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History > 2009 > USA > Demographics (I)




Projections Put Whites in Minority

in U.S. by 2050


December 18, 2009
The New York Times


Without new immigrants, by the middle of the century the nation’s population would begin to decline, the elderly would account for nearly one in four Americans and non-Hispanic whites would remain a majority, according to new projections by the Census Bureau.

But if immigration were to merely slow down, rather than stop, non-Hispanic whites, who now account for nearly two-thirds of the population, would become a minority by 2050, according to the projections. If the pace of immigration increases, that benchmark could be reached as early as 2040.

Depending on the pace of international migration, the nation’s population, 308 million currently, could grow to as much as 458 million by midcentury, with immigrants accounting for up to 136 million of the increase.

Since 2000, the nation’s population has been growing by just under one million immigrants annually. The bureau’s lower estimates assume a range of 1.1 million to 1.8 million; the higher estimates range from 1.5 million to 2.4 million.

Even if no new immigrants arrived, said William H. Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution, the Hispanic share of the population would rise from about 14 percent in 2010 to between 21 percent (with no further immigration) and 31 percent (with the highest projected immigration) in 2050.

Similarly, without any immigration, minorities would still constitute a majority of the population under age 5 in 2050, because of higher birth rates among Hispanic people already living here. If immigration continues, black, Hispanic and Asian children will become a majority of young children sometime between 2019 and 2023, according to the latest projections.

People 65 and over would constitute more than one in five Americans by midcentury under all of the projections except for zero immigration.

Without immigration, the nation’s labor force would decline by 7 million people, mostly between 2015 and 2035, as baby boomers start to retire. Continuing immigration would add between 31 million and 64 million people to the labor force.

“The availability of work in agriculture, construction, and manufacturing has attracted millions of low-skilled workers from Latin America, especially Mexico,” said Mark Mather, the associate vice president for domestic programs of the Population Reference Bureau. “However, immigration levels have dropped since the onset of the recession, mostly due to a decline in new arrivals, rather than immigrants returning to their home countries.”

He estimated that natural increase — births over deaths — has accounted for two-thirds of the nation’s population growth in the past few years. Without any further immigration, deaths would begin to exceed births around 2048.

Depending on the extent of immigration, the country’s population could reach 400 million as early as 2035. Without immigration, growth would stall at about 322 million after 2040.

    Projections Put Whites in Minority in U.S. by 2050, NYT, 18.12.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/18/us/18census.html






Census Data Show

Recession-Driven Changes


September 22, 2009
The New York Times


A smaller share of Americans married, drove to work alone, owned their own home or moved to a new residence last year than the year before.

More lived in overcrowded housing. Property values declined. And fewer immigrants arrived, which meant that for the first time since the beginning of the decade, the total number of foreign-born people in the country did not grow.

Those were among the findings released Monday in the Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey, a wealth of data comparing the nation’s profile in 2008 with that of 2007.

Several experts, including Mark Mather, associate vice president for domestic programs at the Population Reference Bureau, said a number of the changes could be attributed to the national recession, which began at the end of 2007. The result is an early statistical snapshot of the economic downturn and the housing bust.

For example, after rising steadily since 2000, median home values dropped in 2008, and the homeownership rate fell half a point, to 66.6 percent, the lowest since 2002. Among blacks, who have been disproportionately affected by foreclosures, homeownership fell a full point, to 45.6 percent.

Furthermore, in a country where people typically move to take advantage of better job opportunities, those who changed residences fell to 15 percent in 2008, from a recent peak of 16 percent in 2006.

“Job loss, or the potential for job loss, leads to feelings of economic insecurity,” Dr. Mather said, with implications for additional matters like the timing of divorce and marriage. Such insecurity appears to have added to a longer trend in which the share of people over age 15 who have never married increased to 31 percent last year from 27 percent in 2000.

The latest figures appear likely to fuel political debates on subjects as varied as health care (the rate of uninsured children last year ranged as high as 20 percent, in Nevada) and immigration (fewer newcomers appear to be illegal or unnaturalized immigrants).

Earlier private and government surveys suggested that immigration was slowing, but these were the first annual census figures showing it to be stagnant.

“We’ve had an economic downturn, and that may well be affecting the attractiveness of the United States as a destination,” said Thomas A. Gryn, a statistician with the bureau’s immigration statistics staff.

William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, said: “The general economic malaise in the U.S. has drawn fewer immigrants from Mexico and elsewhere. At the same time, there are increases in high-skilled immigrants from India” and some other Asian countries.

The statistics also showed that real median household income declined nationwide, rising in only five states — New York, New Jersey, Kansas, Louisiana and Texas — compared with 33 states in 2007. It ranged from $37,790 in Mississippi to $70,545 in Maryland. Income inequality was highest in metropolitan New York, where the top fifth of households received 20 times as much as the bottom fifth.

