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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Saturday, October 31, 2015

High and Wide, but Narrowing: Life Expectancy in China's Provinces

The big news from China this week was, of course, the transition of the one-child policy to a two-child policy, as I noted earlier in the week. One of the more cogent responses to this was by the editorial board of the New York Times, which asked the reasonable question of why the government didn't just abandon its meddling in reproductive decisions? With luck, it won't make a difference, and we all know that China cannot handle much of an increase in its birth rate because it has a huge aging population--people are living longer and having more babies will make resources more scarce, not more available. The longevity of the Chinese is not spatially even, however. This week's Economist reports on a paper just published online in The Lancet, in which the researchers from the Global Burden of Disease project have created estimates of life expectancy by each province in China. The Economist went to the WHO website and matched up the provincial life expectancy values with different countries around the world and then produced the following map:

There is a large disparity between provinces, but the gap is narrowing. In Shanghai life expectancy is now 83—as good as Switzerland. People in six areas live longer than Americans. The most impressive progress has taken place in the most benighted regions: a child in Tibet born in 1990 had a life expectancy of 56, akin to one of the poorest African countries. This has risen to 70, roughly the same as Moldova, one of Europe’s poorer countries.
As is true in almost every comparison of China by province, the farther west you are the more disadvantaged you are. In the east, people live longer and they have the fewest children, and these areas attract the most migrants. In the west, people live shorter lives, have fewer children, and people are often looking for a ticket east.

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