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:

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Income Unfairness May be as Important as Inequality

There is no question that the level of income and wealth inequality in the world--and in the U.S. more particularly--has skyrocketed over the past few decades (see graph below). Thomas Piketty's book Capital helped to move the conversation along, as I have noted before. Three Yale University psychologists have just put a new spin on the issue in a paper published online at Nature Human Behavior (and from which the graph below is drawn). They argue that it is not really inequality that bothers people. Rather, it is unfairness that is the problem. Inequality is an accepted part of nearly every human society and this is one reason why the utopian idea of true communism (total equality for everyone) has such a poor track record. 
Drawing upon laboratory studies, cross-cultural research, and experiments with babies and young children, we argue that humans naturally favour fair distributions, not equal ones, and that when fairness and equality clash, people prefer fair inequality over unfair equality. Both psychological research and decisions by policymakers would benefit from more clearly distinguishing inequality from unfairness.
Thus, the issue that we face today is that the concentration of income and wealth among a very small number of people is viewed as intrinsically unfair. It is OK for some people to have more than we do, but it is not OK when the gap seems too large and, in essence, has come at our expense.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Female Islamic Clerics in Indonesia Push to End Child Marriage

We usually think of Islam in terms of the Middle East, but in fact the four most populous Muslim nations are in Asia--Indonesia, Pakistan, India (even though Muslims are a minority there), and Bangladesh. Indonesia is the 4th most populous country in the world and its more than 200 million Muslims puts it on the top of that list. So...when we learn that a group of female clerics in that nation has called for end to child marriage, we need to pay attention. 
Female Islamic clerics in Indonesia have issued an unprecedented fatwa against child marriage. The fatwa, which is not legally binding but will be influential, was issued after a three-day congress of female clerics in the country. The clerics urged the government to raise the minimum legal age for women to marry to 18 from the current 16.
Indonesia is a majority Muslim country and has among the highest number of child brides in the world. According to the UN's children office Unicef, one in four women in Indonesia marries before the age of 18.
The existence of female Islamic clerics is itself not widely known, although the BBC reports that:
Female clerics, or "ulema", have existed in Indonesia for hundreds of years, but their role has been played down previously. Nowadays, they help empower their communities and lead educational institutes, organisers say.
The fatwa was driven by the shared knowledge that child marriage is bad for girls--it cuts off their education, often ends in divorce, and can leave the woman and her children in a much worse situation for the rest of their lives than if the marriage had been delayed.

Child marriage is an issue anywhere, not just in Muslim-majority countries. Indeed, I am a co-author on a paper that was highlighted in a poster session at the Population Association of America meetings going on right now in Chicago.
"Distribution of Adolescent Fertility in the Copán Region of Rural Honduras: Results From a Complete Census of 117 Villages", Holly Shakya, Center on Gender Equity and Health, University of California, San Diego; John R. Weeks, San Diego State University; Nicholas Christakis, Yale University
Watch this space for more details on our research findings--an astonishingly high percentage of Central American girls are married before reaching age 18. 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Refugees in Europe Update from HIU at State Department

The United Kingdom may want to separate itself from the rest of Europe, but there are still a lot of people in the world who want to be in Europe--anywhere in Europe rather than where they are right now. The Humanitarian Information Unit at the US State Department is keeping track of these things and they recently posted a two-page infographic with lots of new details. I've copied the first page below but of course you really need to go online and see it yourself to pick up all of the information.

The bottom line is that Europe has been protecting itself especially from Syrian refugees by paying Turkey to keep most of them, and by erecting new border controls--including even fences in some cases--to stem the flow. The migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Libya and Tunisia are mainly from sub-Saharan Africa. That is a flow with a long history, and it continues to be associated with a high death rate among people who pay traffickers for a spot on a boat that may not be seaworthy.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Will Vaccines Mean the Death of Malaria in Africa?

