The Population Density Factor in the National Election

September 12, 2012

OK, here’s a fascinating analysis of the electoral map of the United States that you won’t find anywhere else.  When one looks at an electoral college map like the one you’ll find with the above link, you can’t help but be struck by how the vast majority of the U.S., at least in terms of surface area, is solidly in Romney’s camp.  Yet, Obama leads in electoral votes.  How can this be? 

Population density seems to be playing a critical role.  Of the 16 blue states on this map (those Obama is expected to win), the average population density is 928 people per square mile.  Of the 20 red states – those Romney is expected to win, the average population density is only 60.  The average population density of the six states leaning one way or another is 130.  The average population density of the 9 states considered “toss-ups” is 149. 

In other words, those states favoring Obama are 15 times as densely populated (on average) than those states favoring Romney.  The states that are toss-ups or leaning one way or the other fall in between in terms of population density. 

Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising.  As populations become more crowded, it’s an inescapable fact that government must play an ever-greater role in maintaining an orderly society.  What’s less obvious to most (but not to those who understand the relationship between population density and unemployment) is that the government must play a greater role in providing a social safety net as populations grow more crowded.  I doubt that many people in the blue states really understand this.  But it seems that they sense it.  At the same time, the theme of smaller government plays well in sparsely populated states where people don’t sense the need for more government because they’ve never experienced living in crowded conditions. 

Sadly, this is a bad omen for the Republican Party.  I say “sadly” because all people would be far better off living in less crowded conditions where there is less need for government involvement in our lives.  The Republican philosophy will slowly resonate with fewer and fewer people.  It may explain why President Obama continues to enjoy as much support as he does in spite of the terrible economy and high unemployment.  Only a few decades ago, when the country was less crowded and more prosperous, he’d have been swept out of office in a landslide.  Today, however, a growing number of people sense that the laissez faire capitalism and globalization advocated by Republicans in this ever-more-crowded, dog-eat-dog world actually offers little hope of a better life.  While Democrats advocate the same things, at least they also favor maintaining a strong safety net (but at a cost that can’t be sustained). 

If Republicans want to prevent their electoral map from slowly shrinking as more states grow more crowded, they’d be wise to wake up to the role of population density in driving unemployment and poverty, and to the fact that the population growth they promote as a source of economic growth is actually choking the life out of their party.

August Employment Level Falls 119,000, Unemployment Hits 11%

September 10, 2012

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported on Friday that the economy added 96,000 jobs while unemployment fell to 8.1%. 

The number of jobs added (as reported by the “establishment survey” portion of the report) fell well short of the number need to keep pace with growth in the labor force – about 125,000 per month (thanks primarily to the idiotic practice of importing more workers). 

So we should have seen a rise in unemployment.  Instead, the unemployment rate, which is determined by the “household survey” part of the report, fell by 0.2% to 8.1%.  Why?  Because, as noted broadly throughout the media on Friday, another 368,000 workers mysteriously vanished from the labor force once again.  Since August 2008 (exactly four years ago), the population has grown by nearly 10 million people.  Yet, during that time frame, the size of the civilian labor force actually shrank by 1,000 workers.  Of the ten million people we’ve added in the past four years, not a single one needs to work for a living?  Puh-lease.  No one could be gullible enough to believe this.  Here’s a prediction:  next month (the last report before the election), the labor force will shrink further, enought to bring the unemployment rate down to 7.9% – the level it was at when Obama took office.

But, while the media correctly reported on the supposed-contraction in the labor force as a bogus reason for the lower unemployment rate, amazingly (to me, at least), none reported the fact that the “employment level” from the same household survey – the equivalent of the establishment survey report of the number of jobs created – actually declined by 119,000 jobs. 

Here’s the data from the household survey, which includes a calculation of unemployment that’s more realistic, holding the size of the labor force as a fixed percentage of the population:  Unemployment Calculation

And here’s a chart of the unemployment rates:  Unemployment Chart.  Note the divergence between government myth (U3 and U6) vs. reality (U3a and U6a) since the beginning of the recession, in spite of the fact that they were in perfect agreement before the recession began.  And note how very little progress has been made in reducing real unemployment. 

