Tag Archives: nation: Israel

Border Fences Make Unequal Neighbors

There is one similarity between the Israel/Gaza crisis and the U.S. unaccompanied child immigrant crisis: National borders enforcing social inequality. When unequal populations are separated, the disparity creates social pressure at the border. The stronger the pressure, the greater the military force needed to maintain the separation.

To get a conservative estimate of the pressure at the Israel/Gaza border, I compared some numbers for Israel versus Gaza and the West Bank combined, from the World Bank (here’s a recent rundown of living conditions in Gaza specifically). I call that conservative because things are worse in Gaza than in the West Bank.

Then, just as demographic wishful thinking, I calculated what the single-state solution would look like on the day you opened the borders between Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. I added country percentiles showing how each state ranks on the world scale (click to enlarge).

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Israel’s per capita income is 6.2-times greater, its life expectancy is 6 years longer, its fertility rate is a quarter lower, and its age structure is reversed. Together, the Palestinian territories have a little more than half the Israeli population (living on less than 30% of the land). That means that combining them all into one country would move both populations’ averages a lot. For example, the new country would be substantially poorer (29% poorer) and younger than Israel, while increasing the national income of Palestinians by 444%. Israelis would fall from the 17th percentile worldwide in income, and the Palestinians would rise from the 69th, to meet at the 25th percentile.

Clearly, the separation keeps poor people away from rich people. Whether it increases or decreases conflict is a matter of debate.

Meanwhile

Meanwhile, the USA has its own enforced exclusion of poor people.

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Photo of US/Tijuana border by Kordian from Flickr Creative Commons.

The current crisis at the southern border of the USA mostly involves children from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. They don’t actually share a border with the USA, of course, but their region does, and crossing into Mexico seems pretty easy, so it’s the same idea.

To make a parallel comparison to Israel and the West Bank/Gaza, I just used Guatemala, which is larger by population than Honduras and El Salvador combined, and also closest to the USA. The economic gap between the USA and Guatemala is even larger than the Israeli/Palestinian gap. However, because the USA is 21-times larger than Guatemala by population, we could easily absorb the entire Guatemalan population without much damaging our national averages. Per capita income in the USA, for example, would fall only 4%, while rising more than 7-times for Guatemala (click to enlarge):

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This simplistic analysis yields a straightforward hypothesis: violence and military force at national borders rises as the income disparity across the border increases. Maybe someone has already tested that.

The demographic solution is obvious: open the borders, release the pressure, and devote resources to improving quality of life and social harmony instead of enforcing inequality. You’re welcome!

Cross-posted at Family Inequality.

Philip N. Cohen is a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, College Park, and writes the blog Family Inequality. You can follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Overwork And Its Costs: The U.S. in International Perspective

On average, U.S. workers with jobs put in more hours per year  than workers in most OECD countries. In 2012, only Greece, Hungary, Israel, Korea, and Turkey recorded a longer work year per employed person.

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A long work year is nothing to celebrate. The following chart, from the same Economist article, shows there is a strong negative correlation between yearly hours worked and hourly productivity.

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More importantly, the greater the number of hours worked per year, the greater the likelihood of premature death and poor quality of life.  This reality is highlighted in the following two charts taken from an article by Angus Chen titled “8 Charts to Show Your Boss to Prove That You Can Do More By Working Less.”

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In sum, we need to pay far more attention to the organization and distribution of work, not to mention its remuneration and purpose, than we currently do.

Martin Hart-Landsberg is a professor of economics at Lewis and Clark College. You can follow him at Reports from the Economic Front.

Global Attitudes toward Homosexuality

The Pew Research Global Attitudes Project recently released data on attitudes about homosexuality in 39 countries. Generally, those living in the Middle East and Africa were the least accepting, while those in the Americas, Europe, and parts of Asia (the Philippines, Australia, and to a lesser extent Japan) were most accepting:

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Generally, the more religious a country, the less accepting its citizens are of homosexuality:

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The proportion of people who support social acceptance of gays and lesbians ranged from a high of 88% in Spain to a low of 1% in Nigeria:

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Attitudes about homosexuality vary widely by age. There is a pretty consistent global pattern of more positive attitudes among younger people, with a few exceptions:

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Thus far, legalization of same-sex marriage has been largely confined to the Americas and Europe; New Zealand and South Africa are the two outliers:

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The Pew Center points out that of the 15 nations that have fully extended marriage rights to same-sex couples, 8 have done so just since 2010. In the U.S., we’re currently awaiting a Supreme Court’s decision, which should arrive shortly, to know if we’ll be joining the list sooner rather than later.

