If you’re looking for basic global demographic information, World Health Rankings provides a great overview, using World Health Organization, World Bank, UNESCO, and other data. The website allows you to select a country, then provides a detailed breakdown of many demographic details, such as population pyramids (you can select different years in the past, or look at predictions for the future), leading causes of death, etc. Here’s the 2010 population pyramid for the U.S.:

You can also easily access all the age pyramids here. The 2020 projections for Brazil show the changing demographics due to the dramatic decrease in the fertility rate, which Lisa posted about this weekend:

There’s an interactive map of the top 15 causes of death in the U.S., allowing you to look at variations by county. Here’s the map of deaths due to heart disease, with Clark County, Nevada, highlighted:

You can also look at life expectancy for different nations for every decade between 1960 and 20101, a “real-time” clock that tracks global deaths (you can look at how many have died in the last year or month, or you can click “now” and reset the clock and watch as the clock estimate how many people die of various causes of death worldwide), and maps showing the prevalence of various causes of death around the world. Lots of neat representations of rather depressing information.

Also, as I wrote this post I realized that now every time I see a population pyramid of the U.S., Community‘s song “Baby Boomer Santa” is going to play through my head.

The declining birth rate in Latin America, depicted in this graph, is a nice example of the way that both cultural and social change affects individual choices.  Brazil is highlighted as an extreme case. It’s birthrate has fallen from over six children/woman in 1960 to under 1.9 today.

The accompanying Washington Post article, sent in by Mae C., explains that the decrease in the birthrate since the 1960s is related to migration to cities.  In rural areas children are useful. They can help with crops and animals.  In crowded and expensive cities, however, they cost money and take up space.  Economic change, then, changed the context of individual choices.

This transition — from a largely rural country with high birthrates to an industrialized one with lower birthrates — has been observed across countries again and again.  It’s no surprise to demographers (social scientists who study changes in human population).  But Brazil did surprise demographers in one way:

…Brazil’s fertility rate fell almost uniformly from cosmopolitan Sao Paulo, with its tiny apartments and go-go economy, to Amazonian villages and the vast central farming belt.

The decline in birthrate, in other words, has occurred across the urban/rural divide. Demographers attribute this to cultural factors.  The idea of “an appealing, affluent, highflying world, whose distinguishing features include the small family” has been widely portrayed on popular soap operas, while Brazilian women in the real world have made strong strides into high-status, well-paid, but time-intensive occupations.  They mention, in particular, Brazil’s widely-admired first female president, Dilma Rousseff, who has one child.

Ultimately, then, the dramatic drop in the birthrate is due to a combination of both economic and cultural change.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

With all the emphasis on Halloween, you may or may not have heard that this year, October 31st was noteworthy for another reason: according to the United Nations, that’s the day the global population hit 7 billion. The UN has set up a website to provide information about population trends and estimates for the future. Here’s the current world population, by region:

The map is interactive, so you can click on a region to find out its population, as well as its percentage of the total world population.

You can also estimate the population through 2100 based on various fertility scenarios. In the default medium scenario, fertility is expected to follow past trends, leveling out at a little over 10 billion by 2100:

On the other hand, if we saw no further reductions in global fertility, the 2100 population would be over 26.8 billion:

There’s an enormous amount of data available at the site. For instance, if you select the Births tab, you can click on either a region or a specific country and find out what percent of births are to women in different age groups. Here’s the % of all births to women aged 15-19, by country:

And the chart showing the total age breakdown for Finland (at the site you can hover over the graph to get the actual %):

A chart of deaths by age and sex, illustrating the continued high mortality in infancy and early childhood:

There’s also a section of the site where you can enter information about your own date and place of birth and then get a snapshot of what the global population was when you were born. Since I entered the world:

Overall, it’s a pretty great resource, and another one of those websites that can easily eat up a significant amount of your time without you realizing it.

Dmitriy T.M. send in a map from National Geographic that shows the wide disparities in national per capita income levels, as well as population density. Different colors represent different income groups, while shades within each color represent population density (darker = lower density):

The map claims to be interactive, though I haven’t figured out any interactive features. They do provide a lot of data on various economic and social indicators for each income group. Of course, this type of representation hides the often wide disparities in income within countries. But it’s a striking general overview of global economic development.

Rising Immigration and Intermarriage

Today we see both increased immigration and rising rates of intermarriage. In 1960, less than 1% of U.S. marriages were interracial, but by 2008, this figure rose to 7.6%, meaning that 1 out of every 13 U.S. marriages was interracial. If we look at only new marriages that took place in 2008, the figure rises to 14.6%, translating to 1 out of every 7 American marriages.

The rising trend in intermarriage has resulted in a growing multiracial population. In 2010, 2.9% of Americans identified as multiracial. Demographers project that the multiracial population will continue to grow so that by 2050, 1 in 5 Americans could claim a multiracial background, and by 2100, the ratio could soar to 1 in three.

At first glance, these trends appear to signal that we’re moving into a “post-racial” era, in which race is declining in significance for all Americans. However, if we take a closer look at these trends, we find that they mask vast inter-group differences.

