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, January 31, 2017

The Trump Administration's Alternative Facts About Refugee Risks

The past few days have been consumed by the travel ban (no matter that the White House said today that it was not a ban--President Trump's tweets to that effect not withstanding) from seven specific Middle Eastern countries, and a temporary halting of refugee admissions. As reported by CNN, here is the wording of the directive regarding the travel ban:
"For the next 90 days, nearly all travelers, except US citizens, traveling from Iraq. Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen will be temporarily suspended from entry to the United States."
This was clearly a way of saying to people who voted for Trump when he said he was going to protect the U.S. from Islamic terrorists that he meant it. The problems of terror, however, do not actually stem directly from people from those seven countries, but rather radicalized people from other countries who go to those places to fight. Unfortunately, the executive order does not take that fact into account.
In 2014, more than 55 percent of terror attacks worldwide occurred in five countries, according to the State Department. Only one of those countries -- Iraq -- is covered in the executive order. The other four -- India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria -- are not.
Nor are other countries -- such as Morocco, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia -- thousands of whose citizens are active in jihadist groups around the world. The executive order mentions the failure to properly scrutinize visa applications of the 9/11 hijackers, but most of them were Saudis.
With respect to refugees, the Migration Policy Institute today noted that:
The executive order signed last week by President Trump that cuts the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program by more than half and halts it altogether for 120 days has chosen a singularly unsuitable target for its stated purpose of “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Entry into the United States by Foreign Nationals.” No refugee who has entered the United States through the resettlement program—and more than 3 million have done so since 1980 when the program was established—has killed anyone in a terrorist attack in the United States.
Trump has said repeatedly that more vetting of these refugees must be done. Yet, as the Migration Policy Institute point out:
Refugees already are the most heavily vetted of any people who enter the United States, facing an 18- to 24-month processing period. They go through a vetting procedure that involves up to eight U.S. government agencies, six different security databases, five separate background checks, four biometric security checks, three separate in-person interviews, and two interagency security reviews. Singling refugees out by halting the refugee resettlement program for four months and cutting resettlement at a time of record global displacement is a classic case of blaming the victim. It will do nothing to make America safer.
It may be that the Trump administration is less worried about making America safer than about disrupting the governing of the country. I really hope that I am proven wrong on that score. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Will the Trump Administration Threaten the Collection of Demographic Data?

Among the many concerns that have arisen in the short span of time that Donald Trump has been President, one of considerable worry to demographers is the potential threat to the collection and management of data, including the decennial census, American Community Survey, and other data upon which a wide range of people in government and business rely. The Census Project released a blog post a couple days sounding the alarm:
If the next decennial census doesn’t receive proper funding between now and Census Day 2020, the prospects for a huge undercount of the population dramatically increases. 
Washington Post article declares that underfunding means “the robustness of the 2020 Census is especially vulnerable.” 
Meanwhile, a Science Magazine article is headlined “Scientists fear attack on federal statistics collection.”
The Science Magazine article is especially noteworthy and troubling:
For starters, the Census Bureau needs a hefty budget increase this year to continue preparations for its constitutionally mandated job of conducting a decennial census in 2020. But that request goes against the Republican mantra of curbing government spending. The decennial census and other surveys also generate reams of statistics that may clash with Trump’s penchant for disregarding data or making up his own. Then there’s the questions themselves, which some people regard as intrusive or unnecessary.
That’s not all. Congressional foes of the American Community Survey (ACS), a 70-question successor to the long form of the census sent to 3.5 million homes each year, are expected to revive previous attempts to eliminate the survey or make it voluntary. This time they will have a powerful ally in the White House in the form of Representative Mick Mulvaney (R–SC), who Trump has chosen to lead the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Mulvaney voted in 2012 for an amendment before the House of Representatives that would have defunded the ACS, and last summer he urged Census Director John Thompson to exempt those who don’t want to fill it out.
To get a feel for how important the ACS is, just put "American Community Survey" into the search box in my blog here, and see all the items that pop up. We'd be lost without it. And that is a concern raised in a related story in today's Guardian:
US statisticians are concerned that Donald Trump’s administration might suppress or manipulate public statistics that don’t fit his narrative of the truththe Guardian has learned. In a series of interviews, individuals who have recently left high-level positions at federal statistical agencies expressed worry that the administration may stop collecting and publishing data on subjects such as abortion, racial inequality and poverty.
We need to continue to fight back against this by all of us emphasizing how important these data are to the economic success of the country. 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Has the End of the One Child Policy in China Raised the Birth Rate?

