kottke.org posts about population
The center of the population of the United States has been moving steadily west and south since 1790. This video shows the progression until 2010:
You can step through the animation yourself on the US Census Bureau site. It's interesting to see how even the changes are...there was one big jump from 1850 to 1860 and a slow down in westward migration from 1890 to 1940, but other than that, it shifted west about 40-50 miles each decade.
This is likely the pull-quote of the week (I've seen it on about 20 sites in the last 10 minutes):
Of all the people in human history who ever reached the age of 65, half are alive now.
But only by a little...there's lots more to chew on in the full article. Like how 65 became the retirement age:
The idea of a retirement age was invented by Otto von Bismarck in the 1880s, when as chancellor of Germany he needed a starting age for paying war pensions. He chose the age of 65 because that was typically when ex-soldiers died.
If the population density of the United States was equal to that of Brooklyn, the entire US population would fit into New Hampshire.
The state would be ruined, though (imagine a Brooklyn-like sprawl of that size), but the rest of the country would be green and pleasantly devoid of people!
If you used Manhattan's population density, Dense US would shrink to more than half that size, roughly the area of Teton County in Wyoming. Manila, the capital of the Philippines, has the highest population density of any city in the world (111,000 people per square mile)...if the US was that dense, the population would fit into any number of tiny Alaskan islands you've never heard of or a square 52 miles on a side.
David Galbraith graphs the population of Rome from 300 BC to the present.
The population [of Rome] during the Renaissance was miniscule (yet it was still a global center), when Michelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel it was considerably smaller than a town like Palo Alto is today (60K); Rome at its nadir was about the size of Google (20K employees); the growth of Rome during the Industrial era is much greater than the rise of Ancient Rome.
David, you should check out The Inheritance of Rome; I'm about 100 pages in and pretty interesting so far. Also, it would be instructive to do the same graph but Rome's population as a percentage of world population.
Compare and contrast: a map of the center of the world's population (currently located in the northern part of south Asia) and a global accessibility map, which shows the travel time to major cities. (via lone gunman & stamen)
Population densities in the United States vary over nine orders of magnitude.
In case you're wondering, the most densely populated block group is one in New York County, New York -- 3,240 people in 0.0097 square miles, for about 330,000 per square mile. The least dense is in the North Slope Borough of Alaska -- 3 people in 3,246 square miles, or one per 1,082 square miles. The Manhattan block group I mention here is 360 million times more dense than the Alaska one; population densities vary over a huge range.
That's approximately the same range from the height of an iPod to the diameter of the Earth. (via fakeisthenewreal)
In Brazil, soap operas, and specifically the small families they depicted, might have been a form of birth control, lowering the fertility of the audience:
In 1960, the average Brazilian woman had 6.3 children. By 2000, the fertility rate was down to 2.3. The decline was comparable to China's, but Brazil didn't have a one-child policy. In fact, for a while it was even illegal to advertise contraceptives.
Many factors account for the drop in Brazilian fertility, but one recent study identified a factor most people probably wouldn't consider: soap operas (novelas). Novelas are huge in Brazil, and the network Rede Globo effectively has a monopoly on their production...
Using census data from 1970 to 1991 and data on the entry of Rede Globo into different markets, the researchers found that women living in areas that received Globo's broadcast signal had significantly lower fertility. (And yes, the study did control for all sorts of factors and addressed the concern that the entry of Globo might have been driven by trends that also contribute to fertility decline. I'll spare you the gory econometric details.) Additionally, people in areas with Globo's signal were more likely to name their children after novela characters, suggesting that it was the novelas specifically, and not TV in general, that influenced childbearing.
Update (by jkottke): The Sabido Method:
Named after the pioneer in application of this entertainment-education strategy, Miguel Sabido, the Sabido Method is based on character development and plot lines that provide the audience with a range of characters that they can engage with -- some good, some not so good -- and follow as they evolve and change. Sabido developed this methodology when we was Vice President for Research at Televisa in Mexico in the 1970s.
According to the Mexican government's national population council, a soap opera called Acompaname was responsible for large increases in people requesting family planning information, contraceptive sales, and enrollment in family planning clinics. From 1977 to 1986, when these soap operas were on, Mexico's population growth rate fell by 34%. The Sabido Method was also recently covered in the New Yorker. (thx, omegar)
For years, a myth has stated that the number of people currently living outnumber the number of people who have died. Not true says demographer Carl Haub: over 100 billion people have died on earth, compared to 6.5 billion current residents. (via 3qd)
America the Overfull, Paul Theroux's New Year's musing on an America with twice as many people as when he grew up. "We are passing through a confused period of aggression and fear, characterized by our confrontational government, the decline of diplomacy, a pugnacious foreign policy and a settled belief that the surest way to get people to tell the truth is to torture them. It is no wonder we have begun to squint at strangers. This is a corrosive situation in a country where more and more people, most of them strangers, are a feature of daily life. Americans as a people I believe to be easygoing, compassionate, not looking for a fight. But surely I am not the only one who has noticed that we are ruder, more offhand, readier to take offense, a nation of shouters and blamers." (thx, youngna)
Malcolm Gladwell on how the demographics of companies affects their financial health. At the time of its bankruptcy in 2001, Bethlehem Steel "had twelve thousand active employees and ninety thousand retirees and their spouses drawing benefits. It had reached what might be a record-setting dependency ratio of 7.5 pensioners for every worker." More from Gladwell on the piece here and here.