Today is World Malaria Day and that is, of course, nothing to celebrate in the usual sense. However, there was some good news from the World Health Organization. Three African countries--Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi--will participate in a WHO malaria vaccine program, building on slow, but steady progress against this ancient deadly disease:
Nearly half of the world's population is at risk of malaria. In 2015, there were roughly 212 million malaria cases and an estimated 429 000 malaria deaths. Increased prevention and control measures have led to a 29% reduction in malaria mortality rates globally since 2010. Sub-Saharan Africa continues to carry a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden. In 2015, the region was home to 90% of malaria cases and 92% of malaria deaths.
The new vaccine has been developed for young children, who are at the greatest risk of death:
The injectable vaccine, RTS,S, was developed to protect young children from the most deadly form of malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum. RTS,S will be assessed in the pilot programme as a complementary malaria control tool that could potentially be added to the core package of WHO-recommended measures for malaria prevention.
“The prospect of a malaria vaccine is great news. Information gathered in the pilot will help us make decisions on the wider use of this vaccine”, said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “Combined with existing malaria interventions, such a vaccine would have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives in Africa,” she added.
Since the discovery in the late 19th century that mosquitos were the vector for the disease, the main course of action has been prevention--try not to get bitten by a mosquito. That will always be a good idea, of course, but if the vaccine works well in these pilot studies, as it has in trials, then we might really move to a time when the disease is gone, and we can trade in World Malaria Day for Hey, Mama, I'm Still Alive Day. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Where Can You Get Publicly Funded Contraception in the US?

Without "socialized" (i.e., publicly funded) health services in the United States, health levels would be even worse than they are (remember that we pay more person than any other country for health care, but have worse health outcomes than almost every other rich country in the world). One area where this is important is in the provision of contraception to women who need it. The Guttmacher Institute has just put out a new report--with interactive maps--summarizing what's happening.
A total of 6.2 million women received publicly supported contraceptive services from 10,700 clinics in the United States in 2015. Clinics funded by the federal Title X program served 3.8 million of these women. An estimated 2.4 million additional women received Medicaid-funded contraceptive services from private doctors.
Services provided by clinics that received Title X funding helped women avert 822,300 unintended pregnancies in 2015, thus preventing 387,200 unplanned births and 277,800 abortions. Without the services provided by Title X–funded clinics, the U.S. unintended pregnancy rate would have been 31% higher and the rate among teens would have been 44% higher.
Those numbers speak for themselves about the importance of these services.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Earth Day 2017

I participated in the very first Earth Day back in 1970 and it has become my tradition in this blog to revisit the talk I gave that day and see how things have changed (or not) over time. At the time I was just finishing my doctorate in demography at UC Berkeley and I accepted the invitation to drive down to Fresno State for their Earth Day festivities (and it was a very nice celebration). At the time the world's population was estimated to be 3.7 billion--a bit less than half of what it is today--but the growth rate was the highest the world had ever recorded. My message to the audience 47 years ago (yikes--has it really been that long!!) was not much different than it would be today:
It seems likely that if we don't change our ways the ultimate creditors of the world--our food resources, our water, our air, the quality of human life--all those things from which we have been so heavily borrowing, may just foreclose on us. Frankly, there are just too many people around, and if you don't think so now, you can wait another 30 years when there may well be twice as many people on this planet.
Fortunately, the birth rate did drop somewhat faster than we were expecting at that time and so 30 years later, in 2000, the population had increased "only" to 6.1 billion--not a doubling, but still a significant increase creating even more issues in terms of environmental impacts and questions of sustainability.
Population growth is not unilaterally responsible for pollution, but make no mistake, every additional person born into the world aggravates existing pollution problems and makes solutions more costly to  achieve.
Something must be done to check population growth and the sooner that goal is realized, the better off we will be both in the short and in the long run. Now, I have read letters-to-the-editor in the newspaper and I have talked to individuals who say that the will of God will prevail and that if we have faith we will avoid disaster; others place their faith in science fiction rather/or in addition to God and argue that, as in the past, future technological advances will spring us out of trouble. To these people I say that they may be correct, but I am not willing to wait and find out when there are things that I as an individual can do right now to actively encourage and support population control. 
The obvious issue was to lower fertility rates around the world, and I championed the cause not just of making birth control more accessible, but more importantly to create a social environment in which people preferred smaller families.  
We should definitely advocate for the immediate removal of all discriminatory barriers against women in education [remember that this was the first year women had been admitted to Princeton University] and in the professions. If you can get a woman out of the house and reward her with financial gain and social and economic prestige, then the social and economic costs of having additional children are going to increase for that woman and she is far more likely than ever before to prefer a small family. 
To be sure, there are plenty of reasons besides just the demographic ones for the existence of gender equality, but this is still a compelling issue in more parts of the world than we might wish to think about.

In the end, Earth Day is really about people, not the Earth. The earth will survive without us, but we can't survive without it. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Can the Sustainable Development Goals Lower Population Growth?

