Estimate that 8.3% of Americans changed racial or ethnic identity between the 2000 and 2010 Census

A new study provides a reminder of the fluidity of racial and ethnic identities as a number of Americans reported different identities on the 2000 and 2010 Census:

The report showed that 1 in 16 people — or approximately 9.8 million of 162 million — who responded to both the 2000 and 2010 censuses gave different answers when it came to race and ethnicity.If extrapolated across the entire population, that would mean that 8.3 percent of people in the United States would have made a change in their racial or ethnic identity in that decade, according to the paper authored by Sonya Rastogi, Leticia E. Fernandez, James M. Noon and Sharon R. Ennis of the U.S. Census Bureau and Carolyn A. Liebler of the University of Minnesota.

The largest change was from Hispanic (some other race) to Hispanic white, with 2.38 million people making that change on their census forms. But the next greatest change was from Hispanic white to Hispanic (some other race), with 1.2 million people deciding that designation fit them better. Put together, these two changes make up more than a third (37 percent) of the race/ethnicity changes in the report…

The groups most likely to change were people who were children and/or living in the West in 2000. That region also had a higher rate of interracial marriage, and multiple race reporting, the report said. The census defines the West as being Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

The most stable groups were single-race, non-Hispanic whites, blacks and Asians, with those who checked those boxes staying with them in both censuses. People were also consistent with their Hispanic/non-Hispanic choices.

Those who make strong predictions about the demography of the United States in the coming decades have to contend with changes like this. It isn’t as easy as suggesting that the proportion of whites will continue to decline. What if more Hispanics see themselves as white? White as a category changed quite a bit in the past to include new immigrant groups and will likely continue to change in the future. All of this introduces uncertainty in thinking about how this could play out with contemporary debates, like with immigration.

It would also be interesting to compare the responses provided to the Census versus an everyday understanding of one’s racial and/or ethnic identity. The Census categories have their own history and may not always match lived realities.

The continued rise of the Sunbelt: Florida’s population to pass New York’s

One of the largest demographic shifts in American history continues: Florida’s population will soon surpass that of New York.

When the 2013 census results are revealed on Monday, Florida is expected to edge out New York as the third most populous state. The population gap between New York and Florida has been closing quickly over the past few years, but the ranking swap could still signify changes ahead for both states.

According to The New York Times, the new census figures reflect the trend of migrants born outside the U.S. making their way toward sunnier states, like California, Texas — the top two most populous states — and Florida. The Times reports that roughly 50,000 New Yorkers move to Florida each year, compared with only 25,000 Floridians who come to New York. Though New York state’s population is still growing, it is far outpaced by Florida growth. And upstate New York is largely economically stagnant, while cities like Tampa and Jacksonville flourish…

A larger population can dictate a state’s future, in addition to simply reflecting its current circumstance. It means a larger chunk of the federal government’s money and more political representation. The New York Times explains:

The changing population pattern could have many practical and political implications, including diminished congressional delegations, a setback New York already suffered in 2010 — the year of the last decennial census count — when the state lost two districts, while Florida gained two seats. Census data also inform how billions of dollars in federal funding and grants are divvied up among the states, for things like highway planning and construction, public aid for housing and health care and education programs.

It is interesting to see the attention these estimates are getting. This population shift to the Sunbelt has been happening for decades now, spurred on by being closer to immigration sources (the 1965 Immigration Act helped increase immigration from Mexico and Latin America), warmer weather, more affordable housing, and economic growth. But, I suspect there are some other reasons in particular to point out the closeness in population of New York and Florida:

1. New York, particularly New York City, is seen as an American center of power (economic, political, cultural, social). Florida is seen as a place where people go on vacation or to retire. Yet, the population shift suggests Florida might be able to grow in power and influence while a relative population decline suggests New York has already peaked.

