Saturday, October 27, 2007

Constitutional Boy

My sister sent this gem about my nephew:

Oh, so on the back of their chairs in their kindergarten class, they had a sheet that had three questions on it. I can't quite remember what the questions are but they might all of have been "I am" and then the kid fills in the blank. For example, Danny's friend Evelina's said "I am Evelina, I am beautiful, I am five." Danny's said "I am Danny, I am smart, I am following the constitution." Apparently his third answer was quite unique among his classmates and tickled his teacher.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Dance of Integrated Neighborhoods

Most Americans want to live in integrated neighborhoods -- but different groups have different standards of what the right balance is. This leaves most people not getting what they want.

Reynolds Farley and his students did studies on black and white preferences in the 1990s. Most black and white Americans would like to live in an integrated neighborhood. The most common African-American preference would be for the neighborhood to be 50% black. Most white Americans would prefer their neighborhood to be no more than about 15% black. You can see the problem -- neighborhoods passing the 15% black threshold are more attractive to African Americans, but less attractive to whites; such neighborhoods tend not to stabilize at 50% black, but keep going to nearly all black.

Since the Farley studies were published, the nation has gotten more diverse, so much so that most researchers would not limit their studies to just black/white integration. This is a good development. The more people see that the options are not just black and white, the harder it is to think of a single tipping point that would make a neighborhood head to all one group or another.

What is striking to me about the Farley preference numbers is that most white Americans would like to live in neighborhoods that are as black as America as a whole is. African Americans make up at most 12% of the U.S. population (despite the widespread belief that the proportion is much higher). This is also about the same size as that mish-mosh category, "Hispanic."

Here would be a good study. Suppose you offered people the hypothetical option of living in a neighborhood that was:
60% Anglo
15% Black
15% Hispanic
5% Asian
5% All others

I think most Americans would go for it.

That is, I think most Americans would like to live in a neighborhood that looked like America.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Hong Kong's Weird Demography

Hong Kong's men are disappearing. The ratio of men to women has fallen from 1063 per thousand in 1993 (four years before the handover to China) to 912 men per thousand women today. They project that the ratio would plummet to 763:1000 by 2036, but surely there would be big changes before that gross imbalance were reached.

The number of unmarried young women has gone up dramatically. Hong Kong women are major players in Kay Hymowitz' "New Girl Order" that I wrote about yesterday. Single male numbers have gone up, too -- Hong Kong is a rich city for young singles. But the single women rate has gone up much faster than the bachelor rate. And Hong Kong men are much more likely to marry mainland women than Hong Kong women are likely to pair up with mainland men. This is ironic, since mainland China has a huge overhang of men compared to women. But Hong Kong women are much better educated and career oriented than mainland women, and less likely to be as subservient as mainland men normally want a wife to be.

The scariest number in Hong Kong demography is the fertility rate: 0.98 children per woman. Most industrialized countries are below the replacement rate of 2.1, but Hong Kong is the first (as far as I can tell) to fall below the one kid per woman threshold. No place can sustain a population pattern like that for long. The Hong Kong administrator wants to raise the fertility rate to 3 children per woman, which most people regard as wildly unrealistic.

The Hong Kong government offers no speculation as to where they men have gone. My guess is that the men have gone to the mainland. They are taking their world market savvy, honed in non-Communist Hong Kong, and are getting in on the ground floor of the booming post-Communist mainland economy. Odds are that those men will marry, but probably locally.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The New Girl Order Saves Capitalism

Kay Hymowitz has written another excellent City Journal article, "The New Girl Order." She writes about the wave of single women around the world with education, careers, busy social lives, and no immediate plans for marriage or children. The Bridget Jones brigade has already had an immediate impact on marriage rates and fertility, leading to gigantic drops in the fertility rate in the rich and growing economies of the world just in the past decade. Most developed nations have fertility rates way below replacement level, which will have severe demographic consequences very soon.

I was struck by another aspect of Hymowitz' description of the worldwide Carrie Bradshaws: they shop. No account of their lives seems to go more than three sentences without mentioning their prodigious appetite for shopping, both for goods and services.

A perennial problem for capitalism is that it has to keep getting people to buy things they don't need. There are, of course, billions of people around the world who would spend more on necessities if they could. The leading edge of the leading economies, though, are pulled by people buying goods and services that are not really necessities. The market for comforts, conveniences, and even outright luxuries is more profitable.

The globalized economy ever totters on the brink of disaster if middle class and rich people bought only what they needed. Which is why the New Girl Order is such good news economically. To have millions of women with money and no pressing need to save it is a boon to the luxury goods industries around the world.

Capitalism is saved. At least until we run out of workers in the next generation.