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, September 29, 2016

Costs and Benefits of Immigration--A National Academy Report

Is immigration to the US good or bad for the economy? Both, as it turns out. Whether it is one or the other depends on who you are, but on balance some immigration is better than no immigration. That is the elevator speech conclusion of a new report just out from the National Academy of Sciences, which you can download for free from the website of the National Academies Press. It is a lengthy and impressive volume. Indeed, two members of the National Academy of Science committee responsible for the report are past presidents of the Population Association of America (Charles Hirschman and Marta Tienda) and two of the acknowledged reviewers of the volume are past presidents of the PAA (Ronald Lee and Douglas Massey). If you don't have time yet to read the whole book, check out the review by Thomas Edsall in today's NYTimes, which relates the report's findings to the current political situation.
The crux of the problem is that the plusses and minuses are not distributed equally. The academy found, for example, that the willingness of less-skilled immigrants to work at low pay reduced consumption costs — the costs to consumers of goods and services like health care, child care, food preparation, house cleaning, repair and construction — for millions of Americans. This resulted in “positive net benefits to the U.S. economy during the last two decades of the 20th century.” These low-wage workers simultaneously generated “a redistribution of wealth from low- to high-skilled native-born workers.”
In other words, low wages are not good for people having to cope with their own low wages, but the resulting lower price of goods and services is beneficial to everyone, even including those with low wages. Who benefits most from immigration? Businesses, landowners and investors who reap a greater profit from lower cost labor. Who suffers most? Low-skilled workers, including recent immigrants competing with even more recent immigrants. However, as Edsall notes, the report's conclusion is decidedly pro-immigration, as he quotes from the report itself:
Immigration is integral to the nation’s economic growth. The inflow of labor supply has helped the United States avoid the problems facing other economies that have stagnated as a result of unfavorable demographics, particularly the effects of an aging work force and reduced consumption by older residents. In addition, the infusion of human capital by high-skilled immigrants has boosted the nation’s capacity for innovation, entrepreneurship, and technological change.
As is true so often in life, complex issues can be interpreted in a variety of ways, so this report is likely to wind up being ammunition for both pro- and anti-immigrant groups. That's not very satisfying, but it is real. 



Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Cohabitation Overtakes Marriage Among Younger American Women

Esther Lamidi and PAA President-elect Wendy Manning have just posted a very interesting profile of the changing relationship patterns of American women aged 25-29. They use data from the National Survey of Family Growth to show that cohabitation has now overtaken marriage as the most common form of relationship that women have had at that age. But, as you can see below, this doesn't mean that young women aren't pairing up. Indeed, the opposite is true. In 2011/2013 (the most recent data available) a higher percentage of women had either cohabited or had been married than back in 1995.


Their data also show the very interesting trend that the percent of women who had ever-married by age 25-29 went down precipitously for every educational group except women with at least a bachelor's degree, for whom the percentage actually went up. At the same time, the percent ever-cohabiting went up noticeably for all educational groups, including those with a bachelor's degree. In other words, a college degree is becoming less of an impediment to establishing a relationship through cohabitation and/or marriage.

The data also show the troubling trend that the percent of Black women who have ever-married dropped to only 23%, compared to 51% for Whites and 57% for Hispanics. There are two troubling aspects that come to mind (though not discussed in the profile) are: (1) the high percentage of young Black men who are incarcerated and thus not "available" for marriage; and (2) the children born to women who are not married, since single women are likely to have fewer resources with which to cope with the task of raising children--a topic I have discussed before.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Saudi Women Are Tired of Being "Owned" by Men

Women in Saudi Arabia are petitioning the king to end the practice of male guardianship, which dramatically limits their life chances. The most obvious example of this is that women cannot drive alone, but there are many other examples, as the story in today's Wall Street Journal makes clear. "Legally, Saudi women need permission from a male guardian—typically a father, husband or son—to marry, travel outside the kingdom or study abroad, among other things." The woman leading the telegram petition drive has felt the pain:
Ramyah, 37, who led the telegram initiative, feels strongly about ending guardianship because of personal experience. A college-educated nurse, for years she was her family’s main breadwinner, supporting her unemployed husband. Even then, her husband refused to let her travel.
When she obtained a divorce and moved back with her parents, her guardianship—she calls it “ownership”—returned to her father.
“At work, I am very respected,” said Ramyah. “But when I come home I have another personality: I am a child again.”
Saudi Arabia is perhaps the most extreme case of a country in which women have been given access to education and the labor force, but where the culture at home remains very traditional and oppressive of women. To be sure, Saudi Arabia is not a low fertility country, but its birth rate has dropped considerably over the past few decades. Since 1985, the TFR has dropped from 7 children per woman to "only" 2.8, as I noted earlier this year.  The Saudi economy's reliance on oil means that it cannot afford to have a continued huge increase in population. A third of its population is under the age of 15, according to data from the latest PRB World Population Data Sheet. Economic survival really depends on the liberation of women and a continued sharp drop in the birth rate. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The State of the World's Population is Decidedly Spatial

