Category Archives: Demographics

The Boys at the Back

From Christina Hoff Sommers:

Boys score as well as or better than girls on most standardized tests, yet they are far less likely to get good grades, take advanced classes or attend college. Why? A study coming out this week in The Journal of Human Resources gives an important answer. Teachers of classes as early as kindergarten factor good behavior into grades — and girls, as a rule, comport themselves far better than boys.

The study’s authors analyzed data from more than 5,800 students from kindergarten through fifth grade and found that boys across all racial groups and in all major subject areas received lower grades than their test scores would have predicted.

The scholars attributed this “misalignment” to differences in “noncognitive skills”: attentiveness, persistence, eagerness to learn, the ability to sit still and work independently. As most parents know, girls tend to develop these skills earlier and more naturally than boys.

No previous study, to my knowledge, has demonstrated that the well-known gender gap in school grades begins so early and is almost entirely attributable to differences in behavior. The researchers found that teachers rated boys as less proficient even when the boys did just as well as the girls on tests of reading, math and science. . .

A few decades ago, when we realized that girls languished behind boys in math and science, we mounted a concerted effort to give them more support, with significant success. Shouldn’t we do the same for boys?. . .

Read it all.

The rise of childless Americans

The future belongs to those who show up.

Where does that leave us today? With one final, scary thought. What if our new reality—the fact that a fifth of Americans no longer bother to have children at all—exerts its own pull on our demographics? There’s some data from Europe and the Far East to suggest that once a critical mass of people choose to remain childless, their example influences young adults and alters their behaviors and expectations. To give you just one example, Germany has had a higher degree of childlessness than America, and for a longer time. In a 2006 survey of fertility aspirations, 23 percent of German men said that having no children was the ideal form of family life. Think about that for a moment. And now think about what it means for a civilization to have a quarter of its men not interested in having any children at all.

It calls to mind a deeply profound point from Christopher Caldwell’s recent profile of Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán. Confronting his country’s demographic crisis, Orbán said:

Demography is the key factor. If you are not able to maintain yourself biologically, how do you expect to maintain yourself economically, politically, and militarily?” he asks. “It’s impossible. The answer of letting people from other countries come in …that could be an economic solution, but it’s not a solution of your real sickness, that you are not able to maintain your own civilization.

The reason we care about fertility numbers and demographics is because this—our civilization—is exactly what’s at stake.

America’s metamorphosis into a welfare state

From Tyler Durden at ZeroHedge:

Still confused why there are those who call America the USSA? Don’t be. As the following animation from the NYT so vividly shows, government benefits across the US have nearly tripled from a modest 7.8% of all personal income in 1969 to a ‘European’ 17.6% in 2009. And this before Obama went to town (as a reminder total debt has risen by over $4 trillion under Obama – a significant portfion of that has gone to fund social welfare)….

Read it all.

Klavan: The tyranny of hip (or the bigotry of cool)

A consideration by Andrew Klavan on our culture of “non-judgmentalism”:

Among those fixes, as [sociologist Charles Murray, author of Coming Apart] said in a recent article in the paper of record (the Wall Street Journal):

The best thing that the new upper class can do… is to drop its condescending “non-judgmentalism.” Married, educated people who work hard and conscientiously raise their kids shouldn’t hesitate to voice their disapproval of those who defy these norms. When it comes to marriage and the work ethic, the new upper class must start preaching what it practices.

This is so clearly true that the only real question is: why don’t they? If marriage and religion give smart people joy and improve their living standards, why don’t they spread the word?

I believe one reason is the Tyranny of Hip: the unwillingness of grownups to be thought of as uncool. We seem to have a horror of shedding the mantles of the heroes of romance in order to take on the roles of the crusty but wise chaperones. Even when Red State’s Erick Erickson and cultural blogger Dr. Melissa Clouthier among others courageously grasped the nettle recently and took the girls and boys of CPAC to task for dressing like hookers and acting like johns, they were at pains to explain that they were talking about time and place appropriateness not morals — which still didn’t protect them from the usual hail of superior-sounding irony that followed.

No one wants to be the butt of the cool kids’ jokes like that. No critic who values his relevance wants to point out that Bridesmaids soiling themselves while in wedding regalia is not really funny; or that Katy Perry’s hummable hit tunes peddling alcohol abuse and cheap sex to 12-year-olds are reprehensible; or that Sacha Baron Cohen mocking ordinary people for their non-ironic faith, manners or dedication can be at once hilarious and morally wrong — like laughing at a slapstick accident that leaves someone dead. No one wants to turn into the old man waving his cane from the porch rocking chair shouting at the young folks to stop all their goldarned canoodling and quit parading around with their hoo-has and what-nots hanging out, for the love of Mike.

