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 13th (it will be out in January 2020), 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.

You can download an iPhone app for the 13th edition from the App Store (search for Weeks Population).

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at:

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Eastern European Immigrants Boost UK Economy

Voluntary migrants typically move to improve their own economic situation, and despite the fears about them in the receiving countries, the evidence generally supports the idea that they are a net economic gain to the host country. That was certainly the conclusion of a report released today in the United Kingdom by the National Institute for Economic and Social Research.

Between 2004 and 2009, an estimated 1.5 million people from eastern Europe came to the UK. It is thought 700,000 of them stayed, with half a million from Poland alone.
During the same period Britain's GDP grew by £98bn, or 7.7%, and the NIESR study says that a 5% share of the £98bn can be put down to the migrants.
Only the UK, Ireland and Sweden allowed free access from the start to workers from the eight 2004 accession countries, which included Poland, Latvia and Hungary.
The last EU members to keep restrictions -- Germany and Austria -- lift them on Sunday.
The UK report suggests that Germany may suffer in the long-term for its unwillingness to accept those immigrants at an earlier date.
The NIESR says the UK probably benefited from the restrictions imposed by other member states. It says Germany will suffer a "permanent scar" on its level of output, with its GDP reduced by between 0.1 and 0.5%.
One of the report's authors, Dawn Holland, says that the final lifting of restrictions by all EU countries will make little difference to the situation.
"Lifting barriers in Germany may divert some Polish and other workers away from the UK", she says, "especially given the relative strength of the German economy".
"But as the existence of support networks for new migrants is one of the most important factors, much of the shift in migrants since 2004 is likely to prove permanent."

Friday, April 29, 2011

China's Census Counts 1.34 Billion

China released the results of its 2010 census yesterday, and the total population number was almost exactly what the United Nations demographers had been projecting--1.34 billion--despite the New York Times story that incorrectly suggested that the UN had been expecting 1.4 billion. 

Ma Jianting, the director of China’s National Bureau of Statistics, said at a news conference on Thursday that the slowed rate of population growth showed that the one-child policy had “eased the pressure on resources and the environment and laid a relatively good foundation for steady and rapid economic and social development.”
But he suggested that the population’s rapid aging was a matter of potential concern. “We also need to pay close attention to the new changes of our population structure, adhering to the family planning policy while cautiously and gradually improving the policy to promote more balanced population growth in the country,” the state-run Xinhua news agency quoted him as saying.
The major trends revealed by the census data are those we already know about--rapid aging and rapid urbanization, accompanied by massive inequalities, especially between rural and urban areas. These issues are discussed in more detail in a very informative BBC Radio report.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Immigration Issues in US Going Both Ways at the Same Time

President Obama today enlisted Latino entertainers to try to "elevate" the immigration debate in the US.

On Thursday, the president invited a dozen influential Spanish-language television anchors and radio personalities as well as comely Latino actresses who have been active in Hispanic causes. Among the high-profile Latinos was Eddie "Piolin" Sotelo, who in 2006 helped mobilize hundreds of thousands of protesters in Los Angeles and across the nation against enforcement-only immigration proposals. Others at the White House were actresses Eva Longoria and America Ferrera and television figures Don Francisco of Univision and Jose Diaz-Balart of Telemundo.
In a summary describing the meeting, the White House said Obama stressed his commitment to a comprehensive overhaul and pledged to intensify his efforts "to lead a civil debate on this issue in the coming weeks and months."
But, in the meantime, state legislatures continue to step in as the federal government has chosen to essentially keep its hands off any change in current immigration practices.
The Oklahoma Senate on Wednesday approved a bill that would create criminal penalties for undocumented immigrants who work in Oklahoma and those who smuggle them into the state.
Oklahoma is one of several states -- including Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah -- where Republicans are pushing immigration measures reminiscent of the one that became law in Arizona a year ago. The Arizona law required police to investigate the immigration status of anyone they detained and suspected of being in the country illegally.
It is still not clear whether these laws will be upheld in the courts. In all events, the two extremes in the debate (deport all undocumented immigrants on the one hand; or provide a path to legal status to current undocumented immigrants on the other hand) are irreconcilable and while the middle road seems easy enough to find, there does not seem to be a will to go there at the moment.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Parenting Taking a Back Seat in Richer Countries

The Paris-based think tank OECD has just released a new report on families in the more developed countries. The results are not necessarily surprising, but they are sobering. In particular, the data show that 26 percent of children in the United States are being raised by a single parent--considerably higher than the average of 15 percent among all the countries surveyed. The Associated Press looked for reaction in the US to the report and found the following:

Experts point to a variety of factors to explain the high U.S. figure, including a cultural shift toward greater acceptance of single-parent child rearing. The U.S. also lacks policies to help support families, including childcare at work and national paid maternity leave, which are commonplace in other countries.
"When our parents married, there was a sense that you were marrying for life," said Edward Zigler, founder and director of Yale's Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy. "That sense is not as prevalent."
Single parents in the U.S. were more likely to be employed — 35.8 percent compared to a 21.3 percent average — but they also had higher rates of poverty, the report found.
"The in-work poverty is higher in the U.S. than other OECD countries, because at the bottom end of the labor market, earnings are very low," said Willem Adema, a senior economist in the group's social policy division. "For parents, the risk is higher because they have to make expenditures on childcare costs."
The study pointed out that the U.S. is the only OECD country that does not have a national paid parental leave policy. Some states have started to adopt such policies, but most parents are offered 12 weeks of unpaid leave. This is particularly difficult for unwed mothers, who may not be able to afford to take time off, Zigler said.
"We have not built in the kind of national support systems for families and children that other countries have," he said.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Baby Boomers May Voluntarily Delay Retirement

The Associated Press has reported the results of a new survey that it recently commissioned among the US baby boomers. The data suggest that boomers are staying in the labor force longer than many had expected, and that they are experiencing relatively little age discrimination thus far.
Nearly half of those born between 1946 and 1964 now work for a younger boss, and most report that they are older than most colleagues. But 61 percent of the baby boomers surveyed said their age is not an issue at work, while 25 percent called it an asset. Only 14 percent classified getting older as a workplace liability.
The first post-World War II baby boomers reach 65 this year. But two-thirds say they'll work at least part-time past retirement age for financial reasons, either because they'll need to or because they'll want extra spending money. Another 29 percent said they'll keep working just to stay busy. About 1 in 4 boomers still working say they'll never retire, and about the same fraction say they have saved no money for retirement. [That's pretty scary!]
It's an important snapshot of the nature of the nation's economic rebound at a time when the jobless rate remains persistently high. Workers from the wave of 77 million people born during the post-World War II boom are sweeping toward retirement age and beyond. Even as the economy begins to grow, the swollen workforce at the older end of the spectrum could mean fewer jobs for younger workers and those who became unemployed during the recession.
A Congressional Budget Office report released March 22 found that while boomers are expected to begin leaving the workforce over the next decade, they may also be retiring later in life than previous generations. And that could "substantially dampen growth in the labor force" through 2021, the nonpartisan CBO reported.
This was the same issue that arose recently in the context of officially raising the full retirement age for receiving Social Security. That saves money in the long-term, but forces people to stay in the labor force longer and creates less turnover. Indeed, you will recall that one of the original motivations for passing Social Security back in the 1930s was precisely to get older workers out of the labor force to make room for younger workers. Nothing is ever easy.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Children Having Children in Yemen

Protests and the chance of some kind of regime change persist in Yemen, a country that has seen massive population increase over the past few decades, as I have noted previously. One of the reasons that 66 percent of Yemenis are under the age of 25 is that it is a country in which children are having children--women are married at a young age with the expectation that they will soon begin to bear children. USAID has been sponsoring a Safe Age at Marriage project to encourage a delay in marriage in countries like Yemen:

Yemen is one of 20 "hot spot" countries for child marriage, a conservative Muslim nation where a seventh of all girls are married by age 14 and nearly half by age 17. In rural districts, girls as young as 9 are often betrothed. Most "hot spot" countries are clustered in central Africa, with other pockets in Southeast Asia and Central America.
Various factors have institutionalized child marriage. For some, it is a tribal custom. For others, exchanging daughters without dowries in "trade marriages" makes economic sense.
Regardless of its causes, child marriage represents a human rights infringement and a public health problem. It deprives young girls of a childhood, enhances their risk of domestic abuse, and entraps them in a cycle of poverty.
On April 26, 2011, the lead coordinator of that project, Dalia Al Eryani, will participate in an online panel discussion at the Population Reference Bureau. If you miss it, you can review it (and prior online discussions) at the PRB website.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

France Is Unhappy as Tunisian Refugees Move North

The upheavals in Tunisia and Libya have already produced tens of thousands of refugees, as I have already noted. Those going to Europe have mainly shown up in Italy, since that is the closest country and is the shortest trip across the Mediterranean. Recently, the Italian government has granted many of these people temporary residence status, which allows them to leave Italy and go to many of the other European countries. If you have been to Europe since the creation of the European Union you know that you are not asked for your passport as you go from one country to the next. You can travel freely throughout much of Europe once you get past that first gatekeeper. This has created some problems for France, according to the BBC:

Italy's decision to grant Tunisians 20,000 temporary residence permits, allowing free travel in the passport-free Schengen zone, has angered France.
Last week, French officials temporarily stopped trains with migrants crossing the border from Italy into France.
The decision sparked anger between Italy and France, with Italy accusing its neighbour of overstepping the treaty on border-free travel.
Earlier this month, Italy and France agreed to launch sea and air patrols to try to prevent the influx of thousands of people from Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.
Many Tunisians have close ties with France - a former colonial power - with friends and relatives in French cities.
This is a reminder that that there can be many long-term demographic ripple effects from "regime change" anywhere in the world.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Celebrating Earth Day

April 22nd has been Earth Day for the past 41 years, with a focus on the sustainability of human existence on our planet. That speaks directly to the interaction of population and the environment. The emphasis has generally been more on the latter than the former, but they are clearly both very important. ABC News has a nice story on reducing your carbon footprint, keeping in mind that where you live will importantly determine the nature of your footprint, and what you can do about it.
My own involvement in Earth Day goes back to the very first one in 1970. As a PhD student in Demography at the University of California, Berkeley, I was invited to address what turned out to be a very large outdoor gathering on the campus of California State University, Fresno. My talk was "Who Lit the Fuse on the Population Bomb?" and of course the answer was "look in the mirror":
Europeans and Americans are responsible for the world's population problems. It all began 200 years ago in the early days of European and American economic development...[you know the rest of the story if you've read my book]
I used the opportunity to push for change, keeping in mind that in 1970 the average woman in the United States was giving birth to 2.5 babies, virtually all of whom would survive to adulthood. Fertility was on the way down, to be sure, but it wasn't clear in 1970 whether or not that was a long-term trend.
We should definitely advocate for the immediate removal of all discriminatory barriers in education and in the professions [remember that this was the first year that women had been admitted as undergraduates at Princeton]. If you can get a woman out of the house and reward her with financial gain and social and economic prestige, then the social and economic costs of having additional children are going to increase for that woman and she is far more likely than ever before to prefer a small family.
I couldn't have said it better myself.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Soot May be Causing Some of the Arctic Melt

It is bad enough that global warming is having a marked effect in the Arctic. It now appears that the buildup of soot may help explain why the Arctic is actually warming up even faster than the rest of the planet. An international team of scientists, including Americans from NOAA, is literally digging into this issue.

Soot, or black carbon, is produced by auto and truck engines, aircraft emissions, burning forests and the use of wood- or coal-burning stoves.
"The Arctic serves as the air conditioner of the planet," explained Patricia Quinn of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, one of the research participants. Heat from other parts of the Earth moves to the Arctic in the circulating air and ocean water, and at least some of that warmth can radiate into space.
At the same time, some of the incoming heat from the sun that tends to be absorbed in other locations is reflected by the ice and snow, allowing the polar regions to serve as cooling agents for the planet.
But that may be changing.
In recent years, the Arctic has been warming more rapidly than other regions and, Quinn pointed out, the "warming of the Arctic has implications not just for polar bears, but for the entire planet."
Cutting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases is the backbone of any effort to combat warming, both globally and within the Arctic, Quinn said.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Good and Bad News About Fighting Malaria

First the good news: Researchers in the UK and US have developed a genetically-modified (GM) mosquito which, when released in the wild, may be able to change the genetic structure of mosquitos in just a few generations in a way that could reduce the risk that they would spread the malaria parasite.

Research groups have already created "malaria-resistant mosquitoes" using techniques such as introducing genes to disrupt the malaria parasite's development.
The research, however, has a great challenge - getting those genes to spread from the genetically-modified mosquitoes to the vast number of wild insects across the globe.
Unless the gene gives the mosquito an advantage, the gene will likely disappear.
Scientists at Imperial College London and the University of Washington, in Seattle, believe they have found a solution.
Professor Andrea Crisanti, from the department of life sciences at Imperial College London, said: "This is an exciting technological development, one which I hope will pave the way for solutions to many global health problems.
He believes it could be possible to introduce genes which will make the mosquito target animals rather than humans, stop the parasite from multiplying in the insect or produce all male offspring which do not transmit malaria.
Professor Janet Hemingway, from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, said the work was an "exciting breakthrough".
Now, the bad news, which helps to illustrate why the good news is so important:
A global health fund believes millions of dollars worth of its donated malaria drugs have been stolen in recent years, vastly exceeding the levels of theft previously suspected, according to confidential documents obtained by The Associated Press.
The internal investigation by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria comes two months into a new anti-corruption program that the fund launched after an AP report detailing fraud in their grants attracted intense scrutiny from donors.
Malaria infects more than 250 million people every year, killing about 1 million, the vast majority of whom are children in Africa. Because there is a huge demand for malaria drugs, which are widely available at pharmacies and on private markets, they are easier to sell than drugs for other diseases like AIDS, which are mainly handed out at health clinics.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Immigration Discussions Ramp Up Yet Again in the US

The media have been somewhat cynical about the intent of the meeting on immigration reform held today at the White House, since the meeting comes just as President Obama is about to launch his re-election campaign. While running for election, he had promised Latinos that he would help to fix the immigration problem, but little has been done thus far. Predictably, the meeting was a call for action, not a meeting at which proposals for reform were actually put on the table.

"The president asked the group to commit to moving forward to keep the debate about this issue alive, to keep it alive in the sense that it can get before Congress, where the ultimate resolution of it will have to be obtained," said Bill Bratton, the former police chief in Los Angeles and New York City. "The idea being to go out into our various communities and to speak about the issue."
Obama promised to continue working to build a bipartisan consensus around immigration and said he'd lead a "civil debate" on the issue in the months ahead, the White House said in a statement. But he also said he won't succeed if he alone is leading the debate.
Obama has said repeatedly that he is committed to overhauling the system but also has argued that he can't make headway without Republican support. He does not have enough Democratic votes in the Senate to muscle any legislation through and Republicans now control the House.
He has called for a policy that focuses on border security, accountability for employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants and requiring illegal immigrants to acknowledge they broke the law, pay back taxes and penalties, and learn English before they can begin the process of qualifying for legal status and eventual citizenship. Republicans oppose a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, calling such a program "amnesty."
None of this suggests that immigration reform will be happening any time soon. Greg Weeks today quotes Esther Cepeda on how the US government is now dealing with immigration:
It seems that at least for the foreseeable future Washington's message to Arizona and other states who want to take immigration matters into their own hands is: You're not allowed to deal with illegal immigration yourselves, only we can. And we will. Sometime. Maybe. Stand by.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Increasing Population and Wealth Are Death to Fish

Fish represent an important source of food for humans and historically have had the economic advantage of needing only to be harvested. Yet in a nearly classical Malthusian situation, the fish stock has not been keeping up with population growth, especially as the world's increased wealth has created new technologies for tracking and harvesting fish. A new study has raised the alarm about numerous fish species in the Mediterranean that may be on the verge of extinction.

The study released Tuesday by the International Union for Conservation of Nature says almost half of the species of sharks and rays in the Mediterranean and at least 12 species of bony fish are threatened with extinction due to overfishing, pollution and the loss of habitat.
Commercial catches of bluefin tuna, sea bass, hake and dusky grouper are particularly threatened, said the study by the Swiss-based IUCN, an environmental network of 1,000 groups in 160 nations.
"The Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic population of the Atlantic bluefin tuna is of particular concern," said Kent Carpenter, IUCN's global marine species assessment coordinator.
He cited a steep drop in the giant fish's reproductive capacity due to four decades of intensive overfishing. Japanese diners consume 80 percent of the Atlantic and Pacific bluefins caught and the two tuna species are especially prized by sushi lovers.
Given the radiation pollution of the ocean near Japan, it is likely that the demand for Mediterranean fish will go up, not down, in the near future.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization says fish stocks continue to dwindle globally despite increasing efforts to regulate catches and stop overfishing.
As I have noted before, the long-term consequence of over-fishing will be an ever-increasing dependence on farmed fish, but there are relatively few species that are known to be well-adapted to current fish farming methods.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Would Immigration Reform Have Occurred in the US Had There Not Been John Tanton?