For instance, Asians and Latinos intermarry at much higher rates than blacks. About 30% of Asian and Latino marriages are interracial, but the corresponding figure for blacks is only 17%. However, if we include only U.S.-born Asians and Latinos, we find that intermarriage rates are much higher. Nearly, three-quarters (72%) of married, U.S.-born Asians, and over half (52%) of U.S.-born Latinos are interracially married, and most often, the intermarriage is with a white partner. While the intermarriage rate for blacks has risen steadily in the past five decades, it is still far below that of Asians and Latinos, especially those born in the United States.

The pattern of multiracial identification is similar to that of intermarriage: Asians and Latinos report much higher rates of multiracial identification than blacks. In 2010, 15% of Asians and 12% of Latinos reported a multiracial identification. The corresponding figure for blacks is only 7 percent. Although the rate of multiracial reporting among blacks has risen since 2000, it increased from a very small base of only 4.2 percent.

The U.S. Census estimates that about 75-90% of black Americans are ancestrally multiracial, so it is perplexing that only 7% choose to identify as such. Clearly, genealogy alone does not dictate racial identification. Given that the “one-drop rule” of hypodescent* is no longer legally codified, why does the rate of multiracial reporting among blacks remain relatively low?

Patterns in Racial/Ethnic Identity

These are some of the vexing questions that we tackle in our book, The Diversity Paradox, drawing on analyses of 2000 Census data, 2007-2008 American Community Survey, as well as 82 in-depth interviews: 46 with multiracial adults and 36 with interracial couples with children.

Turning to the in-depth interviews with the interracial couples, we found that while all acknowledged their children’s multiracial or multiethnic backgrounds, the meaning of multiraciality differs remarkably for the children of Asian-white and Latino-white couples on the one hand, and the children of black-white couples on the other. For the Asian-white and Latino-white couples, they may go to great lengths to maintain distinctive elements of their Asian or Latino ethnic and cultural backgrounds, but they believe that as their children grow up, they will simply identify, and be identified as “American” or as “white,” using these terms interchangeably, and consequently conflating a national origin identity with a racial identity.

The Asian-white and Latino-white respondents also revealed that they can turn their ethnicities on and off whenever they choose, and, importantly, their choices are not contested by others. Our interview data reveal that the Asian and Latino ethnicities for multiracial Americans are what Herbert Gans and Mary Waters would describe as “symbolic”—meaning that they are voluntary, optional, and costless, as European ethnicity is for white Americans.

By contrast, none of the black-white couples identified their children as just white or American, nor did they claim that their children identify as such. While these couples recognize and celebrate the racial mixture of their children’s backgrounds, they unequivocally identify their children as black. When we asked why, they pointed out that nobody would take them seriously if they tried to identify their children as white, reflecting the constraints that black interracial couples feel when identifying their children. Moreover, black interracial couples do not identify their children as simply “American” because as native-born Americans, they feel that American is an implicit part of their identity.

The legacy of the one-drop-rule remains culturally intact, explaining why 75-90% of black Americans are ancestrally multiracial, yet only 7% choose to identify as such. It also explains why we, as Americans, are so attuned to identifying black ancestry in a way that we are not similarly attuned to identifying and constraining Asian and Latino ancestries.

On this note, it is also critical to underscore that a black racial identification also reflects agency and choice on the part of interracial couples and multiracial blacks. Given the legacy behind the one-drop rule and the meaning and consequences behind the historical practice of “passing as white,” choosing to identify one’s children as white may not only signify a rejection of the black community, but also a desire to be accepted by a group that has legally excluded and oppressed them in the past, a point underscored by Randall Kennedy.

Black Exceptionalism

But regardless of choice or constraint, the patterns of intermarriage and multiracial identification point to a pattern of “black exceptionalism.” Why does black exceptionalism persist, even amidst the country’s new racial/ethnic diversity? It persists because the legacy of slavery and the legacy of immigration are two competing yet strangely symbiotic legacies on which the United States was founded. If immigration represents the optimistic side of the country’s past and future, slavery and its aftermath is an indelible stain in our nation’s collective memory. The desire to overlook the legacy and slavery becomes a reason to reinforce the country’s immigrant origins.

That Asians and Latinos are largely immigrants (or the children of immigrants) means that their understanding of race and the color line are born out of an entirely different experience and narrative than that of African Americans. Hence, despite the increased diversity, race is not declining in significance, and we are far from a “post-racial” society. That we continue to find a pattern of black exceptionalism—even amidst the country’s new racial/ethnic diversity—points to the paradox of diversity in the 21st century.


* The one-drop rule was first implemented during the era of slavery so that any children born to a white male slaver owner and a black female slave would be legally identified as black, and, as a result, have no rights to property and other wealth holdings of their white father.


Jennifer Lee is a sociologist at the University of California, Irvine, specializing in intersection of immigration and race and ethnicity. She wrote, with Frank Bean, a book called The Diversity Paradox, that examines patterns of intermarriage and multiracial identification among Asians, Latinos, and African Americans.  Lee wrote the following analysis of her research for Russell Sage. And we’re happy to post it here.

