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:

Friday, September 28, 2018

What's the Life Expectancy in Your Neighborhood?

Thanks to Professor Rubén Rumbaut for linking me to an incredibly interesting story about a new resource that shows the life expectancy in your own neighborhood, and allows you to compare your neighborhood with other areas near or distant from you. The project is called "United States Small Area Life Expectancy Estimate Project" (USALEEP) and it is coordinated by the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics and the National Association for Public Health Information Systems with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
These new data are available to everyone via the easy-to-use interactive tool available above. Typing in your street address reveals the average life expectancy for a baby born in your census tract or area, if current death rates do not change. You can then compare your area to nearby neighborhoods or communities, to county- and state-level data, as well as the national average. If you have a neighbor down the street who happens to live in a different census tract, your results might even be different, which we hope will spark some conversation about the differences in conditions and opportunities for health where we live. Ultimately, we hope this will inspire residents and leaders to work together to close the gaps these data illuminate.
Here's what the entry pad looks like (don't try to click on this--it's just a picture)--go here for the real thing:

I typed in my address and was surprised in a very pleasant way to see that the life expectancy at birth in my census tract is 87.20, which is higher than San Diego County in general (81.43), which is higher than California in general (80.90), which is higher than the national average of 78.80 (these are rates for both sexes combined). The concern is obviously in finding those places that are below average, and then to figure out why they are low when other places are high. These kinds of spatial inequalities in life expectancy have become an increasing cause of concern, as I noted most recently a few months ago. To be sure, a map of life expectancy by county in the United States that I blogged about four years ago, has a geographic pattern that is very similar to the recent map I posted of counties still feeling the long-term negative impact of slavery.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Demographic Legacy of Slavery in the United States

The latest issue of Demography has a fascinating research article by Thor Berger of the Department of Economic History & Centre for Economic Demography at Lund University in Sweden. This is an open access article so you can read the whole thing for yourself. The article is titled "Places of Persistence: Slavery and the Geography of Intergenerational Mobility in the United States" and shows us the lasting effects of slavery on intergenerational economic mobility in the United States. This is not a pretty story and it is interesting to me that the research was carried out by a Swedish demographer, rather than an American demographer. Here is the map that summarizes a major point of his research:

And here is his conclusion:
A key contribution of this article is to document that the present-day geography of intergenerational mobility in the United States largely reflects the historical distribution of slavery, with substantially less upward mobility in areas with a higher share of slaves by the outbreak of the Civil War. Based on a variety of empirical strategies, the evidence suggests that this relationship is causal. Exploiting differences reported by Chetty and Hendren (2016a, 2016b) in observed mobility rates for children whose families move across CZs to identify the place-based component of upward mobility suggests that this relationship does not arise mainly from sorting of families across CZs; rather it reflects a causal effect of place.
And what is his theory about the underlying cause? Fragile families:
More fragile family structures in areas that had more prevalent slavery is seemingly the most important for understanding why these places produce significantly worse mobility outcomes today. Although these results are suggestive, they should be interpreted carefully because of the extremely challenging task of identifying the wide variety of causal transmission mechanisms that may link slavery to present-day differences in mobility. Further work is necessary for understanding how these differences emerged and the extent to which they link the past to the present.
For more on this idea, see my review of Isabel Sawhill's book, Generation Unbound... 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross Will NOT Have to Testify About His Role in the Citizenship Question--UPDATED