Efforts to limit immigration, especially undocumented immigration from Mexico, are widespread in the United States. However, a lengthy story in the New York Times suggests that the movement can trace its origins back to the 1970s to a small-town doctor in Michigan--John Tanton.

Time and again, Dr. Tanton urged liberal colleagues in groups like Planned Parenthood and the Sierra Club to seek immigration restraints, only to meet blank looks and awkward silences.
“I finally concluded that if anything was going to happen, I would have to do it myself,” he said.
Improbably, he did. From the resort town of Petoskey, Mich., Dr. Tanton helped start all three major national groups fighting to reduce immigration, legal and illegal, and molded one of the most powerful grass-roots forces in politics. The immigration-control movement surged to new influence in last fall’s elections and now holds near veto power over efforts to legalize any of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States.
One group that Dr. Tanton nurtured, Numbers USA, doomed President George W. Bush’s legalization plan four years ago by overwhelming Congress with protest calls. Another, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, helped draft the Arizona law last year to give the police new power to identify and detain illegal immigrants.
A third organization, the Center for Immigration Studies, joined the others in December in defeating the Dream Act, which sought to legalize some people brought to the United States illegally as children.
“He is the most influential unknown man in America,” said Linda Chavez, a former aide to President Ronald Reagan who once led a Tanton group that promoted English-only laws.
Over time, it appears that Dr. Tanton evolved from simply being worried about the impact of immigration on population growth and resources in the United States to being worried about cultural change in the US as a result of foreigners flooding in. The latter perspective is not a new one, of course, and led in the 1920s to the very restrictive and blatantly racist immigration laws that were finally dismantled in 1965.

Friday, April 15, 2011

World's Oldest Man Dies at Age 114

The oldest man in the world, Walter Breuning, has died at age 114 in the state of Montana. His "secrets" for a long life have been a big hit on the internet:
• Embrace change, even when the change slaps you in the face. ("Every change is good.")
• Eat two meals a day ("That's all you need.")
• Work as long as you can ("That money's going to come in handy.")
• Help others ("The more you do for others, the better shape you're in.")
Then there's the hardest part. It's a lesson Breuning said he learned from his grandfather: Accept death.
"We're going to die. Some people are scared of dying. Never be afraid to die. Because you're born to die," he said.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Arizona Anti-immigration Law Blocked by Appeals Court

The highly controversial anti-immigration bill passed by the state of Arizona last year has hit another roadblock in its implementation. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has refused to lift the stay on its implementation that had been imposed by a lower court. 
A federal appeals court on Monday refused to lift a stay blocking major parts of Arizona's immigration law from taking effect and said the federal government is likely to be able to prove the controversial law is unconstitutional.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals turned down an appeal filed by Gov. Jan Brewer. She had asked the appeals court to lift an injunction imposed by a federal judge in Phoenix the day before the law was to take effect on July 29, 2010.
The U.S Justice Department sued to block the law, saying it violates the U.S. Constitution because enforcing immigration law is a federal issue.
U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton issued an injunction preventing four major parts of the law from going into effect pending a trial. Monday's ruling by the three-judge appeals court panel upheld that injunction.
The panel's opinion said the government is likely to succeed in its arguments that Congress has given the federal government sole authority to enforce immigration laws, and that Arizona's law violates the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution. One judge dissented.
Brewer's lawyers said the federal government hasn't effectively enforced immigration law and that the state law will assist federal authorities.
 The ruling made it clear that the Court of Appeals saw the law as stepping over the line in its conflict with federal government. In other words, just because a state government objects to what the federal government is doing (or is not doing, in the view of Arizona) it does not have the legislative authority to override the federal government. There is obviously a great deal of frustration with the government's lack of willingness to come up with a "comprehensive" immigration reform plan, but as my son (Greg Weeks) and I have argued elsewhere, this is a true conundrum--there is probably no immigration reform plan that is going to please a majority of members of Congress and, of course, that is why no such plan has been forthcoming.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Trimming the Budget, One Waistline at a Time