To underscore the point about the lack of growth in the labor force in spite of growing the population by 10 million, here’s a chart of those two figures, along with the employment level, which fell for the 2nd month in a row:  Labor Force & Employment Level

Per Capita Employment also fell for the 2nd month and it remains near its lowest level of the recession.  This figure is analagous to the BLS’s “labor force participation rate” which, as was also broadly reported in the media on Friday, fell to its lowest level since the 1930s. 

The number of Unemployed Americans rose to its highest level since December of last year – over 17.5 million unemployed.  (And that doesn’t include the under-employed.)

The point here is that unemployment isn’t getting better, and it’s no surprise to anyone who understands that the root causes of our high unemployment – the trade deficit and continued immigration-driven population growth – have been completely ignored by this president, just as it has been for the past two generations.

The Synergism Between Overcrowding and Poverty

September 3, 2012

The above-linked article appeared on CNBC a few days ago.  Every once in a while I see these reports that make me believe that, ever so slowly, the field of economics may emerge from its self-imposed blindness to the real world.  This article reports on a paper written by Northwestern University economist Robert Gordon.  (I tried unsuccessfully to find the paper itself.)  It seems that Gordon predicts that we are headed for a prolonged period – decades – in which growth in per capita consumption, “the main engine of the consumer-based U.S. economy” (the article’s author’s words, not mine), will fall to nearly zero. 

First of all, it’s significant any time any economist takes any notice at all of per capita consumption since, in the field of economics, per capita consumption is one of those givens that is no cause for concern.  It’ll always be there and it’ll always grow.  You don’t need to worry about it. 

Gordon serves up six reasons why that may not be true:

  1. Changing and unfavorable demographics.  (It’s not clear what Gordon means by this.  An aging population, perhaps?)
  2. Rising education costs and poor secondary school performance.
  3. Growing economic inequality.
  4. Increased competition due to globalization.
  5. Energy and environmental costs and challenges.
  6. High levels of consumer and government debt. 

No, he didn’t mention overcrowding or population density, but his reasoning is a step in that direction.  How many of the above factors can be blamed, at least partially, on either overpopulation or trade with overpopulated nations?  All but the first, and maybe that one too, if it was clear what was meant.  Number 6 is the result of the use of debt to mask the effects of worsening overpopulation (and free trade with badly overpopulated nations) for decades.  That tactic is nearly exhausted and now the debt itself has become an impediment to per capita consumption.

Which led me to a realization.  I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it before – the synergism between overcrowding and poverty in driving down per capita consumption.  When I researched Five Short Blasts, I tried to separate the effects of poverty from the effects of overcrowding in per capita consumption data.  Poor people consume less merely because they are poor.  I was looking for disparities in per capita consumption among nations of roughly comparable wealth so that the population density effect was clear. 

But there’s an obvious feedback loop here that now seems so obvious to me.  As overcrowding drives down per capita consumption, it’s inescapable that it will drive up unemployment.  (And free trade with badly overcrowded nations will have the same effect.)  Worsening unemployment puts downward pressure on wages and begins to fuel a rise in poverty.  And, where the initial effect upon per capita consumption caused by slowly rising population density may have been small, the effect of declining incomes isn’t.  It’s directly proportional.  People who earn 10% less will consume 10% less (once their access to credit has been exhausted).  When people consume 10% less, then more people are thrown out of work and the whole process can begin to spiral out of control. 

It’s obvious then that anything, no matter how small, that tends to erode per capita consumption presents a serious threat to the economy.  As economists like the one reported on in this article begin to ponder that per capita consumption may not be a given after all – that there may be factors that can negatively affect it – they will discover the obvious factors first.  It may take a long time, but perhaps they’ll eventually discover the common thread woven through them all - the very population-driven “economic” growth, beyond some critical level, that all of them have worshipped for centuries.

Slowing Population Growth Boosts Per Capita GDP in 2nd Quarter

August 1, 2012

Things have been a little crazy here lately and I’ve fallen behind once again.  So the news about 2nd quarter GDP, released on Friday (link provided above), is already a little stale.  But there’s a twist in that news that merits comment.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) announced that growth in the nation’s gross domestic product slowed in the 2nd quarter to a very anemic annual rate of 1.5% from a slightly upwardly-revised figure of 2.0% in the first quarter.  So I expected that I’d be writing about a decline in per capita GDP to only 0.5% – very close to a recessionary level.

