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:

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Is It OK to Say "OK Boomer"?

Yesterday's climate change protest during the Harvard Yale football game highlighted the growing use of the phrase "OK boomer" to suggest that older people are out of touch with the world. It was followed today by a very interesting commentary posted to The Conversation by Elizabeth Tippett at the University of Oregon. She wonders if this is, in fact, a real issue about age discrimination.
The phrase “OK boomer” has become a catch-all put-down that Generation Zers and young millennials have been using to dismiss retrograde arguments made by baby boomers, the generation of Americans who are currently 55 to 73 years old.
Though it originated online and primarily is fueling memes, Twitter feuds and a flurry of commentary, it has begun migrating to real life. Earlier this month, a New Zealand lawmaker lobbed the insult at an older legislator who had dismissed her argument about climate change.
As the term enters our everyday vocabulary, HR professionals and employment law specialists like me now face the age-old question: What happens if people start saying “OK boomer” at work?
The reality is that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which she references, was written because of real-life discrimination of older people by employers who were doing things like firing workers just before they qualified for a company pension plan, or firing older workers only because they were making more money than younger workers. Those were (are) real issues that needed to be legislated against.

To me, the "OK boomer" phrase mainly highlights the generation gaps and clashes that exist in every society, but which have become increasingly noticeable as the age structure changes in ways that didn't used to happen. Here's a graph of the generations in the U.S. that I prepared for the 13th edition of Population, which will be available in January:

Younger people have not always respected their elders, and older people have routinely chided and made fun of younger people. Two things, though, have changed over time: (1) the absolute and relative numbers of people by age; and (2) the names that we have attached to generations, so that we can identify (and stereotype) people by age. That is why the "snowflakes" are yelling "OK boomer."

Friday, November 22, 2019

Americans are Moving Less--Is That a Good Thing?

Thanks to Justin Stoler for pointing me to a story that came out in the NYTimes yesterday while I was out of town (on the move, but not migrating) about the decline in American migration rates. The story comes from a data drop by the Census Bureau from the 2019 Current Population Survey (CPS). The data show that between 1947-1948 and 1984-1985 it was common for about 20% of Americans to have changed residence during the previous year. This is, of course, a reminder of the fact that historically the country has been a nation on the move. However, since 1985, the mobility has been dropping, and last year, for the first time in the post-WWII era, less than 10% of the population moved during the 2018-2019 period covered by this Spring's CPS.

Is this a good thing, or just a thing? Sabrina Tavernise looks for answers in her article:
The decline in moving rates has happened slowly, over many years, and marks a major shift in how Americans live. It is partly demographic: The country is aging, and older people are much less likely to move than younger people. But even younger people are moving less than before, and economists, who have been studying it for years, are still puzzling over the primary driver.
“The decline in migration is really widespread,” said Abigail Wozniak, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. “It applies to all demographic groups — younger and older workers, renters and homeowners, more-educated and less-educated workers.” The change is important, she said, but it is still too early to tell if it is good or bad. “We still do not have quite enough information to know if this is worrying,” she said.
Now, to be honest, I do not see tables from the Census Bureau that show these rates by age over time. We might have to download data from IPUMS to know if she is right that this trend is happening across all age groups. However, there is no question that the aging of the U.S. population, accompanied as it is by lower birth rates among all groups, is both a cause and consequence of the changing economy of the country. Closely related (although rarely discussed) is that globalization--created by post-WWII population growth throughout the world--has dramatically altered the way the economy works, and thus how people respond to it. Other factors include the increasing gender equity that puts two workers in an increasing number of households, thus making the decision to move a much more difficult one than in the past.

This does strike me as a long-term trend that needs a lot more scrutiny. It is very likely that research grant applications are already in the works!

Monday, November 18, 2019

The End of Babies? Probably Not.

This weekend's NYTimes included a widely-read opinion article titled "The End of Babies," which lamented the low birth rate in the richer countries. As of this writing, the article had almost 1,400 comments (and I admit that I have read only a few of them). The writer, Anna Louie Sussman, dives into the issues surrounding the Second Demographic Transition without seeming to know that this is what she is doing. 

As of yet, no one has come up with a single answer as to why so many countries now have below-replacement level fertility, and this is largely due to the unprecedented demographic situation in which we find ourselves. Never before in human history have death rates been so low, nor have women (and men) had such control over reproduction. Both of those phenomena have become associated with greater gender equality than ever before. Yes, we still have a long way to go, but things are moving in the right direction. It is easy to forget that Margaret Sanger started a world-wide movement for female reproductive rights because of the unwanted pregnancies (and attempted abortions) that she saw so often in the slums of New York City a hundred years ago.

In other words, we need to relish the fact that childbearing is now a choice. It is not something that societies demand of couples in order to counter the high death. And, increasingly it is not something that a man can foist on a woman whether she wants it or not. Furthermore, as the writer herself notes, it is not something that any longer requires having sexual intercourse with a man! These are genuinely revolutionary times in which we live. We are not living in a time associated with the end of babies (remember that there are still about a million more babies born each year in the U.S. than there are people dying). We are living in a time of choices, and that's a good thing.

The combination of lower mortality and lower fertility has, of course, altered the age structures of all modern societies. In particular, the populations of most countries are aging. But, rather than lament that fact and long for the days of higher birth rates (which the world really cannot afford), we need to adjust to these new realities of changing age dynamics, and gain a better understanding of how age structures influence politics and the economy. A good place to start getting your head around this is with the work of political demographer Richard Cincotta.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Educational Level as a Key Predictor of Human Well-Being

Yesterday I was scheduled to be in Vienna presenting a paper on "Educational Level as a Key Predictor of Human Well-Being" at the Wittgenstein Centre on Demography's Conference on Demographic Aspects of Human Wellbeing. Unfortunately, a cabin crew strike at Lufthansa Airlines scuttled my travel plans and so I wasn't there after all. However, thanks to the efforts of the conference organizers, I was able to record my presentation and it played while my slides were being shown. My thanks to Dr. Raquel Guimaraes for sharing some photos of that on Twitter!

I was using data from the Women's Health Survey of Accra (WHSA) that my colleague Dr. Allan Hill  (now at Southampton University in the UK) and I (and many other important collaborators) organized in Accra, Ghana a few years ago. You can find details of the project at the SDSU International Population Center website.

The talk was based on the postulates that good health is the single best (even if clearly not the only) measure of human well-being, and that education is the single most important reason for better health. I tested these ideas with our Ghana data, showing that both self-reported health and biometrically-measured health vary in predictable ways by educational level.  Here is a sample of the findings:

Friday, November 8, 2019

Would China's Population Be Even Smaller Had There Been No One-Child Policy?

For many years, the accepted wisdom in the world has been that China's one-child policy was the reason for the rapid decline in that country's birthrate. In the last several editions of my Population text, I have questioned that assumption, noting the incredible similarity between the fertility trajectories in China and its geographically and culturally close neighbor Taiwan (indeed, close enough that China claims it as its own). Here is my graph from the 13th edition of Population, which will be out very soon:

Given my history with this issue, I was very interested to read a paper by Stuart Gietel-Basten and his colleagues that was published just this week in PLOS/ONE: "Assessing the impact of the “one-child policy” in China: A synthetic control approach." They use a set of sophisticated demographic techniques to make the case that fertility might have declined even more quickly in the absence of the one-child policy--albeit in the continued presence of the wan xi shao ("later, longer, fewer") campaign launched a few years prior to the one-child policy. Here is their summary graph:

The implication of their findings is, of course, that a faster decline in fertility would actually have produced fewer people in China than there are now. Their results also help to explain why fertility has not risen in China despite the official end of the one-child policy. This is an important article regarding population policy, and I strongly recommend it to you.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The Northern Triangle Countries Are NOT Falling Off a Demographic Cliff

Thanks to my son and co-author Greg Weeks for pointing me to a recent online commentary from the Center for Global Development, a "think-and-do-tank" in Washington, DC. Michael Clemens and Jimmy Graham posted "Three Facts You Haven't Heard Much About Are Keys to Better Policy Toward Central America." The first one they discuss is that "Central America is falling off a demographic cliff—so migration will slow." They argue that UN demographic data show that the youthful populations in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala are about to decline dramatically and that will slow down migration from those countries, just as it has from Mexico--as a result of declining fertility--as I discuss in the forthcoming 13th Edition of my text.

The problem with their analysis is that the data simply don't show what they say. The United Nations demographers' medium projections show that the youthful, migration-age populations in Guatemala and Honduras will continue to increase in number for at least another decade, and after that we will see only a gradual slowdown. It is true that the number of youths in El Salvador will be a bit smaller in 2030 than now, but the change is not dramatic. There is no current evidence that any of the three Northern Triangle countries are falling off a demographic cliff. As much as I would have liked for their story to be true, the data simply don't paint the picture they have put out there.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Incomes are up in the U.S., but so is inequality

The U.S. Census Bureau today brought out data from the 2018 American Community Survey, and it was a combination of good news and bad news. The good news is that median household income has been generally on the rise, and the percent of the population living below the poverty line has declined. The changes are not huge, but they are in the right direction.
Median household income between 2017 and 2018 increased for all households across all major race and Hispanic origin groups. Median household income ranged from $87,243 for Asian households (up 2.1%) to $41,511 for black households (up 1.5%). Median household income for households with non-Hispanic white householders increased by 1.0% to $67,937 in 2018. Households with Hispanic householders increased by 1.5% to $51,404 in 2018.
In 2018, 13.1% of the U.S. population had income below the poverty level, down from 13.4% in 2017. This is the fifth consecutive annual decline in the ACS national poverty rate.
This good news was tempered by the finding that income inequality continues to get more extreme. The NPR program "Marketplace" covered this development this morning, and they were able to interview Beth Jarosz from PRB:
Income inequality increased in nine states, including California. That’s a reflection of the effects of the tech boom, according to Beth Jarosz, a demographer with the nonprofit Population Reference Bureau.

In other words, Jarosz said, the contrast between “the level of income in Silicon Valley compared to the really extraordinarily high poverty rate in a county like Imperial County, where the economy is predominantly agricultural and there often is not much work for people who live there.” Jarosz says the same contrast may be behind increasing inequality in other states.
The hi-tech sectors have been raking in a disproportionate share of the nation's wealth, while the quality of other jobs seems to be on the decline, leaving average families at a relative disadvantage, even if things aren't awful. For more on this, I recommend taking a look at this month's issue of The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, edited by David Howell and Arne Kalleberg and devoted to "Changing Job Quality: Causes, Consequences, and Challenges."

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Remembering Past PAA President Sidney Goldstein

The arrival today of the latest IUSSP newsletter brought the news about the death last month of Sidney Goldstein, who was president of the Population Association of America back in 1976. He died just one day after celebrating his 92nd birthday. He had retired to Lexington, Kentucky, although most of his career was spent at Brown University, where he helped establish, and then directed, their Population Studies and Training Center. This has long been an important resource in demography, as another Past PAA President, Robert Moffitt, recently discussed in his interview with the PAA History Committee. Here's a nice synopsis of some of Goldstein's important work in demography:
Sid’s specific area of interest was the migration of people within countries, especially their movement from rural to urban areas. Beginning with analyses of migration in the United States and Denmark, his focus shifted to less developed countries, including Thailand, China, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Guatemala, and South Africa. In each case, he was especially interested in the impact of rural-urban migration on the welfare and life patterns of the migrants and how they differed from those who were residentially stable. An important component of his work in these countries was the development of local expertise, so that the work that he had begun could be carried further by in-country researchers.
You can read more about his professional life in an interview that Jean van der Tak, former PAA Historian, conducted with him many years ago. It is on the website of the Population Association of America (it starts on page 313 of that document). Check out this rather amazing exchange between Jean (VDT) and Sidney Goldstein:
VDT: And you went through your Ph.D. program in just two years. You got the degree in 1953.
GOLDSTEIN: Was it that soon?
VDT: Yes. And Charlie Westoff and Richard Easterlin got Ph.D.s at Penn the same year.
GOLDSTEIN: Right. I still have movies of that commencement, in which the three of us are marching together down the line.
VDT: You marched together a long way in the same field.
GOLDSTEIN: I always thought that was symbolic. I've often thought back to that commencement, the three of us being together. And a number of years later, the three of us were presidents of PAA almost consecutively [Westoff, 1974-75; Goldstein, 1976-77; Easterlin, 1978].

