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: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Encouraging Poor Americans to Move to Better Places: The Prequel

Yesterday I blogged about an idea (a "new Homestead Act") aimed at encouraging poor Americans (a disproportionate share of whom are African-American) to move to another place where life can be better for them. My son, John, very adroitly produced for me an article by Malcolm Gladwell from the New Yorker back in August, that very nicely sets the table for the discussion of the New Homestead Act, including a few comments about Chicago, which I mentioned largely in passing in yesterday's blog.
Black Americans are much more likely to stay in place and much less likely than whites to engage in what the sociologist Patrick Sharkey calls “contextual mobility”—moves significant enough to change circumstances and opportunities. Robert Sampson once mapped the movement of African-Americans participating in a Chicago housing experiment over a seven-year period starting in the mid-nineteen-nineties, and the graphic consists of tight clusters of very short lines—spanning a few city blocks, or extending one or two neighborhoods over. How often do African-Americans from the poorest neighborhoods of the South Side leave the city of Chicago? “Rarely,” Sharkey said.
But the story is largely about the African-American diaspora from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. 
If a group of poor Americans are stuck in a bad place, then either the place they are stuck in needs to be improved or they need to move to a better place. Over the years, there have been numerous efforts to advance the second of these approaches—experimental projects, government initiatives —but they have been hard to execute on a large scale. Then came the storm.
That disaster (which had a combination of natural and human-induced causes) forced people to find new lives elsewhere, especially in Houston. Guess what? Life is better for most of them. The obvious point is that since we cannot (and should not!) go around creating disasters, something like the New Homestead Act, which provides national, rather than just state or local resources for relocating, is something that genuinely makes sense.   

Monday, December 28, 2015

How Do We Get People in the US to Move to Where the Jobs Are?

The history of human migration is that people move to find work. If there aren't enough jobs where they are right now, or the jobs don't pay enough to live on, you go somewhere else. That is essentially the reason why there are 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US--they came to find work (well, OK, most came to find work, while others accompanied those finding work). The other major reason for migration is that life is too dangerous where you are, so you go somewhere else less dangerous. That accounts for much of the migration from Central America to the US, and it accounts for much of the migration out of the Middle East into Europe. In the latter case, the violence led to a loss of jobs, and the combination led to migration. 

These examples are from international migration, but they should apply equally to migration within a country. So, the question would then be: Why is anyone still living in south Chicago, where crime and violence is high and jobs are hard to come by? Henry Olsen, writing for the NationalInterest.org has an answer and a solution. This is a long and complex article and I cannot do it justice in a short blog post, but let me give you the barebones argument. Setting aside Chicago for the sake of the argument, it is of course the case that a lot of people in the US do move to where better jobs are. The better educated you are, the more likely this has happened to you. But, especially among people with only a high school education or less, the local safety net of welfare services discourages people from moving. Olsen argues, though, that the answer is not to get rid of safety nets. We just need to nationalize them, if you will. Currently, unemployment benefits, health insurance, and other kinds of benefits available to people who are either unemployed or underemployed are provided at the state or even local level and are not readily transferable from place to place. So, it is scary to pack up and move somewhere else unless you have some kind of iron-clad good job in the new location, which most people do not. Indeed, most people who really could use a job elsewhere have no way of knowing about jobs in other places, nor the resources to go there and interview for a job, nor the resources to move even if they were offered the job.

As a reminder, then, here's how Olsen sets up the problem:
The Homestead Act of 1862 is one of America’s best-known and beloved laws. By giving away federal land for free to anyone who settled and cultivated it, the act enshrined the governing principle of the newly ascendant Republican Party: government should act to help the average man help himself build a better life. Together with the Land Grant College Act and the Pacific Railroad Acts, the Homestead Act placed the federal government squarely on the side of the average American in his or her quest to live in comfort and with dignity. 
Today we have no frontier, no untapped source of federal lands. We do, however, have the same issue the Homestead Act tried to solve. Millions of low-to-moderately skilled, native-born and immigrant Americans live in places where they can’t find decent work while a vast new economic frontier unfolds in Southern and Western states such as Texas, Florida and North Carolina. These wide open spaces are enticing enough to encourage millions of Latin Americans to undertake dangerous and expensive journeys, yet millions of other Americans remain mired in ghettoes, depressed steel towns and struggling regions like Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta.
The solution of the "new" Homestead Act is aimed at giving people resources to find jobs elsewhere. The idea is as simple as that. Of course, changing the laws that would create such a structure won't be easy, but the idea is so crazy, it just might work.



Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Status of Women is a Key "Demographic" for the Future

Today I read one of my Christmas presents--"Islam and the Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue" by Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz. It is an extremely good, albeit troubling, book. It is an exchange between an avowed atheist (Sam Harris, who holds a doctorate in neuroscience from UCLA), and a "reformed" Islamist (Maajid Nawaz) who was recruited into extremism as a teenager in Britain, but later completed his education at the University of London and LSE and is working to help bring Islam peacefully into the modern era. It is clear that dialogue is necessary, but worrying that the task is not a simple one. Of course, the mess in the Middle East regularly teaches us that lesson. However, I kept seeing an issue in the conversation that resonated with me, as I think it does with all demographers--the status of women. Most--but not all--religions in the world have sanctioned the subjugation of women by men. In my mind the key to the future is for every society to get to the point of genuine legal and social equality of men and women. This is the path to the best kind of civil society, and it is the path to demographic stabilization.

The status of women is obviously not just an issue with Muslims. It is a cultural issue throughout the world. That was reinforced by, among other things, a Christmas present that my wife received: "My Brilliant Friend" by Elena Ferrante. That is the pseudonym of an extremely successful Italian writer. Although her identity is unknown to the public, she did recently consent to an email interview with a writer for the Financial Times. Here is one of her comments that really struck me:
I grew up in a world where it seemed normal that men (fathers, brothers, boyfriends) had the right to hit you in order to correct you, to teach how to be a woman, ultimately for your own good. Luckily today much as changed but I still think the men who can really be trusted are a minority. Maybe this is because the milieu that shaped me was backward. Or maybe (and this is what I tend to believe) it's because male power, whether violently or delicately imposed, is still bent on subordinating us. Too many women are humiliated every day and not just on a symbolic level. And, in the real world, too many are punished, even with death, for their insubordination.
Remember that these kinds of issues among Italian immigrants to New York City (largely coming from southern Italy, keeping in mind that Ferrante is from Naples) were what motivated Margaret Sanger a hundred years ago to find methods of birth control that women could use, so that they didn't have to choose between a beating from their husband or an unwanted pregnancy. It took us a long time in the US and most of Europe to boost the status of women, but these kinds of traditional attitudes hold back progress everywhere we go in the world. 





