Monday, July 25, 2011

Demography's misuse, or, going from Eurabia to mass murder

Demography matters so much that one man, Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik, decided to become a mass murderer on account of what demography supposedly told him.

As has been noted worldwide, the tendentious concept of "Eurabia"--a Europe doomed, via Muslim fecundity and the fecklessness or outright self-hatred of its governing elites, to become Muslim--is the single idea most responsible for Breivik's decision to kill as many future potential multiculturalist traitors to Norway and Europe as possible. Journalist Doug Saunders elaborates on this in a video post from Oslo for the Globe and Mail.

Saunders has posted at his website a collection of Breivik's comments posted at the Norwegian blog revealing the man to be preoccupied with pop demography of the least analytical sort. (No, Lebanon is not a relevant model for any plausible European future, not least because of the substantial territorial changes coupled with unprecedented history of sustained mass emigration and the numerous bloody, bloody wars.) Going into more detail, blogger P.Z. Myers noted that in his screed, Breivik was concerned with the ridiculously precise micromanagement of fertility along the misogynistic lines described by Margaret Atwood in her 1985 novel The Handmaid's Tale.

1. Limit the distribution of birth-control pills (contraceptive pills): Discourage the use of and prevent liberal distribution of contraceptive pills or equivalent prevention methods. The goal should be to make it considerably more difficult to obtain. This alone should increase the fertility rate by 0,1 points but would degrade women's rights.

2. Reform sex education: Reform the current sex education in our school institutions. This may involve limiting it or at least delaying sex education to a later age and discourage casual sex. Sex should only be encouraged within the boundaries of marriage. This alone should increase the fertility rate by 0,1 points.

3. Making abortion illegal: A re-introduction of the ban on abortion should result in an increased fertility rate of approximately 0,1-0,2 points but would strip women of basic rights.

4. Women and education: Discourage women in general to strive for full time careers. This will involve certain sexist and discriminating policies but should increase the fertility rate by up to 0,1-0,2 points.

Women should not be encouraged by society/media to take anything above a bachelor's degree but should not be prevented from taking a master or PhD. Males on the other hand should obviously continue to be encouraged to take higher education - bachelor, master and PhD.

Adds Myers, "It's all about fertility, ladies, and if only we keep you ignorant and trapped in the home, you'll start pooping out babies for us. Isn't that sweet?"

Demography's a concern of this blog, obviously, as are future population changes. The signal difference is that we at Demography Matters are concerned with fact-based linkages, writing, and research, taking a look at what actually goes on insofar as populations evolve because demography matters enough to be taken seriously. We engage with myths like Eurabia not least since these kinds of catastrophic theories do very little to create informed discussion on the subject. People are not going to talk or act in rational manners about immigration or population aging or anything of the kind of they think that the future of their country is doomed. This may especially be so if they think that their country's doom is indeed that is an intended consequence of their evil political elite.

As a co-blogger of mine over at History and Futility, Jussi Jalonen, wrote earlier today, the whole knot of anger and misunderstandings and conspiratorial mindsets surrounding Eurabia that motivated Breivik exist at the center of an increasingly influential political network.

Following the modus operandi of all publicity-seeking mass murderers, Breivik wrote a manifesto where he openly stated his motives and clarified his political opinions in detail. Published in the internet, the “European Declaration of Independence” – which can be downloaded from here – is essentially a grotesque compendium of blog posts and columns, tied together with Breivik’s own narrative. The quoted writings all have in common an openly islamophobic, anti-immigration theme. According to Breivik’s twisted, but coherent logic, the “multiculturalist Marxist establishment” is attempting to convert the European Union into a “Marxist superstate, the EUSSR”; these “cultural Marxists” are also responsible for the “mass Muslim immigration” and “islamization” of Europe. Breivik is, in other words, a true believer in the so-called “Eurabia”-predictions previously discussed also on this blog, and he also believes that an open discussion of these threats was impossible due to the pervasive European “political correctness”. In his own words, Breivik was using the mass murder as means to “send a message” to the “Marxist, multiculturalist elites”. His chosen method was to wipe out the next generation of the left-wing politicians whom he saw as the culprits of the immigration policy and the destruction of his cherished European civilization.

What’s important to remember is that Breivik’s ideology was not original, and his sick ideas were not of his own making. In essence, he was a product of the internet age, a dedicated consumer of the radical anti-Muslim political propaganda which has circulated around the websites and weblogs ever since the 9/11 attacks and the controversial Muhammad cartoon episode. Breivik maintained a lively interest in the most notable anti-Islam bloggers, such as “Fjordman”, with whom he occasionally seems to have corresponded, advertising his book project; one example of their dialogue can be found here, in the comment section. The title of Breivik’s book, “Declaration of European Independence”, is actually borrowed from a column which “Fjordman” wrote for the cultural-conservative “Brussels Journal”-blog. Breivik describes his ideology by the name “Vienna School of Thought”, which is a reference to another well-known paranoid anti-Islam blog, “Gates of Vienna”.

