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

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Migrant Integration is a Two-Way Street

Three stories popped up in the media today that illustrate the fact that the integration of migrants into society (that which happens when we overcome xenophobia) requires work on the part of the immigrants and the host society both. The first story is from NPR about how a Syrian couple and their kids now living in Seattle are getting along. They are refugees who arrived in the U.S. last November, but of course this involved a longer stay in refugee camps while they were vetted before being allowed to move to the U.S. A local Muslim charity in Seattle is helping to support them (and, of course, life would be easier for them had they not made the earlier choice to have six children). But they are learning English with the expectation of finding employment and fitting in.

The second story if from the NYTimes about a program in Canada that allows individual Canadian families to sponsor a specific Syrian refugee family. 
Advocates for sponsorship believe that private citizens can achieve more than the government alone, raising the number of refugees admitted, guiding newcomers more effectively and potentially helping solve the puzzle of how best to resettle Muslims in Western countries. Some advocates even talk about extending the Canadian system across the globe. (Slightly fewer than half of the Syrian refugees who recently arrived in Canada have private sponsors, including some deemed particularly vulnerable who get additional public funds. The rest are resettled by the government.) 
The fear is that all of this effort could end badly, with the Canadians looking naïve in more ways than one.
The third story--from Switzerland--shows what could go wrong if the immigrants aren't really interested in becoming integrated. In this case the immigrant is from Bosnia, not Syria.
A Swiss court has fined a Muslim man who refused to allow his daughters to attend mandatory swimming classes during school hours, as well school camps and other school events.
Letting his eldest daughter take part in ski camp was incompatible with his faith, said the man. The authorities of the town of St Margrethen in northeastern Switzerland, where the family resides, have clashed with the family – whose members live on welfare – for years.
This is a reminder that migrants--like the rest of us--are just people. Some get along better in life than others. However, getting along in any new environment requires adjustment and the more there is of that, the less xenophobic we all will be. 


Monday, June 27, 2016

Big Boost to Abortion Rights From the US Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court today struck down a Texas law that was designed to shut down abortion clinics in that state. The Economist has a good summary:
The 2013 law that the justices gutted today was disingenuously framed by Texas Republicans as a measure to protect women’s health. By requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and mandating that clinics be retrofitted as “ambulatory surgical centres” (renovations that are prohibitively expensive), legislators said they were just trying to make the procedure safer. But in the oral argument, this pretext was exposed as a strategy for limiting abortion access. In his majority opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer surveyed the record and “found nothing...that shows that...the new law advanced Texas’ legitimate interest in protecting women’s health.” Mr Breyer added that “when directly asked at oral argument whether Texas knew of a single instance in which the new requirement would have helped even one woman obtain better treatment”, Scott Keller, the lawyer for Texas, “admitted that there was no evidence in the record of such a case”. The regulations have “nothing to do with ability to perform medical procedures”, Mr Breyer wrote.
Several other states have either written or had been contemplating writing similar laws, and this ruling will put a stop to them. Also significant is the fact that five justices were in agreement that this was a bad a law. Thus, no matter who is eventually confirmed to the Court to replace Justice Scalia, the Court is unlikely to go along with other similar attempts to crush women's access to safe abortions.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Chinese Government Understands the Health and Climate Impact of Eating Too Much Meat

The Chinese are not the biggest meat-eaters in the world on a per-person basis, as I noted a few months ago, but the country has so many people that they actually are the biggest meat consumers in the world, and the overall consumption has been rising quickly. Fortunately for the world, it seems that the Chinese government has realized that this is a huge problem both for the climate and for health, and is trying to do something about it, according to Brad Plumer of Vox.com.
Here in the US, the Obama administration has been reluctant to encourage people to eat less meat for health and environmental reasons. The 2015 US Dietary Guidelines, for instance, remained fairly muted on the topic after fierce lobbying by the meat industry.
But in China, where livestock emissions are soaring and obesity is on the rise, officials are being far less circumspect. The Chinese Nutrition Society (CNS) is now enlisting celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger, director James Cameron, and actress Li Bingbing in a nationwide campaign urging people to cut their meat consumption in half — in line with new dietary recommendations. 
The campaign, taglined "Less Meat, Less Heat, More Life," will tout the climate benefits of lower meat consumption and feature PSAs on billboards and televisions across China.
Government campaigns of this kind have been helpful in reducing smoking in the U.S. and elsewhere, and we can hope that this campaign in China will not only be successful, but will set a trend for other countries to follow. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Demographics of the Brexit Vote

