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, January 30, 2018

Women Are Making Some Progress in Japan and Iran

Thanks to both Todd Gardner and Abu Daoud for links to a fascinating story posted on the Australian version of BusinessInsider, after translation from its original Japanese. A young Japanese woman has launched a startup company that encourages other young women--those in their 20s--to get married, have kids, and also have a job.
In the 1980s, the number of unmarried young people in Japan increased along with the economic bubble. With those singles now in their middle age, the one-person household is projected to be more than 40% of the country’s total households by 2040. 
In a stark contrast, more millennials, particularly women in their 20s, increasingly wish to marry young — almost three decades after that bubble burst. 
Nearly 80% of women between ages 18 and 34 felt marriage was important in 2015, up from 71% in 1987, according to a survey conducted by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research. The rate for the men has hovered around 60% during the same two time periods.
Unfortunately, it's not real clear what the start-up company to encourage early marriage. Furthermore, the reporters very honestly note that the 2015 census data don't yet show much movement in the direction of a younger age at marriage for women. Still, the positive element is the idea that Japanese culture has shifted enough so that young women could even think about it.

Meanwhile, in another low fertility country--Iran, women are protesting the government rule that requires women to wear full body covering Hijabs in public. The Guardian has the news about the protests: 
Iranian law has compelled women to wear a hijab since the 1979 revolution, but it has been a difficult policy to enforce. Despite the fear of reprisals, millions of women in Iran defy the restrictions on a daily basis.
A growing number of women, especially in Tehran, refuse to wear a hijab while driving, arguing that a car is a private space where they can dress more freely.
The issue has become more prominent in recent years, partly thanks to a campaign run by activist Masih Alinejad, called My Stealthy Freedom. Her Facebook page invites women in Iran to post pictures of themselves without their headscarves in defiance of the rules. She is also behind White Wednesdays, a campaign encouraging women to wear white headscarves and take them off in protest at the rules.
“Forced hijab is the most visible symbol of oppression against women in Iran, that’s why fighting for freedom to wear or not to wear hijab is the first step towards full equality,” Alinejad told the Guardian on Monday. “These women are not protesting against a piece of cloth, it’s about our identity, our dignity, and our freedom of choice. Our body, our choice.”
As I've noted on numerous occasions, low status for women routinely leads to high fertility (and hard lives for the women involved) and has a very long history in the world, but repressing women in modern society is, somewhat contrarily, a major cause of the below replacement level fertility being complained about in places like Japan and Iran. 

Monday, January 29, 2018

An Awful Reminder of the Low Status of Women in India

Justin Stoler just sent me a link to a story from the BBC reminding us of the low status of women in India. The headline tells it all: "India estimates that 21 million of its girls are 'unwanted'". Perhaps the only "good" thing about this report is that it comes from a government agency, rather than an NGO.
The desire among parents in India to have sons instead of daughters has created 21 million "unwanted" girls, a government report estimates. The finance ministry report found many couples kept on having children until they had a boy. Authors called this a "subtler form" of son preference than sex-selective abortions but warned it might lead to fewer resources for girls. Son preference was "a matter for Indian society to reflect upon", they said.
The authors also found that 63 million women were "missing" from India's population because the preference for sons led to to sex-selective abortions and more care was given to boys. Tests to determine a foetus's sex are illegal in India, but they still take place and can lead to sex-selective abortions.
Now, if you've read Chapter 6 of my book, you'll remember the discussion about the status of women in India (p.199):
India is a country where the desire for a surviving son is strong, since the Hindu religion requires that parents be buried by their son (Mandelbaum 1974). Malthus was very aware of this stimulus to fertility in India and, in his Essay on Population, quoted an Indian legislator who wrote that under Hindu law a male heir is “an object of the first importance. ‘By a son a man obtains victory over all people; by a son’s son he enjoys immortality; and afterwards by the son of that grandson he reaches the solar abode’” (Malthus 1872 [1971]:116).
The BBC story also points out that girls are a drain on the family economy because they require a dowry to be married (i.e., parents have to pay another family to take the girls off their hands), and then they go off to live with the husband's family, rather than staying around to help her parents. These are cultural characteristics that work against equal status for women and the cultural world turns more slowly than we might wish, I'm afraid. 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Significant Metro Inequalities Exist in Life Expectancy in the U.S.

