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:

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Political Demography and Latin America

Today I was the guest on Understanding Latin American Politics: The Podcast, which is hosted by Dr. Gregory Weeks, Professor and Chair of Political Science at the University of Carolina, Charlotte. Greg has always been like a son to me since, of course, he IS my son. Not surprisingly, we talked about political demography, which he and I have been working on together for several years. Today we talked especially about Colombia, Venezuela and Cuba. Enjoy!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Is Demography Connected to the Colombian Peace Deal?

A new peace deal was signed in Colombia a few days ago between the government and the FARC rebel group. As BBC News notes, "The deal is aimed at ending five decades of armed conflict, which has killed more than 260,000 people and left millions internally displaced." That's a lot of deaths, to be sure, but 50 years ago Colombia had a population of 19 million, and today it has 48 million. Fifty years ago, the average woman was having 6.2 children each and today she is having 1.8 each. Fifty years ago, almost 60 percent of the population was under age 20, and today it is down to one-third. In other words, Colombia is a very different country today than it was 50 years ago, and demographic change is front and center in the country's transition.

I thought about these things this week as I read an interesting research article just published in Demographic Research by Ewa Batyra, a demography PhD student at the London School of Economics. Her focus was on the change in timing of childbearing in Colombia as a way of helping to understand the dramatic drop in fertility over time in that country. Her analysis is largely based on the 2010 Demographic and Health Survey in Colombia, at which time fertility had dropped to just replacement level. It has since dipped below replacement level. Why? As is true throughout much of the world, education is a key. The better educated a woman is, the later she is to start childbearing or, if she had a child early (as is still frustratingly common throughout parts of Latin America), the more likely she is to delay the second one.

So, in the 50 years since FARC got going, the excess supply of unemployed young men has diminished, and men and women have been staying in school longer, leading to new perspectives on life, including perspectives on family and, almost certainly, on the value of rebellion and illegal activity. Over those years, the per person gross national income (in current US dollars) has risen from $300 per year to $7,130, according to World Bank data. 

You might well say that correlation is not causation and that I am ignoring a lot of the messiness associated with the peace deal, but I would argue that Colombia's way forward (and it is definitely forward) is grounded thoroughly in the demographics of reduced family size and a heightened status of women. The need for rebellion is gone, and it was time to make peace. 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Venezuelans on the Move

It was bound to happen. You can't have a country whose economy is collapsing, as in Venezuela, and not expect that some people will try to get out. Today's NYTimes has a lengthy article detailing the plight of several people trying to get to the island of Curaçao by boat. From shore to shore it is about 40 miles in distance, but of course that's not an easy trip for small smuggling boats. And the island is home to only about 150,000 people, so it is not in a good position to be receiving new migrants.
Venezuela was once one of Latin America’s richest countries, flush with oil wealth that attracted immigrants from places as varied as Europe and the Middle East.
But after President Hugo Chávez vowed to break the country’s economic elite and redistribute wealth to the poor, the rich and middle class fled to more welcoming countries in droves, creating what demographers describe as Venezuela’s first diaspora.
Now a second diaspora is underway — much less wealthy and not nearly as welcome.
Well over 150,000 Venezuelans have fled the country in the last year alone, the highest in more than a decade, according to scholars studying the exodus.
I have not been able yet to track down the source of those numbers, but the story points out that Venezuelans are also trying to get into Brazil (whose economic situation has also deteriorated lately), as well as into Colombia. 

A cynical view of this would be that President Maduro of Venezuela might be happy to see people go, since that could take some pressure off the limited supply of food in the country.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Federal Court Pushes Back Against Gerrymandering in Wisconsin