Thursday, December 24, 2015

Migrant Status Update

As I noted yesterday, the flood of migrants into Europe in 2015 has exceeded 1 million people. BBC News covers the story, and has a good summary and a few helpful maps. However, a much more detailed status update has just been made available by the Humanitarian Information Unit of the US State Department. There is a lot of detail in what amounts to one screenful of information, so you need to take your time over this. One thing that struck me, in particular, was the following graph of the age/sex demographics of registered migrants:


Although the focus in the media is often on women and children, the vast majority of migrants to Europe from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, in particular, are young adult males. The refugee camps in places like Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey are teeming with women and children, but it is largely the men who are undertaking the journey to Europe. The expectation, of course, is that once settled there, they will be able to bring family members over to join them. In other words, the current flow is just the beginning...

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Enjoy the Holidays--You're Going to Have to Work Longer!

It isn't news to anyone familiar with demography that most populations around the world are aging. In general that is a good thing because it is what always happens when life expectancy increases (that increases the number of people reaching old age) and the birth rate decreases (increases the fraction of the population that is in the older ages). As with anything in life, however, problems occur if you haven't planned for these changes, and most human societies have not done very well when it comes to coping with aging populations. Joseph Chamie, former director of the UN Population Division, reminds us of this in a new article that should be read by all policy-makers in the world.
In 1950 when world population was much younger, with a median age of 23, the global potential support ratio was about 12 people of working age per one person aged 65 years or older. Today, the world PSR has declined to eight and by the year 2050 is projected to decline to four. Although the ratios for individual countries show considerable diversity, the overall trend is both unmistakable and striking: fewer people of working age per elderly person than in the past.
What to do? Chamie reviews various policy options, including the one of "replacement migration" that he made famous when he was at the UN. But not every country wants immigrants--thus the concern over the one million Syrian and other Middle Eastern and African refugees and migrants that headed to Europe in 2015. Other policy alternatives include cutting payments to older people, or cutting other budget items, such as defense, in order to maintain payments to the older population. Chamie offers another approach that I have mentioned before (indeed, it is one of my most popular blog posts) and which is the most reasonable approach, in my view. Raise the retirement age. 
Raising the statutory retirement age simultaneously increases the working age population and reduces the elderly population. Raising the age threshold for the elderly from 65 to 70 years, for example, increases the global PSR from 8 to 13 people of working age per one elderly person – roughly the 1950 level. 
Similarly, to maintain current PSR levels into the future, countries must lift the threshold for the elderly population. To preserve the current global PSR of eight to midcentury, for instance, the threshold age for beginning old age would need to be 73 years. For some countries, however, even higher age thresholds for the elderly would be required to maintain current PSRs through midcentury, such as 80 years for South Korea and 79 for China.
The graph below shows the numbers for select countries:


Of course, this is easier to say than do, but we need to get going on it!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Good News for US Demography from the Budget Resolution

An email from the Population Association of America a short while ago confirmed what I had seen from other sources regarding the recently passed omnibus appropriations bill--things didn't turn out as badly as feared--so that's good news (or, at the least, the absence of bad news).
In two significant respects, the overall picture that has emerged is very positive: first, nearly every agency of interest to the PAA received an increase over FY 2015 funding levels; and second, the final bill did not include problematic language, including provisions that would have adversely affected the American Community Survey and the National Science Foundation Social, Behavioral and Economic Directorate.
The caveat here is that the bill only keeps the government running through fiscal year 2016, which actually ends on 30 September 2016, so it won't be long before Congress is at our throats again on these issues. And, when that happens, we will be into the last stages of the run for the White House, so that could spell trouble in a variety of ways. However, on a more positive note, I have to think that Paul Ryan has been doing a much more effective job as Speaker of the House than John Boehner ever did in keeping the eyes of Congress on what is important for the country. We all know that the collection of the best data possible about the population and economy is essential for policy-making. Some members of Congress are obviously threatened by reality, and this battle for sane budget decisions has not been laid to rest--it is just getting a much needed breather.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

MPI's Top Ten Migration Stories of 2015

This is the time of year when we all tote up what's happened in the past year, and try to make sense of it by ranking things from high to low in some manner or another. I tend to do that on New Year's Day, but the Migration Policy Institute in Washington yesterday created their list of the top ten migration stories of 2015. The timing coincided, of course, with International Migrants Day, as proclaimed by the United Nations.
  1. Migration Crisis Tests European Consensus and Governance
  2. Displacement Reaches Record High as Wars Continue and New Conflicts Emerge
  3. White House Uses Many Levers of Power to Effect Change as Obama and Congress Remain Deadlocked on Immigration
  4. Big Business of Smuggling Enables Mass Movement of People for Enormous Profits
  5. Governments Increasingly Restrict Citizenship
  6. Refugee Crisis Deepens Political Polarization in the West
  7. Climate Change and Natural Disasters Displace Millions, Affect Migration Flows
  8. A Shared Challenge: Europe and the United States Confront Significant Flows of Unaccompanied Child Migrants
  9. Border Skirmishes Resonate in National Domestic Politics
  10. Shine Wears Off Investor Visa Programs as Questions about Economic Benefits and Fraud Lead to Reforms
I have focused attention on #s 1, 2, and 8 (with a focus mainly on the US), and a bit on 4 and 5. We'll see in a few days how the migration stories compare with other stories in terms of popularity among readers of this blog.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

China's Household Registration System Gets an Overhaul

A couple of months ago, I commented on an article in The Economist detailing the plight of "left-behind children" caused by the rigidities of the hukou household registration system in China. A few days ago, the Chinese government announced that it would be lightening things up at least a little. The NYTimes fills in some details.
 Migrants can apply for a residency permit if they have lived in the city they are applying in for a certain time and have a stable job, place to live or are studying, a statement posted on the Cabinet's official website said. Permits will enable them to access benefits including basic health care and children to have nine years of compulsory education.
While all cities must follow the new policy, cities can enact their own regulations according to "local conditions," the Cabinet said. This is likely to mean that big cities like Beijing will continue to be encouraged to control their population and have more stringent criteria for residency.
The latter caveat may be crucial. If cities where migrants really want to go decide not to loosen the reins on the household registration system, then the policy may just be a bit of window dressing. It will go into effect on 1 January, so time will tell if this really makes life better for rural to urban migrants in China.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A New Influx of Unaccompanied Minors from Central America