This internet sub-culture where Breivik spent his pastime has not been without political significance. The very same post-modern, radical, fanatic cultural-fundamentalist atmosphere which produced Breivik has made serious inroads to the mainstream politics in the Western World, basing its success on populism and fear. The writers who inspired Breivik included known Muslim-baiting hate-mongers such as Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller and Daniel Pipes, and he was fascinated by the Tea Party movement. Geert Wilders, the head of the Dutch PVV and the producer of Fitna, was among Breivik’s heroes, and his book even mentions – in one of the quoted posts from “Fjordman” – Jussi Halla-aho, a Finnish anti-Islam blogger who was elected as an MP of the populist “True Finns” party in the last elections and became the chairman of the parliamentary committee in charge of police, border guard and the immigration affairs. Breivik’s book endorses several “anti-immigration, cultural conservative organizations”, ranging from the Sweden-Democrats to the Polish PiS, all of which he saw as the possible salvation of the Continent from the supposed evils of multiculturalism and immigration. The only thing which made Breivik special was his conviction that this parliamentary political activity needed to be supplemented with direct action, and he saw himself as the man who could provide it.

Demography matters too much to be left unchallenged to the sorts of people who would use the study of population--or more precisely, what these people think counts as the study of population--to justify all manner of horrors. Beware.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Four links on the Canadian census

Tonight, I thought I'd limit myself to posting four links dealing with the transformation of the Canadian census from a detailed mandatory form to a shorter optional questionnaire. (I've blogged about the issue here on several occasions, link to these post to be found here.)

  • The Toronto-focused blog Torontoist's Max Hartshorn asked in "Can An Optional Questionnaire Fill the Shoes of the Long-Form Census?" the question of the post's title. Given the likelihood of over- or under-representation of different demographics, the likelihood that recent trends may be missed, and the generallly lower resolution of the National Household Survey, the answer seems to be a decided "no."

  • The major problem with an optional survey, Hiu says, is that it may over- or under-represent certain segments of the population. When you give a group of people an optional questionnaire, there is always a chance that those who don’t respond will differ in meaningful ways from those who do. In the case of the NHS, researchers argue that ethnic minorities, and individuals with very low or very high incomes, will be least likely to respond.

    [. . .]

    One possible solution is to use data from previous censuses to fill gaps in NHS results. The so-called "imputation" of missing results through the aid of external data is a standard statistical technique. But it runs into problems if the data you are using to plug holes differ in meaningful ways from your obtained results.

    [. . .]

    Such technical issues are of great concern to Toronto city planner Tom Ostler and health policy professional Paul Fleiszer, both of whom use the long-form frequently in their work.

    Fleiszer, who works for Toronto Public Health, says that his department “uses data on language, immigration, ethnicity, income, and education, all previously available from the long-form, to guide our programs and policies."

    "For example, we offer tuberculosis prevention initiatives to people that have immigrated from countries where tuberculosis is endemic. The long-form identified areas where those populations live so we knew which neighborhoods to offer classes in."

    "One critical [item] that we use in city planning in particular," Tom Ostler says, "is the question of where people work and linking that question to where they live. [This gives us] a picture of commuting flows across the city," which can help in planning bus routes and transit initiatives.

    "Even just a basic statistic like the number of people who are working inside the city of Toronto," Ostler explains, helps the City set job targets for the future. These targets influence how much money will be invested in employment services and infrastructure.

    "At the end of the day," says Fleiszer, "if you don't have good data, you can't make good decisions. That irritates me as a public health professional."

  • At The Search, Douglas Todd observed that the census, by providing a finely-detailed portrait of the Canadian population in all of its diversity, allows government to respond and treat the different issues of these populations accordingly. It's a long-standing tradition, after all.

  • According to senior Statistics Canada official Tina Chui, the federal government has been asking about religion and ethnic origin since 1871.

    Even though some countries don't include such questions in their census, Ottawa originally asked them because the country's two "founding" peoples were French (mostly Roman Catholic) and British (mostly Protestant).

    It wouldn't have been possible more than a century ago for the federal government to respond fairly to the contrasting needs of these two ethnic/religious groups if it didn't have facts and figures about them.

    Now that multicultural Canada, which has the world's highest immigration rate per capita, is home to people who speak more than 200 languages, it's more important than ever to track residents' ethnicities and religions.

