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:

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Demographics of Support for the Israeli-Palestine Conflict

Americans have generally been supportive of Israel and without US military assistance, Israel would certainly have struggled much more than it has. A recent Pew opinion poll, however, suggested that there are key demographic differences in terms of who is more or less supportive of Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians. The Christian Science Monitor has the story.
How one views Israel in the recent Gaza conflict depends largely on race, age, and political affiliation, the poll indicates. While 40 percent of Americans overall see the Palestinian militant group as the prime instigator of the current violence versus 19 percent who blame the Israelis, this gap is smaller – and even nonexistent – within certain demographic groups.
Consider differences among age groups: Among Americans 65 or older, the fault lies with Hamas, as 53 percent of them blame the militant group for the current violence, while only 15 percent blame Israel. Among Americans ages 18 through 29, however, 29 percent put Israel at fault, versus 18 percent who put the blame on Hamas.
Why are Millennials less supportive of Israeli policy? According to Alec Tyson, a senior researcher at Pew, the answer may have to do with religion, as young people are less likely to be members of denominations that tend to support Israel.

Keep in mind that the poll was conducted prior to the recent escalation of violence in Gaza, but it seems likely that the results wouldn't have been much different if the poll had been taken yesterday instead of earlier this month.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Positive Notes on Women's Reproductive Health

For reasons that are always hard for me to fathom, women's reproductive rights seem to be constantly under attack, mainly from men. But there has been some good news lately. Yesterday, a federal judicial panel blocked Mississippi's legislative attempt to shut down its last abortion clinic by requiring that its doctor have a local hospital affiliation. 
A federal appeals panel on Tuesday blocked a Mississippi law that would have shut the sole abortion clinic in the state by requiring its doctors to obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals, something they had been unable to do.
By a 2-to-1 vote, the panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that by imposing a law that would effectively end abortion in the state, Mississippi would illegally shift its constitutional obligations to neighboring states. The ruling is the latest at a time when states, particularly in the South, are increasingly setting new restrictions that supporters say address safety issues and that critics say are intended to shut clinics.
Notice that the ruling was narrowly focused on the fact that this was the last abortion clinic remaining  in Mississippi.
In March, a panel from the same appeals court, composed of different judges, upheld a Texas law requiring admitting privileges, ruling that the closing of some but not all clinics within a state did not present an undue burden to women seeking abortion. About one-third of the abortion clinics in Texas have shut in the last year because of the requirement, leaving 22 open and forcing women in some parts of the state to drive more than 100 miles to obtain an abortion.
If everyone had access to and used effective contraception, including emergency contraception after unprotected intercourse, then the demand for abortion could be lessened and the angst over it alleviated. Thus, it was encouraging to hear that delegates to this year's meeting of the Society for the Study of Reproduction focused attention on contraception, including discussion of the development of a male contraceptive.
Scientists at the meeting, held in Grand Rapids, Michigan, were less cheerful about the prospects of developing a hormonal contraceptive for men. Christina Wang, a reproductive-health researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, is working to develop such a pill by combining a progestin steroid with testosterone. But she says that pharmaceutical companies' interest in such treatments has cooled over the past decade.
Over the years it seems to me that the prevailing opinion of women is that they would never trust a man who told them he was using a male contraceptive. Men may also not believe a woman who says that she is using a contraceptive, but the consequences of non-use or failure of a contraceptive is clearly vastly greater for women than for men. Getting contraceptives to women seems to be the single biggest problem that needs to be solved here.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Unaccompanied Minor Children Represent a Global Issue

There are more unaccompanied minor children arriving in the US than into any other country (reflecting partly the fact that we have more immigrants than any other country), but the US is not the only recipient of such migrants. The Migration Policy Institute has a nice overview of the situation and policy choices being debated and implemented in the US and the EU. In a separate email that went out today, they note the global scope of the issue. Since I don't see this piece online, I will quote from the email I received, which has numerous links to the sources of their information:
The U.S. immigration, humanitarian, and political systems currently are grappling with a sharp rise in the number of unaccompanied minors, with more than 57,000 children encountered so far this fiscal year at the U.S.-Mexico border. This trend is not unique to the United States. Child migrants traveling without relatives are on the move across the globe, leaving their homes as a result of violent conflict, abuse, poverty, famine, and natural disasters.
The United States is not the only destination for Central American child migrants fleeing gang violence and poverty. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees reports that 5,500 unaccompanied children sought safety in Mexico in 2013, while Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Belize recorded a combined 435 percent increase in asylum claimants (adult and child) from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
The phenomenon of unaccompanied minors is found in most major immigrant-receiving countries. The European Union registered 12,685 asylum applications from unaccompanied minors last year, with an additional 12,770 entries by unaccompanied minors not applying for asylum. The children come mainly from Afghanistan and Syria, across Africa, and as far away as Vietnam.