And yet the nation hungers for just such behavior. Witness the recent YouTube video of a father punishing his spoiled daughter for a snarky Facebook post by plugging her laptop with a .45. The thing went viral to the tune of tens of millions of viewers. Why? Because it was wonderful to see someone finally step up and be Daddy.

Being Daddy, no matter what people say, is not primarily a matter of telling people what not to do, nor is it a matter, in my opinion, of scaring them with the consequences of poor behavior. Family leaders rather model, proclaim and support the way people behave when they treat themselves like people instead of meat puppets: i.e. when they make their flesh serve their dignity, love and joy, which sometimes means delaying and even denying more immediate and strictly physical pleasures.

Read it all.

Marriage: A luxury good

From Monty posting at Ace:

This certainly feels DOOM-y to me: marriage has become a luxury good. Charles Murray‘s book Coming Apart tries to underscore that trend with data and extensive cultural observation. This trend portends a lot of things, few of them good. Single mothers are far more likely than married mothers to be poor and thus dependent on the welfare state, for one. For another, the whole concept of “fatherhood” is disappearing from a huge swathe of American life. Men are becoming marginalized and devalued, yet at the same time are faulted for being reluctant to enter into an institution — marriage — that is so grotesquely weighted against them in terms of risk versus reward. There is cold comfort to be had here, though: no civilization in the history of the world has survived without the nuclear family as the basic building-block. We will revert back to the mean, sooner or later….

Read it all.

Penelope Trunk: What Facebook’s IPO means for women

Penelope Trunk, always interesting:

After the Facebook IPO, Sheryl Sandberg will become number two on the list of richest self-made women. She is the COO of Facebook.  For those of you not familiar with her career, there’s a nice summary in the New York Times. But the bottom line is that she is really smart (Harvard), a really hard worker (startups, Google, Facebook), a great speaker (here’s a commencement speech) ,and she’s married to a guy who is also making tons of money in startups.

There is nothing, really, that is bad to say about Sandberg. And she works very hard to encourage other women to go as far as she has gone.

The problem is, very few women want to be Sandberg, but there is very little discussion of this.

Sandberg has two young kids. She runs a company that is very public about having “lock-ins” to move fast enough to compete with Google, and they have open hours for kids to come to Facebook offices to say goodnight to their parents, who are working very long hours.

She encourages women to have ambition and “never take their foot off the gas pedal,” but very, very few women would choose to do this after they have kids. Pew Research shows that the majority of women would like to work part-time after they have kids. So it’s hard to tell that demographic that they should work 100-hour weeks at startups instead.

It’s revealing that the New York Times profile of Sandberg shows her surrounded by men who are only marginally involved in raising their kids….

Sandberg wants to be a role model for women who want big, exciting careers. But here’s the problem: women don’t want to be Sandberg. It’s no coincidence that the number-one woman on the list of self-made millionaires is Oprah. She has no kids and no husband. She’s fascinating, nice, and smart. But few of us would really enjoy her life.

Sandberg and Oprah represent extreme choices in life. The things they give up are not things that most women would want to give up in exchange for the wild career success they could have.

Sandberg’s right when she says that the thing holding women back is women’s ambition. But I don’t see that changing any time soon. Even after the Facebook IPO. I’m afraid that what the Facebook IPO means for women is nothing. Sandberg is not a role model. She’s an aberration.

You can’t have small kids and a startup if you want to see your kids….

Read it all (and read the comments, too).

The world’s losing its workers: How will we compete?

From Doug Saunders at the Globe and Mail (Canada):

At its core are a set of non-problems: People around the world are living longer and having far fewer children – a consequence of increased female education rates and declining absolute poverty.

Well, obviously, according to the article, “having far fewer children” is not a non-problem–it’s a very big problem and the thrust of Saunders’ entire article. I’m assuming he feels he has to say this, that it’s the “politically correct” version to present. But I would add that people around the world are having far fewer children because of increased access to contraceptives and an increased push by many western nations to force their culture and mores into areas outside of the west by providing money with abortion strings attached.

Countries such as Bangladesh, Indonesia and Iran are now having so few children that their populations are on the verge of shrinking – as would Canada’s if we didn’t take immigrants.

But the consequence of smaller families is fewer young people. And family sizes have plummeted so fast, around the world, that working-age adults are being outnumbered by seniors and children, who tend to be dependent on state funds for their health, education and livelihoods.