In late 2015 the Chinese government officially ended the one-child policy, as I noted at the time. Few demographers expected this to have much of an influence on the birth rate, since there are still a lot of economic incentives in China to keep families small. However, this week The Economist reports that there was a spike in the number of births in 2016. Is this the start of a trend?
On January 22nd the National Health and Family Planning Commission revealed data that seemed to justify optimism: it said 18.5m babies had been born in Chinese hospitals in 2016. This was the highest number since 2000—an 11.5% increase over 2015. Of the new babies, 45% were second children, up from around 30% before 2013, suggesting the policy change had made a difference.
The graph below shows the trend over time:

 However, The Economist points out that this could just be a spike, and not a trend.
It always seemed likely that the one-child policy was a little like a dam, with couples wanting a second child banked up behind it. As soon as the flow of the dam was changed, they would have their desired babies quickly. That seems to have happened. It might also have made a difference that 2016 was the year of the monkey in the Chinese zodiacal calendar. This is considered a propitious year. Chinese couples have sometimes chosen to have a child under such a sign, rather than (say) in the less lucky year of the chicken, which begins on January 28th. So there were one-off reasons for the number of births to rise.
We have seen the influence of superstition before in the annual pattern of births in Japan, so there's no reason to think it couldn't have the same influence in China. This is one of those cases where we will just have to wait a year and see what the data tell us. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Global Gag Rule Reinstated by Trump Administration

The "Global Gag Rule" is a U.S. government policy prohibiting organizations that receive aid from the U.S. from providing abortion or even counseling women about abortion. It dates back to the Reagan administration's announcement at the UN Population Conference in Mexico City in 1984 that any organization in the world that received money from the U.S. government was prohibited from providing abortion, abortion counseling, or abortion-related services. This was called the “Mexico City Policy” and later dubbed the “Global Gag Rule.” The Reagan Administration, which had devised this policy, later decided that the UNFPA was in violation (despite repeated denials by the United Nations) and the Reagan and then the Bush administrations withheld all U.S. funding from the UNFPA from 1987–92. U.S. funding was reinstated by the Clinton administration in 1993, but withheld again when George W. Bush took office in 2001, and then reinstated after Barack Obama was inaugurated in 2009. 

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump had made it clear that he opposed abortion, and so it was no surprise that the Global Gag Rule has been reinstated, but apparently it is even harsher than before, as reported by Slate:
By Monday’s end, however, people who work on global reproductive health and rights were reeling. Trump, it eventually emerged, hadn’t simply revived the so-called global gag rule. Quietly, with so little publicity that activists weren’t aware until someone saw the new language in a tweeted image, Trump had massively expanded the rule. Suzanne Ehlers, president and CEO of the global reproductive health organization PAI, says it’s the global gag rule “on steroids.”
Trump’s version of the global gag rule expands the policy to all global health funding. According to Ehlers, the new rule means that rather than impacting $600 million in U.S. foreign aid, the global gag rule will affect $9.5 billion.
Fortunately, other countries have said that they will step up to help fill the void, as The Guardian has reported:
Up to 20 countries have indicated support for the Netherlands’ plan to set up an international safe abortion fund to plug a $600m funding gap caused by Donald Trump’s reinstatement of the “global gag rule”, the Dutch international development minister, Lilianne Ploumen, said on Wednesday.
Ploumen took soundings from a number of her colleagues around the world on Tuesday evening after the Netherlands said it would act to mitigate the impact on hundreds of charities around the world.
It is my guess that if Trump ever thinks about this, he will be pleased to hear that someone else is willing to pay the bill. But, of course, the sad reality is that this is just another way to undermine women's reproductive rights--an outcome that has been anticipated since Trump's election.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Crimmigrants and the New Legal Apartheid in America

I had the pleasure yesterday of attending a lecture at UCSD by Mary Waters, who is the M.E. Zukerman Professor and Chair of Sociology at Harvard University. She and her colleague Philip Kasinitz at CUNY Graduate Center have been looking at the temporal coincidence of the rise in the incarcerated population in the U.S.--which disproportionately involves black males--and the rise in the arrest, detention, and deportation rate of undocumented immigrants--which disproportionately involves Hispanics. Felons and undocumented immigrants ("crimmigrants") share in common the fate of being placed outside the usual American legal system and Waters describes this as the equivalent of a legal apartheid. It is not exactly based on race, since blacks and hispanics on the "right" side of the legal apartheid have had considerable economic and political success over the years. So, the charge of racism is not exactly correct, although some of that almost certainly exists in the system (i.e., institutional racism). It is more a matter of class--those on the "wrong" side of the legal apartheid are much more likely to be people with low levels of educational achievement and thus lack good labor force opportunities. But the losers go beyond just those who commit a crime or enter the country without documentation. The children of both groups wind up being disadvantaged and they too wind up with inadequate levels of education and thus restricted life chances. 