    [. . . T]his year's census questions have been translated into more than 30 languages, including Chinese, Arabic, Hindi, Creole, Romanian and many aboriginal tongues. Moreover, census staff are always following up to encourage completion.

    Why go to all the trouble? Chiu reminds us that solid ethnic and religious data will help school boards serve diverse students. They will aid ethnic community groups in supporting their clients. They will assist businesses in targeting customers, based on cultural backgrounds. They will lend a hand to researchers monitoring ethnic and religious discrimination, and governments creating effective training programs.

  • The CBC posted a simple article: "Census workers getting partial answers on householder surveys".

  • Statistics Canada is accepting incomplete forms – called partial responses – and there is no followup.

    "On the (short) census, we will follow up since the census is mandatory, so if we don't have a minimum amount of information or there are inconsistencies, it is possible that we'll call people to clarify the information that was provided," said Marc Hamel, director general of the census management office.

    "We don't do that on the National Household Survey. We make the assumption ... if they have omitted to complete one question or a section, we go on the assumption knowing that it's a voluntary survey that they've omitted to complete that on purpose."

    One census enumerator, who spoke to The Canadian Press on condition of anonymity, said workers had been instructed to accept the long forms with as few as 10 of 84 questions answered. They can also declare somebody has given them a "total refusal" simply by speaking to them on the phone.

    "We can try and convince them and talk about how it's a good thing, but a lot of people shut down the conversation quickly when they find out it's not mandatory."

  • Finally, the Globe and Mail's Stephen Gordon is very unhappy with what is happening.

  • As Economy Lab contributor Kevin Milligan and his UBC colleague David Green note in Canadian Public Policy, one of the most striking features of the census is its ‘hidden ubiquity’. The census is an invisible -- and yet essential -- element of virtually all the data that inform policy debates.

    The Labour Force Survey (LFS) is the source of the monthly employment data release. Some 55,000 people are polled, and participation is (so far) mandatory. But in order to make sure that this panel of 55,000 people is a representative sample, the LFS checks to see if its panel has the same features as the Canadian population as a whole: levels of income, education and the like. The only available reference point to make this verification is the census. As time passes, it will be less and less clear if announced changes in unemployment rates are due to what is actually happening in the labour market, or is simply an artefact of an increasingly biased sample.

    The Consumer Price Index (CPI) tracks the price of a ‘representative basket’ of goods and services. The price of this basket is of interest only insofar as it is representative of Canadians’ expenditures, and estimates for representative spending patterns are based on the Survey of Household Spending. This is a voluntary survey, so responses have to be corrected so that the panel or respondents reflects the general population. Again, the only available reference for making this correction is the census.

    Employment and inflation data have the power to move markets, and policy-makers need reliable data to guide their decisions. The list is goes on, and is almost endless. For example, the labour market experiences of immigrants will be an increasing preoccupation for policy-makers as the population ages; the only source of information about immigrants is the census.

    Go, read all these sources.

    Wednesday, July 13, 2011

    On African immigration to Latin America

    A Deutsche Welle English-language article pointed me to an interesting new phenomenon, that of African immigration with Latin America as a final destination--most notably Argentina, but also Brazil. I first heard about the phenomenon back in 2009, but this largely anecdotal phenomenon seems to be getting more attention of late.

    It's rush hour on Avenida Rivadavia in the buzzing, pulsating quarter of Once in Buenos Aires. On the pavement, street vendors have put up small stands every two meters: Earrings, watches and sunglasses are spread out on big shawls on the floor, they pile up in suitcases, or dangle from umbrellas.

    "It's cold," says one of the vendors, rubbing his hands. Koaku Bu Date Rodrigue was born in Ivory Coast. The 25-year-old came to Argentina two years ago.

    "My country is in a civil war. I was forced to fight in a rebels' group," says Koaku. "One morning I managed to escape. I made my way to San Pedro port and hid in the container room of a ship." Koaku doesn't remember just how long he had to hide for. When the ship stopped moving he was in Argentina.

    Every year, hundreds of thousands of Africans leave their home countries. Many want to go to Europe. But the EU has been sealing off its external frontiers.

    "I had heard of Europe, but I didn't know how to get there. You need money and you need to know people," says Koaku.

    Like Koaku, many Africans are therefore now considering other destinations, such as Latin America. In Argentina, the number of African migrants and refugees has more than doubled since 2005.

    The national refugee commission CO NA RE has registered more than 3,000 over the past five years. Illegal immigrants from Africa today make up the second largest group of asylum seekers in Argentina. Most of them come from Senegal or Ivory Coast. Neighbouring Brazil reports similar developments.

