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

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Power of Overpopulation in Movies and Literature

If you've seen the wildly popular movie "Avengers: Infinity War" you know that the plot revolves around the issue of overpopulation. Thanks to Todd Gardner (@PopGeog on Twitter) for linking me to a story in The Guardian that digs into this a bit:
There are 7,622,000,000 people in the world today, and not all of them are superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But even though rising population figures are good for box-office receipts, it is a real-world trend that has sparked alarm and controversy for decades. And, while it is still a somewhat peripheral concern in contemporary politics – unlike, say, climate change – overpopulation has nevertheless become the crisis du jour in modern blockbuster filmmaking. As a movie-plot issue, population crisis exists between a plausible future and an imagined dystopia, offering Hollywood a force of moral nuance that exceeds the brute power of pure evil’s wrecking balls.
The makers of Avengers: Infinity War (2018) actually grappled with a double-pronged population crisis in the latest instalment in the Marvel’s Avengers series. First, they had to ram dozens of standalone superheroes, from Doctor Strange to Black Panther, into a tolerable length of film, and second, only anxiety over population growth could provide sufficient moral complexity for the franchise’s big boss, Thanos.
The term "dystopia" (essentially Hell on Earth) is of course the opposite of "utopia" (essentially Heaven on Earth) and the role of demography in dystopias was labeled "Demodystopias" by Andrew Domingo in an article published in 2008 in Population and Development Review. Indeed, it seems that dystopian publications are typically the inspirations for the movies.
Hollywood’s interest in population crises reflects a publishing trend. Back in 2013, in the space of a month, two books were published with near identical titles and subjects: Stephen Emmott’s bite-sized, apocalyptic, vision, Ten Billion, and Danny Dorling’s longer, more optimistic, Population 10 Billion. Both posed the question: when the global population count hits 10 billion, as projections suggest it will around 2050, can we sustain life on Earth at current levels of consumption?
As Dorling observes, “At some point we should begin to get low fertility apocalyptic films, when a director realises that average human fertility is falling rapidly and not set to stop at two babies per couple but below that after 2100 (if not before 2100).” As Luthersdottir says: “Popular culture reflects that which is popular – and as such it will always reflect that which is the perceived reality … rather than attempting to enlighten us about actual reality.”
In his 2008 article Domingo talks about these kinds of low-fertility scenarios, and in particular mentions Ben Wattenberg:
Ben Wattenberg presented himself as a prophet of the disasters that demographic implosion would bring to the planet in his book The Birth Dearth (1987), although with far less popular success than Ehrlich on the population explosion. In 2004 he returned to the theme in Fewer: How the New Demography of Depopulation Will Shape Our Future.
Hollywood producers haven't yet jumped on this... 

Friday, May 18, 2018

Wealth Inequality Hits Families with Children Very Hard

Yesterday I suggested that an important reason for the continued drop in the U.S. birth rate was the rising level of income and wealth inequality. Professor Rubèn Rumbaut pointed me to an Op-Ed in today's NYTimes that underscores that thesis. The article is drawn from a paper just accepted for publication in Demography, the official journal of the Population Association of America (PAA), so it represents peer-reviewed scientific research. Their article in Demography starts out with the following comments:
In his 1984 presidential address to the Population Association of America, demographer Samuel Preston called attention to what he saw as a troubling trend: the transfer of resources to the elderly at the expense of children (Preston 1984). As Preston noted, society bears responsibility for taking care of the elderly and children, who often rely on others for resources. As America’s primary dependents, however, the elderly and children often compete for resources. By prioritizing the elderly over children in the provision of public transfers, Preston argued, society risked negative consequences because subsequent generations would have insufficient resources to thrive. More than three decades later, little has changed: the United States still directs a disproportionate amount of social welfare dollars to those over the age of 65 relative to those under the age of 18 (Moffitt 2015).
That last reference is to yet another Past President of the PAA, Robert Moffitt, who is at The Johns Hopkins University. Professor Preston was, as it turns out, a member of my own PhD committee at UC, Berkeley, so you can see that these issues are central to what demographers do. 

The authors of this paper--Christina M. Gibson-Davis of Duke University and Christine Percheski of Northwestern University--analyzed data from the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF), a cross-sectional study of U.S. households conducted by the Federal Reserve approximately every three years. Data come from the years 1989 to 2013. They found that the elderly are doing OK over this time, but--consistent with Professor Preston's concern--the same is not true for families with children:
Families with children fared worse as a group. Overall, their wealth declined by 56 percent in the same period. More important, they also faced a wide and growing divide: Wealth inequality for these households grew significantly from 1989 to 2013. The top 1 percent saw their wealth increase by 156 percent, while parents in the bottom half saw their wealth shrink by 260 percent. About a third of all families with children in 2013 had no wealth, only debt.
In 2013, the top 1 percent of these families had a median wealth of $5.1 million, thanks to skyrocketing incomes, increasing home values and strong returns on stocks and investments. They have millions in savings and generous trust funds for their children.
Families on the bottom rungs live very differently. They may not even own a home, and if they face an unexpected expense, like a medical emergency, they don’t have a cushion of savings or other assets to draw on. And when their children start college, some of these parents may still be paying off their own student loans.
This is precisely what I had in mind in suggesting that rising economic inequality was causing people of reproductive age in this country to think hard about having a child. And, I could not agree more with their overall conclusion: "The United States needs a fundamental rethinking of public policy priorities to improve the lives of the next generation of children." This should include the creation of better, higher-paying jobs for young adults (the potential parents), along with strong support for academically excellent (and safe) public education so that these kids can grow up with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in life.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

US Birth Rate Down Yet Again

Women in the U.S. continue to have fewer babies. That's the news from the National Center for Health Statistics, highlighted in today's NYTimes (and thanks to Rubèn Rumbaut for the link).
The fertility rate in the United States fell to a record low for a second straight year, federal officials reported Thursday, extending a deep decline that began in 2008 with the Great Recession.
You can see in the graph below that both the number of births and the general fertility rate (births per 1,000 women aged 15-44) plummeted in the 1970s as the country went through the Baby Bust that followed the Baby Boom. The number of births recovered over time, largely because the number of women of reproductive continued to increase. But you can see that the birth rate itself never really recovered. It bounced up a bit in line with the rise in economic activity that ultimately led to the Great Recession in 2008, which was followed by a relatively precipitous drop in numbers of births and the birth rate.


