More Data Trends

As I noted in a previous post, I’ve worked with students in my “Public Opinion and Voting Behavior” class to replicate and update trends in Robert Putnam’s book, Bowling Alone. Here is one figure from his book, that looks at trends in employment in the law enforcement and legal professions. He uses these data to bolster his point that, as a culture, the country has become less trusting of others (he shows lots of survey data to that effect) and more litigious (as evidenced in part below).

Can one easily replicate the totals from this figure, which come from various editions of the Statistical Abstract (see here and here)? One challenge is in knowing which totals to use in various editions. “Lawyers and judges” is usually listed the same way every year, but law enforcement is not often consistently labeled.

Here is the replicated and updated trends, with four data points after the publication of Putnam’s book.

The numbers don’t perfectly match but largely replicate. And what of the more recent period? “Lawyers and judges” (labeled just “Lawyers” in the figure) are up in recent years over the end of Putnam’s time series, but we have not seen a comparable jump as between 1960 and 1980.

The law enforcement totals (labeled just “Police” in the figure) are a bit more jumpy, up significantly in 2012 but back down in 2016 (to comparable rates as 2000 and 2004). Still, totals are far higher per 1000 employees than in 1980 and the preceding decades.

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