Demographic change: more minority birth than whites

A number of news outlets reported last week on another marker of demographic change in America: there are now more minority babies born than white babies.

“This is an important landmark,” said Roderick Harrison, a former chief of racial statistics at the Census Bureau who is now a sociologist at Howard University. “This generation is growing up much more accustomed to diversity than its elders.”…

As a whole, the nation’s minority population continues to rise, following a higher-than-expected Hispanic count in the 2010 census. Minorities increased 1.9 percent to 114.1 million, or 36.6 percent of the total U.S. population, lifted by prior waves of immigration that brought in young families and boosted the number of Hispanic women in their prime childbearing years…

Minorities made up roughly 2.02 million, or 50.4 percent of U.S. births in the 12-month period ending July 2011. That compares with 37 percent in 1990…

Births actually have been declining for both whites and minorities as many women postponed having children during the economic slump. But the drop since 2008 has been larger for whites, who have a median age of 42. The number of white births fell by 11.4 percent, compared with 3.2 percent for minorities, according to Kenneth Johnson, a sociologist at the University of New Hampshire.

I think the last paragraph above is particularly interesting. The story isn’t just that there is a large minority and immigrant population that is having lots of children. Rather, whites and minorities are having fewer children but whites particularly have chosen to have fewer children. How much is this tied to more American living alone?

Of course, it will take some time for all of this to move through the generations. For example, it will be roughly two decades before you have more minorities than whites turning 18 and exercising this at the polls.

New Census figures: population 80.7% urban, most dense cities in the West

The US Census Bureau released Monday some figures about cities in America. Here are the updated 2010 statistics about urbanization:

 The nation’s urban population increased by 12.1 percent from 2000 to 2010, outpacing the nation’s overall growth rate of 9.7 percent for the same period, according to the U.S. Census Bureau…
Urban areas — defined as densely developed residential, commercial and other nonresidential areas — now account for 80.7 percent of the U.S. population, up from 79.0 percent in 2000. Although the rural population — the population in any areas outside of those classified as “urban” — grew by a modest amount from 2000 to 2010, it continued to decline as a percentage of the national population.

Translation: the proportion of Americans living in urban areas didn’t change very much over the last 10 years. In comparison, the urban population jumped 6% from 1970 to 1980, 3% from 1980 to 1990, and 3% from 1990 to 2000 (see figures on pg. 33 of this Census document). Does this mean we are nearing a plateau in terms of the proportion of Americans living in urban areas?

And here are the new figures for the densest metropolitan areas:

The nation’s most densely populated urbanized area is Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, Calif., with nearly 7,000 people per square mile. The San Francisco-Oakland, Calif., area is the second most densely populated at 6,266 people per square mile, followed by San Jose, Calif. (5,820 people per square mile) and Delano, Calif. (5,483 people per square mile). The New York-Newark, N.J., area is fifth, with an overall density of 5,319 people per square mile…
Of the 10 most densely populated urbanized areas, nine are in the West, with seven of those in California. Urbanized areas in the U.S., taken together, had an overall population density of 2,534 people per square mile.

These new figures continue to support one of the trick questions about cities: which city is the most dense? A common answer is New York City because of Manhattan but the densest is actually Los Angeles. Of course, some of this has to do with Southern and Western cities having more space because of the drying up of annexation opportunities in Midwestern and Northeastern cities in the early 1900s.

While these are very interesting figures, where is the percentage of Americans who live in suburbs?

Latino population growth slows in some US cities

While sociologists and demographers have watched with interest as the Latino population grows in the United States, new data suggests the rate of that growth has slowed in some cities in recent years:

But with the economic downturn that began in 2007, the meltdown of the housing market and a slowdown of new foreign arrivals, many of these same communities have seen the Latino growth rates flatten out.

Of 107 metro areas where the number of Latinos doubled between 2000 and 2010, almost all showed a slowdown in population growth by the end of the decade, according to William Frey, a Brookings Institution demographer who analyzed recently updated figures from the Census Bureau…

Los Angeles, New York and other major metropolitan areas that have long served as gateways and hubs for immigrants still notched small upticks in Latino growth rates at the end of the decade. In fact, the Latino population in the Los Angeles area, which was flat in 2006 at the peak of the housing market nationally, expanded by 1.5% in 2010. New York showed a similar pattern; its Latino growth slowed in the middle of the decade but was up by 2.4% in 2010.