As we approach this year's Earth Day celebration, it is useful and appropriate to think about how far above the current level of 7.4 billion the world's population might grow. The latest projections from the UN Population Division show a medium-variant (their "most likely" scenario) population in 2050 of 9.7 billion with an increase to 11.2 billion by the year 2100. These are good demographers, of course, but we really have to hope that these projections are higher than what history will show. 

Wolfgang Lutz and his group at the Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital in Vienna have suggested a different way to project the population. They call them multi-dimensional projections because instead of using just age and sex they also build in projected changes in other aspects of society--especially education--that can influence birth and death rates. In the 13 December 2016 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) they published projections that were built with the idea of the world meeting the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Several of those SDGs, if fully implemented, will lower both birth and death rates in predictable ways.
In the context of sustainable development, world population growth is sometimes called “the elephant in the room.” Many view it as one of the most important factors in causing environmental degradation and in making adaptation to already unavoidable environmental change more difficult (16–18). At the same time it is widely perceived as a politically sensitive topic (19), and indeed the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development explicitly opposed the setting of “demographic targets.” Fertility decisions are considered a private matter, with the role of the state being only to assure reproductive rights and to provide reproductive health services. It is presumably for this reason that the new SDGs do not mention population growth or fertility explicitly in any of the 169 targets. However, many of the goals and targets deal with factors that directly or indirectly influence fertility and thus population growth.
 Their projections produce the following results:
In this paper we endeavor to translate the most relevant of these goals into SDG population scenarios and thus quantify the likely effects of meeting these development goals on national population trajectories. The results show that meeting these goals would result in the world population peaking around 2060 and reaching 8.2–8.7 billion by 2100, depending on the specific SDG scenario (Fig. 1). This analysis quantitatively demonstrates that demography is not destiny and that policies, particularly in the field of female education and reproductive health, can contribute greatly to reducing world population growth.

In other words, there are strong positive reasons to make sure that all countries successfully implement the SDGs. It may help to save the planet (well, the planet will survive with our without humans--you know what I mean). That is a positive way in which demography might shape the destiny of human life on Earth.  

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Demographics of Turkey's Referendum Vote

On Sunday the voters in Turkey narrowly (and controversially) decided to hand President Erdogan more power than he already has. The "yes" vote was not distributed randomly, however. A story in the New York Times suggests that a new version of the urban-rural divide was at work:
Whatever the outcome of the appeals, the referendum reflected a country sharply divided, with voters in the major cities tending to oppose the changes while those in rural areas, who usually are more religious and conservative, voting in favor of them.
I use the term "new version" of the urban-rural divide because three-fourths of Turks live in urban areas, so a real divide would have seen the "no" vote win the referendum. What we see in Turkey is not unlike what happened with the Brexit vote, as I noted at the time...
Overall, then, the leavers were older whites with lower levels of education living in areas with few immigrants. As many commentators have noted, this demographic profile sounds a lot like the typical Donald Trump supporter in the US.
...and here is more detail on that support for Trump, as I noted a year ago, which indeed carried him to his win:
“It’s a nonurban, blue-collar and now apparently quite angry population,” said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. “They’re not people who have moved around a lot, and things have been changing away from them, but they live in areas that feel stagnant in a lot of ways.”
I like Bill Frey's phraseology of nonurban because of course countries like Turkey, the UK, and the US are not predominantly rural, but outside of the big cities there is still a more traditional attitude towards the world that is based on lower levels of education, higher levels of religiosity (regardless of the religion itself), and less appreciation of what liberal democracy compared to autocracy can mean for a society.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Cultural Demography of Japan

I have written and blogged often over the years about Japan's demographic situation--about its rapid drop in fertility after WWII that offered up the world's first clear example of a demographic dividend leading to its economy recovery after the war, and then to its aging population brought about by the continued low birth rate in the absence of any real immigration, not to mention the fact that Japan has had the world's highest life expectancy for several decades now (surpassing Sweden in the 1980s).

Culture plays a strong role in almost every aspect of Japan's demography and two recent stories help to illustrate that. Thanks to Renee Stepler for pointing us to data from the 2015 census of Japan showing the rather dramatic increase of bachelorhood among Japanese men. The graph below shows the percent of men and women never married by age 50 in Japan. It has risen for both men and woman, but especially so for men. The article suggests that this is partly due to the difficulty that men have finding a job that pays enough to afford marriage, and it is probably also complicated by the culture of overwork in Japan.

