All Articles Tagged "research"

Do Google Searches Show Racial Bias? A Harvard Professor Says ‘Yes’

February 5th, 2013 - By Ann Brown
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Although you may not be paying attention to the advertisements that come up during your Google search, one professor over at Harvard University have been studying them. And according to the scholars, when people type in names typically associated with black people during a Google search, the ads that pop up are more likely to be related to criminal activity. All the data has been collected by the Harvard University paper of Professor Latanya Sweeney.

Here is one example: A Google search for a name such as “Tom Smith” may bring up personalized public records, such as “Looking for Tom Smith,” or may be suggestive of an arrest record, such as “Tom Smith, arrested?” reports the UK Telegraph.  But plug in names that are more associated with black people, such as DeShawn, Darnell and Jermaine, and ads with links to websites that offer criminal record checks are produced.

Professor Sweeney suggested that the Google results may expose a “racial bias in society.”

“Prof. Sweeney’s investigation suggests that names linked with black people — as defined by a previous study into racial discrimination in the workplace – were 25 percent more likely to have results that prompted the searcher to click on a link to search criminal record history,” writes the newspaper.

Google responded to the Harvard findings: “AdWords does not conduct any racial profiling. We also have an “anti” and violence policy which states that we will not allow ads that advocate against an organization, person or group of people. It is up to individual advertisers to decide which keywords they want to choose to trigger their ads.”

Have you ever noticed anything strange during a Google search?

New Report Shows African-American, Latina Women Are Hardest Hit By Gender Wage Gap

January 30th, 2013 - By Ann Brown
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There has been much talk about the gender wage gap — that women in the United States are paid just 77 cents for every dollar paid to men on average. But what’s not discussed as much is the wage gap as it applies to minority women. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, African-American women earn just 70 cents for every dollar paid to men and just 64 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, reports The Huffington Post. “What’s more: It’s happening in the 20 states with the largest number of African-American women working full-time and year round, studies show,” writes the site.

Some government officials  and economists have been trying to find solution to the wage gap in general, and some experts have suggested that closing the gender wage gap would create a huge economic stimulus. But a report by the National Partnership for Women & Families says that pay equality is still a long way off — particularly  for women of color, reports HuffPo.

“These new data show that the wage gap is costing women of color thousands of dollars in critical income each year that could be spent on food, rent, health care and on meeting other fundamental needs for their families,” said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, in a release. The Partnership study found that “closing the wage gap would afford a working African-American woman more than two years’ worth of food; almost 10 months’ worth of mortgage and utilities payments; more than 16 months of rent; more than three years’ worth of family health insurance premiums; or 4,549 additional gallons of gas, each year.”

Experts stress that policymakers must pass the Paycheck Fairness Act and develop more ways “to either push women into higher-paying fields where the men are, or to make sure jobs women do hold are valued in the same way,” Heather Boushey, senior economist the Center for American Progress, told the Huffington Post last year.

Can´t Find A Job? A New Study Says It May Be The City You Live In

January 29th, 2013 - By Ann Brown
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It may be time to move if you live in one of these cities. Although the unemployment numbers are improving, there are some places where it is extremely difficult to get a job.

According to the latest data, the number of Americans requesting unemployment benefits fell to a five-year low of 330,000, reports financial news and opinion website 24/7 Wall St.  The site reviewed the 10 metro areas with the highest unemployment rates in the country by using the latest figures available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Natural disaster played a part in the loss of jobs in two of the cities on the list — Atlantic City and Ocean City, New Jersey — both of which were in the path of Superstorm Sandy. “Unemployment skyrocketed in November in both cities. In Ocean City, the jobless rate jumped from 11.8% in October to 14.5% in November,” writes the website.

Southern and central California, and southern Arizona are other areas that had high unemployment rates. “These areas, unlike the New Jersey cities, have low income populations and extremely high poverty rates. In El Centro, California, which had the second-highest unemployment rate in the country of 27.5% in November, more than one quarter of the population is living below the poverty line,” found 24/7 Wall St.

When determining  the 10 metropolitan statistical areas with the highest unemployment rates, 24/7 Wall St. also included U.S. Census Bureau data for poverty, income, high school and college attainment levels, and employment by sector, all from 2011.

Here are the top 5:

1. Yuma, Ariz.
Unemployment: 27.5%
12-month unemployment change: 1.2 percentage points
Percentage of population living below poverty line: 21.8%

More than 10 percent of the metro Yuma labor force works in agriculture, which are mostly seasonal jobs.  24/7 Wall St. found that the median household income was also quite low at $38,390 — more than $12,000 below the national median.