The issue of whether or not a citizenship question will be on the 2020 Census has been a hot topic ever since it was officially pushed onto the Census Bureau back in March of this year, as I discussed at the time. Back then the story from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was that he was being told by the Justice Department that this was necessary in order to keep track of violations of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. That sounded a bit suspicious to most of us, and it also sounded suspicious to a federal judge who has now ordered Wilbur Ross to come to court and be deposed under oath about what really is going on. CNN had the story today:
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross must sit for a deposition in a lawsuit against his department over its decision to include a question about citizenship in the 2020 Census, a federal judge ruled Friday. 
The Commerce Department announced in March that the question of citizenship will again be included in the 2020 Census, which the administration said was necessary to enforce the Voting Rights Act.
New York, along with other states and cities, filed a lawsuit in April to block the government's decision to include the question, arguing it would intimidate immigrants and decrease participation in the census.
US District Judge Jesse Furman of the Southern District of New York said Ross's deposition, limited to four hours, is needed "because Secretary Ross was personally and directly involved in the decision, and the unusual process leading to it, to an unusual degree."
Information presented to the Court apparently indicated that the idea might well have been Ross's and that he had been quietly pushing it for a year before the announcement was made in March that he was being told by the Justice Department to order the Census Bureau to include the question on the 2020 Census. With any luck this will help Congress decide that this is a bad idea--as the rest of us have known since it first came up.

UPDATE:  Oops, no, it seems he won't be deposed after all. As NPR reported this morning, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against that idea. However, the door was not closed completely on this issue:
The administration's request to temporarily block other lower court orders for the lawsuits, however, were not successful. The Supreme Court is allowing the plaintiffs' attorneys to question Justice Department official John Gore, who leads the department's civil rights division that the administration says needs the citizenship question to better enforce the Voting Right Act. Document requests from the plaintiffs can also move forward as the start date for the first potential trial over the citizenship question draws closer.
The case against putting the citizenship question on the 2020 Census short-form is currently scheduled to go to trial on the 5th of November.  

Friday, September 21, 2018

Will Demography be Destiny in Texas?

Thanks to Justin Stoler for linking me to an NPR story this morning about the very tight Senate race currently taking place in Texas between Beto O'Rourke and Ted Cruz. Cruz, of course, is the incumbent Senator while O'Rourke is a Member of Congress from El Paso. Cruz's father is from Cuba, although his mother is of Irish-American descent and Cruz himself was born in Canada and is apparently not fluent in Spanish, and he has an American, not Spanish, nickname. By contrast, O'Rourke is not Latino, but is fluent in Spanish and has a Spanish nickname. Which candidate will appeal most to Latinos? And will Latinos turn out to vote? The latter question seems to be the big one in Texas.
While polls show a single-digit race, O'Rourke will need a transformed electorate in order to win in Texas, where no Democrat has prevailed in a statewide race in almost a quarter-century. Specifically, O'Rourke needs to get dramatically more Latinos to show up to the polls in a state where Latinos have far less political clout than their demographic weight would suggest.
"For a couple of decades now there has been a 'demographics is destiny' narrative that has existed," said Manny Garcia with the Texas Democratic Party. "And sadly for many of those years, it seems like base Democrats — communities of color — were taken for granted."
In Texas' urban counties and the heavily Latino counties in the Rio Grande Valley, there's no surge of new Latino voters, according to voter registration data.
Since 2016, there have been single-digit-percentage increases in the number of new voters around the state's four biggest cities of Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin. In the heavily Latino Bexar County where San Antonio is located, voter registration totals have grown by less than 3 percent since 2016.
While Latinos are expected to become the largest population group in Texas by 2020, whether this is the year Latinos cost Republicans a statewide election remains an open question.
I happen to have the 2016 ACS data for the U.S. on my computer, so I did a quick check of the ethnic breakdown in the state of Texas as of two years ago. Among all people in the state, Hispanics currently account for 39% of the population, which is slightly less than the 43% who are non-Hispanic whites. If we look just at the population aged 18 and older (voting age), we find that Hispanics are 35% of the population compared to 46% for non-Hispanic whites. Finally, I looked only at citizens aged 18 and older--people who are eligible to vote. Here we find that Hispanics are only 29% of the voter-eligible population compared to 52% who are non-white Hispanics.