It is good of course that the teen birth rate continues to drop, and it is interesting that the only age group with a clear increase was 40-44. The long-term trend has been for rates to be declining at all ages under 35, and rising at ages 35-44. Clearly women are postponing births. Why? The reaction to the economic rise (an increase in the birth rate) and the Great Recession (a drop in the birth rate) suggests that the economy has a lot to do with people's decision-making, especially in an era where birth control is readily available (no matter how hard some people want to put a lid on that!). My theory is that the root cause of the fertility trend is the increasing level of income and wealth inequality in the United States. Neither the President nor Congress seems to have any inclination to invest in infrastructure improvement and other government-sponsored programs that have been key components to past economic growth. Handing big tax breaks to a relatively small number of wealthy people and large corporations has no history of stimulating the kind of economic growth that helps a wide swath of people, whereas government-sponsored programs do have that kind of history.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Urban Population of the World Projected to Increase by 2.5 Billion by Mid-Century

Thanks to Todd Gardner for the link to a report released today from the UN Population Division detailing their new projections of the urban population.
By 2050, two out of every three people are likely to be living in cities or other urban centres, according to a new United Nations report, highlighting the need for more sustainable urban planning and public services.
Most of the increase is expected to be highly-concentrated in just a handful of countries. “Together, India, China and Nigeria will account for 35 per cent of the projected growth of the world’s urban population between 2018 and 2050…It is projected that India will have added 416 million urban dwellers, China 255 million and Nigeria 189 million,” said DESA, announcing the findings on Wednesday.
By 2028, the Indian capital, New Delhi, is projected to become the most populous city on the planet. Currently, Tokyo is the world’s largest, with an agglomeration of 37 million inhabitants, followed by New Delhi (29 million), and Shanghai (26 million). Mexico City and São Paulo, come next; each with around 22 million inhabitants.
As the report suggests, these projections imply a tremendous demand for services to meet the needs of these new (and current) urban residents in a sustainable manner--shelter, food, water, sanitation, education, law enforcement, and of course jobs, many of which will be focused precisely on servicing those needs. This will be simultaneously a challenge and an opportunity, and guarantees that the world will be a different place at mid-century than it is now.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Demography and its Consequences

One of the consequences of the age transition in many countries is that at some point the working age population shrinks in comparison to the other age groups. These changes require a response and therein lies the linkage between demography and everything else going on in society. Last week's Economist had a story in the print edition that addressed this issue with the heading "Demography and its Consequences: Small Isn't Beautiful." The geographic focus is on Eastern Europe and the way in which its labor force has been decimated both by emigration and a low birth rate, keeping in mind that emigration exacerbates the birth rate issue because it is typically adults of reproductive age that are moving out. 



So, we get back to the questions of how to keep the economy going and how to pay for the retirements of the elderly if there are fewer workers than there used to be? The Economist puts forth some suggestions: (1) increase the labor force productivity of women; (2) increase the retirement age; and (3) let immigrants replace the "missing" workers. These are not new ideas, but they obviously bear repeating, and I appreciated the fact that this article quoted a Past President of the Population Association of America, Ron Lee of UC, Berkeley:
The levers for governments to pull are well known: they can remove financial incentives (tax or benefits) to retire early and increase those to keep working. Raising the state retirement age is a prerequisite almost everywhere; if the average retirement age were increased by 2-2.5 years per decade between 2010 and 2050, this would be enough to offset demographic changes faced by “old” countries such as Germany and Japan, found Andrew Mason of the University of Hawaii and Ronald Lee of the University of California, Berkeley.
So, if countries chose only this one option of delaying retirement, much of the demographic angst would go away. And keep in mind that none of the options laid out require a push for a higher birth rate.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

There is Still a Question About the Citizenship Question of Census 2020

A few days ago a House of Representatives panel met to ask questions of the person in the U.S. Justice Department who had officially requested that a citizenship question be included on the full census in 2020--not just on the American Community Survey and the Current Population Survey, as is currently the practice. He didn't show up. Fortunately, it seems that both Republicans and Democrats in the House were unhappy about that, but if my own Congressman is any indication, it may nonetheless be a tough fight to keep this question off the census form. On Friday, his office finally responded to my messages to him about the census question. Here is his response, which is just the usual talking points:

Dear John:

          Thank you for contacting me regarding the 2020 Census.  I welcome the opportunity to respond to this important issue.

          As you may know, the U.S. Census acts as a numerical count of every resident in the United States.  The Census is mandated under Article I, Section II of the Constitution and takes place every ten years.  This data is used to determine the number of seats each state has in the United States House of Representatives, distribute billions in federal funds, and ensure the safety of our communities.  Federal law requires all residents of the United States to answer the census.  

          Per the request of the Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced that the 2020 census would include a citizenship question in order to help better enforce the Voting Rights Act.  You'll be interested to know that Representative Carolyn Maloney [D-NY] introduced H.R. 5359, the 2020 Census Improving Data and Enhanced Accuracy (IDEA) Act in the House and Senator Brian Schatz [D-HI] introduced S. 2578 as the Senate companion bill under the same title.  Both measures would require the Secretary of Commerce to provide advance notice to Congress before changing any questions on the decennial census.  Currently, H.R. 5359 has been referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and S. 2578 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs for further consideration. 

          As illegal immigration continues to be a serious problem in our country, I believe individuals who lawfully seek to become citizens of our country should be welcomed into our democracy.  It is important to know who resides in the United States, whether they are legal residents or not.  Additionally, between 1820 and 1950, almost every census included a question on citizenship in some form.  Today, other surveys used to sample populations, such as the Current Population Survey and the American Community Survey, continue to ask a question on citizenship. 

          Again, thank you for contacting me about this issue.  If you have a questions or concern please don't hesitate to contact me. 

Sincerely,
                                                                                  
                                                                                  Duncan Hunter
                                                                                  Member of Congress

This response from Congressman Hunter arrived on Friday, shortly before he appeared live on the Bill Maher show on HBO. He wasn't asked about the census, but he was asked about a variety of other things, for which he also just spouted the talking points.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Can We Keep Feeding the Population?

This was the question that Malthus asked most famously way back at the end of the 18th century. We have been very innovative in our ability to grow food faster than the population has grown over the past two hundred years since Malthus first raised the concern. But we have to constantly keep our eye on this prize of feeding an ever larger number of humans, as I am prone to remind you on a regular basis (for example, recently on Earth Day!). As I noted in yesterday's blog post, two recent articles speak to this issue--one negatively, and one positively.

The negative one is a story that you probably already know about. We're losing good farmland all over the world, including here in the United States:
Around any large or mid-size city in America, one can find land that was previously rich, fertile farmland being bulldozed and segmented to make room for housing and/or commercial businesses. It might be a well-deserved retirement fund for farmers, but once the land is covered with buildings and residences, it will never be farmland again.
The rise of cities over the past two centuries, in particular, has meant that an increasing fraction of the population is not working on a farm, and so food has to be brought to them. A well-positioned city is obviously one that is near good farmland that can provide food for the urban residents. This is a pattern we see all over the world. But the downside is that a lot of this good land gets wiped out over time by the sprawl of the cities. This is one of the reasons why the amount of good farmland is so limited.