Voters in the UK preferred to leave the EU by a small margin, but the demographic differences are pretty stark between those who wanted to remain and those who wanted to leave. LordAshcroftpolls.com lays it out:
* The older the voters, the more likely they were to have voted to leave the EU.
* A majority of those working full-time or part-time voted to remain in the EU; most of those not working voted to leave. More than half of those retired on a private pension voted to leave, as did two thirds of those retired on a state pension.
* A majority (57%) of those with a university degree voted to remain, as 64% of those with a higher degree and more than four in five (81%) of those still in full time education. Among those whose formal education ended at secondary school or earlier, a large majority voted to leave.
*White voters voted to leave the EU by 53% to 47%. Two thirds (67%) of those describing themselves as Asian voted to remain, as did three quarters (73%) of black voters. Nearly six in ten (58%) of those describing themselves as Christian voted to leave; seven in ten Muslims voted to remain.
And here is another fascinating demographic. Immigration was a big issue raised by those campaigning to leave the EU, as I noted yesterday, yet those voting to leave were least likely to live in areas with immigrants. This is, in my view, consistent with the idea that it was xenophobia, not familiarity, that was breeding contempt.

Overall, then, the leavers were older whites with lower levels of education living in areas with few immigrants. As many commentators have noted, this demographic profile sounds a lot like the typical Donald Trump supporter in the US.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Xenophobia Wins in the Brexit Vote

The vote in the UK to leave the EU was inspired by a variety of things, but none so central as the issue of gaining control over immigration. Unlike in the US, where Donald Trump has railed against undocumented migrants (especially from Mexico), the problem in the UK is that as more countries were added to the EU over the years, their citizens gained the right to work anywhere in the EU, including in the UK. In the abstract this labor mobility is a good thing economically. But migrants aren't always like the "natives," and that was a problem--as it is all over the planet. As the Associated Press (via the San Diego Union Tribune) reported after yesterday's vote:
After winning a majority in Parliament in the last election, Cameron negotiated a package of reforms that he said would protect Britain's sovereignty and prevent EU migrants from moving to the U.K. to claim generous public benefits.
Critics charged that those reforms were hollow, leaving Britain at the mercy of bureaucrats in Brussels and doing nothing to stem the tide of European immigrants who have come to the U.K. since the EU expanded eastward in 2004. The "leave" campaign accuses the immigrants of taxing Britain's housing market, public services and employment rolls.
Those concerns were magnified by the refugee crisis of the past year that saw more than 1 million people from the Middle East and Africa flood into the EU as the continent's leaders struggled to come up with a unified response.
As I noted a few days ago, leaving the EU is going to raise a host of new migrant-related problems in the UK, and so the consequences of this round of xenophobia will take a while to play out. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Males and Females Are Not Equal When it Comes to Infection