So, if O'Rourke is going to win by pulling in Latino/Hispanic voters, he has more work to do than it might seem at first glance. Tonight's debate should prove very interesting in many respects.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Spatial Demography of Facebook

Where you are matters just as who you are (your socioeconomic characteristics) matters in life. This is not about geographic determinism; it is about social connectedness. This was illustrated beautifully by a story today in the New York Times highlighting research on the geographic distribution of friends on Facebook.
In the millions of ties on Facebook that connect relatives, co-workers, classmates and friends, Americans are far more likely to know people nearby than in distant communities that share their politics or mirror their demographics. The dominant picture in data analyzed by economists at Facebook, Harvard, Princeton and New York University is not that like-minded places are linked; rather, people in counties close to one another are.
Even in the age of the internet, distance matters immensely in determining whom — and, as a result, what — we know.
Distance isn't the only important thing, of course, but since people who are similar tend to live near one another, the effect is amplified. This is a strong reminder that we are social creatures, and that point is made nicely at the end of the article by Mark Granovetter, who was a pioneer in social network analysis:
The patterns in this Facebook data don’t necessarily mean that limited social networks cause worse economic and health outcomes, or that wide-ranging networks produce better ones. But other researchers say this data will make it possible in future studies to untangle why they’re related.
“This gives us the first way to systematically look at some of those relationships,” said Mark Granovetter, a sociologist at Stanford who has written influential papers on the value of social networks. “They have just scratched the surface here.”

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Gates Foundation Looks at the Demographics of Extreme Poverty

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has just released this year's "Goalkeepers" report and the focus is on helping children living in areas of extreme poverty. The world needs for these youngsters to grow up healthy and well-educated--not an easy task, but certainly a possible one.
Today’s booming youth populations can be good news for the economy; if young people are healthy, educated, and productive, there are more people to do the kind of innovative work that stimulates rapid growth. This helps explain the amazing progress of the past generation in most of the world, and it is the key to spreading that progress everywhere.
This progress has come in waves. The first wave centered on China; the second wave centered on India. As a result of successes in Asia, the geography of poverty is changing: extreme poverty is becoming heavily concentrated in sub-Saharan African countries. By 2050, that’s where 86 percent of the extremely poor people in the world are projected to live. Therefore, the world’s priority for the next three decades should be a third wave of poverty reduction in Africa.
One of the obstacles the continent faces is rapid population growth. Africa as a whole is projected to nearly double in size by 2050, which means that even if the percentage of poor people on the continent is cut in half, the number of poor people stays the same. Even so, for most African countries, the outlook is positive. For example, Ethiopia, once the global poster child for famine, is projected to almost eliminate extreme poverty by 2050.
As I read the report, I was instantly put in mind of the population projections made over the years by Wolfgang Lutz and his group at the Vienna Institute of Demography that have demonstrated the pretty amazing demographic consequences of education, especially when it equally includes boys and girls and is, of course, taught by well-qualified people. Investing in young people is, as the Gates reports says, an investment in the future of these countries because these are the people who are going to have to be change-makers at the local and regional levels.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Hunger is on the Rise

Last week the United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) issued its latest State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World. Its conclusions were not good, as Reuters noted:
World hunger rose in 2017 for a third consecutive year, fueled by conflict and climate change, the United Nations warned on Tuesday, jeopardizing a global goal to end the scourge by 2030.
Hunger appears to be increasing in almost all of Africa and in South America, with 821 million people - one in nine - going hungry in 2017, according to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018 report.
Meanwhile, 672 million adults - more than one in eight - are now obese, up from 600 million in 2014.
The rise in hunger is obviously troubling, since we had experienced several years of a falling number and percent of the world's population being hungry, as you can see in the graph below.

The rise in obesity could seem a bit odd, since you might attribute that to over-eating, rather than hunger.  The FAO concludes, however, that this is part of the nutrition transition that has been afflicting the entire planet for the past several decades:
These effects reinforce the already ongoing dietary transition away from a healthy traditional local diet to a greater dependency on imported foods and beverages, often high in fat, sugar and salt, leading to an increase in overweight, obesity and diet-related non-communicable disease (NCDs).
The only good news coming out of the report was that, so far at least, the rise in hunger has not been associated with a rise in child stunting or wasting. 