But that’s not the case.  When I crunched the numbers, per capita GDP actually held steady at an annual rate of about 1.1%.  Upon checking my numbers, I found that growth in the U.S. population, using data taken from the Census Bureau site, has actually slowed dramatically.  Here’s a chart of the percentage change in the U.S. population:   Quarterly U.S. Population Growth Rate

As you can see, although the growth rate in the 2nd quarter typically rises, it actually fell this time, to its lowest level since I started tracking it, with the exception of the correction that took place in the first quarter of last year as a result of the 2010 census.  But this isn’t just a one-quarter blip.  There seems to be an acceleration in the rate of decline in population growth over the past couple of years. 

The result is that there was actually a very slight up-tick in per capita GDP in the 2nd quarter.  In other words, every American is actually slightly richer as a result of fewer-than-expected people sharing the GDP.  Every American got a slightly larger piece of pie in the 2nd quarter because fewer Americans showed up at the table than expected.  Here’s a chart of per capita GDP:  Real Per Capita GDP

What’s going on here?  In my previous post, we learned that the fertility rate has fallen to a 25-year low, approaching the level needed to reach a stable population.  And, if the CDC (center for disease control) ever updates it’s data for death rates and life expectancy, I expect we’ll see that the death rate is actually rising slightly, primarily due to the effects of obesity, but due to the effects of rising poverty as well.  That leaves only immigration to maintain population growth and, so far, it doesn’t seem to be happening.  Has the administration been quietly ratcheting back on immigration too?  I don’t know, but it’s something I’m going to investigate.  More on this later.

In the meantime, the good news here is that slowing population growth is already yielding benefits for every American.

Economic Decline Impacting U.S. Fertility Rate

July 29, 2012

Here’s a piece of news from late last week that I certainly can’t let pass without comment.  As reported in the above-linked article, the U.S. fertility rate has declined from 2.12 in 2007 to 1.87 today, and is projected to decline further to 1.86 next year.  The reason for the decline, according to Demographic Intelligence, the company that gathered the data, is the economy.  Student loan debt and job insecurity makes it impractical for twenty-somethings to consider having children.

It’s an interesting observation.  Prior to the renaissance and the industrial revolution, poverty held the world’s population in check.  In recent centuries, economic development drove down death rates much more quickly than birth rates, fueling a population explosion.  Economic development and population growth became synonymous in the minds of economists.  But they are not synonymous.  They were cause and effect, up to a point – the point where overcrowding becomes an impediment to per capita consumption.  Now, the cause and effect have reversed.  Population growth has strangled economic development, driving up unemployment and poverty.  And now, poverty is resuming its role as the mechanism that will hold the population in check.  Not only is poverty driving up the death rate but, as this article makes clear, it’s reining in the birth rate as well.

A fertility rate of 1.86 is very close to the rate of 1.79 that I calculated as necessary to achieve a stable population.  (See page 178 of Five Short Blasts.)  A rate of 2.0 is what’s considered a “replacement rate,” the rate necessary to replace each previous generation with one of the same size.  But as long as life expectancy increases, then a rate less than 2.0 is required to achieve a stable population.

A declining fertility rate – finally approaching the rate needed to achieve a stable population – is great news.  But what happens now?  Will hand-wringing economists convince policy-makers that a stable population is a threat to macro-economic growth and that we need to flood the country with even more immigrants?  What a mistake that would be.

What is the Purpose of Immigration Policy?

June 19, 2012

Though there’s scarcely been any mention of immigration policy in the 3-1/2 years since President Obama took office, all of that changed on Friday when he announced that he would halt enforcement action on illegal immigrants who were brought to this country by their parents as young children – growing up knowing no other country than the U.S.  Now the news seems to be about nothing else.  Was the president right?  What would Romney have done?  Will he reverse this decision when (not if) he takes office?  There was also talk of the need for “comprehensive immigration reform.”  Perhaps the most incisive question I heard in the wake of Obama’s decision was “How can immigration policy be made to work for us?” 

How indeed, if it can be made to work for us at all?  It begs another question:  what is the purpose of even having an immigration policy?  I think the answer is that immigration serves three purposes:

  1. It fulfills our obligation as a member of the global community to reciprocate when other nations are willing to accept migrants from the United States.
  2. It fulfills our obligation to accept our fair share of refugees fleeing war and persecution. 
  3. Once the above two obligations have been met, additional immigration serves only one other purpose – to grow our population. 

