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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cuban Census Under Way

The Cuban revolution bringing Fidel Castro to power took place in 1959. Since then the island nation of 11 million people has been enumerated in censuses three times--1970, 1981, and 2002. It is now in the process of counting the nation again and, as PulseAmerica points out, the usual fears of privacy invasion are in play.
Some Cubans fear that information taken by the census takers – which includes questions about the number of electronics in a home, for example – could be used by the government to target a citizen’s wealth. Others fear census takers could uncover illegal living situations, including apartments rented on the black market.
To ease these fears, the government has released statements on TV and in national press assuring Cubans the census is purely for statistics, and will not be used to prosecute anyone.
This is been the universal fear of censuses forever--that they might be used for evil, not good. History suggests, I think, that the good emanating from censuses overwhelms the bad.

Also, no matter what you may think of Castro and no matter how politically and economically oppressed Cubans may be, their basic demographics are very European. The PRB Population Data Sheet estimates that women are having 1.7 children each, and that female life expectancy is 80 years.


  1. Cuba is an interesting case study. In most economic and historical factors, a demographer would assume it would align with other developing nations in terms of the demographic transition. Other Latin American nations have high birth rates and falling, but still high, death rates, particularly among young children. However, Cuba, despite its economic and social indicators suggesting otherwise, it has birth and death rates similar to those of highly developed, European nations. Their life expectancy is also surprisingly high. I believe this is a result of Cuba’s unique political significance to developed nations in Europe and North America. Even though the U.S. has embargoed Cuba for decades, they have been influenced by Russia and other developed Nations socially and economically. I believe this is how they have been able to maintain surprisingly European demographics despite its obvious economic challenges.

  2. While it may be that censuses historically have brought more good than bad, I don't think this holds true at an individual level. At least not in this case. As many Cubans acquire income and electronics through the black market, they put themselves at great risk in reporting this to their government. These people, individually, are unlikely to see any substantial good come out of this census. The risks of this census would be felt at an individual level while any benefits would largely be at a national level.

    As for Cuba's birth and death rates, I believe these can be attributed to the island's free education and healthcare. Provision of these services was an initial goal of the revolution and I believe these rates were achieved before the economic challenges that Cuba faces today. Until recently, these services were largely funded through subsidized trade with the USSR.

  3. I believe that Cuba may have strong government influence regarding fertility. They have life expectancy and fertility rates that are comparable to European nations, yet do not have the same levels of development seen in these nations.

    There may be cultural differences between the island and the continent, but I am inclined to believe strong government intervention and education plays the largest part in it. Cuba must have invested heavily in health to reach 80 years life expectancy. Cuban government intervention and education must be in play to lower fertility rates to this level despite the weaker economy relative to Europeans. That or Cubans may have been exposed to Western Sanitation practices earlier than most countries, but this still doesn't rule out extensive government involvement.