Almost six years ago I blogged about the major differences in life expectancy by county in the U.S. Marin County, California, topped the list with the highest male life expectancy, and several counties in the south had the lowest life expectancy. A new report, recently summarized by the Washington Post, looks at mortality data for metropolitan areas in the U.S. Keep in mind that for most of human history cities were less healthy than the countryside, but the health transition of the last century has turned that around and cities now have higher life expectancy than the rural areas in almost every corner of the world (it might be that some Chinese cities with lots of smog are less healthy than the surrounding rural areas...). Yet, even among those metro areas there can be important inequalities, some of it accounted for by the demographics of the state in question:
The measure [life expectancy] is closely tied to income and healthy behaviors, which is why it’s perhaps not surprising that residents of Hawaii, with the second-highest median household income in the United States and an active lifestyle, have the longest life expectancy (81.2 years), while Mississippians, with the lowest household income, one of the highest rates of obesity and the sixth-highest rate of smoking, have the shortest (74.9 years). As 24/7 Wall Street, a financial news and opinion site, found out by looking at metropolitan areas, there’s also a wide gap in life expectancy within states such as California, Florida, South Carolina and Texas, much of it explained by variations in the metropolitan areas’ household income and rates of smoking and obesity.
If we look at California, for example, we find that the metro area with the highest life expectancy (83.1 years--both sexes combined) is in San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara. This is otherwise known as Silicon Valley, so all of those tech nerds have enough money and a healthy enough lifestyle to stay alive longer than most other people in the U.S. This is also the part of California with the most diverse neighborhoods, as I mentioned a few days ago, including immigrants from East Asia and Western Europe--the areas of the world with the highest life expectancy. Indeed, life expectancy in Silicon Valley is about the same as in Japan or Switzerland. However, if you drive north up the center of California towards Mt. Shasta you'll run into the metro area of Redding. These folks have an average life expectancy that is more than 6 years less than Silicon Valley and is much closer to the levels found in those southern states with the lowest life expectancy in the country. To be sure, these levels are much more similar to what we find in Eastern and Southern Europe and probably for the same reasons--lower levels of income and less healthy lifestyles.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

What is the Impact of Demographics on Market Forces?

I don't really know how he does it, but Todd Gardner (@PopGeog) seems to find every story of demographic relevance every day of the year. Today he hit on a story posted on in which the chief global strategist at Charles Schwab company discusses the importance of demographics on market forces.
Policy – be it monetary, trade, foreign or fiscal – can have an impact on investor sentiment and therefore on investment decisions. But demographics could play a bigger role in the coming decades as the population continues to age in the U.S, said Jeffrey Kleintop, chief global investment strategist at The Charles Schwab Corporation (SCHW).
Still, while there are reasons to worry about the demographic shift and the impact it will have on investing, Kleintop said that it is not all doom and gloom. For starters, he said that economists have not always been right when assessing the impact of demographics. Kleintop pointed to the late 1930s, when growth in the U.S. population started to slow. Alvin Hansen, a Harvard University professor and economist, said at the time that the economy in the U.S. was stuck in "secular stagnation." However, that population and growth slowdown was short lived, with the economy growing thanks to World War II and a surge in new babies starting after the war, ending any of those concerns. That is just one example of how economists can get it wrong by assuming that the worst is going to happen.
So, the story here is actually a pretty familiar one from economists--aging (which is heavily driven by low birth rates) is bad for the market, while high birth rates are good for the market. We can see that clearly from Kleintop when he notes that:
"Demographics are a powerful force, but they aren't the only force," Kleintop wrote in the blog post. "For example, Venezuela has good demographics, but they have been overwhelmed by bad governance."
I disagree 100% with the idea that "Venezuela has good demographics." I have blogged about Venezuela many times over the years, including a piece last November about the birth rate there. The country has way too high a rate of growth considering especially its heavy dependence on oil exports. Yes, good governance would help, but mainly if it were aimed at further lowering the birth rate.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Pennsylvania Court Rules Against Gerrymandered Districts