One of the "iron laws" of the mammal kingdom is that females tend to live longer than males, all other things being equal. Indeed, among humans, it is clear that any society experiencing higher death rates for girls/women than for boys/men is one in which females are heavily discriminated against. We know that the female biological advantage begins in utero and extends to the oldest age. But what are the mechanisms? We may never know the full answer, although the biggest bets relate to hormones, since they are the clearest way in which males differ from females. An article out today in Nature.com takes this issue on, showing that infection rates are different by sex, suggesting that there are differences in the immune system.
The immune systems of men and women respond very differently to infection — and scientists are taking notice. Research presented last week at a microbiology meeting in Boston, Massachusetts, suggests that the split could influence the design of vaccination programmes and lead to more targeted treatment of illness.
Now, scientists are beginning to tease out some precise mechanisms. At the meeting, infectious-disease researcher Katie Flanagan at the University of Tasmania in Australia reported on a tuberculosis vaccine given to Gambian infants. She found that the vaccine suppressed production of an anti-inflammatory protein in girls, but not boys. This boosted the girls’ immune responses, and may have made the vaccine more effective.
Hormones also play a part. Oestrogen can activate the cells involved in antiviral responses, and testosterone suppresses inflammation. Treating nasal cells with oestrogen-like compounds before exposing them to the influenza virus has revealed further clues, says Sabra Klein, an endocrinologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Only the cells from females responded to the hormones and fought off the virus (J. Peretz et al. Am. J. Physiol. http://doi.org/bj5w; 2016).
One of the more intriguing studies mentioned is one that compares immune responses before and after sex-change operations.
A study set to begin later this year could help to tease apart the relative influence of genes and hormones on infection. Altfeld and his colleagues will look at 40 adults going through sex-change operations. If female hormones are responsible, the transgender women in the study should begin mounting stronger immune reactions to infections and develop more autoimmune problems than the transgender men.
These kinds of results, when combined with advances in regenerative medicine, are among the reasons why we can expect to see continued increases in life expectancy among humans. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

World Refugee Day Witnesses a Record Number of Refugees

Today is World Refugee Day, as declared by the UN, but this is sadly not a day for celebration. The UNHCR brought us the news that a record number of people in the world are refugees. The BBC noted that:
The number of people displaced by conflict is at the highest level ever recorded, the UN refugee agency says. It estimates that 65.3m people were either refugees, asylum seekers or internally displaced at the end of 2015, an increase of 5m in a year. This represents one in every 113 people on the planet, the UN agency says. Meanwhile, the UN refugee chief says a worrying "climate of xenophobia" has taken hold in Europe as it struggles to cope with the migrant crisis.
The never-ending war in Syria, along with the European deal with Turkey to keep refugees there until processed for migration to Europe, has put Turkey in the position of being the country with the largest number of refugees in the world. The US State Department's Humanitarian Information Unit has put together a global map of the situation of stateless people in the world as of the end of 2015, and I have copied it below.


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Is Israel Becoming Overpopulated?

Population Matters in the UK recently posted a link to a very interesting story out of Israel discussing the idea that overpopulation is a huge problem in that country.
In a society that encourages its denizens to heed the biblical call to “be fruitful and multiply,” one American-Israeli expert is saying that its time for a new approach. Dr. Alon Tal, founder of Adam Teva V’Din – Israel Union for Environmental Defense, said that the most pressing issue facing Israel today is overpopulation. “It’s pushing us over the edge,” said Tal, a North Carolina native who is a lecturer at Ben-Gurion University.
To deal with this particular issue, which Tal said has especially weighed on his mind for the past 15 years, he started the Israel Forum for Demography, Environment and Society, and will soon be releasing a book on overpopulation, titled The Land Is Full.
Tal slammed Israel’s “culture of dependency” that assumes society will foot the bill for large families, noting that it puts a strain on the country both financially as well as environmentally.
To be sure, the UN Population Division projects Israel's population to increase from its current 8 million to nearly 13 million by mid-century and, as I noted four years ago, the Israeli Central Bureau  of Statistics thinks that by that time the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish population and the Arab population combined could comprise nearly half of Israel's population, creating a potential cultural revolution. 