The reason is that many Latinos who had left the big metropolitan areas to find jobs and cheaper housing in smaller cities earlier in the decade returned to those big cities during the tough economic times, Frey said.

The implication here is that economic pressures have slowed these growth rates. A few other thoughts:

1. I’m surprised there are no figures about the overall migration rate into the United States in recent years. Does that factor into this?

2. The Latino population hasn’t declined in these cities but rather has grown as smaller rates. Was the expectation that the growth rate would continue at such a high rate? In other words, is this the economy or also an inevitable/predicted slowdown?

3. Frey argues that cities are still important for minorities. At the same time, we have seen more research in recent years that suggests more minorities and immigrants are moving to the suburbs. So, there are still sizable minority populations in cities that anchor the minority populations even as there is more opportunity and movement to the suburbs?

Changes to American housing going to come from Hispanics and echo boomers?

At a recent conference, several experts talked about how two demographic groups are influential for American housing trends in the coming years:

Most of the country’s population growth is happening in minority populations – the same groups hit the hardest by the housing downturn in terms of lost household wealth and declines in homeownership rates.

“That is where housing issues will be addressed or not addressed,” demographer Steve Murdock of Rice University said. “Hispanics are the key to this growth.”

And echo boomers – members of another group hit hard by the recession as they’ve struggled to start careers – will be the generation driving the next wave of household formation.

“In the next 10 years, the echo boomers are almost the entire story,” said Rolf Pendall, director of the Urban Institute’s Metropolitan Housing & Communities Policy Center…

Cisneros said a Hispanic affinity for owning a home may help moderate some of the drive toward renting. “Somewhere deep in our DNA as Latinos is homeownership,” Cisneros said.

Baby boomers, the group that’s long driven trends, still is doing so, but instead of creating McMansions, they will start to influence building of nursing homes.

I assume Cisneros, former secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Bill Clinton, means that Latinos have a cultural affinity for homeownership. Thus far, this has not happened so much in the United States: for example, in 2008 the homeownership rate for Latinos was 48.9% and 47.5% for blacks compared to 74.9%. However, in Mexico, the homeownership rate is between 80-90% (2004 figures here, 1999 figures here).

Add this to suggestions from some that Generation Y also wants new kinds of housing (previous posts here, here, and here) and it looks like there might be quite a bit of change in the American housing market in the future. Our current system isn’t too different in houses and layout than it was decades ago.

Verdict: very limited baby boom in Chicago due to Feb 2011 snowstorm

It is a common story that natural disasters lead to baby booms as residents have little else to do except spend “quality time together” (a perhaps unintentional euphemism from the story cited in the next sentence). But the academic research on the topic isn’t so clear – here is a quick review from Friday’s front page story in the Chicago Tribune:

Udry’s [negative] finding [regarding a lengthy 1970 New York City blackout] is frequently viewed as the final word in “disaster babies” — the popular debunking website cites it in declaring the phenomenon a myth — but more contemporary research suggests there might be something to the idea.

A 2005 study of birth rates following the Oklahoma City bombing looked at 10 years of data and found that the counties closest to the site had indeed experienced higher than expected numbers of births after the attack…

But perhaps the most intriguing evidence supporting the idea of disaster babies was published last year by Brigham Young University economist Richard Evans. He and his colleagues looked at hurricane-prone counties on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and compared birth rates that came nine months after the announcement of impending storms.

They found that while the rates went up after the mildest expected disruption (a tropical storm watch) they went down after the most serious (a hurricane warning)…

If Evans is right that the blizzard would only produce a 2% increase in the birth rate, this is not a huge jump. In fact, Evans is cited later in the story saying that this would only be a difference of a “few dozen births” throughout the Chicago region of 8.3 million people. So if there is an effect, it is minimal. But urban legends have lives of their own – another example is the recurring issue of tainted Halloween candy that sociologist Joel Best gamely tries to stamp out.

What about other data regarding the February blizzard like a rise in heart attacks or back injuries or other medical traumas? I can think we can be pretty sure that there was a lot of shoveling that took place.