In the ongoing battle for control of the U.S. House of Representatives via gerrymandered congressional district boundaries, the Pennsylvania state Supreme Court yesterday ruled that the state must immediately redraw its boundaries. As Reuters reports:
In a 5-2 decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled the electoral map violated the state’s Constitution by manipulating the district boundaries to marginalize Democratic voters, a practice called partisan gerrymandering.
Democrats, who hold only five of the state’s 18 congressional districts despite Pennsylvania’s status as an electoral swing state, hope to regain control of the House in the November mid-term elections by flipping 24 seats now held by Republicans nationwide.
As a reminder of the importance of the political party approach to gerrymandering, points out that Karl Rove, who engineered the campaign that brought George Bush to the White House in 2000, has put this strategy down on paper:
Consider that, in 2010, when Karl Rove wrote his political opus on redistricting in the Wall Street Journal, it included the prescient line “he who controls redistricting can control Congress,” and one of his prime examples was how Pennsylvania Republicans had redrawn lines to turn an 11–10 Republican-Democrat split in districts based on the 1990 census into a 12–7 advantage following the 2000 census. Today, the conservative edge is even greater: 13–5 in favor of Republicans. As for the state legislature, the split is 121–82 in the House and 34–16 in the Senate. And yet Trump’s margin of victory in the last presidential election was a mere 44,292 votes out of six million cast, suggesting that the state is much more evenly divided politically than its legislature or congressional delegation would indicate.
Since the case in Pennsylvania relied on the state constitution, not on the U.S. Constitution, Reuters notes that the case could avoid being adjudicated by the U.S. Supreme Court. We'll see! 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Was Queen Victoria a Malthusian?

If you are a fan of PBS's "Masterpiece Theater," as my wife and I are, then you have probably already seen the first episode of the second season of "Victoria." This series has thus far brought us into the early days of Queen Victoria's nearly 64-year reign, starting in 1837. Charles Dickens was just gaining fame, and Thomas Robert Malthus had recently died. I mention these two people because they both show up in Season 2, Episode 1, which starts in 1840 after the birth of her first child. The ladies of the court are very complimentary of Dickens' new story, "The Old Curiosity Shop." Dickens was decidedly not a Malthusian, in the sense that he did not agree with the way in which Malthus's ideas had been politicized to suggest that the government should not encourage the poor to have children. Indeed, there is a lot of discussion on the internet that Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" was deliberately anti-Malthusian and that Scrooge was Dickens' representation of Malthus.

Perhaps not coincidentally, a little later in the episode we see Queen Victoria reading aloud from Malthus' "Essay on Population," referencing the geometric growth of populations. She seems in agreement with these sentiments in the TV program, and that squares with comments by a British Historian, Stephanie Polsky, in her book "Ignoble Displacement: Dispossessed Capital in NeoDickensian London." Indeed, in one page about Victoria, Polsky brings in Malthus, Darwin, and Marx--along with Dickens. Although I don't talk about Dickens in my book, you can get more on the connections between Malthus, Darwin, and Marx in Chapter 3.

Keep in mind that one motivation of the writer(s) of "Victoria" to introduce Malthus might be that Victoria herself had children at what seems like a geometric pace--9 children in the 21 years that she and Albert were married before he died of typhoid fever. They were all married off to various European royalty and Victoria was dubbed "the grandmother of Europe." We could probably have a long discussion about whether that was a good or a bad thing.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Brazil Has Shifted Rather Dramatically to an Aging Population

Thanks to Duane Miller for linking me to a very interesting story on WorldCrunch about the way in which Brazil has quite dramatically become an aging population. This is a very predictable consequence of a rapid increase in life expectancy accompanied by a rapid decline in fertility--one that has sent birth rates below replacement level. 
While demographic trends indicate an aging population worldwide, Brazil's rate is outstanding for its speed. Countries like France, the United Kingdom and Spain, which are already known for their inhabitants' longevity, needed three times as long as Brazil to double their percentage of older population. By 2040, older people are expected to constitute one-fifth of Brazil's population, up from 10% in 2010.
Among traditional reasons given for demographic changes (fertility, mortality, migration, wars, epidemics), it is the basic fall in fertility rates and rise in life expectancy that best explain the widening of the Brazilian population pyramid. The number of children per woman has dropped significantly in recent years. In 2015 the figure was 1.7, which is considerably less than the average number of children for grandmothers two generations earlier (6.3 per woman).
Now, to be sure, the dramatic drop in fertility in Brazil has been known about for some time. I blogged about it back in 2011, for example. But, it takes any society some time to adjust to the reality of this dramatic demographic shift, and Brazil has had a variety of political and economic crises that tend to drain national attention away from the less obvious, even if dramatic, demographic trends taking place.
The demographic change is among the biggest challenges of modern Brazilian history, alongside such phenomena as accelerated urbanization and the push for universal healthcare and education. The challenge is multiplied by the fact that no government targets can alter its progression. The country needs to design appropriate public policies and create institutions and infrastructures to meet the needs of a growing number of "grandparents" populating the country's cities and countryside. These are long-term challenges that require a serious and rapid response from both the political class and society as a whole.
Every society undergoing a rapid decline in fertility needs to know these things, but most seem to ignore them until the demographic transition becomes the demographic crisis. 

