I read and skim a lot of reports. Some are reviewed here on The Curated Bookshelf. Some turn out to not be that relevant. And some have bits and pieces that are interesting, falling a bit in between.
Pew Research Center produces a prodigious amount of high-quality reports, and here are snapshot review of three fairly recent ones that I found of enough interest to flag (two briefly, one at more length).
"Generation Z Looks a Lot Like Millennials on Key Social and Political Issues." Pew Research Center, January 2019.
First, if you don't know who Generation Z is, it comprises a new generation ages 14 to 22 … the generation that comes after the Millennials. It is shaping up to be the most diverse and well-educated generation yet (until, of course, the generation that comes after them!). Overall, their attitudes are fairly similar to Millennials in that, compared to older generations, they tend to be more liberal … at least for now. As they grow fully into adulthood, attitudes can shift. What I think is most important to museums is that both non-Hispanic whites AND Gen Z Republicans specifically are more progressive on racial and ethnic issues and on climate change than their older counterparts, which I personally view with hope.
"What Americans Know About Science." Pew Research Center, March 2019.
Science, just like many things, is political. Climate change, vaccines, the age of Earth … whether one believes science is real or that theories are up for debate (thus clearly not understanding what science means by the word "theory"). As usual, Pew Research Center is unafraid to delve into political issues and looked at what Americans know about science, and then ran their filters and cross tabs to look for variations. Of interest to us is that science knowledge isn't steady. One would think that those with more education score better on a test of science knowledge (they do), but men outperform women, and whites score better than blacks and Hispanics … even after controlling for educational attainment. Meanwhile, political persuasion doesn't seem to matter when it comes to science knowledge, but it does come into play in terms of how people apply science to the world. If you are dealing with the public on science issues, you should read the full report.
"Where Americans Find Meaning in Life." Pew Research Center, November 2018
We talk about how visitors find meaning in museums. But most people don't visit museums, and those that do are visiting a handful of times a year, not every week. So how do Americans find meaning in their day-to-day lives? And can that give us better insight to how they find meaning in museums?
Unsurprisingly, family comes out tops for finding meaning in life. But of interest to museums is how activities and hobbies rank, as well as learning.
The learning finding makes a lot of sense, given my work that shows that somewhere around 5 - 10% of the population is highly curious and finds joy in learning … as well as the 10% or so of Americans who visit museums 3 or more times/year. While these two groups are not exactly the same, the point is there is likely a high degree of overlap and the sizes make sense.
As Pew points out, different groups of Americans finds meaning in different places. Educational attainment drove some key differences, as those with higher education were more likely to mention friends, good health, hobbies, travel, and most crucially, learning … things that those who are less socioeconomically privileged may not always have the resources to enjoy.
There are important differences by other factors such as religion, race and ethnicity, and political persuasion. Some are more relevant to museums than others (though educational attainment seems to be the strongest factor for us). But bottom line, meaning is found in emotional attachments, whether family, religion, or friends, and in how we live our fullest lives. Museums can help with both.
Have a suggestion for my reading list? Email it to me at susie (at) wilkeningconsulting (dot) com.
I respectfully acknowledge that I live and work on the lands of the Duwamish people, whose ancestors have lived here for generations. I thank them for their ongoing care of this land, and I endeavor to help museums bring forward a more complete and inclusive history and culture in their work.