As of August 2013, the Australian Human Rights Commission recorded 358 unaccompanied minors in immigrant detention centers around the country, where concerns of poor treatment and conditions have been raised. Due to a policy of interdiction, fewer boats of refugees have attempted to reach Australia, leaving many stranded in Indonesia. Since 2012, the number of children arriving in Indonesia has increased 11 percent, to 2,478 minors. Many of the unaccompanied children are ethnic Hazaras from Afghanistan, fleeing persecution by the Taliban.
The occurrence of unaccompanied children seeking refuge is not limited to industrialized nations, but also found in regions of conflict. The Syrian civil war has produced more than 1 million child refugees, with hundreds of thousands fleeing to Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, and beyond. Yemen is host to 2,700 unaccompanied children, mainly from Somalia and the Horn of Africa. Violent conflicts throughout Africa have forced children to flee, seeking safety in refugee camps. The Shire refugee camp in Ethiopia alone shelters at least 1,500 Eritrean unaccompanied minors.
For the United States the treatment and safety of the children arriving at the border has become a high priority, with Congress this week debating the appropriate response. For a primer on the child migration crisis, from its roots in Central America to U.S. policy, check out the Source's recent Policy Beat, and other MPI resources on unaccompanied minors, which can be found here.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Ebola Virus Taking a Toll in West Africa

Just as we set our sights on getting one virus (HIV/AIDS) under control, the ebola virus is gaining ground in West Africa. NBC News notes that:
Ebola has infected nearly 1,100 people and killed 660 of them in the current West African outbreak, according to the World Health Organization. It's the worst Ebola outbreak ever recorded. The virus has spread across borders between Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea and was taken by airliner for the first time ever when a Liberian citizen, Patrick Sawyer, collapsed a week ago after flying into Lagos. He’s since died and two tests came back positive for Ebola.
Two Americans--a doctor and a health worker--have both been infected with the virus in Liberia, where they were working as part of a North Carolina-based organization trying to save the lives of Ebola patients. 
One bright spot — early treatment seems to help patients survive better, even though there’s no specific treatment for Ebola. In some outbreaks, 90 percent of patients have died, but the death rate in this outbreak is closer to 60 percent, and Strickland [Melissa Strickland, director of Samaritan's Purse in North Carolina says it’s possibly because patients are being identified earlier and getting supportive care, such as saline solution, to prevent dehydration.
A story on BBC News indicates that the virus was first identified in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) in 1976, and has spread out from there. The virus was named for the river near the village where the first patient was identified. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control notes that the most likely carriers of the disease (besides infected humans) are bats, although monkeys may also be a reservoir. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Is the End of AIDS in Sight?

Six of the people who died on the Malaysian Airlines flight shot out of the air over Ukraine were AIDS researchers on their way to an international AIDS conference in Melbourne, Australia. They perhaps already knew that one of the themes of the conference would be to set sights on ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030, as reported by this week's Economist.
“End” is an elastic term, since there is no cure for HIV infection, nor is one in sight. But optimists think a combination of the tools available—particularly the antiretroviral (ARV) drugs which now keep around 13m people alive—could be enough to stop the virus spreading. In the parlance of epidemiologists, they believe they can arrive at R0<1 .="" average.="" course="" during="" each="" font="" her="" his="" in="" individual="" infected="" infection="" layman="" less="" lifetime="" means="" of="" on="" one="" or="" pass="" person="" s="" terms="" than="" that="" the="" to="" will="">
This would be nothing short of miraculous, when you consider that no one had heard of the disease a few short decades ago, but in the meantime it has killed millions, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Using condoms, not sharing needles, and taking antiretroviral drugs all are helping to bring the disease under control, but the success in doing that runs the risk of diverting attention away from the work that still needs to be done--most of it related to lifestyle and the cost of drugs, rather than anything inherently medical.
The Post-2015 Development Agenda, intended to follow on from the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, which were set in 2000 and which explicitly mention AIDS as a problem to be dealt with, do not, at the moment, mention the disease directly. This worries many. Spending on prevention and treatment, about $19 billion a year in a combination of locally raised money and foreign aid, is thought unlikely to rise over the next few years. Those fighting AIDS must learn to do more with less.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Multigenerational Households on the Rebound

Multigenerational households are staging a comeback as young people find it economically more difficult than in the past to be out on their own. To be sure, this has been going on for a while now, as I noted several months ago, but Pew Research has a new report out summarizing recent trends.
A record 57 million Americans, or 18.1% of the population of the United States, lived in multi-generational family households in 2012, double the number who lived in such households in 1980.
After three decades of steady but measured growth, the arrangement of having multiple generations together under one roof spiked during the Great Recession of 2007-2009 and has kept on growing in the post-recession period, albeit at a slower pace, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.
Young adults ages 25 to 34 have been a major component of the growth in the population living with multiple generations since 1980—and especially since 2010. By 2012, roughly one-in-four of these young adults (23.6%) lived in multi-generational households, up from 18.7% in 2007 and 11% in 1980.
Richard Fry and Jeffrey Passel, who authored the report, note that in the past, multigenerational households were most likely to consist of older people living with their children (to be sure, at one point, my mother and my mother-in-law were both living with my wife and I). Now, however, the trend is for young adults to be staying with, or moving back in with, their parents. This reverses the trend toward early exit from the parental home, as the graph below shows:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Still No Baby Boom in China

