilberto Chávezon Monday. "We are urging health providers to broaden their use of the pertussis vaccine and we are urging Californians to take the simple step of getting vaccinated to prevent pertussis."

The map below has the breakout for January 2010 through June 2010.

Source: California Department of Public Health.

July 9, 2010
Mandate voting to moderate the electorate?

Off-year elections attract fewer voters as rule. About 34 percent of registered voters cast ballots in the June primary. And if history is a guide, somewhere between 50-55 percent will vote in the Nov. 2 gubernatorial election. Some observers worry that those who participate in off-year elections are often positioned on the extremes of the ideological spectrum and so tend to elect candidates on the extremes. The result is a polarized, disfunctional government.

Electing more moderate people was the motive behind California's recently approved Proposition 14, the Top Two Open Primary Act. But one Brookings researcher has an even more radical solution to the problem of a polarized electorate: simply mandate voting for all eligible adults. William Galston argues that non-voters tend be more moderate than the "passionate partisans" who dominate many elections. Increasing voter turnout, he says, evens out the politics and prompts candidates "to appeal broadly beyond their partisan bases". 

Galston acknowledges that mandatory voting runs counter to the libertarian streak in American culture and wouldn't be popular in the U.S. Even so, it has been used in a number of countries, including Belgium, Austria, France and Greece. Australia, for example, passed such legislation in the 1920s when voter turnout fell to 60 percent. Today -- spurred by a modest fine -- Australians go to the polls at a rate of 95 percent.

July 8, 2010
Sacramento job market compares poorly to nation's

Job markets in the Sacramento region's three largest counties were more anemic than most other places across the nation last year, according to a new report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Placer's job market looked the worst in 2009, with total employment declining 7 percent. Of the 335 largest counties in the nation, just 23 lost jobs at a faster rate last year. Only one other large California county, Tulare County, lost a higher proportion of jobs.loomis.png

The 8,000 net jobs lost in Placer County is roughly equivalent to the population of Loomis, a Placer County suburb.

Yolo County didn't fare much better. It ranked 287th out of 335 counties in job loss. Sacramento County did slightly worse than average, ranking 170th.

The study also showed relatively anemic pay growth in the region from 2008 to 2009.

July 6, 2010
Characteristics of identity theft victims

The U.S. Justice Department last week published a statistical profile of identity theft as reported by households in 2007. Though the data is a bit old, we get a sense of the problem: the rate and types of theft as well as the demographics of the affected families. In 2007 about 7.9 million households (6.6 percent of all U.S. households) had at least one member who was a victim of identity theft. According to the DOJ, the number of victimized households increased 23% from 2005 to 2007. Also during that period the number of households which experienced credit card theft increased by 31%.

In general, households headed by individuals over 65 were less likely to be victims. Households earning $75k and above were more likely to be victimized. Hispanic households were less likely than non-Hispanic ones. One-person households were victimized less than ones with two or more people over 12. The average amount lost per household in 2007 was $1,830.

Identity theft can happen to any of us. For a good overview of the crime, how it works, how to prevent it and what to do if you fall victim, see the Federal Trade Commission's Identity Theft Site. The California Attorney General also has a helpful web site with tips and instructions for submitting information to the ID Theft Registry.

July 5, 2010
Feds revamp citizen portal

usagov_logo.gifLast Friday the General Services Administration unveiled its revamped, the one-stop gateway into vast array of online federal resources and services. Improvements in the 10-year-old web site make it easier for citizens to link to the most requested information (such as passport application, post office address change and federal job openings). In addition there's also a handy index of federal, state and local government agencies, as well as a contact listing for federal and state officials.

Also new on the site are descriptions of a growing number of government applications that run on Apple iPhones and other mobile devices. They range from a BMI Calculator and Product Recalls to FEMA Mobile and FBI's Most Wanted.

Readers of this blog will be interested in links to so-called Performance Dashboards, searchable databases that allow citizens to track federal spending, stimulus projects, medicare fraud prevention and agency rule-making.