What can we do about this? Aqua-culture has been one answer--farming the sea for fish and other things. An article in Al Jazeera points to a "farm" in Connecticut:
Bren Smith is in the process of creating thousands of decent jobs, transform how we harvest food from the oceans, and blunt the effects of climate change and marine degradation - all at the same time. The system he has developed to do this is called '3D Ocean Farm', a polyculture vertical farming system under the water's surface which grows a mix of seaweed crops and shellfish. Requiring zero inputs, it is the most sustainable form of food production on the planet, and it also sequesters carbon and rebuilds reef ecosystems. The crops can be used as food, fertiliser, animal feed and even energy.
And then there's the process of creating "meat" in the lab, instead of raising and killing animals for meat. 
While the statistics surrounding the industry are terrifying, there is no sign that the industry is slowing down. Meat consumption is on track to rise 75 percent by 2050. Scientists at Mosa Meats in the Netherlands believe they have found a solution to this dangerous trend: growing meat in a lab. This technique eliminates the need to harm live animals, eradicates the dedication of large swathes of land to the cultivation of animals and dramatically reduce methane emissions.
"Methane is actually a very powerful greenhouse gas," says Dr Mark Post at the University of Maastricht. Post is part of a number of teams involved in research surrounding the production of lab-grown meat."[Methane is] 20 times more powerful than C02 and livestock is accountable for 40 percent of all methane emissions. This process would reduce the number of animals from 1.5 billion to 30,000," continues Post.
These two innovations sound very promising, you have to admit. Now the question is whether science and the marketplace can come together. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Thanks to Todd Gardner...

Thanks to Todd Gardner for linking us today to a story in Al Jazeera about some new ways of growing food that may keep future humans from starving. Before I get to this story, however, let me point out that you will often find the comment "thanks to Todd Gardner" at the beginning of my blog posts. Dr. Gardner is a researcher at the Center for Economic Studies in the U.S. Census Bureau. Although his Ph.D. is in history, he was trained by the historical demographers at the Minnesota Population Center, home of IPUMS, and he is also a very good population geographer. Given the scope that he brings to demography, it is also not surprising that in his spare time he keeps track of news stories that might interest demographers and posts them to his Twitter account: @PopGeog. I follow him and you should, too, if you don't already. 


I had the pleasure of sitting down for breakfast with Todd when we were both at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America a couple of weeks ago in Denver. The work that he and his colleagues do at the Census Bureau is not just fascinating--it is a very important part of what keeps the economy of this country growing. It is hard to conduct business well in the absence of good information, and the U.S. Census Bureau is one of, if not the, best data-gathering institutions in the world. Mention that to your Member of Congress every time you have a chance!!

Now, about that story. I'll get to it tomorrow, when I will link up that story with this one about the loss of farmland in the U.S. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Economy of Cities Helped Drive 19th Century Urbanization

Philippe Bocquier and Sandra Bree have just published an article in Demographic Research that takes us back to 19th century France in search of the major drivers of the early parts of the urban transition in that country. Consistent with what you already know from my book, the death rates in urban places in France in the 19th century were higher than in the countryside, while the urban birth rates were a bit lower (although even in rural areas the birth rate was dropping in the mid to late 19th century in France). So, the rate of natural increase was lower in cities than outside of cities, and it was clearly the economic attraction of the cities that led people in rural places to migrate to the cities.

As I read the article (which is very dense with a lot of discussion about data, methods, and results) I couldn't help but think back to the trip that my wife and I made to Denmark a couple of years ago, in which we visited the rural village where her maternal grandfather had been born and raised late in the 19th century (the village of Tranekaer, on Langeland--an island about a two-hour drive from Copenhagen). We actually found the thatched roof house where he was born, because one of her uncles had been there right after WWII (he had been stationed in Germany), and we knew what we were looking for. It seemed like a good-sized house, but the local historian showed us the census forms for a year close to when he was born and we confirmed her suspicion that several families were sharing the house. Indeed, she told us unequivocally that it was rural poverty that drove people to migrate. Cities were an obvious choice, because they were just ramping up their level of economic activity in the 19th century, but for many Scandinavians the choice was rural America. A woman at a local shop told us that every summer she is visited by Americans whose family members migrated from Denmark to the upper midwest of the U.S. to start a new life, which is exactly what my wife's grandfather and his family did--moving to South Dakota where they became successful farmers. 

Anyway, thanks to Philippe Bocquier and Sandra Bree for a very nice research article and for triggering that trip down memory lane!!

Monday, May 7, 2018

Culture and Money are Part of Demography

Demographic research shows us very clearly that culture and money influence the way we organize our lives, and in turn affect underlying demographic trends such as the birth rate, death rate, and migration patterns--which in turn circle around to affect culture and money. I was inspired to point these things out by an Op-Ed in today's NYTimes by Andrew Cherlin, Professor of Sociology at The Johns Hopkins University, and a Past President of the Population Association of America, as I've mentioned before. He was weighing in on the ongoing question of how did it happen that Donald Trump was elected President? On what basis, for example, did white voters who had helped elect Barack Obama to the presidency, wind up then voting for Trump? Was it culture (a fear of "cultural displacement" that can lead to or exacerbate racism?) or was it economics (a feeling that lower-income white workers had been left behind by Democrats?). Professor Cherlin was very clear about his view of the matter--you can't separate these things:
The debate over why the white working class supported Mr. Trump raises a question: Why do we care so much about determining precisely how much political upheaval is due to economics and how much is due to culture?
Perhaps we are drawn to this futile quest because economic problems seem more tractable — more easily dealt with through the levers of government policy — while cultural issues seem more resistant to change. Perhaps it is because people’s economic troubles are often said to reflect larger, structural problems beyond their control, whereas their cultural deficiencies are sometimes seen as their own fault. When academics and journalists want to express affinity with the working class, in other words, they focus on poverty, and when they don’t, they focus on prejudice.
Controversy over economic versus cultural explanations of poverty can be traced to 1966, when the anthropologist Oscar Lewis, in his book “La Vida,” on Puerto Ricans in New York, wrote of a “culture of poverty” that seemed impervious to change.
Today, however, astute scholars do not see a wall between economics and culture. They acknowledge that financial hardship affects the daily lives of working-class Americans, but they add that how they respond is based on cultural beliefs that may lead them to scapegoat minority groups.
People with unstable or insufficient incomes may express their fears by talking about race because that is the way they have learned to interpret the world. People who are frustrated by their lack of progress may still try to defend the dignity of their work. It is a mistake to see economics and culture as distinct forces. Both propelled Mr. Trump to victory.
If you read this and think to yourself, "what does this have to do with demography?" the answer is of course that everything is connected to demography. Patterns of migration, patterns of births and deaths, and the demographic characteristics of different groups that are shaped by cultural changes taking place are all wrapped up in what we can generally call "cultural demography."