You might think that no news is just no news. But it turns out that when the Chinese government last year lifted some of the constraints on the one-child policy, there were people who were seriously expecting, indeed counting, on a baby boom. This week's Economist has the story:
WHEN China eased its one-child policy late last year, investors bet on a surge in demand for everything from pianos to nappies. They, and government officials, foresaw a mini-boom after long-constrained parents were allowed a second go at making babies.
So far, however, it is hard to identify a bedroom productivity burst. About 270,000 couples applied for permission to have second children by the end of May, and 240,000 received it, according to the national family-planning commission. It means China will fall well short of the 1m-2m extra births that Wang Peian, the deputy director of the commission, had predicted.
I noted at the time of the policy change that Chinese demographers were not expecting such an increase in births, but apparently not everyone was listening. And people are still expectant, even if women are not. The Economist suggests that the government was so worried about a surge in births that it made the application process cumbersome so that local hospitals would not be overburdened. So, if they can just make it a little easier to have a baby, that boom will surely come, right?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Food Security Equals Wasting Less

Although this is not a new conclusion, a new study has once again highlighted an important route to world security--waste less food. Mark Zastrow, writing for Nature, summarizes a University of Minnesota analysis that has the following conclusions:
Ecologist Paul West of the University of Minnesota in St Paul and his colleagues used comprehensive calculations based on a cornucopia of disparate data and methods to estimate calories produced, used and wasted around the world. “It became obvious that, wow, there’s actually just a few countries and crops that explain most of the story at global levels,” says West.
The largest gains would come from eating more of what we harvest, which means reducing the proportion of crops used for biofuels and to feed livestock, especially cattle [emphasis added]. The team estimates that beef requires many times more calories in animal feed than it provides. In places like the upper Midwestern United States, “we’re feeding cars and cows instead of people”, says West. The whole world puts enough crops to non-food uses to feed 4 billion people, with the United States, China, Western Europe and Brazil diverting enough to feed 2.4 billion.
West points out that these gains would not require giving up meat altogether. “It takes about 30 calories of feed to make a calorie of beef. But with chicken and pork it’s more like seven or eight to one,” he says. “So even the shift in what types of meat are eaten have a huge effect.” And enough food for 400 million people could be produced by eliminating food waste in just the United States, China and India.
Of course, if we all did give up eating meat, food security would extend even further.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The War on Women in Nigeria

The girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria are still missing and while there may be numerous reasons why no one seems to care very much, this may well be an example of the low value placed on women in that region of the world. In Asia, the high ratio of males to females at birth, occasioned especially by sex-selective abortion are the tell-tale signs. But the sex ratio at birth in Nigeria is pretty normal. The signs are elsewhere, as discussed in this weeks' Economist, based on a recent working paper from Annamaria Milazzo at the World Bank.
In Nigeria, as in many other African countries, men have stronger ownership rights over land than women do. This gives everyone an economic need for sons, including women, who face a grim widowhood without one. The need for sons changes fertility patterns. According to the latest [2008] demographic and health survey (financed by the American government) [USAID], women whose first child is a daughter are likely to have more children than those whose first child is a son. They are less likely to use contraceptives. And, if their first three children are daughters, they are very likely to have a fourth very quickly (within 15 months). The differences are small but consistent: having a daughter first changes child-bearing choices later.
It also changes a woman’s married life. Women with first-born daughters are 1.2 percentage points more likely to end up in a polygamous union. Some husbands, it turns out, take another wife if their first child is a girl (polygamy is legal in northern Nigeria and recognised by customary law elsewhere). Men also seem more willing to abandon or divorce wives who produce a daughter. Among women aged 30 to 49, those with first-born girls are more likely to be divorced, have a non-resident husband or be the head of a household.
Before you get too discouraged, however, I should note that things are better in the southern part of Nigeria than in the northern part (the latter being the realm of Boko Haram). I pulled the following table from the StatCompiler feature of the Demographic and Health Survey website. You can see that fertility is considerably higher and the age at marriage considerably younger in the north than in the south. The next question is how to diffuse those southern attitudes northward.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

