Razib Khan One-stop-shopping for all of my content

August 29, 2012

The future of the three “Pakistans”

Filed under: Data Analysis,Demographics,India,Pakistan,Population — Razib Khan @ 9:55 pm

Over at Econlog Bryan Caplan bets that India’s fertility will be sup-replacement within 20 years. My first inclination was to think that this was a totally easy call for Caplan to make. After all, much of southern India, and the northwest, is already sup-replacement. And then I realized that heterogeneity is a major issue. This is a big problem I see with political and social analysis. Large nations are social aggregations that are not always comparable to smaller nations (e.g., “Sweden has such incredible social metrics compared to the United States”; the appropriate analogy is the European Union as a whole).


So, for example, India obviously went ahead with its demographic transition earlier than Pakistan. But what this masks is that the two largest states in terms of population in India, in the far north, actually resemble Pakistan in demographics, not the rest of India. Uttar Pradesh, with a population 20 million larger than Pakistan, has similar fertility rate as India’s western neighbor. Bihar currently has a slightly higher fertility rate than Pakistan when you look at online sources (though the proportion under 25 is a little lower, indicating that its fertility 10-15 years ago was lower than Pakistan’s, ...

The future of the three “Pakistans”

Filed under: Data Analysis,Demographics,India,Pakistan,Population — Razib Khan @ 9:55 pm

Over at Econlog Bryan Caplan bets that India’s fertility will be sup-replacement within 20 years. My first inclination was to think that this was a totally easy call for Caplan to make. After all, much of southern India, and the northwest, is already sup-replacement. And then I realized that heterogeneity is a major issue. This is a big problem I see with political and social analysis. Large nations are social aggregations that are not always comparable to smaller nations (e.g., “Sweden has such incredible social metrics compared to the United States”; the appropriate analogy is the European Union as a whole).


So, for example, India obviously went ahead with its demographic transition earlier than Pakistan. But what this masks is that the two largest states in terms of population in India, in the far north, actually resemble Pakistan in demographics, not the rest of India. Uttar Pradesh, with a population 20 million larger than Pakistan, has similar fertility rate as India’s western neighbor. Bihar currently has a slightly higher fertility rate than Pakistan when you look at online sources (though the proportion under 25 is a little lower, indicating that its fertility 10-15 years ago was lower than Pakistan’s, ...

July 17, 2011

Population control is Islamophobic and classist

Filed under: Culture,Population — Razib Khan @ 11:40 am

First, let me state I’m not a proponent of either the “Birth Dearth” or “Overpopulation” positions. I think both stances lack nuance. But that’s not the point of my post. I get periodic news updates on my smart phone, and I saw this title which piqued my interest, Beckhams a ‘bad example’ for families. I’m not totally averse to celebrity gossip, but I wasn’t ready for what I was confronted with:

David and Victoria Beckham may have been overjoyed to welcome their new daughter, Harper Seven, last week but, according to a growing group of campaigners, the birth of their fourth child make the couple bad role models and environmentally irresponsible.

As the world’s population is due to hit seven billion at some point in the next few days, there is an increasing call for the UK to open a public debate about how many children people have.

Now the Green MP, Caroline Lucas, has joined other leading environmentalists in calling for the smashing of what TV zoologist Sir David Attenborough has called the “absurd taboo” in discussing family size in the UK.

The United Kingdom has experienced serious natural increase in recent years…but that is mostly the function of immigration and the fertility of some immigrant groups! Does anyone suppose that these people are looking to the Beckhams as “role models”? The Beckhams are nice target because they’re wealthy and white. Though one could argue from an environmental perspective that their jet-setting lifestyle has a large carbon footprint I doubt that an extra child impacts this much on the margin (they aren’t going to put the child on a separate flight). Rather, because of their wealth they’re actually able to support these extra children in the style and manner which affluent Westerners see as the birthright of all children in theory.

Let’s look at the reality of fertility in the UK, Fertility by ethnic and religious groups in the UK, trends in a multi-cultural context:



These data imply that Bangaldeshi Britons have a total fertility rate about 1 above that of Bangladeshis!

This is probably a function of the fact that Bangladeshi Britons are overwhelmingly still immigrants, and despite their poverty and backwardness in the United Kingdom, still feel as if they are experiencing resource surplus. They invest their surplus gained through employment and public welfare into more children.

