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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Friday, June 10, 2016

Turkey's Demographic Divide

Thanks to Abu Daoud for linking me to an article in Asia Times suggesting that Turkish President Erdogan's call for women to give up contraception (which I commented on a few days ago) is really about Turkey's demographic divide between the Turks in the west and the Kurds in the east. The author of that article, David Goldman, argues that the call to stop using contraception was aimed squarely at the non-Kurdish population.
When he talks about Turkey’s failing demographics, though, Erdogan is speaking from the heart. Turkey’s Kurdish citizens continue to have three or four children while ethnic Turks have fewer than two. By the early 2040s, most of Turkey’s young people will come from Kurdish-speaking homes. The Kurdish-majority Southeast inevitably will break away. Erdogan’s hapless battle against the inevitable motivates the sometimes bewildering twists and turns of Turkish policy.
Goldman also provides the stark evidence of birth rates by province in Turkey, based on data from Turkstat, the official statistics agencies. Check it out:

 Readers of my book will be familiar with my reference to a paper by Turkish demographers Oğuz Işiz and M. Melih Pinarcioğlu, in which they discuss this issue in detail. That paper is behind a subscription, but here's its essence, which is similar to the point that Goldman is making in the Asia Times article:
The fertility decline that Turkey has gone through in the last few decades is characterised by sharp regional inequalities, with western regions representing patterns akin to developed countries and those in the east resembling “third-world” countries, while central regions represent an in-between case. With the help of geographically weighted regression (GWR), this article is an attempt to set up a model of causal relationships that could account for the regional fertility differentials. The results indicate that the fertility decline is not a single and all-embracing process covering all regions. On the contrary, there are regions differentiated qualitatively from each other in terms of the underlying causes of the existing fertility levels.
Their analysis suggests that the explanations are more complex than just a simple Turkish/Kurdish divide, but it seems unlikely that Erdogan is interested in those subtleties of the real world. 

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