Thanks to Peter Nardi at Pitzer College for the link!

Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.

Health Care and Profits

Cross-posted at Reports from the Economic Front.

The Supreme Court has ruled favorably on the legality of the Affordable Care Act.  Actually, despite its name, the Act has more to do with extending and attempting to improve private health insurance coverage than it does with improving care or reducing its cost.

Unfortunately for us, the effort to improve our health care system has remained within bounds set by the needs of private health care providers and insurers.  As President Obama made clear from the start of his push for health care reform, there would be no consideration of a universal system.

Critics of such a universal system are always quick to argue that only market forces driven by the private pursuit of profit can ensure an efficient health care system.  Of course, in determining whether this is true, we need to recognize that efficiency is a complex term and that our health care system, like all systems, produces multiple outcomes.  The most obvious ones are private profit as well as the quality and cost of the relevant health care.

In terms of private profit there can be no doubt that our health care system functions well.  However, the story is quite different if we evaluate it in terms of quality and cost.  The fact that we continue to embrace a private health care system makes clear which measures of efficiency are considered most important and by whom.

The following map shows the countries, colored green, that have adopted a universal health care system.

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As Max Fisher explains:

What’s astonishing is how cleanly the green and grey separate the developed nations from the developing, almost categorically. Nearly the entire developed world is colored, from Europe to the Asian powerhouses to South America’s southern cone to the Anglophone states of Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. The only developed outliers are a few still-troubled Balkan states, the Soviet-style autocracy of Belarus, and the U.S. of A., the richest nation in the world.

The handful of developing countries that provide universal access to health care include oil-rich Saudi Arabia and Oman, Latin success story Costa Rica, Kyrgyzstan, and, famously, Cuba, among a few others. A number of countries have attempted universal health care but failed, such as South Africa, which maintains a notoriously inefficient and troubled public plan to complement the private plans popular among middle- and upper-class citizens…

That brings us to another way that America is a big outlier on health care. The grey countries on this map tend to spend significantly less per capita on health care than do the green countries — except for the U.S., where the government spends way more on health care per person than do most countries with free, universal health care. This is also true of health care costs as a share of national GDP — in other words, how much of a country’s money goes into health care.

The OECD just published a major study on the health care systems of its 34 member nations.  It found that:

 Health spending accounted for 17.6% of GDP in the United States in 2010, down slightly from 2009 (17.7%) and by far the highest share in the OECD, and a full eight percentage points higher than the OECD average of 9.5%. Following the United States were the Netherlands (at 12.0% of GDP), and France and Germany (both at 11.6% of GDP).

The United States spent 8,233 USD on health per capita in 2010, two-and-a-half times more than the OECD average of 3,268 USD (adjusted for purchasing power parity). Following the United States were Norway and Switzerland which spent over 5,250 USD per capita. Americans spent more than twice as much as relatively rich European countries such as France, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

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What does all of this mean in terms of health outcomes?  According to the OECD report:

Most OECD countries have enjoyed large gains in life expectancy over the past decades. In the United States, life expectancy at birth increased by almost 9 years between 1960 and 2010, but this is less than the increase of over 15 years in Japan and over 11 years on average in OECD countries. As a result, while life expectancy in the United States used to be 1½ year above the OECD average in 1960, it is now, at 78.7 years in 2010, more than one year below the average of 79.8 years. Japan, Switzerland, Italy and Spain are the OECD countries with the highest life expectancy, exceeding 82 years.

One possible explanation for this lagging performance, highlighted in an earlier OECD report, is that the U.S. ranked 26th in terms of the number of practicing physicians relative to its population, 29th in terms of the number of doctor consultations per capita, 29th in terms of the number of hospital beds per capita, and 29th in terms of the average length of hospital stay.  At the same time, the “U.S. health system does do a lot of interventions… it has a lot of expensive diagnostic equipment, which it uses a lot. And it does a lot of elective surgery — the sort of activities where it is not always clear cut about whether a particular intervention is necessary or not.”