The other story is from the Migration Policy Institute report by David Green pointing out that immigration has been on the rise in Japan, even if generally under the radar.
The foreign share of the overall population has steadily grown, rising from 0.7 percent in 1990 to 1.8 percent in 2016 (see Figure 1). While that proportion is tiny compared to other highly industrialized economies, the population has risen in absolute numbers from just under 900,000 (including zainichi) in 1990 to approximately 2.3 million as of mid-2016—a 160 percent increase, according to official government data.
Green estimates that Japan would have to reach 10% foreign-born to counteract low fertility and that would probably be met by a huge public outcry, but for now the number is at least going up, with most of the immigrants coming from elsewhere in East Asia, especially China and Korea.
Japan may never ultimately look like a “traditional” country of immigration with an open door and relatively easy access to full citizenship, but the Japan of the 2050s will look very different demographically than that of the 2010s.
That seems likely on many fronts, and we have to hope that the transition is a peaceful one. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Will the Greeks Make More Babies?

The New York Times has a lengthy article today generally bemoaning low fertility in southern Europe, with a special focus on Greece. However, the article is nicely balanced in the sense that it points out that the "demographic time bomb" (my choice of words--not the article's) of low fertility--and thus a rapidly aging population--is itself a consequence of decades of economic under-performance in southern Europe. If the economy were better, people would be having more kids (as, for example, in northern Europe or the U.S.).
As couples grapple with a longer-than-expected stretch of low growth, high unemployment, precarious jobs and financial strain, they are increasingly deciding to have just one child — or none.
Approximately a fifth of women born in the 1970s are likely to remain childless in Greece, Spain and Italy, a level not seen since World War I, according to the Wittgenstein Center for Demography and Global Human Capital, based in Vienna. And hundreds of thousands of fertile young people have left for Germany, Britain and the prosperous north, with little intent of returning unless the economy improves.
Data from the UN Population Division reveal that none of the region's three largest countries--Greece, Italy, and Spain, has had above replacement levels at any time since 1980. This is not a new thing. It is not a crisis of reproduction (or lack thereof), so much as it is a crisis of the political economies and cultures of the region. 
“As long as Greece has high unemployment, it may be good luck that there’s not a baby boom,” said Byron Kotzamanis, a demography professor at the University of Thessaly.
“If there was,” he added, “we might have more problems right now.”
The article hints at the problem of gender equality, but if you've read my book and this blog (such as this post in January), you'll know that I am one of many people who think that the cultural issue of gender inequality is an important reason for the very low fertility in southern (and eastern) Europe, just as it is in East Asia. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Demographics of North Korea

North Korea has been regularly in the news lately as the country quite literally parades its weapons, raising the fear of a nuclear strike on South Korea, Japan, or even on the northwestern U.S. 

Saturday was the 105th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, the country’s founder, Kim Jong-un’s grandfather and the man the younger Mr. Kim tries to emulate, in looks and action. Kim Il-sung’s birthday, called the Day of the Sun, is the North’s most important holiday and a key moment for scoring propaganda points.
Fortunately, the missile that was launched to celebrate the occasion fizzled on takeoff, so crisis was averted for the moment, but the publicity reminded me of the differing trajectories of the two Koreas, which according to were created in August of 1945 when "two young aides at the State Department divided the Korean peninsula in half along the 38th parallel. The Russians occupied the area north of the line and the United States occupied the area to its south." For most of the 20th century up to that point, Korea had been part of the Japanese empire, which was disassembled after the end of WWII.

North Korea has almost exactly half as many people (25 million) as South Korea (50 million), is less urban than South Korea (although it is still majority urban), has higher mortality levels, and higher birth rates (albeit a fertility level just at replacement). South Korea, like China and Japan, is on the verge of depopulation, whereas North Korea is essentially just in replacement mode. I last commented on North Korea a little more than six years ago when Kim Jong-un succeeded his father as the leader of the country.
The very rapid fertility decline in South Korea created a youth bulge in the 1980s that represented a significant threat to political stability in that country, described in a now classic article by Gary Fuller and Forrest Pitts ("Youth cohorts and political unrest in South Korea,"Political Geography Quarterly, Vol. 9. No. I, January 1990, 9-22). The country survived that threat and used the youth bulge as a demographic dividend that helped create their economic miracle. The North could have done the same, but Kim Jong-il obviously was not interested in such an outcome. Will his son lead the country to a different future? The demographics are actually in favor of that, with an already low level of fertility and a level of mortality that is actually not as bad as you might think given the overall level of repression that is widely reported to exist. I don't know of anyone who expects improvement, however.
It is fair to say that so far there is no sign of improvement...