Mark Bittman has a opinion piece in today's New York Times that reminds us of the fiscal cost of poor diets in a country such as the United States.
For the first time in history, lifestyle diseases like diabetes, heart disease, some cancers and others kill more people than communicable ones [in the US]. Treating these diseases — and futile attempts to “cure” them — costs a fortune, more than one-seventh of our GDP.
But they’re preventable, and you prevent them the same way you cause them: lifestyle. A sane diet, along with exercise, meditation and intangibles like love prevent and even reverse disease. A sane diet alone would save us hundreds of billions of dollars and maybe more. 
Over time we have gone from providing more and better food to make us healthier, to providing more and more and not necessarily better food that undermines our health--the essence of Barry Popkin's Nutrition Transition theory. Changing our dietary patterns is unlikely to be easy.
Corny as it is to say so, if we can put a man on the moon we can create an environment in which an apple is a better and more accessible choice than a Pop-Tart. Some other billions of dollars must go to public health. Again: we built sewage systems; we built water supplies; we showed that we could get people to eat anything we marketed. Now all we have to do is build a food distribution system that favors real food, and market that.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Water Can be Dangerous to Your Health

As much as we require water for life, water is also a major source of illness, especially for children, and there is now a new major threat to South Asian water supplies:

A gene that can turn many types of bacteria into deadly superbugs was found in about a quarter of water samples taken from drinking supplies and puddles on the streets of New Delhi, according to a new study.
Experts say it's the latest proof that the new drug-resistance gene, known as NDM-1, named for New Delhi, is widely circulating in the environment — and could potentially spread to the rest of the world.
Bacteria armed with this gene can only be treated with a couple of highly toxic and expensive antibiotics. Since it was first identified in 2008, it has popped up in a number of countries, including the United States, Australia, Britain, Canada and Sweden.
Most of those infections were in people who had recently traveled to or had medical procedures in India, Pakistan or Bangladesh.
"This is not a problem that is looming in the future ... there are people dying today from infections that can't be treated," said David Heymann, chairman of Britain's Health Protection Agency. He was not linked to the research.

This news came on top of a recent study published in PloS Medicine showing that the macroeconomic growth taking place in India has done little to lower the country's high level of child malnutrition. 
We failed to find consistent evidence that economic growth leads to reduction in childhood undernutrition in India. Direct investments in appropriate health interventions may be necessary to reduce childhood undernutrition in India.

Monday, April 11, 2011

What is the Size of the Gay and Lesbian Community in the US?

There is no certain way to enumerate the gay and lesbian community in the US, but demographer Gary Gates, who is Distinguished Scholar at UCLA's Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy, has put forward what has to be the most authoritative estimate to date. 
Gates' best estimate, derived from five studies that have asked subjects about their sexual orientation, is that the nation has about 4 million adults who identify as being gay or lesbian, representing 1.7 percent of the 18-and-over population.
The American Community Survey data are also providing new insights into the LGBT household relationships, as Gates shows in both a power point presentation, and an online video.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Don't Plan to Retire Until Age 70

That is the message of a special section of this week's Economist, written by Philip Coggan. And, in fact, it is virtually impossible to argue with the idea that as life expectancy in the older ages keeps going up, it does not automatically mean that we should have more years of retirement. As you know, of course, this would not be such a big issue were it not for the fact that in virtually all of the richer countries with high life expectancy the birth rate is below replacement level. 
THIS SPECIAL REPORT has shown how the cost of providing pensions is rising across the developed world as the baby-boomers retire. Rich countries now face difficult trade-offs. They must keep costs in check without condemning many elderly people to decades of poverty. And if they move from a tax-funded system to one dependent on the performance of the stockmarket, more risks and costs will pass to the workers.
The best way of reducing the overall pensions burden, almost everyone now agrees, is for people to work longer. They will get paid for the extra years, national output will be boosted and the cost of pensions will fall. Reforms are already pushing workers in that direction. Thanks to the steady demise of defined-benefit schemes in the private sector, employees will be more prepared to do so because they need to build up higher pensions in defined-contribution schemes. And as the supply of younger workers dries up, employers will become more willing to use older ones. With rising life expectancy, the pension age across the board is probably heading for 70.
This is actually a fairly complicated issue and the Economist has put together a very nice short video to explain the demographics and economics behind the argument that 70 has to be the new target age at which people retire.

