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Three Random Tales of Demography

Three demographic signposts that I wouldn't want a hectic schedule to keep me from slapping on the blog. As luck would have it, they all come from the same news outlet.

» NY Times: Breeding Pigeons on Rooftops, and Crossing Racial Lines

A new book, “The Global Pigeon,” by Colin Jerolmack, an assistant professor of sociology at New York University who spent three years hanging out with pigeon fliers, makes the point that pigeon breeding brought Italian-Americans and other ethnic whites “into contact with people of a different ethnic and age cohort with whom they were not voluntarily associating before.”

“African-Americans in Bed-Stuy who mostly hang out with other African-Americans, because they keep pigeons wind up being friends with these 85-year-old white guys they would not usually associate with,” Dr. Jerolmack said in an interview.

» NY Times: Centers See New Faces Seeking Test Prep

It’s no surprise to the average New York parent that so-called cram schools, once the cultural domain of Chinese-, Korean- and Russian-American students, have gained traction with non-Asian parents hoping to grab slots in competitive gifted programs and coveted middle and high schools by improving their children’s test scores.

But whereas five years ago owners of cram schools were surprised to encounter non-Asian students in their waiting rooms, now they are muscling one another for their business, handing out book bags with the names of their schools scrawled across the front, attending summer camp fairs in synagogues and school cafeterias, hiring receptionists who speak English, and aggressively pitting themselves against the Japanese cram school behemoth, Kumon, which dominates the local market.

Some are even changing their names. Horizon, a well-reputed cram school in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, known among Chinese-American families for funneling students into Stuyvesant High School and NEST+m, was recently rechristened Gifted Kids New York City. “It’s a little more appealing to Caucasian parents,” said the owner, Andrew Chan, who tells prospective parents from Park Slope and Williamsburg, Brooklyn, that he is offering “Chinese rigor” with Western-style teaching methods.

» NY Times: In Mexican Villages, Few Are Left to Dream of U.S.

All across Mexico’s ruddy central plains, most of the people who could go north already have. In a region long regarded as a bellwether of illegal immigration — where the flow of migrants has often seemed never-ending — the streets are wind-whipped and silent. Homes await returning families, while dozens of schools have closed because of a lack of students. Here in El Cargadero, a once-thriving farm community of 3,000, only a few hundred people remain, at most.

“It’s not like it used to be,” said Fermin Saldivar Ureño, 45, an avocado farmer whose 13 brothers and sisters are all in California. “I have three kids, my parents had 14. There just aren’t as many people to go.”


About Those Inversions

» Democracy Journal: Suburb Slickers (Ben Adler)

Stop me if you've heard this before ...

If you live in the suburbs, you may have noticed a totally different demographic trend: the diversifying of suburbia. Maybe it’s the Vietnamese nail salons and pho joints that have filled up the old suburban strip malls, or the sudden emergence of Latino pedestrians walking home along busy roads or congregating in convenience store parking lots. Immigrants and minorities, from the working poor to the affluent, are arriving in suburbia. Some are following job opportunities that have been dispersed around the urban perimeter. Others are priced out of the city. Many are seeking the same virtues—space, good schools, low crime—that drove whites to suburbs throughout the twentieth century.

Alan Ehrenhalt’s new book ties these threads into one common phenomenon that he calls demographic inversion. Our metropolitan areas, he argues in The Great Inversion, are being turned inside out, with the wealthier white people living in the cities, while those who aspire to be the first generation in their family to achieve the American Dream—frequently immigrants and African Americans—move to the suburbs. Ehrenhalt argues that this constitutes a return to form for the modern metropolis, pointing to nineteenth-century Paris and Vienna as cities that invented the template. Major cities in developing countries, such as Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, already fit this mold. In fact, the United States, with the poor in cities and the wealthy in suburbs, has largely been a global exception. But that is ending. “The roles of cities and suburbs will not only change but will very nearly reverse themselves,” he predicts, in about 20 years’ time.

No doubt, I'm curious to read Ehrenhalt's book, but I tend to be as skeptical about some of the details offered by proponents of the trend. With that in mind, it's refreshing to read some of the critiques offered further into this review.

As for the Houston case, I tend to think that too much gets made of the small growth patterns we see in Downtown, Midtown, and EaDo while the real inversion has obviously been underway in the Heights. You could definitely stretch that out to consider the Heights as "inner city". But I think it's a definitional stretch and also confuses the causality since much of what we see in Houston's inversion related to legislated price spikes in home values due to historic districts being created. Simply pricing out a good chunk of population from the market doesn't do great things for diversification unless income distribution correlates with demography. And at present ... it does not.