Others may suggest some unquantifiable reasons and purposes – to enrich the diversity of our people, as an example, or to uphold our tradition as a nation built by immigrants.  All such sentiments are rooted in a deeper concern for immigrants than for what’s best for our country.  The fact is this:  that once we have met our obligations to admit as many immigrants as other countries are willing to accept from us – including refugees – the ultimate question is whether it makes sense to grow our population by admitting more.  Here are some critieria that should be applied:

  1. Are we short on labor?  With 18 million Americans unemployed, does it make any sense to import more workers?
  2. Do we have sufficient resources to support a larger population, including food, energy, metals, minerals and lumber and others?  For example, does it make any sense to import more oil consumers when we already must import the majority of oil that we consume?
  3. Is our impact on the environment below a sustainable level, and have we met all of our obligations to reduce our impact?  For example, given that we have committed to an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, does it make sense to import more emitters? 
  4. Given that, beyond a critical level, a rising population density dooms an ever-growing percentage of Americans to unemployment and poverty, does it make any sense to increase our population density with more immigrants?

If the answers to the above questions are “yes,” then by all means, let’s welcome more immigrants.  But can anyone answer yes to even one of those questions with a straight face? 

Every year, America welcomes another 1.5 million immigrants only because that’s what we’ve always done.  No one ever stops to ask whether it makes any sense whatsoever.  We just do it.  We stoke the unemployment lines with unneeded workers.  We drive up the demand for imported oil.  We worsen our impact on the environment and we make life incrementally more miserable for every American. 

Shame on President Obama, not for his action on Friday but for squandering 3-1/2 years of opportunity to inject some common sense into immigration policy.

Thoughts on President Obama’s Contraception Quagmire with the Catholic Church

February 12, 2012

I’ve started to write on this topic a couple of times in the past week or so, but have gotten hung up each time on trying to keep it brief.  It’s just not a subject that lends itself to brevity.  But, together with the fact that my book’s main theme is the need to stabilize and even reduce our population, the events of this morning have me fired up enough to just wade in with my two cents’ worth.  First, while attending mass this morning, some guy felt it his duty to interrupt the service and educate the rest of us with a rant about “Obamacare” and the contraception mandate.  Later, after returning home and switching on the TV, George Stephanopolous’s round table discussion on this topic on “This Week” on ABC pushed me over the edge. 

So the following are some random thoughts on the subject.  First of all, there certainly is a valid concern about treading on the 1st amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom by mandating things that violate a religion’s beliefs.  That said, it seems to me that there’s a lot of political opportunism here.  The president was wrong to mandate that the Catholic Church pay for the cost of insurance coverage that includes contraception.  But that concern was laid to rest when he shifted the burden to insurance companies and mandated that they offer it for free to anyone who wants it.  The Church doesn’t pay for it, and no one takes advantage of it unless they want to.  But that’s not good enough for them.  Now it seems that the Church is over-reaching and is just as eager to trample people’s rights to make their own decisions about the use of contraception as they were eager to complain about their own rights being violated.  Republicans need to be careful here.  If the Church is perceived to be worried less about religious freedom and begins turning this into a fight over contraception, that’s a battle Obama would love to have, because it’s one he can’t lose. 

The federal government has no right to require religious groups to violate their beliefs.  It has every right – and a responsibility - to pass laws that dictate how business is to be conducted.  The problem arises when religious organizations branch out from attending to the spiritual needs of its members and begin operating businesses, like hospitals.  It’s not as though something like this hasn’t occurred before.  Where was all of this indignation when these businesses (like Catholic hospitals) were required to comply with equal opportunity laws that forbid discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation?  Where is the indignation about complying with living wills and other end-of-life directives regarding the termination of life-support for terminally ill patients?  Where is the indignation about religious organizations being required to provide health insurance of any kind if they have more than a certain number of employees?  (I’m thinking here of Christian Science, who doesn’t believe in health care of any kind.)

What happened to all of the indignation about the plight of people who were unable to afford health coverage of any kind prior to the passage of health care reform?  Didn’t the council of American bishops of the Catholic Church eagerly support health care reform?  Where is the indignation with American businesses who have been eagerly slashing health care coverage from their benefits?   

