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The U.S. Bureau of the Census reported in Census 2000 that the U.S. population totaled 281.4 million people. (See Table 1.1.) Of that number, 69.1 percent identified themselves as white alone. The other 30.9 percent were members of one or more minority racial or ethnic groups. Although women are a majority of the nation's population (143.4 million women versus 138.1 million men according to Census 2000), women are often considered a "minority" in social issues. In this publication, however, women are treated only in relation to racial or ethnic minority groups. The Census Bureau predicted that by 2010, 67.3 percent of Americans would be white non-Hispanics and 32.7 percent of Americans would belong to a minority group. (See Table 1.2.) By 2070, such estimates indicated that white non-Hispanic Americans would comprise 46.8 percent of the population, while 53.2 percent would belong to a minority racial or ethnic group. (See Table 1.3.)


In 1977 the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued Race and Ethnic Standards for Federal Statistics and Administrative Reporting, a policy directive that established four racial and two ethnicity categories. The racial categories were white, black, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Asian/Pacific Islander. The ethnicity categories were Hispanic origin and not of Hispanic origin. (People of Hispanic origin may be of any race.)

In the past, for decennial censuses (those occurring every ten years), the Census Bureau divided the American population into the four racial categories identified by the OMB, adding the category "some other race." The U.S. government uses these race/ethnic origin data to make decisions, among other things, about funding and laws. For example, federal programs use the race information to promote support programs for the elderly and equal employment opportunities, while states use the data to ensure compliance with redistricting requirements.

As ethnic identity has become more complex because of immigration and interracial marriages and births, a growing number of people have objected to categories based on race. It is no longer unusual to find people whose backgrounds include two or more races.

In 1994 the Census Bureau conducted hearings to consider adding new choices to the categories that had been used in the 1990 census. The bureau found that Arab Americans were unhappy with their official designation of "White, non-European." This group includes persons from the Middle East, Turkey, and North Africa. Many indigenous Hawaiians wanted to be recategorized from Pacific Islander to Native American, reflecting historical accuracy and giving them access to greater minority benefits.

Some Hispanics wanted the Census Bureau to identify them as a race and not as an ethnic origin, and to replace the term "Hispanic" with "Latino." They asserted that "Hispanic" recalls the colonization of Latin America by Spain and Portugal and has become as offensive as the term "Negro" is for African-Americans. When Hispanics were surveyed, however, the results showed they preferred to be identified by their families' country of origin, such as Puerto Rican, Colombian, Cuban, or even just American.

A number of African-Americans wanted the Census Bureau to retire the term "Black." Nevertheless, there was some difference of opinion. People from the Caribbean, for example, preferred to be labeled by their families' country of origin, such as Jamaican or Haitian American. Africans who are not American also find the term inaccurate. Although "African-American" has become more prominent in spoken English in recent years, lack of agreement and the length of the term have been significant factors in preventing its adoption by the government.