Even with a small drive, it took quite a while to clear all that snow.

Claim: 2012 election will be decided by “Walmart Moms”

Each new election cycle seems to bring about claims about a previously underappreciated demographic group that candidates need to pay attention to. Several pollsters argue that “Walmart Moms” will help decide the 2012 elections:

From the Hill: “Republican pollster Neil Newhouse and Democratic pollster Margie Omero are going shopping at Walmart. For voters. The pair told attendees at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast this morning that a key demographic in 2012 will be a group of voters they call Walmart Moms. The successors to Soccer Moms and Hockey Moms, Walmart Moms are female voters with children 18 or younger who shop at the discount retailer at least once a month. According to Newhouse and Omero, these women make up 14% of the electorate.”

Laugh at their clothes. Laugh at their fashion faux pas. They’ll see you on Election Day.

I wonder how much these “Walmart Moms” line up with the suburban independent demographic that Joel Kotkin argued has determined the outcome of the last few national elections.

More on what “Walmart Moms” care about when voting:

Walmart Moms are more interested in microeconomic issues such as college affordability than macroeconomic concerns such as the debt ceiling. The literature the pollsters distributed at the breakfast said, “It will be important for candidates to clearly communicate how their policies or ideas will personally impact these women and their households for the better.”

So it is about household economics and basic middle-class consumer items (groceries + college educations). Is there a politician that could effectively link these micro and macroeconomic concerns so that the American public understands the relationship between the two?

h/t Instapundit

Path for sociology PhDs: official demographers

Amidst conversations that graduate programs could provide students more help in pursuing non-academic positions, I was reminded of this career path that sociologists can pursue: demography within the public sector.

Steve Murdock, the former head of the U.S. Census Bureau, will be the keynote speaker at the annual general assembly of the Golden Crescent Regional Planning Commission on Tuesday.

Murdock, now a sociology professor at Rice University, was also the first official state demographer for Texas.

He was named one of the 50 most influential Texans by Texas Business in 1997 and as one of the 25 most influential persons in Texas by Texas Monthly in 2005.

According to Murdock’s CV, he has spent much of his career in government, working at the Texas State Data Center, serving as Texas’ first state demographer, and heading the US Census Bureau in 2008 and 2009. This position also seems to have led to some notoriety. How many states have official demographers?

Between Murdock and his successor at the US Census Bureau, Robert Groves, the Census Bureau seems like a good non-academic place for sociology PhDs to land. I wonder how many current and past employees have sociology backgrounds.

Except more communities to challenge 2010 Census counts

Amidst an economic crisis that has also affected many municipal budgets, expect more communities to appeal the 2010 Census counts:

Cities have two years to contest their counts under the Census Bureau’s appeals process, which began this month…

In recent decades, the peak for challenges was 6,600, or 17 percent of all U.S. jurisdictions, in 1990, when the census missed four million people, including five percent of all blacks and Hispanics.

In 2000, roughly 1,200 jurisdictions, or 3 percent, contested the count. The net change due to census challenges that year was just 2,700 people.

Apart from the challenges, analysts later determined the 2000 census had an overcount of 1.3 million people, due mostly to duplicate counts of more affluent whites with multiple residences. About 4.5 million people were ultimately missed, mostly blacks and Hispanics.

Interestingly, the article suggests that while government dollars are behind these challenges, it is also about the “psychological impact” on civic pride. I wonder who exactly will appeal: St. Louis, Chicago, and a host of other Rust Belt cities lost population and New York City didn’t have the population increase that was expected. Since budgets are tight everywhere, could we even get appeals from places like Houston which experienced sizable growth?

It would also be interesting to hear how exactly the Census Bureau adjusts these figures based on subsequent analyses of overcounts and undercounts. This is a reminder that Census figures are not perfect even as many things, including many social science studies based on population proportions calculated in the Census, are based on these figures. I am not suggesting that the Census figures are wrong but rather that it is a very complicated process that is bound to be tweaked some after the first figures are released.

