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Archive for the ‘Generation or Age of Juror’ Category

landline phoneSometimes we think change goes slowly and other times it goes fast! And the older you get the faster time seems to move! So here is proof that times change quickly! Pew Research Center has announced that in 2016 they will call 75% cellphones to complete their surveys in order to allow for the fact that almost half of American households use only wireless telephone services and the proportion of interviews conducted on cell phones has risen steadily since 2009.

They include some interesting facts about just how much times are changing when it comes to telephone use.

9 in 10 Americans have a cellphone with those adult Americans who use cellphone-only steadily increasing since 2004 according to the US government.

Roughly half of US adults (47%) have only wireless phone service.

People who rely only on cellphones are demographically different from those with landlines as well. They are considerably younger, less educated and lower-income. They are more likely to be Hispanic and urban. If you do not sample cellphone-only users, you do not get a sample representative of US adults. (This is why we follow Pew’s publications closely. They pay attention to societal changes.)

When adults have cellphones whose area code does not match the area they live in, it isn’t a problem in national polls but can be in regional or state polls. So respondents are always asked where they are located so the survey does not end up skewed. Sometimes there are addresses associated with cellphone numbers but not always.

And here is what is most surprising. Contrary to what you may experience when you pick up a call from an unknown number and get the background noise from a call center and a long delay prior to a person coming on the line—federal regulations say cellphones have to be manually dialed by an interviewer and not an autodialer. Obviously not everyone is doing it since it adds significant costs to interviewing (twice the cost of landline interviews, according to Pew).

Overall, this is invaluable information. If people who rely on cellphones-only are younger, poorer, less educated, and more likely to be Hispanic and urban—they represent a different group than the regular population and we need to pay attention to that difference as we conduct pretrial research. On the other hand, the explosion of cell-only users is obviously growing far beyond the profiles of who uses cellphones exclusively. And clearly, polling or sampling that doesn’t incorporate cell phones is missing much of the voter/juror population.

Pew Research Center (January 5, 2016). Pew Research Center will call 75% cellphones for surveys in 2016.


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mom in prisonWhile idealistically we might want to think people whose mom is (or was) in prison would view their Mom’s plight as a cautionary tale, and be less likely to go to prison themselves, a new study shows that “children of incarcerated mothers are twice as likely to be arrested, convicted and incarcerated as adults”. The study was completed by researchers at Sam Houston State University and is based on findings from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent to Adult Health (a 20 year study following a nationally representative sample of those who were in 7th to 12th grades in 1994-1995).
Here is a sampling of what the researchers describe as “unintended consequences of maternal incarceration”:

Women make up only 7% of the overall prison population but growth in the rate of incarceration for females is surpassing males (64% increase for women between 1991 and 2011 compared to a 22% increase for men during that same time frame). The researchers say the growth in incarceration rates for women reflect sentencing guidelines, mandatory minimum sentencing, enhanced sentences for certain crimes and the war on drugs.

Two-thirds of the women in prison are mothers and those children are more likely to live with relatives away from home, which, say the researchers, “increases the risk of attachment disruptions, separation anxiety, depression, sadness, and preoccupation with the loss of a parent”.

Adult children of incarcerated mothers were only half as likely to be college graduates.

Children with incarcerated mothers were significantly more likely to be involved in delinquent behavior or to have close peers who were engaging in delinquent behavior. It was also more likely that their fathers had also spent time in prison.

Adult children of incarcerated mothers were also nearly twice as likely to “report an adult arrest, an adult conviction, and an adult incarceration”.

It’s a sad set of statistics and we’ve only included some of the findings. Having an “absent mother”, say the researchers, increases the likelihood that children will be involved in the criminal justice system in the future. However, having an incarcerated mother has a much stronger effect—although at this point, we do not know enough to know if there is a differing impact on male and female children with an incarcerated mother.

While we don’t take issue with the authors about their conclusions, it can’t be ignored that the children of an incarcerated woman are likely subject to the same socio-economic forces that played a part in shaping their mother. Drug and alcohol abuse, poverty, incomplete or inadequate education, et cetera. Add to that the chaos of losing a mother, and it starts to feel amazing that any kid could climb out of that environment and lead a traditional, pro-social life. The ripple effect of maternal imprisonment involves a cost to society far greater than merely that single incarceration.

While some of these numbers are likely due to socioeconomic status, education, and poor adult role models, it is frightening to think of just how many children are going to end up in the criminal justice system as more and more women (who are also mothers) are incarcerated. It’s a call for fathers to step up but also a reminder to us as a society that we need to consider the unintended consequences of societal choices to incarcerate the parents of children and take steps to protect children from negative choices that will perpetuate the cycle of incarceration down the generations.