2. El Centro, Calif. (Alexis)
Unemployment: 26.6%
12-month unemployment change: -2.3 percentage points
Percentage below poverty line: 26.8%

Things haven’t gotten much better the El Centro. “In November 2011, El Centro had an unemployment rate of 28.9%, then the highest of any metropolitan area in the U.S. Twelve months later, El Centro’s unemployment rate was still the nation’s second-highest, at 26.6%,” writes 24/7 Wall St. Like Yuma, most of he jobs in this city are  seasonal.

3. Yuba City, Calif.
Unemployment: 15.8%
12-month unemployment change: -0.8 percentage points
Pct. below poverty line: 16.3%

Like the top two cities, Yuba City’s economy is very dependent on agriculture. But things seem to be improving here because of an increase in construction work. Employment in this area actually rose 24 percent between August 2011 and August 2012, more than all metro areas in the country, according to the Associated General Contractors of America.

4. Merced, Calif.
Unemployment: 15.7%
12-month unemployment change: -0.7 percentage points
Pct. below poverty line: 27.4%

Despite the high unemployment number, the rate had fallen by 0.7 percentage points over the twelve months ending in November. Seasonal agricultural work along with a lack of formal education are big problems here. “As of 2011, just 65.2% of the area’s residents had at least a high school diploma versus 85.9% for the U.S. as a whole,” says 24/7 Wall St.

5. Atlantic City-Hammonton, N.J.
Unemployment: 14.5% (tied-5th lowest)
12-month unemployment change: 2.2 percentage points
Pct. below poverty line: 13.4%

Things could turn around a bit as construction work increases as they start to rebuild the city. Unfortunately, according to 24/7 Wall St., many of the construction workers will come in from out of the state.

Don’t Die In Debt: Study Shows Young Consumers Are Over-Using Their Credit Cards

January 16th, 2013 - By Tonya Garcia
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Research conducted by Ohio State University economics professor Lucia Dunn and Sarah Jiany from Capital One Financial found that adults in their late 20s and early 30s have more credit card debt than their parents and grandparents did when they were the same age. On average, young credit card holders have $5,689 more debt than their mom and dad, and $8,156 more than grandma and grandpa.

Using readily available data from 1997 to 2009, the researchers were also able to deduce that these young people are taking longer to pay back this debt, running the risk that they will head into old age with these lingering balances.

“If what we found continues to hold true, we may have more elderly people with substantial financial problems in the future,” Dunn tells Reuters. “Credit is more readily available now, and there have been changes in interest rates and less stigma attached to having credit card debt, which may all make younger people today more willing to go into debt,” she continued.

We reported late last year on the fears expressed by some that they’ll never be able to retire because of their freewheeling spending ways as young people. Once again, this brings home the important point that you must live within your means. Quick everyday tips for doing just that:

Use cash. When the cash is gone, the spending is over. And watching your money pass out of your hand makes you want to hold on to it a little more tightly.

Budget for savings. A budget should include ways in which you are putting money to the side continuously. That includes money for retirement (a 401K or Roth IRA, for example) and money that you can spend in the event of an emergency. If you’re thinking about making a big purchase, you might consider another account (or even a coffee can) in which you put cash to the side for that special expenditure.

Remember that small purchases add up. Chances are, you aren’t going to fancy restaurants on the regular. Or buying expensive clothes every time you go to the mall. But all those smaller purchases are hitting your wallet as well. If you’re hitting happy hour three times a week, that could be upwards of $100 right there. Twice monthly trips to H&M or Target? We all know how much stuff we think we “need” when we go into those shops. Think twice. Say no. Say it out loud even… who cares of other shoppers think you’re crazy? Reflect upon all the other, much better stuff you could be buying.

Holiday Splurge! How Much Do You Think Your Man Should Spend On Your Gift?

December 20th, 2012 - By Tonya Garcia
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According to a recent study published in the UK’s Daily Mailour lady friends across the pond think their guys should spend half a week’s wages on their Christmas present. Business Insider did a little math and determined that the average British man makes about $49,415 annually, which works out to a $475 gift. However, the ladies would really love to have designer duds under the tree, like a pair of Louboutins, which far exceeds the $475 baseline that the ladies have set.

The guys are a little more frugal. They only expect gifts that cost one-third of a woman’s weekly salary, which adds up to about $250.

ShopperTrak says holiday spending is expected to increase 2.5 percent over last year, a decrease from the projected 3.3 percent. For many, the fiscal cliff talks, the tragedies at Sandy Hook Elementary and in Oregon, and Hurricane Sandy put a damper on holiday shopping plans. And, the Denver Post reports, says one-third of Americans have cut their spending in the last month because of the stalled fiscal cliff talks.