Thanks to my son, Greg, for reminding me of the stories of a new influx of unaccompanied minors from Central America. This came to light a week or so ago, but got buried by other news. Indeed, last Wednesday, my PhD student, Elizabeth Kennedy, was quoted in a story on KPBS here in San Diego.
She has calculated the number is higher than any other nation not at war. She described the situation in Central America as dire. Much of the violence is attributed to the gangs; maras in Spanish.
As Greg points out, though, while violence is high and generally seems to be getting higher, it is not clear that this current wave of more than 10,000 unaccompanied minors being apprehended at the border is caused by a new wave of violence, as implied by a story in today's Washington Post:
But the violence that was a key factor in driving people to leave has surged again. El Salvador’s homicide rate, for example, is now at its highest since the country’s civil war ended in 1992, after a truce between two prominent gangs broke down last year. A drought across the region has also helped spur departures, but experts point to violence as the primary cause.
“These children are especially vulnerable. They are not fleeing because they can’t find a good-paying job. They are fleeing because of violence,” said Carmen Chavez, executive director of the Casa Cornelia Law Center in San Diego, which has provided legal services to more than 800 unaccompanied minors this year. “It’s a humanitarian crisis that has been building. It blew up last year, and the situation hasn’t changed.”
The New York Times adds a bit of geographic detail:
The young people are coming mostly from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, and several factors seem to be causing their rising numbers. The biggest increase recently is in young people from El Salvador, where violence by brutal international criminal gangs has proliferated. 
One of the things that has changed since last year is that new border enforcement by Mexico (aided by the US) has made it harder for migrants to get through Mexico to the US Border. So, the journey has become more difficult and expensive, playing right into the hands of people smugglers who are almost certainly in cahoots with the other criminals making life miserable in Central America.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Science Has to Overcome Biology to Give Us a Longer Life Expectancy

Here and Now this morning on NPR had a very interesting conversation with Lee Goldman, who is Dean of Medicine at Columbia University. He has just published a book titled Too Much of a Good Thing: How Four Key Survivor Traits Are Now Killing Us. At first, I thought he might just be parroting the things about the nutrition transition that Barry Popkin has been teaching us for years, as I recently noted.  Yes, there is that, but he has other points to make, as well. Here are the highlights:
Too Much of a Good Thing focuses on the four key human survival traits, without which we wouldn’t be here today:
Appetite and the imperative for calories. Early humans avoided starvation by being able to gorge themselves whenever food was available. Now that same tendency to eat more than our bodies really need explains why 35 percent of Americans are obese and have an increased risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer.
Our need for water and salt. Our ancestors continually faced the possibility of fatal dehydration, especially if they exercised and sweated, so their bodies had to crave and conserve both water and salt. Today, many Americans consume far more salt than they need, and this excess salt combined with the same internal hormones that conserve salt and water are the reasons why 30 percent of us have high blood pressure — significantly increasing our risks of heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure.
Knowing when to fight, when to flee, and when to be submissive. In prehistoric societies, up to 25 percent of deaths were caused by violence, so it was critical to be hypervigilant, always worrying about potentially getting killed. But as the world got safer, violence declined. Suicide is now much more common in the United States than murder and fatal animal attacks. Why? Our hypervigilance, fears, and worrying contribute to a growing epidemic of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress — and the suicides that can result.
The ability to form blood clots so we won’t bleed to death. Because of their considerable risk of bleeding from trauma and childbirth, early humans needed to be able to clot quickly and efficiently. Now, with the advent of everything from bandages to blood transfusions, blood clots are more likely to kill us than excessive bleeding. Most heart attacks and strokes — the leading causes of death in today’s society — are a direct result of blood clots that block the flow of arterial blood to our hearts and brains. And long car rides and plane trips, unknown to our distant ancestors, can cause dangerous and sometimes fatal clots in our veins.
The punchline of the interview is his comment that our biological makeup is designed to ensure that we live to age 25 (the mean age of reproduction), so we have to overcome those traits in order to live longer. Don't think you can do this on your own! Keep taking your meds...

Monday, December 14, 2015

Latin America Leads the World in Out of Wedlock Births

Thanks to Justin Stoler for pointing me to an NPR story this morning highlighting a new compilation of data from Child Trends in Washington, DC. The report maps family forms around the world, at least for countries for which such data are available.
Latin America is now the region that has the highest percentage of children born out of wedlock. In Colombia, 84 percent of all children are born to unmarried mothers. Argentina, Mexico, Chile and other countries throughout the region have similar numbers, with well over half of all children born outside wedlock.
In less than a generation in Argentina, the traditional definition of a family has given way to new interpretations. And it's happening at all economic levels — educated, middle-class women are now among the many choosing to have kids alone or in an informal union.
Keep in mind that consensual unions (informal marriages--the precursors to "cohabitation") have been common in Latin America for centuries, especially among indigenous populations. But the situation here is a step back from formal marriages, partly because of the rigid marriage and divorce laws enacted throughout Latin America based on Catholic principles. Couples, but especially women, want more flexibility than the law allows and it is hard to argue with that. On the other hand, it is still worrisome to think about increasing fractions of children being raised in what may be a one-parent household.  Last year I commented on a very good book by Isabel Sawhill at the Brookings Institution called Generation Unbound: Drifting into Sex and Parenthood without Marriage. Her focus is on the U.S., but her concerns about unmarried motherhood are universal across human society.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Move Over World--Africa is Coming Through

A few days ago I discussed a recent National Academy of Sciences report reviewing the persistently high fertility rates in Africa and what that means for population growth in the region. Although this week's Economist does not refer to that NAS study, it nonetheless has a lengthy story on Africa's population that is very useful for readers. They interview only one demographer--John Bongaarts from the Population Council--and since he was one of the people responsible for the NAS report, I am going to infer a connection. No matter, this is important stuff, and cannot be spread around enough.
If the new projections are right, geopolitics will be turned upside-down. By the end of this century, Africa will be home to 39% of the world’s population, almost as much as Asia, and four times the share of North America and Europe put together. At present only one of the world’s ten most populous countries is in Africa: Nigeria. In 2100, the UN believes, five will be: Nigeria, Congo, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Niger. 
Although much could change in the next 85 years, none of those countries is a byword for stability or prosperity. A quadrupling of their population is unlikely to improve matters. If nothing else, the number of Africans seeking a better life in Europe and other richer places is likely to increase several times over.
And the story offers a nice and brief explanation of what needs to be done to slow down Africa's population growth as much as possible:
There seems to be just a handful of prerequisites for a falling fertility rate: a modicum of stability and physical security, some education (especially for women) and wide access to contraception. The faster these conditions are met, the faster birth rates come down...Counter-intuitively, war, famine and other disasters tend to boost population in the long run, by keeping fertility rates high. It is only when parents are confident that their children will survive that they risk having fewer of them.
It is not yet clear to me that these patterns of population growth were actually taken into account in the climate change accord that was finalized yesterday in Paris. Clearly the world needs for economic development in Africa to be fueled by solar and wind energy, not by fossil fuels. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Widening Disparities in Wealth and Health

I have blogged fairly often over the years about inequality. The topic received a huge boost a couple of years ago with Thomas Piketty's book Capital and despite the criticism he first received for suggesting that maybe the rich should pay a bit more in taxes to provide opportunities for more people, the idea has stuck around and people are paying continued attention to the issue of inequality. Using data from the Current Population Survey (and, yes, Congress--you need to keep funding the Census Bureau!!) Pew Research has just produced another reminder of the increasing income inequality in the US by focusing on the share of the economy taken up by the "middle class." The graph below tells the story:


At the same time that income inequality has been increasing, so has the inequality in life expectancy between the rich and poor. Back in September the National Academy of Sciences produced a report outlining this sad story, and the graph below from coverage by the Washington Post tells the story:


In a previous blog post, I outlined my own view of the demographics underlying the decline of the US middle class, and in another one I outlined my view of the solution. These new data confirm my thinking on this issue.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Making Sense of Polling Data

The 1948 Presidential Election in the US ended, for awhile, the non-probability public opinion polls in the US. Dewey did not win, as predicted by the polls, and President Truman famously held up the newspaper with the headline that Dewey had won. Oops! That helped push probability sampling to the fore and for a few decades pollsters had people answering their land lines and responding to surveys, but of course those days are past. The science that now goes into public opinion polling is the science of weighting the responses you do get so that the results mean something--we hope. Don't take any polling numbers too seriously without having first read Nate Silver's now classic book The Signal and Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail, But Some Don't. And, of course, you need to keep up with his FiveThirtyEight website, where yesterday he noted the following, in reference to Donald Trump's ability to stay atop among Republican candidates despite saying outrageous things:
Put another way, the media’s obsession over the daily fluctuations in the polls — even when the polls don’t predict very much about voter behavior and don’t necessarily reflect people who are actually likely to vote — may help enable Trump.
If you really want to dig into the polling numbers, there is a resource available to you. My wife discovered this for me this morning. She is a former elected official herself and has an intense interest in politics. The site is called Morning Consult Intelligence. You have to register for the site, but then you have free access to a treasure trove of US public opinion polling data, allowing you to decide for yourself what are the strengths and weaknesses of the interpretations of these data that you constantly see in the media. They also give you the ability to download data or create figures on the spot that you can use in lectures or other presentation. Pretty cool!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Demographics of Trumpish Xenophobia

I assume that by now everyone in the world has heard that Donald Trump thinks that the U.S. should not be admitting Muslims into the country. While every right-thinking person abhors this kind of xenophobia, it is obvious that the message hits home with many of his supporters. Trump supporters appear to be disproportionately, male, older, lower income, with less education. Importantly, they are not the most conservative politically, so it is not right-wing politics per se that drives their support. In many ways they support a population with characteristics of the US not unlike those into which Donald Trump was born right after the end of WWII. He is rich and well-educated (at least well-credentialed), but in the early post-WWII era--up to Vietnam, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Immigration Act of 1965--the biggest demographic differences were white/black, and Protestant/Catholic. The rich were not that much richer than the rest of us, and the well-educated were much rarer than they are today. Immigrants were rare and those you saw were likely to be from eastern or southern Europe.

The combination of the baby boom and the end of the immigration quotas produced a demographic dividend that drove the US economy forward into the 21st century. That is coming to an end, and people are looking around for someone to blame. Enter xenophobia. According to 2014 American Community Survey data that I just downloaded and analyzed from IPUMS.org at the Minnesota Population Center, 78% of the US population aged 65+ is white non-Hispanic, but that drops to 71% for those aged 50-64 (a rough approximation to the boomers), 59% percent for those aged 30-49 (ages that were more affected by the ending of the immigration quotas), 56% at ages 18-29, and 52% at ages under 18. You probably don't need to look much farther than those numbers to know why there is at least some support for Trump, just as demographic changes in France have fueled anti-immigrant sentiment there.

There are roughly one million legal immigrants to the US each year, most of whom are not Muslim, but of course the mess in the middle east puts them front and center. I have been amazed the past few days at the exaggerated accounts of how many Muslims there are estimated to be in the US. The best estimate from Pew Research is about 3 million, well less than the 6-8 million that I have heard routinely mentioned in the media. Pew also estimates that only about 10 percent of immigrants to the US are Muslim. But, of course, if you want to raise a fuss, that's all you need, and Donald Trump obviously wants to raise a fuss.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Populations at Risk in India--Welcome to the Secondary Cities Project

Terrorism has been front page news for several days now and as important as that is, you probably are not giving it much thought if your house has just been flooded out. In South India last week millions of people were cut off from basic services, thousands were left homeless, and hundreds were killed by rain that is described by The Guardian as the heaviest downpour in a century. Keep in mind, of course, that a hundred years ago the southern part of India was considerably less populated than it is now (although it was still pretty densely populated even back then).
Prime minister Narendra Modi, who has blamed climate change for the deluge, travelled to Chennai to see the rescue effort. “The government will stand by the people of Tamil Nadu in their hour of need,” Modi told reporters, promising £100m for rehabilitation and reconstruction.
The country’s home minister, Rajnath Singh, told parliament: “Chennai has become a small island. This is unprecedented.”
Stories like this tend to get buried in the news because they are not affecting the biggest and most influential cities in a country. The Office of the Geographer of the U.S. State Department has stepped up to help us keep track of populations at risk in these places in its new "Secondary Cities" project. They currently have a case study of Cusco on their website, but more will come. Keep checking it out.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Abortion Terrorism

The horrific shooting in San Bernardino by a couple who may have had terrorist intent drew media attention away from the equally horrific shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado last week, which was part of a long-term trend of violence toward abortion providers and women seeking abortions. Abortion has been legal in the United States since 1972 and a report this year from Pew Research shows that a majority (albeit a slim one) of Americans agree that it should be legal.
When asked directly about the legality of abortion, 55% of U.S. adults say it should be legal in all or most cases, compared with 40% who say it should be illegal all or most of the time. In both cases, these figures have remained relatively stable for at least two decades.
The problem is that some of those who do not think it should be legal have been taking the law into their own hands for a long time, with the obvious intent of intimidating both providers and those women who might be seeking an abortion. What does this feel like if you're on the receiving end? It's not nice, as Dr. Warren Hern, Director of the Boulder Abortion Clinic in Boulder, Colorado has recently recounted in an online story.

I've known and admired Dr. Hern for a long time, although not in his capacity as a physician. He also holds a PhD in Anthropology and has written extensively about the very high levels of fertility among the Shipibo Indians of Peru (probably higher even than the Hutterites). Indeed, readers of the 5th through 10th editions of my text will have been treated to some of those stories. A more recent focus of his work with the Shipibo is to show that humans may have an innate capacity to overuse resources. We might seriously call that a form of environmental terrorism.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Barry Popkin's Take on Sugary Drinks--Don't!

More than anyone else, Barry Popkin at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, brought us the concept of the nutrition transition. You'll find a discussion in Chapter 5 of my text. Modern society is transitioning away from real food and drink to processed food and drink, and the addition of sugar is a big part of the processing in both food and drink. But especially the latter. Popkin, whose doctorate is in Economics, does not just talk about this, however. He does something about. As he discusses in this Lancet podcast, he and his colleagues have helped Mexico design a tax on sugary drinks and they are studying its impact. There are also some big changes taking place in the marketing of sugary drinks and other unhealthy foods in Chile. Latin America is second in these problems behind the US, the UK, and Australia and New Zealand largely because the sugary drink people have been in Latin America longer than in Asia or Africa. 

