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:

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross Will Have to Testify About His Role in the Citizenship Question

The issue of whether or not a citizenship question will be on the 2020 Census has been a hot topic ever since it was officially pushed onto the Census Bureau back in March of this year, as I discussed at the time. Back then the story from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was that he was being told by the Justice Department that this was necessary in order to keep track of violations of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. That sounded a bit suspicious to most of us, and it also sounded suspicious to a federal judge who has now ordered Wilbur Ross to come to court and be deposed under oath about what really is going on. CNN had the story today:
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross must sit for a deposition in a lawsuit against his department over its decision to include a question about citizenship in the 2020 Census, a federal judge ruled Friday. 
The Commerce Department announced in March that the question of citizenship will again be included in the 2020 Census, which the administration said was necessary to enforce the Voting Rights Act.
New York, along with other states and cities, filed a lawsuit in April to block the government's decision to include the question, arguing it would intimidate immigrants and decrease participation in the census.
US District Judge Jesse Furman of the Southern District of New York said Ross's deposition, limited to four hours, is needed "because Secretary Ross was personally and directly involved in the decision, and the unusual process leading to it, to an unusual degree."
Information presented to the Court apparently indicated that the idea might well have been Ross's and that he had been quietly pushing it for a year before the announcement was made in March that he was being told by the Justice Department to order the Census Bureau to include the question on the 2020 Census. With any luck this will help Congress decide that this is a bad idea--as the rest of us have known since it first came up.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Will Demography be Destiny in Texas?

Thanks to Justin Stoler for linking me to an NPR story this morning about the very tight Senate race currently taking place in Texas between Beto O'Rourke and Ted Cruz. Cruz, of course, is the incumbent Senator while O'Rourke is a Member of Congress from El Paso. Cruz's father is from Cuba, although his mother is of Irish-American descent and Cruz himself was born in Canada and is apparently not fluent in Spanish, and he has an American, not Spanish, nickname. By contrast, O'Rourke is not Latino, but is fluent in Spanish and has a Spanish nickname. Which candidate will appeal most to Latinos? And will Latinos turn out to vote? The latter question seems to be the big one in Texas.
While polls show a single-digit race, O'Rourke will need a transformed electorate in order to win in Texas, where no Democrat has prevailed in a statewide race in almost a quarter-century. Specifically, O'Rourke needs to get dramatically more Latinos to show up to the polls in a state where Latinos have far less political clout than their demographic weight would suggest.
"For a couple of decades now there has been a 'demographics is destiny' narrative that has existed," said Manny Garcia with the Texas Democratic Party. "And sadly for many of those years, it seems like base Democrats — communities of color — were taken for granted."
In Texas' urban counties and the heavily Latino counties in the Rio Grande Valley, there's no surge of new Latino voters, according to voter registration data.
Since 2016, there have been single-digit-percentage increases in the number of new voters around the state's four biggest cities of Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin. In the heavily Latino Bexar County where San Antonio is located, voter registration totals have grown by less than 3 percent since 2016.
While Latinos are expected to become the largest population group in Texas by 2020, whether this is the year Latinos cost Republicans a statewide election remains an open question.
I happen to have the 2016 ACS data for the U.S. on my computer, so I did a quick check of the ethnic breakdown in the state of Texas as of two years ago. Among all people in the state, Hispanics currently account for 39% of the population, which is slightly less than the 43% who are non-Hispanic whites. If we look just at the population aged 18 and older (voting age), we find that Hispanics are 35% of the population compared to 46% for non-Hispanic whites. Finally, I looked only at citizens aged 18 and older--people who are eligible to vote. Here we find that Hispanics are only 29% of the voter-eligible population compared to 52% who are non-white Hispanics.

So, if O'Rourke is going to win by pulling in Latino/Hispanic voters, he has more work to do than it might seem at first glance. Tonight's debate should prove very interesting in many respects.