Hans Rosling masters the delicate balance of informative and entertaining. He argues that, on a macro level, religion plays much less of a role in fertility rates than you might think.
Hat tip: CB
Well, Burkina Faso was crazy and my grades this semester may suffer due to skipping the eight final days of the semester, but, in my humble opinion, grades<conferences. Anyway, here are some reflections from the trip and the African Union Population Studies conference:
1. When you've got more labor than capital, use labor. The ridiculously luxurious conference location, Hotel Laico, was a strange sight in the middle of one of the poorest countries in the world (by HDI). Though the large surplus of labor in the country meant the hotel had plenty of security guards, elevator operators and hostesses. I couldn't tell if I should feel safer because of all the security or rather concerned. The six guards above spent most of their time out front of the hotel texting when they weren't posing for my photos.
2. Family planning is important, but so complex. Given that this conference was about population studies (which draws an interdisciplinary crowd of sociologists, economists, demographers and public health researchers), family planning was everywhere. As related to my previous post about husbands wanting larger family size, there was an ENTIRE session about male roles in family planning. While I thought (because of the Ashraf et al results) that men always wanted larger families, and involving them in family planning would be ineffective, it turns out that a very similar experiment was run in Ethiopia where the result was the exact opposite. Men wanted smaller families (more modern contraceptives) and women wanted larger families. So the question on the role of husbands still stands.
3. Hanging out with smart people is a fantastic way to become smart. The best part of this conference was that I got to meet some really intelligent people doing such innovative research. David Lam and Laura Zimmermann are the huge supporter of IPUMS-I and use our data for their research on the elderly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Rebecca Thornton and Susan Godlonton have published on the peer effects of learning HIV results and will be starting a project using community health workers in family planning next year (!). I also really liked Sandrine Koissy-Kpein's presentation on the result of intra-household bargaining on gender biases in education. And lastly, Sara Randall called into question the notion of a household in household surveys.
4. Why should I care about your research? It turns out that at the African Union Population Studies conference, presenters thoroughly explain the motivation for their research. The reasons one should care about development and population are so real when you're in Burkina Faso: poverty, inequality, corruption, high fertility rates, poor education and seriously lacking healthcare. However, many of the presentations focused so much on why I should care (and frankly, they were preaching to the choir), that data, research methodologies and critical discussions were lacking. At the same time, I learned from this experience that a lot of the research I've seen in the U.S. is actually missing the part about why I should care. In fact, fellow American researchers, this is the most important part.
As I continue to think about population growth and natural resources for my Tanzania project, the role of development keeps appearing as a variable. But how much can we count on development to catalyze demographic transitions? An article from Carl Haub at Yale:
Leading demographers, including those at the United Nations and the U.S. Census Bureau, are projecting that world population will peak at 9.5 billion to 10 billion later this century and then gradually decline as poorer countries develop.... Forecasts that population is going to level off or decline this century have been based on the assumption that the developing world will necessarily follow the path of the industrialized world. That is far from a sure bet.
Additionally, they point to the challenges of reducing fertility rates in Sub-Saharan Africa:the logistical task of providing reproductive health services to women; informing them of their ability to limit their number of children and to space births over at least two years; low levels of literacy; the value husbands place on large families; and securing funding for family planning programs.
Sounds like someone should implement a community health worker program...
A troubling front-page article on the cover of the NYTimes yesterday, Contraceptive Used in Africa May Double Risk of H.I.V.
I'm a slightly skeptical of the methodology. Even though there were 3800 couples in the study, only 200 women were using injectable contraceptives (Depo-Provera, or some generic version of it). Of these 200 couples, 10 H.I.V contractions occurred among couples using injectables, while 3 occurred among couples using oral contraceptives. That is a very small sample. Additionally, almost half the women using injectables were also using oral contraceptives over the course of the study and this non-compliance was not accounted for. Although compliance was never the objective, given that this was not a randomized controlled trial.