And isn’t it hypocritical for the world’s biggest champion of never-ending population growth to then decry the unemployment and poverty that follows in its wake – to demand that the government do something to provide care for all these people and then piss and moan about the details?  Has it instead volunteered to care for all the poor who can’t afford health coverage?  Oh, sure, they’ll toss them a few crumbs – feed them and provide shelters.  But I’m talking about expensive, life-saving medical care.  Are they willing to provide that? 

That’s why I say that there seems to be just a little opportunism going on here by those anxious to fabricate another reason (something beyond the notion of excessive government intrusion into our lives) to rally opposition against “Obamacare.”  (By the way, I’ll be writing more about the whole issue of “government intrusion into our lives” in another post.) 

Finally, I’ll simply say that the president is right in his philosophy of making contraception free to anyone who wants it.  As anyone who reads this blog knows, I haven’t been a big fan of President Obama lately, but he’s right on this one.  And the Catholic Church is wrong to try to make opposition to contraception (as distinguished from “birth control,” a term which includes abortion) a matter of doctrine.  Just as the president has waded into a quagmire with some clumsy handling of this issue, the Catholic Church just can’t seem to resist wading into every quagmire it encounters.   Deeper and deeper it goes, parsing every issue into every conceivable situation, assigning mortal or venial sin status to every conceivable outcome, until the federal tax code pales in comparison to the book of Catholic doctrine.   Never mind that Christ Himself had nothing to say on the topic of family planning and contraception (since he’d have been greeted with blank stares at a time when the birth rate barely kept pace with the death rate), the Church can always draw upon some Old Testament verse of dubious relevance.   Whatever happened to the main mission of spreading the gospel of love and salvation?

The fact is this:  the vast majority of Catholics practice contraception.  The only reason that the Church continues to oppose contraception is because it has painted itself into a corner.  To now approve the practice would be an admission that prior popes were wrong, calling into question the issue of papal infallibility. 

Looking around the church this morning, there were few young people to be seen.  No wonder.  The longer the Church continues to intrude where it doesn’t belong and drag its feet on admitting to past mistakes, the more its membership and influence will decline.  A pity.

Reuters Columnist’s Defense of Overpopulation

November 3, 2011

The above-linked editorial appeared on Reuters yesterday.  It’s one of the most twisted-logic-defenses of population growth that I’ve seen yet.  The author, Edward Hadas, begins with a denial that Malthus correctly predicted some of the effects we’re witnessing today:

 The early 19thcentury British thinker decided (without providing any reasons) that people would always have more children than the physical world could possibly support. Population growth would always be restrained by death from want. At the time he wrote, the world’s population was about 1 billion. By the 1960s, the population had increased to about 3 billion people, and Malthus’s gloom was often cited. Some ecologists then claimed that the combination of industrial production and overpopulation would inevitably lead to environmental catastrophes – and many deaths from want.

And yet up to now, Malthus has been wrong

Is this guy really denying that there have been no environmental catastrophes?  A few quickly come to mind:  climate change, the BP oil spill disaster in the gulf, the Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster in Prince William Sound, nuclear disasters in Chernobyl and Fukushima.  The list goes on and on.  And there have been no “deaths from want?”  Is this guy completely blind to the fate of people in the undeveloped world, which represents a large percentage of the world’s population?

But then, after mocking Malthus for being wrong up to this point (in his eyes), he then seems to admit that Malthus may yet be proven to be right:

Still, it cannot be proven that Malthus was wrong, that the world will never run out of stuff or that humanity’s resourcefulness will always rise to environmental, economic and social challenges.

But then, once again, Hadas hears the siren call of the “don’t worry, be happy” economists, more concerned with the problems associated with an aging and declining population. 

… while grim environmental forecasts are still easy to find, demographers these days talk more about the stresses that come with ageing and declining populations.

… the practical challenges can be met easily.

Instead of worrying, economists should take the latest demographic milestone as an opportunity to stop thinking like Malthus …

Of course, it’d be easier to stop worrying if it weren’t for all the data that screams warnings at us about overpopulation.  What to do about that?  “Don’t worry, be happy!”  Ignore it!  Hadas then singles out one of the biggest red flags of all, the one I’ve featured in this blog many times – GDP per capita.

A good starting point would be to stop relying on GDP per capita when comparing the wealth of nations. In this calculation of average income, population is the denominator. If that increases, the per capita GDP will fall, unless the numerator – production – increases commensurately. In effect, this measure makes each new person an economic drag.

