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TOPIC: demographics

eyes on the U.S.

A Foreign Eye On America's Stunning Drop In Life Expectancy

Over the past two years, the United States has lost more than two years of life expectancy, wiping out 26 years of progress. French daily Les Echos investigates the myriad of causes, which are mostly resulting in the premature deaths of young people.

On May 6, a gunman opened fire in a Texas supermarket, killing eight people, including several children, before being shot dead by police. Particularly bloody, this episode is not uncommon in the U.S. — it is the 22nd mass killing (resulting in the death of more than four people) this year.

Gun deaths are one reason why life expectancy is falling in the U.S. But it's not the only one. Last December, the American authorities confirmed that life expectancy at birth had fallen significantly in just two years: From 78.8 years in 2019, it would be just 76.1 years in 2021.

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The country has thus dropped to a level not reached since 1996. This is equivalent to erasing 26 years of progress.Life expectancy has declined in other parts of the world as a result of the pandemic, but the U.S. remains the developed country with the steepest decline — and the only one where this trend has not been reversed with the advent of vaccines. Most shocking of all: This decline is linked above all to an increase in violent deaths among the youngest members of the population.

Five-year-olds living in the U.S. have a one in 25 chance of dying before their 40th birthday, according to calculations by The Financial Times. For other developed countries, including France, this rate is closer to one in 100. Meanwhile, the life expectancy of a 75-year-old American differs little from that of other OECD countries.

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Iran's New Plan To Boost Population: Students Who Get Pregnant Get Higher Grades

The Iranian regime has been trying different methods to encourage people to have children. Most have failed, for economic reasons.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei believes that population growth makes for a nation's strength, and he wants Iran's to be replenished and increased.

That has reshaped state policies for some years now in favor of marriage and procreation and against contraception, abortion and Western-style single living. The higher education ministry now wants to do its part, and has informed universities that teaching staff can expect promotional credits "for every pregnant student" or mother-and-toddler student in their class.

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Regional Disparity Trap: Why China’s Economy Resembles Europe

The Northeast is the Chinese equivalent to Greece ...

Professor Lu Ming of Shanghai Jiaotong University was the first to refer to the sharp differences within China as the "Europeanization" (or Eurozoneization) of the Chinese economy.

The Eurozone consists of 19 European countries with a unified market and a single currency, but with large differences in productivity between them. This, of course, has many advantages, such as promoting the internal common market, reducing transaction costs and so on. However, the smooth operation of the Eurozone depends on whether its members have similar levels of productivity or public debt. If they aren't, it will create a divergence in interests between the "core" countries with high productivity and low debt and the "peripheral" countries with low productivity and high debt.

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Race And Ethnicity Data: Time To End The French Model

The country's 'principled' approach to data collection does a disservice to people dealing with real and consequential discrimination.


PARIS — The debate over how and whether France should compile statistics on ethnicity resurfaces from time to time, and in a Manichean fashion.

As it stands, processing individual data showing ethnic, racial, religious, trade union membership or political affiliations as well as state of health and sexual orientation isn't allowed here. And yet, researchers, pollsters and even government agencies conduct numerous surveys on these themes. So how does that work?

The answer, in short, is that the law includes numerous exceptions to the rule. The regulatory body that grants such exceptions is the National Commission on Informatics and Freedom (CNIL in French), an independent agency tasked with keeping an eye on the use of personal data in France. The CNIL takes into account the purpose of a given study, the consent of individuals, how data is made anonymous and participant protection. These exemptions apply to surveys conducted for information purposes, almost never to management files that regulate the fate of individuals (employees, tenants, students, etc.).

Since 2003, surveys by the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE), including its national employment study, have asked questions on the country of birth and previous nationality, not only to the person concerned but also to the individual's parents. Doing so makes it possible to identify immigrants and their French-born children, and thus measures the significance of origins on opportunities to access employment, housing, education, etc., provided that participants have similar ages and skills.

Confusion is sown by claims that ethnic statistics will encourage a return of colonial-era ethnic categories.

Throughout continental Europe, numbers that identify the country of origin of people now living in another country are called "ethnic statistics," as opposed to "ethno-racial."