Thursday, September 19, 2019

How to Avoid Hunger and Environmental Catastrophe

A new report has just been issued on the threats to our food supply and environment. ABC News has the story about the report, which comes from the Food and Land Use Coalition. I had not heard of them until today, but I see that two of the partners in the coalition are IIASA and the World Resources Institute--both of which are very high quality organizations to whom we should pay attention.

The report comes out now to coincide with the United Nations Climate Action Summit, which will be held in New York beginning next week, and here are two key background notes:
The world’s food supply largely relies on just five countries – the United States, Argentina, Brazil, China and India – for 60% of its calories. Additionally, much of the world’s food supply depends mostly on four crops – rice, wheat, potatoes and maize, a concentration that leaves the food supply vulnerable to risk.
Food and land use systems are currently responsible for up to 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the report. The emissions from the agricultural system alone will heat the environment beyond the level that scientists have warned about.
And here are two things that are important for the world to do:
The report outlines ways in which money can be better spent to reforest land, and promote biodiversity, and how land can be used more efficiently at local levels to produce a greater diversity of food crops.
Diversifying crops would mean a change in diet for many people in the developed world. To remain sustainable, the world will have to look to more diverse sources of protein and sharply reduce meat consumption. Experts say these changes will lead to healthier, more varied diets.
The important thing here is that we have to act now. We are spending a lot of money on agricultural subsidies and on growing food for animals rather than people. We need to change how we think about agriculture, the environment, and our diet. Not an easy project, but it beats the alternative. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Urbanization in Bangladesh

The urban transition has been one of the most important changes taking place in the context of the overall demographic transition of the past two centuries. But, despite its role in remaking human society, it rarely gets into the news in any real way. That's why the headline from this week's Economist caught my eye: "Urbanization in  Bangladesh: Life after Dhaka."
In 1974 just 9% of Bangladeshis lived in towns or cities. Today 37% of the country’s 170m people do. In a few decades more than half will. The capital, Dhaka, which attracts the majority of rural migrants, has grown from 3m in 1980 to 18m today. It is “already bursting at the seams”, says Saleemul Huq of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, a think-tank trying to bolster education and employment in eight places, including Mongla, to help absorb migrants.
Mongla is a small city of 40,000 people whose mayor wants some, or a lot, of those people going to Dhaka to move instead to Mongla, which is about an 8-hour drive south of Dhaka. Why might they be tempted to do that? At least partly because the description of living conditions in Dhaka is reminiscent of European cities in the 19th century.
According to an index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, a sister company to The Economist, Dhaka, notorious for traffic jams and pollution, is the world’s third-least liveable city. Some 60% of residents live in makeshift structures, according to the Centre for Urban Studies (CUS), another think-tank. Many of these slum-dwellers lack access to clean water and sanitation and are at constant risk of eviction. 
In such conditions diseases—especially waterborne ones—thrive. Frequent bouts of illness that stop slum-dwellers from working keep them trapped in poverty, says Abdus Shaheen of Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor, an NGO. “This, of course, hampers the wider economy, too,” he adds.
The government is working on the problem, including a program to bring better living conditions to rural residents so that they will stay down on the farm. As China found out, however, that is very unlikely to work. Building better cities is the long-term answer.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Are European Countries Abandoning Census-Taking?

No matter how much other information we might collect about people, history suggests that censuses are the best way to know how many people there are in a given place. It was thus a little worrisome to read the new article by Paolo Valente, a statistician in the Social and Demographic Statistics Section at United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, published online by the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP). He points out to us that European countries are going through a process of modernizing the census, which means cutting back on the traditional forms of data collection. Here's his assessment of the upcoming round of 2020 censuses in Europe compared to earlier census rounds:

I'm not so worried about the combination of population registers and census data collection, but the increasing reliance on population registers as the sole enumeration method can be problematic unless we are talking about a highly regimented society that can readily document migration and other demographic events. 

I personally like the U.S. method of using the short-form to gather the demographic essentials of age, sex, race/ethnicity, and household composition, with other more detailed data being gathered on a rolling survey basis through the American Community Survey. To be sure, the process is being modernized by the increased use of Internet responses, and electronic (rather than paper) gathering of data, as Valente points out. But we really do need the census, even if people want to complain about it.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Mothers Are Increasingly Working Full-Time

Yes, I get it, mothers have always been working full-time, but this story is about paid work out in the labor force. Juliana Menasce Horowitz of Pew Research has just posted an analysis that combines data for the U.S. from Current Population Surveys with Pew Research survey data. The results are not necessarily surprising, but they nicely illustrate what we can see going on around us. 

First, the shift in mothers with children under age 18 who are working full-time:

You can see that there has been a substantial increase in the percentage of mothers who are working in the last half century, and all of that increase has been among women employed full time. Some of this is obviously related to the decline in fertility over that time. Fertility was already on its way down in the U.S. in 1968, but the total fertility rate was still well above replacement, whereas it is now below replacement.