But putting aside all of the current events reasons for not spending a ton of money on holiday gifts, there are the personal finance reasons. The designer clothing that the polled ladies are looking for are splurge items. We asked the Double Saving Divas about the items we can splurge on at this special time of year during yesterday’s Facebook chat. “[I]f you can’t afford it you should never splurge on it. It’s not worth the headache or heartaches. If you can’t afford a vacation and you put it on credit…..once you return after having a good time you really can’t enjoy it because you will have the bills hanging over your head. Stay focused and smart!” was their response.

Chances are, the majority of the ladies polled don’t really have anyplace special to wear a pair of Louboutins (although one could argue that you can wear your hot heels to the supermarket if you love them enough). It’s been a tough year, and we all really want to indulge, but we should be choosy. Asking your significant other to spend half their paycheck on your gift is a little much. We know ladies, we spend a lot of money throughout the year to make the house cozy and stylish, to prepare good meals, to look good and smell nice. And your boyfriend or hubby should reward that; a bouquet of flowers, a new tie, or an evening out should be a part of life throughout the year.

Since it’s the holidays and we’re feeling generous, we’ll say that you should think of something decadent that you really want, drop not-so-subtle hints to your man that it’s on your wish list, and put a little money aside to help make it happen. Maybe even charge it with a plan for paying it back quickly. But make sure it’s the thing that you want most. This should be a special something that you don’t regret for one moment having spent a chunk of cash. Personally, we love to travel, and the tourist experience is worth every penny. Maybe you love to cook and a fancy kitchen gadget is the thing that, each time you use it, will be a special gift that keeps on giving.

But the most important thing is to not go crazy. We all deserve something nice every once in a while. But if it puts you in the red, it’s not nice.

Are You Preoccupied With Social Status? (Survey Says: Yes)

November 30th, 2012 - By Tonya Garcia
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Business Insider reports on a new book, coming soon to a seller near you — Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger– that concerns itself, in part, with this idea of “social currency.” Usually a phrase heard in marketing, Wikipedia has this definition:

Social currency is a common term that can be understood as the entirety of actual and potential resources which arise from the presence in social networks and communities, may they be digital or offline.

The story cites a Harvard study that found people are more likely to take a job where they make $50,000 rather than a job that would earn them $100,000. In the first instance, the respondents would be making twice as much as their hypothetical colleagues; in the second, they’d be making half as much as the imaginary people they work with.

“They preferred to do better than others, even if it meant getting less for themselves,” the article says.

Put in other terms, participants preferred to have the social status that comes with making more money than others, rather than the goods that come with making more money, period.

Social status doesn’t only come with money. One only need to listen to the latest chart-topping songs to know that. Kanye and Jay Z don’t just talk about all the stuff that they have that you don’t. They talk about the lifestyle that their fame and fortune affords — going places and doing interesting things (like hanging out in Paris or some other far-off place). The Herald-Sun in Australia reports that “keeping up with the Joneses” these days means exactly that.

“The New Joneses are still middle class but instead of buying the latest kitchen appliance they spend their money on learning a new language, taking an exotic vacation or developing a new skill in craft,” the paper says. “They want fewer objects and more experiences.”

In the online world, that means having more “friends” and followers. The media regularly keeps tabs on the number of millions of people tracking the tweets of Justin Bieber or Rihanna. And Psy, the Korean pop sensation who brought us “Gangnam Style,” toppled the Biebs as the most-watched YouTube video over the Thanksgiving weekend. This, we’re told is significant, even if the Biebs is still winning in actual album sales.

This doesn’t mean that having nice things is totally unimportant. But these two stories suggest that we’re more willing to sacrifice cold-hard, quantifiable dollars for this more undetermined and un-spendable “social currency.” Are you?

Nouveau Riche: Are You Hanging On To New Dollars And Spending the Old Ones?

November 14th, 2012 - By Tonya Garcia
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Researchers from the University of Winnipeg and the University of Guelph have found that people are quick to get rid of their old, raggedy-looking money and want to hang on tight to the new, crisper dollars.

“The physical appearance of money can alter spending behavior. Consumers tend to infer that worn bills are used and contaminated, whereas crisp bills give them a sense of pride in owning bills that can be spent around others,” write the authors Gabrizio Di Muro and Theodore J. Noseworthy.

The researchers also found that people actually spend more money when the bills show serious signs of wear-and-tear, going so far as to use the older money even when they have the exact amount  of new money on-hand. But, when they think people are looking, folks will whip out those new bills faster than you can say “Make it rain.”

Money is money and if you’ve got it, you’re probably pretty happy. But there is a little thrill in getting a fresh dollar, right out of the wrapper. People’s attitudes could also be impacted by parents, who oftentimes tell kids that money is dirty because it passes through so many hands. How many times have you seen a parent try to get a little one to stop putting money in their mouths by saying, “Yucky! Dirty!”? When you manage to get a bill that hasn’t been touched, it almost adds to its value.