The world is on the threshold of what might be called “peak people.” The world’s supply of working-age people will soon be shrinking, causing a shift from surplus to scarcity. As with “peak oil” theories – which hold that declining petroleum supplies will trigger global economic instability – the claims of the doomsayers are too hyperbolic and hysterical. These are not existential threats but rather policy challenges. That said, they’re very big policy challenges.

Canada’s crisis is mild compared to most countries, but it’s still serious. There are currently almost five working-age Canadians whose income taxes pay the pension and health-care costs of each retiree; within 20 years, there will be only three. As a result, according to Ottawa, health-care costs will double and social-service costs will rise by a third. Compared to, say, Japan, where pensioners will become a majority this century, that’s nothing.

But population aging will affect us in far more profound ways, because it is global….

Peak people will be an age when jobs compete for workers rather than vice versa. The cheapest labour will vanish. We’re already seeing this: Because China is aging very fast, its dwindling working-age population is turning down the lowest-paid jobs and pushing up the minimum wage sharply, as well as the once-minimal costs of social services: Stuff from China will stop being cheap, because the Chinese aren’t young….

Read it all.

Charen: “Unwed and imperturbed”

Worth a read. From Mona Charen at National Review Online:

…The collapse of marriage among the lower and lower middle classes is rapidly tapping our national strength. Women from wealthier families get it. They generally wait until they’re married to have babies. They know that two parents create stability, financial security, and the social structure to optimize the chances of rearing happy, healthy, and productive new citizens. The illegitimacy rate among women with college educations, while it has tripled since 1960, is still only about 8 percent. As Kay Hymowitz noted in Marriage and Caste in America, “Virtually all — 92 percent — of children whose families make over $75,000 per year are living with both parents. On the other end of the income scale, the situation is reversed: only about 20 percent of kids in families earning under $15,000 live with both parents.”

The failure to marry on the part of the lower middle and lower classes — not the tax code, or Wall Street, or competition from China, — is what is aggravating inequality in America.

The toll is incalculable. In every way that social science can measure — school performance, drug abuse, unemployment, suicide, poverty, depression, dependence on government handouts, mental illness, violence, and far more — children raised by single parents (especially when their parents never married) are at a severe disadvantage. The failure to form families is devastating our schools, exacerbating inequality, and diminishing happiness on a grand scale….

Read it all.

Blind among enemies

I read once that of all our senses, sight is the strongest and that’s one reason why concern with skin color permeates our various cultures, so discrimination (in the classical sense of making distinctions between and among) is almost inevitable along skin hue lines.

Median wealth ratios, 1984 to 2009 (Pew Research Center)

Perhaps it’s for this reason that the recent headline on the wealth gap used language that emphasized the racial/ethnic component of that gap. From the Pew Research Center, we get the hard data divided along racial/ethnic (visual) lines to support the statement that the wealth gap is at its highest between White Americans and Black/Hispanic Americans, but from the Associated Press news story, we get this:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The wealth gaps between whites and minorities have grown to their widest levels in a quarter-century. . .

The analysis shows the racial and ethnic impact of the economic meltdown, which ravaged housing values and sent unemployment soaring. It offers the most direct government evidence yet of the disparity between predominantly younger minorities whose main asset is their home and older whites who are more likely to have 401(k) retirement accounts or other stock holdings. . .

And what caught my eye in the above paragraph was this sentence:

It offers the most direct government evidence yet of the disparity between predominantly younger minorities whose main asset is their home and older whites who are more likely to have 401(k) retirement accounts or other stock holdings.

So while skin color is the marker that the information gatherers have used to break down their data, it seems from an initial reading that age is really one of the primary culprits (the other ones I’ll get to later) in the wealth disparity.

This makes sense—America’s demographics are changing, with the growth rate of minority groups overtaking that of the majority white population. So the wealth discrepancy is not necessarily because of racial discrimination (as the headlines imply by using race as the distinguishing factor), but because older people have worked for a longer time, hopefully have saved for a longer time, and because of that, have had more resources to invest. They may also have owned their houses for longer and so have not lost as much equity.  Skin color doesn’t enter into those reasons.

Median net worth of households with and without home equity, 2005 and 2009 (Pew Research Center)

What are some of the other main culprits in this newest wealth gap?

