A “shrinking” West: a view from the village

A French parliamentarian walked a circular route (perhaps I should have just said circumambulated, but then nobody would read this blog) for 8 months and over 6,000 kilometers (over 3,700 miles) – according to France24. While the route itself would be fun to map (adding context to the discussion), Z Geography’s main interest are the comments peppered throughout the article. What they suggest to Z is that there is quite a bit of similarities between “the French public” (as France24 portrays in the chose quotes) and some sections of “the American public.” The article left me with the impression that the “declining America” argument/observation/theory could be expanded to encompass the West. Or perhaps make it a Franco-American phenomenon.

What follows is a listing of quote from the article and a short editorialized comment from Z Geography.

  • “Everywhere I went I witnessed a crisis in the standard of living, a loss of identity and the loss of a sense of a common destiny.” How often have we heard in the U.S. about the “war on the Middle Class” (from both Republicans and Democrats)
  • “People would tell me: ‘look at the state you have left our country in’,” he added. “There is no more industry, farming is in crisis, just one in ten children of farmers grudgingly says they want to carry on in agriculture.” Aside from the statistic, there’s nothing I can add. Rust Belt cities. Failing small and medium-sized farming families.
  • “And what he found was a France confused about its position in a shrinking world, an uncertainty as to the long-term effects of globalisation and a distrust for politicians who, people told him, “do not listen to us at all”. This is the key quote. Note the mention of globalization (blamed for everything from illegal immigration to loss of jobs) and the distrust of political leaders.
  • Worryingly, he also encountered “latent racism” almost everywhere, “even in the smallest villages…This is racism that seems totally unashamed,” he told Le Monde on Friday. “It is a wholescale [sic] rejection of ‘the other’ and often expressed with excessive aggression.” Another key quote with applicability to the United States. Pick your (or your party’s) favorite scape-goat. Gays. Illegal immigrants. Government Bureaucrats.

One quote that I found unsettling and woefully underexplained concerned rising “anti-Semitic rhetoric” that was “linked to wealth.” Linked how? As people gain (or lose) money there is a greater likelihood of uttering anti-Semitic comments? More information please!

That information gap aside, the quotes from France apply just as effectively to the United States. Industry has (long) been in decline, agriculture (at least the profits of) is the domain of agribusinesses, those “left behind” by globalization (more specifically: economic globalization) are angry – at the political class, their governments, and the “others.”

The only difference is that a French politician bothered to walk around the country to “take its pulse,” in the first place. The only time this happens in the U.S. is during a Presidential election.

Z Geography thinks these comments point to a more geographically diffuse sentiment. The “forces” that promoted the rapid growth of the Tea Party certainly would have similar effects in France – it’s also an advanced economy with multiple links to the global marketplace. The anger permeating economically-destroyed (let’s face it) communities in “America’s Heartland” is also on display in rural, suburban, and urban France. In other words, this isn’t a strictly American problem (or phenomenon) – it’s regional, probably even global.

Z Geography also thinks that economics plays a central role in this anger, but that is the subject for a much longer post.

Visualizing Gentrification: an economic Geography perspective

In my last post, I mapped and discussed gentrification in the District of Columbia from the point of view of race and ethnicity. I showed, to quickly summarize, the prevalence of the “White alone” population group in gentrifying neighborhoods in the mid-Northwest and Capitol Hill. Of course, relying purely on racial/ethnic data is a recipe for disaster and I questioned whether or not gentrification was occurring within older racial/ethnic communities. In this post, I present and discuss this economic geography perspective of gentrification in D.C.