Federal judges in Wisconsin have ruled that the gerrymandering of State Assembly districts in that state unfairly benefitted Republicans. Keep in mind that redistricting of Congressional Districts is mandated by the U.S. Constitution and this is the formal reason for having a census of population in the United States. State legislatures and local jurisdictions also redistrict after each census. Indeed, my wife (a former elected official) was a member of the San Diego County Redistricting Advisory Committee here in San Diego County after the 2010 census. The Supreme Court has ruled in recent years that race is the primary reason for challenging the redrawn boundaries, but in Wisconsin, political parties were at stake, rather than race, per se, as the NYTimes notes:
A panel of three federal judges said on Monday that the Wisconsin Legislature’s 2011 redrawing of State Assembly districts to favor Republicans was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, the first such ruling in three decades of pitched legal battles over the issue.
Federal courts have struck down gerrymanders on racial grounds, but not on grounds that they unfairly give advantage to a political party — the more common form of gerrymandering. The case could now go directly to the Supreme Court, where its fate may rest with a single justice, Anthony M. Kennedy, who has expressed a willingness to strike down partisan gerrymanders but has yet to accept a rationale for it.
In Monday’s ruling, the court was swayed by a new and simple mathematical formula to measure the extent of partisan gerrymandering, called the efficiency gap. The formula divides the difference between the two parties’ “wasted votes” — votes beyond those needed by a winning side, and votes cast by a losing side — by the total number of votes cast. When both parties waste the same number of votes, the result is zero — an ideal solution. But as a winning party wastes fewer and fewer votes than its opponent, its score rises.
The case will automatically go to the Supreme Court and we will have to watch this carefully, since gerrymandering for clearly political purposes was undertaken by many states after the 2010 census because Republicans won a lot of seats that year both in Congress and in state legislatures. Since the latter groups still draw the boundaries in a majority of states, this has almost certainly influenced politics in America, as things suggested they would back in 2011 as redistricting was taking place throughout the country. If boundaries are required to change in ways so that one party is clearly not benefitting more than another, this could affect elections in 2018 and 2020, which could then influence how the 2020 census data will be used for redistricting.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Demography of Dementia

With aging comes dementia. Maybe not to you personally (hopefully!) but at the population level, your chances of dementia increase with age. But how quickly do those odds increase? A new report out in JAMA Internal Medicine offers a bit of good news, if there is such a thing when it comes to dementia. You can read the whole article on your own, but today's NYTimes offers a summary.
Despite fears that dementia rates were going to explode as the population grows older and fatter, and has more diabetesand high blood pressure, a large nationally representative survey has found the reverse. Dementia is actually on the wane. And when people do get dementia, they get it at older and older ages.
The new study found that the dementia rate in Americans 65 and older fell by 24 percent over 12 years, to 8.8 percent in 2012 from 11.6 percent in 2000. That trend is “statistically significant and impressive,” said Samuel Preston, a demographer at the University of Pennsylvania [and a Past President of the Population Association of America] who was not associated with the study.
In 2000, people received a diagnosis of dementia at an average age of 80.7; in 2012, the average age was 82.4.
Keep in mind that this is a good new/bad news sort of story. The good news is that the rate of dementia is going down and is hitting at later ages. The bad news is that given the size of the baby boomer population coming into the older ages, that rate is going to have to go down a lot more to ward off a huge national increase in the number of older people with dementia. Nature had a lengthy story recently that details some of those numbers and the fact that we have not yet put nearly enough money or effort into preventing and combatting dementia.
Voluntarily or not, people will need to face up to dementia, because in just a few short decades, pretty much everyone is going to have a friend or loved one affected by the disease. It’s an alarming idea, and it should spur action, says Robert Egge, chief public policy officer of the Alzheimer’s Association in Chicago, Illinois.
So, we can't let the good news from today's research keep us from pressing on with more work on dementia.  

Monday, November 21, 2016

Pope Extends Forgiveness for Abortions

Pope Francis today extended indefinitely his instruction to parish priests that they can forgive a woman who confesses to having had an abortion. As CNN notes, this is not meant by the Catholic Church to be a change in their view about abortion, but it does show a continued softening (even if still somewhat confused, as I have noted in the past) of attitudes towards women's reproductive rights that has been taking place under the current Pope.
While the practical effect of Francis' announcement remains unclear, it draws attention to the prevailing theme of his papacy: That the doors of the Church must remain open, just as God's forgiveness and mercy extend to all those who repent from sin. 
That said, the Catholic Church's stance on abortion has not changed -- it is still viewed as a "grave sin." But it makes it easier for women who have had abortions to be absolved for their actions, and rejoin the church.
The CNN article has a nice map showing the availability of legal abortion throughout the world (note that the original is interactive, allowing you to to click on countries to find their specific laws regarding abortion):

The map shows a significant "north-south" divide with respect to abortion. Interestingly enough, the lines are drawn more with respect to levels of economic development (more developed equals greater availability of abortion) than along religious lines (some predominantly Catholic countries allow it, some don't; some predominantly Muslim countries allow, some don't). 

My guess is that if men could get pregnant, abortion would be available everywhere in the world...