What to do? I pointed out that there are two "easy"answers: (1) since the rise in the prison population is heavily related to the U.S. policies of jailing people for drug use and sales, a change in that policy would immediately reduce the prison population; and (2) the legalization of undocumented immigrants, as Ronald Reagan did with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, would put all of those folks on the right side of the legal system. It was pointed out that we would also have to implement strict controls on guns, since gun violence is a related cause of the rise in the prison population. These policy changes seem common sensical and easy to understand, yet everyone understands that there is no realistic possibility that they will be implemented. Mary pointed out that the prison system--both public but especially private--benefits from the existence of all of these prisoners. A lot of taxpayer money goes into this. And, by coincidence, yesterday Rubén Rumbaut, who has also studied these issues, forwarded a link to a book by Erik Camayd-Freixas at Florida International University, who notes that "ICE's arrest capabilities greatly exceed the capacity of the backlogged immigration courts and the presently engorged for-profit immigration jails. Any expansion in deportations from interior enforcement will go along with an expansion in detention." And, of course, if we stop putting people in prison, we'll have to deal with a rise in unemployment among prison guards...

This is an important story in many ways and I look forward to Mary Waters and Philip Kasinitz continuing to work through the complexities of how to resolve the problem.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Not Too Many People Want to Raise Children in San Francisco

Thanks to Justin Stoler for pointing me to an urban demography article in today's NYTimes about the declining number of children in San Francisco. The population is fairly young, pushed along as it is by the high-tech industry jobs that now exist in the city, but those young people are not having many kids in the city itself.
A few generations ago, before the technology boom transformed San Francisco and sent housing costs soaring, the city was alive with children and families. Today it has the lowest percentage of children of any of the largest 100 cities in America, according to census data, causing some here to raise an alarm.
“Everybody talks about children being our future,” said Norman Yee, a member of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors. “If you have no children around, what’s our future?”
As an urban renaissance has swept through major American cities in recent decades, San Francisco’s population has risen to historical highs and a forest of skyscraping condominiums has replaced tumbledown warehouses and abandoned wharves. At the same time, the share of children in San Francisco fell to 13 percent, low even compared with another expensive city, New York, with 21 percent. In Chicago, 23 percent of the population is under 18 years old, which is also the overall average across the United States.
I have been in and out of San Francisco a lot of over the years, including especially during my undergraduate and graduate school days at Berkeley in the 1960s. No matter what the numbers might say, it was certainly never my impression that the city was "alive with children and families." Both of my sons were born in Berkeley and never in our wildest imaginings would my wife and I have thought of living in San Francisco instead of Berkeley. We have always loved visiting San Francisco (Greens Restaurant in the Marina District is one of our favorite places in the world to eat), but I can readily understand the sentiment that:
“If you get to the age that you’re going to have kids in San Francisco and you haven’t made your million — or more — you probably begin to think you have to leave,” said Richard Florida, an expert in urban demographics and author of “The Rise of the Creative Class.”
Don't worry, though. There are plenty of children in the Bay Area--they live everywhere outside the very confined city limits of the City of San Francisco. To be sure, there are other kinds of children who live in relative abundance in San Francisco--the dog children...

Saturday, January 21, 2017

How Xenophobic Will the Trump Administration Be?

On the campaign trail, Donald Trump spent a lot of time talking about building a wall to keep out migrants from Mexico and refusing to accept refugees from the Middle East. Will this campaign rhetoric translate into genuinely xenophobic policies? That question was put to me by a local TV station the day before Trump's inauguration. It turned out that I was genuinely not available to talk to them that afternoon, but it later made me think about what I would have said had I been available. Trump has a habit of being unpredictable, so any prediction is ipso facto likely to be wrong. The reporter had suggested I read and respond to an article that had come out that morning in the LATimes by Brian Bennett. I have just now had a chance to do that:
Gone will be the temporary protections of the final Obama years for people in the country illegally. In their place, say immigration advocates and people familiar with his plans, expect to see images on the evening news of workplace raids as Trump sends a message that he is wasting no time on his promised crackdown.
In addition to the high-profile raids, those people said in interviews, Trump will also widen the range of people singled out for deportation, focusing on those with criminal convictions, and he could move immediately to reduce the number of refugees allowed into the U.S.
He may also limit who can come into the country as a security measure, making good on a sweeping vow to stop immigrants “from any nation that has been compromised by terrorism.”
Taken together, the actions would result in a significant shift in how immigration law is enforced, which could itself create a ripple effect that alters the immigration pool and how the 11 million or so in the U.S. illegally live their lives. Unlike some of his other big-ticket plans, such as replacing Obamacare, Trump can act on immigration without Congress under the president’s wide legal authority to control borders.
These are, of course, predictions based on campaign talk. Missing in the campaign talk, however, and generally in the media, are the facts that make quick action on immigration less likely: (1) the number of undocumented immigrants crossing the border from Mexico has declined dramatically over the past decade; (2) immigrant communities are generally well-integrated into American society and have been for a long time; (3) the U.S. economy would sink if a significant fraction of undocumented immigrants were deported; and (4) former President Obama was known as "deporter-in-chief" and it would take a huge effort to outdo him on that score, even though Republicans never wanted to give him "credit" for that.