Bangladeshis also have the shortest generation times:

The Indian community in Britain is of particular interest, as it is multireligious. Here are the fertility trends broken down by sect:


They don’t explore the reason for the drop in fertility, but here’s my hypothesis: the children of Ismailis from East Africa who arrived in the 1970s entered into their childbearing years in the 1990s and 2000s.

My overall point here is this: if environmentalists care deeply about population control in developed countries they would show their courage if they did not just critique the “low hanging fruit.” Middle class people who are well integrated already adhere to the two-child norm (at most). Rather, it is the lower class and separate subcultures, such as Pakistani and Bangladeshi Muslims, who have different values and so different fertilities. In a nation like the United Kingdom the number of children you have is an expression of preference, shaped by your Weltanschauung (in the case of immigrant Muslim communities), or a reflection of your lack of forethought and self-control (the lower classes). Unless you do what China did you need to change these parameters. Both these segments need to be forced to assimilate into middle class mainstream norms.

August 21, 2010

“India’s” population bomb isn’t rocket science

Filed under: Culture,Data Analysis,Demographics,Fertility,India,Population — Razib Khan @ 6:59 pm

The New York Times has a piece up, Defusing India’s Population Time Bomb, which reiterates what I was trying to get at yesterday, India’s demographic problems are localized to particular regions, not the nation as a whole. First, let’s review the world’s population growth & fertility rates:

Now let’s focus on a few nations:


China’s coercive policy is often held up as a great success of the power of government to change from on high. But did you see the world population growth correction in the early 1960s? That was China. If you don’t know what was going on in China then, read books (hint: if you don’t know much about the history of China, you don’t know much about the history of the world). My point is that China’s solution was in part a reaction to a pro-natalist drive encouraged by one of the most powerful crazy men in the history of the world. On pure pragmatic grounds one may say that China had to do something, but their actions in the early 1980s did not occur in a vacuum, and were a consequence of a sequence of earlier events particular to that nation.

Contrast China with South Korea, a culturally similar nation, which went through decades of authoritarian rule, but never imposed coercive family planning policies of the sort common in the People’s Republic. Like Japan and Taiwan South Korea’s fertility and population growth rates declined naturally through economic development. With abundant human capital (high literacy) to start out with these nations replicated, and in some ways exceeded, the trajectory of the European demographic transition concomitant with an increase in economic productivity and urbanization. In fact, their fertility rates are lower than that of China, probably because they’re economically more advanced. If it wasn’t for China’s three decade long dance with crazy Communism the coercive policies in relation to reproduction may never have been necessary.

Economic development isn’t the only way to staunch population growth. Iran has taken a different, and less optimal, but still not grossly coercive, path. Because of the lack of economic opportunity in Iran’s society there was an understanding at both the commanding heights and the grassroots that large families were simply not sustainable, at least not using the quality of life which people had become used to in the 1970s as a reference point.

As I noted yesterday, the problem within India is that there is a wide region-to-region variation. The southern cone of India is already verging toward sub-replacement fertility. A major difference I see between China and India though is that the economically and socially most backward area is the cultural heart of the latter. There may be vague analogies to Italy, where Rome is a government town in the center, while northern Italy is the economic motive force, and southern Italy serves as a vote-bank which reliably backs the party which makes the biggest cash transfer promise. A big difference between Italy and India: the backward region is numerically dominant in India, while it is not in Italy.

Here are two bubble plots which show the divide in India. The size of the bubbles are proportion to the population size of the state. The two ones to the top left are Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

The fact is that South Asia is low on the human capital scale:

800px-World_literacy_map_UN

The only long term solution is to leverage the fact that other parts of the world are higher up on the human capital ladder, and still producing innovation and generating new ways to increase productivity. Matt Yglesias has a post up about Japan, from which I got this chart:

TFPjapan-1

Because Japan’s population is shrinking its economy will decline over time. Additionally, because of the unfavorable demographics, with more older people than young workers, it will go through some decline in quality of life. But the average Japanese still consumes at a very high level, it’s not dystopia. Ultimately the Japanese are relying on innovation to buoy their economy. And that’s the real long term solution: without innovation we’re f**ked. Period. Demographic adjustments are really epiphenomena on the margins. That’s why the media can report on both sides of the ledger as if they are both positive and negative. It’s about quality of human capital and the innovation they’re producing, not the quantity of humans.

Image Credit: Wikimedia

Powered by WordPress