Our standard statistic is both ethnic and in line with French republican values: It identifies origins via civil status, without the American-style "racial reference frame" (white, Black, Asian, etc.), which only the United Kingdom and Ireland have adopted. When specialized surveys on discrimination go further by mentioning skin color — such as the so-called TeO study (on origins and career paths) and the CI study on identity checks by the Paris police — they do so on condition that the "race" criterion not be imposed on the individual but be based rather on what the person feels or perceives.

Confusion is sown by claims that ethnic statistics, in the European sense of the term, will encourage a return of colonial-era ethnic categories. But the studies being done aren't interested in whether someone is Soninke, Kabyle or Hmong. They only want to know if the person in question is Portuguese, Moroccan, Malian, Polish or Syrian.

It is just as pointless to raise the specter of the various "nationalities' that the Russian Empire used to categorize people for centuries and that were formalized under Stalin. This kind of reductio ad Stalinum is no more valid than the reductio ad Hitlerum argument.

Finally, some people think that the mixing of origins ruins any statistical effort. It's true that having parents born in two regions of the world is common. But in this area, as in others, there is nothing to prevent the flexible construction of mixed categories.


People waiting to cross the street in front of L'Arc de Triomphe in Paris Photo: Viet Hammer

In order to conduct an orderly debate on ethnic statistics, as called for by government spokesperson Sibeth Ndiaye, both researchers and practitioners need to be mobilized. In his Le Monde column, French demographer Hervé Le Bras argues that his university friends were necessarily better qualified to deal with the issue than the Committee for the Measurement and Evaluation of Diversity and Discrimination (COMEDD), which I formed 10 years ago.

COMEDD brought together institutions with a solid grasp of the problem, including the CNIL, the High Authority to Combat Discrimination and Promote Equality, rights associations, employer and workers unions, recruitment agencies, social housing providers, researchers and statisticians who had conducted in-person national surveys.

Yazid Sabeg, commissioner for diversity and equal opportunities and sponsor of COMEDD's final report, made no secret of his disappointment on the day it was delivered in January 2010. He thought that it was enough to make the data anonymous at the source to stop it being personal and out of the control of the CNIL, thus allowing all possible questions about the phenotype to be asked.

I had to explain to him that the CNIL still has a say over what to do with the data. In fact, we have worked on a constant legal basis, advocating the best use of the exemptions allowed by the law. In 1999, they had already made it possible to extend the INSEE family survey to prisons and to measure the presence of certain national origins, a legal breakthrough that has never been repeated.

Racial discrimination exists alongside social inequality.

COMEDD's recommendations did not go unheeded. In 2012, they were included in a guide, co-published by the CNIL, called Measuring for Progress towards Equal Opportunities. These efforts need to be stepped up and systematized to enable changes to be monitored.

There's still the one, crowing argument to contend with: That ethnic statistics can ultimately destroy republican universalism. But the TeO survey showed the opposite. A dozen years later, who can argue that it somehow eroded our freedoms? It has not cast shame on any minority, nor has it "communitarized" the nation. The same can be said for the INSEE surveys published in Economie et statistique, and the studies done by researchers Eric Cédiey, Yannick L'Horty or Marie-Anne Valfort.

The information proved, rather, that discrimination based on origin and appearance continues to be rife for individuals in the same social status. As such it invalidates the position of Marine Le Pen, the arch-conservative who denies such links. Racial discrimination exists alongside social inequality. It adds to it.

We need to stop seeing ethnic statistics as being opposed to republican principles. What is the point of brandishing our universalist ideals if we refuse to measure the gap that separates them from reality? Far from undermining the principle of equal treatment, ethnic statistics take the equality ideal at its word, provided they aren't mixed up with ethno-racial statistics or be extended to management files.

Only by looking reality in the face can we go from paying lip service to properly promoting the ideals of the nation.

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Jean-Pierre Robin

Are We Ready For The Japanization Of The World Economy?

Having experienced its economic collapse a generation earlier than the 2008 crisis, Japan has become a laboratory for making the most out of meek growth.


