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.

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Sunday, November 6, 2016

Does a Census in Lebanon Make Sense?

As I point out in my book, Lebanon's last census was in 1932, when Christians represented a majority of the population. That matters because seats in Lebanon's parliament are based on religion, with half of them going to Christians based on that 1932 census. Everyone knows that Christians are a minority, due to emigration and a lower than average birth rate (Courage and Todd have a nice summary of this), but it wasn't clear exactly how the demographics had changed until The Economist managed to snag some voters registration data that were posted online (probably by mistake) for a short time before being taken down. The results can be seen in the graph below:

It is clear that Christians are not a majority among voters, except at the very oldest ages. So, why not take a new census and straighten this out?
Change will be hard, though. “Any new formula will lead to sectarian strife, which no one wants to see in Lebanon,” says Randa Slim of the Middle East Institute, a think-tank based in Washington. “The Christians have half of parliament, the Sunnis have the prime minister’s office and Hizbullah are too busy in Syria. The men who run this country have no interest in renegotiating the status quo. It would lead to conflict.”
So, for the time being, it seems that a census still makes no sense. The status quo is better than the threat of violence in an already violent part of the world. 

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