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:

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Is Growing Old a Societal Blessing or Curse?

I have been absorbed for the past several days by two simultaneous court cases in which I am an expert witness (I have been involved in more than 200 of these over the years, drawing upon my demographic and statistical background), and so today I have the very pleasant task of sorting through blog post ideas that several of you have sent me. Since I recently turned yet another year older, I'm going to go first with the suggestion from Justin Stoler, who pointed to a story in Bloomberg called "The Old Are Eating the Young," written by Satyajit Das--a 60-year old Australian of Indian descent. The basic point is a familiar one if you have read my book and follow this blog--the older population is currently increasing at a faster rate than the younger population in virtually all richer countries, and the burden of paying for a dependent older population will fall on that younger population and it's going to be a bigger burden per person than in the past.
This growing burden on future generations can be measured. Rising dependency ratios -- or the number of retirees per employed worker -- provide one useful metric. In 1970, in the U.S., there were 5.3 workers for every retired person. By 2010 this had fallen to 4.5, and it’s expected to decline to 2.6 by 2050. In Germany, the number of workers per retiree will decrease to 1.6 in 2050, down from 4.1 in 1970. In Japan, the oldest society to have ever existed, the ratio will decrease to 1.2 in 2050, from 8.5 in 1970. Even as spending commitments grow, in other words, there will be fewer and fewer productive adults around to fund them.
But you know how to cope with this--work long and save. That latter point is really important, as the Bloomberg article points out. Global economies are based on consumption, not on saving.
A significant proportion of recent economic growth has relied on borrowed money -- today standing at a dizzying 325 percent of global gross domestic product. Debt allows society to accelerate consumption, as borrowings are used to purchase something today against the promise of future repayment. Unfunded entitlements to social services, health care and pensions increase those liabilities. The bill for these commitments will soon become unsustainable, as demographic changes make it more difficult to meet.
Somehow we have to get past the idea that it is OK to borrow money to buy "stuff" when we're not really sure how we're going to pay that money back. Naturally we all want a high standard of living, but my old-fashioned (and tested) idea is that you can't afford it, don't buy it. Work hard, save, and then buy it when you can afford it. Try it, it works! 

The point here is that the old are not actually eating the young. If everyone of all ages worked and saved instead of borrowing against the future, the economy would adjust accordingly.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Case for Deporting Nonimmigrants

If you haven't done so already, you really have to read the only slightly tongue-in-cheek article by Bret Stephens in the NYTimes titled "Only Mass Deportation Can Save America." The basic point is that the sociodemographic characteristics of nonimmigrants are not as oriented toward "Making America Great Again" as are those of immigrants. Here's a taste of what he's saying:
On point after point, America’s nonimmigrants are failing our country. Crime? A study by the Cato Institute notes that nonimmigrants are incarcerated at nearly twice the rate of illegal immigrants, and at more than three times the rate of legal ones.
Educational achievement? Just 17 percent of the finalists in the 2016 Intel Science Talent Search — often called the “Junior Nobel Prize” — were the children of United States-born parents. At the Rochester Institute of Technology, just 9.5 percent of graduate students in electrical engineering were nonimmigrants.
Religious piety — especially of the Christian variety? More illegal immigrants identify as Christian (83 percent) than do Americans (70.6 percent), a fact right-wing immigration restrictionists might ponder as they bemoan declines in church attendance.
Business creation? Nonimmigrants start businesses at half the rate of immigrants, and accounted for fewer than half the companies started in Silicon Valley between 1995 and 2005. Overall, the share of nonimmigrant entrepreneurs fell by more than 10 percentage points between 1995 and 2008, according to a Harvard Business Review study.
Despite the Trump administration rhetoric about undocumented immigrants--which helps fuel resentment of immigrants--a Pew Research analysis shows that 75% of immigrants in the U.S. are legal immigrants. Although Latino immigrants tend to be less well educated than the average nonimmigrant in the U.S., Asian immigrants are considerably better educated than nonimmigrants and they now account for a greater share of immigrants than Latinos. Stephens reminds us that it has been immigrants across every generation that made America great, and that is as true today as it ever was.