New Urbanization Trend Data Available from the UN

John Wilmoth and his group at the UN Population Division have just released the latest round of their urbanization trend data for the world. Although there are no huge surprises in these latest data, the release of new information is always a good time to remind ourselves that almost all of the population growth in the world is occurring in cities, especially smaller cities in developing nations. Here are some highlights.
The rural population of the world has grown slowly since 1950 and is expected to reach its peak in a few years. The global rural population is now close to 3.4 billion and is expected to decline to 3.2 bil- lion by 2050. Africa and Asia are home to nearly 90 per cent of the world’s rural population. India has the largest rural population (857 million), followed by China (635 million). 
The urban population of the world has grown rapidly since 1950, from 746 million to 3.9 billion in 2014. Asia, despite its lower level of urbanization, is home to 53 per cent of the world’s urban population, followed by Europe (14 per cent) and Latin America and the Caribbean (13 per cent).
Just three countries—India, China and Nigeria— together are expected to account for 37 per cent of the projected growth of the world’s urban population between 2014 and 2050. India is projected to add 404 million urban dwellers, China 292 million and Nigeria 212 million. 
Close to half of the world’s urban dwellers reside in relatively small settlements of less than 500,000 inhabitants, while only around one in eight live in the 28 mega-cities with more than 10 million inhabitants.

And, very importantly:
As the world continues to urbanize, sustainable development challenges will be increasingly con- centrated in cities, particularly in the lower-middle-income countries where the pace of urbanization is fastest.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Poor Sanitation Trumps Good Nutrition

Several days ago the New York Times published a very interesting article on the way in which poor sanitation can undermine the health gains among children that should occur with improved nutrition. I had bookmarked it and was reminded of it by Anna Carla Lopez, who posted a link on her Facebook page. As she noted, this is consistent with what she found in her doctoral dissertation research in Accra, Ghana. The NYT story suggests, however, that India is perhaps the worst place on earth when it comes to outdoor defecation.
Two years ago, Unicef, the World Health Organization and the World Bank released a major report on child malnutrition that focused entirely on a lack of food. Sanitation was not mentioned. Now, Unicef officials and those from other major charitable organizations said in interviews that they believe that poor sanitation may cause more than half of the world’s stunting problems. 
“Our realization about the connection between stunting and sanitation is just emerging,” said Sue Coates, chief of water, sanitation and hygiene at Unicef India. “At this point, it is still just an hypothesis, but it is an incredibly exciting and important one because of its potential impact.”
A child raised in India is far more likely to be malnourished than one from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe or Somalia, the planet’s poorest countries. Stunting affects 65 million Indian children under the age of 5, including a third of children from the country’s richest families. 
This disconnect between wealth and malnutrition is so striking that economists have concluded that economic growth does almost nothing to reduce malnutrition. 
Half of India’s population, or at least 620 million people, defecate outdoors. And while this share has declined slightly in the past decade, an analysis of census data shows that rapid population growth has meant that most Indians are being exposed to more human waste than ever before.

This is a very good article. Besides the important policy implications it lays out for children's health, it is almost like a public health primer, and should be required reading for all travelers to India and other less developed nations.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

A World of 29 Billion People? Really??

Abu Daoud is at it again, sending me a link to a population story that I would never have noticed on my own. This one is an opinion piece in the Financial Post written by Lawrence Solomon, who runs a not-for-profit "urban renaissance" organization in Toronto. His article is provocatively titled Population 29 billion: Contrary to popular belief that may be a good thing
Since 2000, fertility rates have risen in Canada, Australia, the U.K., France and the Netherlands, while others in the developed world, like Germany and Japan, seem set to join the party. If they do, all bets are off on the UN’s population projections, which assume that women in the developing world will trend to the western world’s baby-making habits, and that women of the developed world have forever lost their penchant for babies.
This upward population trend would be all to the good. There is no credible reason to believe that population growth necessarily slows as societies become affluent, or that slowing population growth helps societies thrive.
As it turns out, he actually provides no reasons why this would be a good thing. And with good reason--there are no good reasons!

Solomon also provides no obvious explanation for why he wrote this piece, but the comments at the end of the article provide quite a bit of amusement on their own....

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Cell Phones Saving Lives in Ghana

Getting pregnant is one of the most dangerous things that a woman can do, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where maternal and infant mortality rates are among the highest in the world. Women need appropriate prenatal care to monitor the pregnancy, and they need to have access to medical care at the time of delivery, just in case things don't go well for mother and/or baby. But what do you do when women do not routinely have access to this kind of information and service? The BBC reports on a new program in Ghana that keeps track of pregnant women by calling them on their cell phone. The program is called Mobile Midwife, and it is a collaboration between the Grameen Foundation and the Ghana Health Service.
In a country where there are more active mobile phone lines than people (although using several Sim cards is common, so this doesn't mean that everyone has a mobile phone), using the technology to reach women and connect healthcare facilities makes sense.
When a woman signs up for the service, she is assigned a unique number.
After each appointment, the nurse updates her medical records electronically using a mobile phone. By reviewing a digitally-generated monthly report, she can see who has had the correct vaccinations, for example. It also means that the health service can gather centralised data on maternal health in the region. 
The platform is now used in seven districts across Ghana. A desk-top nurse application has been developed to make it easier to enter large amounts of data, as well as an app for android smartphones.
There are currently 216 districts in Ghana, so the impact is still geographically limited, but the idea seems brilliant.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Unaccompanied Minor Children--Getting it Right