One of the issues surrounding the idea of being fruitful and multiplying is that large families tend to undermine the ability of women to participate fully in society. USAID had a nice sentiment on that score for Father's Day:
...We wish to send special thanks to the many men around the world who continue to support women and girls’ right to equal footing with men and boys, even at the risk of going against dominant socio-cultural norms. Your dedicated service is vital to better health and improved lives for everyone. Only together can we unlock full human potential on a transformational scale.
Smaller families rather than larger families are the key to a better world. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

There's a New Condom On the Block

Condoms give us a health twofer: they protect against sexually transmitted disease and they protect against unwanted pregnancy. The problem is that a lot of men who should be using them, don't like them. This is an important part of the explanation for HIV/AIDS and for millions of unintended pregnancies each year. There is, however, a new condom out there now that may help turn things around.
Launched by LELO, a Swedish intimacy company dubbed “the Apple of the pleasure product industry,” HEX condoms represent one of the first major advances in condom technology since the reservoir tip was added almost 70 years ago.
LELO engineers spent seven years developing their new condom, driven by one crucial discovery: it didn’t require new materials but an upgraded structure.
“The challenge was to make something radically different with a material already approved for condom use," Filip Sedec, LELO founder and inventor of LELO HEX, told Mashable. "We did this because people need to be having great, safe sex today, not ten years from now.”
So, with any luck, there will be even better news than expected when this year's Contraceptive Day rolls around in September.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

New Migration Map from the US State Department's HIU

The Humanitarian Information Unit (HIU) of the US State Department has posted a new map on its website detailing the latest refugee migrant status in Europe. This follows up on the changes made in Europe to stem the huge flood of refugees flowing north from Turkey through Greece and then spreading out from there. As I noted last year, Europe struck a deal with Turkey to keep people from leaving Turkey until they are processed by European countries, at which time they are allowed to migrate. 

The HIU data (the first page of which is shown below) indicate that fewer than half as many refugees have been relocated as the EU was aiming for. This is, of course, a global issue. Not many countries really want to take in refugees. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported this week that there are a record number of refugees that need to resettled in the world.
The United Nations said today it will try to resettle a record 170,000 refugees urgently in need of a new home next year as it grapples with an unprecedented displacment crisis. The projected resettlement figure from the UN refugee agency represents an increase of nearly 30,000 people compared with this year. But it is still less than 15 per cent of the 1.19 million refugees worldwide who will be "in need of resettlement" in 2017, the UNHCR acknowledged in a report released today.
Overall the UNHCR has estimated that there are currently more than 60 million people who have been forced from their homes worldwide. Of those, roughly 40 million are internally displaced within their home country, while just over 20 million are refugees who have fled across borders.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Demographic Fallout If the UK leaves the EU

Next week will see voters in the UK decide the fate of the UK and the EU. Will the UK leave the EU (the "Brexit")? Everything that I have read suggests that leaving the EU will be bad for the EU and the UK alike. The problem is that there are unhappy people in the UK (as in the US) who think that foreigners have come in and taken their jobs and are also disproportionately drawing benefits from the government.  Their proposed solution (reminiscent of the ideas of Donald Trump) is isolation from Europe. Demographer Jane Falkingham at the University of Southampton has just written a policy brief for Population Europe that describes the situation. She details a variety of data sources and then offers the following key points:
EU-born migrants are more likely to be young, in employment, skilled with qualifications and in good health than UK citizens. Many of them are in partnerships with UK-born partners and a significant share of these couples have children.
Withdrawing entitlements to social support from EU migrants, and thereby individualising their social risks, makes it much harder for work-focused migrants to use their skills and capabilities to the fullest extent – with significantly negative consequences for the UK economy.
A Brexit may push certain EU migrants to apply for citizenship who would otherwise not contemplate applying. This, contrary to the expectation that a Brexit would limit the number of EU migrants in Britain, is likely to increase the number of British citizens possessing a broader set of political and social rights.
The consequences of a Brexit will immediately be negative for immigrants from the EU, but in the medium and long-term they will almost certainly be negative for the labor force and thus the overall economy of the United Kingdom.  

Monday, June 13, 2016

Will Increasing Education Change the World?

