Posts Tagged ‘demographics’
Your family tree might contain a few curious revelations. It might alert you to the existence of long-lost third cousins. It might tell you your 10-times-great-grandfather once bought a chunk of Brooklyn. It might reveal that you have royal blood. But when family trees includes millions of people—maybe even tens of millions of people—then we’re beyond the realm of individual stories.
When genealogies get so big, they’re not just the story of a family anymore; they contain the stories of whole countries and, at the risk of sounding grandiose, even all of humanity…
The story of the largest family tree so far found– 13 million people. (And yes, that includes Kevin Bacon.): “What Can You Do With the World’s Largest Family Tree?“
* Edmund Burke
As we ruminate on roots, we might spare a thought for Sara Josephine Baker; she died on this date in 1945. A physician and public health pioneer, she was active especially in the immigrant communities of New York City. In 1917, she noted that babies born in the United States faced a higher mortality rate than soldiers fighting in World War I, and undertook her fight against the damage that widespread urban poverty and ignorance caused to children, especially newborns. She founded the Bureau of Child Hygiene after visiting mothers on the lower east side, was appointed assistant to the Commissioner for Public Health of New York City, then headed the city’s Department of Health in Hell’s Kitchen for 25 years. Among many other initiatives, she set up free milk clinics, licensed midwives, and taught the use of silver nitrate to prevent blindness in newborns.
She is also known for (twice) tracking down Mary Mallon, the infamous index case known as Typhoid Mary.
The idea that American life is increasingly transient and uprooted is a myth: people are moving less, but worrying more.
In 1971, the great Carole King sang: ‘So far away/ Doesn’t anyone stay in one place anymore?’ Thirty years later, the editors of The New York Times explained that families in the United States are changing because of ‘the ever-growing mobility of Americans’. And in 2010, a psychologist argued that ‘an increased rate of residential mobility played a role in the historical shift’ toward individualism. It’s a common US lament that human bonds are fraying because people are moving around more and more. Americans fear the fracturing of communities that constant moving seems to bring.
Yet when King sang, Americans had been moving around less and less for generations. That decline was even more obvious when the Times editorial appeared in 2001, and it has continued to decline through the 2010s. The increasingly mobile US is a myth that refuses to move on…
More on this widespread misapprehension– and what it means– in “The great settling down.”
* James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room
As we tend the roots we’ve put down, we might recall that it was on this date in 1963 that we lost two greats of imaginative literature:
C.S. Lewis, the novelist The Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters, and others), poet, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian, broadcaster, lecturer, and Christian apologist (Mere Christianity).
And Aldous Huxley, the writer, novelist, philosopher best remembered for Brave New World.
Neither passing was much remarked at the time, as they happened on the same day as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
“It’s hard for me to get used to these changing times. I can remember when the air was clean and sex was dirty.”*…
This fall’s entering college students, the class of 2020, were born in 1998 and cannot remember a time when they had to wait for anything. They also can’t recall a time when the United States was not at war, or when someone named Bush or Clinton was not running for office.
Each August since 1998, Beloit College has released the Beloit College Mindset List, providing a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students about to enter college.
In their lifetimes they have always had eBay and iMacs, and India and Pakistan have always had the bomb. The Sopranos and SpongeBob SquarePants have always been part of popular culture, Gretzky and Elway have always been retired, and Vladimir Putin has always been in charge in the Kremlin.
And although they think of themselves as a powerful generation—Sanders voters, consumers—they are faced with the prospect of student loan debt and of robots and foreigners taking their jobs making them feel anxious and weak…
* George Burns
As we muster to matriculate, we might recall that it was on this date in 1862 that President Abraham Lincoln signed the (preliminary) Emancipation Proclamation, announcing that if the rebel states did not end the fighting and rejoin the Union by January 1, 1863, all slaves in those states would be free. No Confederate state capitulated, and on the first day of 1863, President Lincoln issued the Proclamation declaring “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”
Despite it’s expansive wording, the Emancipation Proclamation was limited in many ways. It applied only to states that had seceded from the Union, leaving slavery untouched in the loyal border states. It also expressly exempted parts of the Confederacy that had already come under Northern control. Most important, of course, the freedom it promised depended upon Union military victory.
Still, it captured the hearts and imagination of millions of Americans and fundamentally transformed the character of the war. After January 1, 1863, every advance of federal troops expanded the domain of freedom. Moreover, the Proclamation announced the acceptance of black men into the Union Army and Navy, enabling the liberated to become liberators. By the end of the war, almost 200,000 black soldiers and sailors had fought for the Union and freedom.
The United States of America is a country of immigrants. That’s the cliche we know, but don’t always take to heart. Especially, during this political season…
Helpful background at “Where Are All the People in the United States From?”
* Chuck Palahniuk,
As we ruminate on roots, we might recall that it was on this date in 1930 (though some sources locate it on March 7 of that year), that The New York Times revised its style sheet to normalize the capitalization of “Negro” in its pages, a change that it memorialized in a editorial…
The New York Times now joins many of the leading Southern newspapers as well as most of the Northern in according this recognition. In our “style book” “Negro” is now added to the list of words to be capitalized. It is not merely a typographical change; it is an act in recognition of racial self-respect for those who have been for generations in “the lower case.”