Friday, September 14, 2018

Trump Administration Wants to Pay Mexico to Deport Migrants

The latest move by the Trump administration to deal with their "crisis" at the U.S.-Mexico border is to take $20 million from the U.S. State Department's foreign aid budget, transfer it to the Department of Homeland Security, and give it to Mexico so that they can deport migrants currently in Mexico who have come from Central America back to their country of origin. The New York Times was the first with the story:
In a recent notice sent to Congress, the administration said it intended to take $20 million in foreign assistance funds and use it to help Mexico pay plane and bus fare to deport as many as 17,000 people who are in that country illegally. 
The money will help increase deportations of Central Americans, many of whom pass through Mexico to get to the American border. Any unauthorized immigrant in Mexico who is a known or suspected terrorist will also be deported under the program, according to the notification, although such people are few in number. 
Katie Waldman, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, said the program was intended to help relieve immigration flows at the United States border with Mexico.
The last point is an important one, I think, because it seems to implicitly recognize that Mexico is no longer the source of most of the migrants showing up at the U.S.-Mexico border. Most of them are, in fact, from the violence-prone Central American nations.  

Thursday, September 13, 2018

"Zombie Ideas" on US Immigration: A Conversation with Professor Rubén Rumbaut

Professor Alex Aleinikoff is Director of the Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility at the New School in New York City, and he has recently launched a new podcast called "Tempest Tossed." His latest interview is with Rubén Rumbaut, who is Distinguished Professor of Sociology at UC, Irvine, and is someone whose name shows up regularly in my blog postings. The focus of the discussion is on "zombie ideas" regarding immigration which Professor Rumbaut describes as ideas that should be dead. They are false ideas and stereotypes that endure despite the lack of any evidence to support them. These include ideas such as immigrants are criminals and rapists, hurt the economy, and damage society.

This is a must-listen podcast:

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Is China's Birth Rate Even Lower Than We Thought?

A few days ago I noted that the fertility rate in South Korea may have dropped to less than one child per woman. A paper just out by Stuart Gietel-Basten and associates has results from China's 2015 1% mini-census that suggests similarly very low levels of fertility--although probably not any lower than in South Korea.
In this paper, we produced a simple analysis of the 2015 mini-census of China without any statistical manipulation. Given the recent decision by the National Bureau of Statistics to cease publishing age-specific fertility rates, this data source represents one of the few means to calculate national and disaggregated measures of fertility in contemporary China. Our exercise found a national TFR of just above one, and very low TFRs in both urban and rural areas, and especially among migrant women. Our analysis of the contribution of changing trends in marriage lends credence to the idea that the postponement effect is being strongly felt in China.
The authors are careful to note that these results are tentative. The intercensal mini-census covered about 14 million people, so the sample is very large numerically, but census data are not necessarily as precise as information from vital statistics registration systems. Nonetheless, the results are consistent with various other sources, as the authors note. Although the results come from a date just prior to the government's lifting of the one-child policy, it seems pretty clear that China's road back to replacement-level fertility will probably be a long one.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Tanzania's President Urges Women to STOP Using Birth Control!

CNN has just reported that the President of Tanzania, John Magufuli, has called on women in his country to stop using birth control because the country needs more people. 
"Those going for family planning are lazy ... they are afraid they will not be able to feed their children. They do not want to work hard to feed a large family and that is why they opt for birth controls and end up with one or two children only," he said at a public rally on Sunday. He was quoted in a local newspaper, The Citizen, as saying that those advocating for birth control were foreign and had sinister motives.

Magufuli urged citizens to keep reproducing as the government was investing in maternal health and opening new district hospitals.
Now, for the record, the latest PRB World Population Data Sheet show that the average woman in Tanzania is having 5.2 children. To be sure, this is down from 6 children 20 years ago, but it still means that Tanzania is one of the top 8 countries in the world in terms of population growth over the next several decades. They are projected to increase from the current 59 million to 84 million by 2030 and 138 million by 2050--more than a doubling in scarcely more than three decades! And these projections assume that fertility will drop to about 3.5 children by the middle of this century.