Like most people, I have a sweet tooth. So does my German Shepherd. But we all have to watch it. My wife and I grew up in a world where we drank water and milk (and fruit juice) at home and that's what was on offer at schools. As Popkin points out in the podcast, that all changed starting in the 1980s. I've been to the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta (and there's one in Las Vegas, too), but our health requires that we keep those sugary drinks in perspective. Indeed, from my perspective, the best drink that Coca-Cola makes around the world is clean water. Before I leave the US I always check to see the name of the brand of water that Coke processes in the country to which I'm headed. Unfortunately, that's not what the company is famous for.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Africa's Population Growth Remains a Global Issue

The National Academy of Sciences has just released a new report on "The Determinants of Recent Trends in Fertility in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Workshop Summary." This summarizes the work of a panel of demographers that met this past summer to assess where Africa is heading. The focus is on fertility, but that of course underlies everything else that is going on. Sub-Saharan Africa remains a region of the world with higher than average fertility and lower than average economic growth. This is not a good combination. There are a lot of important details in the report but the following comments from John Cleland of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine really struck me:
Sub-Saharan Africa is also already the region of the world with the largest prevalence of
undernourishment, Cleland explained, with 32.7 percent of the region’s population having had insufficient nutrition in the years 2011 to 2013. To meet the needs of a growing population, the region will need to double its food availability over the next 35 years, he said. 
This will be difficult, Cleland explained. Agriculture accounts for 64 percent of
employment in the region, but 80 percent of farms are less than 2 hectares in size and ownership rights are often insecure. Yields are not improving and 95 percent of crops are dependent on rain, as opposed to irrigation. Seventy percent of arable soil is degraded and the region currently imports 31 percent of its cereals, at a cost of $30 to 50 billion annually. He noted the possibility of ameliorating some of these problems, but added that many countries have reached the limits of their capacity. The ratio of the agricultural population to arable land will likely increase, he explained, which will in turn lead to overexploitation of fragile land and further soil degradation. As farms become smaller, the possibilities for innovation and the production of surplus will decline. The insecurity of many farmers’ tenure on their land is a further disincentive to invest in long-term improvements. The biggest threat, however, comes from the erratic rainfall patterns and increases in temperatures that have already begun as a result of global climate change.
And if the graph below doesn't get your attention, nothing will:


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Has South Korea Forgotten the Source of its Economic Miracle?

An article in today's NYTimes by a Pulitzer Prize-winning Korean writer (Choe Sang-Hun) extols the virtue of a small rural county in South Korea where the fertility rate has risen above replacement level.
For three consecutive years, Haenam, a farming county at the southwestern tip of the Korean Peninsula, has had the highest fertility rate in South Korea, a rare bright spot in a country some doomsayers predicted would become “extinct” in several centuries if it maintained the same birthrate, one of the world’s lowest at 1.2 children per woman. 
Haenam is the only South Korean county whose birthrate of 2.4 children per woman is above the “replacement level” of 2.1 children, a rate that allows a society to maintain its current population without migration.
OK, let's get real here. In the first place, history teaches us that we should never believe any population projection that takes us out "several centuries." The entire human race might be extinct in a few centuries, who knows??

But the main point is that nowhere in the story does the reporter acknowledge that the South Korean government knew what it what doing in pushing the birth rate down. That provided the demographic dividend that allowed the country to take off economically. The country might now be well served by replacement level fertility (the UN Population Division estimates that the current TFR is 1.3 children per woman), but a rise to 2.4 in the entire country would probably be disastrous.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Europe to Turkey: If We Pay You, Will You Keep the Refugees?

The European Union yesterday concluded a deal with Turkey aimed at stemming the flow of refugees out of Turkey and into Europe. The Economist is not sanguine about its likely effectiveness.
At a summit in Brussels on November 29th, the European Union finalised an agreement with Turkey to try to reduce the flow. But the deal looks nearly as patchy as the dinghies migrants are crossing in. The Europeans set aside their worries about the growing authoritarianism of Turkey’s government and promised €3 billion ($3.2 billion) in aid for refugees along with a package of political goodies. These included restarting Turkey’s stalled EU accession process and visa-free travel for its citizens as early as October 2016. In exchange the EU expects Turkey to keep the migrants away.
Perhaps the biggest problem refugees face in Turkey is not lack of benefits, but the inability to integrate. Syrians enjoy “temporary protection” in Turkey, but not full refugee status, meaning they cannot get work permits. “Lack of status is the main push factor” driving migrants to leave, says Metin Corabatir of the Research Centre on Asylum and Migration, a Turkish think-tank.
Most Syrians do not speak Turkish, so they have trouble communicating and their children are not going to school, by and large. In essence, Turkey does not want a huge refugee population any more than do European countries, and so it is likely that the refugees will keep trying to get out of Turkey and head to Europe. Smugglers will quickly adapt to whatever changes are put into place. We get back to the fact that the only way to stem the flow of refugees is to put an end to the fighting in Syria, but no one seems to know how to do that. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

What if the Indigenous Population in New England Had Been Resistant to Disease?

During Thanksgiving week last week, PBS aired an American Experience program on The Pilgrims.  Since we were out of town, we recorded it and just watched it. As with most things in history, reality is a bit more grim than the modern-day celebrations would seem to suggest. As a demographer, I was especially struck by something which I mention in Chapter 5 of my text, but do not discuss in great detail: the colonization of the Americas was everywhere aided by the decimation of the indigenous population from diseases brought by the Europeans. Central and South America get the most attention, including in my book, because of the size of their indigenous populations at the time, but it seems unlikely that the Pilgrims would have survived their first winter back in 1620 were it not for the fact that the local native American Indian population had been wiped out by disease contracted from earlier contact with Europeans during the 1619-1619 period. 

The American Experience program ascribes the deaths among the local indigenous groups to "the plague." That term is really just a placeholder for one or more diseases to which the local population had no immunity and therefore suffered badly. One of the references on the program's website is to a paper published in Emerging Infectious Diseases in 2010 by John May and John Cathey. 
In the years before English settlers established the Plymouth colony (1616–1619), most Native Americans living on the southeastern coast of present-day Massachusetts died from a mysterious disease. Classic explanations have included yellow fever, smallpox, and plague. Chickenpox and trichinosis are among more recent proposals. We suggest an additional candidate: leptospirosis complicated by Weil syndrome. Rodent reservoirs from European ships infected indigenous reservoirs and contaminated land and fresh water. Local ecology and high-risk quotidian practices of the native population favored exposure and were not shared by Europeans. Reduction of the population may have been incremental, episodic, and continuous; local customs continuously exposed this population to hyperendemic leptospiral infection over months or years, and only a fraction survived. Previous proposals do not adequately account for signature signs (epistaxis, jaundice) and do not consider customs that may have been instrumental to the near annihilation of Native Americans, which facilitated successful colonization of the Massachusetts Bay area.
We will probably never know for sure exactly what wiped them out, but it is interesting to contemplate how different the world of today might be if the indigenous population had been resistant to these diseases. The ability to have casinos seems small compensation, albeit more than has been offered to American blacks, as Larry Wilmore points out in the title of his new book.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Did Papa Francis Really Say This?

