The Visual Du Jour – The World: Urban and Crowded

At least, based on this graphic:

With the exception of the city-states (Monaco, Hong Kong), it is rather clear that population density in the selected countries can be extreme in urban areas.

One needs then to ask the reasons for such rapid and massive urbanization (which leads to Mike Davis’s Planet of Slums) as well as its consequences. How do cities cope, in term of infrastructure and urban development, with such increase in their population and such high densities? Often, not very well and one can see the ecological nightmares in shanty towns and other poverty-inflicted areas.

The question of the global urban poor is an essential one for development policies.

The Visual Du Jour – Foreign-Borns: Then and Now

Check out this great infographic from The Census Bureau on migration:

Foreign Born infographic image

[Source: U.S. Census Bureau]

There is a lot that is interesting here. First of all, the percentage of US population that is foreign-born is lower now than it was in the 19th century so, even though the foreign-born population is larger in numbers, because the US population has also grown larger, that percentage has varied in a different direction than the raw numbers.

What is not surprising is the shift in countries / regions of origin. The 19th century was the time of European migration while the more recent trends have shifted to Central America and Asia. That migrating population is also younger and distributed more widely across the US rather than concentrated on the coastal areas.

[As a side note: thanks to the Census for providing full embedding code for this infographic.]

Who Could Have Guessed? Birth Control Edition

Who could indeed have guessed that policy decision, dumb ones at that, would have real consequences?

“When state lawmakers passed a two-year budget in 2011 that moved $73 million from family planning services to other programs, the goal was largely political: halt the flow of taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood clinics.

Now they are facing the policy implications — and, in some cases, reconsidering.

The latest Health and Human Services Commission projections being circulated among Texas lawmakers indicate that during the 2014-15 biennium, poor women will deliver an estimated 23,760 more babies than they would have, as a result of their reduced access to state-subsidized birth control. The additional cost to taxpayers is expected to be as much as $273 million — $103 million to $108 million to the state’s general revenue budget alone — and the bulk of it is the cost of caring for those infants under Medicaid.”

I don’t see what the big problem is. These conservatives have been complaining for years that between contraception and abortion, this country was not producing enough Epsilons to do the worst jobs of society and that therefore, those had to be done by *gasp* brown people. Heck, even today, Nick Kristof is telling us that, because of social benefits, not enough poor people are accepting to become cannon fodder.

Of course, it has to do with these legislators’ obsession with controlling women’s reproductive and sexual practices. But I cannot be the only one who remembers what happened when Romanian autocrat Nicolae Ceausescu decided to ban birth control and abortions in order to get an army of workers for the greater good of the motherland. If you don’t, then go watch the documentary Children Underground for the disastrous results of that brilliant policy:

Planet of Geezers – Better Than Soylent Green or Logan’s Run

Danny Dorling is optimistic on global ageing:

“So what will a stable and older population look like? Our best clues are those societies that have already made the transition: look at Japan over the past couple of decades. Life expectancy will be very high and, barring years of natural disaster, should be expected to continue to slowly rise. Couples will on average have fewer than two children, so the population will slowly decline in size. There will be less overcrowding as this occurs. Transport will be largely publicly provided, and a large majority of the population will live in cities. Tokyo shows that it is possible for 30 million people to live in close proximity and relative harmony.

There are other models in Asia to consider as well. In Hong Kong and Macau fertility rates may be even lower than in Japan. Across the megacities of mainland China there are schemes in place to adapt cities to work without private cars and, since 2009, according to a Washington thinktank China has been leading the world in clean energy investments. China is preparing for the demographic transition and a future in which many groups of grandparents only have one grandchild between the four of them.

Across almost all of Europe, other than in the UK, population numbers are either in decline, or the slow population growth which exists is decelerating. In Germany and Italy numbers have been falling for some time. Ageing is accelerating as a result. When this is badly managed, it results in the young deserting rural areas too quickly, for the lure of bright lights and more young people.

Where ageing is managed well, people continue to mix.


And a growing number of elderly people provides more potential carers for the dwindling numbers of children in the world, the children who their children give birth to. This is part of the reason why 12,000 fewer children under the age of five died daily in 2010 than in 1990 – despite there being more children at risk, despite a billion still going hungry. Children in poor countries with surviving grandmothers nearby are far more likely to survive childhood themselves. As yet the benefits of grandfathers have to be proven, but hopefully they soon will.

