Tag Archives: race/ethnicity: Asians/Pacific Islanders

U.S. Birth Rate Drops to Lowest on Record

In 2011 the U.S. birth rate dropped to the lowest ever recorded, according to preliminary data released by the National Center for Health Statistics and reported by Pew Social Trends:

The decline was led by foreign-born women, who’s birthrate dropped 14% between 2007 and 2010, compared to a 6% drop for U.S.-born women.

Considering the last two decades, birthrates for all racial/ethnic groups and both U.S.- and foreign-born women have been dropping, but the percent change is much larger among the foreign-born and all non-white groups.  The drop in the birthrate of foreign-born women is double that of U.S.-born and the drop in the birthrate of white women is often a fraction that of women of color.

It’s easy to forget that effective, reversible birth control was invented only about 50 years ago.  Birth control for married couples was illegal until 1965; legalization for single people would follow a few years later.  In the meantime, the second wave of feminism would give women the opportunity to enter well-paying, highly-regarded jobs, essentially giving women something rewarding to do other than/in addition to raise children.  The massive drop in the birthrate during the ’60s likely reflects these changes.

In addition to a drop in the number of children women are having, this data reflects a steady rise in the number of women deciding not to have children at all.  The decision to eschew parenting altogether is disproportionately high among highly educated women, suggesting that the there-are-now-other-things-in-life-to-do phenomenon might be at play.

Many European countries are facing less than replacement levels of fertility and scrambling to figure out what to do about it (the health of most economies in the developed world is predicated on population growth), the U.S. is likely not far behind.

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.

Colonial Circus: The Case of “Giraffe-Necked Women”

***TRIGGER WARNING for racism and enslavement***

Last month I posted about the human zoo captives popular during the 1800s and early 1900s in Europe and America.  Today I discovered an archive documenting the capture and display of members of a Burmese ethnic minority, the Kayan (also called Padaung), who have historically practiced neck-lengthening.

The archive, at Sideshow World, includes posters from the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus and the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus, as well as promotional photographs of the captives.  This material typically referred to the women as “giraffe-necked.”

Promotional posters:

Promotional photograph:
Kayan women with circus performers:


This political cartoon reveals the degree to which the “giraffe-necked woman” had become a well-known icon in the U.S.:

These women and the many others from various parts of the colonized world were typically kidnapped from their communities and put on display.  Many died young, exposed to diseases their bodies were not prepared to fight.  In some cases their remains — sometimes preserved as “freakish” samples — are still being repatriated.

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.

U.S. Racial/Ethnic Demographics: 1960, Today, and 2050

Barack Obama won just over 50% of the popular vote last week, but he earned 80% of non-white votes.  According to USA Today exit poll data, he secured 93% of the Black vote, 73% of the Asian vote, 71% of the Hispanic vote, and 58% of the non-white Other vote.

This data suggests are real and palpable difference between how (some) Whites and (most) non-Whites see the world, a difference that will become increasingly influential.

Earlier this month the Pew Research Center released an updated prediction for the racial/ethnic composition of the U.S. in 2050.  They expect that, by 2050, Whites will be a minority, adding up to only 47% of the population.  By that time, they expect Hispanics to account for 29% of the population, and Blacks and Asians to account for 13% and 9% respectively.

Paul Taylor and D’Vera Cohn, at Pew, observe that the demographics of the voting population will change a bit slower since the majority of the demographic change is from births and deaths, not immigration.  In 2011, for example, whites were 66% of those ages 18 and older, but only 56% of 18-year-olds.  In other words, it takes 18 years to grow a voter.

Whatever the pace of change, the era of winning U.S. elections by pandering to the worldview of a single group is ending.  Future politicians will likely have to put effort into attracting a wide range of voters, as Obama did on Tuesday.

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.

Who’s Reporting the News? An Analysis by Race and Ethnicity

Larry Harnisch, of L.A.’s The Daily Mirror, let us know that 4th Estate analyzed the racial and ethnic breakdown of reporters covering the presidential election for 38 major print media outlets. The analysis included front-page articles published between January 1st and October 12th of this year.

