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With the collapse various North African regimes there has been a great concern about the migration of people from the southern shore of the Mediterranean to the northern. The of the reasons for this concern is that there is an imbalance in population growth. So I thought I’d review some of the data on Mediterranean nations over time using Google Data Explorer.

The fertility rate shows convergence over time. Let’s use a bar plot to get a better sense of shifts in rank order:

For many the surprising result will be France: its fertility is converging with its traditional North Africa “source” colonies. One possibility is that this is due to the high fertility of French immigrants from these regions, but the immigrants and their children only comprise ~5 percent of the French population. But France’s relatively large Muslim population (using maximal definitions of who is a Muslim ~10 percent, though using a genuine confessional definition probably less than ~5 percent) can’t explain the shift. The biggest tell that this isn’t a conservative Muslim baby-boom is illustrated by this figure:

France also has a relatively low adolescet fertility. This is a “Scandinavian pattern.” The replacement of children in formal marriage with those from long term unions which don’t always make a pretense toward permanency (e.g, Ségolène Royal had 4 children with her partner, and she was never married to him).

Finally, how about Albania? It’s fertility has crashed a great deal over the last 20 years.

• Category: Science • Tags: Blog, Culture, Data Analysis, Google Data Explorer 
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There is a border across which fertility drops by a factor of two in North America (defined as from Canada to Panama). Specifically, one nation has a TFR of ~4, and the other ~2. Can you guess the two nations? You can find the answer in the charts below.

First, linear:

Now, log-transformed:

That’s right, TFR, Guatemala (4.15) → Mexico (2.21) → United States (2.05) → Canada (1.53)

(source, 2005-2010 estimates)

Here’s GDP PPP per capita:

United States ($46,400) → Canada ($38,000) → Mexico ($13,600) → Guatemala ($4,800)

This is why the Mexican-Guatemalan border experiences a great deal of traffic.

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Long time readers of this weblog will recognize Zachary Latif. Zachary and I have been having exchanges on various topics on and off since 2002 on the blogs. His early opinionated musings on cultural and historical topics were a definite prod for me to venture out more vigorously into this domain. As a Pakistani Baha’i educated and resident in the West he offered me a window into a very different perspective from what I’d ever encountered before. In particular he challenged me in 2002 when I blithely repeated conventional wisdom about the economic rise of India and the stagnation of Pakistan. He had numbers at his finger tips. I did not.

Since that time it is arguable that Pakistan has become more, not less, important to Americans. How is Pakistan doing? To look into this I decided to use Google Data Explorer, focusing on trend lines comparing the various South Asian nations.

I invite readers to construct more charts. It’s easy enough. I would say that the last 10 years has been mildly on the less encouraging side for Pakistan in relation to its neighbors. Its economic growth has consistently been lower than India’s for years, so the gap in per capita income is growing. Additionally, Pakistan has not gone through a demographic transition yet. Though Bangladesh remains poorer, its fertility is now far lower. The main reason that the population growth numbers are not further apart is that Pakistan has a relatively low adolescent fertility rate, so the generation times are presumably longer. And note the infant mortality numbers, in 1990 Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan were in the same ballpark, but now Pakistan is the standout, and not in a good way.

Of course there are positives too. Pakistan has far more foreign investment than Bangladesh, which is why I log-transformed the scale. And the trend for something like measles immunization is positive, and pushing saturation. Looking at the data the image in the media of Pakistan being a “failed state” seems a bit much, though as Americans our stake in what happens in that nuclear armed nation is great, so even a small probability is of concern (also, I don’t have data past 2008).

But let’s shift to India. And this is what really surprises me: on some social indices India is not doing so well. Why? Look at life expectancy:

Pakistan has maintained its lead, but Bangladesh seems to have switched places with India. The gaps here are small and of no great account to me, the question is why India is not doing better despite impressive economic growth? That is because “India” is many nations, and several of these nations have entered a phase of rapid economic growth and development, and others have not. The total fertility rate of the southern state of Tamil Nadu in 2006 was 1.8, the same as non-Hispanic whites in the United States. For the massive northern state of Uttar Pradesh, which is more populous than either Pakistan or Bangladesh, the total fertility rate was 3.8, only a little below Pakistan’s. India has within it both Bangalore and Bihar, so the aggregate data is masking both the economic dynamism and the outrageous poverty.

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Most readers of this weblog are aware that the United States is in a mission of “nation building” in Afghanistan. I know that we probably deny that, but that’s what it is. Going through Google data explorer I’m struck by what an exceptional nation we’ve decided to intervene in. Below is a chart which has infant mortality rate on the y-axis and life expectancy on the x-axis. I’ve allowed the bubbles to be defined by their regions in terms of color, and labelled the South & Central Asian nations to give a sense of the change in vital statistics for the “peers” of Afghanistan over the past generation. Observe that Sub-Saharan Africa is pulling away from Afghanistan in the last 10 years!

Razib Khan
About Razib Khan

"I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. If you want to know more, see the links at"