Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The 0.7 Percent Solution

One of the drivers of economic growth – particularly in relative stagnant times – is an increase in local consumption. Most of that kind of increase comes from a growing population, but the U.S., particularly since 2010, is experiencing what little annualized growth there is solely by reason of immigration, not a stable or growing birth rate. Over 2016 (July to July), we’ve increased our population, even with assistance from immigration, by a meagre 0.7 percent annually, a number that has been sliding every year since 2010 and, according to the U.S. Census, is the smallest annual expansion in 80 years.
Our new administration speaks of “building a wall” and “deportation,” which is going to reduce our population even more, even as the “net” number of undocumented families in the U.S. already has been in decline for a while. A 2015 study from the Pew Research Center tells us that: “From 2009 to 2014, 1 million Mexicans and their families (including U.S.-born children) left the U.S. for Mexico,according to data from the 2014 Mexican National Survey of Demographic Dynamics (ENADID). U.S. census data for the same period show an estimated 870,000 Mexican nationals left Mexico to come to the U.S., a smaller number than the flow of families from the U.S. to Mexico.” So if we are worried about a growing increase in our Latino population, that number is not coming from immigration.
Despite that net decline in folks from south of the border, there are many Americans who remain worried about the growing numbers of non-white citizens in the United States. They are losing political capital fast. With most of that diverse growth concentrated in and around cities, white incumbents need rural values to continue to dominate urban ones if they are to maintain control. Yet one way or the other, it’s really about the birth rates for those living here, and this really a very large component of too many states’ trying to marginalize non-white voters any way they can. Simply, the number of traditional white voters is in serious decline, while non-traditional, non-white votes is on the increase. Let’s look at the numbers.
The U.S. total fertility rate is 1.9 births per woman, down from 2.1 at the onset of the recession in 2007. This represents a continuing trend where that the U.S. fertility rate has been below “replacement level” (that 2.1 number) the level that is needed for couples to replace themselves in the population. 
Most of the positive growth within our own birth rates is concentrated in non-traditional, non-white groupings. Look at the most common names today according to the U.S. Census. “Taylor and Thomas are out. Lopez and Gonzalez are in. Six of the 15 most common surnames in the United States were of Hispanic origin in 2010, compared with four of 15 in 2000 and none as recently as 1990.” New York Times, December 15th. The contraction is primarily among white families, perhaps concerned with the rapidly rising costs of raising and educating children in a world of serious economic uncertainty, much less of a concern for most minority families.
The University of Nebraska (Omaha – Center for Public Affairs Research) studied fertility rates, based on numbers from the National Center for Health Statistics, among various racial/ethnic groups from 2007 to 2013. Their analysis tells you why, in sheer numbers (and hence as a percentage of the overall US population) traditional white constituents are shrinking – with birth rates below replacement value as noted above – and the number of what were once minorities growing:
“The 2013 U.S. fertility rate among Hispanics stands at 73 births per thousand women aged 15-44, which is down from 98 in 2006, prior to the economic downturn, and 108 in 1990. The U.S. fertility rate among Black non-Hispanics was 65 in 2013, only an eight-point difference versus the Hispanic rate, the smallest difference in at least 25 years. Prior to the recession, the Black fertility rate was nearly 30 points below the Hispanic rate.
“The report also shows that the U.S. White non-Hispanic fertility rate has held relatively stable since 1990, at around 60 births per thousand women of reproductive age. That said, since 2007 the fertility rate among Whites has declined slightly, from 61 in 2007, prior to the recession, to 59 in 2013.” These trends continue into the present day, and as for white Americans, life expectancy has taken an unprecedented turn for the worse, even as such numbers for blacks and Hispanics have improved.
“Life expectancy declined slightly for white Americans in 2014, according to new federal data, a troubling sign that distress among younger and middle-age whites who are dying at ever-higher rates from drug overdoses is lowering average life spans for the white population as a whole… The pattern had puzzled demographers, but the recent analyses have pointed to suffering and anxiety among working-class whites.” New York Times, April 20th, citing numbers generated by the National Center for Health Statistics. This demographic segment is the stronghold for those white traditional Trump supporters fighting to find relevance in a highly redefined economic world. Thus, death rates are higher even as birth rates for this constituency continue to drop.
“With birthrates generally low and members of that outsize boomer generation entering their 60s and 70s, growth may continue to slow for years to come… ‘We are going to see, for probably another 10, 15 years, the number of deaths increasing and that’s going to slow down the net growth,’ said Jeffrey S. Passel, a senior demographer at the Pew Research Center.” New York Times, December 22nd.
Obviously, growth and birth rates are not evenly distributed across the country. Some areas are doing fine, while others – whether because local economies based on fossil fuel extraction or other economic variable – are in long-term decline. And clearly, with population shifts, the centers of voting and economic power shift right alongside. Get used to it, and nothing in legally-available “remedies” (a pretty nasty word in this context) is likely to change the vectors of regional and cultural/ethnic/racial expansion or decline.
“Despite the slow national expansion, some states had substantial growth in population… The population of Utah, the nation’s fastest-growing state this year, expanded by about 2 percent, as did Nevada, a runner-up. Idaho was next, followed by Florida and Washington, with about 1.8 percent each…
“A state’s fortunes can quickly reverse, as they did for North Dakota this year. After four years as the nation’s fastest-growing state, North Dakota dropped out of the Top 10 altogether, thanks to residents fleeing for other parts of the country.
“Only eight states posted declines, with West Virginia shrinking the most, relatively, by 0.5 percent. Illinois lost more residents than any other state, shedding nearly 38,000, driven by people moving out.
“The West dominated the top of the list, accounting for seven of the 10 fastest-expanding states. That region and the more-populous South each had population growth of nearly 1.1 percent over the year… ‘The movement to the South and West is a very long-term trend,’ said Mr. Passel of Pew, adding that those regions attract older residents of the Northeast and Midwest looking for more temperate places to retire.
“The Midwest expanded by nearly 0.2 percent, while the population in the Northeast remained virtually unchanged. Both regions lost more residents than they gained from migration, though that was offset by more births than deaths.” NY Times.
“The South is now home to 38 percent of the national population, while 24 percent of Americans live in the West. The Midwest is home to 21 percent of the population and the Northeast is home to 17 percent.
“California was the most populous state, with 39.3 million residents. Texas was next with 27.9 million, followed by Florida, New York and Illinois. Texas grew more, by sheer number, than any other state, adding about 433,000 people. Florida was next, with 368,000 new residents.” NY Times.
The numbers suggest that we are in for a tumultuous future as long-standing political power and control will, sooner or later, follow these massive changes. States with rapidly contracting populations still have two U.S. Senators each! Will a new America evolve with new power groups on top? Or is all this a suggestion that the United States is headed for a break-up into smaller, more internally homogeneous countries? How hard are the once-all-powerful incumbents willing to fight to maintain political dominance? What kind of resistance will they face? Is our political system so polarized and dysfunctional that it is incapable of fixing itself without a (violent?) reconfiguration? We used to be good at peaceful transitions, but are we still? Stay tuned, particularly after January 20th, for a very difficult and bumpy ride.
I’m Peter Dekom, and if we do not find a solid way to heal our great divides relatively soon, what will happen to this nation otherwise is a deeply sad thought to contemplate.

No comments: