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, October 20, 2012

Malthus in Manhattan

Well, OK, it's technically not Manhattan, but it is New York City generally where Mayor Michael Bloomberg is pushing a plan to develop publicly subsidized new super-small apartments (“microunits”) as part of his goal to provide 165,000 homes for poor and moderate-income families across New York City by 2014. However, as the New York Times reports, there is a particular demographic group that is complaining about this strategy--large poor families:
This group includes members as disparate as West Africans in the South Bronx, Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn and Bangladeshi in Queens, who are united by their inability to afford the high prices for large market-rate rentals and their inability to find publicly subsidized alternatives even as the overall housing stock has swelled.

So Mahamadou Tounkara and his wife and six children squeeze into one room of a market-rate, three-bedroom apartment in the South Bronx that they share with two other families because they cannot afford the monthly $1,112 rent alone. Twenty more large families at their mosque are in a similar bind even as several new city-financed buildings have risen nearby.
 “It’s hard to live like this,” said Mr. Tounkara, who is a part-time auto mechanic. “You want more space, but if you don’t have money, how are you going to pay for it?”
Mr. Tounkara, the father of six, who does not have a high school diploma, said he moved to the Bronx in 1996 for a better life than he had in his native Mali. His wife, Assetou, followed four years later, and they had six children. “I like kids, so I make more,” he said. “My culture has a lot of kids.”
Now, here is the question that anyone would reasonably ask: If you are a large poor family, why are you living in the most expensive city in the United States?
“It’s not the city’s job to give open-ended subsidies and reward people for having more members in the family,” said Nicole Gelinas, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. “It is responsible behavior not to have children until you can reasonably support them.”
Malthus, who strongly made the case that people shouldn't have children until they can afford them, would strongly approve of that attitude.

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