Max Roser at Oxford University has a genuinely wonderful set of data on his website, as I've noted before, and his latest addition is the set of projections made by demographers at IIASA in Austria that try to estimate the trend in educational attainment globally.

In the visualization below you see that in 1970 there were only around 700 million people in the world that had secondary or post-secondary education. By the end of this century the number of people with secondary or post-secondary education will have increased 10-fold and will reach 7 billion people (a similar number as the world population today)!
The projection also shows that the number of people with no education will decrease continuously and that by the end of this century virtually all people in the world will have received some level of education.


Keep in mind, though, that these upward trends in education will not come about automatically. It takes political will and money to increase levels of education, and those of us who know how important education is to the future of human society cannot let down our vigilance. There are plenty of leaders of countries who do not want their people, especially women, to become better educated.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

American Voting Population Not Quite as Diverse as Thought

Yesterday's NYTimes has a very thorough analysis of the demographics of the American voting public, organized by Nate Cohn. His conclusion is that there are more white, less well-educated, and older voters out there than most people think, because most information about voters comes from exit polls, which turn out to be not quite accurate. To the extent that these are people more likely to vote for Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton, this could work in Trump's favor. The problem with exit polls is that they are designed to figure out on the fly what the election results are going to be, but collecting good demographic information from respondents (and getting a good response rate in the first place) are not that easy. Cohn notes that there are two other key sources of information: (1) the Current Population Survey, which asks about voting behavior after each national election; and (2) a subscription-based service called Catalist, that compiles data from local registrars of voters.
New analysis by The Upshot shows that millions more white, older working-class voters went to the polls in 2012 than was found by exit polls on Election Day. This raises the prospect that Mr. Trump has a larger pool of potential voters than generally believed.
The wider path may help explain why Mr. Trump is competitive in early general election surveys against Hillary Clinton. And it calls into question the prevailing demographic explanation of recent elections, which held that Barack Obama did very poorly among whites and won only because young and minority voters turned out in record numbers. This story line led Republicans to conclude that they had maximized their support from white voters and needed to reach out to Hispanics to win in 2016.
Those previous conclusions emerged from exit polls released on election night. The new data from the census, voter registration files, polls and the finalized results tells a subtly different story with potential consequences for the 2016 election.
You can see that both the CPS and Catalist suggest a somewhat different demographic makeup of voters than the story told by exit polls. To the extent that white, non-college-educated older people are Republican, they may also be more racist than others in society, according to an Op-Ed in the NYTimes two days ago. We will have to wait until November to see if this is going to make a difference in the Presidential election.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Turkey's Demographic Divide

Thanks to Abu Daoud for linking me to an article in Asia Times suggesting that Turkish President Erdogan's call for women to give up contraception (which I commented on a few days ago) is really about Turkey's demographic divide between the Turks in the west and the Kurds in the east. The author of that article, David Goldman, argues that the call to stop using contraception was aimed squarely at the non-Kurdish population.
When he talks about Turkey’s failing demographics, though, Erdogan is speaking from the heart. Turkey’s Kurdish citizens continue to have three or four children while ethnic Turks have fewer than two. By the early 2040s, most of Turkey’s young people will come from Kurdish-speaking homes. The Kurdish-majority Southeast inevitably will break away. Erdogan’s hapless battle against the inevitable motivates the sometimes bewildering twists and turns of Turkish policy.
Goldman also provides the stark evidence of birth rates by province in Turkey, based on data from Turkstat, the official statistics agencies. Check it out:


 Readers of my book will be familiar with my reference to a paper by Turkish demographers Oğuz Işiz and M. Melih Pinarcioğlu, in which they discuss this issue in detail. That paper is behind a subscription, but here's its essence, which is similar to the point that Goldman is making in the Asia Times article:
The fertility decline that Turkey has gone through in the last few decades is characterised by sharp regional inequalities, with western regions representing patterns akin to developed countries and those in the east resembling “third-world” countries, while central regions represent an in-between case. With the help of geographically weighted regression (GWR), this article is an attempt to set up a model of causal relationships that could account for the regional fertility differentials. The results indicate that the fertility decline is not a single and all-embracing process covering all regions. On the contrary, there are regions differentiated qualitatively from each other in terms of the underlying causes of the existing fertility levels.
Their analysis suggests that the explanations are more complex than just a simple Turkish/Kurdish divide, but it seems unlikely that Erdogan is interested in those subtleties of the real world. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Urban Air Pollution in India is Among the World's Worst

India is about to overtake China as the world's most populous country (6 years from now, in 2022, according to UN demographers), and most of that increase is showing up in the cities--as is true all over the globe. We've heard a lot about the terrible air pollution in China, especially Beijing, as I've mentioned in the past. But Delhi's air pollution may even be worse. I discussed this last year, but new reports have just come out with more details about the deadliness of India's urban air. Yesterday's Wall Street Journal defines the air in Delhi as the worst in the world, and suggests that living there cuts several years off your life expectancy.
Living in India’s capital city New Delhi could shorten your life by six years because of the intensity of the air pollution there, a new report says.
Inhaling tiny air pollutants reduces the life expectancy of Indians by an average of 3.4 years, with Delhi residents losing 6.3 years, the most of all states, according to a new study by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology.
Those living in West Bengal and Bihar, which have high levels of air pollution, face a reduction in life expectancy of 6.1 years and 5.7 years respectively.
This analysis is based on population modeling combining data from the 2011 Census of India with air particulate data. More information about the specific causes of the pollution appeared in a separate story published yesterday by Nature.com
The pollution, which comes mainly from combustion of wood, coal, gas, diesel and crop residue, is worst in the winter, when wood-burning peaks and cold-weather inversions trap pollutants close to the ground and cause spikes in the daily average of above 600 μg m−3. Late last year, the levels prompted the Delhi High Court to declare the city a “gas chamber”.
The Nature article notes that India has been working to improve the problem, following in the famous steps of Los Angeles and Mexico City, but continued population growth compounds the problem at every step. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Melinda Gates Ramps Up the Emphasis on Contraception

Thanks to Debbie Fugate for linking me to an article about the Code Conference a few days ago at which Melinda Gates reemphasized her support for contraception.
Melinda Gates is on a mission to help women around the world decide when and if they have children.
"What I'm trying to do is bend the curve," the co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said in an interview with Walt Mossberg at the Code Conference on Wednesday morning, joined by her husband, Bill Gates.
That curve represents the pace of getting 110 million more women around the world access to birth control, which given current trends would take until 2035. Melinda Gates says the foundation is trying to shorten that to 2020.
"I have really gone all in on family planning," she said. If a woman has voluntary access to contraception and can choose when she becomes pregnant, "you don’t commit her to a life of poverty."
If you saw my post about the Gates Foundation CEO's report, then you know that I am very happy with this confirmation of the Foundation's goals. Contraception can save the lives of children already born, and can save the lives of mothers themselves. Indeed, a report published in the Lancet a few months ago noted that the global drop in maternal mortality was well short of the UN goals. Unplanned and unwanted pregnancies represent one reason for this, especially if they end up leading to an unsafe abortion. Preventing births and saving lives go together, and they are part of the long-term recipe for saving the planet.

Monday, June 6, 2016

More Undocumented Chinese Are Crossing the Border Into the U.S.

Today's San Diego Union carried the interesting story in the local news that the number of undocumented immigrants from China apprehended trying to cross the border near San Diego has risen dramatically over the past few months. The report by Tatiana Sanchez is behind a subscription, but here are the key bits:
The number of unauthorized Chinese immigrants coming to San Diego has skyrocketed in recent years, the result of a lucrative smuggling industry, mass emigration from China and a diversifying pool of unauthorized immigrants settling in the United States. Border Patrol agents in the San Diego sector apprehended an estimated 663 Chinese nationals between October and May, compared with 48 Chinese nationals last fiscal year, five in fiscal 2014 and eight in fiscal 2013, according to data provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.


