Cataloging Google’s most popular search terms offers fascinating windows into the zeitgeist, but those analyses are usually big, splashy end-of-year affairs that typically include the word “Bieber.”
The New York Times‘s data journalism blog, The Upshot, had the clever (and somewhat depressing) idea to conduct an analysis of the search habits of the inhabitants of the poorest and richest places to live in the United States. “The results,” writes the Upshot‘s David Leonhart, “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.”
That said, these aren’t the most-searched for terms among the groups outright. Mostly we all search for the same things, like, “What time does the Super Bowl start?” Rather, these terms are correlated with how much they come up in a given area, and how infrequently they come up in others.
Among the hardest to live areas: counties in Kentucky, Arkansas, Maine, New Mexico, and Oregon. Among the easiest places to live: large swaths of land in Nebraska, Iowa, Wyoming, and the big cities along East and West Coasts.
So what kinds of terms did they type into the magical Google machine? In poor areas, searches mostly concerned:
…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.
Bleak. And in rich areas?
In the easiest places to live, the Canon Elph and other digital cameras dominate the top of the correlation list. …
Beyond cameras, subjects popular in the easiest places include Baby Joggers, Baby Bjorns, and baby massage…
Google searches in tough areas concern mortality and whether hell exists or not; searches in well-off areas revolve around unprotected sex, baby gear, and point & shoot cameras. Make of these findings what you will.