Total population281,421,906100.0Hispanic or Latino and race
Total population281,421,906100.0
Sex and ageHispanic or Latino (of any race)35,305,81812.5
Female143,368,34350.9Puerto Rican3,406,1781.2
Under 5 years19,175,7986.8Other Hispanic or Latino10,017,2443.6
5 to 9 years20,549,5057.3Not Hispanic or Latino246,116,08887.5
10 to 14 years20,528,0727.3White alone194,552,77469.1
15 to 19 years20,219,8907.2
20 to 24 years18,964,0016.7Relationship
25 to 34 years39,891,72414.2Total population281,421,906100.0
35 to 44 years45,148,52716.0In households273,643,27397.2
45 to 54 years37,677,95213.4Householder105,480,10137.5
55 to 59 years13,469,2374.8Spouse54,493,23219.4
60 to 64 years10,805,4473.8Child83,393,39229.6
65 to 74 years18,390,9866.5Own child under 18 years64,494,63722.9
75 to 84 years12,361,1804.4Other relatives15,684,3185.6
85 years and over4,239,5871.5Under 18 years6,042,4352.1
Median age (years)35.3(X)Nonrelatives14,592,2305.2
Unmarried partner5,475,7681.9
18 years and over209,128,09474.3In group quarters7,778,6332.8
Male100,994,36735.9Institutionalized population4,059,0391.4
Female108,133,72738.4Noninstitutionalized population3,719,5941.3
21 years and over196,899,19370.0
62 years and over41,256,02914.7Household by type
65 years and over34,991,75312.4Total households105,480,101100.0
Male14,409,6255.1Family households (families)71,787,34768.1
Female20,582,1287.3With own children under 18 years34,588,36832.8
Married-couple family54,493,23251.7
RaceWith own children under 18 years24,835,50523.5
One race274,595,67897.6Female householder, no husband present12,900,10312.2
White211,460,62675.1With own children under 18 years7,561,8747.2
Black or African American34,658,19012.3Nonfamily households33,692,75431.9
American Indian and Alaska Native2,475,9560.9Householder living alone27,230,07525.8
Asian10,242,9983.6Householder 65 years and over9,722,8579.2
Asian Indian1,678,7650.6
Chinese2,432,5850.9Households with individuals under 18 years38,022,11536.0
Filipino1,850,3140.7Households with individuals 65 years and over24,672,70823.4
Korean1,076,8720.4Average household size2.59(X)
Vietnamese1,122,5280.4Average family size3.14(X)
Other Asian11,285,2340.5
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander398,8350.1Housing occupancy
Native Hawaiian140,652Total housing units115,904,641100.0
Guamanian or Chamorro58,240Occupied housing units105,480,10191.0
Samoan91,029Vacant housing units10,424,5409.0
Other Pacific Islander2108,914For seasonal, recreational, or occasional use
Some other race15,359,0735.53,578,7183.1
Two or more races6,826,2282.4
Homeowner vacancy rate (percent)1.7(X)
Rental vacancy rate (percent)6.8(X)
Race alone or in combination with one or more other races:3Housing tenure
White216,930,97577.1Occupied housing units105,480,101100.0
Black or African American36,419,43412.9Owner-occupied housing units69,815,75366.2
American Indian and Alaska Native4,119,3011.5Renter-occupied housing units35,664,34833.8
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander874,4140.3Average household size of owner-occupied units2.69(X)
Some other race18,521,4866.6Average household size of renter-occupied units2.40(X)
–Represents zero or rounds to zero. (X) Not applicable.
1Other Asian alone, or two or more Asian categories.
2Other Pacific Islander alone, or two or more Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander categories.
3In combination with one or more of the other races listed. The six numbers may add to more than the total population and the six percentages may add to more than 100 percent because individuals may report more than one race.
source: "Table DP-1. Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 2000, Geographic Area: United States," in Profiles of General Demographic Characteristics 2000, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC, May 2001

Census 2000

In October 1997 the OMB announced the revised standards for collecting and tabulating federal information on race and ethnicity. The OMB expected all surveys to comply with these standards by January 1, 2003.

Conforming to the OMB revised standards, Census 2000 categorized the races into White, Black/African-American/Negro, American Indian/Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander, and Asian. The Census Bureau also added a sixth category—Some Other Race. In

