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 12th (it came out in 2015), 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.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

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!

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