The last point is interesting because a story in The New Yorker reveals that the massive deportations of former gang members from Los Angeles back to their native El Salvador has created--among many other things--a new industry there of call centers staffed by deportees whose English is better than their Spanish. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Workplace Norms for Men Help Keep Fertility Low in Japan

I have often mentioned the various elements of Japanese (and other East Asian, as well as Southern and Eastern European) cultures that help to keep fertility below replacement level. One of the key ingredients is gender inequality and a paper just out in Demographic Research highlights one aspect of this in Japan. Nobuko Nagase and Mary C. Brinton about "The gender division of labor and second births: Labor market institutions and fertility in Japan." The main point is that when both husband and wife work and have one child already, the likelihood of having a second child is lower if the husband/father is working long hours and cannot contribute to housework and child-care. Two children are a lot more work than just one, and if the wife is going to have to shoulder the entire burden, she is less likely to want to go for number two.
Numerous studies have documented the extremely low amount of time that Japanese men devote to housework and childcare (Feyrer, Sacerdote, and Stern 2008; Tsuya, Bumpass, and Choe 2000; Tsuya et al. 2013). According to the Japanese Cabinet Office’s 2014 White Paper on Children, Japanese fathers of preschool children spent an average of 1.07 hours per week on housework and childcare, compared to over two hours for fathers in France and the United Kingdom and over three hours in the United States, Germany, Sweden, and Norway.
To be sure, men are likely to work more hours than women in most societies, but in Japan this is reified in a way unlike in other countries:
This paper has focused on the Japanese employment system, a system of labor practices and work norms that continues to apply especially to male university graduates working in large firms. The system is based on an implicit contract between employer and employee in which the employer promises job security and future wage increases in exchange for employees’ high work commitment and willingness to work overtime and relocate when ordered to by the company. This package of employment practices is supported by Japanese Supreme Court rulings. The speed of promotion and the amount of future wage increases depend on the evaluations of managers, beginning in the early years of a man’s career and extending throughout his working life. A highly gendered division of labor at home is a rational response to this system, as it facilitates men’s ability to fully engage in the intra-company competition for promotion that characterizes the early career stage.
This is fine if women are stay-at-home moms, but many are not, and therein lies the clash between a society wanting men to work all the time and a society that would prefer women to transition to a second birth. 


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Demography is a Drama in Slow Motion

Thanks to Abu Daoud for pointing me to an excellent story in this week's Foreign Policy abut the demographic trends that will be shaping the world between now and the middle of this century. The author, Paul Taylor, was formerly at Pew Research and now is at Encore.org (an organization dedicated to creating a positive future out of the aging of America). The stories are familiar ones to readers of my book, but it always helps to have these ideas reinforced.
The 21st century is still just a teenager, but we can already forecast with a fair degree of confidence what its demographic profile will look like by 2050. Population growth will have slowed down. Global aging will have risen to unprecedented levels. Birthrates will drop. The working-age share of the world’s population will shrink. Poverty will ameliorate in poor countries; income inequality will worsen in wealthy ones. And for the first time ever, Islam will challenge Christianity as the world’s largest religion.
Taylor reminds us that the population is going to be growing most quickly in Africa:
By midcentury, the world’s fastest-growing region, Africa, is projected to see its population more than double, while the slowest-growing region, Europe, is expected to see its population decline by about 4 percent. This means that in 2050 there will be around 3.5 times more Africans (2.5 billion) than Europeans (707 million). In 1950, there were nearly twice as many Europeans as Africans. Demography is a drama in slow motion. But tick by tock, it transforms the world.
I love that phraseology--I couldn't have said it better. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Demographics are Probably a Bigger Problem for Cuba than Donald Trump

