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:

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Infant Mortality Down in US; Still Highest Among Rich Nations

The U.S. National Center for Health Statistics has just come out with a new report on trends over time (2005-2014) in infant mortality in the U.S., and it is a genuine case of good news/bad news. The good news is that the infant death rate has declined over time, but the bad news is that it still remains the highest among rich countries. Indeed, when you consider the overall high level of per person income in the U.S., the fact that our infant death rate is so high is astounding. But, when you plumb the data a bit, you can see that income inequality in the country puts the burden of infant mortality disproportionately on blacks and native Americans. NBC News offers a good summary of the findings:
The report shows African-American babies by far are the most likely to die as infants, with an infant mortality rate in 2014 that's just under 11 percent. Still, that's down from 13.6 percent in 2005.
For white babies, the rate's 4.89 percent and it's 5 percent for Hispanic babies.
For 2005-2014, the highest infant mortality rates were observed among infants of non-Hispanic black women, and the lowest rates were observed among infants of API women.
The causes of infant deaths remain the same: Birth defects are the no. 1 cause, although the rate fell by 11 percent between 2005 and 2014.
"The second leading cause of infant death (infant deaths due to short gestation and low birthweight) declined 8 percent, "Driscoll and Mathews [the authors of the report] wrote. 
"The infant mortality rate for sudden infant death syndrome had the largest decline of 29 percent, from 54 in 2005 to 38.6 in 2014."
The trend data do not show any discernible effect from the passage of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) in 2010, although to be sure the data being analyzed here do not go past 2014. Still, it is hard to imagine that the type of repeal and replace legislation currently being considered in Congress is going to help improve the infant mortality rate in this country. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Egypt Struggles With Population Growth

Thanks to Todd Gardner (@PopGeog) for pointing out a story in today's Newsweek about the  continued rise in population in Egypt. The last time I blogged about Egypt was two years ago when I noted that the latest Demographic and Health Survey in Egypt revealed that the birth rate in Egypt was going up, not down. Furthermore, this was happening even to more educated women. Yikes!
Egypt’s population is multiplying fast. From a little over 66 million at the turn of the century, it hit almost 93 million earlier this year. If current birth rates hold, demographers project that the country’s total will be 150 million by 2050.
That kind of growth would be a challenge for almost any state, but for Egypt, politically fragile after three regime changes in six years and in the throes of food and water shortages, this population boom threatens to undermine the country’s already fragile stability. “It even constitutes a threat to national security,” says Amal Fouad, director of social research studies at CAPMAS [Central Agency for Population Mobilization and Statistics], the state statistics-gathering body.
Egypt is a huge importer of wheat and they pretty much already use up all the water in the Nile River, so it is very hard to know how they will cope a larger population. Let's just say that they aren't doing very well at the moment. 
Severe food and water shortages could lead to bread riots or other kinds of civil unrest, which worries the country’s security services. The revolution of 2011 was sparked, in part, by the economy’s inability to cope with the hundreds of thousands of young men entering the workforce each year. Now, with economic growth rates even weaker, and the education system still among the worst in the region, it’s no wonder some officials fear Egypt’s population growth. It’s “worse than terrorism,” Abu Bakr al-Gendy, the general in charge of CAPMAS, told a Cairo newspaper in December.
As I indicated back in 2015, the current government has to get back into the family planning game, but they have been more preoccupied by short-term security issues than long-term societal survival issues. The economy has to grow and it can't do it in the face of continued population growth. Thinking about the above quote that the 2011 revolution was sparked by unemployment among the large group of young men in the country, I am reminded that one of the most popular of my blog posts over the years has been the one in 2011 about "How poor is the average Egyptian?" Using World Bank data I concluded that:
So, Egypt has fewer desperately poor people (as a percentage of the population) than China, but the average income in China is higher than in Egypt. Will a change in government in Egypt change this situation? A lot of people on the street seem to think so.
So far, they have been wrong...