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Can China Be Both Old and Rich?

The common mantra in the world is that "China will grow old before it gets rich." This is based on the fact that the rapid drop in fertility in China, which began in the 1960s but was entrenched with the implementation of the one-child policy in 1979, was a major contributor to China's economic rise. We demographers know with certainty that such a rapid drop in fertility, especially when combined with declining mortality and a distaste for immigration, will lead first to a "demographic dividend" of a large working age population in relation to the younger and older populations, and will then lead to an aging of the population in which the older population increases rapidly in relation to the working age population. Chinese demographers understand the age transition and China's rise in economic growth has been fueled by this age transition in combination with hard work and rising levels of education. 

Will that aging population lead to economic collapse? The common view is that it will, and this is expressed in a story published a couple of days ago in the Wall Street Journal. The headline is "A Limit to China's Economic Rise: Not Enough Babies." 
China is careening toward a demographic time bomb. In another decade, it will have more people over 60 than the entire population of the U.S. Its workforce is shrinking, and not enough babies are being born.
Actually, the story is more nuanced, because it mainly talks about the constraints that the Chinese government continues to put on people to limit family size. To be sure, I am not in favor of any government telling people how many children they should or shouldn't have. But it has seemed clear to me for a long time that the Chinese government (which continues to drive the bus in China) does not see a larger population as a "solution" to the aging problem. Rather, it has been going around the world investing in projects and grabbing technologies that will allow its economy to survive even in the face of an aging population. The best new evidence of that is an Op-Ed piece in today's NYTimes by Thomas Friedman.
ACT III opened in October 2015, when China announced its new long-term vision: “Made in China 2025,” a plan to dominate 10 next-generation industries, including robotics, self-driving cars, electric vehicles, artificial intelligence, biotech and aerospace. 
When the U.S. and Europe saw this, they basically said: Wow. We were ready to turn the other cheek when your combination of hard work, cheating and industrial policy was focused on low-end industries. But if you use the same strategies to dominate these high-end industries, we’re toast. We need some new rules.
The point is that "Made in China 2025" is clearly a plan to keep the economy booming despite China's aging population. In some ways, that would only be fair, since the graying population represents the cohort that suffered through the one-child policy and worked hard enough to propel the Chinese economy forward. Friedman does not talk about the demographic issues, but his other writings in the past suggest that he is well aware that a clear underlying motivation for what is happening in China is that the government wants the country to be both old and rich.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Can't We Just Make Contraception Available to Everyone?

Yesterday at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America (PAA) in Denver, the PAA History Committee (which I chair in my role as PAA Historian) had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Amy Tsui, immediate Past President of the PAA. She is Professor of Population, Family and Reproductive Health in The Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health. She is also the former Director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive at John Hopkins. Her entire academic life has been devoted to the issue of reproductive health and seeking ways to help women meet their reproductive goals. This isn't just about family limitation, but includes delaying childbearing until circumstances are optimum for a birth, and ensuring the best health possible for pregnant women so that the odds are increased that the baby will be born in the best of health--attributes that her research shows will have long-term effects.

I was thinking about her life's work when I saw a link from Population Matters to a story indicating that Ghana is going to experiment with an expansion of family planning services within its National Health Insurance Scheme. [You can read a bit about the history of the NHIS in a paper published by three of my colleagues.]
The National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) would, from May 1, 2018, kick-start a pilot project to include family planning in its services in six selected municipalities and districts across the country for valid NHIS subscribers.
The introduction of family planning onto the scheme is in collaboration with the Ghana Health Service as part of efforts to reduce maternal and infant mortality, unwanted pregnancies and abortion among the youth, which mostly led to school dropouts and health complications.
Madam Stella Adu-Amankwah, the Deputy Director of Corporate Affairs Directorate, National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), said this at a community durbar [public meeting] on Family Planning practices at Kotintaabig in the Nabdam District of the Upper East Region.
The durbar, organised by the District NHIS, was to sensitise community members on the importance of adopting and practising safe family planning methods, which ensures the growth and development of the child, the wellbeing of women and ultimately contribute to the socio-economic development of the country.
This is only a pilot project, but with any luck the results will encourage the government to expand this quickly to the rest of the country. Dr. Tsui's research clearly shows that this kind of program will improve the lives of women, their children, and ultimately their communities and the entire society.

PS--the interview with Dr. Tsui will be posted online to the PAA website in a few weeks. I'll let you know when that happens.

Monday, April 23, 2018

A Shout-Out to the UC Planetary Health Center of Expertise

I spent this morning in the company of people who have organized the University of California Global Health Institute's Center of Excellence on Planetary Health. One of its two Co-Directors is my long-time friend and colleague David Lopez-Carr, who is Professor Geography at UC Santa Barbara. Here is their overall statement of purpose:
Planetary health is an emerging field that recognizes a balance is needed among the global systems of land, air, water and life. It raises awareness about our looming crisis of rapidly growing populations juxtaposed against limited food and natural resources. Climate change adds more unpredictability and extreme events into the mix. Planetary health identifies solutions that will help populations, both human and animal, to foster resilience in the face of changing environments.
The other Center of Excellence funded by the UC Global Health Institute is Women's Health, Gender and Empowerment:
As we approach 2020, women and girls continue to struggle for equal rights and opportunities. The oppression of women and girls is a pervasive human rights violation with profound effects on their health and wellbeing. 
The Center of Expertise on Women's Health, Gender and Empowerment (WHGE) envisions a world in which equitable gender norms lead to healthy and empowered women — including UC students. The Center promotes research, education and community engagement both globally and locally to reduce gender and health inequities.
One of the things strongly emphasized today was that these two themes go together. Planetary health is very dependent on the actions of women, and the planet's future rests heavily on the education of women (along with men, of course) on how to best use our resources in a sustainable manner.

This morning's meeting followed yesterday's UC Global Health Day at UC San Diego, sponsored by the UC Global Health Institute. Now, I have to tell you that even though I am affiliated with UCSD as a Clinical Professor of Global Public Health, by the time I heard about Global Health Day it was all sold out! No seats available, don't even show up! I'm guessing that they were not necessarily thinking in these terms, but it was a great metaphor for where we are in terms of planetary health. Are we, for all intents and purposes, sold out?