Last week the United Nations convened a summit on Migrants and Refugees, as I had mentioned last month. Now, you remember that demographers consider refugees to be migrants, but the UN chooses to separate the categories to emphasize that refugees are migrating for reasons beyond their control (essentially being pushed), compared to voluntary migrants who are pulled to someplace else. In all events, the NYTimes reported that relatively little of substance was accomplished at the summit. The reality is that few countries in the world want to take in refugees, so it is hard to cope with the current scope of refugees, particularly those out of Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, where violence has forced people to seek shelter elsewhere. 

One response to the refugee/migration issue is to remind us that migration has been a fact of life for all of human history, and that the current levels are not all that high by historical standards. Thanks to my son, John, for pointing me to an article on Swissinfo.com that summarizes the work of demographers at the Vienna Institute for Demography on global migration patterns (see my most recent blog for more work on migration from researchers at VID). The percentage of humans migrating hasn't changed all that much, but of course the places of origin and destination are very different now than they used to be, as I noted when the research referenced in the Swissinfo article first was published two years ago. Others have commented on this same theme, as I noted earlier this year. Furthermore, as the population continues to grow (remember we are now at 7.4 billion) the number of migrants keeps going up, even if the percent of people migrating stays the same.

So, despite the clear concern about refugees, the overall demographic situation globally has been nicely summed up by Joseph Chamie, former director of the UN Population Division. The world is divided demographically (and in a lot of other ways) by the "doublers" and the "decliners".
The doublers are all located in sub-Saharan Africa except for Iraq and the State of Palestine. The largest countries among the doublers are Nigeria (187 million), followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (80 million) and Tanzania (55 million). Today the doublers together account for 10 percent of the world’s population. By 2050, however, due to the doublers’ rapid rates of demographic growth that proportion is expected to increase to 18 percent of the world’s projected population of nearly 10 billion people.
The top ten countries with the projected population declines of no less than 15 percent are all located in Eastern Europe. The country with the most rapid decline among the decliners is Bulgaria (27 percent), followed by Romania (22 percent), Ukraine (21 percent) and Moldova (20 percent).
The largest decliner population, China, is expected to decrease by more than 2 percent by 2050, with the Chinese population peaking in less than a decade. Other large populations projected to experience demographic declines by midcentury are Japan (15 percent), Russia (10 percent), Germany (8 percent) and Italy (5 percent). Moreover, some of the decliners have already experienced population decline for a number of years in the recent past, including Bulgaria, Hungary, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine.
And where does migration fit into this? If the doublers had their way, much of their excess would be siphoned off to the decliners through migration. If the decliners had their way, their own birth rate would go up, so that they would look less attractive to the potential migrants from the doublers. This isn't going to be easy.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Recent Refugees Arriving in Austria Tend to be Young and Well-Educated

Thanks to Debbie Fugate for pointing me to a paper just published in PLOS ONE by researchers at the Vienna Institute for Demography and IIASA. They were able to interview a sample of more than 500 refugees arriving in Vienna in 2015 coming mainly from Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. 
This survey, the first of its kind in Austria and possibly in Europe, was carried out among adult displaced persons, mostly residing in Vienna, yielding 514 completed interviews. Information gathered on spouses and children allows for the analysis of 972 persons living in Austria, and of further 419 partners and children abroad. Results indicate that the surveyed population comprised mainly young families with children, particularly those coming from Syria and Iraq. Their educational level is high compared with the average level in their country of origin.
The authors caution that this is a small sample from the 88,000 people who applied for asylum in Austria in 2015, but they used a variety of tools to validate the underlying demographics of the people interviewed. Like most people showing up in Austria, these refugees largely got to Europe through Turkey, and then into Austria from Hungary, which is just south of Vienna. Additionally, the age structure of the sample (see below) is very similar to the profile of refugees in Europe by age and sex put together a few months ago by the State Department's Humanitarian Information Unit, which I discussed at the time