TOKYO — Shinzo Abe has once and for all earned his stripes as a great tactician. For the third time in five years, he triggered early elections to reinforce his hand as prime minister and, once again, it was a winning move. Taking advantage of the rising regional tensions since the summer provoked by North Korea's missiles and nuclear testing, he turned apparent weakness into a strength.

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Richard Hiault

How On Earth Are We Going To Feed 11 Billion People?

PARIS — New York City. 2022. The Big Apple is packed — with 44 million inhabitants — and roasting. Average temperatures are in excess of 30ºC. The metropolis is enveloped in a thick, greyish fog. Water is scarce. Fauna and flora have almost disappeared. Food produced from agriculture is a distant memory, alive only in the minds of the older generations. Only a few rich, privileged people have access to fruit, meat, strawberry jam or bourbon.

The vast majority has long been eating synthetic food produced by the multinational corporation Soylent. These are small square tablets of different colors, depending on the day of delivery. That year, a new one joins the collection: Soylent Green, more nutritive, but also more expensive and delivered on Tuesdays only. That's when one of the company's board members, William Simonson, is killed at his home, in one of the tower blocks in a wealthy neighborhood. Police officer Thorn leads the investigation and eventually finds out the horrible truth: Soylent Green isn't made with "high-energy plankton," as the company claims, but with human corpses! Anthropophagy has entered the human food system. And because he wanted to reveal the truth, William Simonson was assassinated.

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Europe As Eldorado, The Risks Of Enticing Migrants

PARIS — When the migrant crisis started spinning out of control in the summer of 2015, a deep fracture appeared inside the European Union, between countries willing to open their doors and countries ready to erect walls to block the flow of incoming migrants. The tension culminated in late September of that year, when the EU broke with its longstanding tradition of consensus to force through a mandatory relocation plan for 120,000 migrants, despite opposition from four countries.

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João Pereira Coutinho

No Sex Please, We’re Brazilian: On PlayStation And Demographics

Maybe the West's low birth rate arrived when sex was defeated by boredom? One writer's offbeat reflection on how sexuality overload has backfired.


SAO PAULO — Moving house is a bit like Russian roulette. I know, I've just moved into a new flat myself. The first night, there was quite a festa next door. But I managed fine, plugging my ears with the appropriate material to be sure to get my ten hours of sleep, without which I look like an extra from The Walking Dead. And I bite too.

The following night, when I went to bed, it started again. I tried to meditate but to no avail. In the darkness of by bedroom, my eyes fixed on the ceiling, I pricked up my ears. I could hear laughing, shouting, moaning, objects falling on the floor.

I banged on the wall, once, twice, three times. Nothing. I got up, walked to my neighbor's door, and just as I was about to kick it down, I heard a sentence that paralyzed me, "Go on, Messi!"

Two possibilities: Either the world famous soccer player Lionel Messi was my neighbor, or he was the object of my neighbors' private fantasies. I put my ear against the door to try and crack the mystery. No, there was no one and nothing X-rated at all: My neighbors were playing PlayStation.

I went back to my flat carrying the world's sadness on my shoulders. I laid down on my bed. The laughing, shouting, moaning, objects falling on the floor, continued. Later, much later, I finally was able to fall asleep.

What the hell is wrong with boys these days?

The next morning, I heard my neighbor opening his door. I opened mine. He was visibly exhausted, looking rather gaunt. He shook my hand with all the vigor of someone on death row. He introduced himself: a university student. I seized the occasion to raise my grievance: the noise at improper hours, especially for someone who needed to get up early to work.

He blushed like a child and promised to "control" himself. See, it was all the addiction's fault, video games with buddies and even female friends (oh, the horror). He chuckled, ashamed. I chuckled too, defeated. I told him, "Nice meeting you, son," before shutting the door with one worrying question on my mind: What the hell is wrong with boys these days?

I called science to the rescue. A study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior claims that young American adults (the so-called Millennials, born in the 1980s and 1990s) seemed to have no great interest in sex.

