For 85 year olds, race/ethnic demographics is like the U.S. 40 years ago

81% of persons 85 or older in 2016 were white, compared to whites being 61% of the total population. The last time the total population was 80% white was in 1980. For white 85 year olds, their concept of American demographics may be 40 years out of date. (Also here.)


Pew Research says that for white Americans, the most common age was 58, but 11 for Hispanics, 27 for Blacks and 29 for Asians. Among all racial and ethnic minorities, the most common age was 27.

One reason non-Hispanic whites are disproportionately older than other Americans is that they were the biggest population gainers from the post-World War II baby boom – an era before many of today’s minority immigrants entered the country. Data from 2018 here.

The median ages in 2019 were whites, 44; Hispanics, 29; Blacks, 34; and Asians, 37. States with the highest median ages are Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont which are among the very few states with whites accounting for well over 90% of the state’s population.

From here and here.

Non English spoken at home

One fifth of households in the U.S. speak a language other than or besides English at home. This rate has doubled since 1980. (these and other figures from 2018 Census surveys).

The rate in Los Angeles is 59%; East Los Angeles 88;Passaic, N.J. 78%; Providence, R.I. 50%; Germantown, Md. 46%; West Valley City, Utah 39%; Springdale, AR. 35%; and Troy, MI 34%

Languages with more than a million people who speak it at home in 2018 were Spanish (41.5 million), Chinese (3.5 million), Tagalog (1.8 million), Vietnamese (1.5 million), Arabic (1.3 million), French (1.2 million), and Korean (1.1 million). There are now more people who speak Spanish at home in the United States than in any country in Latin America with the exception of Mexico, Colombia, and Argentina.

Sources: here and here

Internal migration in China was fundamental to its success

From Brad DeLong, economic historian at U.C. / Berkeley, who places the internal migration within the context of the past 60 years (from his substack blog):

For 40 years now, I have been a short-run China bull and a long run China bear. It has seemed clear to me, at every point in time. It is, of course, very clear and obvious that at each stage in the past I have been wrong.
China has, since 1980, at every point in time… been able to successfully rejigger its development model at each stage to continue economic progress. I think Barry Naughton’s periodization of post-Mao China is the most useful way of thinking about the stages of this process:
1. Agricultural de-communization
2. Labor-intensive manufactures in the Chinese countryside via [Town and Village Enterprises]
3. China’s cityscapes via retail decontrol
4. The drastic and painful 1996 to 2002 shrinkage of [state owned enterprises] work force by more than 40 percent— the flip side was that alternate businesses and ownership forms had reached sufficient scale to absorb the workers, land, and structures
5. Greatest of all: 200 million migrants flooded into the urban economy
6. The decision in 1998 to privatize urban housing
7. Finally, the decision to enter the WTO—the China-export shock

From here: The census in 2000 found that there were more than 120 million migrant workers in Chinese cities. More-recent estimates go as high as 200 million. This massive internal migration has appeared especially dramatic from a Chinese perspective because mobility was severely restricted in Maoist times, making it almost impossible for rural people to leave their villages.

The pull factors for rural migrants were to be found in the growing prosperity of the coastal zone, where China’s extraordinarily rapid economic growth has been concentrated. Some migrants went to established cities, where they worked as petty traders or in the service sector, as well as in manufacturing and the construction industry. Others were drawn to the new urban areas of the coastal zone, such as Shenzhen, where booming export industries created an ever-increasing demand for assembly-line labor.

Also from here: In 2009, there were 145 million rural-urban migrants in China, accounting for about 11 percent of the total population. Among them, an estimated 85 million to 100 million were born after 1980 — a period when three distinct government policies converged to shape the circumstances for increased rural-to-urban migration within China.

After its introduction in 1979, the controversial One Child Policy, which promoted late marriage and delayed child bearing and limited the number of children born in rural families to 1.5 (two for a first-born girl, otherwise one), was firmly implemented and shifted the vast rural China household structure — and thus, agricultural workforce — dramatically to fewer children.

Then in the mid-1980s, the Hukou System — a residence registration system devised in the 1950s to record and control internal migration and which ultimately hindered rural-to-urban movements — began to loosen in response to the demands of both the market and rural residents wishing to seek greater economic opportunity in cities.