Friday, January 19, 2018

African Immigration is a Good Thing for America

This is a day when the government is threatened by a shutdown because Republicans and Democrats in Congress cannot agree about the fate of "dreamers'" in the DACA program--people brought to the U.S. without documents by their parents, but who have grown up in this country, educated in this country, and are contributing economically to this country. And this is a week when the entire world shuddered at the U.S. president allegedly wondering why we would want immigrants from "s---hole" countries like Haiti and most African nations.

The actual people who have migrated to the U.S. from these countries gives the lie to Trump's derogatory characterization. Thanks to my son, Greg Weeks (Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte) for pointing me to an article yesterday in the Washington Post co-authored by one of his departmental colleagues, Beth Whitaker. She and Christopher Day have used census and other data to draw the following conclusions about immigrants from Africa:
But African immigrants are more educated, on average, than U.S.-born Americans. According to estimates for 2012 to 2016 from the American Community Survey of the U.S. Census Bureau, 41.5 percent of African-born immigrants have bachelor’s, graduate or professional degrees — a higher percentage than immigrants from Europe (40.4 percent) or Latin America (12.4 percent), but lower than those from Asia (50.3 percent). Just 30.5 percent of U.S.-born individuals have such degrees.
Education levels are even higher among immigrants from specific African countries that are top sources of migration to the United States: 63.1 percent of immigrants from Egypt, 59.5 percent from Nigeria and 50.7 percent from Kenya have bachelor’s degrees or higher. In comparison, 43.1 percent of immigrants from Norway have similar degrees.
Whitaker and Day also provide an overview of the immigrant diversity program, the existence of which seems to have prompted Trump's comments. It is aimed at providing opportunities for immigration from countries that were essentially left out of the 1965 Immigration Act, it is limited to 50,000 per year, and it is not a lottery. There are clear stipulations about education and occupational experience, and there is a substantial vetting process before anyone receives a visa to migrate to the U.S.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Supreme Court Lets North Carolina Keep its Gerrymandered Districts For Now

It was only a few days ago that I last blogged about gerrymandering. Things seemed to be going in the right direction in terms of court decisions to slow down the blatantly political redistricting that has been going on over the past several years throughout the country. This evening, however, the U.S. Supreme Court has put a hold on a lower court decision that would have required North Carolina to redraw its Congressional District boundaries prior to this year's election. The Washington Post has the early story:
The Supreme Court said Thursday night that North Carolina does not immediately have to redraw its congressional district maps, meaning the 2018 elections will be held in districts that a lower court found unconstitutional.
The court granted a request from North Carolina’s Republican legislative leaders to put the lower court’s ruling on hold. The decision was not unexpected, because generally, the Supreme Court is reluctant to require the drawing of new districts before it has had a chance to review a lower court’s ruling that such an action is warranted.
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor said they would not have granted the request.
So we now have to wait to see whether in fact the lower court ruling will eventually be upheld. In general, though, this does seem like a good sign of things to come. I sincerely hope that I am wrong about that. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Ancient Killers are Unmasked

Today's news brought new insight into two of history's massively deadly epidemics: (1) what killed the ancient Aztecs in Mexico after the Spanish arrived?; and (2) how did the Black Death spread so quickly in Europe? The Guardian has the story about the Aztecs:
Within five years as many as 15 million people – an estimated 80% of the population – were wiped out in an epidemic the locals named “cocoliztli”. The word means pestilence in the Aztec Nahuatl language. Its cause, however, has been questioned for nearly 500 years.
On Monday scientists swept aside smallpox, measles, mumps, and influenza as likely suspects, identifying a typhoid-like “enteric fever” for which they found DNA evidence on the teeth of long-dead victims.
“The 1545-50 cocoliztli was one of many epidemics to affect Mexico after the arrival of Europeans, but was specifically the second of three epidemics that were most devastating and led to the largest number of human losses,” said Åshild Vågene of the University of Tuebingen in Germany. Vagene co-authored a study published in the science journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.
In terms of numbers of deaths, the Aztec losses were nearly as large as those caused by the plague in Europe. BBC News tells us how that spread so fast:
The rodents and their fleas were thought to have spread a series of outbreaks in 14th-19th Century Europe.
But a team from the universities of Oslo and Ferrara now says the first, the Black Death, can be "largely ascribed to human fleas and body lice".
As I noted in a post a few years ago, the rapid spread of the disease through European villages did not seem consistent with bites from fleas carried by rats. And the models utilized by these researchers were consistent with human-to-human spread of fleas and lice.
The study, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, uses records of its pattern and scale. 
The Black Death claimed an estimated 25 million lives, more than a third of Europe's population, between 1347 and 1351.
These two stories illustrate the incredible scientific advances being made to uncover the past. And they remind us of the incredible importance of continuing governmental and societal support of this kind of research.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Measuring Neighborhood Diversity