So, the need for women to stop using birth control is obviously bogus. Magufuli argued that:
"You have cattle. You are big farmers. You can feed your children. Why then resort to birth control?" he asked. "This is my opinion, I see no reason to control births in Tanzania," Magufuli, who has two children, said.
The CNN reporter, Stephanie Busari, hints at the real issue--sexism. Males seem to be feeling threatened by increasing control of women over their own bodies and lives. In the meantime, the future of Tanzania almost certainly depends upon women using more birth control, not less.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Are Baby Boomer Women Redefining Retirement?

As each new generation comes along, there is a tendency to focus on the group at its younger ages (e.g., the publicity now being given to iGen aka Generation Z). But keep in mind that each successively older generation is changing the world that younger generations will move into. For example, a new paper in the journal Sociology Compass addresses the issue of how Baby Boomer women are redefining retirement. The authors, Anne-Maree Sawyer and Sara James, are both Australian sociologists, but their paper covers things going on in the U.S. and the U.K, as well as in Australia. These are general principles, not just country-specific.
As a consequence of the large‐scale entry of women into the labour force from the 1960s (Toossi, 2002), the baby boomers1 are the first generation of women to encounter retirement since its institutionalisation as an expected (male) life course transition in the early‐mid 20th century (Kohli, 2007).
You can see three important issues here: (1) the concept of retirement was built around men retiring from full-time work outside the home; (2) there has been a tremendous increase in the proportion of women who work outside the home; and (3) this gender shift is affecting Baby Boomers in a way no previous generation was affected.
Many baby boomer women entered the labour force as “pioneers,” moving far beyond the domestic worlds of their mothers. Now, facing retirement in the early decades of the 21st century, they inhabit a social landscape in which “the old ideology and the new are tangled together” (Onyx & Benton, 1996, p. 20). In an era of delayed and intensive parenting, public policy emphases on home‐based care for older people, and the rise of the “sandwich generation” (Brody, 1990), social science scholars claim that women are more engaged in intergenerational family care‐giving than previously (Moen & Lam, 2015, p. 595; Vreugdenhil, 2014).
Compared with men's employment histories, women's more heterogeneous patterns of employment—characterised by career interruptions and fragmentation, higher rates of part‐time and casual employment, unpaid work and family care‐giving—are generating gendered inequalities in retirement incomes (Foster, 2012; Shuey & O'Rand, 2004; Slevin & Wingrove, 1995). It is estimated that only 20 percent of boomer women will be “comfortable” in their retirement (Dailey, 2000; Ray Karpen, 2017), despite prevailing popular images of baby boomer retirees as intrepid adventurers spending their children's inheritance (Arlington, 2017; Brown, 2012; Edmunds, 2017).
Given improvements in life expectancy over time, and hoped-for improvements in health--not just life--at the older ages, and given the fact that women tend to live longer than men, it seems reasonable to assume that Baby Boomer women will delay full retirement, at least partly because they won't be able to afford to not keep working. The experiences of this first generation of women moving so much more completely into their own retirement than previous generations will offer important guidance for how younger generations should think about their own aging process.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Census Bureau Links Income Data to Recent College Grads

Yesterday I blogged about the continued importance of parents in their children's success. There is a very high correlation in every modern society between education and income, so getting the highest level of education you can continues to be an important element of success, no matter who you parents are. There are a lot of reasons to become educated, but obviously higher income is one of them. That is why it is very interesting to see a new project from the U.S. Census Bureau aimed at showing income levels among college graduates a year after they graduate.
The Post-Secondary Employment Outcomes (PSEO) project tabulates earnings by institution, degree level and degree field. PSEO does this by linking university transcript data to the Census Bureau’s Longitudinal Employer Household Dynamics (LEHD) records, which list unemployment-insurance covered quarterly earnings.
Data from PSEO offer an important assessment tool to plan postsecondary education and address a major gap in education statistics by providing a much clearer picture of what happens when a graduate gets a job out of state.
“Up until now, individual states could only measure earnings and employment outcomes for persons who worked in the same state where they were educated,” said John Abowd, chief scientist and associate director for research and methodology at the Census Bureau. “Thanks to this pilot, states, universities and prospective students have the opportunity to see employment outcomes by program of study by region and industry.”
So far the University of Texas system is the only university to have provided the requisite transcript data to the Census Bureau and, as you can see in the graph below, just a year out from graduation, the typical person is making nearly $50,000 per year. Economics majors do the best among the four shown in the graph (and you can see data for other majors by downloading spreadsheets from the PSEO website). There are some obvious limitations to the data, as the Census Bureau clearly points out, but this seems like a very innovative use of data. They promise more results down the road--stay tuned. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Your Parents Matter When it Comes to Your Occupational Status

