Based on the results of a decade of search data, NY Times offers a rather disturbing portrait of the very different subjects that occupy the thoughts of richer America and poorer America. Offering a glimpse into the day-to-day thinking behind the nation's inequality, searches in the hardest places to live include health problems, weight-loss diets, guns, video games, religion and Antichrist!? In the easiest places to live, cameras, iPads, and baby massage are highly correlated to ease-of-living.
As NY Times' David Leonhart ( @DLeonhart ) notes,
This summer, The Upshot conducted an analysis of every county in the country to determine which were the toughest places to live, based on an index of six factors including income, education and life expectancy. Afterward, we heard from Hal Varian, the chief economist at Google, who suggested looking at how web searches differ on either end of our index.
The results, based on a decade of search data, offer a portrait of the very different subjects that occupy the thoughts of richer America and poorer America. They’re a glimpse into the id of our national inequality.
In the hardest places to live – which include large areas of Kentucky, Arkansas, Maine, New Mexico and Oregon – health problems, weight-loss diets, guns, video games and religion are all common search topics. The dark side of religion is of special interest: Antichrist has the second-highest correlation with the hardest places, and searches containing “hell” and “rapture” also make the top 10.
To be clear, these aren’t the most common searches in our list of hardest places. They’re the searches with the highest correlation to our index. Searches on some topics, like Oprah Winfrey or the Super Bowl, are popular almost everywhere. The terms on these lists are relatively common subjects for web searches in one kind of place — and rarely a subject in the other.
In the easiest places to live, the Canon Elph and other digital cameras dominate the top of the correlation list. Apparently, people in places where life seems good, including Nebraska, Iowa, Wyoming and much of the large metropolitan areas of the Northeast and West Coast, want to record their lives in images. Beyond cameras, subjects popular in the easiest places include Baby Joggers, Baby Bjorns and baby massage; Skype and Apple devices like the iPod Nano; a piece of workout equipment known as a foam roller.
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As David concludes,
The different subjects that occupy people’s thoughts aren’t just a window into American life today. They’re a window onto future inequality, too.