    Senegal and Côte d'Ivoire, it's worth noting, are arguably the two West African countries most closely integrated with global migration flows. A Reuters article goes into greater detail.

    In Brazil, Africans are now the largest refugee group, representing 65 percent of all asylum seekers, according to the Brazil's national committee for refugees.

    There are now more than 3,000 African immigrants living in Argentina, up from just a few dozen eight years ago. The number of asylum seekers each year has risen abruptly, to about 1,000 a year, and a third of them are African.

    "We're seeing a steep increase in the number of Africans coming to the country and seeking asylum," said Carolina Podesta, of the Argentine office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

    This is still low compared to the tens of thousands of immigrants who make the journey to Europe each year, but Africans are expected to come to Latin America in increasing numbers.

    "It's a search for new destinations," Podesta said, adding that many were being pushed by tougher European immigration and security policies put in place after September 11, 2001.

    [. . .] Africans might arrive on cargo ships or commercial planes and then seek asylum or overstay tourist visas. In Argentina, they can obtain temporary work visas shortly after arriving and renew them every three months.

    "The migratory policies of the country are very favorable," said Manzanares. "It's a reflection of history. What happened with European immigrants 100 years ago is now happening with African immigrants."

    The Democratic Republic of Congo is also a major source of migrants, given the ongoing horrors, while Brazil has been connected with Lusophone Africa--Angola and Mozambique particularly--even since the post-independence migrations.

    The accounts of African immigration to Argentina and Brazil emphasize the similarities between this 21st century migration and the migrations from Europe to South America which began in the late 19th century, driven by the search for economic opportunity. (Parallels with the African slave trade that inflicted so much suffering, thankfully, haven't been raised.) The critical difference between these two migrations is that the African migrants number in the thousands, while the Europeans numbered in the millions. This may change--with the increasing difficulty of getting into Europe or even the Maghreb, the relative attractiveness of Argentina and Brazil as immigration destinations, the apparent relative ease of legalization in Argentina, and what may be the beginning of chain-migration networks set up by these first African immigrants, the phenomenon may indeed take on the proportions of the earlier European migration. Certainly it merits watching.

    Tuesday, July 12, 2011

    On the very unlikely Eurabianization of southern Europe

    David P. Goldman, a writer and economist who first appeared writing for Asia Times under the moniker of "Spengler", has gained a lot of fame on the Internet for his articles, combining as they do hard figures with a pronounced conservatism and interest in pop demographics. Notwithstanding his sketchy past ties with the LaRouche movement, a rather conspiratorial movement claiming to favour a new industrialism and oppose genocidal conspiracies like those of the British royal family--I was told once that if the US and China combined their strengths they could destroy the old system and we'd be on Mars in thirty years--he's worth paying attention to, at the very least because so many people do just that.

    A recent post at Goldman's Asia Times blog Inner Workings, "Southern Europe: Hopeless But Not Serious", takes a look at the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain) and their dire economic future. The dire future of all of them save Ireland, mind; ultra-low fertility and rapid aging will do the rest in.

    That is true for the moment, when the elder dependent ratio for Southern Europe stands at around 25%. Between 2020 and 2045, however, the infertility of Southern Europe will catch up with it, and the elder dependent ratio will rise to over 60%–an impossible, unmanageable number. At that point the character of these countries will change radically; they will be overwhelmed with immigrants from North Africa as well as sub-Saharan Africa, who will not have the skills or the habits of civil society to maintain economic life. And their economies will slide into a degree of ruin comparable only to that of classical antiquity. Perhaps the Chinese will operate Greece as a theme park. Spain, which can draw on Latin American immigrants, is likely to be the least badly off.

    Strictly speaking, Ireland should not be included among the PIIGS (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Spain). Although post-Catholic Ireland has lost its famous fecundity, Ireland’s fertility rate still hovers around replacement. The Irish economy was far too dependent on offshore finance as a source of employment and suffered disproportionately from the collapse of the credit bubble in 2008. But this small country also has high-tech manufacturing and other industries which make the eventual restoration of prosperity possible. The southern Europeans are doomed. They have passed a demographic point of no return. There simply aren’t enough females entering their child-bearing years in those countries to reverse the rapid aging.

    I wouldn't necessarily disagree with much of this. The rapid aging of southern Europe's populations and the shrinkage of the cohorts of youth, combined with the effects of the internal devaluation given the region's adoption of the Euro, and a general lack of economic competitiveness, does augur bad things. Edward Hugh has written about the very low trend economic growth rate in Italy (Portugal in passing, too). Absent very unlikely transformations in southern European demographic profiles, things can be problematic. I also think Goldman is right to suggest that Spain, with its well-established links with Latin America, may avoid many of the worst effects.