Private health care providers and insurers are clear about how they measure health care efficiency.  And as long as we rely on them to set the terms of the debate we will continue to suffer the consequences.

Religiosity Varies Dramatically Across Countries

In a previous post I discussed how the U.S. became more religious in the 1950s, in part in response to its the Cold War enemies (atheist communists).  In fact, the U.S. is among the most religious countries in the world.  Using data from the International Social Survey Programme, Sociologist Tom Smith paints wildly different religious portraits of 28 nations (full text).

When asked whether they “know that God really exists and… have no doubt about it,” 61% of Americans say “yes.”  Of the 28 nations studied, only four were more likely to say “yes” to this question: Poland, Israel, Chile, and the Philippines. Here’s how we look compared to similar countries:

Here’s all 28 in rank order (borrowed from LiveScience).  Notice how wide the divergence is.  In Japan, the least religious country according to this measure, only 4% say they have no doubt God exists.  In The Philippines, 84% have no doubt.

% Have No Doubt God Exists:

  • Japan: 4.3 percent
  • East Germany: 7.8 percent
  • Sweden: 10.2
  • Czech Republic: 11.1
  • Denmark: 13.0
  • Norway: 14.8
  • France: 15.5
  • Great Britain: 16.8
  • The Netherlands: 21.2
  • Austria: 21.4
  • Latvia: 21.7
  • Hungary: 23.5
  • Slovenia: 23.6
  • Australia: 24.9
  • Switzerland: 25.0
  • New Zealand: 26.4
  • West Germany: 26.7
  • Russia: 30.5
  • Spain: 38.4
  • Slovakia: 39.2
  • Italy: 41.0
  • Ireland: 43.2
  • Northern Ireland: 45.6
  • Portugal: 50.9
  • Cyprus: 59.0
  • United States: 60.6
  • Poland: 62.0
  • Israel: 65.5
  • Chile: 79.4
  • The Philippines: 83.6

Americans are also particularly likely to believe in a “personal God,” one who is closely attentive to the lives of each and every person.

Quite interestingly, the U.S. is in the minority in that Americans tend to become increasingly religious as they age.  In most countries, people become less religious over time.  This graph (confusingly labeled), shows changes in DISbelief over the life course.  The U.S. is the only country among these in which disbelief declines:

Lifetime Change in Religiosity (from increase in disbelief to increase in belief):

  • The Netherlands: -14.0
  • Spain: -12.4
  • Australia: -12.0
  • France: -11.3
  • Norway: -11.0
  • Great Britain: -10.1
  • Switzerland: -8.2
  • Germany (East): -6.9
  • Denmark: -6.1
  • Czech Republic: -5.5
  • Sweden: -5.5
  • Germany (West): -5.4
  • New Zealand: -4.0
  • Italy: -2.7
  • Poland: -1.8
  • Japan: -1.5
  • Ireland: -0.9
  • Chile: +0.1
  • Cyprus: +0.2
  • Portugal: +0.6
  • The Philippines: +0.8
  • Hungary: +1.0
  • Northern Ireland: +1.0
  • United States: +1.4
  • Israel: +2.6
  • Slovakia: +5.6
  • Slovenia: +8.5
  • Latvia: +11.9
  • Russia: +16.0

Rates of atheism — a strong disbelief in God — also vary tremendously.  East Germany is the most atheist, with more than half of citizens claiming disbelief.  The country is a stark contrast to the atheist among them, Poland and the U.S. (only 3% atheist), Chile and Cyprus (2%), and The Phillipines (1%).

