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.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Good News on the Death Front

The US Centers for Disease Control have come out with the preliminary set of death statistics for 2010 and it's all good. The news that has received most attention in the press, such as the Associated Press, is the drop in the homicide rate, which has taken it off the top-15 list.

Homicide was overtaken at No. 15 by pneumonitis, seen mainly in people 75 and older. It happens when food or vomit goes down the windpipe and causes deadly damage to the lungs. This is the first time since 1965 that homicide failed to make the list, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The government has been keeping a list of the top causes of death since 1949. Homicide has historically ranked fairly low. It was as high as 10th in 1989 and in 1991 through 1993, when the nation saw a surge in youth homicides related to the crack epidemic.
Murders have been declining nationally since 2006, according to FBI statistics. Falling homicide rates have been celebrated in several major cities, including New York City, Detroit and Washington.
Criminologists have debated the reasons but believe several factors may be at work. Among them: Abusive relationships don't end in murder as often as they once did, thanks to increased incarcerations and better, earlier support for victims.
"We've taken the home out of homicide," said James Alan Fox, a Northeastern University criminologist who studies murder data.
But, of course, demographics plays a role. The population of the US is aging, even if more slowly than in other rich nations and it is the young, not the old, who are likely to commit murder. The two biggest killers of Americans remain diseases common among the elderly--heart disease and cancer, which account for about half of all deaths. However, the death rates from these diseases are also on the decline, helping to account for a slight rise in life expectancy in the US--albeit still lower than in virtually all other rich countries, despite the fact that we pay more for health care than anyone else...

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