Where are 11 million unauthorized persons living

In 1990, the distribution of foreign born in the U.S. was very roughly the same as in 1920: mainly California, the Northeast, and old industrial cities in the Midwest. Since then, immigrant populations spread out. States with the largest percentage increase in those speaking a foreign language at home from 1980 to 2018 are Nevada (up 1,088%), Georgia (952%), North Carolina ( 802%), Virginia (488%), Tennessee (459%), Arkansas (445%), Washington (up 432%), South Carolina (398%), Florida (393%), Utah (383%), and Oregon (380%).

A few states account for the great majority of non-English-at-home speakers. The states with the largest share of their populations speaking a foreign language at home in 2018 were California (45%), Texas (36%), New Mexico (34%), New Jersey (32%), New York and Nevada (each 31%), Florida (30%), Arizona and Hawaii (each 28%), and Massachusetts (24%).

From here. Graph data from here.

New York City’s new voter law for non-citizens

In December 2021, New York City authorized non-citizens to vote in municipal elections. This is by far the largest enfranchisement of non-citizens in the United States. (For an inventory of these laws, go here.) on January 10, a suit was filed saying the law violated New York State’s constitution.

In one fell swoop, the legally eligible voters in municipal elections rose from about 5.8 million by about 800,000, or 14%. Additionally, if unauthorized residents are considered, the rolls increase by an additional 7%. (These estimates I developed myself.) Roughly one fifth of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s adult population is newly enfranchised.

This chart shows the size of several segments (in millions) of the foreign born population of the City.

(Here is data on the City’s population. Here is a breakdown of non-citizens by borough. Here is another analysis of the immigrant population of the city.)

The pie chart shows how the law affects the distribution of eligible voters.

Legally, anyone with a Green Card or a work visa who has resided in the City for at least 6 months is eligible (until the very end, the drafts called for just 3 months). (Here is the law in full. Here is the best analysis of the law.)

The law not only does not include any steps to verify legal status of persons registering as a voters, but also expressly bars the City from asking this information: “No inquiries shall be made as to the immigration status of potential municipal voter or municipal voter, other than to ascertain whether he or she qualifies to vote under this chapter. If such information is volunteered to any city employee, it will not be recorded or shared with any other federal, state, or local agency, except as otherwise required by law.”

The law requires the person to sign and affidavit saying “I meet all of the requirements to register to vote in New York State except for United States citizenship.” Misrepresentation penalties are relatively minor compared to what I would expect for voter fraud: a $500 penalty and up to a year in jail.

If U.S. pop trends were that of Japan…

Comparing population trending since 2009, if the decline in population in Japan were matched in the U.S. we would have a January 1, 2022 population 8% lower (or 304 million) than what we actually have — 332 million. If immigration had not stalled in the past few years, we might have 334- 335 million today.

Key driver of increased world migration: costs have declined

International migration has more than tripled in size since 1960, rising from 77 million to almost 281 million by 2020. The costs of doing so declined:

First, the costs of movement. Air flights have reduced the cost, delays and uncertainties of travel. As more persons in developing countries gain more income, air travel is more affordable.

Second, the costs of settlement. As immigrant communities in destination countries increase in size, the ability of would-be and arriving migrants to to find housing, get jobs and fit in grows. This applies perhaps most to unauthorized migration – how to avoid deportation. But it also applies to legal immigration when channels such as refugee migration broaden. The Trump administration wants to stop the catch-and-release practices when people cross the Mexican border and then meet up with earlier migrants. This most recently has enabled unaccompanied minors to cross the southern border.

Third, the costs of keeping in touch with the host country. The most obvious improvement is in phone calls. It also includes air travel. Many immigrants today return for temporary visits. And consider remittances. Immigrant households in developed can probably better afford to share incomes in ways that can be used meaningfully in the country of origin. Methods of sending remittances have improved over the decades, and still are. African taxi drivers in Washington DC tell me they routinely back for stretches — their nuclear families live there.

Trump’s policy was essentially the increase the cost of migrating to the U.S. Just one example: it became much harder for spouses of H-1B workers to legally work.

Much of this is spelled out in Paul Collier, Exodus: How Migration is Changing our World.

Four questions about non-English speakers in the U.S.

Learning English — and becoming proficient in it — can be a game-changer for immigrant families. Parents and youth who can converse in English are better equipped to access health care, secure employment and engage with their community. (Go here).