As you would expect, the vast majority of refugees from these three countries were Muslim, but responses to questions about issues such as gender equity suggested a more moderate view than might be guessed by political rhetoric in Europe and the United States. In general, the results suggest that this refugee crisis is replicating the usual pattern of selective migration.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Undocumented Haitian Migrants to US Now Facing Deportation

Following the massive earthquake in Haiti in January of 2010, the United States stopped deporting Haitians back to the island, regardless of their legal status in the U.S., out of a humanitarian concern that Haiti could not accommodate their return. However, the government announced today that the policy is about to shift--apparently pushed along by a new surge of undocumented Haitians coming north from Brazil, where the economy has gone south. Sandra Dibble and Kate Morrissey had the story in today's San Diego Union-Tribune.
So far this fiscal year, more than 5,000 Haitians without a U.S. visa have been processed by CBP officers at the San Diego Field Office, primarily at San Ysidro, compared with 339 in the previous year. 
Migrant assistance groups in Tijuana have become increasingly overwhelmed with the arrival of Haitians, a group rarely seen in the city until large numbers began arriving at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in late May. The great majority have traveled by land from Brazil, where they had gone to work after the earthquake, but faced growing hardship following the country’s economic downturn.
DHS officials speaking on background on Wednesday confirmed the new policy and said that it is effective as of today. Haitians who present themselves at the U.S. border can expect to be detained and processed under a provision of U.S. immigration law known as “expedited removal” that allows for their deportations without an appearance before an immigration judge—with exceptions made for those who express fear of returning to their home country.
“We will be treating inadmissible Haitians as we do nationals of other countries,” one said. Since 2014, U.S. deportation policy has placed priority on convicted felons, those with “significant or multiple misdemeanors” and those stopped without entry documents near the border or at ports of entry while trying to enter the United States.
This policy of course does not apply to most Haitians entering the country. Data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security indicate that an average of about 20,000 people per year from Haiti entered the U.S. as legal permanent residents between 2000 and 2014 (the last year for which data are available from DHS).


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Life Expectancy in the US: the State You Live in is More Important Than the County

Over the past several years, health analysts have created data sets of life expectancy by U.S. county, in an attempt to generate new information that might have strong policy relevance, as I have noted before. After all, shouldn't we be in a position to know more if we have local level data than just data at the state level? The real answer to that question is "yes and no," as pointed out in a recently published paper by Professor S. V. Subramanian at Harvard School of Public Health and one of his Ph.D. students, Rockli Kim. They suggest that we miss the real picture if we don't simultaneously account for state and county level data.

First, we demonstrated that states are as, if not more, important than counties in shaping the geographic variability in life expectancy in the US. Yet prior studies have largely focused on describing the inequality across counties16,17,19 and persistent clustering of high and low mortality counties20. In doing so, such studies have implicitly suggested that research and policy efforts should focus on the county-level processes and causes that might be the only drivers of longevity and premature mortality. We found that while counties accounted for 85% and 79% of the total variability in life expectancy for men and women, respectively, they accounted for less than 40% when states and counties were simultaneously modeled. This suggests that prior literature has considerably overestimated the importance of counties by omitting states. When geographic processes are likely to occur at multiple scales, empirical assessments should expand the units of analysis to accurately understand the scale at which action lies.
Second, there is a tendency – for no obvious reason that we are aware (except to consider geographic aggregations as a “proxy” for individuals) – to assume that a finer resolution of geographic aggregation (e.g., counties) is more important than a coarser resolution (e.g., states). However, we found that after accounting for counties, almost 50% of the total variation in life expectancy for men and over 40% for women were attributable to states. In fact, literature supports that processes at both state and county levels independently and simultaneously drive patterns of longevity and premature mortality.
They produce a set of maps (see below) that show what difference it makes if we ignore either the state or the county level in our calculation of life expectancy. Professor Subramanian is, in my opinion, the world's foremost authority on multi-level analysis, so we need to pay close attention to these results.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Asians Are Now the Plurality in Irvine, California