    Where do I disagree? My lesser disagreement relates to the ways in which the effects of population aging may well be mitigated by better health. We've written in the past about longevity, exploring the ways in which longevity is being extended. The intriguing concept of "disability-free life expectancies" may provide a potentially very useful paradigm.

    [M]any people over 65 are not in need of the care of others, and, on the contrary, may be caregivers themselves. The authors provide a new dependency measure based on disabilities that reflect the relationship between those who need care and those who are capable of providing care, it is called the adult disability dependency ratio (ADDR). The paper shows that when aging is measured based on the ratio of those who need care to those who can give care, the speed of aging is reduced by four-fifths compared to the conventional old-age dependency ratio.

    Co-author Dr.Sergei Scherbov, from IIASA and the VID, states that “if we apply new measures of aging that take into account increasing life-spans and declining disability rates, then many populations are aging slower compared to what is predicted using conventional measures based purely on chronological age.”

    The new work looks at “disability-free life expectancies,” which describe how many years of life are spent in good health. It also explores the traditional measure of old age dependency, and another measure that looks specifically at the ratio of disabilities in adults over the age of 20 in a population. Their calculations show that in the United Kingdom, for example, while the old age dependency ratio is increasing, the disability ratio is remaining constant. What that means, according to the authors, is that, “although the British population is getting older, it is also likely to be getting healthier, and these two effects offset one another.”

    The new ratio that Sanderson and Scherbov introduce, of the ratio of disabilities in adults over the age of 20 in a population, does seem to make more sense in certain contexts notwithstanding a degree of subjectivity (what will different statistical agencies define as "disabilities"). If this ratio is adopted and if the prediction that most children born today in developed countries will reach the century mark comes true, if there are sufficient reforms conceivably southern Europe might avoid catastrophe. ("If", as the Spartan king said to the Persian ambassador.)

    My greater disagreement? His predictions of Eurabian doom: "[T]he character of these countries will change radically; they will be overwhelmed with immigrants from North Africa as well as sub-Saharan Africa, who will not have the skills or the habits of civil society to maintain economic life."

    No, no, no.

    Let's begin by noting that trans-Mediterranean immigration plays a minor role in southern Europe. Of themore than four million immigrants in Spain, only a bit more than a half-million are Moroccan, with insignificant if high-profile numbers of immigrants from elsewhere in the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa. Back in 2006 I noted that there were half again as many eastern European immigrants in Italy as from Africa, and that African immigrants were as numerous as the combined total of Latin American and Asian immigrants. Immigrants in Portugal are overwhelmingly from the Lusophone world and eastern Europe, and of the million-odd immigrants in Greece a large majority are immigrants from neighbouring Albania. There may be large income gaps between the northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean, but income gaps in themselves do not produce immigration. All manner of ties, including human ties, gird immigration, and all of these southern European countries are regional economic and cultural powers, if not global ones (Spain comes particularly to mind, to a lesser extent Italy, Portugal via its Lusophone connections, and Greece relative to impoverished Albania). Why would geography determine everything? It clearly doesn't.

    Still more importantly, if we accept Goldman's argument that southern Europe is doomed to impoverishment--easy enough to belief, especially if economic pressures lead to a sustained large emigration of youth from southern to northern Europe--why would immigrants even settle in southern Europe in large numbers? By global standards, Latvia is quite wealthy, and its aging and shrinking population could arguably benefit from immigrants and provide them with sufficient wages. Are large numbers of immigrants settling in Latvia? No: Latvia's economy is too unstable, and arguably lacking enough long-term prospects for various reasons including a contracting workforce and aging population, to keep Latvians at home, never mind attract immigrants. At most, Latvia is/will be a transit country for migrants hoping to make it to rich western Europe.

    Back to southern Europe. Migration is fundamentally a rational decision, made by people who want to extract the maximum benefit from their movement from one place to another. If migrants have to decide between a declining southern Europe and a more prosperous northern Europe, I'd bet they'd prefer northern Europe. I know what decision I'd make. You? Even if--if--there are substantially greater flows of North Africans to Europe and of sub-Saharan Africans beyond North Africa, why would they settle in large numbers in countries lacking in any long-term prospects?

    Everyone reading this blog and writing here--indeed, everyone interested in demographics generally--likely agrees that migration is a very important phenomenon in the 21st century world. Everyone should also take care not to make the sorts of dramatic predictions of radical clash-of-civilization-themed transformations that never come true, too. Demography matters too much for it to be treated so superficially.