The second part of the story, drawing on Pew Research survey data, is that attitudes toward mixing work and parenthood are generally positive. To be sure, there are downsides, especially among mothers compared to fathers (for whom working and being a parent has, of course, long been the norm). Children can slow down promotions at work, and work can lead parents to feel guilty about not spending enough time with their kids. The survey results also exhibit a lot of variability among respondents in attitudes toward women combining work and parenthood, but the employment patterns among mothers--as shown in the above graph--tell us what mothers themselves must be thinking.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Xenophobia is not Just a "First-World Problem"

Donald Trump was elected to office on an anti-immigrant platform. Brexit was at least partly a response to the arrival of Eastern European immigrants in the U.K. Populism--an outgrowth of xenophobia--is currently rampant throughout Europe. But we have to remember that it is a human frailty, not just a "First-World Problem." The latest example of this comes from South Africa, as reported this week by The Economist:
Waving fighting sticks, improvised spears and shields, they advanced like an army through the streets of central Johannesburg, chanting and singing in Zulu: “Foreigners must go back to where they came from.” As they went they looted and burned shops, attacked a mosque and killed two people. The murders on September 8th came after more than a week of attacks—mostly by South Africans against migrants from other African countries—that had already led to ten deaths.
Nigeria will repatriate 600 of its citizens affected by the violence, starting today. Other foreigners are considering leaving on their own. Government officials and senior leaders of the ruling African National Congress are scrambling to meet African counterparts in an attempt to mend ties—in their own interest. Rioters in Nigeria and Zambia have attacked South African-owned businesses.
These kinds of responses to economic migrants get us back to the long-term solutions that I recently discussed, especially investments in developing countries that can create jobs and keep people home, where in most cases they want to be.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Immigration: A boon or Burden to U.S. Society?

Last May, the University of California, Santa Barbara, hosted a debate on "Immigration: A Boon or Burden to U.S. Society?" The debate featured my good friend, Rubén Rumbaut, Distinguished Professor of Sociology at UC, Irvine, and genuinely one of the world's foremost authorities on immigration, especially to the United States. He was debating Mark Krikorian, who is Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which is an anti-immigration organization based in Washington, DC. Most importantly, Krikorian's ideas have been picked up by Donald Trump and have clearly influenced Trump's approach to immigration. [Indeed, because of his anti-immigrant influence on Trump, there were a lot of protesters outside the auditorium as the debate was taking place.] The moderator of the debate was Donald Kerwin, Jr., Director of the Center for Migration Studies of New York, which is a nonpartisan migration-oriented think tank in New York City. Among their activities is the publication of the academic journal International Migration Review (and, full disclosure here--Professor Rumbaut and I have published in that journal).

We have been waiting all this time for the promised video of the debate to be made public and that has just happened. It is now available as a YouTube video through UCTV. I encourage you to watch this. It is a great inspiration for discussion. Keep in mind, though, that it is about an hour and a half, although of course you can scroll through it, if you have to.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Can Pineapples Slow Down Migration?

And, no, I don't mean by throwing them at people. Rather, the story is that growing pineapples in Guinea may be slowing down the outmigration of young Guineans to Europe. The government has partnered with international supporters to promote the development of pineapple farms that can quite literally keep young workers "down on the farm."
Despite large bauxite and iron ore deposits, this tiny West African nation has an annual per capita gross domestic product of just $885. More than half of the country’s 12 million-strong population is under the age of 25, and that combination of youth and poverty has long fueled migration. In 2016, two years after the outbreak of an Ebola epidemic added another incentive to leave, 13,342 economic migrants from Guinea reached the shores of Italy. Only Nigeria and Eritrea sent more migrants to Italy that year.
The point is an obvious one: People need jobs, and so they go where the jobs are. If the jobs are near where they live, the need to migrate is diminished. Rounding up the money to invest in developing countries is the issue, however, and this article documents that the government of Guinea has a Development Unit that seeks financial input from the outside.

This is an important development that needs global support. Indeed, I served on the Steering Committee of the World Commission on Forced Displacement, organized by the Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership. One of the products of the project was the rationale for and design of a "Merchant Bank," which would be a public sector entity aimed at promoting private investment. This seems to be what's going on in Guinea. These are the sorts of positive moves that the world can make that ultimately help people to stay home, where most would prefer to be--if the local situation allowed it.

Friday, September 6, 2019

PAA History Through the Eyes of Past PAA President Robert Moffitt

Interview with Past PAA President Robert Moffitt

By John Weeks, PAA Historian and the PAA History Committee: Win Brown, Karen Hardee, Dennis Hodgson, and Emily Merchant

At this year’s annual meeting in Austin, the PAA History Committee had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Robert Moffitt, who was PAA President in 2014, for the PAA Oral History Project. Dr. Moffitt is the Krieger-Eisenhower Chaired Professor in the Department of Economics at The Johns Hopkins University. He is also Professor, Depart- ment of Population, Family, and Reproductive Health, School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University. He received his BA in Economics from Rice University, and MA and PhD in Economics from Brown University. He has taught at the University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers University, Brown University, and since 1995 at The Johns Hopkins University.

In the following excerpt, he gives us his overview of how the PAA has changed over time:
I think my first PAA was in the 1980s. I think it wasn’t until I went to Brown and I met all the demographers there. Sid Goldstein had been President of PAA back in 1975 and was very well connected to it and so was Fran Goldscheider and [current PAA President] John Casterline. Of course, PAA is a great organization and not only on scholarship; a great thing about PAA is its collegiality and the personal nature of it, which I’ve never found in any other association.
The field has definitely changed from my initial study of it. When I first got interested in demography back in the Mathematica years [when he was working as a researcher at Mathematica]—so that was the late 1970s— even then, it was pretty much dominated by population control and family planning and related kind of issues. Those were important issues. But the social demography side was really in its infancy and the big change that I see, particularly from my perspective, is the growth of social demography. You come to the PAA this year and the number of sessions on that topic or something related to it is tremendous. And, as a whole, the field of demography has broadened out away from those core issues of fertility, mortality, and migration.
You come to PAA today and you’ve got health and population health, for example. You’ve got applied demographers. You’ve got geographers. You’ve got survey issues and survey statisticians, although the Census Bureau has always been involved. You’ve got economists, of course, here. You’ve got anthropologists. It’s a big tent and that’s a nice thing about demography. Although I have to say that you’ve got to expect a little bit of tension between the traditionalists who say “this is what demography should be” and the younger people who say, “No. I want to do this. It’s not quite the traditional stuff. I want to bring this in.”
The big tent, with a lot of different disciplines represented at the PAA is, I think, very healthy. I also think that it’s one reason for the vibrancy and intellectual excitement of demography. Four thousand submissions this year. It’s amazing how many people come and many young demographers are interested in all different aspects of the field. This is why it is thriving and why the broadening out brings so many people to PAA. It’s the reason that PAA has succeeded.
But demography has gone through a tremendous evolution. Even when I went to Johns Hopkins, it was still Johns Hopkins—a place excelling with demographers working on population control. It still has people like Stan Becker, a distinguished demographer who works on those issues. But [Past PAA President] Andy Cherlin is there, too, and he is representative of social demography—he is concerned with inequality, poverty, and marriage. The tremendous development has been very healthy, in my view.
Moffitt also discussed the way in which his career evolved, leading to his recent participation in a committee of the National Academy of Sciences chaired by Past PAA President Greg Duncan that issued a very important report this Spring on how to reduce child poverty by 50% in ten years.