ONE How many people speak other than English at home? Ans: 50 million, or about 16% of the population

According to Pew Research, in 2011, 37.6 million persons ages 5 years and older speak Spanish at home. The next most spoken non-English languages are Chinese (with 2.8 million speakers), Hindi, Urdu or other Indic languages (2.2 million), French or French Creole (2.1 million), Tagalog (1.7 million), and Vietnamese (1.4 million). Adding other languages, the total is probably around 50 million.

Since there were in 2011 about 42 million foreign born-persons, this means that 8 million then were born in the U.S. who speak other than English at home. A good number of these are likely U.S. born children of immigrants.

TWO What share of the Hispanic speak Spanish at home? Ans: about 70%

There were 56.5 million Hispanics in the United States in 2015, accounting for 17.6% of the total U.S. population. In 1980, with a population of 14.8 million, Hispanics made up just 6.5% of the total U.S. population. This implies that about 70% of speak Spanish at home.

In 1980, 10 million persons spoke English at home. In 2000, 25 million spoke Spanish at home.

THREE Are more Hispanics speaking English? Ans: yes.

This is due to demographic changes with more U.S. born Hispanics vs. recent immigrants. In 2012. 59% of Hispanic adults speak English proficiently, up from 54% in 2006 and 2000, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

In 2014, When asked about their language use and English proficiency in 2014, some 88% of Hispanics ages 5 to 17 said they either speak only English at home or speak English “very well,” up from 73% who said the same in 2000.

Fully 89% of U.S.-born Hispanics spoke English proficiently in 2013, up from 72% in 1980. That means, of course, the 11% of U.S. born Latinos did not speak English proficiently in 2013.

FOUR How many children of immigrants live in linguistically isolated homes? Ans: about 4 million or about 21% of children of immigrants.

Linguistically isolated households have zero individuals age 14 or older who speak only English or who speak English very well.

Fourteen percent of all kids in immigrant families have a hard time speaking English, 21% live in linguistically isolated households, and 54% live with parents who have difficulty speaking English.

Nationally, the rate of linguistic isolation among children in immigrant families has dropped—from 26% in 2008 to 21% in 2015.

Why global commitment to support refugees is essential

One, all persons have a right to sustenance, protection of life and defense of their human capabilities. Refugees enjoy these rights.

Two, the globe is interconnected; the actions of countries can threaten the life chances of persons anywhere, such as driving persons to flee or creating mass expulsions.

Three, the nation state system of political systems cannot tolerate large numbers of persons who are de jure or de facto stateless.



Refugee resettlement in the US explained

Danilo Zak at the Immigration Forum explains refugee resettlement works. Here are some highlights. He describe sthe U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) and the backlogs at various stages of the pipeline. He also identifies possible solutions to quickly rebuild the pipeline, which Trump attempted with some success to destroy.

Go here for historical trends in refugee flows into the U.S.

Several pathways into refugee status are available depending on the case. Biden has submitted a plan to allow individuals (you, me, our family) to sponsor refugees.

There are Resettlement Support centers around the world. Non-governmental organizations help run them.  The centers conduct an initial interview with the applicant, collecting biographic and biometric information and sharing it with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security  to initiate security checks.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services refugee officers do to the centers and conduct in person interviews. The interview constitutes an official refugee status determination and results in either an approval to move on with the process or a denial.

Applicants are subjected to a multitude of security and medical checks to ensure they pose no national security risk to the U.S. The security screenings check against a series of biographic and biometric lists kept by the U.S. Department of Defense, DHS, the FBI, and international law enforcement organizations like Interpol. Medical checks tend to occur near the end of the process, as they are only valid for six months and refugees must travel to the U.S. before they expire.

Approved refugees are connected to a sponsoring resettlement agency in the U.S. with capacity to welcome them. take out a loan to pay for their flights to the U.S. The government provides resettlement agencies a one-time payment of $2,175 per refugee resettled to cover housing and other basic needs for the first three months in the U.S.

There are no concrete estimates concerning how long it takes to go through this process. Prior to the Trump administration, the average processing time was regularly listed at 18 to 24 months. Since 2017, however, the implementation of additional vetting and security protocols, the Trump administration slashing resources to various parts of the system, and the sweeping impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have all almost certainly increased wait times.

United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees currently estimates the process from referral to resettlement for refugees it is responsible for to take between two and 10 years.