There is a lot of current uncertainty about how the incoming Trump administration is going to view Cuba, given the new openness with that country that has been initiated by the Obama administration. One thing that is certain, however, is that the demographics of Cuba put the country in a precarious situation. I discussed this with my son, Greg, in one of his podcasts back in November, as I noted at the time. The podcast was picked up by Enrique de la Osa of Reuters and quoted in a story published online by SFGate.
Cuba's centrally planned economy has long been stunted by its relative isolation from the rest of the world, and the country has relied on its partners to support its citizens.
"The economy of Cuba would've collapsed under its own weight long ago, as a consequence of population growth and an economy that couldn't really accommodate that growth, had it not been for the state-sponsors — first the Soviet Union and then Venezuela — and now both of those are essentially out of the picture." John Weeks, a professor of geography at the San Diego State University, said on a recent late-November edition of the Understanding Latin American Politics podcast.
But any effort to support the economy with local production or to expand it with foreign investment is likely to be hamstrung by a significant and deep-seated issue: Cuba's anemic population growth.
"So Cuba faces what we might call ... a very certain future of disaster if something doesn't happen, because the population has reached a peak of about 11 million. UN demographers project that it's going to go down," said Weeks, who is the director of the International Population Center at SDSU.
"The population size is going to go down, because the population is aging, and the birth rate had been below replacement level for quite a while," Weeks added.
Castro, in his remarks to the National Assembly, said achieving GDP growth in the coming year would require three steps: "guarantee exports and their opportune collection, increase national production to substitute imports, reduce all dispensable expenses and use available resources rationally and efficiently."
On the first point, as noted by UNC Charlotte professor Greg Weeks, "opportune collection" is unlikely to be forthcoming from Venezuela. And "reducing all dispensable expenses" is a phrase that may suggest unwelcome policies like rationing or other steps to limit domestic consumption.
"So it's not sure exactly what Raul is going to do, but he's got to do something," said John Weeks, of SDSU, "because the Cuban economy and its demographics paint a picture that, unless people come in, particularly American investors come in and rebuild the island, it's going to crash."
Now, I obviously cherry-picked a bit, and there's more in the article, providing a good and useful summary of where things stand with Cuba.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Effect of Family Structure on Children's Educational Opportunity

The International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP) has a nice series of short articles in which demographers summarize recent research findings. Today's posting was related to the question: Does parental separation increase inequality of educational opportunity? The authors (Fabrizio Bernardi and Diderik Boertien) rely primarily on cohort data from the UK, but they also call upon data from the U.S., Italy, and Germany. Their overall conclusion is that (a) children growing up with parents with lower levels of education are themselves less likely to achieve higher levels of education; (b) children growing up in a household in which the parents are separated (at some time during the child's life--the analysis doesn't give this information) are less likely to go on to university than those whose parents do not separate; but (c) the complication is that children with parents with higher education who separate are more affected educationally than are those whose parents have lower education and separate. 

The authors interpret their findings to mean that family structure may not be as consequential as many people think:
Various scholars (Cherlin, 2014; McLanahan and Percheski, 2008; Putnam 2016; Wax 2007) have claimed that family structure (and single motherhood in particular) is an important factor explaining differences in life outcomes across socioeconomic groups in Western countries.
The problem with the authors' interpretation is, however, that their comparison is between children whose parents were married and then either separated or stayed together. The authors whom they cite are much more focused on out-of-wedlock childbearing. As I have noted myself, especially in reference to the work of Isabel Sawhill, but also to that of Andrew Cherlin (a Past President of the Population Association of America), the evidence is very strong that children growing up in a single-parent household (typically the mother, and sometimes without any recognition of the existence of the birth father) are at a disadvantage relative to other children. The relationship may be complex, but it cannot be dismissed.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Reproductive Health Breakthrough in The Philippines

Thanks to Population Matters for linking to a news story out of Manila that President Rodrigo Duterte of The Philippines is on board for the UNFPA and other NGOs to help provide birth control to couples in that country.
Buoyed by the support of the United Nations (UN), the government is determined to forge a “stronger collaboration” with the private sector on intensifying public access to family planning services.
Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said the government appreciates the UN recognition of President Duterte’s Executive Order No. 12 on the full implementation of the reproductive health program.
The President earlier issued EO 12 (Attaining and Sustaining Zero Unmet Need for Modern Family Planning Services through the Strict Implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act, Providing Funds Therefore and for Other Purposes) that will enable couples to make an informed choice on how to plan their families. The order aims to attain the “zero unmet need for modern family planning” for all poor households by 2018. Apart from the overall goal to help reduce poverty, it aims to lower maternal mortality rate and teenage pregnancy.
There are several reasons why this is important. In the first place, The Philippines is currently the 12th most populous country in the world (just after Mexico) with 102 million people, but by 2050 the UN demographers project that it will have overtaken Mexico and moved up to #10 on the list, increasing in size to 157 million, even taking into account the sizable emigration to other places, including the U.S. (only Mexico and China sent more legal immigrants to the US in 2015 than did The Philippines). This is largely due to the fact that women in that country continue to have nearly 3 children each, and low infant and child mortality means that almost all will survive to adulthood. The country cannot realistically sustain that kind of population growth, so helping couples have smaller families will be huge for the future.

This news is also good because it is among the few "good" stories that have surfaced since President Duterte was elected. His disregard for the rule of law in combatting drug dealers and his apparent pivot away from good relations with the U.S. have caused considerable concern in the U.S., so any positive news regarding Dutere is clearly welcomed.  

