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Entries in demographics (59)


Rising India(n)-American politicians

WAPO story on the growth in Indian-American involvement in politics.  The rise of this group has been stunning, but hardly atypical:

The nation's 2.5 million Indian Americans rank among the most highly educated ethnic groups in the United States, according to Census figures, and they have the highest per-capita income.

Although the community leans Democratic, according to a 2009 survey by the Asian American Legal Defense Fund, its wealth has attracted aspiring candidates of both parties.

Individual donors connected to Teppara's council have given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Indian American conservatives and other Republicans, he said. Democratic candidates get financial support through the decade-old Indian American Leadership Initiative. That group has endorsed both congressional and local candidates this year, and late last year it formed a political action committee, which has raised $100,000.

The money "obviously" makes a big difference, said Sanjay Puri, chairman of the nonpartisan US India Political Action Committee, which raised $75,000 in the first quarter of the year and $300,000 in 2008 to support Indian American candidates and others who have pro-India views. "The money is there. The candidates just have to prove that they are credible."

In a word, economic success breeds money breeds influence breeds the ambition to play the political role yourself. This trajectory has been the same, ethnic group after ethnic group, throughout US history.

The Indians have just done it faster, thanks to globalization speeding up the cycle considerably.

Still, stunning to witness.  I remember my first glimpse:  seeing Hindu temples go up in northern VA. I had never a church being built before, because, like most people, I came from a place were churches--seemingly--always were.  I remember thinking to myself then, If they've got money for new churches, then political candidates can't be far behind.  A decade later, they started to win, and just five years after that, we see the wellspring take off.


Would you want to know your potential for longevity?

WSJ story on scientists claiming to be able to calculate longevity potential on the basis of studying very old people and discovering "a genetic signature of longevity."

Despite the great complexity of causality here, the lead researcher says "we can compute your specific predisposition to exceptional longevity."  The academic researchers (Boston U) say they have no plans to profit from or patent the technology, and that a test will be made available on the Internet sometime in late July.

People want predictability in all things except the length of their life, where the vast majority prefer ignorance that allows maximum anticipation of possibilities.

There is a distinct difference between those who will die on the low end of the longevity spectrum and the "wellderly" who make it safely to old age and then face the prospect of 2-3 decades more life.

One expert claimed that life insurance policies would be forever altered by such testing capacity, but for now, it requires a several-thousand-dollar layout to have your entire genome profiled.  I guess insurance companies would need to posit their savings to justify the costs either picked up by them and made mandatory for granted coverage or forced upon consumers similarly.

What intrigues me more is the potential for genetic manipulation to "fix" what is missing.  For example:

While a healthy lifestyle is paramount, such genetic factors appear to become more important the longer we live. Indeed, a variation in a single key gene called FOX03A can triple the chances a person may live past 100, researchers at the Pacific Health Research Institute in Hawaii recently reported.

How much would the average person be willing to pay to have FOX03A boosted?


The beginning of the end of ethnic identity politics

An argument that says Obama was less the breakthrough than the political codification of a lengthy demographic transformation that encompasses my nearly five decades of citizenship.

If anyone still doubted, after President Obama’s election, that candidates are no longer prisoners of their race or ethnicity, then South Carolina’s Nikki Haley offers further proof. Ms. Haley, 38, was born Nimrata Nikki Randhawa, the daughter of Indian Sikh immigrants. Now she is the Christian, Republican nominee for governor in a state with a brutal history of racial oppression.

What’s notable about Ms. Haley’s campaign, like that of Mr. Obama and other candidates, is not just that she has breached a racial and cultural barrier, but that she doesn’t feel the need — or the desire — to talk much about it. “I love that people think it’s a good story, but I don’t understand how it’s different,” she recently told The New York Times. “I feel like I’m just an accountant and businessperson who wants to be a part of state government.”

Such reticence probably reflects the complicated set of expectations imposed on candidates like Ms. Haley. (Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, who is Indian-American, and Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, who is black, also come to mind.) We are attracted to the idea that they have transcended ethnic boundaries and reaffirmed the American ideal.

At the same time, we do not expect them to dwell on their stories in the way that ethnic candidates of a previous generation routinely did. And so we create a more diverse politics that is in some ways more cautious and anodyne, too, increasingly populated by candidates who are easy to support but harder, perhaps, to really know.

To understand what has changed, think back 40 years or so, when a generation of ethnic, white candidates — Democrats, for the most part — were rising up through urban political machines. Politics then was delineated primarily by economics; if you were the working-class child of, say, Irish immigrants, chances are you had a lot in common, politically, with struggling Italian and Jewish voters in your district, too.