As always, let’s start with the data. As you probably already know, I’m utilizing freely available data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Unlike last time, however, I’m operating at a different scale and with different products. Whereas I used the two Decennial Censuses and the block group in the race/ethnicity post, I’m forced to use the 2000 Census and the 2011 American Community Survey (ACS) for this one, at the Census Tract level. Apparently, Census didn’t include income questions on the 2010 Census (I wouldn’t know since I never got a Census form) since they had been a part of the ACS since 2008 (or so). In addition, information at the block group level was supposed to be available by 2010 but I searched American FactFinder (…) and couldn’t come up with anything related to income, at the block group level, except for the 2000 Census. So I moved to the Census Tract scale, still effective for community analysis and the data was available from the 2000 Census and 2011 ACS. Sometimes folks you can only analyze what the data gives you… At any rate, I pulled average Median Income across all households in a census tract in 1999 and 2011.

The first graphic below depicts median income by census tract in the District for 2000 and 2011. The images paint a fairly rosy picture overall, between 2000 and 2011 most areas of the District experienced growth in the median income. Particularly dramatic is the far western and northern areas of Northwest and Capitol, which experienced a number of census tracts reaching over $100,000 for median income. Even census tracts in the more economically depressed areas of the southeastern quadrant (particularly across the Anacostia River) experienced income growth moving many areas from below $25,000 a year to between $25,000 and $40,000. Most interesting from the point of gentrification, however, is the mid-Northwest where some census tracts with median incomes between $25 and $40 thousand a year in 1999/2000 were in the $60 to $99 (and higher) category by 2011. Give this some thought, over a little more than ten years the median household income (that is the income earned by the “middle” household when incomes are rank-ordered) increased from say $33 thousand a year to $80 thousand a year. For a bit of description, the average median income in D.C. in 2000 was about $42,000, equivalent to the “yellow category”, with a minimum of $8,000 and a maximum of over $160,000. By 2011, the average median income increased to $66 thousand (equivalent to the “orange category”) with a minimum of $13 thousand and a maximum of over $200,000.

Median Income in D.C., 1999/2011 (via ME!)

Median Income in D.C., 1999/2011 (via ME!)

For the most part, we would expect incomes to increase over time and typically they do, unless there’s a depression or recession (which there is, of course), but there’s inflation as well. While I don’t have the skills to convert the 1999 median income to 2011 inflation-adjusted dollars (which apparently are what the ACS numbers are), I can provide the compound annual growth rate (i.e. the average growth each year from 1999 to 2011) to give an idea of how quickly each median income grew. Keep in mind, this assumes a nice even growth rate between 1999 and 2011, since we all know a recession started about 2008 that the following numbers are this high are telling.

The left-side map below depicts the data holes (the white areas in the right-hand map). They are due to two reasons. First, some census tracts didn’t report any median income (in 1999, 2011, or both). Second, I attempted to account for census tract boundary changes between 1999 and 2010. This is illustrated by the interaction between red lines (2010 Census) and dark grey lines (2000 Census). In most cases, 2000 census tracts were split into two tracts for the 2010 census (population growth being the most logical reason). In two cases, 2000 census tracts were combined in the 2010 census (either population decline or combining two lower populated tracts into one larger tract). The right hand shows the explosive growth in median income for the District’s two primary areas of gentrification, mid-Northwest and Capitol Hill. In these areas, annual growth in median income averaged over 5.0% a year between 1999 and 2011. For comparative purposes, the District wide compound annual growth rate is 3.8% (the medium red category). While most of the strongest growth is occurring in these gentrifying neighborhoods, the other story are the stagnating neighborhoods (experiencing less than 2% growth if any) in the northern areas of Northwest, Northeast, and some areas in Southeast. However, it should be noted that there are also pockets of strong median income growth in Southeast as well. In addition, I’ve also reproduced the earlier map depicting the changes in D.C.’s “White alone” community, for comparative purposes.

CAGR of Median Income, 1999/2011 (via ME!)

CAGR of Median Income, 1999/2011 (via ME!)

Concentration of D.C.'s Whites, 2000/2010 (via ME!)

Concentration of D.C.’s White Community, 2000/2010 (via ME!)