Finally, what of countries like Britain and the United States that continue to try to put off ageing through relatively high rates of fertility and in-migration of young people? It is most likely that people continue to be drawn into these two places because so many have English as a second language, and there is a surfeit of low paid jobs and other opportunities at the bottom of the economic scale. Delayed childbirth due to middle class women having to compete more for work for longer in these two more unequal affluent economies may have also played a part, but even here there is evidence that current demographics may help.


Over half the couples in the world are having fewer than two children each. This is partly because almost everywhere infant mortality is falling, globally faster today than at any time in human history. It is when this happens that people almost everywhere become brave enough to limit their families to an average of two or fewer children and so our average age increases rapidly.

For a while in the rich world we need not age as quickly as we otherwise might. If more young migrants moved towards where the global elderly are concentrated, in our rich countries, this would slow down population growth and enhance global ageing as people quickly assimilate to the fertility rates of the places they move to. The future is bright; the future is grey, urban, caring, low-growth and green. We just have to get there.”

Emphasis mine.

The immigration part is guaranteed to freak out the nationalist crowd but there is no other choice.

The Visual Du Jour – Honey Boo Boo Syndrome?

[I will cop to a shamefully link-baiting title, but it is this category of people that is under discussion and affected by this trend, no? FSM knows much is made of their unhealthy lifestyle for our entertainment and our feeling of smug superiority.]

So, this trend seems to disturb the New York Times, after all, it is not good news to record a lowering life expectancy, especially in a rich country:

As the article states:

“The reasons for the decline remain unclear, but researchers offered possible explanations, including a spike in prescription drug overdoses among young whites, higher rates of smoking among less educated white women, rising obesity, and a steady increase in the number of the least educated Americans who lack health insurance.


The five-year decline for white women rivals the catastrophic seven-year drop for Russian men in the years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, said Michael Marmot, director of the Institute of Health Equity in London.

The decline among the least educated non-Hispanic whites, who make up a shrinking share of the population, widened an already troubling gap. The latest estimate shows life expectancy for white women without a high school diploma was 73.5 years, compared with 83.9 years for white women with a college degree or more. For white men, the gap was even bigger: 67.5 years for the least educated white men compared with 80.4 for those with a college degree or better.

The dropping life expectancies have helped weigh down the United States in international life expectancy rankings, particularly for women. In 2010, American women fell to 41st place, down from 14th place in 1985, in the United Nations rankings.”


The Visual Du Jour – “What?! I’m Not Doing Anything!”

So, the National Geographic regularly publishes the Greendex (Green Index) with 19 countries, ranking them in terms of low Greendex (the “bad” countries) or high Greendex (the “good” countries):

“This is the fourth year National Geographic has partnered with GlobeScan to develop an international research approach to measure and monitor consumer progress toward environmentally sustainable consumption. The key objectives of this unique consumer tracking survey are to provide regular quantitative measures of consumer behavior and to promote sustainable consumption.

Why? We want to inspire action both among the millions that the National Geographic brand touches worldwide and among others who will hear about this study. A chief component of this effort is giving people a better idea of how consumers in different countries are doing in taking action to preserve our planet by tracking, reporting, and promoting environmentally sustainable consumption and citizen behavior.

This quantitative consumer study of 17,000 consumers in a total of 17 countries (14 in 2008) asked about such behavior as energy use and conservation, transportation choices, food sources, the relative use of green products versus conventional products, attitudes toward the environment and sustainability, and knowledge of environmental issues. A group of international experts helped us determine the behaviors that were most critical to investigate.”

The results?

Obviously, the main issue is the number of countries not surveyed, especially in Africa and the Middle East. These are two big regions to be ignored.

At the same time, it is not surprising to find that core countries rank lower on the Greendex. Our consumption practices are certainly far from green.