Before that, “we just weren’t getting (Chinese nationals),” said Wendi Lee, a spokeswoman for the Border Patrol. Lee said criminal organizations involved in smuggling maximize their profits by transporting Chinese immigrants, often charging each several thousands of dollars to get them across the border. “We’re talking anywhere from $50,000 to $70,000 per person,” said Lee. “The further you travel from, the more arrangements these criminal organizations have to make, the more expensive it will get.”
Obviously these are not huge numbers, but this is local to San Diego. Nationally, the number of Chinese immigrants to the US--both documented and undocumented--has been steadily rising over time, as the Migration Policy Institute reported in January. The timing of this increase in people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border suggests the possibility of human traffickers convincing would-be migrants that they better get across now before "a wall" is built if Trump is elected. 

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The World's Demographic Divide

Two tweets today provided an illustration of the world's demographic divide--the gap between the low birth and death rate rich countries and the not as low birth and death rate not so rich countries. For a nice overview of the issue, I recommend you read the PRB Bulletin by Mary Kent and Carl Haub published more than a decade ago. This is not an issue that is going away. Here are the contrasts from today's social media. First was a tweet from PopulationGeography (@PopGeog) referring to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald about how declining populations are challenging (meaning harmful) to the rich.
Shrinking populations in the advanced world is one of the biggest single challenges to global economic growth, according to the former chief executive of the Australian Government Future Fund. Mark Burgess, now chairman of Jamieson Coote Bond's advisory board, said on Tuesday that governments and central banks needed to start tailoring policies to fit the reality of slowing or negative population growth and shrinking workforces. "The thing about demographics, just to be absolutely clear about this, is that we've never in history run sophisticated economies with sophisticated financial systems through declining populations," he told an investment conference in Sydney. "It is a truly unique event." He said shrinking populations "affected all asset prices in strange ways".
At nearly the same time came a tweet from the Population Reference Bureau (@PRBdata) referring back to a 2015 report by demographer Monica das Gupta in which she lays out the problems of countries on the other side of the demographic divide trying to feed their growing populations.
The global problem of climate change poses the greatest threat to the least developed countries even though they have contributed relatively little to the current stock of emissions causing the problem. 
Much of the developing world will experience climate-change induced declines in agricultural output, poorer health outcomes, disruption of rainfall patterns, and more frequent natural disasters, rendering some areas less habitable or inhabitable, and hinder poverty reduction and economic growth.
When you look at the graph she prepared (see below) of possible food growth scenarios, the single most important thing to jump out at you is that the trend in food production in the recent past has been essentially flat, yet a growing population demands more food. 



So, the rich worry about the price of their assets, and the not rich wonder if they will have enough to eat. 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Zika is in the US--Sort Of

Yesterday brought the terrible news of a baby born with microchepaly in New Jersey to a mother with the Zika virus. As ScienceAlert reports, the woman was pregnant and knew she had the virus when she arrived from Honduras to visit relatives in New Jersey. She apparently traveled to the U.S. with the express purpose of seeking care in this country, thus creating this somewhat unusual situation. The only other confirmed case had been in Hawaii, so this was the first in the continental U.S.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says there are now over 300 pregnant woman in the US with "laboratory evidence of possible Zika virus infection". Not every baby that’s born with Zika will have microcephaly or brain defects, but the CDC estimates the number between 1-13 percent.
The CDC has also advised pregnant woman to avoid travelling to the areas where mosquitos have been shown to carry Zika. This has also put a strain on the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, with some athletes speaking out about those competing this summer.
As reported on MSNBC this morning, all known cases of the Zika virus currently identified in the U.S. have been contracted outside of the country. The concern, of course, is that one or more of the several hundred people known to have it could be bitten by a mosquito in the U.S. and that could then accelerate the spread.