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Great Ethnic Wall of China

"Ethnicity is central to China's national identity," reports the Economist in this week's issue. The Han account for 1.2 billion of the country's 1.4 billion people, and it seems clear that they want it to stay that way.
China today is extraordinarily homogenous. It sustains that by remaining almost entirely closed to new entrants except by birth. Unless someone is the child of a Chinese national, no matter how long they live there, how much money they make or tax they pay, it is virtually impossible to become a citizen. Someone who marries a Chinese person can theoretically gain citizenship; in practice few do. As a result, the most populous nation on Earth has only 1,448 naturalised Chinese in total, according to the 2010 census. Even Japan, better known for hostility to immigration, naturalises around 10,000 new citizens each year; in America the figure is some 700,000.
This issue is at work behind the scenes, so to speak, as China copes with its changing age structure. The dramatic drop in China's fertility rate from the 1970s to the present is a key factor in its economic success. The country has used that demographic dividend brilliantly--as have Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and to a less extent, Vietnam. As I note in my book, the evidence suggests that the birth rate decline in China would have continued even without the Draconian one-child policy, and the negative legacy of that policy lingers even though the government has eased the restrictions on births. The NYTimes recently reported that a 2015 mini-census in China found that the Total Fertility Rate in China was down to 1.05 children per woman, well below the official figure of 1.6 children. The response from some has predictably been to suggest that the government needs to be more pronatalist. The government has shown little interest in this approach, nor has the average married couple in China. And, since it is clear that outsiders (i.e., immigrants) are not going to be coming to the rescue anytime soon, we can assume that China will continue its pattern of creating a global web of external income that will allow it to support an increasingly older population without resorting to a higher birth rate among the Han or opening the doors to non-Chinese immigrants.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Afghans on the Move

Most of the news out of Afghanistan is about Taliban-inspired violence. In the midst of the chaos, however, are real people trying to stay out of harm's way. That means that a lot of Afghans are on the move. I mentioned this a few days ago, albeit largely from the Pakistani point of view. The Humanitarian Information Unit of the U.S. State Department has just published an infographic with lots of useful details from the Afghan point of view. I have copied it below, but you should go to the original to see it more clearly.

Afghanistan has an estimated 33 million people, and although they are sandwiched in between Pakistan and Iran, the demographics look much more like Africa than either South Asia (in which both Pakistan and Afghanistan are located) and West Asia (where geographers put Iran). For a long time, Afghanistan has had high fertility, high infant and child mortality, and high maternal mortality. A quick glance at the age structure of returnees (which is not unlike the age structure for all of Afghanistan) tells you how disruptive the future demographics are likely to be. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Disruptive Demographics

The term "disruptive" has come into wide use (and maybe even overuse) in the past few years, but it does apply to the effects of demographic change. I talk about the effects of demographic change all the time, including recently in the context of political demography, but I had not before used the term "disruptive." An article in The Economist's online section from the Economist Intelligence Unit taught me that I need to make it mine. 
Demographic forces are disruption catalysts. Young people’s online habits have transformed advertising and customer feedback models. Older generations’ purchasing decisions are increasingly influenced by their children, quickening the percolation of new technologies. And in some new frontier technologies, like robotics-in-the-home, the ‘silver market’ may be the first adopters.
The story is about marketing (which I discuss in my book), not about politics, but the disruptive force of demography is even more powerful with respect to politics, as Debbie Fugate and I talk about in our book on The Youth Bulge: Challenge or Opportunity. If we were doing that book this year the title would have to be The Demographic Disruptions of Youth Bulges.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

U.S. Women Are Marrying Less and Divorcing Less

Divorce and contraception (and abortion) became widely available to U.S. women at roughly the same time back in the 1970s. At first there was a rise in the divorce rate, but over time it is the decline in the marriage rate among women that has been most noticeable. These trends have been put out there for us by the folks at Bowling Green State University's National Center for Marriage and Family Research. Here's what the data look like over time:

You can see the long-term decline in the marriage rate among women, with a slight rise in the past few years. At the same time, the divorce rate went up in the 1970s, but then leveled off and has dipped a bit in the last decade. These are crude rates--not adjusted for age--so they should be interpreted with a bit of caution, but it seems clear that women have been making the decision not to marry (or to delay getting married--we know that is happening), thus reducing the risk of divorce. Note also that the U.S. government stopped gathering marriage and divorce data several years ago, so this information now comes from questions asked on the American Community Survey. You may recall that the Census Bureau talked about dropping those questions, but people like us vehemently objected and so they didn't.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Undocumented Immigrants Being Forced Out of Pakistan