There was an advantage, then, in drawing attention to your journey, through anecdotes and jokes that served to underscore the universality of the immigrant experience. Take, for instance,Michael S. Dukakis, the Democratic nominee for president in 1988, whose story of Greek immigration so defined his political career that the comedian Jon Lovitz immortalized it in a line from one of the more enduring impersonations on “Saturday Night Live”: “My parents were little people. Little, swarthy people.”

Whenever I watch historical movies with my kids, I am constantly forced to explain that a lot of what they see in them, in terms of social mores, were the way things were throughout most of history (especially the treatment of women) and that the vast majority of social equality has been achieved really in only the last half century or so.

And yeah, I don't think that's a coincidence.  America becomes a global superpower and we see radical change result and spread throughout the system, to include powerfully positive feedback to the US itself (for example, we don't deal with civil rights until after we expose our population to the world so fully in WWII and then realize how backward we remained on that subject).

Another thought triggered:  Obama running for re-election will widen the door even further, because almost anyone from any background can take him on and conceivably win.

Which has me thinking seriously about Michael Bloomberg.


WPR's The New Rules: America's Demographic Edge in 'Post-American' World

A growing population had long been considered a prime determinant of national strength -- at least until the “population bomb” crowd commandeered the dialogue almost a half-century ago and declared such growth to be a threat to human existence.  But since then, with globalization’s rapid expansion encompassing the bulk of the developing world -- and specifically demographic behemoths India and China -- we’ve seen industrialization and urbanization work their usual magic on female fertility. As a result, humanity is now projected to top out as a species sometime mid-century and likely decline thereafter.

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.

Find the Kotkin book here.


Chart of the day: The post-Caucasian era is birthed--right here in America!


What will America do in a post-Caucasian world?


I guess we'll just go on being Americans in a very American world.


Arizona may be on the front-lines, but the Latinization of these United States is a much deeper phenomenon

WSJ story about a small town in Nebraska that's coming apart at the seams over a proposed, AZ-like tough law on illegal immigrants.  The town (Fremont) is almost exclusively European, with most residents of Swedish and German background. A substantial meatpacking company presence has--unsurprisingly--boosted the Hispanic presence recently (around 1k out of 25k total population), leading to the tension. Naturally, such a potentially divisive law attracts a lot of outside players joining the fight.

I was just more attracted to the chart, which details the biggest increases of foreign-born residents in states with more than 100k foreign-born already.  I mean, look at the spread that includes the mid-Atlantic/south with the two Carolinas and GA, New England with RI, the plains (NE), the north (WI), Appalachia (KY), and the mountainous West (CO). This is hardly just a SW America issue, thus the rule-set clash currently being played out in Arizona is but a harbinger of a large struggle to come.

My point: welcome the experimentation by states. Some will bad and some will be good, but the churn will help us collectively find the right mix over time.


France raises it retirement age from 60 to 62

WSJ story.

Of course, we'll see this headline countless times in coming years as the rest of Europe moves in a similar direction as all those Euro Boomers head into retirement age.

I mean, really France, 58?

I think people my age should expect to work to at least 70 and probably 75.  My kids should add a decade to those numbers.

Why? As more people make it into their 60s in solid health, the actual life expectancy for that cohort extends much farther than the norm.

In fact, I foresee more intra-generational tension over that divergence than inter-generational.


Chart of the day: under-five global deaths since 1970

Economist article on public health citing what one Aussie expert calls "undoubtedly the biggest advance in mortality measurement in four decades!"  

This guy, Alan Lopez of Queensland U, presented a study on infant death trends in Washington in late May (later published by Lancet), and the Economist readily excused his hyperbole, because it's a stunning trend.

As the Economist chart showed, everybody was tracking the incredible decline over the past four decades.  What Lopez's work showed was that they were all underestimating the drop.

Setting aside methodological controversies that naturally ensue, along with the fear of charities that such revisions rob them of donations, the real point of this chart is the overwhelming agreement on the curve, with only minor disagreements (to the layman, that is) regarding degrees of steepness.  

You want to sell me that crap that says globalization is bad for the weakest and the poorest on this planet?  Well, infant mortality is a great measure, and there seems to be an amazing correlation between globalization's explosive spread since the early 1970s (when this globalized world was truly born) and the cutting in half--in absolute terms--of infant mortality globally--EVEN AS THE WORLD POPULATION ALMOST DOUBLED FROM 3.6B TO 6.6B!