For decades now social scientists have measured the segregation of neighborhoods. Reynolds Farley at the University of Michigan was a pioneer in this kind of work with his analysis of Detroit. The flip side of segregation is obviously diversity and Leo Castaneda from inewsource here in San Diego was interviewed today on KPBS radio about neighborhood diversity in San Diego, and it turned out that the interview had a few clips from conversations that he and I had as he was putting his story together, for which he was using data from the 2016 American Community Survey.
When two residents in the southeastern San Diego neighborhood of Encanto meet, there’s a 71 percent chance they’re of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. In the coastal community of Cardiff, there’s only a 25 percent chance of that happening.
That makes Encanto one of the most diverse neighborhoods in San Diego County, and Cardiff one of the least diverse. Those findings are based on an inewsource analysis of ZIP codes with at least 10,000 residents.
John Weeks, director of the International Population Center at San Diego State University, said the index results reflect historic migration patterns and housing costs.

At one time, Weeks said, housing laws made it legal to exclude non-whites from buying homes in certain neighborhoods, particularly coastal communities.

“You have a built in, historic almost, lack of diversity along the coast. But these days, mainly it's price,” Weeks said. “That's what keeps you out, if you don't have the money. And the people who are most likely to have the money, still in this country, tend to be non-Hispanic whites.”
Leo also calculated diversity measures at the county level for California and found that Alameda County (which includes Berkeley and Oakland in the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area) is the most diverse. It has large African American, Hispanic, and Asian populations, along with non-Hispanic Whites. In fact, the top eight most diverse counties in the state are all in northern California.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The GeoDemographics of Gerrymandering

Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution lays out the basis for the census in the U.S. The enumeration of the population (all persons counted equally--as modified later by the 14th amendment) is the basis for dividing up states into Congressional Districts from which members of the House of Representatives are elected. Each such district is to have equal numbers of people, with the exception that each state must have at least one Representative in Congress. Since the Constitution says nothing more about how to create these districts than that cannot cross state lines, the district boundaries have been regularly messed with, starting way back in 1812 when Elbridge Gerry, then governor of Massachusetts, approved a salamander-shaped district, and thus was born the term "Gerrymandering."

While race was the big issue for most of U.S. history, over the past decade the Republican party, in particular, has been trying to redraw Congressional District boundaries in ways that are aimed at providing safe seats for Republican members of Congress. Today's CBS Sunday Morning has a nice primer on the whole set of issues.
Federal judges this past week ordered a redrawing of the lines between Congressional Districts in North Carolina, while the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal of a similar ruling in Texas. And then there's Pennsylvania -- which features a Congressional map that, some critics say, looks like a cartoon. [see map below]
But -- and this is important -- even if lines were not being drawn to favor Republicans, Democrats would still be at something of a disadvantage, says Stanford political scientist Jonathan Rodden. That's because of where they live.
"Democrats have been clustered in cities in the industrialized states every since the New Deal, ever since FDR," Rodden said. "Cities have become more Democratic, and rural areas more Republican." 
Rodden studies how increasingly Republicans are spread across rural areas and Democrats packed into urban areas. Consider the influence on a state like Missouri: "The Democrats are highly concentrated in St. Louis and Kansas City," Rodden said. "The gubernatorial elections are always very close. It's a place that Democrats can win statewide. But the best they can hope for in an eight-seat Congressional delegation is three seats, and the current outcome is two." 
So, is the issue gerrymandering or geography? "It's geography and gerrymandering," said Rodden. "In order to understand the outcomes we see, we have to understand how those two things interact."
Strictly speaking, of course, it's not just geography--it's GeoDemographics or spatial demography at work in a big and important way.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Africans Find Work--and Abuse--in the Gulf States