% Atheist:

  • East Germany: 52.1
  • Czech Republic: 39.9
  • France: 23.3
  • The Netherlands: 19.7
  • Sweden: 19.3
  • Latvia: 18.3
  • Great Britain: 18.0
  • Denmark: 17.9
  • Norway: 17.4
  • Australia: 15.9
  • Hungary: 15.2
  • Slovenia: 13.2
  • New Zealand: 12.6
  • Slovakia: 11.7
  • West Germany: 10.3
  • Spain: 9.7
  • Switzerland: 9.3
  • Austria: 9.2
  • Japan: 8.7
  • Russia: 6.8
  • Northern Ireland: 6.6
  • Israel: 6.0
  • Italy: 5.9
  • Portugal: 5.1
  • Ireland: 5.0
  • Poland: 3.3
  • United States: 3.0
  • Chile: 1.9
  • Cyprus: 1.9
  • The Philippines: 0.7

As a post-9/11 American watching another election cycle, I can’t help but notice how so much of our rhetoric revolves — sometimes overtly and sometimes not — around people who are the wrong religion.  Notably, Muslims.  And yet, the U.S. and many Muslim countries are alike in being strongly religious, at least in comparison to the many strongly secular countries.

This is odd because stands in contrast to recent data on American attitudes.  Within the U.S., people express much less tolerance for atheists than they do Muslims (homosexuals, African Americans, and immigrants). Weirdly, we think we have more in common with more secular nations like Great Britain than we do with countries like Pakistan or Saudi Arabia. In certain ways, the opposite might be true.

Thanks to Claude Fischer for the graphs.  Fischer, a sociologist at UC Berkeley, is the author of Made in America: A Social History of American Culture and Character.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Global women’s progress report

Cross-posted at Family Inequality.

I have criticized sloppy statistical work by some international feminist organizations, so I’m glad to have a chance to point out a useful new report and website.

The Progress of the World’s Women is from the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. The full-blown site has an executive summary, a long report, and a statistics index page with a download of the complete spreadsheet. I selected a few of the interesting graphics.

Skewed sex ratios (which I’ve written about here and here) are in the news, with the publication of Unnatural Selection, by Mara Hvistendahl. The report shows some of the countries with the most skewed sex ratios, reflecting the practice of parents aborting female fetuses (Vietnam and Taiwan should  be in there, too). With the exception of Korea, they’ve all gotten more skewed since the 1990s, when ultrasounds became more widely available, allowing parents to find out the sex of the fetus early in the pregnancy.

The most egregious inequality between women of the world is probably in maternal mortality. This chart shows, for example, that the chance of a woman dying during pregnancy or birth is about 100- 39-times higher in Africa than Europe. The chart also shows how many of those deaths are from unsafe abortions.

Finally, I made this one myself, showing women as a percentage of parliament in most of the world’s rich countries (the spreadsheet has the whole list). The USA, with 90 women out of 535 members of Congress, comes in at 17%.

The report focuses on law and justice issues, including rape and violence against women, as well as reparations, property rights, and judicial reform. They boil down their conclusions to: “Ten proven approaches to make justice systems work for women“:

1. Support women’s legal organizations

2. Support one-stop shops and specialized services to reduce attrition in the justice chain [that refers to rape cases, for example, not making their way from charge to conviction -pnc]

3. Implement gender-sensitive law reform

4. Use quotas to boost the number of women legislators

5. Put women on the front line of law enforcement

6. Train judges and monitor decisions

7. Increase women’s access to courts and truth commissions in conflict and post-conflict contexts.

8. Implement gender-responsive reparations programmes

9. Invest in women’s access to justice

10. Put gender equality at the heart of the Millennium Development Goals

Cross-National Comparisons of Years in Retirement

Does American prosperity translate into long retirements?  Not compared to other developed countries in the world.  Flowing Data borrowed OECD numbers on life expectancy and age of retirement to calculate the average number of years in retirement for men and women across many different countries.  The portion of each bar with the line is the average number of years working, while the non-lined portion represents years in retirement.

Largely because of life expectancy, women enjoy more years than men in all states except Turkey, but the number of years varies quite tremendously, from an average of zero years for men in Mexico, to an average of 26 years for women in Austria and Italy.  The United States is way down on this list, not doing so well relatively after all.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

International Comparisons of Equality and Prosperity

An infographic accompanying an article at the New York Times reveals how “advanced economies” compare on various measures of equality, well-being, educational attainment, and more.  To illustrate this, for each measure countries that rank well are coded tan, countries that rank poorly and very poorly are coded orange and red respectively, and countries that are in the middle are grey.  The countries are then ranked from best to worst overall, with Australia coming in #1 and the United States coming in last.  You might be surprised how some of these countries measure up.

Thanks to Dmitriy T.M. for the link.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.