Still, I think it's worthwhile to look at some of demographic patterns in other places and hear out some of the theories that hold those together. I've got the sample loaded up on the Kindle. But a fuller reading will likely have to wait until I'm done with Woodward's latest.


Of Demographics and Friction

An interesting run of articles in one a single day here. Nobody said multiculturalism was always tidy and pleasant. These examples provide some interesting examples.

» NY Times: A Walmart for Chinatown Stirs a Fight in Los Angeles

Christilily Chiv, 24, said she worries that Walmart’s arrival in the neighborhood where she was born and raised could mark the start of a major transition in Chinatown, which remains a first stop for many Asian immigrants, into a historic district where immigrants no longer live and work.

“Chinatown is a cultural community,” Ms. Chiv said. “I want to preserve what is there. And I fear what’s going to happen is that by having commercial corporations come in, they are going to erase the cultural community and what it stood for in the first place.”

Still, the storefront where the Walmart Neighborhood Market plans to open has sat vacant for two decades, and many residents are eager to see it filled.

» NY Times: Islamic Poultry for Latino Tables (Yes, They Have Chilies, Too)

Customers like Mr. Flores are the lifeblood of Al Salam Pollería, a thriving shop that opened 28 years ago “by accident,” according to its founders. Abdul Elhawary and his brother-in-law, Safwat Elrabat, who died 12 years ago, opened the shop in East Los Angeles because the zoning there allowed the sale and on-site slaughter of live poultry, in accordance with their religion’s dietary requirements.

There were few halal butchers in Los Angeles in the 1980s, Mr. Elhawary, 60, said, so the family expected large numbers of Muslims from across the city to make the trek to buy halal poultry.

That never happened. Much to their surprise, though, Latino immigrant customers did show up, and in large numbers.

» NY Times: A Planned Mosque Inches Along, but Critics Remain

“If the area, suddenly, is like a suburb of some Muslim country, it’s not very pleasant,” said Alexandr Tenenbaum, who lives several blocks away. “I am always scared because you see these kind of people, but we can’t say it.”

The Muslims behind the mosque say they have heard it all before. They have fought the legal challenges with the hope that the anger will subside once the building opens. Even as the dirty looks continue, the level of opposition seems to have eased.

Last year, the back-to-school giveaway drew so many protesters, the police responded to keep order; this year, there were only two, which the mosque’s backers suggested is a good sign.


Another Irregular Aggrepost

Just another assortment of links I've been reading that might be worth a delayed recommendation for others. What's known as "regular" blogging should resume a few weeks from now.

» National Journal: Southern Bellwether
North Carolina holds a fair number of parallels to Texas. For that reason, I'm hoping that Team Obama sees fit to put ample resources into winning the state a second time.

» The American Interest: The Democrats May Not Stay Long on Obama’s Chosen Path (Walter Russell Mead)
Mead's take is a bit thin on the Judis/Teixeira understanding of the Democratic Party coalition. But it's not without some merit. There certainly is some existing cleavage between Clinton-style Dems and the more current Obama-style iteration. But crackups of either party are generally overrated. At the end of the day, parties are in the business of getting elected, not conducting philosophical discourse. Newton's laws of motion apply to politics, after all.

» Des Moines Register: Battling for every Iowa vote
Not surprising to me that Iowa would be a tougher battle. Should be interesting to see what the late polling looks like here.

» The New Republic: New Data on Obama's Massive Demographic Advantage (Ruy Teixeira)
More like this, please. I tend to be dismissive of tales about how demographics are going to totally alter the landscape in 2012 since much of what we saw in 2008 was the result of those very same demographics coupled with peak interest in a Presidential election. I'm not expecting to see many signs of turnout being the same as it was in 2008. So the decrease is likely to offset some of the change seen in the previous four years. That said, while Teixeira's number crunching is of a great deal of interest, there's still the reality that demographics don't translate equally to votes right now.

» Washington Post: Chris Hughes, once a new-media pioneer, makes bet on old media with New Republic
Definitely not Marty Peretz's ship anymore. And that's a good thing as long as TNR maintains some of the ideological diversity they're known for.

» Slate: Clotted Cream
I've been sorting through some reviews of Christopher Hayes' "Twilight of the Elites" and this stands out as a decent one. So what if I missed it from six weeks ago or Hayes' book didn't jump to my attention because I'm not overly receptive to new lit from writers at The Nation? I'm sure there will be massive quibbles to be had if I follow through with a full read of Hayes. But it seems like a end-cap to a re-read of Robert Bellah's "Habits of the Heart" and maybe Robert Putnam's "Better Together". I'll give the book a preview in the Kindle before deciding to commit to a self-styled trilogy.

» Nick Clegg speech on social mobility
Another oldie. This one was referenced in a more recent David Brooks column. The speech is far more interesting than the column.


