Tuesday, January 01, 2013

A question to our readers

As the year 2013 approaches--Toronto is in the Eastern Time Zone so I can still say that for a few hours--I'd like to ask readers of Demography Matters what they'd be interested in seeing covered here in the coming year. Are there trends in fertility and mortality, immigration and emigration, family formation or family dissolution, et cetera, that you'd like to see more on? Are you interested in focused regional coverage?

Happy New Year!



Abu Daoud said...

Here are a few topics I would love to learn more about:

1) Egypt. In 1900 the pop. was two million, today it is about 80 million. I am curious to learn about the connection between agricultural production and population. What does it mean that a country has millions more people than it can produce food for? Is this novel or fairly common?

2) Economic growth and dem. decline. As is well known many Western countries are below replacement TFR. Is it possible for the economy of a country to grow while the population declines? How would that work? Where is that happening?

3) The dynamics of culture replacement. I am thinking of how Turkish culture replaced Greek culture in much of Asia Minor here. Will we see something like this happen with aging European populations with low TFR? Anyway, what does it look like for a culture to die out or be assimilated into another younger, immigrant society?

4) Would love to read a review of and response to David Goldman's book 'Why Civilizations Die...'

Thanks for the blog...

Randy McDonald said...

Hi. Point by point.

1. I've a post on Egyptian historical demographics saved somewhere. The Egyptian population was first around the two million mark in the Old and Middle Kingdom, growing over time and then falling back to close to that number by the 17th century owing to recurrent plague, eventually growing again and reaching 10 million by 1900.

"What does it mean that a country has millions more people than it can produce food for? Is this novel or fairly common?" It's pretty common, actually, among countries at all levels of development. See


In the case of Egypt, which is identified as a middle-income country with a large agricultural deficit, presumably it has to finance this deficit somehow: exports, remittances, foreign aid are all possibilities. Is a shock coming? If you could prove it to me, I'd be interested.

2. Quick answer: It may depend.

3. One key dynamic is that cultural shift/replacement requires one culture to be in a position of power relative to others at risk of replacement. In the case of immigrant populations in Europe, the people holding power definitely are not the immigrants. Self-contained minority enclaves, sure, but minority takeovers? The balance of power--political, economic, cultural--is so far against immigrants as to make any effort ridiculous.

4. I don't think much of David Goldman's demographic theorizing. A review of a book, well, perhaps if I have the time.

jemand said...

I would be very interested in regional coverage, including a look at the different current state and fates of different Chinese and Indian states. Esp. contrasting the more conservatively Hindu north to the more developed south in India, or a look at the formation of basically an interconnected megacity on the coast of China, as further construction tends to expand or even merge existing cities there, contrasted with the fate of the countryside inland.

I would also be interested in looking at the places where the majority or close to it of the population is under 18-- have population trends in those changed at all or do the demographic trends seem to stay pretty constant there? It seems to me that demographic trends could change more quickly in such young populations, is that assumption supported in data at all?

I also am interested in keeping my eye on Yemen... as a country which may be running pretty low on water in the near future but without the quantity of oil reserves that will allow it's neighbor Saudi Arabia to bargain effectively for grain imports and yet with much higher population and fertility rate than it's neighbor Oman. If both sides of the gulf have states which devolve to using piracy to get cash inflow from the rest of the world I don't really know what would happen to global shipping, although this has gotten speculative-- Still, I see the geographical position and resource stress coupled with population pressure of Yemen as a possibly destabilizing element of the region. Is there increasing immigration illegal or legal into Saudi Arabia from Yemen? But the sizes of the countries are such that this doesn't seem like a viable end point.

Ultimately though: I am interested in pretty much any subject that this blog addresses.

jemand said...

Oh, another thing. I would be *very* interested in pulling out some articles from the archives, preferably some of the oldest, and looking at how much any of the trends have changed since then.

Unknown said...

Seconding Jemand's 2nd comment.

Although this is a bit America-centric, I'm interested in the recent fall in fertility in the US beginning with the late 2000's recession. Is the US finally converging to the experience of other countries that are at similar levels of development? Are births being postponed or is the ideal fertility for Americans changing? I'm inclined to think it's the former, but I would be interested in summaries of any literature.

Also in an American context: The convergence of Hispanic fertility towards being closer to the US norm and the decrease in the relative number of Latin Americans in the US immigrant population. Is this the beginning of assimilation for Hispanics in the US and a permanent shift towards Asia and Africa as sources of immigrants?

I know these trends are recent enough to be current news and are hard to analyze, but I would love to hear your thought on it.

Also, does Edward Hugh ever post here anymore?

jemand said...

Building off of Austin's comment and also a US centric issue is what effect insurance companies covering birth control will be on 1) fertility and 2) abortion rates going forward.

I'm not sure if this will be this year's story or maybe we will have to wait another year for more data, but I am quite curious if there's any way to tease out this effect, if any.


Death of trditional family could be interesting, though theoretical

Beth (@DataGeekB) said...

I second the comments on convergence of fertility (and mortality) trends.

I also am a fan of anything related to household formation... Did families double up because of the recession, or is there a larger cultural/demographic shift toward more extended-family households?

Anonymous said...

Echoing the household/family formation comments what do you think about Charles Murray's take on it in his book "Coming Apart"?

Frankly with university so expensive it is no wonder the upper class stays bird like while everyone else who have given up committing so many resources go herd like. Nothing cultural about it.

Anonymous said...

Could you speculate, taking into account opinion polls, what will be the future for entitlement age in US? First, it seems that many 65-year old people are able to work, yet would rather vote for keeping their entitlements. But on the other hand, the tide is turning, and some might give up. Still, there is a demographic bulge around that critical age. Once most of them would be past 70 years of age and having nothing to lose, they might change their votes.

Abu Daoud said...

Hi Randy,

Thanks for your comments. I read your response to that older Spengler/Goldman article (which I had never seen). It leads me to another question regarding depopulation.

Some countries have such large populations to begin with (Russia, Germany, Japan) that even if their populations shrink they will still have viable populations for a long time. But you mentioned Latvia, which does not have that large a population to begin with. My question then is this: can depopulation lead to the collapse of a nation state? It can certainly lead to the extinction of a town or city, but what about a whole country? When I look at the super-low TFR and net out-migration in some Eastern European countries this seems like a question worth asking.

Second: regarding Egypt. I don't have any proof of course that something terrible is coming, but the country has spent almost all its foreign reserves, the Brotherhood (And Morsi particularly) seem to waffle and make equivocal moves and decisions only then to reverse or revise them (which does not look good for possible investors), and tourism is still much lower than it was in the Mubarak days. All of this seems to indicate that there is a real possible that the state will soon not be able to afford the massive amount of wheat it imports. As you mention, Egypt does not produce anything even close to what it consumes. So that is not proof for anything, but I do think it paints a foreboding picture for Egypt and thus for all of us here in the ME.

Rafael H M Pereira said...

Wich economic and social problems may arise from the end of population growth? I'm particularly interested to the answers to this question as with regards to urban issues and labor force formation.

SF said...

* The effects of abortion and contraception in general ... on demographic decline, maternal mortality,

* Female feticide. This may become a hot topic in Canada with motion M-408

*Euthanasia and the greying on society. Here's a question: does a greying society lead to a more conservative society? Will the increasingly aging society lead to more Conservative governments?

* Here's a question I've always had: what is the birth rate of women who support Conservatives/conservative policies versus those who don't?

Jesse said...

I'm also interested in almost all of the topics discussed on this blog. A few of the topics that I've been most interested in recently are:

1. Population growth and economic growth. Is there a connection? As populations age and decline is a country doomed to economic stagnation? Japan and Europe have the lowest population growth and have had the worst economic problems recently. Is this a coincidence or a trend that is likely to continue?

2. What steps have countries taken to try and revive population growth? What has been effective and what hasn't? What are some of the most promising idea's that have been thought of but haven't been tried yet? What will it take for countries/societies to regard this as more serious issue and implement policies that would be able to reverse the decline?

3. What effect has population aging and decline had in the past (I know this has happened before, I can remember being in history class and reading that in the Roman Empire Augustus tried to convince people to get married and have more children, I also remember reading that in the early 1900's the Ottoman Empire was called the Old Man of Europe)? What has happened to countries that had demographic decline in the past? Were any policies ever successful in reversing it? What finally reversed the trend?

4. Are there anyways that individuals, a grassroots movement, or non-state actors could try to reverse demographic decline?

Thanks for a very interesting Blog!

CB said...

My preferences would be:

1. Regional differentials in fertility rates, e.g. why is fertility lower in the North East USA, or North West Spain, or Hokkaido than it is in other regions of the srespective countries.

2. Urban/rural differentials in fertility. Especially the Princeton Fertility project, that tried to monitor the demographic transition in Europe, has some interesting data on how the divide in fertility rates between cities and rural areas developed.

3. Ethnic/religious differentials in fertility. Especially interesting when looking at ethnic conflicts. Demography certainly plays a role in these conflicts.

Unknown said...

great discussion on this post, thanks a lot!!

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