Wednesday Briefs – 15 July 2020

A weekly commentary on current events. Follow populyst to receive notification.

This week: Demographic megatrends; Coronavirus in New York and Florida; Vice-Presidential scenarios.

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Demographic megatrends

This site started as a platform to analyze global demographic changes before closer to home issues assumed a higher priority. We now re-examine some population estimates.

A new study by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) says that the world population will peak at 9.7 billion in 2064 and fall to 8.8 billion by 2100. By contrast, estimates produced by the United Nations Population Division (UNPD) are 10.3 billion in 2064 and 10.9 billion in 2100.

The variations between the two sets of forecasts are very small for the next four decades, though estimated totals may mask important differences in the age distribution of the population. Nonetheless, we can agree that most of the divergence is for the later decades of this century, starting 30 or 40 years from now. Given the speed of change in culture, economy and technology, estimates for the years 2050-2100 are usually seen as educated guesses based on unstable assumptions.

All the same, it is worth noting that the two projections differ primarily in their numbers for fertility in Africa, China and India. The IHME researchers argue that the UN’s favored measure, the total fertility rate (TFR, average number of children per woman) is unreliable for countries with low fertility, in this case China and India after 2050. They use a measure CCF50 to make the necessary adjustments. From the study:

The difference in population forecasts between our reference scenario and the UNPD forecasts is a third due to faster declines in sub-Saharan African fertility and two thirds due to the lower level of TFR expected in populations with fertility lower than the replacement level, especially China and India.

IHME’s 2100 population estimates for sub-Saharan Africa, China and India are 3.07 billion, 1.09 billion and 739 million. The UNPD’s estimates are respectively 3.78 billion, 1.45 billion and 1.06 billion.

Read the full IHME study in the Lancet.

Coronavirus – New York and Florida

On Monday for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, New York City reported its first 24 hour period with zero deaths from the virus. There were five deaths in New York State in that same one day period. Both figures are an important milestone that looked improbable in mid-April when the state deaths tally exceeded 750 on several days in a row.

The trend is less good in Arizona, Florida and Texas where deaths are now clearly rising with a lag of three weeks after reported cases started to surge. The seven-day averages of deaths in AZ, FL and TX are now 59, 82 and 87, up from 24, 35 and 27 on June 23rd. If the pattern continues, these averages will exceed 100 before the end of the month. Florida and Texas could see more than 150 deaths on some days within the next few weeks.Screen Shot 2020-07-12 at 12.18.07 PM

Although the number of reported cases is rising rapidly, the resulting deaths are significantly lower than they were in the spring. The ratio of incremental deaths (lagged three weeks) divided by incremental cases is now running at about 2%, significantly below the 5% or more seen in the spring. This improvement is probably due to a higher rate of infection among young people and to better medical treatment of those infected.

Vice-Presidential scenarios

Who will be Joe Biden’s running mate? The Senator has already stated that he would choose a woman, a narrowing of the field that has led to the following most-mentioned names: Senator Kamala Harris, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Ambassador Susan Rice, Mayor Keisha Bottoms.

Harris and Warren did not shine during the primaries but they represent two needed wings of the party. Harris brings minority representation and her valuable experience as attorney general of California, even if her tough policies are not lauded by all constituencies. Her pointed wit would be an asset against the Trump-Pence team.

Warren is more likely to stir the Bernie Sanders voter in an election where turnout will be critical. The left wing may otherwise choose to stay home, given that four more years of Trump only makes it stronger for 2024. People who want to change the world tend to take the long view.

Interestingly, Harris is close to Silicon Valley whereas Warren has been openly critical of some large tech firms. The choice of Warren is certain to hobble the stock market, if only for a brief period.

Governor Whitmer would be a strong asset in the upper midwest, in Michigan and Wisconsin, two must-win states that Trump carried by a thin margin in 2016. Ambassador Rice would bring her international experience and would also bridge the Biden campaign to the Obama years. Mayor Bottoms is not well known nationally but could surprise as she already has on multiple occasions.

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