This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at:

Friday, October 21, 2016

Geography, Demography, and the Presidential Election

You may already have seen this map because it has been making the rounds on the internet, but it tells the story of the geography and demography of the Presidential election. To be sure, the map reflects voting at the county-level for the 2012 contest between Obama and Romney. But this is the road map for the current Clinton - Trump election:

The map was put together by Nate Cohn and Toni Monkovic of the Upshot feature of the NYTimes, and the two of them have a great discussion about what this all means. Here's a snippet:
Toni One way to understand Blue America is to follow the water. The oceans, the Great Lakes and the major rivers were obvious places for small settlements to become major cities. And these big metro areas are where Democrats dominate.The population of rural counties as a whole has been declining, and metro areas are growing. Over time, this will help Democrats, no?
Nate The Democrats do tend to do best in metropolitan areas. All of the major demographic and cultural changes that have helped the Democrats over the last decade are concentrated in these diverse and often well-educated areas. In this election, I’d guess Hillary Clinton will fare even better in metropolitan areas than President Obama did.
The red parts of the country tend to be rural, predominantly white, less-well educated--Trump country. The blue parts in the southern states reflect counties that historically had plantations with large slave populations and they are still predominantly African-American. Blue areas in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona are counties with high percentages of Latinos and/or Native Americans. Blue counties along the two coasts reflect the better-educated urban populations--these tend to be Clinton country.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Habitat III Underway in Ecuador: Can Cities Become More Sustainable?

This week has witnessed a huge gathering in Quito, Ecuador called Habitat III--the Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development. Almost all of the world's population growth is showing up in cities and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. This is due to the combination of migration out of rural areas (where jobs aren't increasing as fast as the population) and natural increase in cities (where even relatively low births in developing countries still generate an excess of births over deaths). The focus is obviously on cities in developing countries because they have the most fragile infrastructure and are increasing at the most rapid rates. The U.S. State Department's project on Secondary Cities will be on display at the meetings, emphasizing the complexity of urban life.

When I think of urban sustainability, I'm first concerned about the basics--getting a consistent supply of food and clean water to people, coupled with good sewerage and electricity--all associated with adequate housing structures and low levels of ground, water, and air pollution. But the "New Urban Agenda" of the UN goes beyond that to incorporate improvements in the quality of social and economic life in cities. Indeed, the limited coverage in the media of the event seems mainly to have focused on those urban residents who feel disenfranchised from the mainstream of urban life. 

In truth, we are getting very close to the point at which urban life is mainly what human existence is all about. So, we are not just studying cities--we are really studying the evolution of human society. If cities cannot be sustained in every way, then human society is sunk.