Friday, January 13, 2017

18,000 Syrian Refugees Have Been Resettled in the US

The Migration Policy Institute in Washington, DC, has just put out a nice summary of data about the Syrian refugees who have been resettled in the U.S. since the civil war began in Syria in 2011. Authors Jie Zong and Jeanne Batalova note that a total of 18,000 refugees have been allowed in thus far, out of an estimated 4.9 million registered Syrian refugees.
...the vast majority are in first-asylum countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq; only a fraction are likely to ever be permanently resettled. Facing dim resettlement prospects and eager to establish new lives, nearly 900,000 Syrians have headed to Europe and filed asylum claims there since the war began.
Beyond the United States, a small number of countries have accepted Syrian refugees through their resettlement programs, most notably Canada, which took in close to 40,000 Syrians between November 2015 and December 2016. Since 2013, Germany has admitted about 41,000 displaced Syrians who were living in Syria or a first-asylum country in the region via a humanitarian admissions program.
California, Michigan, and Texas are the states that have taken in the greatest number of Syrians, and my own metropolitan area of San Diego leads the list, as you can see from the table below:



Perhaps not surprisingly, the list of metro areas for Syrian refugees is not too dissimilar from the geographic pattern of Iraqi refugees. Indeed, a recent article in the San Diego Union-Tribune noted that:
Nationwide, the largest group of refugees in the new fiscal year has come from the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the state department. In San Diego County, the biggest group is from Iraq, according to county data. Arrivals from Syria and Afghanistan round out the top three for the county, and those from the Democratic Republic of Congo are the fourth largest arriving group.
What? The largest group of refugees into the US last year was from the Democratic Republic of Congo? And how often does that country make the news headlines? 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Census 2020 Redistricting Battle Already Heating Up

The U.S. Constitution requires that Congressional seats be redistributed and district boundaries redrawn after each decennial census--thus providing the constitutional basis for the census itself. The work of redistricting is done by individual state legislatures or their designees (e.g., the independent commission approved by voters in California a few years ago). After the 2010 census, the Republican Party spent a great deal of time and effort influencing state legislators to draw boundaries that created "safe" seats for a disproportionate share of Republican members of Congress. With Republicans now in control of all branches of government, the Democratic Party is getting ready to wage its own war on redistricting, as the NYTimes reported today.
Thwarted for much of his term by a confrontational Republican Congress, and criticized by his fellow Democrats for not devoting sufficient attention to their down-ballot candidates, Mr. Obama has decided to make the byzantine process of legislative redistricting a central political priority in his first years after the presidency.
Emerging as Mr. Obama’s chief collaborator and proxy is Eric H. Holder Jr., the former attorney general of the United States and a personal friend of the president. He has signed on to lead the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, a newly formed political group aimed at untangling the creatively drawn districts that have helped cement the Republican Party in power in Washington and many state capitals.
Democrats ruefully acknowledge now that before the 2010 census, riding high after Mr. Obama’s 2008 victory and seemingly secure in their hold on Congress, they were far less prepared than Republicans in gearing up for legislative reapportionment. The Republican Party mounted a ferocious state-by-state campaign that gave it overwhelming control of redistricting, allowing it to lock in many victories in the 2010 midterm elections.
So, the plan is to gear up for the fight that will take place once the 2020 census results are made available near the end of the year in 2020, "but the officials drawing the maps in most states will be chosen in elections well before then, starting with the election for governor in Virginia this year." Thus the urgency to get started now so that Democrats instead of Republicans are in place in as many states as possible in order to influence the redistricting process. This will be ugly, I can assure you.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Will Childlessness in Europe Get Back to Historical Levels?

Thanks to the folks at The Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital in Vienna for linking us to a paper just posted online by INED in France focusing on childlessness in Europe. Éva Beaujouan, Tomáš Sobotka, Zuzanna Brzozowska, Kryštof Zeman have put together a very nice article titled "Has childlessness peaked in Europe?" This paper does a beautiful job of putting childlessness in historical context in Europe. I can't tell you how many times I have read that childlessness in Europe is evidence that Europe is "dying" and that there is no hope. Well, guess what? We aren't yet back to the high levels of childlessness that prevailed in Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Here's the graph of the historical pattern:


