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Drugs and Labor

I recently came across some economic good news, there is a labor shortage for construction and factory jobs in the U.S., which is driving up wages.  Unfortunately some are attributing part of the shortage of skilled laborers to growing drug addiction and incarceration rates in the traditional male demographic filling these jobs.

male labor participation

I had to include these graphics here, it took me a bit to figure out what the scales represent on the vertical axes!  LFPR = Labor Force Participation rates.  The point is that the recession knocked younger men out of the workforce in “large” numbers and they have not returned.  These are good graphics to discuss with your class, ask them what story they think the graphics are telling.

The article, The First Count of Fentanyl Deaths in 2016: Up 540% in Three Years, highlights the growing opioid epidemic in this country.  I naturally was attracted to the 540% in the title like a moth to a flame.  There are nice graphics that help convey the magnitude of our drug problem.

drugs vs hiv

I like this one in particular because the comparisons are a great example of effective communication with numbers.  My students struggled however to correctly interpret  the references to car crashes, gun deaths and H.I.V. deaths.  It nicely puts the drug epidemic in perspective by letting us know we have surpassed previous “epidemic” death totals.  Another great question for your class is whether this comparison is fair given the population has changed over time.  What would make for a more accurate comparison?

Here is the quiz:

Q4 Opiods
Please type answers if possible and print this document with extra space so you do not have to mush all your work together.  Change font for your answers so they stand out.  Thanks!

  1. In the article, The First Count of Fentanyl Deaths in 2016: Up 540% in Three Years, there are lots of references to change over time.
    1. Verify the 540% in the title with a computation showing how it was calculated.
    2. In the following graphic which state had the greatest percentage increase in opioid death rates?
      states drug deaths
    3. What does the color blue represent?
    4. Why do they use a rate instead of just reporting total deaths?
  2. Joel Best talks about problematic definitions.
    1. Why would a coroner have a problem identifying a death due to prescription opioids?

    2. What would a false positive be related to the statistic of drug overdose deaths?
    3. Do you feel there are more false positives or false negatives related to the statistic of drug overdose deaths? Explain!
  1. What is the point of the list of “car crash/HIV/gun deaths” in the graphic above?
  2. Joel Best talks about the “dark figure” associated to every social problem. Which social problem, opioid abuse (not just deaths) or teen pregnancy, do you think has a larger dark figure?  Explain!


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