America has always been viewed as a land of opportunity, but some people have more opportunities than others to succeed occupationally. This is a point driven home in a paper just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by social demographer Michael Hout of New York University. 
I present a time series of intergenerational occupational mobility between 1994 and 2016, using data from the GSS (9). (The GSS began in 1972 but did not ask about mother’s occupation until 1994.) The GSS recently recoded all occupational data to the latest standards established by the US Census Bureau, allowing comparisons of all years.
Occupational status persists across generations in the United States to a degree incompatible with the popular theme of “land of opportunity.” Data from 1994–2016 show that median occupational status rose 0.5 point for every one-point increase in parents’ status (somewhat less if the father was absent). Intergenerational persistence did not change during these years, but mobility declined from two-thirds of people born in the 1940s to half of those born in the 1980s. This substantial decline in absolute mobility reflects the changing distribution of occupational opportunities in the American labor market, not intergenerational persistence.
We parents want our children to do well in life, and Professor Hout's research suggests that successful couples are more likely than others to have successful children. This kind of perpetuation of inequality was not such a big deal, suggests Hout, when occupational mobility was high and everyone had a good shot at being socioeconomically better off than their parents. Today's economy has fewer opportunities for upward mobility, so the persistence of parental benefits emerges as a bigger deal than it might have seemed in the past.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

South Korea's Fertility May Drop Below 1 Child Per Woman

Thanks to both Todd Gardner and Stuart Gietel-Basten for almost simultaneously pointing me to a story in yesterday's Guardian suggesting that the fertility rate in South Korea may soon drop to less than one child per woman. This is low-low fertility of nearly unheard of proportions even in what has become a very low fertility region of the world (and check out the brand new 2018 PRB World Population Data Sheet to make those comparisons for yourself!):
The average number of babies born per woman of reproductive age is due to be as low as 0.96 this year, falling below one for the first time in history, according to a study commissioned by the Chosun Ilbo newspaper [that article is in Korean, btw].
Such a low fertility rate is normally only seen during wartime, said Lee Chul-hee, an economics professor at Seoul National University and one of the authors of the study.
“There’s definitely going to be a psychological shock among the Korean people,” he said. “It will likely influence what is considered to be an ideal number of children, and could lead to the rate dropping even further.”
At the end of the Korean War, UN demographers estimate that the TFR in South Korea was above 6 children per woman, but a rapid drop in fertility after that (not unlike the one in Taiwan) brought fertility down to below replacement in the mid-1980s and it has stayed below replacement since then. This has, of course, generated the almost ideal demographic dividend that has helped the country leap into prosperity in a relatively short period of time. 

As is also true in Southern Europe, the birth rate is so low in South Korea at least in part because of the strings that are still tied around the lives of women:
The status of women in South Korea, a deeply patriarchal society, is a major driver of the trend, along with worsening job prospects for young people and rising property prices. Women are getting married and having children later in life, if at all, for fear of being denied promotions and facing discrimination at work.
The average age for South Korean women marrying for the first time is 30.2, according to figures from the ministry of gender equality and family, up from 24.8 in 1990. On average, women have their first child at 31.6.
There are going to have to be some decisive cultural changes--not just simple government policies--if the birth rate is going to get back up closer to replacement level. It can happen, of course, but it won't be easy.