Friday, April 14, 2017

Reports of Female Genital Mutilation in the U.S.!

Today brought the awful news that a female physician in Detroit has been charged with performing female genital mutilation (FGM) on young girls here in the U.S. I first saw the news on BBC, but then later it showed up in the U.S. news media:
Prosecutors said Jumana Nagarwala had been performing the practice on girls aged between six and eight for 12 years. She was investigated after the authorities received a tip-off. If found guilty, she faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. FGM was made illegal in the US in 1996.
In a voluntary interview with investigators earlier this week Dr Nagarwala denied being involved in any such procedure, local media reported. But prosecutors said she had performed "horrifying acts of brutality on the most vulnerable victims". Some travelled to her practise from outside the state of Michigan and were told not to talk about the procedure, they added. Dr Nagarwala appeared in a federal court in Detroit and was remanded in custody.
Dr. Nagarwala is of Indian origin, but is Muslim, not Hindu (and remember that the Pew Research projections suggest that India may have have the second largest Muslim population in the world in the future, despite continuing to be a minority group in India). Detroit has one of America's largest Arab (and thus Muslim) populations and FGM is practiced almost entirely among Muslims, so the fact that this physician was in Detroit is perhaps no surprise. What is a surprise is that anyone living in this country (or anywhere, for that matter) would think that FGM should be performed on their daughter. Here I am reminded of the research in France showing that if immigrants want to be accepted and not discriminated against in their host society, it is wise to adjust to the local norms.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Make More Money; Live Longer

It seems obvious that those with higher incomes can afford more and better health care and thus will have a higher life expectancy. But we tend to think of these relationships in the abstract. When they are exposed in your own area, they take on more poignancy. Thanks to @PopGeog for linking me to a story that I actually had heard a few days ago on the local PBS station (KPBS--here at San Diego State University), put together by the local (which is also located here at SDSU):
The wealthiest men in San Diego County can expect to live almost a decade longer than their poorest counterparts.That’s one of the findings from the Health Inequality Project, a report written by researchers from Stanford, Harvard and MIT. In 2014, the most recent year available, a 40-year-old San Diego County man in the top quarter of income earners could expect to live to almost 90. A man of the same age in the bottom quarter of income would only expect to live to 80.
That is really a pretty astounding difference. You might expect that in a comparison between two countries, but it is certainly less expected in a comparison within a metropolitan area of the world's richest country! 
Despite the gap, the San Diego region ranked as the sixth-best area in the country on life expectancy for the bottom quarter of income earners based on a 14-year average. Robert Fluegge is a pre-doctoral fellow with the Equality of Opportunity Project at Stanford University, which produced the income and life expectancy analysis. He said income can be a good, if not necessarily direct, predictor of health. “It’s not like I wake up one day $10,000 richer and all of a sudden I have no cholesterol anymore,” he said. “Income is sort of a proxy for … your environment, the way you live your life, the access to some services that you may have or information that you may have.”
And the important part of that story is that the differences start at the youngest ages and continue through life. Pick your parents carefully... 

Monday, April 10, 2017

We Buy Cheap Goods, They Get Air Pollution and Death

I was traveling last week and so got a bit behind on reading the Economist, but there was a very interesting piece in last week's issue attempting to quantify the mortality impact of having developing countries produce cheap goods for the rich countries. The story summarizes research recently published in Nature by Zhang Qiang, of Tsinghua University in Beijing.
Dr Zhang’s analysis estimates that in 2007—the first year for which complete industrial, epidemiological and trade data were available when the team started work—more than 3m premature deaths around the world were caused by emissions of fine particulate matter (known as PM2.5, because the particles in question are less than 2.5 microns across).
Of these, the team reckon just under an eighth were associated with pollutants released in a part of the world different from that in which the death occurred, thanks to transport of such particles from place to place by the wind. Almost twice as many (22% of the total) were a consequence of goods and services that were produced in one region (often poor) and then exported for consumption in another (often rich, and with more finicky environmental standards for its own manufacturers).
This is very much in line with comments I made about this phenomenon almost exactly four years ago: 
To be sure, every country that has gone through industrialization has gone through the pain of the pollution that is the byproduct of using a lot of fossil fuels to power a growing economy. Post-industrial societies have managed to reduce pollution partly through improved technology (which China has been slow to adopt, largely because it is expensive and thus drives up the prices of the goods sold), and partly by shipping those economic functions off to other places--like China. If China is unable to off-load its polluting industries to some other place (India, for example?) then it may be forced to adopt new fuels and new technology, or else find that its population will be growing even more slowly as the death rate climbs.
Indeed, the map below shows that Asia in particular has been "importing" deaths that are being "exported" especially from North America, Europe and Australia.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Globally Muslims Growing Faster Than Christians

