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:

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Not Too Many People Want to Raise Children in San Francisco

Thanks to Justin Stoler for pointing me to an urban demography article in today's NYTimes about the declining number of children in San Francisco. The population is fairly young, pushed along as it is by the high-tech industry jobs that now exist in the city, but those young people are not having many kids in the city itself.
A few generations ago, before the technology boom transformed San Francisco and sent housing costs soaring, the city was alive with children and families. Today it has the lowest percentage of children of any of the largest 100 cities in America, according to census data, causing some here to raise an alarm.
“Everybody talks about children being our future,” said Norman Yee, a member of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors. “If you have no children around, what’s our future?”
As an urban renaissance has swept through major American cities in recent decades, San Francisco’s population has risen to historical highs and a forest of skyscraping condominiums has replaced tumbledown warehouses and abandoned wharves. At the same time, the share of children in San Francisco fell to 13 percent, low even compared with another expensive city, New York, with 21 percent. In Chicago, 23 percent of the population is under 18 years old, which is also the overall average across the United States.
I have been in and out of San Francisco a lot of over the years, including especially during my undergraduate and graduate school days at Berkeley in the 1960s. No matter what the numbers might say, it was certainly never my impression that the city was "alive with children and families." Both of my sons were born in Berkeley and never in our wildest imaginings would my wife and I have thought of living in San Francisco instead of Berkeley. We have always loved visiting San Francisco (Greens Restaurant in the Marina District is one of our favorite places in the world to eat), but I can readily understand the sentiment that:
“If you get to the age that you’re going to have kids in San Francisco and you haven’t made your million — or more — you probably begin to think you have to leave,” said Richard Florida, an expert in urban demographics and author of “The Rise of the Creative Class.”
Don't worry, though. There are plenty of children in the Bay Area--they live everywhere outside the very confined city limits of the City of San Francisco. To be sure, there are other kinds of children who live in relative abundance in San Francisco--the dog children...

Saturday, January 21, 2017

How Xenophobic Will the Trump Administration Be?

On the campaign trail, Donald Trump spent a lot of time talking about building a wall to keep out migrants from Mexico and refusing to accept refugees from the Middle East. Will this campaign rhetoric translate into genuinely xenophobic policies? That question was put to me by a local TV station the day before Trump's inauguration. It turned out that I was genuinely not available to talk to them that afternoon, but it later made me think about what I would have said had I been available. Trump has a habit of being unpredictable, so any prediction is ipso facto likely to be wrong. The reporter had suggested I read and respond to an article that had come out that morning in the LATimes by Brian Bennett. I have just now had a chance to do that:
Gone will be the temporary protections of the final Obama years for people in the country illegally. In their place, say immigration advocates and people familiar with his plans, expect to see images on the evening news of workplace raids as Trump sends a message that he is wasting no time on his promised crackdown.
In addition to the high-profile raids, those people said in interviews, Trump will also widen the range of people singled out for deportation, focusing on those with criminal convictions, and he could move immediately to reduce the number of refugees allowed into the U.S.
He may also limit who can come into the country as a security measure, making good on a sweeping vow to stop immigrants “from any nation that has been compromised by terrorism.”
Taken together, the actions would result in a significant shift in how immigration law is enforced, which could itself create a ripple effect that alters the immigration pool and how the 11 million or so in the U.S. illegally live their lives. Unlike some of his other big-ticket plans, such as replacing Obamacare, Trump can act on immigration without Congress under the president’s wide legal authority to control borders.
These are, of course, predictions based on campaign talk. Missing in the campaign talk, however, and generally in the media, are the facts that make quick action on immigration less likely: (1) the number of undocumented immigrants crossing the border from Mexico has declined dramatically over the past decade; (2) immigrant communities are generally well-integrated into American society and have been for a long time; (3) the U.S. economy would sink if a significant fraction of undocumented immigrants were deported; and (4) former President Obama was known as "deporter-in-chief" and it would take a huge effort to outdo him on that score, even though Republicans never wanted to give him "credit" for that.

The last point is interesting because a story in The New Yorker reveals that the massive deportations of former gang members from Los Angeles back to their native El Salvador has created--among many other things--a new industry there of call centers staffed by deportees whose English is better than their Spanish.