The entire interview is available on the PAA website.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

The Spatial Diversity of Racial Diversity of the United States

My thanks to Rubén Rumbaut for pointing me to a new infographic put together by demographer Bill Frey at the Brookings Institution. These maps show the spatial diversity of racial diversity in the United States, using the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, anticipating what we are likely to find in the upcoming 2020 Census.
The new estimates indicate that, for the nation as a whole, Hispanic residents comprise 18.3% of the population. The shares for black and Asian residents are 12.5% and 5.9%, respectively.[1] But these national numbers change dramatically when you look closer at the country’s 3,100-plus counties.
Here's the breakdown for San Diego County, for example:

As you look at these data, remember that diversity is partly in the eyes of the beholder. As I have discussed before, most Hispanics in the United States identify themselves racially as "white," so if we organized the data differently, we would come to different conclusions about the nature of diversity. Remember, too, that it took people of Irish and Italian origin, as two prominent examples of those who are now in the "non-Hispanic white" category, to become part of the ethnic mainstream--but it did happen. At the same time, each of these broad groups of race/ethnicity has a lot of diversity within its boundaries. An immigrant from Korea is unlikely to think of themselves as ''Asian" (instead of just Korean) until she arrives in the U.S., and immigrants from Chile have probably never heard the term "Hispanic" until they arrive in the U.S.

I admit that one the more interesting demographic facts that Bill Frey puts into the description of data is this:
Among the 100 largest metro areas, only 29 do not contain a highly represented racial minority. These are mostly located in the middle of the country; Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Kansas City are the three largest, with Scranton, Pa. as the smallest. As a group, they are growing more slowly than those with a larger minority presence, but each one has become less white than was the case with the 2010 census.
I highlighted Scranton, because it was the home of Dunder-Mifflin paper company in the hit TV series "The Office." The cast in that program exhibited what we might call a minimal amount of demographic diversity. 

North Carolina Judges Deal With State's Gerrymandered Districts

You may recall that in July of this year, the U.S. Supreme Court said that federal courts had no role to play in dealing with political gerrymandering of districts at the state level. This week, however, a panel of judges in North Carolina showed that courts can act to keep state legislatures from designing district boundaries that defy the demographics of the state. The New York Times has the story, including commentary from its editorial board. 
The existing maps were so effective that they helped entrench Republican majorities even when Democrats won more votes statewide. In 2018, Republican candidates for North Carolina’s House of Representatives won less than 50 percent of the two-party statewide vote, but walked away with 65 seats to the Democrats’ 55. Republican candidates for the State Senate also won a minority of the popular vote, and still took 29 of 50 seats.
This kind of abuse of the democratic process is precisely what courts are designed to fix. But when North Carolina voters begged the United States Supreme Court for relief, arguing that they had been written out of the political process by the very people who were supposed to serve them, the five conservative justices turned their backs. The court could do nothing, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in a demoralizing opinion in June — not because the Republicans are innocent, but because the judiciary can’t hold them accountable for what are, in essence, political crimes.
But the North Carolina judges did do something about it, requiring that the legislature redraw boundaries for state offices, and the Republican-led legislature seems to be agreeable to the court's decision. The only caveat here is that so far the ruling applies only to the boundaries for electing representatives to the state government, and not to U.S. Congressional Districts. There's still more work to be done, but this is obviously a move in the right direction. 

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Cuba Prepares for an Aging Population

Thanks to Greg Weeks for pointing me to an article just published in Granma, the official newspaper of the communist party in Cuba. The country is in the process of "revolutionizing" its thinking about employment issues. Why? Because the population is aging, and if people stop working, or are not properly trained for the jobs the country needs filled, the economy will be in big trouble.  The article is clear about the demographic underpinnings of these policy initiatives:
With 20.4% of Cuba’s population 60 years of age or older, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics and Information (ONEI), the country is experiencing accelerated aging.Between 2011 and 2025, the population is projected to decrease in absolute numbers; and almost 26% of the population will be 60 years of age or older, with a absolute growth of those aged 80 years or more. By 2030, the population will include 3.3 million older adults, directly impacting families and the workforce.
These numbers are very similar to the estimates and projections of the UN Population Division. They estimate that the current population of Cuba is about to peak at 11.3 million, and it will drop to 11.1 million by 2030, at which point an estimated 30% of the population will be aged 60 and over. In essence, those people need to keep working.