The average person thinking about the ethnic composition of southern California will naturally (and accurately) think about a large Hispanic population, originating largely in Mexico, but also from other Central American countries. Historically, California's Asian population has been concentrated up north in the Bay Area. Over the past few decades things have been changing, however, and a story in today's Orange County Register (with thanks to Rubén Rumbaut for the link) shows that Asians outnumber other groups in the City of Irvine, in southern California's Orange County.
New census estimates show that, for the first time, Irvine has more Asian than white residents. It’s a thin lead, well within the report’s margin of error, but the strongest evidence yet of what many residents, scholars and real estate professionals see as an accelerating trend.

Using the new census figures, a Register analysis indicates Irvine now is – or soon will be – the largest city in the continental United States with an Asian plurality. Among larger municipalities, only Honolulu has more Asians than any other race.

The Asian influx is part of a larger nationwide pattern, said Jennifer Lee, a sociology professor at UC Irvine. Asians are the fastest-growing racial group in the country, accounting for nearly two in five new immigrants, according to Pew Research Center. Their top destination is Greater Los Angeles, according to the Migration Policy Institute, because of the region’s Pacific Rim location, mild weather and well-established Asian communities.

I once asked a person just returning from Singapore how they would describe that city-state. The answer was only partially a joke: "It's a lot like Orange County but with fewer Asians!" Now, strictly speaking, Orange County is still predominantly non-Hispanic white (and Singapore is still predominantly Asian), but the City of Irvine may well be a sign of where the future is headed in the region.

Friday, September 16, 2016

It's Time to Promote the Female Condom

You may or may not know that today is Global Female Condom Day. It is not the kind of thing that people talk a lot about, and of course that's the problem! The female condom is actually the answer to several problems faced by reproductive age women all over the world--protecting yourself from sexually transmitted disease and unwanted pregnancy, and doing so without having to hope that your male sex partner will agree to use a condom. USAID offers some useful information:
The female condom is the only female-initiated method available that can be worn by women for protection against both unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Female condom use can also be initiated by men. A growing body of evidence shows that effective female condom promotion to both women and men can increase the proportion of protected sex acts. 
Qualitative studies have shown that some women are able to use the female condom in situations where they cannot negotiate male condom use, and many users alternate between male and female condoms. Because the female condom can be inserted before sex and is not dependent on an erect penis, it may be particularly useful for women whose partners are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The single biggest impediment to its use in developing countries is that it costs more than a male condom, despite having the same level of protection. This is apparently largely a function of supply and demand. The device has been around since 1993 (and the "second generation" device since 2006), but its rate of adoption has been slow. If the word gets out about the use-effectiveness and other benefits of the female condom, more manufacturers may step in (more jobs, right?) and increased competition should work to lower the price. That would make the day for a lot of women.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

"Fertility Day" in Italy Might Actually Have Some Unintended Impact

Last week I blogged about the plan by the Italian Minister of Health to have September 22nd be "Fertility Day" in Italy. The idea was to encourage couples to have children to combat Italy's very low birth rate. This seemed crazy to me because as demographers and other social scientists know, the issue is not wanting children; rather, the issue is whether women can readily combine a family and a career. In places where that is hard to do, fertility is lower than in places where society eases the burden. Today's NYTimes points out that this latter message is getting some play in Italy as a consequence of the ill-conceived (pun intended) Fertility Day campaign.
The problem is not a lack of desire to have children, critics of the campaign say, but rather the lack of meaningful support provided by the government and many employers in a country where the family remains the primary source of child care.
“I should be a model for their campaign, and I still feel very offended,” said Vittoria Iacovella, 37, a journalist and mother of two girls, ages 10 and 8. “The government encourages us to have babies, and then the main welfare system in Italy is still the grandparents.”
Many working women, without an extended family to care for a child, face a dilemma, as private child care is expensive. Some also worry that their job security may be undermined by missing workdays because of child care issues. Many companies do not offer flexible hours for working mothers.
So, we get back to the heart of the matter: culture. The cultural bias against working mothers needs to shift and, when it does, the birth rate in Italy almost certainly will start increasing. Of course, along with a shift in cultural bias will have to come a shift in the willingness for people to pay taxes to support increased motherhood which will, eventually, help to support the increasing older population. This is generational bonding at its best. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Median Income is Up, Poverty is Down: Good News or No News? UPDATED

