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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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Fantasy Versus Facts in Estimating a Local Arab Population

The murder of an Iraqi-born women in El Cajon, California, has continued to resonate in the US and in Iraq, as well. There is the obvious fear--not yet confirmed by police investigations--that this was a hate crime. Nonetheless, it was a terrible event and has focused attention on the very community that is the subject of the essay in Chapter 12 of my text (the 11th edition). Sifting fact from fancy in news stories is not always easy, however, and this is a cautionary tale in terms of believing the news media. has a story today in which they make the following statement:
El Cajon is in eastern San Diego County, which is home to the second-largest Iraqi community in the United States, behind Detroit. More than half of El Cajon's 100,000 residents are of Middle Eastern descent.
Now, it is certainly true that El Cajon is the home to the second-largest Iraqi Chaldean Christian population in the US, behind Dearborn, Michigan. It is not necessarily the second largest Iraqi community in general. And remember that the slain woman was a Shia Muslim, not a Christian. More importantly, it is utterly wrong to suggest that "more than half of El Cajon's 100,000 residents are of Middle Eastern descent." Data from the most recent American Community Survey suggest that the number of people of Middle Eastern origin in the entire County of San Diego (with a population of 3 million) is not even 50,000, and in El Cajon is not likely to exceed 25,000--including the foreign-born and their children. This is not a trivial number, but is far less than reported in the press.

My guess is that this number has its origins in a San Diego Union-Tribune reporter's story a few years ago that there were 40,000 Chaldeans in San Diego County. Even though I told her at the time that this number was badly inflated, she and others have continued to use it, because it was provided to her by the local Bishop of the Chaldean church, albeit based on nothing more than his guess. Since the number was said to be 40,000 a few years ago, it must be higher now, right?? Wrong, it wasn't that high back then, and it still isn't.

UPDATE: On 9 November 2012 the husband of the murdered woman was arrested at his home in El Cajon, charged with murdering his wife because he found out that was intending to divorce him. Thus, it was a case of domestic violence, not a hate crime.

1 comment:

  1. I would also note that many Chaldeans despise being called 'Arabs'.