One time-killer that I have still found a bit of odd time for:


Not a lot of time to spend learning cover tunes or extending some drills such as this into fuller ideas. But still more fun than it should be.


Demographic Evolution, Continued

» NY Times: In Years Since the Riots, a Changed Complexion in South Central
» Guernica: South L.A., Twenty Years Later

Two good reads from two different vantage points of demographics and the LA riots of 1992. Spare time comes at a bit more of a premium with only 5 weeks left until a Primary election is conducted. But these were worth a read, along with a re-read of an older link on Compton's Latino voters as well as another link about some demographic evolution in NYC.

UPDATE: ... and, of course, the 2010 demographics of Los Angeles and Orange Counties was mapped out here. That doesn't give you a sense of the degree of change from 1992, but its still a helpful visual. Not sure what millenium I'll get around to a 1980-to-2010 time series of those counties, but I don't doubt that it would be interesting to see.


The View of Demographic Change From Italy

» Eurozine: The tune of the future - Italy: old Europe, new Europe, changing Europe

An interesting snapshot of demographic change ... from outside of the US.

Bari, in the far south of Italy, offers a very different picture from Venice. It is still warm. It is the end of September, but the holidaymakers have gone. On a Sunday evening in the Piazza del Ferrarese in the old part of town, the incidental tourist will find the locals perched on a low wall or sitting in little cafés drinking beer or strolling around the square, which serves as a kind of corso, a promenade. The several thousand people gathered in the square look as if they all know each other, children are playing tag at nine o'clock in the evening, teenagers are cooling themselves off with an ice-cream and their nicely dressed parents, and even grandparents, are standing around talking loudly, gesticulating, like in one of Vittorio De Sica's black-and-white movies from the 1960s.

This is a lively town. If Venice is where old Europe is dying, then Bari is where new Europe is emerging. It is one of the entry points for immigrants to Europe.

The article goes on to give some more color to the situation in Bari - namely that more recent immigration has lead to a subclass of people who aren't able to gain temporary residency status. I don't think I'd say the US is anywhere near as bad as how Europe has dealt with immigration. But the differences are definitely getting narrower.


Demographic Food Fight

» NY Times: At the PTA, Clashes Over Cupcakes and Culture

An interesting snapshot here of demographic change at NYC's PS 295 Parent-Teacher Association. In particular, it seems amazing how much of the issue can be distilled into a simple doubling of the price of a cupcake.

... [I]n a neighborhood whose median household income leaped to $60,184 in 2010 from $34,878 a decade before, the change generated unexpected ire, pitting cash-short parents against volunteer bakers, and dividing a flummoxed PTA executive board, where wealthier newcomers to the school serve alongside poorer immigrants who have called the area home for years.

“A lot of people felt like they really needed to be heard on this,” recalled Dan Janzen, a mild-mannered freelance copywriter with children in first and third grades who leads the school’s development committee and devised the price increase.

One mother expressed dismay at being blindsided, while others said they were worried about those at the school without a dollar to spare. Ultimately, the PTA meeting at which the issue came to a head was adjourned without a resolution.

Such fracases are increasingly common at schools like P.S. 295, where changing demographics can cause culture clashes. PTA leaders are often caught between trying to get as much as possible from parents of means without alienating lower-income families.

Sometimes, the battles are over who should lead the PTA itself: many of the gentrifiers bring professional skills and different ideas of how to get things done, while those who improved the school enough to attract them become guardians of its traditions.

It suddenly seems quaint to think of demographic culture clashes as instances of old-guard Anglos being displaced by minorities. But it also happens in areas where the reverse is happening. And it's not just the rednecks, bubbas, and working class stiffs that act as the foil. The multi-degreed information worker serves as a useful substitute these days.


Toure on “Post-Racial”

» NY Times: No Such Place as ‘Post-Racial’ America (Touré)

I suspect "post-racial" was born benignly from the hope that Obama’s electoral success meant that the racial problems that have long plagued America were over. Kumbaya. Surely Obama’s victory revealed something had changed in America, but it was not a signal that we’d reached the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s mountaintop world where race no longer matters and equality has been achieved. During the Obama administration “post-racial” and "race card" and "reverse racism" have run amok like gremlins in the language, obfuscating race and making discussions about it harder. America still has so much work to do regarding race and racism and "post-racial" is only making that work harder to do. That’s why "post-racial" and its cohorts must be stopped posthaste.