Equally interesting though is this:

And on this the article notes a twisted little logic at work:

“The study also demonstrates the perverse logic of sustainable thinking: “People in countries that were the least likely to make sustainable choices … were also more likely to feel like they could have a postive [sic] impact on the environment. People in developing countries, while more likely to report practicing sustainable behaviors, also said that they didn’t feel like individuals could do much to affect the environment””

The Visual Du Jour – Urban Futures

Via the Guardian, this beautiful and ginormous graphic projecting urban populations and megacities (click on image for full view):

As the article notes:

“Chengdu made the headlines in Britain late last year when it exported two pandas to Scotland, and it is developing a reputation as the centre of Sichuan’s prized cuisine. But few in the west have paid much attention to the astonishing rise of Chengdu, despite a population (including its rural hinterland) of more than 14 million and its evident economic power and growing sense of self-confidence. Few have heard much either of cities like Ghaziabad, Surat or Faridabad in India, or of Toluca in Mexico, Palembang in Indonesia or Chittagong, the Bangladeshi port. Or of Beihai, another Chinese city on the northern coast. But this is likely to change. Each of these cities is among the fastest-growing settlements in the world. Their cumulative growth is set to usher in a new era of city living, changing the face of the planet. Beihai, which already has 1.3 million inhabitants, is set to double its population in seven years. The municipality of Chengdu will reach 20 million. Ghaziabad, now itself part of the urban sprawl of the Indian capital Delhi, is already home to nearly four million people.

Crucially, though experts estimate that the number of megacities of more than 10 million inhabitants will double over the next 10 to 20 years, it is these less well-known cities, particularly in south and east Asia, that will see the biggest growth. Predicting what the new era will bring is taxing economists, senior businessmen, security experts and strategists across the world.

Optimists see a new network of powerful, stable and prosperous city states, each bigger than many small countries, where the benefits of urban living, the relative ease of delivering basic services compared to rural zones and new civic identities combine to raise living standards for billions. Pessimists see the opposite: a dystopic future where huge numbers of people fight over scarce resources in sprawling, divided, anarchic “non-communities” ravaged by disease and violence.

Nowhere is this more evident than in India, where years of underinvestment, chaotic development and rapid population growth have combined with poor governance and outdated financial systems to threaten an urban disaster.”

Now go read Saskia Sassen’s The Global City and Mike Davis’s Planet of Slums. The future will be urban.

Fear of A Brown / Asian Planet

I am somewhat convinced that parts of the fear of globalization in certain circles have to do with the fear of the loss of white people privilege and dominance worldwide.

For instance:

“For the first time, non-white people make up the majority of Brazil’s population, according to preliminary results of the 2010 census.

Out of around 191m Brazilians, 91 million identified themselves as white, 82m as mixed race and 15m as black.

Whites fell from 53.7% of the population in 2000 to 47.7% last year.

The once-a-decade census showed rising social indicators across Brazil as a result of economic growth, but also highlighted enduring inequalities.

The census was conducted by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE).

“It is the first time a demographic census has found the white population to be below 50%” it said in its report.

The number of people identifying as black rose from 6.2% to 7.6%, while the number saying they were of mixed race rose from 38.5% to 43.1%.

Among minority groups, 2m Brazilians identified themselves as Asian, and 817,000 as indigenous.”

And this:

It is not surprising that we are talking about BRIC countries here, the country block that is on the rise. As the article notes:

“MORE Chinese people live outside mainland China than French people live in France, with some to be found in almost every country. Some 22m ethnic Indians are scattered across every continent. Diasporas have been a part of the world for millennia. But today their size (if migrants were a nation, they would be the world’s fifth-largest) and the ease of staying in touch with those at home are making them matter much more. No other social networks offer the same global reach—and shrewd firms are taking notice. Our map highlights the world’s top 20 destinations for Chinese and Indian migrants.”

On a global scale, things look like this:

And, of course, for full comic effect, there is this:

This perfectly illustrates white anxieties at being (economically) dominated by non-white people (I am old enough to remember the same type of fears when our economies got flooded with Japanese consumer goods in the 1980s).

Globalization was fun when it meant exploiting non-white people out of sight and out of mind, busting unions here, and getting cheap goods for our troubles. But the with the crisis, the now self-imposed structural adjustment policies, the challenges posed by BRIC countries, heck, the EU asking China for help, it’s no fun anymore.

The Visual Du Jour – Hey! Where’d Everybody Go?

Via Urban Demographics:

According to the post, there are seven drivers to population growth:

  1. Higher incomes
  2. January temperature
  3. Proximity to ports
  4. Higher density level (not too high)
  5. Education level
  6. Low manufacturing employment
  7. Limits to housing supply

See here also:

“1. Population growth was much higher in counties with higher incomes as of 2000. Americans unsurprisingly moved to areas that deliver higher wages.

2. January temperature continues to be a strong predictor of population growth. This fact reflects both a natural affinity for warmth, and also the tendency of many Sunbelt areas to have fewer barriers to building.