Even as Donald Trump continues to threaten to deport undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S., Pakistan is threatening the same to several hundreds of thousands of Afghans who have been living in Pakistan without documents. Some of these people have been in Pakistan since the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan back in 1979. CNN notes that there is a mix of refugees and migrants, but they all share the same situation of lacking proper documentation.
Currently, all undocumented Afghan migrants and refugees in Pakistan face an official deadline of November 15 to secure documentation or leave. But pressure has been growing for the authorities to extend the deadline to allow more time for the returnees to transition peacefully back to Afghanistan.
So far this year, 210,998 undocumented migrants and refugees have returned to Afghanistan, with numbers soaring in recent months, according to the International Organization for Migration. On top of that, there are also hundreds of thousands of registered Afghan refugees living in Pakistan, who face a deadline of March 31, 2017 to leave. The UNHCR says 338,056 registered Afghan refugees have returned so far this year -- nearly six times higher than the number for the same period in 2015.
And just to remind you that the volume of undocumented migration globally is large, Joseph Chamie (former director of the UN Population Division) has a very informative article today summarizing what's going on around the world, to put the U.S. situation into context.
Excluding refugees who number more than 21 million and are under the protection of international conventions and agreements, it is estimated that of the remaining approximately 225 million migrants worldwide about 50 million are unauthorized migrants. The countries with the largest numbers of unauthorized migrants include the United States (11 million), India (at least 10 million), the Russian Federation (4 million), Malaysia (1 million) and the United Kingdom (1 million).
The U.S. and India are the 3rd and 2nd most populous nations in the world, respectively, and Russia is also in the top 10, so it is perhaps not too surprising that they also lead the league, so to speak, in terms of undocumented immigrants. Malaysia and the UK are not as populous, however, so the impact on those countries may seem disproportionate.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Political Demography at Play in the U.S. and Elsewhere

Underlying all of the demographic analyses about the U.S. election, as well as the Brexit vote, is that the demographic divide is about the "other." In the U.K., the (mis)perception that immigrants were undermining English society helped people (especially those with no real interaction with immigrants, as I noted at the time) to vote to leave the European Union. In the U.S., it was especially less educated whites who wound up giving Donald Trump the electoral college votes he needed from swing states in the midwest. Justin Stoler linked me to an NPR piece on what the exit polls taught us and this conclusion was particularly noteworthy:
... 6. And that leads to what might be the biggest story of the election — Democrats' cratering with blue-collar white voters.
Ohio and Iowa went by huge margins for Trump –- almost 10 points in Iowa and 9 in Ohio. Trump won Wisconsin and Pennsylvania (by less than a point), leads in Michigan (by an even smaller margin), and lost by less than 2 points in Minnesota.
These are all states that went for Democrats in six straight presidential elections. They were crucial to the Democratic Blue Wall, and Trump took a sledgehammer to it.
These are people who feel they are being forgotten by the country's "elite" and their anger has turned to immigrants and others who are different (classic xenophobia) and to those who support the "others." Donald Trump clearly fed into and hyped up that kind of rhetoric, but he didn't invent it. The demography of the U.S. and of Europe is changing and political leaders have paid insufficient attention to it. Why? Probably because the problems are large and complex. However, there is no going back on the demographic trends in place in the world--no matter how much some people might wish for that. Things are changing and politicians have to start coping with this reality--including the people who feel they are being left behind. This is what political demography is all about. My son, Greg Weeks, and I have contributed to the political demography literature in our book Irresistible Forces, which examines the forces underlying migration from Latin America to the U.S., and another good resource that everyone in politics should read is the book Political Demography: How Population Changes are Reshaping International Security and National Politics, edited by Jack Goldstone, Eric Kaufmann, and Monica Duffy Toft.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Uncertain Future of Women's Reproductive Rights in the U.S.

