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Ctrl + ← Marriage, Divorce And White Progress

This is Ctrl + ←, our weekly data journalism roundup. You’ll find the most-read FiveThirtyEight articles of the past week, as well as gems we spotted elsewhere on the Internet.


  1. Who Had The Worst Career After The First ‘Star Wars’ Trilogy?
  2. How To Tell Someone’s Age When All You Know Is Her Name
  3. Which City Has The Most Unpredictable Weather?
  4. NFL Week 14 Playoff Implications: The Chargers Have A Pulse
  5. College Football Playoff Update: TCU Promotion Shakes Up Odds
  6. What Might Persuade Hillary Clinton Not To Run In 2016
  7. The Chances The Philadelphia 76ers’ Losing Streak Will Reach 18, 19, 20 … 54 Games
  8. How Common Is It For A Man To Be Shorter Than His Partner?
  9. It’s Incredibly Rare For A Grand Jury To Do What Ferguson’s Just Did
  10. The Most Conservative And Most Liberal Elite Law Schools


Missing records: Given the recent news about indictments (or lack thereof) in the killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, this analysis by The Wall Street Journal is particularly important. Rob Barry, Coulter Jones and Nathaniel Lash used data from 105 of the largest police agencies in the U.S., covering from 2007 to 2012, and found more than 550 police killings were either missing from the FBI’s records or not clearly attributed to the agency whose officers were involved.

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White progress, quantified: Chris Rock’s recent interview in Vulture captured considerable attention, particularly his comments on President Obama and racial progress: “To say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress. There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years.”

Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post tried to measure whether Rock was right by using public opinion polling data on discrimination from the General Social Survey. Ingraham found that in 1990, more than 60 percent of white Americans said they would disapprove if a family member were to marry a black person. By 2008, that figure had fallen to 25 percent. Other questions that reveal a similar decline in white discrimination could be a source of optimism — if only they didn’t simultaneously point to the racist opinions still held by a considerable percentage of white Americans.

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Dropping divorce rates: In a single chart, Claire Cain Miller at The New York Times laid conventional “wisdom” to rest by showing that the divorce rate is not climbing. In fact, it’s been falling for the three decades since it peaked in the 1970s and early 1980s. And no, that’s not because fewer Americans are getting married.

Second time around: Remarriage is still a big part of American life — according to Gretchen Livingston at the Pew Research Center, 4 in 10 new marriages in the U.S. include at least one partner who was married before. Because she used data from the American Community Survey, Livingston wasn’t able to look at trends among homosexual couples, but she did notice some interesting trends about the age of second spouses in heterosexual relationships: 18 percent of men who remarry have a second wife who is six to nine years younger, and 20 percent remarry a woman at least 10 years their junior.


An increasingly rare breed of Democrat: In 1960, 100 percent of governors’ mansions, U.S. senators’ seats and state legislative majorities in the South (outside of Florida and Virginia) were held by Democrats. Writing for The New York Times, Nate Cohn charts the slow and steady demise of the Southern Democrat over the past 54 years, culminating in 0 percent representation in high-profile offices in the region after Sen. Mary Landrieu’s loss in Saturday’s runoff in Louisiana.

Mo’ Muhammed?: In Britain, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) gathers data on all kinds of things, including unemployment, crime and the percentage of women who smoke while pregnant. But I’ve been told by an ONS official that its most downloaded data set (by far) is the yearly release of British baby names. So, it’s unsurprising that the website,, was keen to publish some numbers of its own on the topic of newborn nomenclature. And it’s also not too surprising that it got them wrong. A survey issued by the site found that once you combined all the possible spellings of the name, more British newborns were called Muhammad than anything else. But using data from the ONS, George Arnett at The Guardian pointed out that the finding was flawed. If you choose to combine the number of babies called Muhammed, Muhammad, Mohammed, etc., to reach a total, then why not also combine the number of babies named Ollie and Oliver, for example? Once you do that, Arnett found, Muhammed (whichever way it’s spelled) is not the most popular baby name in the U.K.

I would add that even if Muhammed were to become the most popular baby name in the U.K., it wouldn’t necessarily indicate an enormous shift in British demographics, as some articles have subtly implied. True, immigration and family size play a role, but as we’ve pointed out, parents tend to be less creative when it comes to boys’ names. That’s particularly true of Muslim parents, for whom the name Muhammed carries a special weight.

2,158,456,394(ish): When YouTube created its view counter, it didn’t anticipated that an online video could ever reach the popularity that Psy’s “Gangnam Style” has (the Korean singer’s music video had been watched more than 2.1 billion times at the time of this writing). Lily Hay Newman at Slate writes that YouTube had to update its view counter to handle the traffic, and she explains why 32-bit integers are so problematic.

Mona Chalabi is data editor at the Guardian US, and a columnist at New York Magazine. She was previously a lead news writer for FiveThirtyEight.