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 12th (it came out in 2015), 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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Monday, December 22, 2014

Cuban Demographics

If you happened to watch the "60 Minutes" segment on Cuba last night, you might well have come away with the impression that Cubans are starving to death and that is one reason why new connections to the U.S. can be beneficial--let's feed these people! Well, I don't claim to have nutritional details for Cuba, but data from the World Health Organization suggest that life expectancy in Cuba is nearly identical to that in the United States. Now, keep in mind that the U.S. and Cuba have lower life expectancy than all Western European countries so maybe the U.S. is overfed and Cuba is underfed, but the mortality statistics are very similar. At the same time, fertility has been lower in Cuba than in the U.S. since the 1980s, and that has created the massive age structure change that my son, Greg, and I outlined in the Washington Post a few days ago. 

Here are some of the details that we didn't have room to put in that piece, based on data from the UN Population Division. At the time of the Cuban Revolution, the population was young, with 45% under 20 and only 7% 60+. The rapid drop in fertility--from 4.7 children per woman in 1960 to 1.7 in 1990, accompanied by declining mortality, meant that by 1990, 34% were under 20 and 12% were 60+. By 2015, it is estimated that this combination of low fertility and mortality will have produced a population that is almost exactly the same size as in 1990 (11 million), but now the percent under 20 is down to 22, and percent 60+ is up to 20. At current trends, the UN projects that by 2040 only 16 percent will be under 20 and a whopping 38 percent will be 60+. This is a demographic disaster scenario--few economies could go on for long like that--and even though Fidel and Raul will be long gone by then, their Revolution could not withstand that kind of demographic regime and they almost certainly are aware of that fact. This is at least part of the explanation for their welcoming the Obama Administration's overtures.

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