Almost five years ago, Greg and I published an Op-Ed piece in the Washington Post in which we felt that the opening up of Cuba by the Obama administration was going to be a big help to Cuba, since its financial aid from Venezuela was clearly in trouble due to that country's huge problems. The Trump administration has reversed that policy, of course, and so Cuba is essentially on its own, having to cope with its demographic situation as best it can. The Granma article notes that the government has even been working with sub-fecund women in an attempt to improve their chances of having a baby and thus raising the birth rate at least a little bit. The TFR is currently estimated to be about 1.6 children per woman, so it is going to take a lot to push the birth rate closer to replacement level. Of course, those kids won't be in the labor force for at least another couple of decades, so these labor force improvements are a must.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Supreme Court Punts Yet Again on Gerrymandering

Last week the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on two cases of particular interest to demographers: (1) forbidding for the time being the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 census (as I have already blogged about); and (2) the use of demographic data to draw congressional district boundaries that benefit one political party at the expense of the other. The majority opinion of the Supreme Court on the latter issue was that justices were really not in a position to do much about this.  They argued that this was an issue to be worked out with appropriate legislation, rather than being adjudicated by the courts. Here's how the Washington Post summarized their thinking:
The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that federal judges have no power to stop politicians from drawing electoral districts to preserve or expand their party’s power, a landmark ruling that dissenters said will empower an explosion of extreme partisan gerrymandering. 
The 5-to-4 decision was written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and joined by the court’s other conservatives. It capped decades of debate about whether federal courts have a role in policing partisan efforts to draw electoral districts in the same way the judiciary protects against racial discrimination. 
“We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts,” Roberts wrote. “Federal judges have no license to reallocate political power between the two major political parties, with no plausible grant of authority in the Constitution, and no legal standards to limit and direct their decisions.”
The dissenting opinion was read in the court by Justice Elena Kagan who noted that “The gerrymanders here — and others like them — violated the constitutional rights of many hundreds of thousands of American citizens,” she said.

It was about this time last year when the Supreme Court last punted on the gerrymandering issue in cases brought against partisan boundaries drawn in Texas and North Carolina, as I blogged about at the time. This year's decision revisited North Carolina and also included Maryland.

Given the current composition of the Supreme Court, it seems unlikely that we are going to get a different result from them any time soon. It also strikes me as unlikely that Congress will do anything about this any time soon. That suggests that the only way to ensure the drawing of fair congressional district boundaries is for more states to have an independent districting commission, as we have here in California, rather than having the legislature make those decisions (which is typical and which, of course, favors the political party with the majority of votes).

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Supreme Court Says "Not Yet" to the Citizenship Question on the Census--UPDATED YET AGAIN

Back in January of 2018 I first blogged about the attempt by the Trump administration to insert a question on citizenship into the 100 percent form of the 2020 census, claiming that it was necessary in order to properly monitor the Voting Rights Act and thus protect minority voters. It seemed apparent at the time that this was a ploy by Republicans to intimidate undocumented immigrants from responding to the census form, thus skewing the population counts in immigrant-heavy areas. Remember that the U.S. Constitution mandates a decennial census enumeration of the entire population for the purpose of apportioning seats to the House of Representatives. To be sure, the issue of undocumented immigrants was unlikely to have been on the minds of the framers of the Constitution, but that doesn't matter. It would be up to Congress to propose an amendment to the Constitution if it was believed that fewer than all residents in an area should be included in the census.

A long battle broke out as several states sued the government to keep the question off the census form. In January of this year, a federal judge in New York ruled in favor of the states and the government appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court which agreed to take the case. Shortly before the Supreme Court was to make its decision, new information surfaced from the hard drive of a now-deceased Republican operative making it clear that responses to the citizenship question would allow innovations in congressional redistricting that would favor Republican candidates. This information was provided to the Supreme Court and almost certainly influenced their decision this week that forbids the Census Bureau from adding the citizenship question--at least until the Commerce Department comes up with a better reason than they have thus far provided. The question that remains is whether the Commerce Department will try to do that. As NPR reported today, the timing is crucial because we are getting ever closer to Census Day:
The Census Bureau has said the printing of 1.5 billion paper forms, letters and other mailings is scheduled to start by July 1. But while testifying for the citizenship question lawsuits last year, Census Bureau officials said that "with exceptional effort and additional resources," the deadline for finalizing forms could be pushed back to Oct. 31.
The Trump administration responded to this week's Supreme Court ruling by suggesting that the census might be delayed (presumably to allow time to come up with a better excuse for adding the citizenship question), but it isn't clear whether or not that could done legally. Here are the constraints, as laid out by the NPR report:
Since the 1930 count, federal law has set Census Day as April 1, although households in some parts of the country, including rural Alaska, are counted earlier. 
Next year, the Census Bureau is legally required to report each state's new population numbers by the end of December.
So, although it would have been nice if the Supreme Court decision had been definitive, we are unfortunately left in the position of still having to wait and see what is going to happen to the 2020 Census. 

UPDATE: It turns out that we didn't have to wait long to see what would happen. The Trump administration has just announced that they are dropping their efforts to add the citizenship question to the 2020 census. Great news!!!!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Oops, not so fast. Trump tweeted today that he did, in fact, want that citizenship question on the census, and so the Justice Department has just reversed course. Bad news!!! Stay tuned...

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: The citizenship question will NOT be on the 2020 Census. Whew!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Pregnancy is dangerous; abortion can be lifesaving

The recent passage of an incredibly repressive and regressive anti-abortion piece of legislation in Alabama has sparked outrage everywhere. This is genuinely an example of patriarchy at its very worst. If Americans really value the health of women--which is massively important to the health of society at large--it will pay attention to the message of Dr. Warren Hern's Op-Ed in today's New York Times.

As I have been saying for a long time in my book, the most dangerous thing a woman can do in life is to get pregnant. We need to protect women as much as we can for their good and for the good of their children, and thus for the future of humanity.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Hispanic Fertility is Dropping in the U.S.

I have not blogged for a while because I am working very hard to finish up the 13th edition of POPULATION, which should be available this Fall. However, I had to say something today because so many of you sent me a link to the New York Times story on the fertility decline among Hispanics in the U.S. The NYT story is based largely on a report just out from the National Research Center on Hispanic Children & Families in Bethesda, Maryland, and their report is based on data compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Here's the bottom line:
Between 2006 and 2017, the Hispanic fertility rate fell by 31 percent, compared with just 5 percent for white women and 11 percent for black women. The especially large decline among Hispanic women is likely driven, in part, by recent changes in the composition of the U.S. Hispanic population. The share of U.S. Latinos who are foreign-born is getting smaller, and foreign-born Hispanic women generally have higher fertility than U.S.-born Hispanic women.
Continued fertility declines among Hispanics will help push the total fertility rate in the U.S. even further below replacement level.
Fertility rates are dropping among all race/ethnic groups in the United States, and although the drop has been highest for Hispanic women, they do still have the highest birth rates of any group. I agree with the assessment that the higher percentage of U.S.-born Hispanics is very influential in these trends, but keep in mind that this is largely because of the recent steep drop in migration from Mexico, which is closely related to the precipitous drop in fertility within Mexico.