A stable statistic since 1941: “Americans prefer boys to girls”

Amidst news that families in Asian countries are selecting boys over girls before they are born, Gallup reports that Americans also prefer boys:

Gallup has asked Americans about their preferences for a boy or a girl — using slightly different question wordings over the years — 10 times since 1941. In each instance, the results tilt toward a preference for a boy rather than a girl. The average male child-preference gap across these 10 surveys is 11 percentage points, making this year’s results (a 12-point boy-preference gap) just about average. Gallup found the largest gap in 1947 and 2000 (15 points) and the smallest in a 1990 survey (4 points).

The attitudes of American men drive the overall preference for a boy; in the current poll, conducted June 9-12, men favor a boy over a girl by a 49% to 22% margin. American women do not have a proportionate preference for girls. Instead, women show essentially no preference either way: 31% say they would prefer a boy and 33% would prefer a girl…

The degree to which Americans deliberately attempt to select the gender of their children is unclear. It is significant that 18- to 29-year-old Americans are the most likely of any age group to express a preference for a boy because most babies are born to younger adults. The impact of the differences between men and women in preferences for the sex of their babies is also potentially important. The data from the U.S. suggest that if it were up to mothers to decide the gender of their children, there would be no tilt toward boys. Potential fathers have a clear preference for boys if given a choice, but the precise amount of input males may have into a deliberate gender-selection process is unknown.

This seems to be one of those statistics that is remarkably constant since 1941 even though the relationships between and perceptions of genders has changed. Is this statistic a sign of a lack of progress in the area of gender?

Gallup suggests several traits lead to higher preferences for boys: being male, being younger, having a lower level of education (though income doesn’t matter), and Republican. So why exactly do these traits lead to these preferences? Outside of being younger, one could suggest these traits add up to a “traditionalist” understanding of families where boys are more prized.

Increasing numbers of blacks moving to the suburbs

One of the important shifts revealed in the 2010 Census is the increasing number of minorities in the American suburbs (also see the thoughts of the 2010 Census director here). This is particularly true of blacks who have moved from the city to the suburbs and this raises some concerns about the future of the neighborhoods they are leaving behind:

Taylor’s decision to live outside Chicago makes him part of a shift tracked by the 2010 Census that surprised many demographers and urban planners: He is among hundreds of thousands of blacks who moved away from cities with long histories as centers of African-American life, including Chicago, Oakland, Washington, New Orleans and Detroit…

Chicago’s population fell by 200,418 from 2000 to 2010, and blacks accounted for almost 89% of that drop. Hispanics surpassed blacks as the city’s largest minority group. Meanwhile, Plainfield grew by 204% overall, and its black population soared by more than 2,000%, the fastest rate in the region…

The trend has broad policy implications: As blacks who can afford to live in the suburbs depart, will cities have enough resources to help the low-income blacks left behind? Will the demand for housing be strong enough to support the revitalization of traditionally black inner-city neighborhoods? How will black churches, businesses and cultural institutions be affected? Will traffic congestion worsen because blacks moving to the suburbs keep their jobs in the city?

Roderick Harrison, a sociologist at Howard University in Washington and a former chief of the racial statistics branch of the Census Bureau, says the changes reflect the improving economic status of some African Americans.

Traffic seems to be a lesser issue compared to some of these bigger questions. And these questions are not new: at least since the 1980s, commentators have been asking about what may happen to urban neighborhoods and institutions when middle-class Blacks leave for the suburbs.

We could also ask about how this might change the suburbs. Are we at the point as a society where suburban residents really just care about social class, i.e. being able to buy into the suburbs and maintain a middle-class lifestyle? Or will whites leave suburban neighborhoods when Blacks move in just as they did in urban neighborhoods in the 1950s and 1960s? I wrote earlier about how minorities were fitting into Schaumburg, a noted edge city outside of the Chicago, and a noted historian, Thomas Sugrue, suggested that the move of Blacks to the suburbs in the Detroit region may not be all that positive. I suspect there will be a lot of discussions in suburbs about these changes, often couched in terms of issues like affordable housing (see this example from the wealthy Chicago suburb of Winnetka), property values, and the quality of schools.

It is interesting to note that Plainfield is cited in this particular story: Joliet, Plainfield, Aurora, and the suburban region far southwest of Chicago is a booming area. And if you were curious about the African-American growth in Plainfield, it was 0.8% Black in 2000 (110 out of 13,038) and is roughly 6% Black in 2010 (out of 39,581).