“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”*…
This map of Canada shows the country’s familiar vastness. A single line drawn across its deep south adds a surprising layer of information.
The line runs well below the 49th parallel that constitutes that long straight stretch of U.S.-Canada border from Point Roberts, WA to Lake of the Woods, MN… Split in two by the U.S. state of Maine poking north, the line traverses four eastern provinces, cutting off the southern extremities of Ontario, Québec and New Brunswick. Nova Scotia is the only province that falls mostly below the line.
Amazingly, what the line does, is divide Canada in two perfect halves – demographically speaking: 50% of Canada’s 35 million inhabitants live south of the line, 50% north of it. Below the line is where you find Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Halifax and other major cities. The vast expanses north of the line are mainly empty…
Other compelling cartographic “curious dividers” at “One Half of Canada Is Smaller than the Other — Plus More Fascinating Inequalities.”
As we conquer the divides, we might send adventurous birthday greetings to Hugh Clapperton; he was born on this date in 1788. A British naval officer, Clapperton saw action in the Napoleonic Wars and in Canada before volunteering for an expedition to explore Africa. He made several such journeys, helping to chart West and Central Africa, and was the first European to to make known from personal observation the Hausa states (in what we now call Nigeria). Clapperton ended his career sailing in an action aimed at suppressing the slave trade.
The life expectancy for the average woman in the United States is 81 years and 2 months. For men, it’s 76 years and 5 months. These are the most recent estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Just subtract your current age from those numbers for a rough estimate of how many years you have left.
It feels accurate. It feels precise.
But people die at various ages. Life is imprecise. Otherwise, you could just plan your days all the way up to your last.
Also, life expectancy is typically quoted “from birth.” It’s the number of years a baby is expected to live the moment he or she escapes from the womb into the wondrous realities of the outside world. This is a good measure for progress in countries and is a fine wideout view, but it’s just so-so for you and me, as individuals.
The range of your life expectancy is much more interesting…
* Woody Allen
As we memento mori, we might spare a thought for Giambattista Vico; he died on this date in 1744. A political philosopher, rhetorician, historian, and jurist, Vico was one of the greatest Enlightenment thinkers. Best known for the Scienza Nuova (1725, often published in English as New Science), he famously criticized the expansion and development of modern rationalism and was an apologist for classical antiquity.
He was an important precursor of systemic and complexity thinking (as opposed to Cartesian analysis and other kinds of reductionism); and he can be credited with the first exposition of the fundamental aspects of social science, though his views did not necessarily influence the first social scientists. Vico is often claimed to have fathered modern philosophy of history (although the term is not found in his text; Vico speaks of a “history of philosophy narrated philosophically”). While he was not strictly speaking a historicist, interest in him has been driven by historicists (like Isaiah Berlin).
“If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise… we would have found the safest way to health”*…
From Richard Florida and his team at the Martin Prosperity Institute, a mapping of the American Fitness Index™ (AFI) (which rates metros on individual health indicators like vegetable consumption and daily physical activity, as well as community or environmental indicators like walkability or proximity to a local park): cities with a low fitness score are shown in blue, while cities with a high fitness score are shown in dark purple.
The group then analyzed the data against the key socioeconomic characteristics of these metros. Fitness, it emerges, is highly correlated with a city’s wealth/affluence, education level, and proximity to tech industry centers…
For all the talk of fitness that permeates the American zeitgeist—from reality shows like The Biggest Loser to the First Lady’s “Let’s Move!” campaign to combat childhood obesity—we don’t often explore the more subtle factors that contribute to a healthy lifestyle. As beneficial as exercise and mindful eating may be, the overall health of our lifestyles is not just the product of a series of good decisions. It is also the result of how our culture and society is structured. At the end of the day, fitness is consistently tied up with our affluence, jobs, education, and class position—all of which are partially contingent on where we live. With the success of fit cities comes the unfortunate reality that these cities reflect yet another gripping image of our country’s great divide along economic and class lines.
More data and analysis at “America’s Great Fitness Divide.”
And on a related front, see also: “These Victorian-Era Diseases Are Making a Comeback in a City Near You.” Gout, scurvy, and rickets– who’d have thunk it.
As we drop and do 50, we might recall that it was on this date in 1889 that U.S. Patent #396,089 was issues to Daniel Johnson for a “Rotary Dining Table.” Johnson’s innovation was to combine a “rotary table and adjustable chair adapted for saloons of sea-going vessels and of other descriptions, in which the occupants of the chairs may be served in rotation from one stationary base of supply without the danger and inconvenience incident to the person making the circuit of the table when the vessel is upon the seas, and also enabling the persons seated at the table to be served with dispatch.” The entire table with its attached chairs was supported on one central rotating shaft – making the seated persons part of a human “Lazy Susan.”