A few years ago my kids were surfing channels looking for a children’s show. We only have broadcast TV, so the only show they could find at the moment was called Captain Planet. Predictably, it turned out to be a smarmy propaganda medium for radical environmentalism couched in super hero worship and cutesy environmental moral superiority.
The particular episode they were watching dealt with the evils of overpopulation and pretty much said that anyone that has more than one or two kids is evil. I had to laugh, however, when my six-year-old was bothered with the fact that some of the devices required to support the plot clearly violated the laws of physics. It’s pretty bad when a little kid understands that the only reason for the hero to show up has been bizarrely contrived in an unentertaining way.
With the collapse of the 1970s population bomb hype, I thought that the general public (if not the left fringes) had recovered from overpopulation fear mongering. (Especially in light of the UN’s latest population forecasts.) But at least some Americans seem as addicted to this kind of alarmism as some are to tabloids. As noted here by researcher Nicholas Eberstadt, some of our nation’s most educated continually fall for this stuff, although, it is consistently wrong.
When I was a teenager I went to work as a bagger in a grocery store. Every week purveyors would show up to stock the tabloid racks. Some of these publications are actually great (if vulgar) comedy, but I couldn’t understand how anyone would pay money for them. Still, every week we sold almost every copy. I was often surprised to see who bought that junk. Population bomb hype works very similarly.
Eberstadt surmises that “maybe the obsession has to do ... with America’s hunger for--at times, near worship of--numbers.” Oh, and we do love numbers. From the least newsworthy item to the greatest issues of the day, we are continually regaling each other with numbers. (Just check out my last post.)
Eberstadt is quick to point out that not only nationally, but worldwide, birth rates are down rather dramatically over the last century. We are producing fewer children per adult than at anytime in reliable history. Unprecedented population growth has occurred because people everywhere are living much longer lives than at any time in reliable history. (Don’t get started on the age stuff in Genesis.) Health care and safety issues have improved so substantially in the past century or so that worldwide life expectancy has doubled over this period. Even third world nations are approaching U.S. post-WWII life expectancy.
Unfortunately for those in the environmentalist community with anti-human agendas, limiting birth rates to even one child per couple will not achieve their desired minimally populated utopia anytime soon. The only way for the anti-humanists to achieve their goal would be mass genocide. In that case, I suggest they start with themselves. Just imagine the amount of pain that could have been spared if each of the great genocidal maniacs of the 20th Century had started with themselves.
Demography plays into many aspects of life, including politics. Michael Barone, the widely respected political demographer, writes here about what population shifts in the U.S. mean for politics. He says that with a few outliers (the Salt Lake City area being among them), areas of the country can be put into one of four general categories. Each classification considers the rates of domestic inflow/outflow, immigrant inflow, and natural growth.
Heavily Democratic Costal Megalopolises all had domestic outflows (2-10%) and immigrant inflows (5-8%). This is causing economic polarization akin to Mexico City and São Paulo. Republican leaning Interior Boomtowns have grown 18%, having significant domestic inflows (9-19%) and immigrant inflows (roughly half the domestic growth). Interior Boomtowns had 6% natural growth as opposed to 4% for Costal Megalopolises. Boomtowns also have much less economic polarization.
The decreasingly Democratic Old Rust Belt has seen a 4% domestic outflow and only a 1% immigrant inflow, with natural growth of only 2%. What are left are the somewhat Republican Static Cities with domestic outflow of less than 1% and immigrant inflow of 0-4%. Barone doesn’t list natural growth rate for this category.
Barone says that almost all smaller areas fall easily into one of the four categories mentioned. New Orleans is an outlier due to Katrina. The Salt Lake City area is an outlier because it “demographically looks a lot like the America of the 1950s. In 2000-2006 its population grew a robust 10%. But it had a domestic outflow of 4% (young Mormons going off on their missions?), balanced by an immigrant inflow of 4%.” What really makes the SLC area different is its whopping 9% natural growth rate, which is still far below historic national rates. Incidentally, I think Barone’s suggestion that missionaries comprise the 4% domestic outflow is off base because there is a continual flow of outgoing and incoming missionaries. This outflow more likely due to new college graduates heading off to new careers.
What all of this means for politics is a shift in Congress. Following the 2010 census, California will gain no House seats for the first time in 160 years. New York will lose yet more seats (down to 29 from 45 in 1960). By and large, Democratic leaning states will lose seats while Republican leaning states will pick up seats. And that goes for Electoral College electors as well.
Does this mean that traditionally Republican states will continue to lean Republican? Barone doesn’t get into that. It seems to me that some of the people fleeing the Costal Megalopolises and the Old Rust Belt for the Interior Boomtowns and Static Cities will bring their politics with them. I suppose a study would need to be done on the political persuasions of the people that are moving to get an answer to this question.
Another interesting note is that almost all areas had immigrant inflows. From Barone’s article, it appears that none had immigrant outflows. Others have said that this trend can be expected to continue at least through 2030, when Mexico is expected to drop below replacement birthrates and will begin to need all of its people to maintain infrastructure. Barone admits that immigrant populations vote heavily Democratic, but he leaves the question open as to how this will impact traditionally Republican areas with immigrant inflows.
Barone says that 20 years ago almost nobody would have predicted the demographic shift we are seeing today. It makes me wonder what kind of unexpected shifts will occur over the next two decades.