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Earth Day 2018

This is Earth Day 2018, although as I've said many times over the years, every day really is Earth Day, because we don't have any alternative place to live if we ruin our home here. And, of course, we are very much in the process of ruining it. The important issue is whether or not we change course quickly enough to sustain our global population indefinitely. The Earth Day Network has suggested that this year we focus on ending plastic pollution, which is affecting water-borne plants and animals in ways that are hard to see directly, but are nonetheless incredibly destructive.

I remind you every year that I have participated in each of the 48 Earth Days that have so far been celebrated. Back in 1970 I was just finishing my doctorate in demography at UC Berkeley and I accepted the invitation to drive down to Fresno State College (now California State University, Fresno) for their Earth Day festivities (and it was a very nice celebration). At the time the world's population was estimated to be 3.7 billion--a bit less than half of what it is today--but the growth rate was the highest the world had ever recorded. My message to the audience 48 years ago was not much different than it would be today:
It seems likely that if we don't change our ways the ultimate creditors of the world--our food resources, our water, our air, the quality of human life--all those things from which we have been so heavily borrowing, may just foreclose on us. Frankly, there are just too many people around, and if you don't think so now, you can wait another 30 years when there may well be twice as many people on this planet.
Fortunately, the birth rate did drop somewhat faster than we were expecting at that time and so 30 years later, in 2000, the population had increased "only" to 6.1 billion--not a doubling, but still a significant increase creating even more issues in terms of environmental impacts and questions of sustainability. Of course, we now do have more than twice as many people on the planet as we did on the first Earth Day. The good news about that is that the average person in the world is better off now than then. The bad news is that the probability is extremely low that we can keep this up. Maybe some miracle will pop up to save us (and many people obviously live with that expectation in mind), but in my view we have a key list of things that must be done if we are to sustain life on the planet:

  1. Make sure that the birth rate stays low in places that it is already low, and keeps coming down everywhere else;
  2. Move to diets that are more plant-based, reversing the extraordinarily harmful environmental consequences of growing food to animals that we intend to kill instead of growing it to directly feed humans.
  3. Dramatically lower our pollution of the land, the air, and the water.
These things don't require miracles--just a lot of ingenuity and hard work.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Can China and India Handle Their Excess of Males?

The Washington Post has created a very good--and visually entertaining!--story about the problems that China and India face as a result of their unbalanced sex ratios. In both cases, the societal preference for males over females has combined with ultrasound technology that can identify the sex of a fetus which can then lead to sex-selective abortion. In the old days, infanticide was the only way to handle this issue, but the new methods make it vastly easier to have a son rather than a daughter.
The consequences of having too many men, now coming of age, are far-reaching: Beyond an epidemic of loneliness, the imbalance distorts labor markets, drives up savings rates in China and drives down consumption, artificially inflates certain property values, and parallels increases in violent crime, trafficking or prostitution in a growing number of locations.
Out of China’s population of 1.4 billion, there are nearly 34 million more males than females — the equivalent of almost the entire population of California, or Poland, who will never find wives and only rarely have sex. China’s official one-child policy, in effect from 1979 to 2015, was a huge factor in creating this imbalance, as millions of couples were determined that their child should be a son.
India, a country that has a deeply held preference for sons and male heirs, has an excess of 37 million males, according to its most recent census. The number of newborn female babies compared with males has continued to plummet, even as the country grows more developed and prosperous. The imbalance creates a surplus of bachelors and exacerbates human trafficking, both for brides and, possibly, prostitution. Officials attribute this to the advent of sex-selective technology in the last 30 years, which is now banned but still in widespread practice.
So, what to do about this problem? In China there is a booming business devoted to bringing in brides from neighboring nations, but those countries do not have an excess of females over males, so that is not a societal solution. There is no clear way to make up the difference without "stealing" women from other countries. This is a generation that will work its way through the age structure coping with the imbalance. My view is that in the short-term societal resources are going to have to be devoted to creating new attitudes and activities that allow unmarried men to feel integrated into society. In that process, the societal preference for sons needs to be seriously revisited and revised so that the future sex ratio is more balanced--as the UNPopulation Division assumes will happen in its projections for these countries. These things obviously won't happen easily...we're in for a rough ride.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

More Evidence That Americanization is Bad for Your Health

One of the saddest commentaries about health care in the U.S. is that we pay more per person than any other country, but still wind up with the poorest health outcomes of any rich country. In that general sense, Americanization is bad for your health. The easiest way to see that is to compare the health of immigrants with people who were born in the U.S. A lot of people have done this, including me and my long-time friend and colleague, Dr. Rubèn Rumbaut at UC Irvine. As I noted a few years ago, we published a chapter in an edited volume which we titled "Children of Immigrants: Is Americanization Hazardous to Infant Health?" We also published a paper in the Journal of Immigrant Health that same year based on collaborative work with Dr. Norma Ojeda, who was then at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte in Tijuana, Mexico, but is now a Professor of Sociology here at SDSU. We found that the superior birth outcomes among immigrant women was not just a function of migration selectivity (the "healthy migrant" hypothesis). We compared Mexican women delivering in Tijuana with Mexico-born women delivering in San Diego and found that after controlling for characteristics of the women, birth outcomes were actually better among women in Tijuana than in San Diego. One variable that stood out was that women in Mexico were more likely to have multiple prenatal visits (which can identify problems and allow health care providers to deal with them) than in San Diego. Our research was 20 years ago, and even then health care outcomes were better on the southern side of the border than on this side. And keep in mind that the Mexico-born women had better birth outcomes than non-Hispanic white women in San Diego.

I bring all of this up because a paper has just been published in Public Health Reports that references our research and finds once again that foreign-born Hispanic women have better outcomes than U.S.-born Hispanic women. While our research focused on local outcomes, this research compares birth records for the entire U.S. with outcomes measured for the countries from which the immigrant mothers came. As is so often true with the world, the results are complicated by the fact that women born in Mexico, in particular, tend to have better outcomes than those born in other Latin American countries.
Our study found that US-born Hispanic women had a significantly greater risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, and small for gestational age than that of foreign-born Hispanic women. However, we  also found substantial variation in the rates of adverse birth outcomes among foreign-born women by country of birth, which remained after adjusting for maternal characteristics.
And, of course, this health disadvantage in the U.S. is not just one that shows up at birth. It persists into childhood and adulthood and will continue to do so until collectively we decide to change our diets and our health insurance schemes.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Role of Population and Family Planning in Peace and Security

