Thursday, December 14, 2006

Global Warming?

Percentage of Americans who think home air conditioning
is a necessity, not a luxury they could do without:

1996: 51%
2006: 70%

Source: Pew Research Center

Monday, December 11, 2006

Demographic Trend of the Year Award

Move over Academy Awards, Grammies, Emmys, Tony Awards, Nobel Prizes, and Time Magazine Man of the Year. Make room for the Demographic Trend of the Year Award, given in recognition of the demographic trend that has caused the most consternation during the past twelve months (proving once and for all that demography is not dull). Not wanting to keep anyone in suspense, we are announcing herewith the winner of the 2006 award: The Hispanic Population.

The Hispanic Population consists of the 43 million residents of the United States whose country of birth or ancestry is one of the Spanish-speaking nations of the world. The Hispanic Population has official Washington in a fence-building furor, and its impact on Lou Dobbs's ratings has been nothing short of phenomenal. The relatively traditional lifestyle of Hispanics is confusing the pundits and has set off another round of debate about whether women are returning to the home. Even small town America is jumping into the fray, sparring with the constitution by enacting laws that make life even more difficult for undocumented immigrants—most of whom are Hispanic.

The Hispanic Population wins the Demographic Trend of the Year Award after sweeping all five Demographic Melodrama categories. Here is a run-down of the results:

1. Fastest Growing Demographic Segment
Between 2000 and 2005, The Hispanic Population grew by an enormous 21 percent. At the same time, the number of non-Hispanic whites increased by a miniscule 1 percent.

2. Demographic Segment Getting the Biggest Bang for the Buck
The Hispanic Population accounts for only 14 percent of the total U.S. population. Because of its strategic location, however, its influence is far greater than a 14 percent share. In California and Texas, the two most-populous states, Hispanics are fully 35 percent of the population, which amplifies their influence.

3. Demographic Segment with the Greatest Reach
The age structure of The Hispanic Population makes it a powerhouse in the all-important youth market. The median age of The Hispanic Population is just 27 compared with a median age of 40 for non-Hispanic whites. Because of their relative youth, Hispanics account for a disproportionate share of newborns (nearly one in four), public elementary schoolchildren (one in five), and workers in many entry-level jobs. Thirty-eight percent of the nation's construction laborers are Hispanic.

4. Demographic Segment Confusing the Most Pundits
The talking heads who yearn for a return to the traditional family are touting signs of its comeback, but they are being fooled by the statistical impact of The Hispanic Population on the nation's demographic trends. Example: Between 2000 and 2005, the number of newborns who were third- or higher-order births increased by more than 50,000. Hispanics, with their large families, account for the entire increase. Similarly, the small decline in the labor force participation rate of young women over the past few years does not herald a return of the stay-at-home mom but is a consequence of the relatively low labor force participation rate of Hispanic women. Among women aged 20 to 24, only 63 percent of Hispanics work compared with 72 percent of non-Hispanic whites. As Hispanics constitute an ever-growing share of young adults, the labor force participation rate of young women is slipping.

5. Demographic Segment Enraging the Most Politicians
Yes, the political battle is over immigrants, not The Hispanic Population. But with Hispanics accounting for 51 percent of immigrants and an even larger share of the undocumented, they have become the political target du jour. The consequence is not just fence building along our border with Mexico, but an effort to make English the official language (Arizona became the 28th state to do so in the November election), federally mandated limits on Medicaid coverage for newborns (who are automatically U.S. citizens) until their immigrant parents file an application to "prove" their child's citizenship status, and laws enacted by communities across the country to penalize landlords who rent to undocumented immigrants or employers who hire them.

After sweeping all five Demographic Melodrama categories, The Hispanic Population is the hands-down winner of The Demographic Trend of the Year Award. For all the 2006 runners-up—The Gays, The Single Mothers, Boomers Who Refuse to Save for Retirement, and Young Adults Who Spend Too Much Time Texting Their Friends, mark your calendar for the 2007 awards competition, and better luck next time.