I have noted before that Elizabeth Kennedy is in El Salvador on a Fulbright Fellowship researching the issue of unaccompanied minor children migrating to the US. Her research consistently has shown that these kids are fleeing violent situations made ever more dangerous by the drug trade, and our collective response to the children must take that into account. These conclusions were reinforced this past weekend by an article in the NYTimes by Sonia Nazario,  author of Enrique's Journey.  Rubén Rumbaut just forwarded an email with a plea from her to share her concerns with as many others as possible, and I am doing so here:
I recently traveled to Honduras to spend a week with Enrique's family in order to see the violence that plagues their neighborhood.

I saw firsthand the unimaginable pressures children face day to day to work for the narco/drug traffickers and gangs who now run much of Honduras.
I wrote the cover opinion piece for Sunday's New York Times. In it I describe why proposals by President Obama and many in Congress to shortchange due process and expedite removal of these children will send many of them back to certain deaths. I also offer novel solutions. I hope you'll join me in pushing for the right answers to this crisis. The government will begin deporting mothers and children in large numbers today.
I was also on Anderson Cooper 360 Friday talking about the issue.
I am testifying before the Senate on Thursday in order to urge Congress to take a humane and practical approach to this crisis.
Please help by reading and sharing my story so more people are aware of what’s driving these children to leave their homelands and what awaits many of them if they are returned without due process in the U.S.

Please contact your congressional representatives and share with them your concerns for the safety of these children.
When your Congressman tells you (as mine does) that we just need to tighten border security, remind them  that the tightened border security is part of the problem. As Doug Massey at Princeton pointed out many years ago, the increasing cost of crossing the border means that undocumented immigrants stay once they get to the US, since it is no longer easy to go back and forth as they used to do. In the process, we have created a huge undocumented immigration population that didn't use to exist.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Processed Food Can Be Bad for the Environment, Not Just Your Health

Processed foods are mainly in the news because they are generally less healthy than what Mother Nature provides on her own. They are importantly implicated in the nutrition transition that has brought us obesity and other degenerative diseases. But an article in this month's California magazine (the magazine of the UC Berkeley Alumni Association) reveals another downside to processed foods:
Food processing is the third largest energy user in California, the top agricultural state in the nation. Plants that process food, beverages, and tobacco emit more than 1.6 million metric tons of greenhouse gases a year, according to the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Resources Board. The U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn’t particularly like that. In fact, in a perfect world, the government would like to see processors use little to no electricity and natural gas—just resources from Mother Nature. It’s a tall order. Maybe even an impossible one. But in January the USDA hired Alleyne, a 35-year-old post-doctorate researcher from UC Berkeley’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering, to see if it’s even remotely doable.
Mostly known as a regulatory agency, the USDA has a team of 30 scientists cloistered in a big building on Buchanan Street [in San Francisco], to focus on making agriculture and food production as sustainable as possible. The group, called the Processed Foods Research Unit, is one of only a handful that the USDA has dotted around the nation. Given that agriculture in California is a $45 billion business, producing 400 commodities and half of the fruits, nuts, and vegetables grown in this country, it makes sense to have one of the units here.
The idea seems simple--convert the processing industry from its reliance on natural gas and electricity to using only solar energy. Of course, nothing is ever simple, but it certainly feels like a move in the right direction. This is one of those cases where your tax dollars really do seem to be at work for the best.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Hot Population Stories of the Past Year

Today is World Population Day, and I am going to use the occasion to list the top 10 stories from this blog over the past year, based on the number of hits on each page. The list is as follows:

The top story--#1--is about the origins of the term demography is destiny:
Who First Said "Demography is Destiny"?
and the followup to that story:
The Origins of "Demography is Destiny" Revealed

#2--Delay in Marriage a Key to Fertility Decline in Arab Societies

#3--Moroccans Applaud Their Fertility Decline

#4--World Cup Offers its Migration Lessons

#5--PopQuiz: Which Country Has the "Worst" Demographics?

#6--US Birth Rate Stops its Decline

#7--The Coming Baby Boom?

#8--When Deutsche Bank Talks About Fertility Rates, Should We Listen?