Among the many uncertainties associated with Donald Trump's election, especially when combined with the continued Republican majorities in both houses of Congress, is what will happen to women's reproductive rights in this country? Despite the fact that abortion has been legal in the U.S. for more than four decades, opponents have ramped up their attacks on abortion providers over time in a clear effort to scare away physicians and patients alike. One of the people sounding the alarm in a very personal way is Dr. Warren Hern, who runs an abortion clinic in Boulder, Colorado. Demographers know him for his excellent and ground-breaking work on fertility among the Shipibo people in Peru. That research helped him to earn a PhD in Epidemiology from the University of Carolina, Chapel Hill, but most of his professional life has been dedicated to helping women who needed an abortion. Yesterday, he published an online letter of concern:
I have survived, but some of my colleagues and friends have been murdered by anti-abortion fanatics.
Donald Trump has said that women should be punished for having abortions. Trump’s running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, has used attacks on abortion as the principal focus of his public career.
In fact, one week ago I received a chilling letter from Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), the most ferociously anti-abortion member of Congress, who chairs the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives.
The letter demanded that I submit a wide variety of documents, including patient medical records in cases of gestations greater than 22 weeks. I have until Nov. 21 to comply.
The panel is looking for evidence that I am selling “baby body parts.” It has the power of subpoena and can cite me for contempt of Congress if I don’t comply by the deadline.
It is frightening. It is a witch hunt.
I am a physician helping patients, and I am being treated like a criminal.
The star chamber proceedings of the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives is a target identification program for the anti-abortion assassins. It is terrifying.
At a deeper level, I have no confidence that Trump and the current Republican leadership will protect my life and liberty because of the work I do to help women. Their public harassment of me increases my risk of assassination.
We should all be terrified that the situation is already this bad for physicians performing abortions. Whether or not you are in favor of abortion, the fact that it is legal means that no one should fear for their life to be either physician or patient--and it seems likely that the situation will get worse before (or if) it ever gets better. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

A House Divided: US Election Demographics

As the global shock of Donald Trump's election transitions to coping with it, data are emerging that remind us how markedly divided the country is geographically, demographically, and politically. The NYTimes put together exit poll data from nearly 30,000 people, including phone interviews with mail-in and early voters. These data obviously capture voters, so there is no issue with figuring out who is a likely voter. There may still be some non-response bias, but the in-person interview technique outside polling places almost certainly reduces that considerably. Anyway, here are three pieces of information that seem noteworthy to me: (1) a majority of men voted for Trump, while a minority of women did, but it was a pretty high minority of women; (2) the less educated you were, the more likely you were to vote for Trump, but Trump still grabbed almost half of white college graduates; and (3) as expected from the electoral maps and discussions ahead of time, the farther away you were from a city center, the more likely you were to vote for Trump.

The data also suggest that the win for Trump was as much about people not turning out to vote for Clinton, as it was about people voting for Trump. He got about the same number of popular votes as did Romney, but she got fewer votes than did Obama. Her team was worried that this might happen, and it did. Nonetheless, she still received more popular votes than did Trump, even though fewer electoral votes. This has happened five times in U.S. history--three times in the 19th century and twice in this century (Bush and now Trump).

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Is the Syrian War Changing the Country's Demographics?

Thanks to Abu Daoud for linking me to an interesting story from ABC News suggesting that President Assad of Syria is using the civil war there to somehow shift the country's demographics. Which demographic characteristic is at issue? That of loyalty to the government of Assad. I admit that I have never before thought of "loyalty" as a demographic characteristics, but there it is.
The opposition accuses the government of President Bashar Assad of using under-the-radar methods to discourage populations it sees as disloyal from returning, changing the demographics to help consolidate control over a corridor running from Damascus to the Mediterranean coast.
The government says it is doing all it can to bring people back.
"The main goal of the Syrian government is to return all displaced Syrians to their homes," National Reconciliation Minister Ali Haidar told The Associated Press last month.
More than 11 million people, nearly half Syria's population, have been driven from their homes by the war since 2011, including 5 million who fled abroad as refugees.
Without question, the entire world would breathe a collective sigh of relief for the civil war there to end in such a way that people could return and the country could be rebuilt. There is actually an implicit assumption that this will happen built into population projections by the UN Population Division and by the Population Reference Bureau, which assume that by 2030 the Syrian population will have increased from its current (maybe) 17 million to more than 25 million. 

Keep in mind that the birth rate in Syria had been dropping rapidly prior to the onset of violence, from 7 children per woman as recently as the 1980s to a level currently estimated to be slightly fewer than 3 children each. Of course, even at this lower level, children account for one out of every three Syrians, which is why photos of refugees always show so many children. However, a key demographic in the country is that fertility has been lower among the Alawites (an offshoot of Shia Islam and the religion of the ruling Assad family) and Christians than among the majority Sunni Muslim population. That is, in my opinion, the key demographic of the country.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Power of Polls to Demographically Deceive Us...