No place on earth is growing more quickly in population terms than sub-Saharan Africa. Importantly, the population growth is outpacing economic growth and youth unemployment is high. This is the major reason why Africans risk their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean to get to Europe. It is also why an increasing number are now finding work in the Gulf states. Two stories this week highlight the issues. The first is from OZY:
While continued international pressure on the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar has managed to improve the working conditions of many South Asian and Southeast Asian migrants, recruitment agencies are now moving on to Africa. Detailed labor statistics are hard to come by in the region, but data from the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs suggests that there are more than 636,000 Sudanese migrants in the Gulf, as well as up to 300,000 Kenyans. Many of the workers flooding the Persian Gulf States are from Somalia, Ethiopia or Uganda — countries with little capacity to guarantee the fair treatment of their citizens abroad.
Kenya had, in fact, put a lid on migration to the Gulf states back in 2014 in reaction to numerous stories of abuse and exploitation. But, according to a story from the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Kenya is going to reopen those migrant avenues.
Kenya plans to lift a ban on its citizens working in the Gulf - introduced in 2014 because of abuses - with new safeguards, such as requiring recruitment agencies to pay a security bond so they can repatriate any distressed migrants. But experts fear that the new rules will not protect them amid corruption, greed and desperation for a better life. Lured by the promise of well-paid work and a chance to escape joblessness at home, hundreds of thousands of Kenyans are thought to be employed in the Middle East, sending much-needed remittances to their families every year.
Only time will tell if these new policies will limit the abuses. In the meantime, though, there are relatively few options for young people living in these countries with limited economic opportunities. Would global efforts to improve economic development help? Yes, if they are really indigenous efforts, rather than outsiders coming in to exploit the local populations. That is a tricky balance, and report out today from the Migration Policy Institute suggests that using economic development as a way of limiting migration is more complicated than it seems at first blush, and thus may not always have the desired consequences.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A Japanese Town Figures Out How to Raise the Birth Rate

Thanks to Duane Miller for pointing me to a story in the Economist about a small town in Japan that has figured out how to double its birth rate. This didn't require a Sex Tsar like Spain created last year, nor did it involve billboards emphasizing how important it was to Singapore for people to have babies. Rather, it was an old-fashioned formula similar to the one that the French have been using for a long time--subsidize the cost of having children.
Mrs Fukuda will receive a “celebratory” gift of ¥300,000 ($3,530) when she gives birth. A subsidised baby-sitting service is available for just ¥1,800 a day, along with subsidised carseats and other baby accessories. When her children reach secondary school, she will receive ¥90,000 a year for each one who attends. In theory, this stipend is to cover the cost of getting children to school, especially for people who live relatively far away. And whereas usually all but the poorest and the old in Japan have to pay 30% of their health-care bills (with the national government picking up the rest), in Nagicho the local government pays the 30% for children.
For many years the French system of similar incentives seemed like a failure because the French birth rate remained right around replacement level at a time that the government was hoping for something higher than that. Now, of course, replacement level fertility looks pretty high in Europe! And, to be sure, it would look great in Japan, if every town were to replicate this model. Note that one resident interviewed for the story did not believe that the incentives were the main reason for the increase in the birth rate. I would argue that a community that thinks like this has a culture that is oriented toward families, rather than just individuals getting ahead--and typically at the expense of women. That is why they put the incentives in place, so the explanation is perhaps more complex than it seems at first glance.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Venezuelans Head to Colombia as the Country Unravels

As the economic situation in Venezuela continues its downward spiral, it seems that President Maduro is mainly concerned about his political opponents, not the economy. In other words, he's more concerned about his own survival than the survival of Venezuelans. Colombia has been bearing much of the brunt of this, as an increasing number of Venezuelans seek to find work or even longer-term residence in that next-door country. A story in VICE News summarizes the situation:
The crisis can be felt across Colombia’s border, where authorities lament the lack of support in dealing with the tide of migrants that has steadily increased to crisis levels over the last year. In the past three months, the pace of migration has dramatically grown, local authorities say.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos called Venezuela his “worst nightmare” during a late-November visit to London. But he’s remained focused primarily on his Nobel Peace Prize-winning efforts to end Colombia’s 50-year civil war, and has largely allowed the crisis on his borders to develop without a clear national response.
Many of the border crossers do so legally, just as many people on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border have passes that allow them to work on the other side of the border. But the situation in Venezuela has the effect of turning many of those people into refugees in Colombia.
The monthly flow of documented migrants — those who get their passports stamped — over this part of the Colombian border more than doubled between June and November, from 47,071 to 95,826, respectively. But those numbers show a small part of the picture. Also in November, more than 200,000 people crossed into Colombia with special border transit ID cards, but never left.
And it is not just people. The smuggling of livestock is also on the rise. While cross-border cattle smuggling apparently has a long history, it has ramped up as the chaos in Venezuela keeps getting worse. Two years ago, I wrote about the situation unfolding in Venezuela and concluded that "[t]he result of population growth in the face of low oil prices in Venezuela will probably be a change of government. It is hard to see how Maduro can hang on." Maduro has been more successful in hanging on than I thought, but Venezuela itself seems to be barely hanging on.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Are U.S. Colleges About to Face a Drop in Prospective Students?

Thanks to my son, Greg Weeks of UNC Charlotte, for pointing me to an article in InsideHigherEd reviewing a new book about the demographics of higher education. 
Optimists and plenty of others in higher education may be concerned by Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education (Johns Hopkins University Press), in which Nathan D. Grawe suggests a bleak outlook for most institutions when it comes to attracting and enrolling students.
 Grawe is a professor of economics at Carleton College--a small liberal arts college in Minnesota. Although he's not a member of the Population Association of America, the book uses demographic data in a seemingly new and innovative way to estimate not just the number of people becoming of the age to go to college, but also the probability that they will apply for college, and the kind of college (e.g., community college, four-year, elite, etc) to which they are likely to apply.
He starts with generally accepted figures that show the (traditional) college-age population dropping in the Northeast and Midwest by about 5 percent by the mid-2020s. But he then tracks birth rates and finds that the economic downturn that started around 2008 led many people to delay starting families. The impact, starting around 2026, could mean a loss of 15 percent of the typical college-going population.
And if that's not enough to scare admissions leaders (and perhaps to give college counselors in high schools more confidence on getting students in), Grawe developed a formula called the Higher Education Demand Index, or HEDI. This applies demographic trends to college-going rates. Rather than assuming the same rates in the future as today, Grawe looks at the rates for different socioeconomic groups. Those groups who will make up a growing share of the population tend to have lower college-going rates, on average, than groups whose share of the population will be shrinking. Based on his index, the outlook should scare most nonelite colleges.
I have not read the book, so I'm not in a position to know if I would agree with his methods and conclusions. What I do know is that here at San Diego State University we just had a record 93,610 applications for admission this coming Fall. Only a few thousand of those will actually wind up being enrolled in the Fall, so presumably the rest will go elsewhere--albeit probably not the Northeast or Midwest. 

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Muslims Represent About 1% of the U.S. Population

The Pew Research Center recently released its latest estimates of the Muslim population in the United States. This is not an easy task, of course, since the U.S. Census does not ask about religion, neither on the short-form nor on the American Community Survey. In a paper published many years ago, I explored some of the shortcomings of estimating the Muslim population, and also some of the ways in which these numbers might be inferred. My conclusion back then was as follows:
The overall numbers of Muslims estimated by this method - 2.5 million in 1990 and 3.4 million in 2000 - are slightly higher than the results from survey data, and suggest that the numbers for each state are reasonable. albeit probably maximum, representations of the actual numbers of Muslims in those states.
Those researchers familiar with the U.S. Muslim population may not be surprised to see the clusters of Muslims in the New York-New Jersey area, the Washington, D.C., area and the upper Midwest-Great Lakes.
Using estimates drawn from their own surveys of religious identification, and then applying those demographics to Census Bureau, the Pew Research Center has generated slightly smaller estimates of the U.S. Muslim population than produced by my methods, but the geographic distribution is essentially the same:
[B]ased on our own survey and demographic research, as well as outside sources, Pew Research Center estimates that there were about 3.45 million Muslims of all ages living in the U.S. in 2017, and that Muslims made up about 1.1% of the total U.S. population. 
Muslims are not evenly distributed around the country. Some metro areas, such as Washington, D.C., have sizable Muslim communities. Likewise, certain states, such as New Jersey, are home to two or three times as many Muslim adults per capita as the national average. But there are also states and counties with far fewer Muslims.
One possible reason for my estimates having been higher is that I included estimates of the conversion of Americans to Islam, especially within the African-American community, but I did not assume that people were leaving Islam. However, the Pew report suggests that about the same number of people leave the religion as convert to it.

Overall, the Pew report concludes that there are still more people of Jewish origin than there are Muslims in the U.S., but at current growth rates of each group, Muslims could surpass Jews by about 2040. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Trump Administration is Trying to Skew Census Results

The Washington Post reports on the latest attempt by the Trump administration and many Republicans in Congress to throw a monkey wrench into the 2020 Census, this time with a particular focus to skew the results toward Republicans. The Justice Department is requesting that a question be asked on the 100-percent short-form count about citizenship.
Investigative reporting organization ProPublica disclosed last week that a Justice Department official formally asked the Census Bureau to add a question to the 2020 Census. Adding any question at this stage would be dicey, given that the bureau often runs extensive field tests before fiddling with its forms, ensuring that last-minute changes do not throw off its counting efforts. Worse, the Justice Department requested that the bureau inquire about people’s citizenship status. This threatens to sabotage the 2020 count.
Asking about citizenship status would drive down response rates. Since its inception, the census has not only counted voters; it has taken a precise snapshot of everyone in the country. This helps government agencies to direct scarce dollars, and businesses to guide investment decisions. It is also crucial for doling out congressional representation. As the Supreme Court recently underscored, the Constitution requires that congressional seats be apportioned to states according to their total populations, not only their voting populations. Asking about citizenship status would deter undocumented people — or even legal immigrants who fear how far the Trump administration’s crackdown on foreigners will extend — from returning census forms. Many states — particularly blue states — could end up shortchanged.
The American Community Survey (ACS), which replaced the long-form on the census as of the 2010 census, does ask a question about citizenship, so we have those data for a sample of the population, but not for the total count data that are used for redistricting. And, as the editorial board of the Washington Post points out, the only purpose of adding that question to the 100 percent count form would be to discourage immigrants from responding, thus skewing results more in favor of people who are more likely to be Republican voters. This is a genuine constitutional issue and needs to be resisted.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Why is Health Care So Expensive in the U.S.?

The United States has the highest per-person health cost of any country on the planet, yet the lowest life expectancy among rich countries, as I've noted before. What's going on here? A story in today's NYTimes tries to tackle that question.
The United States spends almost twice as much on health care, as a percentage of its economy, as other advanced industrialized countries — totaling $3.3 trillion, or 17.9 percent of gross domestic product in 2016.
But a few decades ago American health care spending was much closer to that of peer nations.
What happened?
A large part of the answer can be found in the title of a 2003 paper in Health Affairs by the Princeton University health economist Uwe Reinhardt: “It’s the prices, stupid.
That paper uses data compiled by Paris-based OECD and a review of their reports over the years reveals a consistent theme: We pay more for every health-related service and good than do people in other countries. Physicians and nurses and other medical and administrative personnel get higher pay than elsewhere. Drug companies charge more here than in foreign markets. And since we don't have a government-sponsored or mandated health care system, we have very expensive costs associated with health insurance, not to mention the legal system's profits from medical malpractice suits.

The reality is that there are so many influential people and organizations that profit from these high prices that the health care system is very unlikely to change much any time soon. This is a burden that we are going to continue to bear, for better or worse.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Top Ten Posts in 2017

As I do at the beginning of each year, I have taken a look back at the most popular of my posts in the past year. Who are the winners among the 196 that I posted in 2017, based on the number of hits on each one? Here they are:

1. I appreciate the fact that my own near death experience was the top hit of 2017, and believe me when I say that I'm glad to be here in 2018 writing this!

2. It still warms my heart to read and think about the post on demography now and then.

3. Somewhat surprisingly, at least in my mind, was the fact that third on the list was the post about El Salvador having the most strict abortion laws in the world. The map showing the north-south divide in abortion is a rather startling geodemographic visual.

4. There is a tendency in the world today for people to shrug off the fact that the world's population growth continues to have genuinely negative consequences for people and the environment. This was the message in the post about famine looms. When you read this, you will see that there is a comment that seems to be unanswered. In fact, I did answer it, and that answer is 9th on this list.

5. Posts about the 2020 Census in the U.S. have all gotten a lot of hits, but the winner was the first one I put up in January discussing the fact that the redistricting battles were already heating up.

6. The sixth most hit upon post was the one a year ago about the Top Ten posts of 2016. So, if you want to relive that year demographically, you know where to find it.

7. Spain's appointment of a new "Sex Tsar" caught a lot of attention. The low-low fertility countries of southern Europe feel that they need to do something demographically besides just accept refugees from Africa and the Middle East. By the way, I don't see any evidence online that the birth rate in Spain has yet responded to anything proposed by the Sex Tsar.

8. I was very pleased to see that among the top ten posts was my summary of Mary Waters' lecture here in San Diego last year. Her discussion about "crimmigrants" and the new legal apartheid in America is even more cogent after a year of Trump administration policies.

9. This post was really a lengthy response to a comment made by Abu Daoud on my post of the previous day about looming famines (see #4 above). Here I say a bit more about the demographics of famine.

10. I've blogged fairly often about the demographics of Japan, including three times in 2017. The first post, about Japan facing up to its aging population, was the most popular of those three and rounds out the top ten.

Again, I'm happy to be here able to wish you Happy New Year!