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Too Many Secrets

But I estimate that men moving to someplace more open-minded can explain less than half of the difference in the openly gay population in tolerant versus intolerant states. If mobility cannot fully explain why some states have so many more openly gay men, the closet must be playing a big role.

Which brings us back to Google, with which so many people have proved willing to share so much. Overall, there are more gay porn searches in tolerant states compared with intolerant states. In Mississippi, I estimate that 4. So how many American men are gay? Five per cent of American men being gay is an estimate, of course. Some men are bisexual; some — especially when young — are not sure what they are. But one consequence of my estimate is clear: an awful lot of men in the United States, particularly in intolerant states, are still in the closet.

And, in many cases, they may even be married to women. It turns out that wives suspect their husbands of being gay rather frequently.

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The states with the highest percentage of women asking this question are South Carolina and Louisiana. In fact, in 21 of the 25 states where this question is most frequently asked, support for gay marriage is lower than the national average. Closets are not just repositories of fantasies. When it comes to sex, people keep many secrets — about how much they are having, for example. Americans report using far more condoms than are sold every year.

You might therefore think this means they are just saying they use condoms more often during sex than they actually do. The evidence suggests they also exaggerate how frequently they are having sex to begin with. But this would already be more than the total number of pregnancies in the United States which is one in women of childbearing age. In our sex-obsessed culture it can be hard to admit that you are just not having that much. On Google, there are 16 times more complaints about a spouse not wanting sex than about a married partner not being willing to talk.

There are five-and-a-half times more complaints about an unmarried partner not wanting sex than an unmarried partner refusing to text back. And Google searches suggest a surprising culprit for many of these sexless relationships. How should we interpret this? Does this really imply that boyfriends withhold sex more than girlfriends? Not necessarily.

As mentioned earlier, Google searches can be biased in favour of stuff people are uptight talking about. Still, even if the Google data does not imply that boyfriends are really twice as likely to avoid sex as girlfriends, it does suggest that boyfriends avoiding sex is more common than people let on.

Google data also suggests a reason people may be avoiding sex so frequently: enormous anxiety, with much of it misplaced.

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Men Google more questions about their sexual organ than any other body part: more than about their lungs, liver, feet, ears, nose, throat, and brain combined. Men conduct more searches for how to make their penises bigger than how to tune a guitar, make an omelette, or change a tyre. Do women care about penis size? Rarely, according to Google searches.

Once again, the insecurities of men do not appear to match the concerns of women. There are roughly the same number of searches asking how to make a boyfriend climax more quickly as climax more slowly. Sex and romance are hardly the only topics cloaked in shame and, therefore, not the only topics about which people keep secrets.

Many people are, for good reason, inclined to keep their prejudices to themselves. I suppose you could call it progress that many people today feel they will be judged if they admit they judge other people based on their ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religion.

But many Americans still do. A few patterns among these stereotypes stand out. Muslims are the only group stereotyped as terrorists. When a Muslim American plays into this stereotype, the response can be instantaneous and vicious. Google search data can give us a minute-by-minute peek into such eruptions of hate-fuelled rage. Consider what happened shortly after the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, on 2 December, And this minute-by-minute search data can tell us how difficult it can be to calm this rage.

Four days after the shooting, President Obama gave a prime-time address to the country. He wanted to reassure Americans that the government could both stop terrorism and, perhaps more importantly, quiet this dangerous Islamophobia. Obama appealed to our better angels, speaking of the importance of inclusion and tolerance.

The rhetoric was powerful and moving. But was it? Google search data suggests otherwise. Together with Evan Soltas, then at Princeton, I examined the data. In other words, Obama seemed to say all the right things. But new data from the internet, offering digital truth serum, suggested that the speech actually backfired in its main goal.

Instead of calming the angry mob, as everybody thought he was doing, the internet data tells us that Obama actually inflamed it. Sometimes we need internet data to correct our instinct to pat ourselves on the back. So what should Obama have said to quell this particular form of hatred currently so virulent in America? Either singular or in its plural form, the word is included in 7m American searches every year. When are these searches most common? Whenever African Americans are in the news. Among the periods when such searches were highest was the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in , when television and newspapers showed images of desperate black people in New Orleans struggling for their survival.

The frightening ubiquity of this racial slur throws into doubt some current understandings of racism.

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Any theory of racism has to explain a big puzzle in America. On the one hand, the overwhelming majority of black Americans think they suffer from prejudice — and they have ample evidence of discrimination in police stops, job interviews, and jury decisions. On the other hand, very few white Americans will admit to being racist. The dominant explanation among political scientists recently has been that this is due, in large part, to widespread implicit prejudice. White Americans may mean well, this theory goes, but they have a subconscious bias, which influences their treatment of black Americans.

Academics invented an ingenious way to test for such a bias. It is called the implicit association test. For white faces, the pattern is reversed. There is, though, an alternative explanation for the discrimination that African Americans feel and whites deny: hidden explicit racism. Now we do.

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We are, therefore, in a position to see what it explains. It also correlates with the black-white wage gap, as a team of economists recently reported.

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The areas that I had found make the most racist searches underpay black people. When Nate Silver, the polling guru , looked for the geographic variable that correlated most strongly with support in the Republican primary for Trump, he found it in the map of racism I had developed. To be provocative and to encourage more research in this area, let me put forth the following conjecture, ready to be tested by scholars across a range of fields.

The discrimination black people regularly experience in the United States appears to be fuelled more widely by explicit, if hidden, hostility. But, for other groups, subconscious prejudice may have a more fundamental impact. For example, I was able to use Google searches to find evidence of implicit prejudice against another segment of the population: young girls. And who, might you ask, would be harbouring bias against girls? Their parents. But this question is not asked equally about boys and girls. Are parents picking up on legitimate differences between young girls and boys?

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Perhaps young boys are more likely than young girls to use big words or show objective signs of giftedness? At young ages, girls have consistently been shown to have larger vocabularies and use more complex sentences. Despite all this, parents looking around the dinner table appear to see more gifted boys than girls. In fact, on every search term related to intelligence I tested, including those indicating its absence, parents were more likely to be inquiring about their sons rather than their daughters.

Primarily, anything related to appearance. Just as with giftedness, this gender bias is not grounded in reality. Even though scales measure more overweight boys than girls, parents see — or worry about — overweight girls much more frequently than overweight boys.

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Parents are also one-and-a-half times more likely to ask whether their daughter is beautiful than whether their son is handsome. In fact, I did not find a significant relationship between any of these biases and the political or cultural makeup of a state. It has revealed the continued existence of millions of closeted gay men; widespread animus against African Americans; and an outbreak of violent Islamophobic rage that only got worse when the president appealed for tolerance.