In this post, we’ve taken an economic geographic (rather than cultural geographic) view of gentrification in the District of Columbia. Previously, we saw that the Mid-Northwest and Capitol Hill neighborhoods have become more populated by census respondents claiming to be “White alone”, while the District in general lost substantial numbers of “Black alone” claimants. With the data presented in this post, we have solid anecdotal evidence that strong median income growth correlates with increasing numbers of “White alone” residents in gentrifying neighborhoods. In addition, we’ve also seen that while median incomes in the District generally increased between 1999 and 2011 the increases, unsurprisingly, were not evenly distributed geographically. While the strongest growth rates are associated with the gentrifying neighborhoods, large areas of the northern quadrants experienced more stagnated median income growth, while some areas in the Southeast quadrant experienced negative growth over the period.

I believe a worthwhile follow-up post on this will focus on assessing whether or not there is an actual statistically significant correlation between race/ethnicity growth and median income growth. Stay tuned!

White (British) Emigration from London

A BBC article from a month ago has been sitting on my tab for almost a month now, time to discuss! First, let me caveat by saying that the perspective I’m taking here, white British departing London is dictated by the article, not the data. Were I to do a more thorough look I would also like to know who is moving into these areas. So keep in mind this is only half the story. Overall I like this article and slick use of graphics, but I find its message a bit propagandistic – its not a story of “white flight”, “its a story of aspiration. A story of success.” Give me a break. I agree that we might not be dealing with “white flight” in the textbook definitional sense. According to dictionary.com, white flight (coined sometime between 1965 and 1970) referred to the movement of whites, especially middle-class whites, from neighborhoods undergoing racial integration. A more general definition is the movement of whites from areas where non-whites are settling. The second definition has the added quality that we can use it outside the context of a civil rights movement, since “racial integration” is obvious allusion to that. However, the article itself doesn’t really discuss the concurrent settlement of non-whites in those boroughs of London from where whites are departing so I think its difficult to call this not white flight by only providing half the data.

At any rate, there are additional points the article mentions that are worth repeating. First, and this isn’t really discussed much in the article, is the finding that while the British white population group is mostly declining in the “poorer” suburbs surrounding the central city, the proportion of whites is increasing in Inner London (coded blue in the map). This should sound familiar to my American readers, commonly called “gentrification”, the increase in urban whites has been noted since the late 1990s I would suppose. In Washington D.C., “immigrants” (who arrived in the city decades ago) are the ones moving to the suburbs as economics and family life permits. Taking their place in the city are richer, younger, white families. I would imagine that a similar process is ongoing in British cities. The article hints at this with a qualitative study of one surburban London neighborhood (Barking and Dagenham) noting that whites have left and replaced by black African migrants.

Another point worth highlighting is the depth of understanding the Barking and Dagenham borough. The article provides a political, economic, and social history of the neighborhood, which provides a sense of where and when it came from. This is a great example of the Kantian view of geography and history being intricately linked. Of course, the article does take the analytic leap with this history. It points out that the borough had a natural economic engine and lifeline, a Ford Motor Company plant, that subsequently closed. Now that whites are leaving and the main economic engine gone… well, what do you think will happen? More people will have commutes and for larger immigrant families with children finding care will become difficult among single families homes, though many may have relatives also living at home. There’s also the little variable of the poor economic environment, as a city well-integrated into the global economy (if not the most integrated city) its population is most susceptible during the global recession. Of course, not all population groups are created equal and the poorest classes in London are the ones most at-risk of un- or under-employment. Sadly, the article doesn’t take any of this into consideration.

The article gives the impression that these white Britishers moving away are primarily older families. Most bought their “council estates” (in the United Kingdom and Ireland this is a form of “public housing”) as they were entitled to do at 30% of its market value. They’re now flipping (to borrow the American term) these three-bedroom houses (selling at market value, presumably) and using the proceeds to buy much larger estates in the countryside. Again, what is left unclear is if these council estates are still, in fact, public housing and thus being sold to the new “owners” who pay 30% of the market rate while the government picks up the rest of the tab. Or if they are now private houses (the article suggests the latter) being sold to immigrant families. If its the latter that’s a pretty bad break for the immigrants who now enjoy the “privilege” of paying substantially larger mortgages without government assistance, and earning the ire of lower class British whites for “taking jobs” and living off “government money.”