I'm sure this'll qualify as a provocative take among some. I remember a brief conversation I had the pleasure of having with Congressman Keith Ellison. I mentioned to him that I was something of a fan of his predecessor, Martin Sabo. Sabo was as white a Lutheran as you could imagine coming out of a Minnesota Congressional district, whereas Ellison was not. The Congressman went on in good detail about how Minneapolis has a pretty good track record of being something close to the "post-racial" ideal. It wasn't just that his district elected him or that there was a diverse population that could support a non-white candidate. At it's origin, it seems to explain some of how a Hubert Humphrey could be political successful making civil rights a signature issue.

That's all fine and well. And there's certainly some other datapoints that I can identify in the Minny/St. Paul metropolis. But it's not the south, where my point of references come from. So I'm not thinking the topic of race is completely done away with just because we elected Barack Obama. There's still discussion to be had and it's a discussion that's largely been avoided when not over-simiplified. Race and demographics still matter and the amount of change in each has shown that it's not just a discussion of theory or other nebulous ideas.


The Other ID Missing from the Ballot Box

» Wash. Post: Virginia ballots skimp on party affiliation

The way they do it in Virginia ...

Under state election law, ballots list party affiliation only for federal, statewide and General Assembly races. The idea is that omitting the party designation helps keep partisan politics out of local races.

But in reality, candidates for local offices file as Republicans and Democrats and tout party endorsements in campaign literature. By law, school board offices are nonpartisan, so those candidates must file as independents. Even so, school board candidates can and do collect and advertise party endorsements.

“That horse has already left the barn,” said Del. Thomas A. “Tag” Greason (R-Loudoun), who this year introduced a bill to list party affiliation for local races across the state. The bill died in a House subcommittee, even after it was amended to cover only Loudoun County.

“As I would go door to door during my campaigns, people will say, ‘Hey, how come there’s an R next to your name and a D next to [Sen.] Mark Herring’s name, but I have no idea what’s going on with the supervisors?’ ” Greason said. “It’s just more information. People can use it however they want to use it. Providing the information shouldn’t be a bad thing.”

Something to consider alongside the discussion of removing the option to cast a straight-party vote. I tend to favor items that help folks sort out information however they choose to. So the mythology of non-partisan races is certainly something I'm in favor of erasing.

Along those lines ...

Adam Harris, who left the Parker campaign in June, has not left the campaign account’s payroll. His new firm, Horizon Strategies, is getting about $2,000 a month from the Parker campaign, according to the mayor’s most recent campaign finance report.

But that doesn’t mean he’s back on Team Parker. Harris is not working on the campaign, both he and the campaign’s spokeswoman confirmed.

Instead, he’s the mayor’s liaison to the National Conference of Democratic Mayors.

Of course, Houston municipal elections are non-partisan. So they say. I look forward to Neil's reaction toward this item.

Another tangent that the Post article mentions is the timing of elections:

Martha Brissette, policy analyst for the state elections board, noted that some parts of Virginia have historically tried to distance local races from state and national politics by scheduling municipal elections in May instead of November.

“Some cities and towns now have the option to move [elections] to November,” Brissette said. “People that like them in May express concern, ‘Well, that will make them partisan.’ ”

The reason you see so many states in general - and so many southern states specifically - with the legacy of midterm-year elections, is so that the disparity in electorates and the historical drag on Southern Dem fortunes when the national party dominates the election season were things that old-school Dems sought to avoid. What I'm curious to look more into, however, is whether we're seeing a greater divide in the shape of the electorate from year-to-year. It may be beyond my scope to do some sort of deeper historical study on the matter, but I do think there's something to suggest this is the case in areas where we're in the limbo phase of "minority-majority" population yet not "minority-majority" electorate. I've certainly got enough numbers to crunch with an election season coming to a head and block-level Census data to dive into and an update on the 5-yr American Community Survey to look forward to. So it goes somewhere deep on the to-do list.


The Downside of Demographic Shifts

» Washington Post: Awkward moments at Baltimore anime convention as art form comes of age

The creepiest story on "demographic shift" that I ever hope to read. Also the only story involving anime that I ever hope to read.

This is a delicate time on the anime convention circuit, where a demographic shift has created an occasionally unseemly and sometimes dangerous dynamic.

The first Otakon, held in 1994 at a cozy Days Inn in State College, Pa., back before the Pokemon movies and “Spirited Away” and the Cartoon Network’s anime programming, drew just 350 people. Otakon is now the largest anime confab on the East Coast; this year, a record 31,348 turned out for the annual Japan-centric nerd-out at the 1.2 million-square-foot Convention Center.

Men have long been the foundation of the genre’s fan base, but they’ve been joined in increasing numbers by teen girls, whose embrace of the medium’s more fantastical side has helped launch anime to new levels of stateside popularity. Conventions that were once cult gatherings attended almost exclusively by VHS-trading college-age (and older) males are now overflowing with young females, many of them sporting various iterations of anime’s popular doe-eyed, scantily clad look.

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