This coming Thursday Richard Cincotta of the Wilson Center in Washington, DC is going to host a meeting (with a live webcast for those of us who can't be there) on a vitally important topic: "A More Secure World: The Role of Population and Family Planning in Peace and Security."
Population dynamics, including changes in age structure, may impact peace and security in fragile and developing states. Today’s young people are the largest generation of youth in the history of the world, and where governments are not able to provide them with the education, services, and employment they need, instability may arise. And in conflict-affected areas, the security of women and girls is further compromised by lack of access to reproductive health care and family planning.
Educating and empowering women, including ensuring access to voluntary family planning services, can help support peace and stability goals by increasing the foundation for stability. And where families can choose the number and timing of their children, women may have more opportunity to take part in civil society and peacebuilding.
Join us for a discussion on the connections between population dynamics and stability and the policy options for fulfilling the peace pillar of the Sustainable Development Goals.
If Richard Cincotta's name and these themes sound familiar, it may be that you read my blog post two weeks ago talking about his research. Check that out, and then calendar this Wilson Center event (Thursday, 19 April 2018 from 9-11AM EDT) so that you can be there in person or watch it live on the internet. I don't think we'll be disappointed. 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Nigeria's Oil Can Be Bad For Health

Oil has lifted Nigeria's economy and a better economy should be good for the health of the population. However, a recent report suggests that being too close to the oil is not such a good thing. 
...[G]rowing evidence suggests that the very same oil is also deepening a health divide between the country’s oil heartland and the rest of the nation. Between 2006 and 2016, life expectancy in Nigeria increased for men by seven years, to 63.7, and eight years for women, to 66.4. Yet in the Niger Delta region, life expectancy has fallen to between 40 and 43 years, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). Experts worry this sharpening gulf could further complicate efforts to bring peace to the conflict-torn Niger Delta. 
The problem is oil spills. If oil could be drilled and piped without ever spilling, then things might be OK. But, as the world has seen over and over again, oil spills happen, and they have serious negative consequences.
But the impact on human health is only now becoming clear. Research led by economist Roland Hodler from the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland published in September 2017 has shown that these oil spills are baby killers. Using spatial data from the Nigerian Oil Spill Monitor and the Demographic and Health Surveys, and relying on the comparison of siblings conceived before and after nearby oil spills, the researchers found that children born close to oil spills were twice as likely to die early. Of the 16,000 infants they sampled among those who died within the first month of their life in 2012, 70 percent — more than 11,000 — would have survived at least a year in the absence of oil spills, their findings suggest. And those who survive die much earlier than peers in other parts of the country. The UNEP attributes this disparity to lifetime exposure to contaminated air, water sources, soil and sediment resulting from oil spills.
I looked at infant mortality rates and under-five mortality rates calculated from the DHS data, and did not find this pattern at the regional level. Indeed, the southern regions of Nigeria have lower mortality levels than the northern regions, but the readily-available DHS data do not have the local spatial scale discussed in this report. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Fertility and Religion in the Middle East

A couple of days ago I discussed Iran's "eye-popping" demographics--rapid population growth followed by a state-sponsored (but not mandated) drop in fertility. That blog post elicited two good comments that are worthy of contemplation. 

First, Duane Miller noted that Iran now has the fastest aging population in the world. I haven't had time to verify that it is the fastest, but there is no doubt from United Nations Population Division data that it is fast. Indeed, by the middle of this century, the UNPD projects that 23% of Iran's population will be 65+. This is similar to where Japan, Italy, and Spain (among others) are right now, so at least Iran will have some role models.

And then Alex commented on the fact that Iran's neighbor, Azerbaijan, has demographics similar to Iran's, but is more secular than Iran. This is where demography, culture, and geography all intersect. There are only four countries in the world with majority-Shiite Muslim populations: Iran, Azerbaijan, Iraq, and Bahrain. Azerbaijan shares Iran's northern border, Iraq shares Iran's western border, and the only thing that separates Iran from Bahrain is the Persian Gulf. Bahrain and Azerbaijan have fertility levels that have dropped to just below replacement level (right around 2 children per woman), whereas the estimate for Iran is 1.6 children per woman. By contrast, Iraq's fertility (4.3) shows that religion is not determinative in the region. Of course, before the U.S. invaded Iraq, the predominantly Shiite population was ruled by the Sunni Muslim Saddam Hussein. Toppling him helped give rise to the Sunni-based Islamic State, which then riled things up in Syria, where a predominantly Sunni population is led by Bashar al-Assad, who is a member of the Shiite Alawite sect. The U.N. estimates that women there are having 2.8 children each, which is a bit higher than in Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, back to the north of Iran, Armenia is almost entirely Christian and it has a fertility level almost identical to Iran's (1.6), while just to the north of Armenia and Azerbaijan is Georgia, which is  also predominantly Christian and which has a fertility level almost identical to that in Azerbaijan.

I haven't forgotten that Turkey share's Iran's northwestern border. Turkey's fertility level is right at replacement, but the interesting thing here is eastern Turkey--which abuts Iran--has the highest levels of fertility in Turkey, whereas fertility in the western part of the country around Istanbul is about the same as the low level in Iran.

The point here is that we all (and I include me in that!) have to be careful about making too many generalizations, especially in that extremely complicated part of the world.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Family Unification is the Norm in Migration Patterns

The classic model of migration is that young unmarried people (historically men, but now also women) migrate to another country to find work. They may then return back to the country of origin, or stay in the country of destination and create a family with people already living in the country of origin. In today's world, the model of a single person migrating is more associated with guest-worker programs (such as exist especially in the oil-rich Gulf states) than it is with legal migration to countries like the U.S., Canada or the U.K. This point is made very clearly by a briefing paper just published by the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, DC. Look at the table below from their report:


I have often commented on the difference in immigration polices between Canada and the U.S., in which the former have a system much more oriented toward admitting people based on their potential economic contribution to Canada than on their family affiliation. But the authors of this report have dug deeply into the data to discover that in Canada and the U.K., for example, many people are admitted not just for economic reasons, but also because of their family connections to other immigrants. This is not a bad thing, of course. Rather, it is a much more nuanced system than exists, in particular, in the United States, where family admissions clearly predominate legal migrant admissions.