One could say that the timing of this argument is "interesting" in that the idea that people should work longer is being made at the same time that unemployment is high and everyone is talking about the need to create jobs. Even more jobs will have to be created if people work longer, and thus jobs turn over less frequently. There is no easy way out of this demographic situation.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Planned Parenthood as a Budget Hostage

Tonight at the last minute, the US Congress agreed to a budget compromise that kept the government from shutting down. All through the day, the only real news seemed to be that a small, but obviously influential group of Republicans was willing to shut the government down in order to keep any federal funds from flowing to Planned Parenthood. As I noted here a month and a half ago, Planned Parenthood had been targeted by Republicans because it receives Title X funding to provide family planning services and, at the same time, it also provides abortion services--even though everyone who knows the organization indicates that no federal money goes for those abortion services. NBC News reported that:
Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Richard Durbin said a dispute over federal funding for family planning agencies, which has proven to be the biggest and last stumbling block, had been resolved.
One source told NBC News that the issue was no longer on the table.
Congressional sources told National Journal that the outline of the spending deal includes up to $39 billion in cuts from the 2010 budget, $514 billion for the defense budget covering the remainder of this fiscal year, a GOP agreement to abandon policy riders dealing with Planned Parenthood and the Environmental Protection Agency, and an agreement to pass legislation Friday night to keep the government running while the deal is written in bill form.
For the moment at least those funds to Planned Parenthood have not been cut, but the overall budget compromise was almost certainly several billion dollars lower in total funding for discretionary government spending than would otherwise have been the case had its funding not been held hostage.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Chinese Women Prefer One-Child Families

Today's New York Times has a story that isn't really news to you if you have read Chapter 6 of the 11th edition of my text, or paid attention to my previous post on the one-child policy in China. Nonetheless, this is so important a topic for the world as a whole that it is always useful to be thinking about it. The story is about the low likelihood of China's birthrate rising much above its current level--which is well below replacement level--and so China is moving past its "demographic dividend" into an era of an increasingly older and presumably less productive and more dependent population.
China’s rise has depended partly on a huge spurt in the number of workers as a percentage of the population. This surge has created a cheap, productive labor force for its factories, mines and construction crews.
Now the size of the work force is leveling off. Demographers say it will begin to shrink within just five years, albeit slowly at first.
Meanwhile, the ranks of the elderly are swelling so fast that by 2040, projections show that the median age of Chinese will be higher than that of Americans, but Chinese will enjoy just one-third of the per capita income, adjusted for the cost of living. Experts say that will make China the first major country to grow old before it is fully economically developed.
But as calls for a relaxation of the policy intensify, and official hints of looser restrictions increase, so do concerns that the one-child culture is now so ingrained among Chinese that the authorities may not be able to encourage more births even if they try.
A growing body of research suggests that much of the decline in Chinese fertility over the past three decades is not a result of the one-child policy and its various permutations, but of the typical drop in birthrates that occurs as societies modernize.
These trends are not lost on the Chinese government. The wide range of investments that China is making all over the world, but especially in developing countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, can easily be viewed as the way that the country will pay for its aging population. It will not worry about having a new batch of its own babies. Rather, it will make money from other countries' batches of babies, not to mention other countries' non-human economic resources.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

America's Youth Reveal the Country's Changing Face

William Frey of the Brookings Institution has just put out a new report, highlighted in today's New York Times, that compares some of the changes in the United States over the last three censuses. The most striking finding is that:
New minorities—Hispanics, Asians, and other groups apart from whites, blacks, and American Indians—account for all of the growth among the nation’s child population.  From 2000 to 2010, the population of white children nationwide declined by 4.3 million, while the population of Hispanic and Asian children grew by 5.5 million.

This trend undoubtedly brings some challenges, particularly as the younger part of the population becomes more racially and ethnically diverse than the older baby boomer- dominated white population. “Racial generation gaps” can emerge as a result of competing interests regarding community resources or views on issues like immigration.
Indeed, it is my view (Frey does not say this) that much of the angst and anger of the Tea Party movement is fueled by these changing demographics, even though people tend not to want to acknowledge that fact. In a very visible way, the country does not look the same as it used to, and this an important part of the challenges alluded to by Frey. At the same time, the fact that we have a larger child population in relation to the total population than do most other rich countries is a situation that we must collectively work with to our best advantage.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Demographic Divide in Arizona

Arizona has become notorious for its anti-immigrant attitude and legislation. However, The Economist notes that there is a real divide in Arizona on this issue and it cuts along geographic, and especially demographic lines. Maricopa County, in the middle of the state and where Phoenix is located, has one set of demographics, and is seen as being very different from Pima County, in the southern part of the state (albeit contiguous to Maricopa County) and where Tucson is located.