So factoring in the population growth, babies today are really roughly four times more likely to make to five than those born in 1970.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.


As usual, the radical solutions arise just as the underlying problems begin to abate

Newsweek piece.

The call-out text tells you everything you need to know:  “The fertility rate in Mexico has undergone one of the steepest declines in history.”

Leveraging Michael Barone, I made this point in “Blueprint for Action”: There is a combination of decreasing birthrate and increasing per capita income that usually turns off the emigrant flow out of any developing economy.

With Mexico, these developments are tied to the progressive economic integration of the northern Mexican states with the US economy.

No, that doesn’t mean the flow of illegals from the South goes away completely just because Mexico is leveling off.  Over time, I think it simply means people are both traveling farther to get to the US and, in some measure, stopping when they hit the improving conditions in Mexico.

Per the piece:

A little-known, but enormously significant, demographic development has been unfolding south of the our border.  The fertility rate in Mexico—whose emigrants account for a majority of the United States’ undocumented population—has undergone one of the steepest declines in history, from about 6.7 children per woman in 1970 to about 2.1 today, according to World Bank figures.  That makes it roughly equal to the U.S. rate . . ..

It will go even lower than that replacement rate in coming years.  Point is, Mexico will have less and less trouble absorbing its new workers as they age into employment.

The same is happening, to a lesser degree, throughout the rest of Latin America.

Bottom line:  immigration won’t remain a problem/advantage forever, so opening the brand back up for expansion will ultimately make sense to enough Americans.  Why?  That great demographic input will diminish just as the Boomers begin retiring in bulk, meaning our labor force could start shrinking in some parts of the country as early as 2015, according to experts cited in the piece.

One academic:  “I wouldn’t be surprised if Arizona starts pleading for Mexican workers who can help them in their retirement homes.”


Latinos leaning more Democratic

WSJ story saying that Hispanics who registered to vote since the last midterm are significantly less likely to vote GOP than those who registered 4 years earlier.

The fastest-growing bloc of voters in the country is trending Dem.

GOP affiliation fell from a bit from 23% to 19%, while the Dem share rose from 50% to 58%.  Fewer independents.

The driver is no mystery: anti-immigrant fervor is more identified with the GOP.

The good news for Dems is somewhat balanced by the new non-Latino voters, who favor the Dems over the GOP by a lesser margin (41% to 34%).


The "retreat" from assimilation isn't all that it's splintered up to be

WSJ story.

Recent study suggests that Hispanics are less often marrying non-Hispanic whites, hence the fear of lessening assimilation.

The trend of past decades for both Hispanics and Asians immigrants was that successive generations married outside their race in ever higher percentages.  So are we seeing a reversal!

Clearly, social taboos on interracial marriage have faded dramatically over my lifetime (almost 5 decades), but here’s the trick with the last two decades seeing a serious upsurge in Asian and Hispanic immigrants:  now there’s a lot more of them available in the marriage pool, so, what was assimilation in the past due to limited choice, is now lessened. 

As a “retreat from intermarriage” goes, this one is fairly defensible and hardly anything to get worked up about.  I mean, Hispanic women now marry outside the pool in the range of 15-20% (2000s) versus 20-25% (1990s).

The benefits seem clear enough for the individuals in question: 

The massive influx of new immigrants from Latin America and Asia has not only fueled the opportunity to marry one’s co-ethnics, but also revitalized ancestral and cultural identity.

So says a researcher.

Meanwhile, we’re told that the rate of Asian women marrying white men “stagnated” at 40% between 1980 and 2008.  Oh my!

Long-term, though, experts expect plenty of inter-marrying.  Why? Workplaces are far more integrated than in the past.

Still, plenty of anti-immigrant feeling post-9/11 and with the hard economic times, so the current “retreat,” such as it is, underwhelms me.


Great piece by Peggy Noonan on the American character

Great WSJ op-ed by Peggy Noonan, whose smart-ass style (look who's talking!) is softened by her beautiful writing style.

The closer:

Here is a fanciful example that is meant to have a larger point. If you, complicated little pirate that you are, find yourself caught in the middle of a big messy scandal in America right now, you can't go to another continent to hide out or ride out the storm. Earlier generations did exactly that, but you can't, because you've been on the front page of every website, the lead on every newscast. You'll be spotted in South Africa and Googled in Gdansk. Two hundred years ago, or even 100, when you got yourself in a big fat bit of trouble in Paris, you could run to the docks and take the first ship to America, arrive unknown, and start over. You changed your name, or didn't even bother. It would be years before anyone caught up with you.