A final point isn’t unique for the European context but interesting for the U.S. This white flight in the United Kingdom isn’t really a “white flight” its a British white flight, while the example used was a borough witnessing black African migration, a large part of the overall story are “other white” immigrants, mostly from Eastern Europe. In a sense this is a repeat of the early/mid-1800s Irish and German migration to the United States. While these immigrants were “white”, and even acknowledged as such, they weren’t exactly welcomed. The picture below, a great candidate for a geopolitical cartoon post (but alas!), drives this point home perfectly for the American context. It compares the experiences of blacks enslaved in the American South (labels above the scale) with Irish immigrants in the American North. Of course, I can’t read the caption on the bottom so I don’t know what the cartoon is really saying is equivalent. Irish immigrants could own property, were free to move about, seek different employment, and earn wages. They even fought in the Civil War. American Blacks, not so much.

Social equivalence? American Blacks and Irish immigrants, ca. 1850s (via darienps.org)

So I wonder about this BBC article, the message is too rosy for reality. Sometimes its worth remembering what’s not said in an article and disregarding what’s said. Yes, this is partially a story of economic advancement and the attainment of the Anglo-American dream, but the article did not convince me that wasn’t also white British flight.

Geographic Impact of Demography: Haryana’s Male Preference

The preference of much of South Asia’s families for male children has been well documented in both academic and popular papers. Often, male preference is attributed to “cultural” factors grounded in both social/community preference and perception (like status or standing in the community) and in economics (males viewed as more likely to provide money for the family). While the historical extent of male preference is outside the scope of this post, we can safely say that male preference at birth (manifested by female infanticide, the killing of female foetuses, and sex-selective abortions) has been ongoing for at least the past 30 years, probably longer. The population impact has been terrible, according to United Nations Population Fund paper published in 2010, India is “missing” over 600,000 girls, and that’s only from prenatal selection (or sex-selective abortion) between 2001 and 2007. In other words, that does not count infanticide making the number of missing higher.

Today’s post looks at the demographic impact of this “cultural” preference on geography through the case of Haryana, a state in India’s northwest. But first, how do we know there is a preference among families and society for males? Aside from the anecdotal “cultural” evidence, depictions in media and so on, there are demographic statistics we rely on. As part of the preliminary results of the 2011 Indian Census, the Indian government published the total sex ratio (the number of women per 1,000 men) of its states and territories based on the results from the 2011 and 2001 censuses. Available on wikipedia (as well as the Census website, and reproduced below), we find that Haryana is among the worst states for the total sex ratio, 877 women per 1,000 men. The total sex ratio is reflective of the population at-large, and while it does reveal male preference over time it doesn’t reflect current levels (or the persistence) of male preference at birth. The child sex ratio (defined as the ratio of girls to 1,000 boys aged 0 to 6) is another measure of sexual imbalance in a young population, but it is also influenced by such factors as non-registration of female children. Finally, the sex ratio at birth (defined as the number of female babies born per 1,000 male babies) captures male preference at birth, including sex-selective abortions, but misses infanticide. When looking at these numbers, its important to keep in mind what other factors (besides the one you’re looking for) is potentially influencing the statistic.

