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Archive for the ‘Generation or Age of Juror’ Category

What can we learn from a look back at 2015? 

Thursday, February 11, 2016
posted by Rita Handrich

2015 Year-in-Review-HighlightMany things most likely but we especially like to look at how attitudes change and how reports of what is important varies from year to year in North America. And for that, we turn to the Pew Research Center and they do not fail us! They offer us their 15 “striking findings” from 2015 complete with graphs that show the historical perspective.

It’s hard to choose among their 15 but to encourage you to visit this document yourself, we are only going to highlight 6 of their 15 highlighted findings from 2015. Some we’ve blogged about over the course of the past year and others we missed (and you may have too).

“I trust the federal government always or most of the time”: Consistent with what we’ve seen over the past few years, only 19% of Americans endorse this belief now. Pew notes it is among the lowest levels of trust in the government over the past 50 years.

More immigrants from Mexico are leaving the US than are coming into the country. While we’ve blogged on attitudes toward immigrants, we missed this factoid or perhaps it was drummed from our memory by the constant monologues about making Mexico pay to build a border wall from a Republican presidential candidate. Immigration from Mexico actually fell to below zero after the Great Recession of 2008(ish).

News source preference varies by generation. We blogged about how Millennials get their news but not based on the Pew report. This is perhaps a useful fact for us to examine. 61% of online Millennials get their political news from Facebook while Boomers turn to local TV (which inspired an intriguing post on racism and watching local news on TV). Social networking sites will, according to Pew, become increasing important as a part of American’s news procuring habits.

People in countries with significant Muslim populations don’t like ISIS. Here’s another potentially surprising finding given the political themes we are hearing in the Presidential race. Pew surveyed 11 countries with significant Muslim populations and in all but one country (that would be Pakistan) the majority of the population viewed ISIS negatively. (In Pakistan, the majority said they did not know what their attitude toward ISIS was rather than responding either negatively or positively.)

Where immigrants come from has changed over the past 50 years. Currently, 14% of the US population is foreign-born (this is a near record in the past 50 years). While in the 19th and 20th centuries, immigrants were largely European—those arriving since 1965 hale largely from Latin America (51%) and Asia (roughly 25%).

Who is multiracial? We guess our post on multiracial identity early in 2016 doesn’t count as having caught this in 2015 but it’s an area we often ponder. Pew says multiracial Americans make up almost 7% of US adults and this group is growing 3x faster than the population as a whole. While there is more embracing of a multicultural identity/history, there are still a majority (55% according to Pew) who have been recently subjected to racial slurs or jokes due to their racial background.

Pew Research also has findings on climate change and attitudes toward science, population shifts, demographic shifts and religious affiliations. It’s a short-cut to seeing what Pew sees as the most striking issues they surveyed the American public on in 2015.

15 striking findings from 2015, December 22, 2015. Pew Research Center.


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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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