2. A conservative-liberal divide between the two states. For example, the New York Times article cited above mentions the stand your ground law in Florida as well as the implications for Congress. The horrors that might ensue if the people of Florida get to help dictate policy for the people of New York City…

3. It is more difficult to understand larger population trends without having these kinds of comparisons. In other words, we could say the Sunbelt population has grown 15% over 10 years while the population in the Northeast has grown 4% over the same period but these are big areas and vague numbers. Being able to pit two states against each other makes the data more understandable and produces a better news story.

Hispanics will be largest group in California by 2020

New demographic projections for California suggest Hispanics will pass whites to be the largest group by 2020:

Population projections released Thursday by the state Department of Finance show that Hispanics will become the dominant ethnic group in California for the first time.

By 2020, demographers say Hispanics will be about 41 percent of California’s population, with whites less than 37 percent.

The white population will fall to about 30 percent by 2060 from the current 39 percent, affecting politics and public policy in the nation’s most populous state. Whites currently lack a majority in only Hawaii and New Mexico.

It will be worth watching to see what changes this brings to California’s society, economy, and politics. Another issue to consider is whether the trend in California will extend to other states or whether California is uniquely positioned to experience this sort of demographic change. While we have been reading about these projected demographic changes in California for years, I don’t recall seeing similar projections for states like Texas. This, of course, could suggest demographic change is taking place more slowly in other states.

Call for more social science modeling for Social Security

An op-ed in the New York Times explains how poorly financial forecasts for Social Security are made and suggests social scientists can help:

Remarkably, since Social Security was created in 1935, the government’s forecasting methods have barely changed, even as a revolution in big data and statistics has transformed everything from baseball to retailing.

This omission can be explained by the fact that the Office of the Chief Actuary, the branch of the Social Security Administration that is responsible for the forecasts, is almost exclusively composed of, well, actuaries — without any serious representation of statisticians or social science methodologists. While these actuaries are highly responsible and careful and do excellent work curating and describing the data that go into the forecasts, their job is not to make statistical predictions. Yet the agency badly needs such expertise.

With considerable help from the actuaries and other officials at the Social Security Administration, we unearthed how the agency makes mortality forecasts and uses them to predict the program’s solvency. We learned that the methods are antiquated, subjective and needlessly complicated — and, as a result, are prone to error and to potential interference from political appointees. This may explain why the agency’s forecasts have, at times, changed significantly from year to year, even when there was little change in the underlying data.

We have made our methods, calculations and software available online at j.mp/SSecurity so that others can replicate or improve our forecasts. The implications of our findings go beyond social science. As the wave of retirement by the baby boomers continues, doing nothing to shore up Social Security’s solvency is irresponsible. If the amount of money coming in through payroll taxes does not increase and if the amount of money going out as benefits remains the same, the trust funds will become insolvent less than 20 years from now.

Sociologists seem to be looking for ways to get involved in major policy issues so perhaps this is one way to do that. It is also interesting to note this op-ed is based on a 2012 article in Demography titled “Statistical Security for Social Security.” Not too many articles can make such a claim…

Also, I’m sure this doesn’t inspire confidence among some for the government’s ability to keep track of all of its data. Does the federal government have the ability to hire and train the kind of people it needs? Can it compete with the private sector or political campaigns (think of what the lauded 2012 Obama campaign big data workers might be able to do)?

“The era of great Mexican migration is probably over”

A long profile of a Mexican family who moved to Chicago and then recently moved back to Mexico contains some consequential big-picture information on migration: the flood of Mexican immigrants into the United States in recent decades is “probably over.”

With opportunities limited by a still-struggling economy, the historic wave of Mexican immigration appears to have reversed after decades of growth that transformed the U.S., according to the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonprofit research group.

With the change of direction that may again reshape communities in both countries, about 1.4 million Mexican immigrants in the U.S. returned home from 2005 to 2010, most voluntarily, the center reported last spring. That number, which also includes deportations, is roughly double the number of Mexicans who left the U.S. between 1995 and 2000.

“I believe the era of great Mexican migration is probably over,” said Allert Brown-Gort, a fellow at Notre Dame University’s Kellogg Institute for International Studies who has written extensively about Latin American immigration in the Midwest.

