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

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.