My biggest takeaway from this report is the complexity of immigration issues. The implicit policy position in low-fertility rich countries is that immigrants are needed as workers to replace the babies not otherwise being born. Otherwise, the aging population will undermine the economy because of its demand on resources relative to its economic productivity. However, it is not all clear that such economic issues are actually driving immigration policy and practices.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Iran's eye-popping demographics

I was recently alerted to a story published more than four years about the "biggest population boom in history." Now, I have to tell you ahead of time that I haven't confirmed that Iran's population boom right after its revolution in the late 1970s was the "biggest" ever, but the UN Population Division data do show that it was large. Of special importance is how the boom was dramatically reversed. But first the origins of the boom:
Before its Islamic Revolution, Iran had begun a family-planning program, following a 1966 census that showed a startling increase over the previous decade. In 1956, Iran had 18.9 million people, but Iranian women were averaging 7.7 children apiece [UN data show a slightly lower--but still high--number]. In only ten years, they added 6 million more. The health ministry began distributing birth control, but with only modest success: the 1976 census still showed fertility rates of 6.3 children per woman. The top-down program was training medical personnel, but failing to explain to parents why they might want to limit the size of their families.
But shortly after the revolution, Saddam Hussein took control of the government of Iraq and immediately started a war with Iran--one that would last eight years.
The Population and Family Planning office closed. In its place was a campaign for every fertile Iranian woman to help build Iran a “Twenty Million Man Army.” The legal marrying age for girls dropped from eighteen to thirteen. To encourage women to bear many children, ration cards were issued on a per capita basis, including newborns.
As war with Iraq dragged on, the birth rate surpassed Khomeini’s demographic dreams. Although a million Iranian fighters, including mere boys, were martyred by inhaling poison gas, clearing land mines, or charging in human waves into artillery barrages, the 1986 census counted nearly 50 million Iranians: a doubling in two decades. By some estimates, the growth rate peaked at 4.2 percent, near the biological limits for fertile women and the highest rate of population increase the world had ever seen.
As the UN brokered a peace deal in 1988, Iranian government officials took stock of the incredibly high level of population growth and decided that it could not continue.
A month after the August 1988 ceasefire finally ended the war, Iran’s religious leaders, demographers, budget experts, and health minister gathered for a summit conference on population in the eastern city of Mashhad, one of holiest cities for the world’s Shi’ite Muslims, whose name means “place of martyrdom.” The weighty symbolism was clear. “The report of the demographers and budget officers was given to Khomeini,” Dr. Shamshiri recalls. The economic prognosis for their overpopulated nation must have been very dire, given the Ayatollah’s contempt for economists, whom he often referred to as donkeys. “After he heard it, he said, ‘Do what is necessary.’ ”
Unlike China, the decision of how many was left to the parents. No law forbade them from having ten if they chose. But no one did. Instead, what happened next was the most stunning reversal of population growth in human history. Twelve years later, the Iranian minister of health would accept the United Nations Population Award for the most enlightened and successful approach to family planning the world had ever seen.
What did they do? They offered free methods of birth control (including sterilization for both women and men), without any restrictions such as needing a husband's approval. And--very importantly--education for women was a top priority. "In 1975, barely a third of Iranian women could read. In 2012, more than 60 percent of Iranian university students were female." These are important reasons why the demographics of predominantly Shiite Muslim Iran today (with a TFR of 1.7 children that is well below replacement level) is quite different from all of its neighbors.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Yes, There Was a "Surge" in Border Apprehensions in March...

It is reported that at least one of the reasons for the Trump administration to make the border wall a big issue right now (besides catering to the base to whom he promised a wall) is that there was, in fact, an unexpected rise in border apprehensions in March. As CNN reports, it is not yet clear why this happened.
The number of people either caught trying to cross the southern border or rejected for admission increased 37% from February into March, a sudden rise in figures that had been holding relatively steady. The increase was driven especially by a jump in the number of people apprehended trying to cross illegally. The number of families and unaccompanied children trying to come into the US increased at a higher rate than the general population.
Last month's numbers were three times those of March 2017, when crossings were at their lowest in two decades of records.
The Trump administration had taken credit for the low numbers in March of 2017, but last month's rise in numbers suggests the hollowness of that claim. Even with this rise, the number of people attempting to cross the border is low by historical standards, and these seem to be people trying to flee horrible situations in Central America, rather than being Mexicans looking for work. This latter point is consistent with the comments I made in yesterday's blog post about the predictability of the long-term downward trend in undocumented immigrants from Mexico.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Does the Border Really Need a Wall or the National Guard?

Donald Trump famously campaigned for President promising a wall along the border (and Mexico was supposed to pay for it). More than a year into his presidency, the wall doesn't yet exist and, of course, it is not necessary. Nor is the National Guard a necessity in place of the wall. Why not? Well, among other reasons, the number of people attempting to cross the border has been steadily dropping for several years now. Look at the chart that was posted by Steve Rattner on the "Morning Joe" show this morning on MSNBC:


Since the beginning of this century the total number of people apprehended trying to cross the border has dropped dramatically. Historically, the apprehensions have been mainly Mexican citizens, and the fall in the overall number of apprehensions is almost entirely due to the drop in Mexicans crossing the border. 

Why has this been happening? Two reasons: (1) demographics; and (2) economics. Here's how my son, Greg Weeks, and I, explained what was happening when we published our book Irresistible Forces back in 2010 (pp. 89-90):
By the beginning of the twenty-first century, the demographic fit that pushed immigration levels in the 1990s was much less in evidence, and there are two complementary reasons for this: (1) declining fertility in Mexico has slowed down the rate of growth of the young adult population; and (2) the previous high rates of immigration of young adults from Mexico to the United States produced a large number of children of immigrants, who have helped to increase the rate of growth of the 15-24 age group in the United States. These trends suggest that the era of demographic fit between the US and Mexico may now be coming to a close, and that future migration is most apt to be a consequence of the longer-term “economic fit” between the two countries—young people in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America seeking higher paying jobs in the United States that they lack at home. 
However, the end of the demographic fit should also mean that the Mexican labor pool, in particular, will be smaller, thereby increasing the chances that a given individual in Mexico will find employment in Mexico, assuming—and this is no sure assumption—that the Mexican economy does not contract. But this is what the Mexican government had in mind when it created family planning policies, and launched a public relations campaign that aired commercials claiming “the small family lives better.” That logic has been the driving force of fertility decline in many countries, including the United States.
So, we are now seeing clearly the trends that Greg and I thought were in place almost a decade ago. We don't need a wall or the national guard. We just need some social science combined with common sense. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Demographics of Bilingualism in the U.S.

Over the years there has been a big push in American schools, especially in colleges and universities, to get young people to learn a second language. Here in Southern California the obvious alternative to English is Spanish and I and my wife (and subsequently our children) learned Spanish in school, although in truth we only speak English at home. I thought about this when I read this week's article in The Economist asking whether Spanish can avoid America's language graveyard.
Linguists have often referred to America as a “language graveyard”. Despite being a country of immigrants, it has tended to snuff out foreign languages within two or three generations. Spanish, it has long been thought, might be different. Hispanics account for 18% of America’s population and are projected to make up 28% by 2060, according to the United States Census Bureau. Given the large size and rapid growth of the Hispanic population, some people used to fear that Spanish would not only endure but overtake English, especially in states like California and New Mexico, where Latinos are the largest ethnic group.
That concern has turned out to be unfounded..In his well-known study on “linguistic life expectancies” in southern California in 2006, Rubén Rumbaut, a professor at the University of California, Irvine, found that Spanish was following the same trajectory as other languages in America had—just more slowly. He established that only 5% of fourth-generation Mexican-Americans in southern California could speak Spanish very well: “After at least 50 years of continuous Mexican migration into southern California, Spanish appears to draw its last breath in the third generation.”
But here's the catch. Professor Rumbaut found that bilingualism is good for your pocketbook:
Controlling for age, gender, ethnicity, parents’ socioeconomic status and living with parents, he found that fluent bilinguals in southern California made nearly $3,000 more per year than Californians who spoke only English.
I know that it was good for me. In a very real sense, I am a demographer because I could read and write Spanish when I got to college. In my sophomore year as a sociology major at the University of California, Berkeley, I needed a job and it turned out that Professor Kingsley Davis was looking for a student to hire. He had just completed a year as President of the Population Association of America (and had previously been President of the American Sociological Association) and needed an undergraduate research assistant who was literate in Spanish to help him with a grant he had just gotten to study the demography of Latin America. He hired me and the rest, as they say, is history...

