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

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Pakistan's Supreme Court Drops "Population Bomb"

The Supreme Court of Pakistan yesterday produced a genuine "wow" moment when they urged the country to strive for a two child per family norm. The Times of India reports that:
Describing Pakistan's rapidly growing population as a "ticking timebomb", the Supreme Court Tuesday urged religious scholars, the civil society and the government to back population control measures, including a two children per family norm, in the Muslim-majority country.
A three-member bench led by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar made the observations during a hearing in a case related to population control in Pakistan, now the world's fifth most populous.
"The increasing population is a burden on the country's resources. It is about the future of the next generation. It would be unfortunate if the population is not controlled. Two children per home will help to control the population. There is a need for a campaign on the matter," the apex court was quoted as saying by the report. "The entire nation needs to stand together to control the population," the chief justice said.
The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) has also voiced its concern at the rapid increase of population in the country, calling it a looming disaster.
In a recent press statement, the PMA said the birth of 15,000 babies in Pakistan on the 1st day of 2019 was alarming. The PMA thinks that it is a distressing situation as at the moment as 60 per cent of the national population stands below the age of 25 years; 25 million children are not going to school and 90 per cent the population is not being provided with clean drinking water. Malnutrition is another big issue and food scarcity is a big problem, the association said. 
The PMA said it believes that the unchecked rise in the population is a looming disaster, and concrete steps should be taken to implement family planning and make people-friendly economic policies to overcome these difficulties and save the coming generations.
Pakistan has wrestled with the question of family planning for most of its history. During the 1950s and 1960s there were concerted efforts to organize government-sponsored programs, but political instability has undermined their efficacy over time. With any luck, this time will be different. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Court Blocks Citizenship Question on 2020 Census

Today a federal judge in the Southern District of New York ruled against placing a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. The NYTimes reports that:
The ruling marks the opening round in a legal battle with potentially profound ramifications for federal policy and for politics at all levels, one that seems certain to reach the Supreme Court before the printing of census forms begins this summer.
In a lengthy and stinging ruling, Judge Jesse M. Furman of the United States District Court in Manhattan said that Wilbur L. Ross Jr., the commerce secretary, committed “a veritable smorgasbord” of violations of federal procedural law when he ordered the citizenship question added.
Mr. Ross “failed to consider several important aspects of the problem; alternately ignored, cherry-picked, or badly misconstrued the evidence in the record before him; acted irrationally both in light of that evidence and his own stated decisional criteria; and failed to justify significant departures from past policies and practices,” Judge Furman wrote.
You will recall that this matters because the Census Bureau's own analysis suggests that immigrants would be less likely to respond to the census questionnaire with such a question included in it. That would lower the number of people counted in the census, which could affect Congressional redistricting. Since immigrants disproportionately live in districts with a Democratic representative, this could skew redistricting, and thus Congress, more toward Republicans. The Washington Post has a nice graphic showing how this might work.

This case will almost certainly be appealed to the Supreme Court, and it could also influence decisions in similar cases in California (where a trial is currently underway) and Maryland (where the trial starts next week).

These are among the many issues facing the new Director of the Census Bureau, Steven Dillingham, who was confirmed by the Senate earlier this month. He has prior experience managing government organizations, and does not appear to have specific political agendas to push, so the hope is that the Census will move forward smoothly. Of course, there is this partial government shutdown to worry about in terms of census funding...