Do you have a soft spot for crisp, new dollars?

Research Shows Women Are More Likely To Take a Payday Loan

November 5th, 2012 - By Tonya Garcia
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New research from The Pew Charitable Trusts reports that women are more likely to take a payday loan than men. The organization’s research also finds that African Americans are more likely to take out a payday loan, and those who earn less than $40,000 per year are the prime customers for this sort of financial service.

“The loans are a highly controversial form of credit, as borrowers find fast relief but often struggle for months to repay obligations marketed as lasting only weeks, the report states,” says Black Enterprise.

We’ve reported a few times on payday loans over the past few weeks. As this article points out, some people need this lifeline in tough times. However, others argue that the fees make them a poor option, even in the toughest of times.

For more on theses latest stats, visit

Shoppers and Retailers Go Digital for the Holidays

October 29th, 2012 - By Kimberly Maul
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Trying out an app in front of a San Francisco Old Navy. Image: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

With more smartphones, tablets and other digital tools available, shoppers have many ways to research and buy gifts online for the holiday season.

A 2012 holiday survey from research firm Ipsos MediaCT and Google found that 51 percent of consumers plan to research products online and then make the purchase in-store. Additionally, 44 percent said they plan to both research and buy online; 17 percent will visit a store first and then purchase online; and 32 percent said they will research online, check out the physical item in stores, and then go back online to buy. Complicated!

Consumers will also use a variety of devices to do this researching and buying, with 65 percent saying they plan to make purchases on their computer, 10 percent on their tablet, and 16 percent via their smartphone.  AdWeek posted an infographic with more data.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) also expects more than half of consumers to shop online for holiday gifts, according to its annual holiday consumer spending report. That survey says 51.8 percent of consumers plan to shop online this year, and the NRF expects that the average consumer will spend $749.51 on gifts, décor, cards, and more for the holidays.

And while shoppers are turning to digital for their needs, retailers are responding. A fall 2012 survey conducted by BIGinsight for, a division of the NRF, 61.6 percent of online retailers will introduce their holiday marketing promotions by Halloween, up from 52.9 percent who said the same thing in 2011. Of holiday promotions, free shipping is by far the most popular.

Which of these categories do you fall in? Will you shop online or use your smartphone this holiday season?

Working In Your Pajamas? You´re Not Alone. More Americans Are Working From Home

October 8th, 2012 - By Ann Brown
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Image: iStockphoto

Did you know that more than 5.8 million of you do not go to work in an office? That’s the number of people working at home, says new data by  the U.S. Census Bureau. The figures are from 2010, the last year calculated, and the results are 4.2 million more people than a decade ago.

Makeda Smith has worked at home most of her career and remembers when it was not a widely-accepted concept. “I initially began working from home 25 years ago. It was not a very popular concept back then and office spaces were perceived as status symbols,” recalls Smith, owner of  Jazzmyne Public Relations, a boutique agency.  “But as a new agency owner two things were more important to me. One, I wanted to be able to spend more quality time with my daughter who was five years old at the time and two, I needed to streamline my finances. Ironically, people used to say things to me back then, ‘Don’t tell folks you work at home–they won’t take you seriously as a business owner!'”

The report, Home-Based Workers in the United States: 2010, found that the number of people who worked at home at least one day per week increased from 9.5 million in 1999 to 13.4 million in 2010, up 7  percent to 9.5 percent of all workers. Between 2005 and 2010 the share grew from 7.8 percent to 9.5 percent of all workers, an increase of more than 2 million. In all, 5.8 million or 4.3 percent of the U.S. workforce worked the majority of the week at home in 2010. “Home-based workers increased by 133 percent among state government workers and 88 percent among federal government workers. There was a 67 percent increase in home-based work for employees of private companies,” according to the report.

For Smith, the benefits of working at home more than outweigh the negatives. “You don’t have to get up to battle traffic in the morning, you don’t have to get dressed to go to work and you make your own hours,” she tells us. “And in terms of office politics and interacting with different personalities and people’s mood swings, there are none.”

One downside, says Smith, is the tendency to overwork. “I end up putting in far more than 40 hours a work week. I had to train myself to take ‘me’ time,” she says.

Smith shares her 5 tips  on how to work at home successfully:

1) Create an office space in your home.  An office space does not have to be an entire room but just an area dedicated to your work.

2) Make daily “to do lists” so you know you are accomplishing your goals and staying on track with work.

3) Be sure to take breaks.  Factor in lunch breaks, daily walks, or an exercise class, etc. Sometimes working at home can consume you.

4) Don’t let other people’s perception of your time and workspace adversely influence you.  If someone calls to chit-chat because they know you are at home, let them know that just because you are at home, it doesn’t mean you are not working.

5) Celebrate and give thanks daily. Working at home is a true blessing.