Like many people I was very worried that Donald Trump might win the U.S. presidency, but I didn't really think it would happen. Why not? Because, like many people, I paid too much attention to the polls, even when I knew how flawed they can be. The problem is two-fold: (1) response rate to pollsters is very low (9% is a widely cited figure for the Pew Research polls), and (2) figuring out who is going to vote is difficult, even in the best of times. Dealing with both problems requires weighting schemes to adjust the collected data so that they presumably reflect the responses that you would have gotten with a very high response rate and a high level of voting certainty. The weighting is done almost entirely on the basis of demographic characteristics--age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, and place of residence being the major factors that are associated both with voter turnout and voter preferences. 

Where do the weights come from? Mainly from previous elections, based on demographic data from exit polls and from questions asked by the U.S. Census Bureau in the Current Population Survey.  If the weights are wrong, the results are wrong. Why might the weights be wrong? Because in the three most recent high profile cases of pollsters it getting wrong--Scottish independence vote, Brexit vote, and Donald Trump--there wasn't a sufficient history of voting in these unusual circumstances to allow pollsters to get the weights right.

I'm not blaming pollsters for Trump being elected. There are lots of reasons for that and experts will be debating those reasons for years to come. Pollsters just gave us incorrect information about what to expect and thus twisted our expectations about what was happening. We should have known better. Nate Silver's famous approach to the polling issue has been to average data from a lot of polls, focusing on those that seem--after the fact--to generally be closest to the truth about expected voting behavior. That seems to work reasonably well in more or less conventional situations, but at the moment we are living through unconventional times, and I expect that we are going to have more surprises ahead of us as the demographics of the country and the world continue to evolve.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Middle East Oil Futures: Saudi Arabia and Egypt

Saudi Arabia has the worlds' second largest known oil reserves (second to Venezuela), but it is finite and expected to last another 70 years, based on current estimates as reported by Bloomberg:
The nation’s wealth is based mainly on oil, with crude sales accounting for 75 percent of total export earnings, according to the prospectus. 
The country is seeking funds to shore up public finances that have been hit by the drop in oil prices to about half their 2014 levels. At the same time, the kingdom plans to wean itself off dependence on oil for state revenue by selling part of its state oil company to help develop industries including auto manufacturing and technology.
To be sure, The Economist is not all that sanguine about the ability of the Saudis to diversify the economy, but without a dramatic increase in the price of oil, they have to do something to keep their style of patronage of the population government going. The population of Saudi Arabia is currently estimated by the UN Population Division to be 32 million and the UN projects an increase over the next 70 years (the life of the oil reserve) to 49 million. But that number in 2086 is based on a projected drop in fertility to well below replacement level. Is that possible? Yes, but is it probable? It will require significant changes in the status of women in Saudi society. In the meantime, 37 percent of the Saudi population is under the age of 20 and expecting help from the government.

Nearby, Egypt needs oil but doesn't have any of its own and just today Saudi Arabia announced that it was stopping its shipments of oil to Egypt.
Saudi Arabian Oil Co. halted shipments of oil products to Egypt indefinitely, Egyptian Oil Minister Tarek El-Molla said, forcing the Arab world’s most populous nation to buy fuels on world markets at higher cost.
This is going to hurt and of course could lead to new rounds of destabilization in Egypt, whose population is already 93 million, but is projected to increase to 193 million in 70 years, even with a projected drop in fertility to replacement level. In the meantime, 42 percent of Egypt's population is under the age of 20 and they are not getting much help from the government.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Does a Census in Lebanon Make Sense?