Today the U.S. Census Bureau released a report detailing results on income and poverty, among other things, based on data collected in the Current Population Survey. Data refer to what was going on in 2015. Here are some of the highlights:
Median household income in the United States was $56,516 in 2015, an increase in real terms of 5.2 percent from the 2014 median of $53,718. This is the first annual increase in median household income since 2007, the year before the most recent recession. 
In 2015, real median household income was 1.6 percent lower than in 2007, the year before the most recent recession, and 2.4 percent lower than the median household income peak that occurred in 1999. (The difference between the 2007 to 2015 and 1999 to 2015 percentage changes was not statistically significant.)
In other words, median household income is up compared to the previous year, but for all intents and purposes it hasn't really changed since Bill Clinton left office.
The official poverty rate in 2015 was 13.5 percent, down 1.2 percentage points from 14.8 percent in 2014. In 2015, there were 43.1 million people in poverty, 3.5 million less than in 2014. The 2015 poverty rate was 1.0 percentage point higher than in 2007, the year before the most recent recession.
The poverty data are at least going in the right direction, but overall what are we to make of these findings? One set of answers was provided today by Sheldon Danziger, President of the Russell Sage Foundation in New York City (and thanks to Rubén Rumbaut for sharing this with me):
A focus on the these very good 2014-15 annual changes misses the big picture: the poor and the median full-time worker and household were better off at the end of Bill Clinton’s Administration than they are today. Yet, the incomes and wealth of the economic elite are much higher now than at the start of this millennium, and stock market indices are near all-time highs.

We have been living in an era of stagnating incomes for most Americans, as the gains from economic growth continue to be captured by the economic elite. A rising tide stopped lifting all boats in the 1970s because of fundamental economic changes, including employer practices, technological changes, globalization.

In spite of the economic realities, many politicians act as if they have a magic bullet that can dramatically increase economic growth and lift all boats again. Their magic usually involves schemes that would reduce taxes on the rich and pay for them by reducing government social spending like food stamps.

But, if one focuses on economic realities instead of magic, the very opposite policies would do more to reduce poverty—more government spending on policies make work pay for those working at low wages, like increasing both the earned income tax credit and the minimum wage, and more spending on infrastructure and early childhood education which would both expand employment now and raise future productivity.
These are essentially the same arguments that Thomas Piketty has famously made, and with which I agree, as I have noted before. It is truly frustrating that politicians in Washington, DC, seem to see the world so differently. 

UPDATE: The Upshot in the NYTimes ran a story yesterday with a very similar theme:
But no matter how good 2015 seems to be, it cannot undo the years of decline since the recession. If you measure income growth from a longer horizon, 10 years, the picture changes drastically. In addition to greater variance in growth (because we’re taking a longer view), you see that the balance of growth tips toward the rich — and that 2015 does nothing to change that trend.
It’s this long view that helps explain the economic anxiety that many people are experiencing. Also problematic is the divide in real income growth between households in rural and urban areas. Households outside of metro areas saw their incomes fall 2 percent, while households in cities saw their incomes grow 7.3 percent. So while those who pay close attention to economic statistics may cheer about one good year, it’ll take more widespread growth to change how people actually feel.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Geography of Same-Sex Marriage in the U.S.

The decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that same-sex marriages are legal has, of course, raised the profile of this type of family and household arrangement. However, there aren't a lot of data on the number and characteristics of such households, so the story by Quoctrung Bui in today's NYTimes Upshot was very revealing. He summarizes an analysis done by three researchers at the U.S. Treasury Department--Robin Fisher, Geof Gee, and Adam Looney.
By linking the tax returns of same-sex couples who filed jointly in 2014 with their Social Security records, researchers are able to give us the most accurate picture of same-sex marriages to date. And their estimate is this: In 2014 there were 183,355 same-sex marriages in America, roughly a third of 1 percent of all marriages.
Of course, implicit in this estimate is the assumption that all married couples file their returns jointly. But as a proxy for that, it’s pretty good. The Treasury Department estimates that 97.5 percent of married couples file joint returns.
The results offer the interesting, but not unexpected finding that male same-sex married partners have higher incomes than female same-sex married partners. The usual explanations apply--women earn less than men, and female marriages are much more likely than male marriages to involve children, and the competition between children and a career means that one parent may work less and thus earn less.

