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.

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Thursday, September 26, 2019

Incomes are up in the U.S., but so is inequality

The U.S. Census Bureau today brought out data from the 2018 American Community Survey, and it was a combination of good news and bad news. The good news is that median household income has been generally on the rise, and the percent of the population living below the poverty line has declined. The changes are not huge, but they are in the right direction.
Median household income between 2017 and 2018 increased for all households across all major race and Hispanic origin groups. Median household income ranged from $87,243 for Asian households (up 2.1%) to $41,511 for black households (up 1.5%). Median household income for households with non-Hispanic white householders increased by 1.0% to $67,937 in 2018. Households with Hispanic householders increased by 1.5% to $51,404 in 2018.
In 2018, 13.1% of the U.S. population had income below the poverty level, down from 13.4% in 2017. This is the fifth consecutive annual decline in the ACS national poverty rate.
This good news was tempered by the finding that income inequality continues to get more extreme. The NPR program "Marketplace" covered this development this morning, and they were able to interview Beth Jarosz from PRB:
Income inequality increased in nine states, including California. That’s a reflection of the effects of the tech boom, according to Beth Jarosz, a demographer with the nonprofit Population Reference Bureau.

In other words, Jarosz said, the contrast between “the level of income in Silicon Valley compared to the really extraordinarily high poverty rate in a county like Imperial County, where the economy is predominantly agricultural and there often is not much work for people who live there.” Jarosz says the same contrast may be behind increasing inequality in other states.
The hi-tech sectors have been raking in a disproportionate share of the nation's wealth, while the quality of other jobs seems to be on the decline, leaving average families at a relative disadvantage, even if things aren't awful. For more on this, I recommend taking a look at this month's issue of The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, edited by David Howell and Arne Kalleberg and devoted to "Changing Job Quality: Causes, Consequences, and Challenges."

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Remembering Past PAA President Sidney Goldstein

The arrival today of the latest IUSSP newsletter brought the news about the death last month of Sidney Goldstein, who was president of the Population Association of America back in 1976. He died just one day after celebrating his 92nd birthday. He had retired to Lexington, Kentucky, although most of his career was spent at Brown University, where he helped establish, and then directed, their Population Studies and Training Center. This has long been an important resource in demography, as another Past PAA President, Robert Moffitt, recently discussed in his interview with the PAA History Committee. Here's a nice synopsis of some of Goldstein's important work in demography:
Sid’s specific area of interest was the migration of people within countries, especially their movement from rural to urban areas. Beginning with analyses of migration in the United States and Denmark, his focus shifted to less developed countries, including Thailand, China, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Guatemala, and South Africa. In each case, he was especially interested in the impact of rural-urban migration on the welfare and life patterns of the migrants and how they differed from those who were residentially stable. An important component of his work in these countries was the development of local expertise, so that the work that he had begun could be carried further by in-country researchers.
You can read more about his professional life in an interview that Jean van der Tak, former PAA Historian, conducted with him many years ago. It is on the website of the Population Association of America (it starts on page 313 of that document). Check out this rather amazing exchange between Jean (VDT) and Sidney Goldstein:
VDT: And you went through your Ph.D. program in just two years. You got the degree in 1953.
GOLDSTEIN: Was it that soon?
VDT: Yes. And Charlie Westoff and Richard Easterlin got Ph.D.s at Penn the same year.
GOLDSTEIN: Right. I still have movies of that commencement, in which the three of us are marching together down the line.
VDT: You marched together a long way in the same field.
GOLDSTEIN: I always thought that was symbolic. I've often thought back to that commencement, the three of us being together. And a number of years later, the three of us were presidents of PAA almost consecutively [Westoff, 1974-75; Goldstein, 1976-77; Easterlin, 1978].