Dmitriy T.M. sent us a link to some images at the Brookings Institution, based on analysis by William Frey, illustrating the very uneven changes in average of of the population by state in the U.S. Overall, the U.S. population is aging, with rapid growth in the population over age 55 and individuals over age 45 surpassing those aged 18-44, according to the 2010 Census:

But this varies by region of the country. Here’s a map showing growth in the +45 population, illustrating the rapid growth in the Southwest and much of the South:

Nevada had the single highest growth in the 45+ population, with this group increasing by 50% between 2000 and 2010. West Virginia growth comes in last among this group (excluding Washington, D.C.), increasing by 15%. Of course, growth doesn’t tell you anything about the underlying numbers.

Many of the same states that had rapid growth in the 45+ population also saw significant gains in the under-45 range. But unlike with the 45+ population, where every state’s population was stable or growing, a significant number of states actually experienced a loss of the under-45 group:

Again, Nevada’s #1, with 28% growth. Michigan, on the other hand, had an 11% loss.

These patterns have significant implications for individual states — everything from estimating how many elementary schools they’ll need to build in the future, to how many health care workers they’ll need to educate or attract, to a state’s or region’s ability to attract different types of employers, and so on. And states will be grappling with these issues under very different circumstances. It’s one thing to, for instance, address the potential health-care needs of the elderly in a state where every age group is increasing; it’s another if your working-age population is fleeing.

Brookings has a much more detailed interactive map that includes information on aging; you can look at the dependency ratio (population under 18 or over 65 per person of working age) and look at age changes by major metro areas in addition to states.

Earlier this month, The New York Times and Foreign Policy both reported on the United Nations population forecast for the next 100 years. According to the report, rather than hitting 9 billion at mid-century and then leveling off, the world’s population is likely to climb to 10 million and keep going. The cause: a fertility boom in the global south –– Africa, Asia, Latin America. Such growth, according to the report, if unchecked, will have dire consequences on a world already facing shortages of food, available water and other life-giving resources.

In reporting the story, both the Times and Foreign Policy used pictures of women and their children, but the way they used the pictures was somewhat chilling. For example, the Times ran a photo of several women of color under the heading: “Coming to a Planet Near You: 3 Billion More Mouths to Feed.”

Additionally, Foreign Policy ran a photo under the sub-headline: “Why ignoring family planning overseas was the worst foreign-policy mistake of the century.” It featured a picture of dark-skinned women with a child.

These photos, paired with the headlines and the dire predictions in the stories of what’s to come should the global south’s fertility boom remain unchecked, tap into anxieties about women’s bodies and link the coming doom and gloom directly to them. The Times headline, warning of “3 billion more mouths to feed,” is combined with seven new mothers in Manila; positioned in a long row, they crowd the frame of the photograph as they are imagined to crowd the planet.  While the Foreign Policy sub-headline inspires fear, saying that allowing the burgeoning birth rate was  the “worst… mistake of the century.”  Its photo features two women and a child in the foreground.  In both cases the focus on women makes it seem as if men have no role in reproduction at all.

Whether they meant it or not, such a juxtaposition does little more than demonize women –– particularly poor women from developing countries –– as directly responsible for the problem of overpopulation and its solution. While the commentaries herald funding for family planning and education –- both great ideas –– they contain no conversation about economic systems that create or maintain poverty in certain parts of the world; how patriarchy and systems of male-centered power prevent women from being able to control their own reproduction; and how international development money too often comes with strings attached that restrict government resources for education and health care, especially for women, who too often are the ones who bear the hardest brunt of poverty and the greatest social opprobrium.

Here’s what an alternative might look like:  GOOD Magazine discussed the U.N. report and the coming population boom. Its focus: How responsible living in the United States and other wealthy countries can help ensure food for all. The photo that ran with the commentary: a photo of the planet Earth.

Barbara Yuki Schwartz is a doctoral student in the Theology, History and Ethics program at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill.  She studies postcolonial and poststruturalist theory, political theory and theology, trauma studies, and is interested in how body, community and psychic life intersect and influence theology and liturgy. She blogs regularly at Dialogic Magazine.

I’m still totally geeking out about the Census Bureau starting to release data from the 2010 Census, so today you’re getting another post based on it. Kristina K. let us know that Salon has up maps of the 10 most racially-segregated metropolitan areas with populations of 500,000+, based on analyses from the University of Michigan’s Population Studies Center and available at CensusScope. Note that in the race categories, Hispanic is presented as a separate category; all other racial groups include only members of that race who said they were not of Hispanic origin. The Population Studies Center also has data available broken down by specific races and at the state level, though they don’t have maps for them, just the raw dissimilarity indices.

Here’s L.A., at #10:

Here, just for my friend Tony, is his hometown of Buffalo, NY, #6 on the list:

New York comes in second:

The most segregated 500,000+ metro area in the U.S.? Milwaukee:

Based on the dissimilarity index, over 81% of Milwaukee’s non-White population would have to relocate to be distributed similarly to Whites.

Interestingly, given assumptions many have about race relations in the U.S., the South doesn’t show up here. St. Louis is the most Southern city in the top 10, which is dominated by cities in the old industrial core of the North and upper Midwest/Great Lakes regions.