Back in January I was on TV here in San Diego talking about the decline in the birth rate in the United States, and if you'd like to check that out, follow this link to KUSI-TV, and go in about 15 minutes--I was the third guest on the "San Diego People" program.

OK--back to the 13th edition...

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Pakistan's Supreme Court Drops "Population Bomb"

The Supreme Court of Pakistan yesterday produced a genuine "wow" moment when they urged the country to strive for a two child per family norm. The Times of India reports that:
Describing Pakistan's rapidly growing population as a "ticking timebomb", the Supreme Court Tuesday urged religious scholars, the civil society and the government to back population control measures, including a two children per family norm, in the Muslim-majority country.
A three-member bench led by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar made the observations during a hearing in a case related to population control in Pakistan, now the world's fifth most populous.
"The increasing population is a burden on the country's resources. It is about the future of the next generation. It would be unfortunate if the population is not controlled. Two children per home will help to control the population. There is a need for a campaign on the matter," the apex court was quoted as saying by the report. "The entire nation needs to stand together to control the population," the chief justice said.
The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) has also voiced its concern at the rapid increase of population in the country, calling it a looming disaster.
In a recent press statement, the PMA said the birth of 15,000 babies in Pakistan on the 1st day of 2019 was alarming. The PMA thinks that it is a distressing situation as at the moment as 60 per cent of the national population stands below the age of 25 years; 25 million children are not going to school and 90 per cent the population is not being provided with clean drinking water. Malnutrition is another big issue and food scarcity is a big problem, the association said. 
The PMA said it believes that the unchecked rise in the population is a looming disaster, and concrete steps should be taken to implement family planning and make people-friendly economic policies to overcome these difficulties and save the coming generations.
Pakistan has wrestled with the question of family planning for most of its history. During the 1950s and 1960s there were concerted efforts to organize government-sponsored programs, but political instability has undermined their efficacy over time. With any luck, this time will be different. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Court Blocks Citizenship Question on 2020 Census

Today a federal judge in the Southern District of New York ruled against placing a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. The NYTimes reports that:
The ruling marks the opening round in a legal battle with potentially profound ramifications for federal policy and for politics at all levels, one that seems certain to reach the Supreme Court before the printing of census forms begins this summer.
In a lengthy and stinging ruling, Judge Jesse M. Furman of the United States District Court in Manhattan said that Wilbur L. Ross Jr., the commerce secretary, committed “a veritable smorgasbord” of violations of federal procedural law when he ordered the citizenship question added.
Mr. Ross “failed to consider several important aspects of the problem; alternately ignored, cherry-picked, or badly misconstrued the evidence in the record before him; acted irrationally both in light of that evidence and his own stated decisional criteria; and failed to justify significant departures from past policies and practices,” Judge Furman wrote.
You will recall that this matters because the Census Bureau's own analysis suggests that immigrants would be less likely to respond to the census questionnaire with such a question included in it. That would lower the number of people counted in the census, which could affect Congressional redistricting. Since immigrants disproportionately live in districts with a Democratic representative, this could skew redistricting, and thus Congress, more toward Republicans. The Washington Post has a nice graphic showing how this might work.

This case will almost certainly be appealed to the Supreme Court, and it could also influence decisions in similar cases in California (where a trial is currently underway) and Maryland (where the trial starts next week).

These are among the many issues facing the new Director of the Census Bureau, Steven Dillingham, who was confirmed by the Senate earlier this month. He has prior experience managing government organizations, and does not appear to have specific political agendas to push, so the hope is that the Census will move forward smoothly. Of course, there is this partial government shutdown to worry about in terms of census funding...

Monday, January 7, 2019

The Crisis at the Border is Different Than Trump Claims

Yes, there is a crisis at the border, and it is almost entirely created by the Trump Administration, as the Washington Post recently noted. As a result of insufficient funding even in good times--made massively worse by the current government shutdown affecting agencies like Homeland Security--there are too few resources to process asylum seekers, so they sit in camps and get sick (and some die). All of the other stuff that Donald Trump likes to talk about is mostly false, as pointed out by Op-Ed pieces published the past few days by highly acclaimed demographers who actually do know what they are talking about.

The first of these was written by Dr. Rogelio Saenz, Professor of Demography at the University of Texas, San Antonio, and was published in the San Diego Union-Tribune. His main point is that we are trying to curtail migration from Latin America at precisely the same time that is had already reached a nearly historic low. What does that mean for the average American? Well, who's going to pick your crops, who's going to work in your restaurants, who's going to do your yard work? We have, in truth, exploited undocumented immigrants for our mutual benefit for a long time, and we will pay the price for their absence. You could call that a crisis...

The second piece was was written by Dr. Dudley Poston, Professor of Sociology at Texas A&M University and was published in the San Antonio Express-News. He focuses especially on the wall:
Trump’s wall won’t work. It won’t reduce the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. and could well have the opposite effect. Plus, it won’t stop drugs and contraband from entering the U.S.

Let me tell you why.

