Tag Archives: study

Research shows what it doesn't show

If you don’t have a phone, you can’t hang up on them.

Landlines have become quaint. It is almost funny to think that, here we are in 2010 and yet, some people still use those old style telephones that require wires to plug into the wall in order to work. Way back in 2004, more than 90% of households had a landline. In 2009, 25% of households were cell phone only.

Why is this a political story,” you might ask? It is against federal law* to use the automated dialers, which most pollsters use, to call cell phones. Add to that the number of households who primarily use their cell phones (cell dependent) and screen their landlines, and you begin to see a larger problem accurately projecting poll numbers.

What’s the big deal, they can still reach plenty of people with landlines,” you might ask? Sure, except the just released and updated Pew Research Center study also shows that people in cell only and cell dependent households are different than landline households – just calling more landlines won’t get the right answers.

The differences are startling. Cell only households are much younger: only 7% of younger households (under 30) have a landline and only 26% of households, ages 30-49 have a landline. They are 11% less likely to have a college degree; make less money (they are younger, duh?); half as likely to be married; three times more likely Hispanic; two-times more likely African-American; and more than twice as likely male. They also are more likely to to support Democratic candidates.

Pollsters are pretty smart and factor this in when they call, right,” you might ask? They are smart, but most surveys are conducted with automated dialing only calling landlines and the non-coverage bias is not factored. Some surveys make an attempt to compensate by dialing a sample of expensive-to-manually-call, cell phone lists (in pollster lingo, they are called, “full dual frame surveys”). According to the Pew findings even the full dual frame surveys have a real problem.

“Because the decline of landline coverage has not been uniform across demographic groups, some key subgroups in surveys based only on landlines may be severely underrepresented, making reliable estimates of attitudes or behaviors among those groups difficult or impossible to obtain. For example, respondents ages 18-29 now constitute just 7% of a typical landline sample, less than one-third of their proper proportion in the population according to the latest American Community Survey estimates (22%). The shortfall is not limited just to the very young, in part because many people maintain phone status as they age, and in part because even older adults are abandoning landline service. Consequently, the percentage of adults in their 30s and 40s represented in landline surveys now falls 12 percentage points short of the parameters (26% vs. 38%). As a result, adults 50 and older are significantly overrepresented in landline samples, comprising 66% of the average landline sample when they should be only 40% of the sample.

”The coverage issue also affects other demographic variables in addition to age. Compared with dual frame samples, landline samples yield relatively fewer cases among Hispanics, an important and growing portion of the U.S. population. Renters also are more likely to be missed by landline surveys.

Be warned next time you hear the results of some new survey, it will be wrong.

For a full copy of the Pew Research report, click here.

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*Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Survey researches are, however, allowed to call the 91+ million households who have signed up to be on the do not call lists.

Reason for optimism

Optimist or PessimistA few months ago a certain head of a certain private SC university and Dew reader called me a “fatalist.” I’m not. I’m an American. Americans are always optimists. I’m just happen to be near the top of my personal bell curve of cynicism. It seemed at the time, for good cause, but not now.

A new study just out for 2009 says that despite the record unemployment, layoffs, furloughs, downsizing, off-shoring, Wall Street crash, real estate crash, and worst depression since Prozac was allowed to advertise on TV, it seems that millionaires in the US grew by 16% to 7.8 million and those whose worth is over $5 million was up 17%. The study goes on to project that the concentration of wealth, should it continue as it did during the Bush years, will have us looking like Mexico in 2048*. Now I know what you are thinking: that will solve the illegal immigration problem. See? I’m not a fatalist.

More statistics out: the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the number of unemployed workers age 55 and older jumped 70% in 2008 and AARP reports it has jumped 331% during the Bush years (from 2000-2009, the numbers rose from 490,000 to 2,114,000). Those in this demo know full well that their experience, work ethic and talents aren’t worth the cost of pension plans and health care anymore and that Walmart is always an option. Age discrimination be damned, seniors still have it better than convicted felons and those wishing to have an experience with an airline terrorist. See? I’m not a fatalist.

More statistics also from the Bureau of Labor Statistics… Men, it seems, have it worse when it comes to unemployment during this “worst recession since the really great one” at least percentage wise, than women. White men, it seems, have it worse, at least percentage wise, than black or hispanic men.** See? There’s no plot. The Bushies surely wouldn’t have done this on purpose. See? I’m no fatalist, this is a great step forward in narrowing the disparity of racial and gender unemployment rates.