Haryan’s child sex ratio betrays a continuing preference for males (and potentially, under-reporting of females). According to the Census data, the 2011 child sex ratio was 830 girls per 1,000 boys (compared with 877 girls per 1,000 boys in the total population). The child sex ratio has only a slight disparity between rural and urban areas with rural areas reporting 831 girls and urban areas reporting 829 girls per 1,000 boys. The all India child sex ratio is 914 girls per 1,000 boys (as reported in the Economic Times), as that article notes, this is actually a decrease from 2001, when the ratio was 927. The Haryana data also betrays a significant decrease in the child sex ratio, from 964 girls to the current ratio of 830. This is very large decrease and I wonder if it is a typo (perhaps 864?) or an example in a collapse in the reporting of female children in the system?

Even without the revelation of the lower sex ratio between the decadal censuses, the lower sex ratio is significant. Depending on the demographer you ask, a “normal” sex ratio is just over 1,000 girls to 1,000 boys. The reason for this is that females are naturally stronger than males, not strong as in physical strength, but in terms of physiological resilience. Female babies are stronger and women tend to live longer. Examine population pyramids for any country and you will almost always find larger numbers of elderly women (especially in the 80s, 90s, and 100+ age ranges) than men. Sorry guys, but we are the weaker of the species and we try to make up for it with physical prowess (which kills or maims us and generally shortens our life spans anyways, see: war).

While this low child sex ratio in Haryana (and India in general, with the notable exception of Kerala state) implies a continuing problem for the next generation or two, the geographic behavior of Haryana residents has already been affected. According to the Times of India article that inspired this post, a study funded by the Norwegian embassy in India found that the “skewed” sex ratio in Haryana is forcing “poor, upper caste youths” to “hunt for brides” in other states of India; Assam, Odisha, Bihar, Maharashtra, and West Bengal. One of the key findings of course is that the unbalanced sex ratio in Haryana is disproportionately affecting poorer upper caste men. For a bit of background, India is infamous for its caste which, generally, organizes the population into four broad-based classes and “out-castes” (from which we derive the term “outcast”). Of course, each caste group is further sub-divided so that even among the top caste (or Brahmin) there are higher sub-castes than others. What makes the caste system infamous is its rigidity, its direct and indirect influence on your life chances, and of course, that it still exists (though steps are being taken to lessen its influence). Its similar to civil rights movement in the United States, and that’s not even completed yet, everything is a work in progress. At any rate, rich upper caste youth in Haryana have a greater chance of marrying other upper caste women in Haryana (since there’s less women they can be pickier).

Another very interesting finding is that “shortage of women is not common across all caste groups in the conjugal regions, but is endemic in dominant caste groups of Jats and Yadavs.” The implication is that this situation is a rich person’s problem. Like most societies, the rich in India have the most vested interest in maintaining the status quo: the caste system (of which they sit atop), dowry, and other such “traditional” notions. But the interesting turn of events is that some of the dominant caste group’s are, literally, unable to propagate their own communities. While more detailed census information would be needed to ascertain whether the population is decreasing, that some upper caste men have to leave the state to find a wife is indicative of the problem. And of course, the article discusses one of the ways that women can climb the caste ladder – their families lie about their caste to the new-comers.

Ultimately, these two developments: potential population decline of high caste groups and the progeny of upper-caste and not-upper caste marriages will have to be absorbed by Haryana’s, and probably India’s, society. This is unlikely to be a problem unique to Haryana, as the table of child sex ratios below reveals. It seems that demography is either going to force high caste population groups to either abandon their traditional preference for males or their preference for marrying only other high caste females. In effect, demography is challenging the future viability of the caste system. And there’s already inkling of social discontent, as the article reports, out-of-town brides as stigmatized as “bought” (or “sold” by their parents) by other, presumably locally-born, women. One wonders what will become of the children, who will have to grow up with similar taunts and questions of their actual caste? And since this is a widespread problem in Haryana, might future communities and cultural organizations appear there emphasizing far away places like Odisha or Assam? Might this, eventually, be the spark that eventually overcomes regionalism in India, creating an actual “Indian” identity?

Total Sex Ratio of India, 2011/2001 (via Census of India)

Total Sex Ratio of India, 2011/2001 (via Census of India)