The geography of same-sex marriages shows a pattern in which the percentage of married couples filing joint tax returns who are same-sex couples is highest along the two coasts and lower in the middle of the country. Not surprisingly, the San Francisco Bay Area has the highest percentage of same-sex couples, although males are highest in San Francisco, while females are highest across the bay in Oakland. The map below is static, by the way, whereas the published map is interactive and gives you details for grouped zip codes. 



Saturday, September 10, 2016

Mixing Generations to Cope with Aging and a Low Birth Rate

European and East Asian countries are, in particular, concerned about the rapid aging of their populations, which is created by a combination of increasing longevity, very low fertility, and relatively little immigration. I have recently discussed the very low birth rate as being closely related to gender inequality in the home--women find it hard to combine a career and a family and many choose the former over the latter. But what if help were close by, not in the form of spousal help, but in the form of older people with time on their hands? This is what popped into my mind as I read a very interesting article by Tracy Moran at Ozy.com. Her focus is not so much on helping young mothers, as it is on the way in which  deliberately designed multigenerational communities can provide help to older people who might otherwise be left behind by the younger generation.
With a host of bold new plans for multigenerational living, you too might spend your golden years cavorting with tykes you’re not related to. Thanks to the housing crisis of 2008, increasing urbanization and an aging population that will see roughly 98 million golden oldies in the U.S. by 2060, the debate about how and where we age is taking center stage. Designers are increasingly looking at how intergenerational housing and retirement facilities can be combined in healthy, interactive and transparent ways. Meanwhile, older ideas like cohousing — a Scandinavian innovation that features generations growing up side by side and sharing common space — are getting a new life.
It was the Scandinavian innovation that put me in mind of the research by demographer Hill Kulu at the University of Liverpool in the UK. He has written about the fact that residential context matters when it comes to decisions that Scandinavian families (his research has focused largely on Finland and other Nordic countries) make about having a first child, in particular. Size of apartments and proximity to grandparents and other family resources can make a big difference to a young couple. So, it seems like a reasonable hypothesis that very low birth rates might be increased a bit in places outside of Scandinavia through the kinds of innovations discussed in Moran's article. Here we have the germ of a new type of population policy.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Changing Demographics in Florida May Affect the Presidential Election

Florida is a swing state in the upcoming U.S. presidential election. It has enough electoral college votes to help swing the final tally one way or the other (to Clinton or Trump) and it is a state that could go one way or the other--it is demographically divided between Republicans and Democrats, rather than clearly leaning in one direction. On today's Morning Edition on NPR, their reporter Asma Khalid talks about how the state is changing demographically and what that might mean for the election.

Cubans are, of course, the most prominent group of Latinos in Florida, and they have traditionally been more likely to vote for Republican candidates than for Democrats. However, there is a new and growing group of Latinos in the state--Puerto Ricans--who are of course U.S. citizens, so there is no issue of immigration status, and they tend to vote for Democrats more than for Republicans. Furthermore, younger Cuban-Americans seem to be leaning more toward Democrats than Republicans. At the same time, internal migration into the state (which tops the U.S., according to this report) tends to be "gray" and these older white folks tend to be more likely to vote Republican.  Thus, the demographic picture is complicated. Khalid talks about the idea that Florida is simultaneously "browning and graying" with each group having essentially opposite political perspectives from the other.

It seems likely that differences in voter turnout among the "grays" and the "browns" in Florida will decide who that state will go for in this presidential election.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Gender Inequality at the Root of China's Persistent Low Birth Rate

Yesterday I talked about the very low birth rates in Japan and Italy, in particular, being a function of the old-fashioned gender inequality that exists at home and discourages women from combining a career and parenthood. I didn't mention China, but in my view the situation is essentially the same there. To be sure, the initial impetus for the drop in the birth rate in China was the horrific one-child policy that led to forced abortions and other forms of officially sanctioned harassment. But, other changes were also taking place in Chinese society that propelled women into education and the labor force, thereby reinforcing small family norms. Given the preference that a majority of couples in China seem to have for two-children, it seemed natural for the government to assume that when it lightened up a bit on the one-child policy, the birth rate would rise, although most demographers were not so sure, as I noted last year. And, to be sure, it has not risen.

