Sunday, June 27, 2021

Back to the office?

 A story in the New York Times said "In a survey by the Slack think tank Future Forum a whopping 97 percent of Black respondents in the U.S. said they preferred a fully remote or hybrid workplace. Only 3 percent of Black workers surveyed said they wanted to return fully in person, compared with 21 percent of white workers."  I was interested in learning more about the survey, so I followed the link, which unfortunately didn't contain any additional information except it involved "knowledge workers."  However, after a little more searching I found more details here.  I also found a later survey (April-May 2021; the first was late 2020) by the same group.  Here, they found that 26% of white knowledge workers wanted to return to the office full-time, "compared to only" 20% of black, 22% of Hispanic, and 23% of Asian knowledge workers.  So one survey showed a large racial difference, the other a small difference.  They didn't remark on the discrepancy--as the quoted words show, the report on the second survey continued to treat the racial/ethnic differences as large and important.  A lot of it may just be the result of the sample size--the surveys involved about 10,000 knowledge workers in six nations, which comes to about 1,500 per nation (the ethnic comparisons just involve the US).  Given the ethnic distribution of workers in those jobs, that probably means no more than 100 to 150 black workers in each survey, unless they oversampled them. Taking the two surveys together it seems that among "knowledge workers," blacks are less likely to favor full-time in-person work.  However, support for fully remote work is about the same among blacks and whites (15% and 17%)--it's support for the hybrid options ("prefer co-located" and "prefer remote") that's higher among blacks.  That doesn't seem to fit with the interpretation in the New York Times story, which is that black workers find the in-person office experience to be unpleasant.  Unfortunately, the reports on the surveys don't contain enough detail to suggest any other explanations.  

In the past few days, I've seen three Times news stories (or at least not straightforward opinion pieces) about remote vs. in-person work, all of which clearly favored remote (or almost entirely remote) work, and all of which seemed rather credulous.  The one I've talked about here didn't mention that Slack is "a proprietary business communication platform"--that is, they have a financial interest in remote work-- which seems like something readers should be told.  Then there was one for the Upshot called "Do Chance Meetings at the Office Boost Innovation? There’s No Evidence of It," which started from the reasonable point that there's not much solid evidence that they do but moved on to suggesting that we know they don't:  "Creative work can be done by leaving video chat on while working so people can share thoughts as they arise or working at the same time on a Google Doc. Also, writing down ideas and notes from conversations, so others can refer to them and weigh in."  It also relies on the Slack studies, and concludes with a quotation from the "Chief People Officer" at Zillow, who says "We believe humans want to connect and collaborate. But do you need to do that five days a week, or can you do that once every three months?"  And finally this one, which was intended to be humorous but has some reporting, which quotes someone assuring us that "even much vaunted water cooler conversation can — and should — be recreated virtually, by establishing a routine of setting aside a few minutes — six or seven for an hour long meeting — for informal conversation at the start of each virtual gathering."  I don't know whether that's coincidence or a sign of something larger. 

Monday, June 21, 2021

The return of politics

 Last week I saw a tweet by Seth Masket saying "correlation of Biden vote share and adult Covid vaccination rate is now at .847."  In the early stages of vaccination, there wasn't much relationship--I recall hearing that West Virginia was one of the leaders.  So when did it appear?  Our World in Data has data on the number of doses administered over time (originally from the CDC).  Since their data included all ages, I divided by the total population.  The relationship on July 14: 

The District of Columbia is an outlier:  the correlation is .81 if you include it and .84 if you don't.  Masket didn't, but I don't know any particular reason to leave it out, so I'll include it from now one.  A summary history of the correlation:

Feb 1            -.02

Mar 1            .03

April 1            .36

May 1            .70

June 1            .81

June 14           .81

The correlation between the Biden share and vaccinations done in the month was 0.58 for March, .8 for April, .86 for May, and 0.7 for June.  Why did the correlation emerge?  One possibility is that state governments in Democratic states encouraged vaccinations, but adding the governor's party didn't improve the predictive power.  Of course you could try to improve the measure, for example by including control of the state legislature.  Still, the idea that the relationship directly reflects individual partisanship (amplified by the influence of friends and neighbors) seems more promising.  A Quinnipiac survey from December 2020 asked "If a COVID-19 vaccine is approved by government health officials, do you think you would be willing to get vaccinated, or not?"  80% of Democrats and only 50% of Republicans said they would.  What accounts for the difference in willingness to get the vaccine?  The survey also asked "how confident are you in the federal government's ability to oversee the safety of COVID-19 vaccines" and there was essentially no difference between Democrats and Republicans (Independents were a bit less confident).  It also asked if you or someone you know had been infected--Democrats were more likely to say yes, but the difference was small (77% to 70%).  It seems that Republicans were just less likely to think that coronavirus was a serious problem--they were less concerned that they or someone they know would be infected (21% vs. 73% "very concerned")--and less likely to think that the situation was getting worse--34% vs. 87%.  The results for "getting worse" are particularly striking, since those kind of opinions usually shift immediately after the election--that is, answers are influenced by confidence in the president-elect. 

That raises the question of why state differences in vaccination rates didn't appear right away.  I would guess that it was because in the first couple of months vaccinations were mostly limited to people over 65, who were considerably more interested in the vaccine (76% willing to take it, and most of those interested in getting it right away).  So at that point differences in vaccination rates had more to do with organization and opportunity.


[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

Monday, June 14, 2021

Promises made, promises kept

 My previous post involved GSS questions on confidence in various institutions, or more exactly, "the people running" those institutions.  A few years ago, I had some posts about Gallup questions on confidence in institutions.  Both the Gallup and GSS questions started in the early 1970s, but the GSS borrowed questions asked by the Harris polls in 1967, making it possible to go back a little farther.  I wrote about one of the GSS/Harris questions (confidence in the military) a few years ago, and said I would consider the others in "a future post."  It took a while, but I have finally done it.  

I'll begin with confidence in the people running "major companies" and "organized labor."

A big decline in confidence in major companies between 1967 and 1972, and some downward trend since then. For labor, there was a decline until the mid-1980s and some increase since then--confidence was about the same in 2016 and 2018 as it was in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Next, the people running "organized religion," "medicine," "education," and "the scientific community."

A downward trend for all, except maybe the scientific community.  

Next, "the press" and "TV."


Clearly downward for both.  

Finally, the "US Supreme Court," and "the military."


 Confidence in the court has gone up and down without much change; confidence in the military declined substantially from 1967 to 1980 and has gradually increased since then until it's now back to about the 1967 level.  

The Harris/GSS data agree with the Gallup data in showing a decline in most institutions, with the military being an exception.  However, there seem to be differences for some specific ones, like organized labor, and I may look more closely at those in a future post.  Confidence in all of them declined between 1967 and 1972, supporting the popular idea that the 1960s produced a lasting change in outlook.