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Predictive Power of Political Demography

Thanks to Duane Miller for the link to a very good post from Richard Cincotta titled "8 Rules of Political Demography That Help Forecast Tomorrow's World." If you've read the book that Debbie Fugate and I edited on "The Youth Bulge," you'll know that Cincotta is author of one of the chapters in that volume. And, despite the fact that the "8 Rules..." article was published several months ago, its insights are timely.
Political demography, the study of population age structures and their relationships to political trends and events, has helped some analysts predict geopolitical changes in a world that, from time to time, appears utterly chaotic.
Much of my recent work has focused on democratic transitions and age structure – that is, what the median age of a country can tell us about its propensity to become a “liberal democracy” or remain either undemocratic (without free, fair, and politically meaningful elections) or illiberal (short on civil liberties and rule of law). There is, in fact, a strong correlation in recent history between increasing median age and increasing liberal democracy, and vice versa (the younger a population is, the less likely it is to be a liberal democracy). These and other age-structural relationships have become so evident over the past three decades of research, that political demographers can now identify “rules” that link demographic characteristics to expected political outcomes.
Why do political demography’s rules work as well as they do? Because age structural maturity both affects and reflects multiple aspects of society and state capacity. After all, the past century’s dramatic age-structural changes, where the world experienced tremendous growth in population followed by steep declines in fertility rates in many countries, are the result of many changes, including higher educational attainment (particularly women’s education), gains in wealth, advances in sanitation and health care, and access to modern contraception. 
There really isn't space in this blog post to enumerate Cincotta's 8 rules, but I strongly encourage you to go over his list while, at the same time, paying attention to this graphic:


I also encourage you to visit the website that Richard Cincotta has created on political demography--there are a lot of valuable resources there.



Sunday, April 1, 2018

Trump Administration Quietly Reforms Immigration

If there is one thing that the U.S. Congress has consistently been unable to agree upon for the past two decades, it is immigration reform. There have been no major changes to the immigration system since 1996, and this has left the last three administrations (Bush, Obama, and now Trump) to use administrative measures to cope with the changing circumstances and politics of immigration. The Obama administration was active on this front, as I noted back in 2015, and we have to keep in mind that Obama was sometimes called "deporter-in-chief."

The Trump administration has been doing its own "tweaking" of the immigration system, as summarized in a recent story by CNN. Many of these policy shifts seem generally to be mean-spirited and nothing else. What else would explain this:
President Donald Trump opted to not extend work permits and protections for approximately 840 Liberians who have been living and working in the US for at least 16 years and in some cases decades. Previous presidents had extended the permits on humanitarian grounds.
...or this: 
Immigrations and Customs Enforcement announced it would no longer default to releasing pregnant immigrants from detention, paving the way for more pregnant women to be held in lengthy custody awaiting immigration proceedings.
...or the hypocrisy and cruelty of this (from another CNN story on this topic):
The move follows controversial efforts by the Department of Health and Human Services to keep unaccompanied minor immigrants in custody rather than releasing them to obtain abortions, a policy that has been the subject of intense litigation and criticism from the advocacy community.
Everyone (and especially Native Americans) understand that the United States is a nation of immigrants. Given that fact, the ugly history of immigration policies (both legislative and administrative) has been pretty amazing. 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Land Degradation Threatens More Than 3 Billion Humans

A new report was published this week detailing the worsening worldwide land degradation. The research was produced by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) with support by the United Nations.
Rapid expansion and unsustainable management of croplands and grazing lands is the most extensive global direct driver of land degradation, causing significant loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services – food security, water purification, the provision of energy and other contributions of nature essential to people. This has reached ‘critical’ levels in many parts of the world, the report says.
“With negative impacts on the well-being of at least 3.2 billion people, the degradation of the Earth’s land surface through human activities is pushing the planet towards a sixth mass species extinction,” said Prof. Robert Scholes (South Africa), co-chair of the assessment with Dr. Luca Montanarella (Italy). “Avoiding, reducing and reversing this problem, and restoring degraded land, is an urgent priority to protect the biodiversity and ecosystem services vital to all life on Earth and to ensure human well-being.”
“Land degradation, biodiversity loss and climate change are three different faces of the same central challenge: the increasingly dangerous impact of our choices on the health of our natural environment. We cannot afford to tackle any one of these three threats in isolation – they each deserve the highest policy priority and must be addressed together.”
As I discuss in Chapter 11 of my text, this is the bottom-line for humans--can we continue to feed ourselves, especially in the face of a still growing population? The answer from this report seems to be 'no', unless we can reverse the degradation generated by the population pressure over the past 200 years, but especially over the past 74 years since the end of WWII. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

As Venezuela Implodes, Measles Explodes

The Venezuelan economy has been going through horrible times recently, leading people to escape by migrating to neighboring countries. The Miami Herald reports that some of these migrants are carrying the measles virus with them. Why? Because lack of vaccines in Venezuela has led to an explosion of new cases.
In 2016, after a massive, decades-long vaccination campaign, the World Health Organization declared Latin America free of measles — the highly contagious virus that curses the young and can cause pneumonia, encephalitis and even death.
But less than two years later, a virulent outbreak in Venezuela, combined with a mass exodus from the South American country, is threatening that medical success story.
According to new figures from the Pan American Health Organization, Venezuela has seen 886 cases of measles since June, including 159 cases this year alone.
The second-biggest outbreak in the hemisphere this year is Brazil, with 14 cases, and all of them were imported from neighboring Venezuela. Colombia has also reported three confirmed cases, all from Venezuela.
The health crisis in Venezuela is not new. I talked about the chaos in health care there nearly a year ago. But the situation is clearly getting worse, not better, and there is no obvious end in sight.




Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/venezuela/article206882664.html#storylink=cpy