Yes, if GDP holds constant as the population continues to grow, then everyone is getting poorer and population growth becomes a drag.  It’s an inescapable fact.  Hadas seems to have a hard time dealing with facts, especially (I suspect) if those facts cry out for an economic change that might threaten the growth prospects for his stock portfolio.  So, at this point, Hadas simply chooses to ignore the facts and gets all sappy on us:

A new person is indeed a consumer who will need to work to avoid being a net drain on the world’s resources. But he or she is also a wonder worth celebrating. Parents know it, and economists should recognize that reproduction is a sort of production – brought forth through maternal labor and parental care. Economic activity should aim at the promotion of life, not merely at the production of stuff.

What?!?!?  If economists theories are failing us economically, then economists should ignore the data and focus instead on “the promotion of life?”  If we’re driving toward a cliff, we should just close our eyes and put the pedal to the metal?!?!? 

This conclusion caps off one of the stupidest, most illogical defenses of overpopulation that I’ve seen yet.  There are three kinds of people in this world:  (a) those who continue to believe as they do because they’ve never pondered the facts, (b) those who have taken the time to ponder reality and change their opinion accordingly, and (c) those who ponder the facts and reality but then continue to promote what they now know to be lies, to the detriment of humanity,  just because it suits their purpose.  I suspect that that last group of people will be judged harshly in the end.

7 Billion People

October 26, 2011

Within a matter of days, we will mark a very sad milestone.  It is estimated by the UN that October 31st will be the day that the world population will breach 7 billion people.  

The world’s population continues to grow by approximately 1.1% per year, currently adding 77 million people per year, more than the entire population of the Northeastern United States.

It took the vast majority of human history to reach 1 billion people sometime in the early 1800s.  It took only a hundred years for the population to then double to 2 billion.  In 1960 we reached 3 billion people.  Fifteen years later, in 1975, we hit 4 billion.  Twelve years later, in 1987, we hit 5 billion.  Only 11 years later, we hit 6 billion.  Eleven years later again, sometime in the next few days, we will have added yet another billion to reach 7 billion people. 

And the pace of growth isn’t slowing much, at least not yet.  The UN projects that the world population will grow to 8 billion by 2025.  But then it does begin to slow, taking until 2042 to reach 9 billion.  It will then take over 40 years to add the next billion, reaching 10 billion by 2085.  Its projections are based on assumptions about development and declining birth rates.  (Although, as of the time of this writing, the UN has not yet published the assumptions that formed the basis for its projections.)  I can assure you, though, that the role of excessive population density in driving unemployment and poverty isn’t factored into their thinking.

Consider this:  as the world grows ever more overpopulated, per capita consumption is in a state of decline.  If per capita consumption held steady, then each person added to the population would find work at about the same rate as everyone up to that point.  A one percent rise in population would result in a one percent increase in jobs and unemployment would remain a constant. 

While that’s what economists believe, that’s not what’s happening.  Each one percent gain in population is actually driving down per capita consumption and driving up unemployment.  To make matters worse, productivity continues to rise at an even faster pace than our population growth rate.  What all of this means is that every person added to our population is headed straight to the unemployment line.  If we add another billion people by 2025 (about half of whom would be considered part of the labor force), as the UN projects, then the ranks of the unemployed, globally, will grow by 500 million.  And the U.S. isn’t immune.  As we add 3 million people to our population every year, or about 1.5 million new laborers, every one of them is doomed to the unemployment line. 

None of this is factored into the UN projections.  For that reason, I’d be willing to bet the farm that the world population will never exceed 10 billion.  In fact, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll hit 9 billion.  And I’d give you even odds that we’ll never even reach 8 billion.  Does that sound like wild-eyed optimism from a staunch advocate of stabilizing our population?  Hardly.  Grim pessimism is a better description because the conditions that will drive such a sudden halt to population growth is exactly what I’ve hoped we could avoid if only economists would pull their heads from the sand and begin advocating an orderly process of stabilization and contraction.  Just imagine the conditions that we are about to witness as the U.S. adds 1.5 million people and as the world adds nearly 40 million people to the unemployment line every year.  Societies are going to unravel quickly.  Nature is very unforgiving of species that don’t adapt to a changing environment.  And when that species’ ability to adapt depends on its intellect, as in the case of humanity, nature will be brutally unforgiving of self-inflicted ignorance perpetrated by its leaders. 