And this is part of how America was born. Gamblers, bounders, ne'er-do-wells, third sons in primogeniture cultures—most of us came here to escape something! Our people came here not only for a new chance but to disappear, hide out, tend their wounds, and summon the energy, in time, to impress the dopes back home. America has many anthems, but one of them is "I'll show 'em!"

There is still something of that in all Americans, which means as a people we're not really suited to the age of surveillance, the age of no privacy. There is no hiding place now, not here, and this strikes me as something of huge and existential import. It's like the closing of yet another frontier, a final one we didn't even know was there.

A few weeks ago the latest right-track-wrong-track numbers came out, and the wrong-track numbers won, as they have since 2003. About 70% of respondents said they thought the country was on the wrong track. This was generally seen as "a commentary on the economy," and no doubt this is part of it. But Americans are more interesting and complicated people than that, and maybe they're also thinking, "Remember Jeremiah Johnson? The guy who went off by himself in the mountains and lived on his own? I'd like to do that. But they'd find me on Google Earth."

I get the angst, but Noonan's description of America's DNA is dead-on, so I also get the reasonable pushback. Toss in a good court system, and I think that, not only will we be fine, but we'll reach the right balance of rules faster and better than anybody else--without prying any guns off anybody's cold dead fingers!


Diasporas around the world, unite!

Economist article, which highlights a favorite theme of mine:  globalization allows for enclavism to flourish even as it forces society to integrate with the larger whole and submit to its overarching rule-sets.

Starts with a meeting in Chicago of NRIs (non-resident Indians as India refers to its ex-pats) who want to encourage market and political reforms back home.  The transmission of such ideas is facilitated by globalization.

The old ethnic lobbying model was regressive and guilt-ridden:  ex-pats working to get their adopted government to support hardline causes back home or supporting them directly themselves with donations. That model dissipates more and more as immigrants are more easily assimilated and no longer form a reliable lobby on such issues.

So what happens when grievances no longer dominate the ex-pat agenda?  You see the residual nationalism refocused on progressive reforms--as in, give your homeland some of the skill and vision you picked up in your successful ex-pat lives abroad.

The social networks facilitate all this wonderfully.


Venter's achievement

Pic here  FT story.

"We have passed through a critical psychological barrier," says Dr. Craig Venter, after unveiling his achievement--the world's first synthetic cells.  It comes after a 15-year effort, this creation of a new bacteria.

An ethics professor at Oxford puts it this way:

Venter is creating open the most profound door in humanity's history.  This is a step towards . . . creation of living beings with capacities and natures that could never have naturally evolved.

Venter's near-term goals include creating algae that can capture CO2 from the air and produce hydrocarbon fuels.  He's got a $600m deal with Exxon to this end.

The bare bones description:  Venter creates a synthetic genome, then transfers it into the shell of an existent bacteria that--apparently, had its genome stripped out.  The new synthetic genome thereupon booted-up the host cell and took it over.

You have to believe this is a big step toward the possibility of engineering human replacement organs--perhaps to the point of improving them dramatically or creating better babies through chemistry (ever seen the movie "Gattaca"?).  

It also portends biowarfare possibilities, of course.  

Venter admitted as much by calling the technology "dual-use," a term of art in my community to denote technology that can be used for civilian and military purposes.


Inside the Gap, birth control is much harder to find

The gist from NYT's Nicholas Kristof (via WPR's Media Roundup) as he crosses central Africa, a place I'll be visiting soon enough:

Here in Kinshasa, we met Emilie Lunda, 25, who had nearly died during childbirth a few days earlier. Doctors saved her life, but her baby died. And she is still recuperating in a hospital and doesn’t know how she will pay the bill.

“I didn’t want to get pregnant,” Emilie told us here in the Congolese capital. “I was afraid of getting pregnant.” But she had never heard of birth control.

In rural parts of Congo Republic, the other Congo to the north, we found that even when people had heard of contraception, they often regarded it as unaffordable.

Most appalling, all the clinics and hospitals we visited in Congo Republic said that they would sell contraceptives only to women who brought their husbands in with them to prove that the husband accepted birth control.

Condoms are somewhat easier to obtain, but many men resist them. More broadly, many men seem to feel that more children are a proud sign of more virility.

So the pill, 50 years old this month in the United States, has yet to reach parts of Africa. And condoms and other forms of birth control and AIDS prevention are still far too difficult to obtain in some areas.

Corollary to reality that abortions are far harder to receive inside the Gap--and often illegal:  it's much harder for women to get birth control inside the Gap, as a rule.

Speaking of which, a map:

Legend comes from an anti-abortion site, so the purplish prose is likely overstated, but it's the most detailed map I could find of any decent size.:

Green: Abortion never legal, or legal only when necessary to save the life of the mother or protect her physical health

Yellow: Abortion legal in "hard cases", such as rape, incest, and/or deformed child.

Red: Abortion legal for social reasons (e.g. mother says she can't afford a child), or to protect the mother's "mental health" (definitions and requirements vary).

Purple: Abortion legal at any time during pregnancy for any reason.

Where the Core-Gap map fails:  highly Catholic LATAM.  Otherwise it matches up quite nicely, suggesting that women's reproductive rights and economic development go hand-in-hand.


Chinese men: looking . . . better

FT story.

Chinese men are going soft, shedding traditional notions of masculinity and getting in touch with their inner metrosexual, to L'Oreal's great benefit (27% growth last year and 40% this year).

Some experts point to the sex-ratio imbalance, but the piece argues that:

Chinese men are merely following the lead of their wives and mothers, say cosmetics experts, who note that the Chinese cosmetics market has long been dominated by skincare products, with make-up not widely used and frowned on or even banned for some occupations.

In short, the focus is just as much on getting ahead career-wise as getting a mate.  Nobody wants to look the peasant part anymore, meaning good skin is seen as modern/"with it".

More prosaically, it's the rise in disposable income that makes this even possible.


The problem is when the ants start marching

When all the little ants are marching / Red and black antennas waving / They all do it the same / They all do it the same way ...

So says Dave Matthews.

The reference here (WSJ story) involves Chinese college graduates who call themselves the "ant tribe" because they can't find post-grad jobs but nonetheless stick around Beijing's outskirts, squeaking out a cheap life while hoping for something to come along.

Term comes from a recent popular book that surveyed such students, one that inspired "both admiration for the young people's striving and indignation at their living conditions."

Sort of sounds like a Chinese "Rent."

This year's class of 2010 hits the job market at 6.3m strong, and more than 100k are expected to take up an ant-like residency on Beijing's margins.  Imagine five guys sharing 130 square feet, or getting by encapsulated in a "capsule" apartment that measures 8 feet by 28 (!) inches.

The popular "song of the ants" is neither Jonathan Larson- or Dave Matthews-like, and yet the punch line resonates well enough:

Though we have nothing, we are tough in spirit

Though we have nothing, we are still dreaming

Though we have nothing, we still have power

I think Bill Clinton created something like 8m jobs across two terms.  The Chinese need to create a noticeably higher figure every year.  The country's total labor supply grows about 25m per year.


Millennials: plenty spiritual, just not religious

Pic Found here

USA Today story about Christian research firm surveying 1,200 18-to-29-year-olds, with almost three-quarters declaring their spirituality trumps their religiosity, meaning they belief--just not in churches.

If the trends continue, says the report, we'll see churches close as fast as bankrupt car dealerships.

Hmm, makes me wonder about my last trip to the Netherlands and speaking to a community group at a defunct church (I spoke from the sacristy--of course).  

Fits with Stephen Prothero's Religious Illiteracy:  the notion that most Christians (two-thirds of Americans) are, in the words of the president of the research firm (LifeWay Christian Resources), Thom Rainer, "either mushy Christians or Christians in name only."  

Most are just indifferent.  The more precisely you try to measure their Christianity, the fewer you find committed to the faith.

Prothero, whom I used in Blueprint, made the basic point that, throughout US history, our faithful have become more intense in their idiosyncratic belief-systems while becoming less knowledgeable about their actual religions to which they claim to belong--more religiosity with less religion.

I see this as the ultimate way ahead for religions the world over as globalization succeeds in spreading development.  The competitive religious landscape allows for everyone to pick or craft their faith in the end, resulting in infinite variety and infinite direct connections to that which you hold dear.


WPR's The New Rules: In Politics, Don't Trust Anyone Over 50!

Wired magazine's May cover presents Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, while the accompanying article salutes the "hacker culture" that "conquered the world." Amid the political paralysis we now witness in Washington, it's a timely reminder of how all the top talent of the Boomer generation went into business and technology, while the dregs went into politics. Don't believe me? Try to imagine a politics-oriented magazine offering a similar cover: You couldn't get more than half of America to agree upon a single Boomer politician of Gates' historic stature.


Read the rest of the column at World Politics Review

As for the book mentioned:



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