Women born in 1900 were much more likely to have remained childless than women born in 1968, and yet Europe survived the 20th century without a precipitous population decline. What's the answer now to reverse the current upward trend in childlessness? If you've read my blog even as recently as two days ago, you'll know the answer, because Japan's experience is not unlike some of the European countries, especially the southern European nations.
Two sets of factors are most prominent in explaining the recent rise in (involuntary) childlessness. First, precarious labour market conditions and limited public spending on families with children in many parts of Europe make the decision to become parents di cult for both men and women. Second, the rapid increase in full-time employment among women has not always been matched with childcare and leave policies allowing them to reconcile their career and family plans, or with a stronger investment on the part of their male partners and a better gender balance in the household. Not surprisingly, it is in southern European countries where di cult labour market conditions are compounded by relatively low domestic gender equality and limited options for women to reconcile work and family life, that childlessness has increased most rapidly in recent years.
It all comes down to the status of women. In the modern world, an INCREASE in the status of women is likely to increase marriage and childbearing rates, rather than the often hinted at solution of returning to the old "traditional" ways in which lower status for women forced them into lives of childbearing, whether wanted or not. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The U.S. Intelligence Community Understands Demographic Change

My thanks to Debbie Fugate for alerting me to yesterday's release of Global Trends: Paradox of Progress by the U.S. National Intelligence Council. It is good to see that the intelligence community understands that demographic change is an irresistible force with which the world must constantly cope. Here are some samples:
In 2035 the world’s population will be larger, older and more urban than today, but change will progress unevenly across regions, with rapid growth in many promising but still-developing economies offset by stalled growth—or even shrinking populations—in many developed countries. These trends will challenge the former to provide infrastructure and opportunities for their growing populations and the latter to use technology to minimize their need for new workers and to smoothly integrate migrants from developing countries who seek improved prospects.
Five demographic trends will potentially underpin domestic instability and interstate political frictions during the next two decades: chronically youthful states; mass interstate/interregional migrations; transitions through demographic phases; advanced population aging; and majority-minority differential growth.
The paradox of progress referenced in the title is that global prosperity has increased at the same time that the world has become more dangerous. I noted recently that Max Roser's graphs remind us that the world is indeed a better place than it used to be, but that doesn't mean that we can just sit back and relax. Demographic change is all around us, generating challenges and opportunities at the same time.  Adapting to these changes, rather than ignoring them, is the key to future success.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Japan Faces Up to Its Aging Population

Japan has had a very low birth rate for a long time. It also has the highest life expectancy in the world, and one of the stingiest immigration policies in the world. As a result, it has a rapidly aging population that is changing what everyday life in Japan is all about. Now, to be sure, this has been going on for a long time and people have worried about it for a long time, but as this week's Economist points out in two related stories, the time for action has definitely arrived. Suburbs are aging and schools are closing, and the retirement age (which was a ridiculously low 60), is going up, people are staying in the labor force longer, and people are discovering subtle ways around the country's lack of interest in immigrants.
A building once occupied by a junior high school, which closed for lack of pupils, is becoming a language college. Jellyfish, an education firm with tentacles in several countries, will use it to teach Japanese to young graduates from East and South-East Asia. It hopes to enroll 120 students, plus staff, which ought to make a notable difference in a district where there are now fewer than 350 people in their 20s. Some of those students might even decide they like the place, and settle down. Whisper it, but this sounds a little like a more liberal immigration policy.
It is culture, broadly speaking, that has produced the current situation in Japan. The birth rate is so low partly because women are expected to take care of children, and their aging parents, and their husband's aging parents and it is impossible to be society's version of a mother and housewife if you are working, so most women have chosen to have only a small family. And, of course, women are much less likely than men to reach the highest levels in society, so they are not able to save as much for retirement as might otherwise be the case. And businesses stick with the old rules of paying by seniority rather than by accomplishment, so there is a push in business to get older people (men) out of the labor force in order to save money.  Japan has adopted many of the Western methods for developing an economy (and, in turn, the rest of the world has learned a lot from Japan), but the country has not adopted some of the key cultural changes that would have provided smoother demographic sailing at this point in history.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

El Salvador Has the World's Strictest Abortion Laws

An article on the Foreign Policy website this week reminded us that, among El Salvador's many issues, the country has the world's strictest abortion laws (albeit tied with five other).
Since 1998, El Salvador has been one of six countries where abortion is banned under all circumstances, regardless of whether the mother’s life is at risk, the fetus is viable, or the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest. Under the guidance of the Catholic Church, legislators took the ban a step further the following year and changed the Salvadoran Constitution to state that life begins at conception — securing its legal standing and enshrining the strict interpretation in the country’s political DNA.
The point of the article is that women who have an abortion can wind up in jail, and any physician or other person who performs an abortion can wind up in jail. Nonetheless, there is an underground "economy" in which abortions are performed, thus saving the lives of women, especially young women, who have no other recourse. The article also points out that the measures to protect the life of an unborn child are somewhat hypocritical in a society whose capital, San Salvador, is widely regarded to be the murder capital of the world.

The Catholic Church is clearly indicted in the article as the prime mover behind the strict abortion laws, and this is a reminder that it is not religion per se, but religiosity (the way one practices a given religion), that makes a difference in matters of reproductive health. I pointed that out many years ago in a PRB Bulletin on the Demography of Islamic Nations, and it is still true today. You can visualize this in the global North-South divide in abortion laws, as put together by the Center for Reproductive Rights.



I should point out, however, that to its credit El Salvador does allow access to contraception and the PRB World Population Data Sheet shows that 68 percent of married women aged 15-49 are using some form of modern contraception--exactly the same percentage as in the U.S. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Disconnect Between the Perpetrators and Victims of Climate Change

One of the big issues facing the world is that some leaders--such as President-elect Trump--want to deny the existence of global climate change. It is relatively easy to do that, in my opinion, if you are rich in a rich country and can readily avoid any consequences of the polluting gases that the rich countries are disproportionately pumping into the atmosphere. The victims tend to be elsewhere in the world, almost invisible from view. But Nicholas Kristof of the NYTimes has a nice story today in which he describes climate change victims in Madagascar, an island off the southeastern coast of Africa, reached most readily through South Africa.
Climate change, disproportionately caused by carbon emissions from America, seems to be behind a severe drought that has led crops to wilt across seven countries in southern Africa. The result is acute malnutrition for 1.3 million children in the region, the United Nations says.
Families are slowly starving because rains and crops have failed for the last few years. They are reduced to eating cactus and even rock or ashes. The United Nations estimates that nearly one million people in Madagascar alone need emergency food assistance.
There are two lessons here, only one of which Kristof points out. The first is that we need to not only do all we can to curb climate pollution, we also need to help pay for its side effects. The second is that we need to continue to reach out to these populations to make sure that they have appropriate levels of reproductive health care, so that our efforts to keep people alive, especially children, are not defeated by a birth rate that is higher than local circumstances can sustain. These are not always popular messages, but they are vital to the future of the world, since we continue to add 78 million per year, as I noted a couple of days ago.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

U.S. Population Grew by more than 2 Million People in 2016

The U.S. Census Bureau celebrated the new year by posting its estimates of the population of the U.S. and the world as a whole. As I noted a few days ago, population growth has been slowing in this country, but we still added more than 2 million people during the year, increasing the total to more than 324 million. The world's population rose to almost 7.4 billion after adding nearly 78 million during the year.
In January 2017, the United States is expected to experience one birth every 8 seconds and one death every 11 seconds. Meanwhile, net international migration is expected to add one person to the U.S. population every 33 seconds. The combination of births, deaths and net international migration will increase the U.S. population by one person every 17 seconds.
During January 2017, 4.3 births and 1.8 deaths are expected worldwide every second.
These continual increases in population are, of course, the reason we have global climate change, and why the number of people being forced out of their homes is so large. Even when percentages of things stay the same, as the population base grows, the use of earth's resources increases and the competition for those resources increases.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Top Ten Posts of 2016

As I do at the beginning of each year, I have taken a look back at the most popular of my posts in the past year. Who are the winners among the 232 that I posted in 2016, based on the number of hits on each one? Here they are:

1. There was no huge winner from last year, in contrast to some previous years, and the top three blog posts all came just shortly after the surprising Presidential election win by Donald Trump. The winner was the one on disruptive demographics.

2. A close second, both in terms of popularity and timing, was about the concerns raised for the future of reproductive rights of women in the U.S. following Trump's win, combined with the fact that both the Senate and the House of Representatives kept their Republican (i.e., anti-women's rights) majorities, and the composition of the U.S. Supreme Court is about to change.

3. The third most popular occurred the day before #2, and summarized the demographics of the presidential election results, revealing a clearly divided house in American politics.

4. The fourth most popular was not on a very dramatic topic, but it caught a lot of attention nonetheless, dealing as it did with the implications of young versus old age structures around the globe.

5. For the fifth most popular post we have to go back to January of 2016, when I wrote about the religious demographics of the Middle East--a topic that will be on the front burner for quite a while.

6. The sixth spot was awarded to the post last month about the use of commuting data to define regions within the U.S. This was referring to a very innovative use of census and American Community Survey data, and I was pleasantly surprised to see its popularity.

7. The seventh most popular post was about the surprising discovery that there are more children in the U.S. than we thought, largely due to Hispanic kids that were missed in the census count.

8. The eighth spot takes us back to February and dealt with the accusations (fake news, perhaps) that Monsanto was responsible for the Zika virus problem. No matter how much you might hate Monsanto, it seems unlikely that you can pin the Zika virus on them.

9. Ninth place went to a summary of the demographics of the Brexit vote--last year's other surprise election outcome, which also was heavily influenced by demographic issues and composition.

10. Rounding out the top ten was a recent post, and actually one of my personal favorites, reflecting on the fact that as bad as things might seem, the world is a better place now than it used to be--we are living longer and healthier lives and are less poor as a species than we have ever been.

Keep that good thought with you as we head into 2017. Happy New Year!