The median price of an owner-occupied home fell nationally (by 2 percent, to $197,600) and in 22 states. The biggest declines were in Nevada and California (16 percent) and Florida (9 percent). Increases in value were recorded in Texas, Utah, Wyoming, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and North Carolina.

The highest housing costs for homeowners with mortgages were in California, New Jersey, Hawaii, Connecticut and Massachusetts. While those costs nationally were about the same as the year before, the drop in median income meant that more owners with a mortgage (29 percent) and renters (41 percent) were paying 35 percent or more of their income for housing.

The proportion of people lacking health insurance ranged from 4 percent in Massachusetts to 24 percent in Texas.

Overcrowding, defined as more than 1.51 people per room, afflicted 1.1 percent of households, up from 0.7 percent.

And the proportion of workers who commuted by driving without anyone else decreased slightly, to 75.5 percent from 76.1 percent, and ranged from 54 percent in New York to 83 percent in Alabama. Those who carpooled and those who used public transportation increased a bit.

    Census Data Show Recession-Driven Changes, NYT, 22.9.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/22/us/22census.html






U.S. Births Hint at Bias

for Boys in Some Asians


June 15, 2009
The New York Times


The trend is buried deep in United States census data: seemingly minute deviations in the proportion of boys and girls born to Americans of Chinese, Indian and Korean descent.

In those families, if the first child was a girl, it was more likely that a second child would be a boy, according to recent studies of census data. If the first two children were girls, it was even more likely that a third child would be male.

Demographers say the statistical deviation among Asian-American families is significant, and they believe it reflects not only a preference for male children, but a growing tendency for these families to embrace sex-selection techniques, like in vitro fertilization and sperm sorting, or abortion.

New immigrants typically transplant some of their customs and culture to the United States — from tastes in food and child-rearing practices to their emphasis on education and the elevated social and economic status of males. The appeal to immigrants by clinics specializing in sex selection caused some controversy a decade ago.

But a number of experts expressed surprise to see evidence that the preference for sons among Asian-Americans has been so significantly carried over to this country. “That this is going on in the United States — people were blown away by this,” said Prof. Lena Edlund of Columbia University.

She and her colleague Prof. Douglas Almond studied 2000 census data and published their results last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In general, more boys than girls are born in the United States, by a ratio of 1.05 to 1. But among American families of Chinese, Korean and Indian descent, the likelihood of having a boy increased to 1.17 to 1 if the first child was a girl, according to the Columbia economists. If the first two children were girls, the ratio for a third child was 1.51 to 1 — or about 50 percent greater — in favor of boys.

Studies have not detected a similar preference for males among Japanese-Americans.

The findings published by Professors Almond and Edlund were bolstered this year by the work of a University of Texas economist, Prof. Jason Abrevaya. He found that on the basis of census and birth records through 2004, the incidence of boys among immigrant Chinese parents in New York was higher than the national average for Chinese families. Boys typically account for about 515 of every 1,000 births. But he found that among Chinese New Yorkers having a third child, the number of boys was about 558.

Joyce Moy, executive director of the Asian American/Asian Research Institute of the City University of New York, said that family values prevalent in China, including the tradition of elder parents depending on their sons for support, have seeped into American culture even among younger immigrants, and even when some of the historic underlying reasons for the preference are less relevant here than in China, Korea and India.

“Inheritance in the old country is carried through the male line,” she said. “Families depend on the male child for support.”

Dr. Norbert Gleicher, medical director of the Center for Human Reproduction, a fertility and sex-selection clinic in New York and Chicago, said that from his experience, people were more inclined to want female children, except for Asians and Middle Easterners.

The preference for males among some immigrant Asians may fade with assimilation, experts said. And no one expects it to result in the lopsided male majorities like those in China, where, according to a study published this year in the British Medical Journal, the government’s one-child policy has resulted in the world’s highest sex disparity among newborns — about 120 boys for every 100 girls.

“The patients come in and they all think they owe me an excuse, but the bottom line is it’s cultural,” said Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg, medical director of the Fertility Institutes, a California clinic that began sex-selection procedures in New York in March.

The Fertility Institutes, which does not offer abortions, has unabashedly advertised its services in Indian- and Chinese-language newspapers in the United States.

“Culturally, there are a lot of strange things that go on in the world,” Dr. Steinberg said. “Whether we agree with it, it’s not harming anyone.”

Efforts by clinics to appeal to Indian families in the United States provoked criticism and some community introspection in 2001. Some newspapers and magazines that ran advertisements promoting the clinics, which offered sex-selection procedures, expressed regret at the perpetuation of what critics regard as a misogynistic practice.

In this country, some Asian families are having more than the two children they had planned for if the first two are girls. “I do have girlfriends who have had multiple children in anticipation there will ultimately be a boy,” Ms. Moy said.

Experts say that Asian-American families are using sex-selection techniques, also called family balancing.

In China, sex selection is usually achieved by aborting female fetuses, which doctors say also occurs in this country, although few parents were willing to be interviewed about it.