These are a few points of criticism, but regardless, this study leaves many alarming and urgent questions unanswered. And even if the methodology is skeptical, this article and its spread will itself be detrimental by scarring people away from contraceptives of all forms.
Authors comments on the study.
Input credit: AD, DG, BA
A TED talk by Hanna Rosin on the rise of women gives very optimistic information on the state of women in the world. I hesitate to title this blog post with the same title as her talk (Rise of Women) nor the slightly sensationalist title of the article preceding this talk in the Atlantic: The End of Men. I also hesitate to say optimistic data, since she refers to a lot of anecdotal evidence mostly based on experience and observation (I call this folk data).
I make it clear that her main thesis is actually about parents preferring girls at fertility clinics in the U.S. And in East Asia, parents are no longer "strongly preferring baby boys". This doesn't seem like enormous progress to me, but I suppose its better than the generation of 1.2:1 boys-to-girls ratio currently coming of age in China.
I also think her point that "young women are now earning more than young men" is relatively consistent with the blog post I wrote a month ago about working moms, which made the following harrowing conclusion: "Women do almost as well as men today, as long as they don’t have children". In other words, wages and income are relatively similar between men and women until babies come along. Many young women don't yet have babies, ergo young women could earn more than young men.
And finally, I'm not convinced that these women she interviewed at the college in Kansas who expect their husbands to stay at home with the kids actually represent the norm ("Men are the new ball and chain!"). If she's going to use folk data to tell a story, I will too. I'd say that the impression that men will stay home with children is not quite a reality yet. Numbers of stay-at-home-dads appear to be rising, but its certainly not the norm. From my own perspective and experiences, the cultural tradition of women doing domestic work and childcare is still quite prevalent (and believe me, I am all for this reversal), but this seems to be my observation thus far. Even more curious is that this seems to me to be relatively accepted even if both parents are working and among my rather highly educated peers.
Back during the resurgence of this blog, I wrote a long observational post about gender, families and work profiles. The general conclusion was: it doesn't look great for working women balancing families. Outright workplace discrimination over gender has decreased tremendously through some significant legislation, but why aren't men and women equal in the workplace? Full-time female workers still make on average 23% less than fulltime male workers.
Through a good forward (thanks LW), I discovered a more optimistic interview addressing this same problem of women and work. Leonhardt's full article (though from last year) is here.
There's this harsh empirical reality:
The main barrier is the harsh price most workers pay for pursuing anything other than the old-fashioned career path. “Women do almost as well as men today, as long as they don’t have children.”
And these optimistic policy implications:
There are steps that can help. Universal preschool programs — like the statewide one in Oklahoma — would make life easier for many working parents. Paid parental leave policies, like California's modest version, would make a difference, too. With Australia’s recent passage of paid leave, the United States has become the only rich country without such a policy....We’ll have to get beyond the Mommy Wars and instead create rewarding career paths even for parents — fathers, too — who take months or years off.
Research and debate on gender discrimination and the labor force is still happening in full (as I'm learning in my Analysis of Discrimination class). This weekend, I'm heading to the Midwest Economic Association annual conference to present a paper (to be shared later) and the one I've been assigned to review is on patterns of mothers who opt-out of the labor force completely. Should be pretty interesting...
An insightful interview with Ragui Assaad from the Council on Foreign Relations on the challenges and opportunities of youth bulges in many Arab countries. I like his note about pressures on international migration:
Many of the developed countries, but in particular Europe, have a deficit of young people, and there's going to be tremendous pressure for migration from the countries in the southern Mediterranean and elsewhere in the Middle East and Asia to migrate. We have to find ways to allow this migration without creating anti-migrant backlashes.
Personal plug: Assaad is Professor at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota and I work as his TA for the class International Development Planning and Policy Analysis (which, of course, I highly recommend).
The Minnesota Population Center used historical census data to show Adults with College Degrees, by County. Hennepin County, MN (where the U is located) is up there with 43%, but Fairfax County in VA has a whopping 58%. Must be all those young ambitious idealists who can't quite afford to live in the district.