Muftic, L., Bouffard, L., & Armstrong, G. (2015). Impact of Maternal Incarceration on the Criminal Justice Involvement of Adult Offspring: A Research Note. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 53 (1), 93-111 DOI: 10.1177/0022427815593988


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multiracial 2016We began to see an increase in mock  jurors endorsing multiple racial categories perhaps 10 years ago, and modified our questionnaires to make it easier for them to express that view. We’ve had jurors list as many as half a dozen racial categories and have had mock jurors whom we would describe as multiracial describe themselves as White (in one case due to extreme anger at the juror’s African-American mother who had abandoned the family). It’s been an issue we’ve thought about a lot but apparently we haven’t thought about it as carefully as has Pew Research Center.

Regular readers know we think highly of Pew Research and their work to measure and document changing social norms but this time they’ve done something pretty amazing. Pew now gives us six different ways to measure racial identity or the concept of being “multiracial”. It’s a fascinating comparison since each method of measuring seems to result in slightly different answers. If you ask about the individual, for example, you may get one answer, but if you ask about the racial identity of the individual’s parents or grandparents you may get a different racial category than the individual uses to describe their own race.

According to the Pew report, the most common way to measure racial identity is to simply ask a respondent to “select one or more races, with a separate question measuring Hispanic ethnicity”. From this question, the Pew estimates 3.7% of Americans are mixed race (which they define as self-selecting two or more races).

However, then they looked at multiple other ways to identify race in survey respondents. First they examined a question being considered for the 2020 census which does not list Hispanic origin separately. The question will simply be “mark one or more” and when using this format, Pew says 4.8% of adults indicate they are multiracial.

The next strategy is to also ask about the race and ethnicity of parents. With this method, the share of those reporting a multiracial background jumped to 10.8%! Then Pew looked at adding in grandparents race and ethnicity by asking if “any of their grandparents were ‘some other race or origin’ than their own” and the proportion leapt to 16.6%. (Pew goes into detail explaining why they believe this number overestimates the multiracial population due to the follow-up questions.)

The fifth strategy is to give respondents ten “identity points” and ask them to allocate the points across different racial and ethnic categories as they see fit. In Pew’s exploration of this method (developed by UC Berkeley political scientist Taeku Lee) “some 12.7% of adults gave points to two or more races”. And finally, Pew asked people directly, “Do you consider yourself to be mixed race; that is, belonging to more than one racial group?”. Using this strategy, 12.0% of adults identified themselves as multiracial.

Based on all these ways of measuring racial identity, Pew revised their estimate of the percentage of Americans who self-represent as being multiracial from 3.7% to 6.9% and they indicate that if great-grandparents and earlier ancestors racial identity been taken into account, their estimate would rise to 13.1%.

It’s a long ways from 3.7% to 13.1% and it speaks to the changing demographics of our society (or perhaps to the increased comfort in acknowledging being multiracial). And it may speak of some delicacy about the issue of race. It seems possible that we are seeing a contrast between what someone’s ethnicity is by history, and how they view themselves culturally and ethnically today.

As jurors, if race is a factor (either because of the issues in dispute or by sheer coincidence) does it matter more that a person derives their genetics from one or more racial groups, or that they identify with a particular racial group? It’s a valuable piece of work for us since we always take a look at whether racial identity is tied to ultimate verdict (even though it infrequently is related). Our own belief is that we want to keep up with changing ideas and attitudes in the country as we craft our pretrial research questionnaires and Pew is terrific at helping us do that. Take a look at their new report.

Pew Research Center (November 6, 2015). Who is multiracial? Depends on how you ask: A comparison of six survey methods to capture racial identity.


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Tattoo women 2015We write a lot about tattoos here—perhaps because we have Millennial aged kids and at least half of them have tattoos.  Okay, more than half. The meaning of tattoos has changed over the years and there seems little stigma still associated with them any longer. The authors of new research on college students (2,394 of them from six different North American public universities, most between 18 and 20 years of age, 67% White and 59% female) opine that a “single rose or zodiac sign [tattoo] is no more edgy today than the Beatle haircut in the early ‘60s”.

In their review of the literature, the authors indicate that tattooed individuals are more likely to be risk-takers and to have a need to express their uniqueness. While historically the opposite, more women (23%) than men (19%) now have tattoos. However, women—in addition to being more likely to have tattoos—are also more likely to seek tattoo removal. There appears to be a relationship between having tattoos and having a history of emotional, physical or sexual abuse and in fact, there is a relationship between having multiple tattoos and also having a history of suicide attempts.

These researchers wanted to update the research on tattoos and well-being and here are some of their major findings:

Females were more likely to report at least one suicide attempt and to have lower self-esteem and more depression.

The number of tattoos on any one individual had no association/relationship to suicidal thoughts (aka ideation) but was related to reports of at least one suicide attempt, to depression, and to self-esteem (higher self-esteem).

Suicide attempts were related to depression and suicidal thoughts. Higher self-esteem was more likely to occur in the absence of suicide attempts.

A fair reading of those two sentences raises some odd questions. How can it be that among those who report depression and suicide attempts there is a boost to self-esteem? It may speak to two (or more) subgroups within the younger tattooed population. So the researchers wanted to learn more—particularly as higher numbers of tattoos have been associated with greater amounts of deviant behavior in past research. So they dug in (statistically speaking) and found a bit more.

The level of self-esteem among those with tattoos increased as they got more tattoos. For example, those with four or more tattoos reported one or more prior suicide attempts (and this was at a rate three times higher than those with no tattoos at all). For women with four or more tattoos, the suicide attempt rate was even more dramatic—almost four times higher than among those without tattoos.

But where does the increased self-esteem enter the picture? Overall, the self-esteem of women was lower than the self-esteem of men participating in the study. (This is not really a news flash since women do tend to report higher depression and lower self-esteem than do men.) However, as the researchers continued to statistically delve into their data, what they found was that while women with four or more tattoos did have a history of prior suicide attempts they were also more likely to have higher self-esteem. It is, say the researchers, as though there is something restorative and life-affirming for women about getting tattooed.

“We know that breast cancer survivors sometimes get tattoos in an effort to express, control, or reclaim ownership of their bodies.”

Perhaps, they say, women who are struggling with depression and/or suicidal thoughts seek out tattoos and imbue the process with meaning or symbolism that elevates their self-esteem and is therefore emotionally restorative. It’s an intriguing statement. And certainly a more positive one than saying that when you have multiple tattoos you are likely deviant.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, this research tells us to, once again, keep up with the times and the changing meanings of tattoos. Rather than a sign of deviance—perhaps that young woman with at least four visible tattoos is a survivor of trauma who has reclaimed her life. And that simple fact may move her from being a juror you might think is anti-social or unreliable, to one with a compelling story and persuasiveness, who can lead a deliberation focused on themes of re-invention, reclaiming the self, and rising above negativity.

Koch, J., Roberts, A., Armstrong, M., & Owen, D. (2015). Tattoos, gender, and well-being among American college students. The Social Science Journal, 52 (4), 536-541 DOI: 10.1016/j.soscij.2015.08.001


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“Oh come on—I’m 26 years old! 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015
posted by Rita Handrich

I am 26Here at KTC our kids are all Millennials (and we happen to be very fond of them), so we’re sensitive to the experience of Millennials being treated like children even though they have, in some cases, been in the workforce for years. Two recent experiences bring the work of the Pew Research Center to mind.

In the first instance, during a recent focus group we asked individual potential mock jurors if they could maintain confidentiality if they found the story particularly interesting (which it was). One young man we had recruited worked in IT support and was clearly bright and articulate. As we questioned him about confidentiality, he blurted out in frustration, “Oh come on! I’m 26 years old” and we both grinned and said, “Oh, well then!” and laughed a bit harder than he probably believed the comment merited.

The next day, I took my car in for warranty work and was waiting in the service area trying to read and blog in what I’d hoped would be a quiet environment. An older woman was making phone calls to multiple volunteers for a community meal of some sort where they would require those bringing food to give the food “an interesting holiday themed name” and repeated the same lines on every call at several decibels louder than she needed to speak. She was behind me and I looked up in frustration several times only to make eye contact and share mutual eye rolls with multiple 20-somethings also obviously trying to get some work done. Finally, one of the young people sharing my tall table with power outlets went over to her and politely (and quietly) asked her to make her calls outdoors as some of us were trying to get work done. The three of us seated at the table all turned and looked at her so she knew it was not just one person making the request.

It is one thing to be in your 50s (or older) and have to ask someone older than you to keep it down in a public shared space. It is another to be in your 20s or early 30s and do the same thing and I admired the courage and assertion of that young woman who spoke up for all of us making meaningful but silent eye contact. Then I thought back to the young man frustrated by our asking him if he could maintain confidentiality (which in truth is something we ask everyone—not just Millennials) when he’d been working for a number of years and had “signed multiple non-disclosure agreements”. He probably was insulted by our laughter and for that, I apologize as well. It just struck both of us as so funny since it was not at all why we were inquiring. Discretion has little to do with chronological age.

According to Pew Research, Millennials are now ages 18 to 34 years but only about 40% of them identify with the label “Millennial generation” and 33% (mostly the older Millennials) consider themselves part of Generation X. And despite the constant media sniping toward Millennials, the Millennials themselves are the most likely generation to identify with negative labels as descriptors for their generation (while Boomers and Silents see themselves most positively). On the other hand, young adults think there is strong evidence of climate change and that we should prioritize development of alternative sources of energy. Oddly, given the Millennial support of climate change and alternative energy sources, there is no difference in how people across different generations describe themselves as environmentally conscious.

It’s a reminder to us that how we see ourselves and how others see us are not necessarily the same. Whether you are 26 or 66—there are more similarities than differences across generations. Some of us are able to maintain confidences and others are not. Some of us are tolerant and others are not (although they may describe themselves as tolerant). Some of us are organized and capable and others are disorganized and yet can still get things done. We find Pew’s work on describing the generations useful as it tells us (over and over again) how similar we all are—regardless of age. Remember that when you are approaching voir dire and jury selection. Know how we are different but also remember how we are the same.

Pew Research Center. 2015. Most Millennials Resist the ‘Millennial’ Label—Generations in a Mirror: How They See Themselves. September 3.


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