Look at this slideshow:  As you do, I want you to ask yourself, “what is the per capita consumption of the people I see in this picture?”  How much do they consume compared to how much they could produce if put to work in a modern factory?  If all consume so little but are capable of producing so much, how can all of them – or even a significant fraction of them – find gainful employment? 

Our economists and leaders need to wake up very quickly and stop pretending that mankind can overcome any obstacle to growth and grow ourselves into further prosperity.  Economies built on economists’ lies can’t endure and nature couldn’t care less what we believe.  This world is going to become a very ugly place very quickly, far more quickly than even I imagined when I published Five Short Blasts four years ago.

Population Density a Factor in State-by-State Unemployment

July 6, 2011

The above-linked article reports that the lowest unemployment in the nation is found in the state of North Dakota.  The article cites a number of factors but, of course, makes no linkage to population density.  With a population density of only nine people per square mile, North Dakota is the fourth most sparsely populated state in the nation, beaten only by Montana (6 people/square mile), Wyoming (5 people per square mile) and Alaska (1 person per square mile).  A coincidence?  I think not. 

However, if I were to simply make a linkage between North Dakota’s low population density and their low unemployment rate, one could easily refute my argument by pointing to other states with low population density and high rates of unemployment.  Nevada, for example, with a population density of only 22 people per square mile has an unemployment rate of more than 12%, the highest in the nation. 

The only way to settle the argument is to do a scatter chart of the unemployment rate for all 50 states and see whether a pattern emerges.  This is something I’ve not done before, since a cursory examination of the data shows a lot of scatter, and since free trade between the 50 states tends to level out unemployment across the nation, exporting jobs from low density states to high density states and exporting unemployment in the other direction, exactly in the same way that it works between nations on a global scale. 

But this single data point for North Dakota compelled me to finally compile the data and see whether any relationship is evident at all, or if the data produces a shotgun scatter with zero correlation.  The following is the result:

Unemployment vs Pop Density

In spite of the unemployment-leveling effects of free trade between the states, a relationship does indeed emerge.  Yes, there’s a lot of scatter, but the relationship becomes evident when the trend line (that line that begins near zero and slowly rises along the bottom of the graph) is inserted and the “coefficient of determination” is calculated.  If no relationship existed, the trend line would be flat and the coefficient of determination would be zero.  A perfect relationship would have all of the data points fall in line (either a straight line or a curved line) and the coefficient of determination would be “1″. 

In this case, there is a definite upward trend which follows a “power” equation, and the coefficient of determination is .14 – weak, but a definite correlation.  Getting back to Nevada, the state one would use to refute my argument, it must be remembered that within my theory that relates population density to per capita consumption (and thus to unemployment), what’s important is not actual population density but “effective” population density; that is, the population divided not by the total area but by the inhabitable area.  And a major fraction of Nevada is indeed uninhabitable, thanks to vast deserts and moutainous regions.  The “effective” population density of Nevada is actually quite high.  If just that one data point out of 50 is removed from the data set, the coefficient of determination rises to .18. 

Looking at the data another way, let’s divide the states evenly around the median population density of 95 people per square mile.  Among the more densely populated 25 states, only 8 have unemployment rates of less than 8%.  Among the less densley populated 25 states, there are 15 such states.  Only one state in the more densley populated half of states has an unemployment rate of less than 6% – New Hampshire.  There are five such states in the less densely populated half of states – North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Vermont. 

The moral of this story?  If you’re unemployed, think about moving to one of these less densely populated states.  (Of course, if everyone did that, those states would soon no longer be sparsely populated, nor would they have low rates of unemployment.)  Secondly, contrary to what most people would say, a growing population in your state is not good for its economy.  Get involved in promoting legislation that discourages illegal immigration and encourage your federal legislators to oppose high rates of immigration in general – both legal and illegal.  Finally, consider what happens when less densely populated nations like the U.S. trade freely with those far more populated.  If you do, you’ll also want to encourage your legislators to demand changes to U.S. trade policy. 

If you like unemployment, then just keep quiet about trade and immigration policy.  It’ll get worse.  If you don’t like it, then find out what really lies at the core of the problem and start demanding changes.


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