Pope Francis is in Africa this week, and the NYTimes reports on his speech in a Nairobi slum yesterday:
He lashed out against what he called “new forms of colonialism, which would make African countries parts of a machine, cogs on a gigantic wheel.”
Francis said that “countries are frequently pressured to adopt policies typical of the culture of waste, like those aimed at lowering the birthrate.”
He called the slums “wounds” inflicted by the elite. “How can I not denounce the injustices which you suffer?” he said.
There are few places more apt for Francis, who has cast himself as a champion of the world’s poor, to deliver such remarks. The slum he visited, Kangemi, on the outskirts of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, is a seemingly endless rusted-roof settlement where thousands of families cram into iron shacks with ripped mattresses on the floor and cockroaches scuttling in the unlit corners. Many here survive on a few dollars a day.
I've been in slums in Africa and they are, without question, places where lives need to be made better as soon as possible. But lowering the birth rate is a long-term solution to the problem, not an injustice. Indeed, most people would agree that denying women (and men) access to birth control is an injustice, not the other way around.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thinking About Population Growth on Black Friday

It's still Black Friday in my time zone, and even though shoppers are undoubtedly home and exhausted, it is never too late to comment on the frenzy to spend money consuming the earth's resources, whether we need stuff or note. Andrew Revkin, writing for the NYTimes, had some similar thoughts as he contemplated a book that speaks to the whole issue: Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot.
“Over,” formally titled “Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot,” explores themes at the heart of this blog — the harms from persistent high fertility rates, consumption for consumption’s sake, disregard for the environmental and social impacts of resource extraction.
But even as I embrace some of the themes and marvel at the imagery, I can’t help recoiling simply because the book’s dimensions and mass clash so primally with its call to stop overloading the planet with too many people consuming too much stuff — stuff like books that weigh almost as much as a Thanksgiving turkey.
Now, I confess to being one of those people possessing a hard copy of the book and it is on the coffee table to remind people of how importantly interwoven population growth is with the sustainability issues we face on the planet. But, as I pointed out when the book was published this past spring, you can view it for free on the internet. I encourage you to do that right now

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

People Are Leaving Ireland--Again!

It was almost exactly five years ago that I commented on the turnaround in Irish migration patterns. Since the mid-19th century Ireland had been a source of out-migration. This was initiated by the potato famine, but high fertility also maintained a supply of people leaving the country and a generally weak economy encouraged them to do so. Here's what I wrote in 2010:
Ever since the Irish Potato Famine of the mid-19th century, Ireland had been a nation of emigrants, until the government decided to lower the corporate tax rate in the mid-1990s, drawing in a flood of foreign investment and foreigners themselves searching for new work opportunities. A key to this was that, as a member of the EU, money and people from other parts of Europe could flow into Ireland pretty freely. The economic boom gave Ireland the nick-name of the "Celtic Tiger" and life was good. Or so it seemed. The boom boosted property values and developers borrowed heavily to cash in on the new prosperity. But the worldwide recession has brought all of that to a halt, and the debt--much of which was hidden by the state-owned Anglo Irish Bank--is now a national catastrophe. The predictable result is that people are once again leaving Ireland, although to be fair, most of the evidence thus far is anecdotal, not official.
It took some time, but now it is official. The Migration Policy Institute in Washington, DC, has a new report confirming these trends. This time is a little different than in the past, however, because some of the emigration is just people from elsewhere in Europe returning home or heading somewhere else. And, at the same time, the evidence suggests that the Irish citizens who are leaving are not the down-and-outers of yore, but are likely to be college graduates. 

The tax laws in Ireland continue to be favorable to businesses, however, no matter the demographic trends. That was on display yesterday when American-based Pfizer and Ireland-based Allergan merged into a new Ireland-based company that will now pay billions of dollars per year less into the U.S. treasury. Keep in mind, by the way, that Allergen itself was originally a U.S. firm, "born" in Los Angeles in the late 1940s.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Demographic Destinies as Foreseen by the WSJ

The Wall Street Journal started a series of articles today that focus on the what the world might be like in 2050. It starts out with a story that focuses on the "population implosion" in rich countries. 
Developed world’s working-age population to start declining next year, threatening global growth in decades ahead.
Previous generations fretted about the world having too many people. Today’s problem is too few. This reflects two long-established trends: lengthening lifespans and declining fertility. Yet many of the economic consequences are only now apparent. Simply put, companies are running out of workers, customers or both. In either case, economic growth suffers. As a population ages, what people buy also changes, shifting more demand toward services such as health care and away from durable goods such as cars.
The article quotes bankers and hedge fund managers fretting about the future. The future they would like, of course, is unsustainable and we can only hope that it won't happen. When it is in the people's interest to have a small family, and when it is in the planet's long-term interest for the population to stop growing (as folks at the climate summit are realizing), the profits of bankers and others in the financial industry are not the most important things in the world.

The story does circle around the fact that a rise in the age at retirement is, in fact, a good thing and that immigration is not necessarily a horrible thing, no matter what the Japanese (and some US politicians) may think. But the underlying theme is that the future is going to be very difficult to manage because of our low birth rates, and this is not a good thing. I have argued that the best route to successful aging for both people and nations is to work long and save. This article suggests that what we should be doing if we really cared about our economy is having babies and spending money.

The author of the story, Greg Ip, recently moved from the Economist to the Wall Street Journal. I'm guessing that he may have been behind the frequent references to demographic destiny that appeared in the Economist during the time he was there. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Rich Are Getting Older, and Richer

If you have read the essay in Chapter 10 of my text for any of the last several editions, you will be familiar with the analysis by age of the 400 richest Americans, compiled annually by Forbes. They recently came out with their 2015 rankings and it caught the attention of Richard Frank of CNBC, who just wrote about the results for the NYTimes.
In its most recent World’s Youngest Billionaires list, Forbes tallied a record 46 under 40, part of a “youth revolution” in the three-comma club. CNN Money reported this year that a growing share of today’s rich are under 65. “America’s über-rich are getting younger and younger,” the report said. “Call it the Mark Zuckerberg trend.”
Yet new research shows that despite their high profile, the young rich are a minority and the wealthy as a group are actually getting older. A study by Edward Wolff, a wealth expert and economics professor at New York University, found that the median age of the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans increased to 63 in 2013 (the latest year available) from 58 in 1992.
A study released this summer by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis found that the median wealth of old families (those with heads of household over the age of 62) rose 40 percent from 1989 to 2013, to $210,000. The median wealth of middle-age families (40 to 61) and young families (under 40) both fell by over 25 percent. “The gap has widened considerably over the past quarter-century — in favor of old people,” the report said.
For the 12th edition I was relying on data from 2013. Not much has changed between then and now, and my conclusion still stands: "The wealthy are disproportionately old, and among the wealthy, it is the oldest members who tend to have the greatest wealth."