“It’s a real touchy thing,” Dr. Steinberg said. “It’s illegal in Asia, and culturally, it’s private.”

One New York couple, Angie and Rick, Chinese immigrants who were brought here by their parents as young children and now own several food markets in the city, agreed to be interviewed only if their last name was not used.

The first time Angie became pregnant and learned that the baby was a girl, she and her husband were merely disappointed. They had planned on having a second child anyway. When she learned she was pregnant with a girl again, though, the couple considered an abortion.

Their doctor argued against terminating the second pregnancy, they said. The couple reluctantly agreed to try for a third child.

“Our theory was that to raise kids, it’s tough already, so we didn’t want too many,” Rick recalled.

They explored various forms of sex selection, which could cost $15,000 or more, but they feared that because Angie was so fertile, the process would result in multiple births. She became pregnant a third time naturally. The couple were delighted to learn they were finally having a boy.

“If the third one was going to be a girl, then I would say probably I would have terminated,” Angie said.

A 1989 study of sex selection in New York City, conducted by Dr. Masood Khatamee, a clinical professor at N.Y.U. Langone Medical Center, found that all the foreign-born couples — mostly from Asia and the Middle East — preferred boys, predominantly for cultural and economic reasons. Often, the pressure comes from the husband’s parents.

“I have two daughters and am married to an only child,” said a Chinese-American professional woman who is married to an engineer. “Early on, after the two girls were born and another two years went by and there was not a third, I found myself in the living room with four or five older relatives in a discussion of ‘Wouldn’t it be lovely for you to have a boy?’ It’s extremely uncomfortable.”

Dr. Lisa Eng, a Hong Kong-born gynecologist who practices in Chinatown and Sunset Park, Brooklyn, said she tried to discourage couples who prefer boys from having abortions.

But, she said, “If it’s going to be a third, they’re pretty determined to have a boy. If it’s a boy, they keep it. If it’s a girl, they’ll abort.”

    U.S. Births Hint at Bias for Boys in Some Asians, NYT, 15.6.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/15/nyregion/15babies.html






’07 U.S. Births Break Baby Boom Record


March 19, 2009
The New York Times


More babies were born in the United States in 2007 than in any other year in American history, according to preliminary data reported Wednesday by the National Center for Health Statistics.

The 4,317,000 births in 2007 just edged out the figure for 1957, at the height of the baby boom. The increase reflected a slight rise in childbearing by women of all ages, including those in their 30s and 40s, and a record share of births to unmarried women.

But in contrast with the culturally transforming postwar boom, when a smaller population of women bore an average of three or four children, the recent increase mainly reflects a larger population of women of childbearing age, said Stephanie J. Ventura, chief of reproductive statistics at the center and an author of the new report. Today, the average woman has 2.1 children.

Also in 2007, for the second straight year and in a trend health officials find worrisome, the rate of births to teenagers rose slightly after declining by one-third from 1991 to 2005.

“The 14 years with teenage birth rates going down was one of the great success stories in public health, and it’s possible that it’s coming to an end,” said Sarah S. Brown, chief executive of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, a private group in Washington.

But officials cautioned that the reversal has been small — a rise of 2 percent in 2006 and 1 percent in 2007 — and that it is too early to know what the rate will do next.

Even at the low point in 2005, the United States had the highest rates of teenage pregnancy, birth and abortion of any industrialized country. Because teenage births carry higher risks of medical problems and poverty for mother and child, state health agencies, schools and private groups have mounted educational campaigns to deter teenage pregnancy.

Still, the reasons for the steep decline and recent reversal are poorly understood. The discussion is colored by politics: some liberals say “abstinence only” sex education and restrictions on distribution of contraceptives are only leading to more pregnancies, while conservatives tend to blame the ever more permissive social climate.

Teenage abortion rates have been falling for years and are not believed to be a major factor in the birth trends. “The decline resulted from less sex and more contraception,” Ms. Brown said. “So the new trend must involve some combination of more sex and less contraception.”

The new report also found that the share of births to unmarried women of all ages reached a record high of 40 percent of all births in 2007, the most recent data available. This continued a marked trend upward in unwed births since 2002.

The growth has mainly been fueled by increases among adult women, Ms. Ventura said. Racial and ethnic differences remain large: 28 percent of white babies were born to unmarried mothers in 2007, compared with 51 percent of Hispanic babies and 72 percent of black babies. The shares of births to unwed mothers among whites and Hispanics have climbed faster than the share among blacks, but from lower starting points.

In yet another record high, the share of deliveries by Caesarean section reached 32 percent in 2007, up 2 percent from 2006. Experts have repeatedly said some C-sections are not medically necessary and impose excess costs, but the rate has steadily climbed, from 21 percent in 1996.

’07 U.S. Births Break Baby Boom Record, NYT, 19.3.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/19/health/19birth.html