I mention these thing in particular because today's NYTimes has a story about a Chinese academic (albeit living in the U.S.)--Dr. Fuxian Li--whose posts criticizing reproductive policies in China have been taken off the web by Chinese authorities. It is not clear what's going on, but it puts the one-child policy and China's low birth rate back in the spotlight.
Today, Dr. Yi, a father of three, believes that most Chinese agree with him that the state should get out of their bedrooms, and are increasingly willing to say so in public.
“Public opinion is firmly on the side of ending family planning policies,” Dr. Yi said, basing his conclusion on the tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of online comments that have now vanished, his public speaking in China, and reactions to the social and statistical research in his book “Big Country With an Empty Nest,” which was published in China in 2013.
There he wrote: “Family planning was born in haste, conducted with violence and will end in equivocation and cover-up.”
I agree with all of that, but the article leaves hanging the question of why the birth rate remains low in the face of the government's easing of the one-child policy. The answer, in my view, is that Chinese culture needs to change in the same way that other East Asian and Southern European nations have to change to recognize that a sharing of work at home and out of the home by both mothers and fathers is almost certainly required if the birth rate is to nudge back up closer to replacement level. Getting women out of the home brings down the birth rate to a sustainable level, but wanting them to stay at home once they have "escaped", is what brings it down to very low levels. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Gender Inequality at Work: Delayed Marriage and Low Fertility in Japan (and Elsewhere)

Thanks to Stuart Gietel-Basten at Oxford for pointing me yesterday to an unbelievable article about Italy's Minister of Health (a woman) trying to promote a "Fertility Day" in that country, in which women are encouraged to have a baby. The program basically tries to recall the "good old days" when men worked outside the home and women stayed home and had babies. This story fits right into one from this week's Economist discussing the increasingly delayed marriages in Japan, which is closely associated with the very low fertility in that country (as in Italy). Indeed, if you look at the brand-new PRB World Population Data Sheet you will see that Italy's TFR is 1.4 children per woman, while Japan's is 1.5. If you've read my book, you know why: gender inequality. It's one thing to provide education and jobs for women. But, if you maintain the old order of gender inequality at home (and in the job as well, where it is almost impossible for women to reach the top levels in an organization), women will respond by having fewer children than they would otherwise prefer to have. This is what is going on Japan (and elsewhere in East Asia) and in Italy (and elsewhere in Southern Europe).

Here's a bit of data to go along with that statement. Two researchers from Oxford--Evrim Altintas and Oriel Sullivan--recently published a study in Demographic Research in which they look at levels and changes over time in work done at home by men and women. Their data do not include Asian countries, but we can compare Italy and Spain with, for example, the UK and USA. Spain's TFR is 1.3--even lower than Italy's--and note that both Italy and Spain have lower TFRs than Japan. The UK and USA both have TFRs of 1.8--below replacement to be sure, but not as low as Italy, Spain or Japan. Survey data show that in every country surveyed, women spent more time on "core housework" than did men, but the gap in minutes per day was 74 in the UK (i.e., women spent 74 more minutes per day than did their husbands), 65 minutes in the U.S., but 139 minutes in Spain, and 183 in Italy. The comparisons make the point that allowing women to become educated and to join the labor force without giving them equality at home is going to lower the birth rate well below the replacement level. 

The answer is not to have a national "fertility day." Rather, it requires changing the culture so that men and women are treated equally in society. That may not be easy, but it is necessary.