#9--Playgrounds for the Elderly: Spain Prepares for an Aging Society

#10--The Dismal Demographics of Puerto Rico

While there is a range in the themes, fertility-related posts get the most hits. Of course, the longer a post has been out there, the more hits it might get, so here is the top 5 list from just the past month:

#1--World Cup Offers its Migration Lessons

#2--Youth Bulge Going to Waste in Gaza

#3--Population Growth and the Mess in the Middle East

#4--Demographic Lessons from the World Cup

#5--Thoughts on the American Reaction to Women and Children Crossing the Border


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Immigration on the Front Page

Given the massive amount of trouble in the world, it is really quite remarkable that immigration is on the front page of news outlets in the U.S. With President Obama in Texas today, the issue is especially visible. I can only hope that Gov. Rick Perry of Texas was not really serious in blaming Obama for the current influx of women and children, and unaccompanied minors. In the midst of this noise, I was very happy yesterday to run across an extremely detailed and well-written analysis of the immigration problem from Ben Casselman, writing for Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight website-"Immigration Is Changing Much More Than the Immigration Debate." The story nicely summarizes the patterns of immigration to this country over time, correctly noting that the percent of foreigners in the country (13 percent) is "nearing an historic high." We are almost back to where we were a century ago. This means, of course, that it is the highest level experienced by people today, even if not in American history. However, this is not all coming from Mexico and Central America. Using data from the IPUMS database, he shows that:
As immigration from Mexico has been falling, migration from other countries has continued to rise. In the past five years, the number of new immigrants (those in the country less than a year) from China has risen 37 percent, to more than 70,000. Immigration from India and other Asian countries is also increasing, though at a more modest rate.
As a result, Asia has surpassed Latin America as the dominant source of new immigrants to the U.S. Asia accounted for 45 percent of all new immigrants in 2012, compared to 34 percent for Latin America. Mexico is still the largest single country of origin for new immigrants, but its lead is shrinking fast: Mexico accounts for 14 percent of all new immigrants, down from 45 percent in 2000. India, meanwhile, now accounts for 12 percent, and China for 10 percent.
Drawing on data from Pew Research, he reviews recent trends in undocumented immigration, which is increasingly less likely to be from Mexico:

The question of what to do about existing undocumented immigrants remains highly relevant. There are nearly 12 million of them here, close to an all-time high. But at least for much of the past few years, the issue of securing the border has been all but moot: Between 2007 and 2012, more undocumented workers left the country than entered it.
This is important, in my opinion, and we need to spread this kind of sensible message. My own Congressman, Duncan Hunter, has followed in his father's footsteps in pushing for double-layered fencing all along the border. It is true that the fencing here in San Diego has worked--by pushing would-be border crossers into ever-more dangerous mountain or desert areas. Even if this were a good idea, we are stuck with a House of Representatives that does not want to spend the money to make even a good attempt to "seal the border" because it refuses to raise the taxes that would pay for such things. With luck, the reality may be that we don't need to be spending that money, anyway.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

College Graduates Tend to Live in the Best Places

Thanks to Justin Stoler for linking me to a news release from Stanford University with the bold, but somewhat misleading title "Is college education segregating US Cities?" The reference is to a new report just put out by Rebecca Diamond, an Assistant Professor of Economics at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
America’s cities are dividing themselves into two distinct groups, with college-educated workers clustering in places that less-educated people cannot afford.
This wage gap has rippled across American cities. From about 1980 to 2000, cities that initially had a large share of college graduates (Boston and Atlanta, for example) increasingly attracted larger numbers of them, while cities with less-educated workers (Albany, NY, and Harrisburg, Penn.) gained fewer graduates.
Do the large increases in wage inequality over the past three decades point to a similar increase in economic well-being inequality? The answer is yes, Diamond says. “In fact, the increase in wage inequality understates the true increase in economic well-being inequality.”
The reason is that high-skill cities also offer residents more amenities for quality living—entertainment, educational opportunities, better air quality, and lower crime rates. The higher housing costs do not fully dilute the real amount of consumption that college workers derive from their high wages.
This, of course, is not a linear process. College-educated people are likely to demand different things from their environment than will the less-educated, and will be in a better position to effect change within their community.
Looking ahead, Diamond would like to examine this issue at the neighborhood level—”who’s willing to live next door to whom”—and how people segregate themselves in the particular places they live.
On this score, it turns out that she is "living next door" to one of the world's foremost authorities on the topic--Sean Reardon, Professor in Stanford's Graduate School of Education. Diamond did not reference his work in her report, but I suspect we'll see future collaborations.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Sorting Out the Immigration Complexities

The immigration issue in the U.S. is currently a mess, and the New York Times has a very nice video clip that tries to provide a one-minute university on what's going on. They title it "The Immigration Debate's Twin Issues" and I encourage you to take a look since it really is only one minute. The main points are that (a) the expenses associated with unaccompanied minors when they cross into the U.S. without documents are derived from a bill signed by Pres. Bush in 2008 just before his term ended. The goal was to try to keep kids entering from elsewhere than Mexico or Canada from becoming real victims; and (b) Speaker of the House Boehner has decided that Congress will not move forward on immigration reform that could deal with this and other aspects of immigration.