As I point out in my book, Lebanon's last census was in 1932, when Christians represented a majority of the population. That matters because seats in Lebanon's parliament are based on religion, with half of them going to Christians based on that 1932 census. Everyone knows that Christians are a minority, due to emigration and a lower than average birth rate (Courage and Todd have a nice summary of this), but it wasn't clear exactly how the demographics had changed until The Economist managed to snag some voters registration data that were posted online (probably by mistake) for a short time before being taken down. The results can be seen in the graph below:

It is clear that Christians are not a majority among voters, except at the very oldest ages. So, why not take a new census and straighten this out?
Change will be hard, though. “Any new formula will lead to sectarian strife, which no one wants to see in Lebanon,” says Randa Slim of the Middle East Institute, a think-tank based in Washington. “The Christians have half of parliament, the Sunnis have the prime minister’s office and Hizbullah are too busy in Syria. The men who run this country have no interest in renegotiating the status quo. It would lead to conflict.”
So, for the time being, it seems that a census still makes no sense. The status quo is better than the threat of violence in an already violent part of the world. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Melinda Gates Promotes Contraception

A little more than four years ago, I was very pleased to learn that Melinda Gates had helped to organize a family planning conference in London and had put together a Ted Talk about the importance of contraception in the lives of all young women. However, for some reason, these efforts of the Gates Foundation were not discussed in their annual report this year, as I complained when that report came out. So, I was again very pleased this week to learn that Melinda Gates has kept her commitment to the importance of contraception. A new report came out on the topic that was jointly authored by the UN Population Fund and the Gates Foundation, and the New York Times caught up with Melinda Gates for an interview.
Since 2012, she has [Melinda Gates] helped lead an international campaign to get birth control to 120 million more women by 2020. Four years later, a report explains why achieving that goal is proving tougher than expected. This is a condensed and edited version of our conversation about family planning.
Why is this the cause of your life?
If you allow a woman — if you counsel her so it’s truly voluntary — to have a contraceptive tool and she can space those births, it unlocks the cycle of poverty for her. In the early days, I’d be out traveling for the foundation, I’d be there to talk to women about vaccines, I’m going be frank, for their children, and what they would say to me is: ‘O.K., I have questions for you. What about that contraceptive, how come I can’t get it anymore?’ To me, it’s one of the greatest injustices.
One of the statistics in the report that most struck me was that contraception prevented tens of millions of unsafe abortions by preventing unwanted pregnancies. You’re Roman Catholic. Is that part of the moral imperative for you?
Yeah. I mean this is obviously something I’ve had to wrestle with very deeply. The Catholic Church doesn’t even believe in these forms of modern contraceptives. I’m in the developing world minimum three times a year now, and I’m out in slums, in townships, in the rural area, and when you see a needless death of a woman or a child because she literally just didn’t have a very inexpensive tool that we not only believe in, we use in the United States — more than 93 percent of married Catholic women report using contraceptives — the moral imperative is that we give these women what we believe in and actually use.
There is more to the interview and I encourage you to review it and the report. Overall, though, you clearly come away with the impression that Melinda Gates is someone with the resources and the will to make it real in the campaign to improve women's lives by providing them with contraception. This is what leadership is all about, in my opinion. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Race and Space: The Spatial Demography of U.S. Elections

Jonathan Rodden, a political scientist at Stanford, published a piece in the Washington Post this week with the provocative title "This map will change how you think about American voters — especially small-town, heartland white voters." He and his colleagues have put together a very nice data set of geospatial precinct level voting results from the 2012 presidential election, along with the demographics of the precincts--as best as can be done when the boundaries don't exactly line up. His takeaway is that small town America is not actually where Republicans live.
One of the most striking lessons from exploring these maps is that the red nonmetropolitan counties on election-night maps are internally heterogeneous, but always following the same spatial pattern: Democrats are clustered in town centers, along Main Street, and near the courthouses schools, and municipal buildings where workers are often unionized. They live along the old railroad tracks from the 19th century and in the apartment buildings and small houses in proximity to the mills and factories where workers were unionized in an earlier era.
 I looked at his maps and immediately drew the conclusion that race was a key factor. Minority groups tend to cluster near the centers of almost every city of any size in the U.S. Professor Rodden did not mention this in his article, however, and I had a good deal of difficulty accessing his maps online because they loaded very slowly. Perhaps that was because Emily Badger and Quoctrung Bui of the NYTimes Upshot section were busily tapping into the data to draw those same conclusions. The map below uses Rodden's data to track the increasingly strong relationship between population density and voting patterns. Democrats do better in the denser city centers and Republicans do better in the less dense suburbs. As a result of white flight over the years, the dense city centers have increasingly become ethnic enclaves, while the suburbs are predominantly white (although not as white as they used to be). These spatial demographic patterns are in play in the current presidential election, just as they were in 2012. The real question, though, will be voter turnout in the red and blue areas. We'll find out the answer pretty soon...