For many Hispanics (and Asians), it is the deterioration of the housing market. That market rose the highest and fell the fartherest in those states with the largest Hispanic populations: Nevada, California, Arizona, and Florida. And of course, who was to blame for this rush to buy? While the homebuyers have the greatest responsibility, Congress, and its push to get everyone into their own houses no matter the cost, bears a great part of the blame (thus the growth of subprime mortgages and the mandate to fulfill the “American Dream” even for those not financially ready). Younger people shouldn’t necessarily buy houses since they may need the flexibility to move quickly for job opportunities. And saddling lower income workers with house payments that will take much of their take-home pay should be criminal.

And here’s where another culprit comes into play—and that’s education.

There are large Asian populations in many of those states with the greatest loss of home equity, but there is no significant wealth gap between Whites and Asians–perhaps because Asians have the highest “education attainment” levels of any racial/ethnic group in the U.S.: 50% of Asians 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree or higher, while that percentage is 31% for Whites, 18% for Blacks, and only 12% for Hispanics. From the U.S. Census Bureau:

The 2005 ASEC data reinforce the value of a college education. Among workers 18 and over with a bachelor’s degree, average earnings were $51,600 a year, while those with a high school diploma earned $28,600. Workers with an advanced degree made an average of $78,100, and those without a high school diploma averaged $19,200.

So age, home equity, and educational levels all play into the wealth gap, which is not to say that race/ethnicity isn’t a factor. After all, ethnic cultural norms affect decisions on pursuing educational goals, racial factors may affect employment numbers and the corresponding income variables, and government intervention in the housing market to ensure minorities had access to mortgage funds was certainly a decision that affected buyers along racial/ethnic lines.

But for most of the areas of life that we codify, organize and classify, the idea of “race” as being the primary reason for any and all results noted fails dismally to consider other prominent factors–other factors that may actually help us find the best ways to decrease the wealth gap.

Elisabeth’s barrenness and ours

"Visitation" from Altarpiece of the Virgin (St Vaast Altarpiece) by Jacques Daret, c. 1435 (Staatliche Museen, Berlin)Drawing on the story of Elizabeth and Zacharias from the Gospel of Luke, Mark Steyn writes:

…The notion of life as a self-growth experience is more radical than it sounds. For most of human history, functioning societies have honored the long run: It’s why millions of people have children, build houses, plant trees, start businesses, make wills, put up beautiful churches in ordinary villages, fight and if necessary die for your country . . . A nation, a society, a community is a compact between past, present, and future, in which the citizens, in Tom Wolfe’s words at the dawn of the “Me Decade,” “conceive of themselves, however unconsciously, as part of a great biological stream.”

Much of the developed world climbed out of the stream. You don’t need to make material sacrifices: The state takes care of all that. You don’t need to have children. And you certainly don’t need to die for king and country. But a society that has nothing to die for has nothing to live for: It’s no longer a stream, but a stagnant pool….

Read it all.

Inside the entitlement generation

Okay, I know it’s from Canada, but this article by Margaret Wente in the Globe and Mail sounds like what I’ve been hearing in the U.S.:

…The survey found that work/life balance and vacation time ranked extremely high on their wish list. They also expected high salaries and quick promotions. On average, they expected a starting salary of $53,000 a year….

Plenty of students believe their professors’ expectations are downright unreasonable. “They think their lecture is the only way to get their information. But there are so many new ways to learn,” one University of Alberta student told the CBC. They’re also unapologetic that study hours have shrunk to the vanishing point. “We’re doing so many other things. We’re doing all these clubs and extracurricular activities.”

What they aren’t doing is cluttering their minds with ideas. University students once devoured the works of Frantz Fanon, Karl Marx and Gloria Steinem. Today, they devour the works of Harry Potter. “Well, at least we’re reading something, right?” Ms. Godmere, the student spokesperson, said. Like many students, she believes course reading lists need to be more relevant. “These works that we are expected to read are from a different time. More people need to cater to the younger audience.” To which [Prof. Ken Coates, professor of history and former dean at the University of Waterloo] responds, “If you want to tackle the most difficult, interesting, challenging thinkers in the world, you have to read very thick books with lots of words.”…

The entitlement mindset didn’t come from nowhere. It came from us. It came from a generation of adults who believed that kids should never be allowed to fail, or told the truth about their abilities, or learn that getting what you want is sometimes hard. On top of that, we have the modern fallacy of higher education – much beloved of politicians, who believe the acquisition of a BA is a sort of alchemy that can transform intellectual dross into gold and ensure that everyone, no matter how inert, can succeed in the knowledge economy.

Not all students share this mindset. The best are as good as ever, maybe better. The top 15 per cent or 20 per cent – the same students who would have gone to university a generation ago – really do crave intellectual engagement. They really will land jobs at $53,000 a year, and up.