Midwestern snowbirds and others who flooded into Arizona mainly settled in Maricopa, making it politically dominant and distinct.
The differences start with the aesthetic. Middle-class houses in Phoenix tend to have lawns, whereas Tucson’s mostly have desert landscaping, with artful cacti and such. Thomas Volgy, a politics professor at the University of Arizona and former mayor of Tucson, says that Maricopans want “to recreate Michigan”, whereas people in Pima accept that they live in a desert and use water responsibly.
Tucson is at heart a college town, the home of the state’s flagship university. To the extent that intellectuals (such as Mr Volgy) moved to Arizona, they favoured Tucson. Pima County also has an old and rooted Hispanic community. By contrast, Maricopa is a largely white society with more recent Mexican immigrants. And whereas Maricopa is inland, Pima is on the border, which has always made its debate about immigration “more nuanced” than Maricopa’s, according to Mr Volgy.
All of this is wrapped up in a movement calling for Pima and perhaps also Santa Cruz Counties in Arizona to secede from Arizona and create a new state called "Baja Arizona."

Monday, April 4, 2011

How Might America's Changing Demographics Affect Politics?

This week's Economist looked at the 2010 Census Redistricting data from the perspective of what this might mean for the political landscape in the US. We won't have detailed age data for the country until May, but the redistricting data do break the population into the two age groups of under 18 (i.e., not of voting age), and 18 and older. The 18 and older non-Hispanic white population in the US grew very slightly between 2000 and 2010, but there were fewer non-Hispanic whites under the age of 18 in 2010 than there had been in 2000. The same was true for blacks, although the loss at the younger ages was not as large in percentage terms as for the whites. At the same time, there were substantial gains in both age groups for Hispanics and Asians.

What all this means for politics is the subject of some dispute. Right-wing analysts herald the ballooning population of the Republican-leaning states in the South and West and the relative stagnation of the Democratic bastions in the Midwest and north-east as proof of the superiority of Republican policies. What is more, they crow, faster growth is bringing more seats in the House of Representatives to Republican states, which could help to cement their current majority. Conservative Texas, for example, is gaining four seats in the reapportionment set in train by last year’s census; liberal New York is losing two.
But Democrats counter that the growth the Republicans are celebrating comes from natural Democratic constituencies. Minorities, they point out, tend to vote Democratic, whereas the dwindling white, rural population is largely Republican. By this logic, Democratic infiltrators are gradually undermining Republicans’ control over their territory from within. Barack Obama, after all, carried previously Republican-leaning western and southern states such as Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia on his way to the White House in 2008. If he can maintain his share of the vote among blacks and Latinos, he will be hard to beat in 2012.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Trends in Migration Between Mexico and the US

The Population Association of America met this week in Washington, DC and among the many interesting sessions was one that included both Mexican and American demographers discussing recent trends in migration between the US and Mexico. Data from the 10 percent microsample of the 2010 census of Mexico and the 2005 - 2009 American Community Survey both confirm what we had suspected--that migration out of Mexico dropped dramatically in the face of the Great Recession, whereas there was only a very modest rise in return migration from the US to Mexico. The latter trend was small enough that it did not necessarily constitute a rise in the out-migration rate, and there was speculation at the session that it could have been due especially to the increase in 'interior enforcement' leading to a greater number of deportations.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Midwives Save Lives

Saving children's lives can be a relatively simple thing--if you know what you are doing. The average women in the world doesn't actually know what to do when it comes time to give birth to her baby (and that's not my opinion--that's the scientific evidence). When a trained/experienced person such as a midwife attends the delivery of a baby, the baby's chances of survival (and the mother's too) are greatly increased. Yet, there are still a lot of women in the world who give birth without that kind of assistance. A study by the organization Save the Children, and reported by BBC News, suggests that:
It said if a global shortage of 350,000 midwives were met, more than one million babies a year could be saved.
Some 1,000 women and 2,000 babies died every day from easily preventable birth complications - Afghanistan was the worst place to have a baby, it said.
The report said Afghan women faced a one in 11 risk of dying from complications during pregnancy and childbirth. One in five children dies before the age of five.
Many babies in Afghanistan die because of traditional practices, such as placing them on the floor to ward off evil spirits, which can cause infection, it said.