Now I could go on with reports on foreclosures, credit card defaults, business closings, tax collections, and those who lost their health insurance, but that would be the type of tactic a fatalist would employ. Not me. I’m truly optimistic that the markets will correct and all will be just wonderful if we can only kill this health care bill; quit supporting the unemployed; stop the government regulation of banks and Wall Street; reform those torts which allow people to sue when their lives have been destroyed by our innocent corporations who are just trying their tiny little hearts out to employ as many people (in the third world) as possible; and, for gawd’s sake, get that deficit under control while cutting taxes and increasing highway and military spending. Oh yeah, and protecting marriage. And, supporting Israel. And, getting rid of that awful socialist program Americorp. And, of course, make everyone start carrying guns. And, protect that super minority rule in the Senate. And, well, I’d better just stop there, ‘cause I’m sure the markets will take care of everything for everyone.

Sarcastic, you decide.

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* Closer to us than 1970.
**Black men still have higher unemployment rates than white men, just the percentage increase last year was lower, which, statistically, is probably because it was sooooo friggin’ high already.

The healthcare system is killing us

ilanakohn_sketchForbes, yes, Forbes, reports today on a new study finding that “medical problems and expenses contributed to nearly  two-thirds of all bankruptcies in the United States.”

In fairness, the American Journal of Medicine, Harvard Law School, Harvard Medical School and Ohio University study used data from 2007 and, according to the researchers, was “collected prior to the current economic downturn. It’s likely that the current rate of medical-related bankruptcies is even higher.”

Those of you who haven’t experienced how this can happen to “solidly middle class” people with jobs, insurance and college degrees, get ready. You will.

Generally, what happens first, is that you go to a doctor. Your financial advisor and the health insurance industry strongly discourages this step. After co-pays, deductibles, tests, more co-pays, referrals, uncovered expenses, out-of-network anonymous radiologists and labs, and more co-pays, you find out that you are sick and need treatment for something. Researchers estimate that the likelihood you will at some time see a doctor and find you are sick is 99.95%.

After a generation or so of cruelly strategic lobbying by the extremely profitable health insurance industry, your health care system is set up as a war of attrition. By severely limiting physician reimbursements for a patient visit, you are lucky to see a doctor for more than a few minutes. You are, however, likely to wait a month or more for the appointment and an hour or more in various waiting rooms.

With expenses for the office, practice insurance, professional staff and paperwork specialists, your doctor simply cannot afford to see you, test you and treat you in a single visit for $53.50. Your insurance company prefers a system requiring the scheduling expensive tests for diagnosis and subsequent treatment appointments on the theory that you will either get better on your own, run out of money for the deductibles, co-pays and non-covered expenses, or just die.

The only exception to the rule, is gun shot wounds. Our system works really well if you are bleeding in the waiting room.

Once you get in the system, it can easily take years to find out what is wrong and treat you. During that time, you’ll miss a lot of work. Even while at work, you’ll feel like miserable, your mind will be elsewhere and you will wish you were. Eventually, your employer will announce a “strategic restructuring” and you will be out of job. You will be able to keep that lousy great insurance at a much higher cost for a few months before you lose it. Then you’ll have a preexisting condition. Just try and find another job while you are sick and have a public record of a pre-existing condition – no company will ever hire you with benefits again. Next, your credit goes to hell. The credit card companies raise your rates to 30% or so, plus whatever fees they wish especially if they have been spying on your purchases and notice you no longer buy luxury, only meds. Your spouse will lose work time taking care of you and will risk your fate. You will lose your home and declare bankruptcy. This is what happens in America.

“Our findings are frightening. Unless you’re Warren Buffett, your family is just one serious illness away from bankruptcy,” lead author Dr. David Himmelstein, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said in a news release from the Physicians for a National Health Program.

“For middle-class Americans, health insurance offers little protection. Most of us have policies with so many loopholes, co-payments and deductibles that illness can put you in the poorhouse. And even the best job-based health insurance often vanishes when a prolonged illness causes job loss — precisely when families need it most. Private health insurance is a defective product, akin to an umbrella that melts in the rain,” Himmelstein said.

When your Congressperson speaks on CNN or Fox about your right to choose private health insurance coverage, keep in mind that what they are really saying is: Keep those campaign contributions coming and I’ll sell the chumps I represent on the idea that they already have truly great coverage as long as they are healthy. Who cares what happens went they eventually get sick? They’ll be broke, powerless and dead soon enough.

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The illustration is a sketch by Ilana Kohn from IlanaKohn.blogspot.com