Ken Coates believes we should bring back streaming and make vocational education far more important than it is now. University should be for students who are interested in, and capable of, high-level work. Colleges and tech schools can offer more practical, job-oriented education for everyone else….

Check it out.


From Instapundit, thoughts on moral hazard:

. . . Beware the coming Middle Class Anarchy that is the fruit of a ruling class that demonstrates its own contempt for the rule of law. People don’t like to feel like suckers. Related thoughts here.

Check it out.

Our sputtering economy by the numbers: Poverty edition

New poverty stats from the U.S. Census Bureau–not good:

Americans below the poverty line in 2010: 46.2 million

Official U.S. poverty rate in 2007, before the recession: 12.5 percent

Poverty rate in 2009: 14.3 percent

Poverty rate in 2010: 15.1 percent

Last time the poverty level was this high: 1993

Poverty line in 2010: $22,314 for a family of four, or $11,139 for an individual

Rough amount the poor are living on per week: $200 or less

Poverty rate in American suburbs: 11.8 percent, the highest since 1967

Percentage of the population making less than half the poverty line in 2010: 6.7 percent

Percentage of the population making less than half the poverty line in 2007, before the recession: 5.2 percent

Poverty rate for white Americans in 2010: 13 percent

Poverty rate for African-Americans in 2010: 27.4 percent

Real median household income in 2010: $49,445

Decline in median household income since 2009: 2.3 percent

Decline in median household income since before the recession: 6.4 percent

The last time median household incomes have been this low: 1996

Real median household income in 1999, in 2010 dollars: $53,252

Median income for full-time male workers in 2010: $47,715

Median income for full-time male workers in 1973, in 2010 dollars: $49,065

Official unemployment rate in August 2011: 9.1 percent

Total unemployed people in August: 14 million

People who were employed part-time for economic reasons in August 2011: 8.8 million

People not counted in the labor force who wanted work: 2.6 million

Net jobs created in August 2011: 0

Check it out.

NatGeo: Teenage brains

Who knew? From National Geographic:

. . . Such thinking carried into the late 20th century, when researchers developed brain-imaging technology that enabled them to see the teen brain in enough detail to track both its physical development and its patterns of activity. These imaging tools offered a new way to ask the same question—What’s wrong with these kids?—and revealed an answer that surprised almost everyone. Our brains, it turned out, take much longer to develop than we had thought. This revelation suggested both a simplistic, unflattering explanation for teens’ maddening behavior—and a more complex, affirmative explanation as well.

The first full series of scans of the developing adolescent brain—a National Institutes of Health (NIH) project that studied over a hundred young people as they grew up during the 1990s—showed that our brains undergo a massive reorganization between our 12th and 25th years. The brain doesn’t actually grow very much during this period. It has already reached 90 percent of its full size by the time a person is six, and a thickening skull accounts for most head growth afterward. But as we move through adolescence, the brain undergoes extensive remodeling, resembling a network and wiring upgrade. . .

When this development proceeds normally, we get better at balancing impulse, desire, goals, self-interest, rules, ethics, and even altruism, generating behavior that is more complex and, sometimes at least, more sensible. But at times, and especially at first, the brain does this work clumsily. It’s hard to get all those new cogs to mesh. . .

The story you’re reading right now, however, tells a different scientific tale about the teen brain. Over the past five years or so, even as the work-in-progress story spread into our culture, the discipline of adolescent brain studies learned to do some more-complex thinking of its own. A few researchers began to view recent brain and genetic findings in a brighter, more flattering light, one distinctly colored by evolutionary theory. The resulting account of the adolescent brain—call it the adaptive-adolescent story—casts the teen less as a rough draft than as an exquisitely sensitive, highly adaptable creature wired almost perfectly for the job of moving from the safety of home into the complicated world outside.

This view will likely sit better with teens. More important, it sits better with biology’s most fundamental principle, that of natural selection. Selection is hell on dysfunctional traits. If adolescence is essentially a collection of them—angst, idiocy, and haste; impulsiveness, selfishness, and reckless bumbling—then how did those traits survive selection? They couldn’t—not if they were the period’s most fundamental or consequential features. . .

Check it out.

Sunday resurrection: 21 August 2011

Wild azaleas (Copyright © 2011 Anne Guérard Coletta)

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
(Exodus 20:8, from the American Standard Version of the Bible)

Mapping the 2010 U.S. Census

A very cool interactive map–check it out.