When we talk about American politics, we usually talk about huge numbers: of people, of votes, of incomes, of ages, of policy preferences or opinions.
Statistics are bandied about in the media.
They can be used as evidence to support a variety of arguments.
As critical consumers of American politics, it's crucial that we are able to sort through the many numbers thrown at us daily through multiple media channels to understand their meaning, judge their veracity, and make sense of the ways in which they are displayed.
Take time to scrutinize the way numbers are plotted on the axes when looking at a line graph or bar chart.
The numbers that go up the vertical axis start at zero and move up at regular intervals.
If the baseline is not zero, the relationship between the numbers on each axis can be masked.
Do not assume that you know what the baseline is.
You can check the scale or timeframe on the axes.
When the data are plotted over years, patterns seem more predictable and less volatile than when a set of numbers are erratic.
Even though many residents are struggling, a small influx of multimillionaires moving into an impoverished neighborhood can raise the mean income into the middle-class range.
Even though a few residents live far above the poverty line, the median income would show that most residents are near it.
Statisticians break down data into smaller pieces for comparison.
If you divide a population into five or seven or ten segments, you can see how they differ in terms of earnings, grades, and so on.
The way the data is chunked can affect a graph.
If you compared the incomes of the rich and the poor, you would find that the top group earned nine times more than the low-income group.
You can only see a small part of the picture with graphs and visual displays.
There is always more context to consider when you look at them, because they are usually limited to just a few variables.
Population charts can show growth in the numbers of a group but not the population as a whole.
If the entire population is growing, the percentage of foreign-born people may not change.
In 1965, a dollar buys a lot more than it does today.
The fact that two variables shift at the same time doesn't mean that one has caused the other.
Causality is hard to prove, and the best you can hope for is to see if there is a relationship between two variables.
Design choices like color, icons, and even typeface can imply meaning beyond what the numbers actually say.
In political science, the color red refers to the Republican Party, whereas the color blue refers to the Democratic Party.
The perception of the data can be influenced by any one or a combination of these design elements.
Immigration to the United States reflects both historical events outside of our borders and policy decisions made within them.
Public anxiety about changing demographic led to policies that limited the number of incoming immigrants and often targeted specific ethnic or racial groups.
We may be a nation of immigrants, but they quickly integrate, often closing the door behind them.
Many Americans have stories similar to theirs in their family trees.
American citizens are usually born.
If you are born in any of the fifty states or in most overseas U.S. territories, such as Puerto Rico or Guam, you are an American citizen.
If one of your parents holds citizenship in another country, you may be able to hold dual citizenship, depending on that country's laws.
The requirements for U.S. citizenship have changed a lot over the years.
America has been attractive to people from other countries who want to live and work here.
If they follow the rules and regulations of the U.S., they can come here legally on permanent resident visas.
They may be eligible to apply for citizenship through a process called almost all American citizens are themselves immigrants or have descended from immigrants, they have clamored for strict limits on who else can come in behind them.
Many people who come to the United States are not legal permanent residents.
If they face persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinions, they may arrive in the United States.
The debate about whether Syrian and other Muslim refugees from the Middle East should be allowed into the United States is a political decision that can raise security concerns.
The final judge of a well founded fear is what the USCIS requires.
There are annual limits on the number of refugees who can become legal permanent residents.
If they wish to do so, they can accumulate the inresidence time required to become a citizen at that time.
Visitors, foreign government officials, students, international representatives, temporary workers, members of foreign media, and exchange visitors are some of the people who may come to the United States legally but without official permanent resident status.
The people are expected to return to their home countries and not take up permanent residence in the United States.
Immigrants who do not qualify for one reason or another have arrived here by avoiding the regulations of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
American laws have become harsher with respect to illegal immigrants, but they have not stopped them from coming in search of a better life.
When we travel in other countries, we have the same rights and responsibilities as people who are not legal permanent residents of the United States.
The rights of immigrants in the United States are mostly legal and include the right to a fair trial and a lawyer.