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Secondary Cities and Slum Health: Long Term Connections

The Secondary Cities Project of the U.S. State Department has been organized by Dr. Debbie Fugate, Chief of the U.S. State Department's Humanitarian Information Unit (and a former PhD student of mine). This morning I listened in to a webinar about the project which will be archived online in a few days, but the overview of which is available here. By the middle of this century, the UN projects that nearly 6 out of every 10 humans will be living in a city of some kind or another, but more of them will be in smaller (i.e., secondary) cities than in the huge metropolises of the world. The latter get most of the attention, but the greatest needs are likely to be in the former.

Among the needs are those related to health. In less developed nations, the typical resident lives in a slum and health issues are bound to be more intense in those parts of town, as I and my colleagues have demonstrated in our research in Accra, Ghana (go here for an overview paper). Another of my former PhD students, Dr. Justin Stoler at the University of Miami (and a co-author on the paper just mentioned), recently sent me a link to a paper from the latest issue of The Lancet, which is the first in a series of papers about slum health (and the paper is available without a subscription, although you have to register with the journal to read it). 
In the first paper in this Series we assessed theoretical and empirical evidence and concluded that the health of people living in slums is a function not only of poverty but of intimately shared physical and social environments. In this paper we extend the theory of so-called neighbourhood effects. Slums offer high returns on investment because beneficial effects are shared across many people in densely populated neighbourhoods. Neighbourhood effects also help explain how and why the benefits of interventions vary between slum and non-slum spaces and between slums. We build on this spatial concept of slums to argue that, in all low-income and-middle-income countries, census tracts should henceforth be designated slum or non-slum both to inform local policy and as the basis for research surveys that build on censuses. We argue that slum health should be promoted as a topic of enquiry alongside poverty and health.
Our own research has led us to similar conclusions, reinforcing the views of these authors, several of whom we have referenced in our publications, that where you live is as important to your health as are your own personal characteristics. Capturing this kind of spatial variability is an important part of the Secondary Cities Project, since resilience and emergency preparedness (the foci of that project) are closely associated with poverty and health in urban areas. Nothing less than the sustainability of human society is at stake here.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Immigrants are Good for America, Not Bad, No Matter the Challenges

I'm sure you heard Donald Trump's ridiculous claim that if Hillary Clinton were President she might  allow 650 million people into the country and do nothing about it! Philip Bump of the Washington Post offers the explanation that Trump knows that such an outrageous claims gets attention among his supporters, no matter how stupid it may be. The reality, however, is that only about 5 million Native Americans can claim not to be the relatively recent (e.g., last 250 years) descendants of immigrants. The rest of us are here because of past waves of immigration. That is what built the country, and continues to fuel the country. Ben Casselman makes this point in his post yesterday on FiveThirtyEight.
You wouldn’t know it from this year’s overheated campaign rhetoric, but immigration is the only thing keeping the U.S. from facing a Japan-style demographic cliff. At a time when aging and other factors mean that fewer Americans are working, immigrants — who tend to come to the U.S. during their working years and have a higher rate of labor-force participation than native-born Americans — play an increasingly important role in the U.S. workforce. Foreign-born U.S. residents made up 13.1 percent of the population in 2014 but 16.4 percent of the labor force, up from 10 percent two decades earlier.1 Immigrants help the economy in other ways too: They are more likely than native-born Americans to start businesses, and because they pay into Social Security but only receive benefits if they stay in the country permanently, they help ease the U.S.’s long-run fiscal burden.
Perhaps just as importantly, immigrants are the reason the U.S. has a relatively high birth rate compared to other rich countries. Americans, like their counterparts in Japan and western Europe, are having fewer children. But that decline has been partly offset by the comparatively high fertility rate among foreign-born residents. A report from the Pew Research Center last week showed just how big that effect is: Immigrants account for the entirety of the increase in the number of annual U.S. births since 1970. Without them, the annual number of births would have declined.
These positive attributes of immigration counterbalance the challenges. Some immigrants really do take jobs that U.S.-born workers might have, because they may be willing to work for less money and/or live in unpopular places doing crummy jobs. Immigrants may create problems if they don't adapt fairly quickly or if they are too different for too long. These are not new problems in the U.S. and they happen all over the globe whenever people migrate. So, we need to acknowledge the problems that immigration creates while recognizing that we are better off with immigrants than we would be without them. No one said this was easy, but the success of the U.S. over the years proves that it's worth it.