Almost one-quarter of the 44 million people living in the U.S. who were born in another country, or about 10.7 million people, are undocumented immigrants. These are the immigrants Trump wants deported. But he apparently doesn’t know that more than two-fifths of these undocumented immigrants, or almost 4.5 million, are visa overstayers. They entered the U.S. with legal passports and legal visas but either stayed past their visa expiration dates or otherwise violated the terms of their admission into the U.S., perhaps by accepting employment. Most flew in legally from Asia, Europe and other continents, and entered at major airports in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Houston and elsewhere. Trump’s wall won’t be high enough to keep them out. There is no plan to address the issue of visa overstayers. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security does not match entry and exit records of people coming into and leaving the U.S. The 5 million to 6 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. who are not visa overstayers are formally referred to by demographers and immigration officials as EWIs, persons who “entered without inspection.” They entered the U.S. without detection or used fraudulent documents when crossing the border. Almost all of them entered at the U.S.-Mexico border, and until recently most of them were from Mexico. Now, most are from Central America.

Demographers have conducted extensive research about EWIs. They are not criminals, and they don’t take jobs from U.S.-born Americans. Almost all EWIs end up doing work Americans don’t want to do. Demographers have found little, if any, evidence that EWIs harm or suppress the employment or wages of local people.
A wall will not work any better than the existing security arrangements along the border to stop EWIs or to stop the flow of drugs from South America into the U.S. Most of those drugs come through the regular ports of entry in cars and trucks--no matter what Trump may say. 

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Have We Been Fooled About Jeanne Calment Dying at age 122?

A few days ago, Carl Schmertmann tweeted a link to a paper in ResearchGate in which a Russian academic offered evidence that Jeanne Calment--widely recognized to be the oldest verified human being at her death at age 122--had, in fact, died many years earlier and her daughter had assumed her identity. Thus, it was really her daughter who died at age 99, pretending to be her mother who would have been 122 had she not died many years earlier. 

Given the proliferation of fake news, with special suspicion on Russian fake news, I admit that I read the paper but chose not to blog about it. However, Smithsonian Magazine did pick it up, and then today's Washington Post grabbed the Smithsonian story.
Nikolay Zak, of the Moscow Center For Continuous Mathematical Education, said in a report that he believes Calment was actually Yvonne Calment, Jeanne’s daughter, who Zak says assumed her mother’s identity to avoid inheritance taxes in the 1930s. If true, Yvonne Calment would’ve been 99 if she died in 1997.
He points to studies that show Calment had lost less than an inch of her height by the time she was older than 100, significantly less height loss than what would have been expected; Yvonne was taller than Jeanne, he says. A passport for Jeanne in the 1930s lists different eye colors for her than she had later in life. He also raises questions about other physical discrepancies in her forehead and chin. He also claims Calment had destroyed photographs and other family documents when she had been requested to send them to the archives in Arles. 
The study has caused a global stir since it was issued. It has been covered by news media organizations around the world.
The evidence pointing to the sham is all circumstantial and incredibly complex, and Zak himself admits that he hasn't presented an iron-clad case. My view is that it doesn't matter too much, since the odds of any of us reaching an age even close to 120 are very long. It perhaps is more discouraging to those researchers searching for the clues to keep humans alive to ever older ages. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Top Ten Posts for 2018

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 175 that I posted in 2018, based on the number of hits on each one? Here are the Top Ten:

1. Over the years I have been very impressed that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been moving into the mainstream of demographic trends. Initially they focused especially on childhood diseases, with a special emphasis on malaria prevention. But then they added reproductive health, especially family planning, to the program. Throughout all of their work, they clearly recognized that extreme poverty aggravates every problem in life, and my blog post about this year's annual report from the Gates Foundation on the demographics of extreme poverty was the top hit of my posts during the year.

2. I blogged about Iran three times in 2018 and the one about Iran's eye-popping demographics was the second most popular post. In an historically short period of time, Iran went from a country in which women were averaging nearly 8 children each, to the current situation in which fertility is below replacement level. Considering the way in which explosive population growth has contributed to the mess in the Middle East, this is quite a story.

3. There have been many books and movies over the years built on the dystopian idea that population growth is leading us to a hell on earth scenario, and my blog about the power of overpopulation in movies and literature was number 3 on the year's list. Of course, the hope is that if we scare each other enough about these possibilities, we will work to avoid them.

4. If you have read "Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind" by Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari, you will appreciate that he has sort of a dystopian view of the Agricultural Revolution. But would we all prefer to be hunters-and-gatherers still? I don't think so, as I said in my review of his book.

5. The fifth most popular post brings us to the question about baby boomers in the U.S. and how big a burden they are going to be. The answer is that they will be the biggest burden of any older generation in American history. There are more of them than any previous generation, and they represent a greater share of the population than any previous generation. That wouldn't necessarily be so awful were it not the case that a large fraction seem to be financially unready for retirement.

6. The United States has often been described as a country where languages other than English come to die. I regularly recount the story that my mother-in-law, whose parents were from Denmark, did not grow up speaking Danish as did her older siblings because South Dakota, where they lived, passed a law when she was young (later struck down by the courts) that it was illegal to speak a language other than English in public. In my blog post about bilingualism I show that it can, in fact, be good for your pocketbook to speak another language, and the fact that I could speak Spanish when I got to college essentially launched me on my career path.

7. Donald Trump has made a huge deal about needing a wall to protect us from the marauding caravans storming our southern border. As I point out in the 7th most popular blog, the problem with that claim is that it simply doesn't fit the facts: there is no crisis at the border.

8. The U.S. Census Bureau employs a large staff of well-qualified people, so it is very unusual when something goes wrong. To their everlasting credit, they admit and fix it, as they did when for a short time they removed their latest set of population projections for the U.S., so that they could fix the error. All is now well.

9. The ninth most popular post was inspired by a talk given here at SDSU by Dr. Debbie Fugate of the U.S. State Department. She discussed the shifting origins and destinations of "irregular" migrants from Africa to Europe. The flow of refugees into Europe captures most of the headlines, but there is a large, sustained outpouring of Africans to Europe, and this is a hugely risky undertaking for those who attempt it.

10. Finally in the Top Ten we have the story of the decline in the U.S. birth rate, which I first mentioned back in May, but then, in a story tied for 10th place, I also discussed in October, noting that the U.S. was clearly entering the Second Demographic Transition.

Please enjoy these and all of my blog posts, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!