Monday, September 5, 2016

Sea Levels Are Rising, Whether or Not You Believe in Science

Justin Gillis, and environmental science reporter, published a very informative article in the NYTimes this weekend, documenting the flooding occurring along the eastern seaboard of the U.S., as a result of the rise in the sea level generated by global climate change. The point is that whether you believe that global warming is human-caused, or is just a freak of nature, doesn't matter to communities that are being inundated along the coast.
“Once impacts become noticeable, they’re going to be upon you quickly,” said William V. Sweet, a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Silver Spring, Md., who is among the leaders in research on coastal inundation. “It’s not a hundred years off — it’s now.”
Local governments, under pressure from annoyed citizens, are beginning to act. Elections are being won on promises to invest money to protect against flooding. Miami Beach is leading the way, increasing local fees to finance a $400 million plan that includes raising streets, installing pumps and elevating sea walls.
In many of the worst-hit cities, mayors of both parties are sounding an alarm.
The latter point is important. In the U.S. Congress, people have taken sides on global warming, with Republicans tending to deny its human causes, while Democrats decry the human impact but have too few votes to do much about it. 
But the local leaders say they cannot tackle this problem alone. They are pleading with state and federal governments for guidance and help, including billions to pay for flood walls, pumps and road improvements that would buy them time.
Yet Congress has largely ignored these pleas, and has even tried to block plans by the military to head off future problems at the numerous bases imperiled by a rising sea. A Republican congressman from Colorado, Ken Buck, recently called one military proposal part of a “radical climate change agenda.”
This just seems crazy. We have known for a long time that the Arctic glaciers are melting, and we can see all around us the increasing volatility in the weather. In the long-term we have to cut back on the greenhouse gases that are causing it (and, yes, that IS what is causing it--too many people using too many fossil fuels), but in the short run you don't have to know the cause to know that you have to do something to alleviate the danger and damage. 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

No Sex Ed in Utah = Increasing STD Rates Among Teens

Utah is the state with the highest birth rate in the U.S. The average woman in Utah (and the average woman in Utah is, of course, Mormon) has 2.33 children, compared to the national average of 1.86, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control for 2014, the most recent year for which data are available. The next closest state is South Dakota at 2.27, while at the other end, the state with the lowest fertility level is Rhode Island at 1.56. To put Utah's birth rate into perspective, it is slightly higher than Mexico's (which has a TFR of 2.2, according to the latest World Population Data Sheet from the PRB).

Consistent with the Mormon perspective on high fertility, the schools in the state tend to downplay sex education, focusing on abstinence and banning topics on contraception, including condoms. The condom prevents not only pregnancies, but also the spread of sexually transmitted, including HIV and gonorrhea, and here is an emerging health issue. It seems that the rate of gonorrhea infection in Utah is increasing at a rapid rate.
Since 2011, the gonorrhea rate in the state “has increased substantially,” according to the CDC. We’re talking a fivefold increase to 49 cases per 100,000 people in 2014. (To put this in perspective, though, the national rate is 110.7 cases per 100,000 people.) Between 2011 and 2014, the most recent year for which data is available, the gonorrhea rate was higher among men than women, but the percentage increase was much greater among women (715 percent) than among men (297 percent).
Notably, Utah’s sex education stresses abstinence and does not require teachers to provide information about contraceptives, and it specifically does require information about condoms to be presented in HIV-prevention education, according to a Guttmacher report.
To its credit, Utah is not a leader in teen births (a topic I discussed recently), even if the rate of STDs is increasing. Data for 2014 show that the birth rate among women 15-19 is 19.4 per 1,000, which is below the national average of 24.2, but almost twice the level in Massachusetts, which is 10.6--the lowest in the nation. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Teenage Pregnancy Continues to Decline in US as Contraceptive Use Rises

Perhaps it is only a coincidence that as Labor Day Weekend starts, I am blogging about the avoidance of the labor of childbirth among U.S. teenagers. Researchers from the Guttmacher Institute have just published a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health (open-access, so you can read the whole thing) showing that the recent decline in pregnancies among U.S. teenagers is driven mainly by an increase in the use of contraception, rather than a decline in the proportion of teens having sex. The NYTimes covered the story:
Researchers interviewed a nationally representative sample of more than 3,000 women ages 15 to 19 at three different time periods: in 2007, 2009 and 2012. They then combined data on sexual activity, contraceptive use and contraceptive failure rates to calculate a Pregnancy Risk Index at these times. This risk index declined steadily at an annual rate of 5.6 percent.
The study, in the Journal of Adolescent Health, found that sexual activity in the last three months of each time period did not vary — about one-third of the young women had had sex during that time. But the percentage of teenagers who reported using contraception increased to 86 percent from 78 percent, and the share using more than one method increased to 37 percent from 26 percent.
This is important research because when I last blogged about the teen pregnancy decline back in 2013, no one was sure why this was happening. In addition to the increase in contraceptive use, another story about this in Vox.com noted that more recent data on sexual activity among teens does suggest that since 2012 there has been a drop in sexual activity. This would be added good news. Less sex and more contraception adds up to an even greater likelihood that teenage pregnancies will drop to the low levels common in most other rich countries. That will be good for everyone.