Wonder where all the racists are? Try using Google. That’s what data analyst Seth Stephens-Davidowitz did. Davidowitz used the search engine to see if “racial animus” or racism cost President Obama votes in the last election. In addition to looking at data to see how various areas had voted, he measure racism in those voting blocks by using Google searches on the world “n-----” which he calls “the paradigmatic slur.”

Stephens-Davidowitz goes on to define a "racially charged area" as "the percent of Google searches, from 2004- 2007, that included the word 'n-----' or 'n-----s.' ... The epithet is searched for with some frequency on Google. From 2004-2007, the word 'n-----(s)' was included in roughly the same number of Google searches as words and phrases such as 'migraine(s),' 'economist,' 'sweater,' 'Daily Show,' and 'Lakers.' The most common searches that include the epithet, such as 'n-----' jokes' and 'I hate n-----s',' return websites with derogatory material about African-Americans. From 2004-2007, the searches were most popular in West Virginia; upstate New York; rural Illinois; eastern Ohio; southern Mississippi; western Pennsylvania; and southern Oklahoma."

He makes a point to differentiate for non-racist uses of the word by controlling "search rates for 'African American,' 'nigga,' (the alternate spelling used in nearly all rap songs that include the word), and profane language."

What Stephens-Davidowitz ultimately discovered was that racism contributed to a 4% loss of votes in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. He reached this by conclusion by determing that the higher the frequency in searches for the n-word in an area, the more likely it was that Obama lost votes in that area despite accounting for socio-economic factor and voting history. Stephens-Davidowitz’s work was published in the Journal of Public Economics in 2014. 

Even more interesting is that Stephens-Davidowitz was used by biostatistician David Chae of University of Maryland and a team of researchers to understand the correlation between regional racism and its affect on higher than average instances of black mortality. Published last month in PLoS One, Chae and his team studied 196 “designated market areas" defined by Nielsen Media Research and looked at Google searches for the racist explitive in those areas. They write: "DMAs characterized by a one standard deviation greater level of area racism were associated with an 8.2% increase in the all-cause Black mortality rate, equivalent to over 30,000 deaths annually. The magnitude of this effect was attenuated to 5.7% after adjustment for DMA-level demographic and Black socioeconomic covariates."

Map of racists, via Gizmodo.. Image 1.Map of racists, via Gizmodo.

They found higher rates of racism were found in the rural Northeast and South of the U.S., and that in mortality rates for blacks over the age of 25 from stress-related conditions, there was also a link between higher rates of death and racism.