3. Population growth was faster near ports. While 19th century Americans populated the American hinterland, 21st century Americans are moving to the country’s periphery.

4. People are moving to dense areas, but not the densest areas. Despite the decline in transportation costs, people are still disproportionately moving to places that had higher density levels as of 2000, responding to the enormous productivity advantages associated with proximity.

5. The education level of a county as of 2000 strongly predicts population growth over the last decade. Again, this trend reflects the tendency of skilled areas to generate far higher incomes.

6. Manufacturing employment predicts lower population growth. While manufacturing has predicted urban decline for decades, the connection between manufacturing and lower levels of growth across all U.S. counties is a more recent phenomenon.

7. Limits to housing supply that come from either nature or regulation will also limit population growth. The most expensive areas have not grown all that much and the areas that have grown most demonstrably are not that expensive.”

You Won’t Have The Mexicans to Kick Around Anymore

Because, well…

As the article notes:

“The extraordinary Mexican migration that delivered millions of illegal immigrants to the United States over the past 30 years has sputtered to a trickle, and research points to a surprising cause: unheralded changes in Mexico that have made staying home more attractive.

A growing body of evidence suggests that a mix of developments — expanding economic and educational opportunities, rising border crime and shrinking families — are suppressing illegal traffic as much as economic slowdowns or immigrant crackdowns in the United States.


Douglas S. Massey, co-director of the Mexican Migration Project at Princeton, an extensive, long-term survey in Mexican emigration hubs, said his research showed that interest in heading to the United States for the first time had fallen to its lowest level since at least the 1950s. “No one wants to hear it, but the flow has already stopped,” Mr. Massey said, referring to illegal traffic. “For the first time in 60 years, the net traffic has gone to zero and is probably a little bit negative.”

The decline in illegal immigration, from a country responsible for roughly 6 of every 10 illegal immigrants in the United States, is stark. The Mexican census recently discovered four million more people in Mexico than had been projected, which officials attributed to a sharp decline in emigration.

American census figures analyzed by the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center also show that the illegal Mexican population in the United States has shrunk and that fewer than 100,000 illegal border-crossers and visa-violators from Mexico settled in the United States in 2010, down from about 525,000 annually from 2000 to 2004. Although some advocates for more limited immigration argue that the Pew studies offer estimates that do not include short-term migrants, most experts agree that far fewer illegal immigrants have been arriving in recent years.

The question is why. Experts and American politicians from both parties have generally looked inward, arguing about the success or failure of the buildup of border enforcement and tougher laws limiting illegal immigrants’ rights — like those recently passed in Alabama and Arizona. Deportations have reached record highs as total border apprehensions and apprehensions of Mexicans have fallen by more than 70 percent since 2000.

But Mexican immigration has always been defined by both the push (from Mexico) and the pull (of the United States). The decision to leave home involves a comparison, a wrenching cost-benefit analysis, and just as a Mexican baby boom and economic crises kicked off the emigration waves in the 1980s and ’90s, research now shows that the easing of demographic and economic pressures is helping keep departures in check.

In simple terms, Mexican families are smaller than they had once been. The pool of likely migrants is shrinking. Despite the dominance of the Roman Catholic Church in Mexico, birth control efforts have pushed down the fertility rate to about 2 children per woman from 6.8 in 1970, according to government figures. So while Mexico added about one million new potential job seekers annually in the 1990s, since 2007 that figure has fallen to an average of 800,000, according to government birth records. By 2030, it is expected to drop to 300,000.”

It will be interesting to see the short and middle-term impact of having more jobseekers in Mexico, and far fewer immigrants in the US, especially in the economic sectors where they are traditionally heavily represented.

The Visual Du Jour – Refugees

Via the Guardian, do go check out this interactive map.

Where refugees come from:

Refugee statistics mapped

Where they go:

Refugee statistics mapped 2

It is often assumed that refugees come from the periphery and migrate to the core. In reality, of the roughly 43 million refugees, 27 million are internally displaced persons (a rising number). And the number one place for refugees is Afghanistan. A large number of refugees are usually located in countries neighboring their country of origin, meaning, a lot of refugees move from the periphery to the periphery.

The Visual Du Jour – Better Life Index

Now this is a great interactive graph combining a set of indicators on quality of life:

Each flower represents a country. Each petal is an indicator and the size of the petal reflects how well or how poorly each country is doing on the indicator.



Work-Life balance:

Go ahead, go play with the data. It’s amazing.