This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at:

Monday, May 22, 2017

Supreme Court Rules That North Carolina Did Indeed Gerrymander Two Districts

The U.S. Supreme Court has just ruled that North Carolina did indeed gerrymander two Congressional Districts in that state in a racially biased manner. The NYTimes has the story:
The Supreme Court on Monday struck down two North Carolina congressional districts, ruling that lawmakers had violated the Constitution by relying too heavily on race in drawing them. The court rejected arguments from state lawmakers that their purpose in drawing the maps was not race discrimination but partisan advantage. Election law experts said the ruling would make it easier to challenge voting districts based partly on partisan affiliations and partly on race.
This case confirmed an earlier Federal Court ruling on the case, and that is good news for how the Courts are thinking about these issues. You will recall that in January of this year a panel of three Federal judges ruled that Texas had gerrymandered some of its legislative districts, and Wisconsin was found guilty of the same charges back in November.

In all of these cases the states have argued that the mapping was done on the basis of party lines (which, it turns out, is legal) not race. The Courts have rejected those arguments and found that race was the issue. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Illustrating the Complexities of Immigration--a Story from Houston

Thanks to my son, John, for pointing me a story that appeared a couple of days ago in the Houston Chronicle about an undocumented immigrant who finished first in her high school class in that city and has accepted a full scholarship to Georgetown University.
The price of Sofia Alfaro's future was a 1994 Chevrolet Camaro. Her stepfather sold the car when Sofia was 5, paying for safe passage from her native El Salvador to the United States. But that journey led to another - her years-long struggle to learn English and adapt to a new country. She fell a grade level behind her peers due to her limited English skills and was sent to an alternative school - not for bad behavior but to catch up. And did she.
Alfaro's story also illustrates the complexity of the debate over those brought into the country illegally as children. While Alfaro has been able to continue living in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama administration measure that bars deportation for those meeting certain conditions, political tensions over immigration have intensified under President Donald Trump. Even Trump has acknowledged that the question of what to do with DACA recipients is a "very, very difficult subject for me" because "you have these incredible kids."
Her story is not unusual--a lot of children brought to the U.S. when young do exceptionally well but, of course, some don't do so well. It is very hard to generalize the situation.
Nationwide, about 62 percent of English-language learners graduate from high school, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, but those numbers vary by state. In Arizona, for example, only 18 percent of such students graduated in 2014, compared with 84 percent of English-language learners in Arkansas. About 71.5 percent of Texas' English-language learners graduated in 2015, according to the TEA, while the Houston ISD saw 73 percent of its ELL students graduate that year.
It is clear from the story that Houston does an excellent job of trying to integrate these students into society, whereas the data in the above paragraph suggests that as a state Arizona is not doing so well. These are all reasons why we desperately need immigration reform legislation at the national level that can set guidelines for using our resources to create a better future for everyone. It's not clear to me who would lose from that, but obviously there are a lot of people opposed to it.