Thursday, November 19, 2015

US Says No to Syrians; Mexicans Say No to US

In the wake of last Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris, the US House of Representatives today voted to "pause" the projected flow of Syrian refugees into the US. The Senate will have to vote on this soon, and of course President Obama will veto it, but the veto may be overturned. All of this comes amidst fears about refugees that seem widely overblown, given the very different screening processes used by the US compared to Europe, as I have already noted, and is discussed today by BBC News.

In the meantime, Donald Trump popped up again with his call to build a wall across the US-Mexico border after five Syrians were detained in Honduras. But, wait a minute! They were detained--the system works.

Also in the meantime, Pew Research Center came out with new data confirming the trend of more Mexicans leaving the US to return home than coming into the US. The Washington Post covered the story:
Between 1995 and 2000, with the U.S. economy booming, nearly 3 million Mexicans migrated to the United States. Taking out the 670,000 that moved back to Mexico, the result was an increase of over 2 million Mexican residents. In 1990, half of those migrants were under the age of 30.
That is probably still a conception that Americans hold about Mexican migrants: The numbers keep increasing as young men cross the border. But it's not quite right. 
New data from Pew Research reveals that, since 2009, 140,000 more Mexican migrants left the United States than arrived. That's a faster reverse migration than even the period before and during the recession.
The graph below tells the story. Why are people leaving? Mainly to rejoin their families, although a greater number have been deported during the Obama administration than during previous administrations.


It is probably correct to say that although the US is a nation of immigrants, Americans don't like immigrants any more than any other country does. Xenophobia seems to be hard-wired in the human brain.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Has the Syrian Refugee Crisis Closed the Door on a United Europe?

It is possible that one of the consequences of the recent ISIS-supported terror acts (including downing the Russian airliner, the bombings in Beirut, and the killings in Paris) will be to push Europe back to a continent of nation-states, each protecting its own borders. This is the assessment of George Friedman, of Stratfor, in an essay that he shared today with John Mauldin of Mauldin Economics. Friedman's basic thesis is that ISIS (or just IS, as he calls the group) has not been happy about the fact that hundreds of thousands of Sunni Muslims have been fleeing areas occupied by ISIS, since the group is supposed to be setting up a Sunni Muslim caliphate. They were also not happy about the fact that both France and Russia had recently joined the fight against them. So, revenge against those countries, coupled especially in France with a strategically placed Syrian passport, turned into alarms in Europe about the refugees. This is what Friedman speculates ISIS may have wanted--to show the refugees that they should stay put and live in the ISIS caliphate. However, the consequences for Europe may be deep.
Had Europe been functioning as an integrated entity, a European security force would have been dispatched to Greece at the beginning of the migration, to impose whatever policy on which the EU had decided. Instead, there was no European policy, nor was there any force to support the Greeks, who clearly lacked the resources to handle the situation themselves. Instead, the major countries first condemned the Greeks for their failure, then the Macedonians as the crisis went north, then the Hungarians for building a fence, but not the Austrians who announced they would build a fence after the migrants left Hungary. Between the financial crisis and the refugee crisis, Europe had become increasingly fragmented. Decisions were being made by nation-sates themselves, with no one being in a position to speak for Europe, let alone decide for it.
I have long made the claim that the transnational nature of Europe cannot be sustained. The divergent economic interests of EU countries, some with unemployment over 20 percent, some with it under 5 percent, meant that it was impossible for all of them to live not only under the same monetary regime, but under the same trade regime, which we cannot call free trade with agriculture, among other things, being protected. This would lead to a focus on national interest and on a resurrected nation-state.
This was the fundamental problem of Europe and the migration crisis simply irritated the situation further, with some nation-states insisting that it was up to them to make decisions on refugees in their own interest. The response of Europe to the Paris attacks brought together all of these matters, and Europe only responded when some nations decided to use their national borders as walls to protect them from terrorists.
So, the border checkpoints in Europe are now back in place, as nations take back the control of their borders, reasserting themselves as nation-states, rather than as a united Europe.  We may never know for sure whether Friedman's ideas about the motives of ISIS are correct, but they do make sense.  If they make sense to the governments of individual European nations, we may have witnessed the permanent end of open borders in Europe.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Great Map of the Refugees on the Run

Thanks to Rubén Rumbaut for pointing me to a very cool and informative map of the flow of refugees out of Africa and Middle East toward Europe. The map was put together by an organization in Finland using data from the UN High Commissioner on Refugees. 

In the US there has been an immediate backlash against refugees from Syria based on a passport found near the body of one of the Paris terrorists. My son, Greg Weeks, has a good blog post on the negativity toward refugees today and I recommend it to you.

Americans need to keep in mind that the 10,000 refugees slated to enter the US next year from Syria are already in camps in Lebanon or Jordan and are already in the process of a two-year investigation before they are cleared to come over here. The procedures for entry into the US are very different than in Europe.


Monday, November 16, 2015

ISIS and the Youth Bulge

Today's Morning Edition on NPR has an interview with the journalist who put together a new Frontline report that will air on PBS tomorrow (Tuesday) night on "ISIS Gains a Foothold in Afghanistan". As I listened to the story of young men posing as teachers and trying to instruct children about Jihad, I could only think about the impact of the Youth Bulge that Debbie Fugate (now Chief of the Humanitarian Information Unit at the US Department of State) and I have written about. Here's how we started the book, which was published in 2012:
In January 2011, the Middle East was jolted awake by a revolution in Tunisia that was sparked by the self-immolation of a street vendor. The subsequent collapse of the Tunisian government was followed by the overthrow of the Egyptian and Libyan governments and by popular and often violent demonstrations in Syria, Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain, and Morocco, to name the more notable places. A common thread in the press from the beginning was that these demonstrations and revolutions were the result of the region’s youth bulge. Here is a representative quote from the National Journal:
"Like Egypt, most countries in the Middle East are experiencing an unprecedented youth bulge. In countries from Morocco to Iran, people ages 15 to 29 make up the largest share of the population. Ominously for the region’s rulers, neither Tunisia nor Egypt, the epicenters of the uprising, is particularly unique in its demographic tilt. Young people represent 29 percent of the population in both Egypt and Tunisia, compared with 28 percent in Bahrain, 30 percent in Jordan, 31 percent in Algeria, and 34 percent in Iran, all of which have faced their own protests. The comparable number in most Western countries is around 20 percent."
And here is our punch line, of sorts:
No matter how you have defined a youth bulge, the underlying reason why it matters is that the young adult ages are unsettled, even tumultuous, in every society, especially for men. It has been said that the “dogs of war” (with no disrespect meant to dogs) are young and male, and, since in most traditional societies males are routinely accorded higher status than females, an increase in the number and proportion of young men in a population creates conditions for change. When that change is revolutionary and violent, young men are almost invariably involved. Christian Mesquida of the LaMarch Research Center on Violence and Conflict Resolution at Toronto’s York University and Neil Wiener, a professor of psychology at York University, note that “[M]en with few material assets may be more inclined to undertake risk in order to increase their access to resources, and competition can be driven to lethal levels.”In other words, men who feel materially oppressed may be more likely to rebel. This is not a new phenomenon, of course. Moller reminds us that “Egypt’s first modern party composed of the youth who rioted in 1919 and became the driving force in the Wafd were, between 1946 and 1952, reproached by the young street fighters and guerrillas, especially students, who themselves were preparing the way for the coup d’etat of the young military intelligentsia.”
The ISIS terrorists are not a random sample of the population. The rapid drop in child mortality throughout the Middle East that was not accompanied by a commensurately rapid drop in fertility has produced this bulge of young people (some of whom, of course, have successfully migrated to Europe and elsewhere), and that is the underlying source of the problem we're facing.  