Pew Research has a new report out projecting the global growth of population by religious affiliation:
While the world’s population is projected to grow 32% in the coming decades, the number of Muslims is expected to increase by 70% – from 1.8 billion in 2015 to nearly 3 billion in 2060. In 2015, Muslims made up 24.1% of the global population. Forty-five years later, they are expected to make up more than three-in-ten of the world’s people (31.1%).
Westerners tend to think of Muslims in terms of the Middle East, but the Pew projections suggest that Indonesia will continue to be the most populous Muslim nation in the world, and that the second largest population of Muslims will be in India, despite their continuing to be a minority in that Hindu-majority nation.

You should be able to figure out the reason for the fact that Muslims will outnumber Christians by mid-century. It's fertility. Muslim women have more children on average than non-Muslim women (see graph below), and the younger age structure of Muslim nations means that there are many more women of childbearing age having those numerous children. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Census Takers Attacked in Pakistan

Pakistan is currently undertaking its first census since 1998. As you know, it's much more common to conduct censuses every 10 years, especially in a country growing as quickly in population as Pakistan. In that period of time Pakistan has grown from 135 million to 190 million--55 million people have been added since the last census! So, this is an important event. So important that the government assigned troops to protect census-takers. Even that turned out not to be enough. Earlier this week a suicide bomber attacked a van carrying census-takers and their military protection team:
 A suicide bombing targeted a Pakistani government census team, killing at least six people in the eastern city of Lahore, officials say.The blast on Wednesday morning in Pakistan's second largest city also wounded at least 18 people, many with serious injuries. According to a police report, two attackers on a motorcycle approached a van carrying the census team. One attacker disembarked and exploded his suicide vest as the other sped away. The dead included four military personnel and two civilians.The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan group claimed responsibility, saying it was a suicide attack. "The target seems to be the census team and the soldiers guarding them," Malik Ahmed Khan, a spokesperson for the Punjab government, told local television news channel Geo. 
Leading up to the census there has been a lot of public discussion in Pakistan about how the results might change electoral districts. However, it is not yet clear whether that had anything to do with the attack itself.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Nancy Riley's "Population in China"

On my flight today from San Diego to Boston to attend the annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers I finally had the chance to sit quietly and absorb Nancy Riley’s new book Population in China. This is a very nice summary and analysis of the literature, including her own field research in northeastern China, and I found myself underlining and highlighting a lot of passages. If you have read my book and follow my blog, you will know all of the basic facts about Chinese demography, but Riley gives history and depth to those facts and puts them all together in a very readable and useful fashion.

A major theme of the book is the incredible amount of inequality that has crept into Chinese society over time, but especially since Mao’s death in 1976. His death marked the demise of old-style communism and the rise of state-sponsored privatization that has brought the exact opposite of what a Marxian communist society would envision. There was inequality in how the one-child family was implemented, inequality in how the hukou system has kept rural Chinese in “their place” socially if not spatially, inequality in access to health care in a system that went from state-sponsored under Mao to privatized in the post-Mao China. Gender inequalities remain, as well, highlighted by the consistently high ratio of boys to girls at birth (even accounting for those girls who are “missing” but alive). And there is an overall very high level of income inequality, with urban residents faring much better under the current political economic situation than are rural residents.

These trends matter to us all since 1 in 5 people in the world live in China and since China’s economy is now the world’s second biggest, behind the U.S. As Riley reminds us, it was an early understanding of the relationship between demography and economic change that got China to where it is today. The future will witness a continuing interaction between all things demographic and all things political and economic in China. It’s just too early to know exactly what shape they will take.