A major missing element, however, is that much of the clamor over recent immigrants has to do with women who are bringing their children across the border, rather than the unaccompanied minors. These two related, but still different parts of the immigration problem are constantly conflated in the news coverage, but they have very policy implications. Very few of these problems can be solved without money, and the news seems to be full of Republican Members of Congress saying that they aren't interested in spending money on immigrants. Instead, they seem disingenously just to want to blame the Obama Administration for what's happening.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Future of Arab Society

The Arab world in the Middle East and North Africa is currently under tremendous stress, capturing the cover of this week's Economist with the headline "The tragedy of the Arabs." Much of the stress is due to the incredible increase in population size within predominantly Arab nations as a result of declining child mortality (imported from the West) coupled with birth rates that, even if lower than in the past, are still well above replacement level in almost all areas except smaller, more economically developed places such as Lebanon, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain.

Solutions to the region's problems go beyond politics. They lie buried in demography and culture that help to drive the politics. Fortunately, there is at least one group trying to understand these issues and hopefully do something about them. The Arab Council for the Social Sciences, based in Beirut, Lebanon, just announced a call for papers for a conference to be held in March 2015 on the topic of Questioning Social Inequality and Difference in the Arab Region.
In the Arab region, inequality between social groups and classes has risen markedly in the past two decades with increasing regional and sub-regional disparities within countries. These intersect with various other structural forms of difference including regional, ethnic, linguistic, religious, tribal and so on. Significantly, Tunisia, the country of an “economic miracle” according to the IMF and the World Bank, was the first country to initiate the wave of “Arab uprisings”, in no small part due to the “miracle” being focused on the capital and northern coastal cities, not the interior of Tunisia or the south.
One reaction to the instability in the region is to get out, and many have headed to Europe. This has generated yet another upcoming conference (October 2014): The next Population Europe Event will be held in Rome in cooperation with Sapienza University of Rome, Neodemos, and the Italian National Institute of Statistics: The topic is The Stranger Among Us. Immigration Policies and Social Cohesion in Europe. Announced participants include some of Italy's best known demographers, including Graziella Caselli, Gianpiero Dalla Zuanna, and Massimo Livi Bacci. Changing demographics do indeed turn the future into a foreign country. To be sure, the motto of Population Europe is: Demography Drives Your Future.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Thoughts on the American Reaction to Women and Children Crossing the Border

Like most people, I was genuinely shocked at the reaction of people in Murrieta, California who rallied to turn back buses of undocumented immigrants flown to California from the south Texas border. The mayor of Murrieta blamed the government for this, and to be sure, Homeland Security has seemed nearly as inept as the Veteran's Administration on this issue. But the causes and consequences of this current migration crisis go much deeper than that. Thanks to Rubén Rumbaut for pointing out a story written before this issue of women bringing their children over the border without documents really hit the news. Anthony Bourdain is a celebrity chef and world traveler who is well known in many circles, and he has a blog (or really a summary of his TV shows) in which two months ago (3 May) he was making the following comments, which he called "Under the Volcano."
Americans love Mexican food. We consume nachos, tacos, burritos, tortas, enchiladas, tamales and anything resembling Mexican in enormous quantities. We love Mexican beverages, happily knocking back huge amounts of tequila, mezcal and Mexican beer every year. We love Mexican people—as we sure employ a lot of them. Despite our ridiculously hypocritical attitudes towards immigration, we demand that Mexicans cook a large percentage of the food we eat, grow the ingredients we need to make that food, clean our houses, mow our lawns, wash our dishes, look after our children. As any chef will tell you, our entire service economy—the restaurant business as we know it—in most American cities, would collapse overnight without Mexican workers. Some, of course, like to claim that Mexicans are “stealing American jobs”. But in two decades as a chef and employer, I never had ONE American kid walk in my door and apply for a dishwashing job, a porter’s position—or even a job as prep cook. Mexicans do much of the work in this country that Americans, provably, simply won’t do.
We love Mexican drugs. Maybe not you personally, but “we”, as a nation, certainly consume titanic amounts of them—and go to extraordinary lengths and expense to acquire them. We love Mexican music, Mexican beaches, Mexican architecture, interior design, Mexican films.
So, why don’t we love Mexico?
In the service of our appetites, we spend billions and billions of dollars each year on Mexican drugs—while at the same time spending billions and billions more trying to prevent those drugs from reaching us. The effect on our society is everywhere to be seen. Whether it’s kids nodding off and overdosing in small town Vermont, gang violence in LA, burned out neighborhoods in Detroit— it’s there to see. What we don’t see, however, haven’t really noticed, and don’t seem to much care about, is the 80,000 dead—mostly innocent victims in Mexico, just in the past few years. 80,000 dead. 80,000 families who’ve been touched directly by the so-called “War On Drugs”.
Americans know less about Guatemalans, Hondurans, and Salvadorans than about Mexicans and often assume they are all the same. While they are not all the same, just as all Mexicans are not the same, the reasons for violence in Mexico and Central America that sends people north are the same. The problem is us, not them.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Understanding Latin America