Sunday, November 15, 2015

With Any Luck, Your Children Will Live Longer Than You

The horrific acts of terror in Paris Friday night remind us that tragedy can strike any time, no matter how well planned our life might be. And, of course, the targeted places such as a sports stadium and rock concert are populated more by younger than older people. Still, in the aggregate, it is somewhat reassuring to remember that over the past two hundred the general trend has been for each successive cohort to live longer than preceding ones. Josh Barro of the Upshot in the NYTimes brought this up a few days ago. It is good reminder of a point I make in Chapter 5 of my text, that current life tables calculate life expectancy on the basis of period measures of mortality, whereas cohorts experience different probabilities of death as they go through life. 
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, life expectancy at birth in the United States was 78.8 years in 2013 — 76.4 years for men, 81.2 years for women. But I have good news. Those statistics don’t mean what you probably think they mean.
In fact, an American child born in 2013 will most likely live six or more years longer than those averages: boys into their early 80s, girls into their late 80s.
So this statistic [period life expectancy] is useful for measuring the health of a country’s inhabitants, but it’s not useful if what you want to know is how long your new child will live. For that, you need to look at cohort life expectancy, a statistic that adjusts for the fact that death rates tend to decline over time as health and safety improve. According to the Social Security Administration, that’s 83.1 years for boys born in the United States in 2015, and 86.8 years for girls.
As an example, my father was born in 1914, when the life expectancy for males in the U.S. was only 52.0, according to data from demographers at UC Berkeley.  When he died suddenly of a heart attack at age 67 in 1981, life expectancy for males had risen to 70.4. So, he outlived the life expectancy of his birth year, but didn't hit the life expectancy for someone born the year he died. When I was born in 1944, life expectancy for males was 63.6, and I have already lived longer than my father. My paternal grandfather, on the other hand, was born at a time when life expectancy at birth was still in the 40s, but lived to age 85 (dying at a time when life expectancy at birth had risen to 67.0) . Similarly, my maternal grandfather was born into a world of life expectancy in the 40s and lived to age 83 (at a time when life expectancy at birth had risen to 69.6). So, I have exceeded my father's longevity, but have not yet hit life expectancy at birth for a baby boy born in 2013 (76.7) and I have a ways to go to beat my grandfathers. Keep your fingers crossed for me, and I'll do the same for you.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Europe to Africa: If We Pay, Will You Stay?

The European Union has set its sights on a new migration policy--paying African governments to alleviate the motivation for people to leave Africa and head to Europe. Reuters reports that:
The European Union launched a fund for Africa on Thursday with an initial $2 billion to combat the poverty and conflict driving migration to Europe, but African leaders said more fundamental economic change was needed.

With Europeans' attention now gripped by over half a million Syrians and others whose arrival has plunged the EU into crisis, memories have faded of the drowned Africans whose deaths in April prompted the Malta summit. However, EU officials say that African migration presents the greater long-term concern.

Among the biggest concerns in both Europe and Africa is the extent to which climate change, turning vast areas around the Sahara into desert, may set large sections of Africa's fast-growing billion-plus population on the move, both within the continent and north across the Mediterranean.
And, speaking of Syrians heading north, Sweden has just announced border checks in an attempt to slow down the influx of migrants coming to them. BBC News reports that:
Sweden has brought in temporary border checks to control the flow of migrants into the country. It said it took the step because a surge in new arrivals had resulted in a threat to public order.
Tensions in the EU have been rising because of the pressures faced by those countries where most migrants initially arrive, particularly Greece, Italy and Hungary. Many then head to Germany or Sweden - the two nations regarded as the most welcoming to refugees - to claim asylum. Nearly 200,000 migrants are expected to arrive in Sweden this year, more per head of population than any other EU nation.
In the meantime, it seems unlikely that the meetings about to start in Vienna to figure out how to cope with the Syrian mess will yield anything substantial. The face of Syria is changing, albeit in a different way than the face of Europe. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Will Congress Manage to Scuttle the 2020 Census?

Politico has an article noting that the 2020 Census in the U.S. may already be in trouble because of a variety of technical glitches that the General Accounting Office has been pushing it to resolve. The tenor of the article is that things are falling apart at the Census Bureau. 
The 2010 census was remarkably low-tech. Americans couldn’t fill the form out online, despite the fact that high-speed internet had become ubiquitous throughout the country. Census Bureau employees followed up with non-responders by knocking on doors, but their use of basic information, like address lists and maps, was so poor that of the 48 million houses they visited, 14 million were vacant. 
The bureau believes it can save more than $5 billion in 2020 by updating such information, allowing Americans to fill out the survey online, and more efficiently managing labor-intensive follow-up work, such as by identifying vacant houses. In addition, the agency is also working to modernize and consolidate its survey data collection systems.
The article hints at, but doesn't really give proper weight to what most demographers think is the big problem at the Census Bureau--insufficient funding. Terri Ann Lowenthal blogged about this just a few days ago.
Earlier this year, the House of Representatives decided it believes in fairy godmothers. The Appropriations Committee capped Fiscal Year 2016 spending on 2020 Census planning at $400 million, less than two-thirds of the President’s $663 million request. Even that was too much for the full House, which cut another $117 million from the Periodic Censuses and Programs account, with a significant chunk presumably eating away further at 2020 Census funding.
This of course follows several years now of inadequate funding, thereby eroding staffing and resources at the Census Bureau. It was chilling to hear Senator Ted Cruz at last night's Republican debate tick off the federal departments he would close if he were elected President. The Commerce Department, which houses the Census Bureau, was on his top five list.

The idea that any country will be better off if we have less data, and lower quality data, is just beyond me, and I genuinely do not understand the members of Congress who continually seek to cut back the funding for the Census and related survey programs such as the American Community Survey.