Here’s the key for all of the following images:

For every major topic, the overwhelming majority of front-page articles were written by non-Hispanic Whites, while racial/ethnic minorities were underrepresented compared to the overall U.S. population:

Major newspapers varied in the diversity of those writing their feature articles. The Dallas Morning News was the most diverse, with a particularly large percentage (18.8) of front-page stories written by African American reporters. The San Francisco Chronicle had the least diversity; 100% of its feature political stories were written by White non-Hispanics:

Overall, 93% of the feature articles analyzed in the database were written by White non-Hispanics, 4% by Asian Americans, about 2% by African Americans, and less than 1% by Hispanics. Compare that with each group’s proportion of the overall U.S. population:

These numbers clearly matter in terms of career opportunities and exposure for minorities within the industry. But they also should concern us readers. What does the lack of diversity mean in terms of the issues covered, the political contacts and average-Joe-voters spoken to, the topics seen as important enough to cover?

Also see our earlier post on the gender of those quoted in news stories about the election.

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

Human Zoos at the Turn of the 20th Century

***TRIGGER WARNING for racism and enslavement***

During a dark period of world history, intellectuals pondered where to draw the line between human and animal.  They arrayed humans hierarchically, from the lightest to the darkest skin.  Believing that Africans were ape-like, they weren’t sure whether to include apes as human, or Africans as apes.

One artifact of this thinking was the “human zoo.”  Kidnapped from their homes at the end of the 19th century and into the next, hundreds of indigenous people were put on display for white Westerners to view.  “Often they were displayed in villages built in zoos specifically for the show,” according to a Spiegel Online sent in by Katrin, “but they were also made to perform on stage for the amusement of a paying public.”  Many died quickly, being exposed to diseases foreign to them.

This group of captives is from Sri Lanka (called  Ceylon at the time):

This photograph commemorates a show called “Les Indes,” featuring captives from India:

These captives are from Oromo in Ethiopia:

A German named Carl Hagenbeck was among the more famous men involved in human zoos.  He would go on expeditions in foreign countries and bring back both animals and people for European collections.  In his memoirs, he spoke of his involvement with pride, writing: “it was my privilege to be the first in the civilized world to present these shows of different races.”

The zoo in Hamburg still bears his name.

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.

Overview of the Social Construction of Race

Dalton Conley’s newest animated video provides an overview of the social construction of race: the categories we define as race aren’t based in biology, yet they’re incredibly important factors that influence our opportunities, constraints, and life outcomes.

Gender, Race/Ethnicity, and the Pay Gap

The Washington Post has a post up by Dylan Matthews that looks at the U.S. gender wage gap over time. It has several charts that illustrate trends in pay very clearly. Here’s a breakdown of median income (in constant 2010 dollars) by gender and race/ethnicity, for all workers, both full- and part-time:

The gap remains for full-time, year-round workers, too. Women have gained ground, but within every racial/ethnic category, women’s median income is lower than men’s and every other group earns significantly less than Asian and White men. However, there’s a clear racial earnings hierarchy visible in the chart as well, which isn’t getting nearly the attention that the gender wage gap is:

Moreover, the income bump received from earning a college degree is still higher for men than for women:

There are additional charts further breaking down differences in pay among men and women in the original post. As Matthews argues, and as Philip Cohen has posted about here at Soc Images, the data just don’t support the “impending female economic dominance” narrative that has become popular recently.

Race/Ethnicity and Voter Turnout

As we enter the home stretch of the presidential campaign, there’s a steady stream of media discussions of potential turnout and differences in early voters and those who vote on Election Day, analysis of the demographics of swing states, and a flood of campaign materials and phone calls aimed at both winning us over and convincing us to actually go vote (those of you not living in swing states may be blessed with less of this).

So who does vote? And how many of us do so?

Demos.org recently released a report on voting rates and access among Native Americans. It contains a breakdown of voting and voter registration by race/ethnicity for the 2008 presidential election. That year, about 64% of all adults eligible to vote in the U.S. did so, but the rates varied widely by group. White non-Hispanics and African Americans had the highest turnout, with every other group having significantly less likely to vote. Half or less of Asians, American Indians/Alaska Natives, and Hispanics voted:

For every group, the vast majority of those who register do go on to vote. But significant numbers of people who have the right to vote aren’t registered to do so, and even among registered voters (the darkest blue columns), turnout is higher among White non-Hispanics and African Americans than other groups. This could reflect lack of interest in or enthusiasm for the election or the candidates, but likely also reflects structural and organizational differences, from poverty to the lack of concerted efforts by campaigns to make voting easier by providing shuttles to the polls and otherwise getting out the vote in these communities.