With jobs lacking, “slowly but surely your options start getting cut down,” Brown-Gort said. “What’s going to happen in Chicago if these workers go back, to the extent that they’re younger workers, is that it will be taking a wedge out of certain areas of the economy.”

This is a trend that has long-term implications for the United States. From the mid-1960s until the late 2000s, the United States experienced a large influx of immigrants. One way to measure this is to look at the foreign-born population in the United States which increased from 9.6 million in 1970 (4.7% of the total population) to almost 40 million in 2010 (12.9% of the total population). This flood of immigrants from Mexico and other countries led to opportunities, like new workers and population growth in cities and states that would not have had much otherwise, and new concerns. As suggested, we may look back at recent decades and see it as “the era of great Mexican migration.” Not having as many immigrants in the coming years will certainly lead to changes.

This also reminds me of the final pages of a recent book I just read: The Revenge of Geography by Robert Kaplan. After spending most of the book looking at pivotal regions of the world where a variety of civilizations and cultures have and will meet (Eastern Europe, the steppes of Russia, central China, northern India, Iran, etc.), Kaplan turns to the United States which has generally avoided such interaction by virtue of being across two oceans. Yet, Kaplan suggests while the United States has spent much of recent decades working on foreign policy concerns in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, it should pay more attention to its relationship with Mexico. In particular, Kaplan argues the American Southwest and northern Mexico could have a very productive relationship moving forward as they share a number of economic, social, and cultural concerns.

Lorton, Virginia illustrates the growing diversity across the US

The Washington Post takes a closer look at Lorton, Virginia, recently named as one of the most diverse communities in the United States, and discusses how Lorton illustrates broader trends:

Non-whites no longer stick out in a crowd. Lorton is one of the most diverse places in the entire country, according to a new study of census data by two sociologists from Pennsylvania State University. The 19,000 residents are roughly a third white and a third black, and there are significant numbers of Asians, Hispanics and multiracial residents…

What’s happened in Lorton is typical of a demographic sea change that is transforming the Washington area and much of the country. Non-Hispanic whites are a minority in a growing number of metropolitan areas, including Washington. Predominantly white neighborhoods are a relic of the past. New developments that appeal to young families are among the most diverse, drawing Hispanics and Asians who, on average, are much younger than the whites.

Although metropolitan areas are the most diverse, small towns and the countryside are also attracting more minorities. The Penn State researchers found that whites are the predominant group in barely one-third of all places of 1,000 residents or more, compared with two-thirds in 1980.

“Racial and ethnic diversity is no longer a vicarious experience for Americans,” said Barrett A. Lee, one of the study’s authors. “It used to be something that was recognized and debated at the national level. But now even residents of small towns and rural areas are coming face to face with people of different races or ethnicity in their daily lives, not just on the evening news.”

This is part of everyday life in many communities across the United States.

Stark demographic figures for Japan

A post at New Geography lays out several population figures for Japan:

In 2007, Japan’s population reached a tipping point. It was the first year in its history (excluding 1945) where the number of deaths exceeded the number of births. In 2007 there were 2,000 more deaths than births. In 2011 that figure rose to approximately 204,000, and it’s a figure that is accelerating. Indeed, at 23.1%, Japan has the highest proportion of over-65s in the world, and at 13.2%, the world’s lowest proportion of under 14s. Japan’s population peaked at 127.7 million in 2007, and is forecast to shrink to a mere 47 million by 2100.

While the topic of declining fertility rates in many industrialized nations has been discussed for a while now, I’m still not sure we are prepared to deal with the idea of declining populations. Particularly in the United States, we associate population increases with progress. An example: cities that lose population are seen as doing something wrong while cities that are growing are successes. A similar mindset exists with religious congregations. Japan is clearly an advanced nation yet what happens if it loses more than half of its population in the period of a century? And what happens if this is done by choice? Throughout human history, population loss is typically tied to factors like disease, ecological conditions, and war, not by a populace who isn’t interested in having more children.

A thought: what if we end up in a Children of Men type world that is brought about because humans simply don’t want to have children anymore?