It gets worse when you compare new generations to their parents, born in the 1960s or 1970s. Based on current patterns, the parents look promiscuous, debauched even. Even worse: for 15% of those aged between 20 and 24, sexual activity is so non-existent that they might perfectly well donate their private parts to science.

video games playstation worldcrunch

Photo: RebeccaPollard

Back in the days, we used to laugh with the classic joke, "No sex please, we're British." Now, it seems the whole world (even Brazil!) has become British. Brazilian writer Millôr Fernandes once wrote that the best aphrodisiac was prolonged abstinence. It's one of the rare occasions in which Fernandes was both optimistic, and wrong.

The best aphrodisiac is not prolonged, but forced abstinence. If "sexual intercourse began in 1963," as Philip Larkin wrote in one of his poems, it explains the people's enthusiasm for flowers and bees in the sixties and seventies. There were excesses, to be sure. But these excesses are comparable to the sickness a starving man might feel after stuffing himself with too much meat in one go.

When the sons arrived, sex had become so omnipresent that the whole mystery was lost.

Oh, how I miss my grandpa's joy as he remembered the first time he'd seen a woman's knees. "The knees!" he used to say, with tears of gratefulness and nostalgia filling his eyes. After he'd married my grandma, came ten children.

Nowadays, the West is in a demographic crisis. The reasons are widely known, from contraceptives to job insecurity, all delaying the age of motherhood (and fatherhood) beyond 40 and leading to the absence of generational replenishment.

But I always felt that it might go deeper than that. The West stopped making babies because sex was defeated by boredom. Before the sexual revolution, our grandpas used to dream of knees. After the revolution, our fathers threw themselves at the flesh. When the sons arrived, sex had become so omnipresent — in cinema, on TV, on the Internet — that the whole mystery was lost along the way.

Meanwhile, child production remains strong in the Muslim world. Even Turkey's President Erdogan, to take revenge on Europe (and the Netherlands) has called on Turkish people abroad to make, at least, five children per family. That's easy, in a culture that still cultivates the mystery surrounding knees and breasts.

So, what's my suggestion to save the Western world? Maybe wearing a burqa at home. Then young singles can trade in their PlayStation or other games and buttons to get their hands on.

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Chinese Single Women Flock To U.S. To Freeze Their Eggs

BEIJING — For rich and single Chinese women who want it all, America is there to help.

The Beijing-based website Tencent Finance reports that U.S. fertility clinics are increasingly catering to single Chinese women who want to have a child on their own. Annie Liu, a successful high-end real estate dealer in New York, saw a new business opportunity that could cater to some of her clients — and founded Global Fertility Genetics (GFG), a clinic specialized in assisted-fertility services for visiting Chinese women.

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Chinese Health, Not Just A Matter Of Economics


As China opened its markets and rose to become the world's second-largest economy, foreign media focus has shifted from tales of political repression and exotic outposts to largely a business story. Corporate chiefs and bankers unpack the meaning of hard, cold economic figures, and the latest data revealing Chinese "expansionary territory," with the odd mention of the apocalyptic pollution levels that go with the rest. While Western media coverage can make us all feel like amateur "China Hands," we strangely know very little about the people of the People's Republic.

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Giordano Stabile

Israeli Settler Birthrate Tops Palestinians — A Political Problem

As births by Israeli settlers tops Palestinians in the West Bank, the "demographic advantage" could vanish, and undermine hopes for a peace settlement.

JERUSALEM — The late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat once famously said that the wombs of Palestinian women were his "biological weapon", with a high birthrate that would outnumber Israelis and ensure the establishment of the Palestine nation.

Today, that "demographic firepower" is in the hands of Israel. A wave of migration from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s, combined with a soaring birthrate among Jewish settlers in the West Bank, have shifted the demographic calculus in the region. The Israeli birthrate is now just over three children per woman — as high as five for the ultra-Orthodox — compared to just under three per woman among Palestinians.

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Jin Keyu*

The Real Math And Meaning Of China's Two-Child Policy

More consumer spending in the short term, and a demographic correction over time, but China's loosening of its birth policies may be most powerful as a symbol.


LONDON China recently announced the end of its three-decade-long experiment in population control that left a signficant mark on Chinese society and economy. What is not clear yet is how much the loosening of its birth policy — raising the limit from one to two children —will affect the country going forward.

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