The World Cup semifinals are now set, with two of the teams from Latin America (Brazil and Argentina) and two from Europe (Germany and the Netherlands). Of course, Brazil was "created" in its modern form by immigrants especially from Portugal and Italy, along with the forced relocation of millions of Africans, and the voluntary migration of many Japanese. Argentina was "created" in its modern form by Spanish and Italian immigrants, in particular. So, there is a distinctly European flavor to the World Cup semifinals. Yet Latin America is a very complex place and its demography shows that variability, with very low fertility and mortality in the predominantly European-origin parts of the region, especially places like Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Costa Rica, whereas fertility and mortality are still above the world average in more indigenous regions such as Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. There are clear reasons why the recent crisis of mothers and children arriving in the US without documentation are from the latter nations, and not the former.

To help you understand the demographic patterns across time and space, you really need to understand the region and its politics, and there is no better source for that than my son's new book Understanding Latin American Politics. Of course, Greg is not simply my son, he is also Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, and he knows whereof he writes. I have my copy--you really should have yours.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Fourth of July Demographics

American independence from England had a strong demographic base. The colonies were growing in population size, with high rates of natural increase encouraged by a growing economy. Population growth has continued to be order of the day in the U.S. as the country took over territory from coast to coast, ramping up the number of states from 13 to 50. In honor of the Fourth of July, Bryan Vu at MyLife has put together a very nice graphic of population growth by state from the first census in 1790 through the most recent in 2010. Here are the contrasts:

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Race in the Census: I Just Want to be Me

Classifying the racial/ethnic background of Americans has been on the minds of people at the US Census Bureau for some time now, and the New York Times resurrected the issue yesterday. Given the number of Iraqi refugees arriving in the US over the past eight years, and the likely increase in that number, it is perhaps significant that one of the first issues raised in the article is about the racial classification of Arabs.
Mustafa Asmar, a Palestinian-American waiter in Paterson, N.J., does not like his options either. Arab-Americans are broadly classified as white in the census. “When you fill out white or other, it doesn’t really represent the Middle Eastern population,” said Mr. Asmar, 25. “I don’t feel like I’m white. I don’t know what else to put.”
Arab-Americans are generally categorized as white in the census, something activist groups and academics have been lobbying to change. A letter to the Census Bureau last July, submitted by the Arab American Institute and co-signed by a number of organizations and academics, asked for an ethnic category box to be added to the census form to cover people from the Middle East and North Africa. The letter said an estimated two-thirds of people from the region do not consider themselves white.
I have commented before that the racial categories are vestiges of long-ago that should be dispensed with. What really matters is your ethnicity. And why does it matter? Because it may be used against you. Indeed, the main reason why these questions exist on the census is to keep tabs on how different groups are doing in terms of health and well-being. The only ethnicity question currently asked on the 100 percent count census short form is about Hispanic/Latino background. The American Community Survey asks about ancestry, and that is really the question people want to be answering. While in graduate school at Berkeley I worked for a while at the California Department of Public Health, which at the time was headquartered in Berkeley, across the street from the UC Berkeley School of Public Health. I noticed that data in California vital statistics records were coded not just in terms of "Asian" but rather for detailed categories of Asian (e.g, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean) and when I asked about that the answer provided to me by a person who might have fit into the overall "Asian" category was simple--the concept of Asian has no meaning--you are a product of where you are from. I have never forgotten that lesson and as it applies to the census it means that we should go for ancestry on the short form and be done with the race issue.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Immigration Reform by Executive Fiat?

Although immigration reform is clearly dead in Congress, President Obama yesterday announced that he intends to do something by way of executive action. This is, of course, almost certainly driven by the recent explosion of women and children from Central America showing up along the south Texas border. But what can he do? This is a very good question and today it was put to Everard Meade, Director of the Transborder Institute at the University of San Diego. He answered questions on KPBS here in San Diego.

Current law allows the executive branch a fair amount of discretion in deciding who among the people arriving in the US without documents can stay or be deported. Indeed, President Obama has played the deportation card more than other president. As he has already promised to do, he can allocate funds to Central American governments to try to stem the current tide of undocumented immigration. However, as Dr. Meade points out, there are real questions about how well the money will be spent in these countries, so this may not be a genuine solution.

What the president cannot do is to change the structure of who migrates legally to the U.S., and that is still an important part of immigration reform bill--already passed by the U.S. Senate--that Speaker of the House John Boehner has refused to bring to a vote in the House of Representatives.

Overall, it seems unlikely that executive action will do very much on the immigration front. In the meantime, the conditions in Central America that stimulate migration are not going away any time soon, as Elizabeth Kennedy noted today in a post on the American Immigration Council website.