July 1, 2006July 1, 2007July 1, 2008July 1, 2009July 1, 2010
Percent of total100.0100.0100.0100.0100.0
Native population258,917260,724262,566264,444266,359
Percent of total89.
Foreign-born population31,23531,85832,44332,99133,502
Percent of total10.810.911.011.111.2
Percent of total81.381.180.980.880.6
Native population216,089217,284218,501219,743221,012
Percent of group91.791.691.591.591.4
Foreign-born population19,66119,98220,27220,53020,757
Percent of group8.
Percent of total13.
Native population34,81635,19335,57635,96736,362
Percent of group91.491.391.291.090.9
Foreign-born population3,2673,3603,4503,5363,619
Percent of group8.
American Indian
Percent of total0.
Native population2,4642,4982,5322,5662,601
Percent of group92.592.492.392.392.2
Foreign-born population199205210215219
Percent of group7.
Asian and Pacific Islander
Percent of total4.
Native population5,5465,7485,9556,1676,383
Percent of group40.640.941.241.541.8
Foreign-born population8,1078,3098,5108,7088,905
Percent of group59.459.158.858.558.2
Percent of total13.513.814.114.314.6
Native population25,61226,45027,30428,17729,067
Percent of group65.265.465.866.166.5
Foreign-born population13,69413,96614,21014,42814,620
Percent of group34.834.634.233.933.5
White, Non-Hispanic
Percent of total68.968.568.167.767.3
Native population192,643193,073193,510193,957194,413
Percent of group96.496.396.396.396.3
Foreign-born population7,2807,3567,4257,4877,542
Percent of group3.
Black, Non-Hispanic
Percent of total12.412.412.412.512.5
Native population33,44633,77434,10734,44734,790
Percent of group93.393.293.092.992.8
Foreign-born population2,3982,4752,5492,6212,692
Percent of group6.
July 1, 2006July 1, 2007July 1, 2008July 1, 2009July 1, 2010
American Indian, Non-Hispanic
Percent of total0.
Native population2,1402,1642,1882,2132,237
Percent of group97.597.497.497.397.3
Foreign-born population5557586061
Percent of group2.
Asian and Pacific Islander Non-Hispanic
Percent of total4.
Native population5,0745,2625,4535,6495,850
Percent of group39.439.739.940.240.5
Foreign-born population7,8058,0038,1988,3938,585
Percent of group60.660.360.159.859.5
source: "Table NP-T5-C. Projections of the Resident Population by Race, Hispanic Origin, and Nativity: Middle Series, 2006 to 2010," in National Population Projections, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC, 2000 [Online] [Accessed March 1, 2004]

addition, the bureau included two ethnicity categories—Hispanic/Latino and Not Hispanic/Not Latino. To provide an accurate count of multiracial Americans, Census 2000 allowed Americans to select more than one race.

The American Indian/Alaska Native category (which replaced the American Indian, Eskimo, or Aleut categories of the 1990 census) had a write-in space for tribal affiliation. The Asian category further listed six specific Asian groups (Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese), while Pacific Islanders (following the Native Hawaiian category) could choose from Guamanian or Chamorro and Samoan. Persons who chose Other Asian, Other Pacific Islander, or Some Other Race were provided with a write-in area. (See Figure 1.1.) The Hispanic-origin question had a write-in space for subgroups other than the major groups of Mexican, Cuban, and Puerto Rican.

Census 2000 identified whites as being anyone having ancestry origins in Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.


"Hispanic" is a broad term used to describe a varied ethnic group of individuals who trace their cultural heritage to Spain or to Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America. The term can also refer to persons whose Spanish ancestors were residents of the southwestern region of the United States that was formerly under Spanish or Mexican control.

According to Census 2000, Americans of Hispanic origin are the largest minority group in the United States, at 12.5 percent of the population. (See Table 1.1.) Their population in the United States is growing rapidly. In 1950 Hispanics comprised less than 3 percent of the population. By 1980 they represented 6.4 percent of the population (14.6 million). In 1990 Hispanics totaled about 22.5 million, representing 9.1 percent of the total U.S. population,

July 1, 2050July 1, 2055July 1, 2060July 1, 2065July 1, 2070
Percent of total100.0100.0100.0100.0100.0
Native population349,890362,093375,306389,605404,894
Percent of total86.786.786.987.187.3
Foreign-born population53,79655,38456,70457,80958,744
Percent of total13.313.313.112.912.7
Percent of total74.974.373.873.372.8
Native population273,794281,302289,574298,674308,525
Percent of group90.590.790.891.191.4
Foreign-born population28,65928,99729,17829,23329,193
Percent of group9.
Percent of total14.714.814.814.914.9
Native population51,88753,90555,99858,18360,454
Percent of group87.687.587.487.487.5
Foreign-born population7,3527,7218,0568,3618,641
Percent of group12.412.512.612.612.5
American Indian
Percent of total1.
Native population4,0244,2104,4014,5964,794
Percent of group91.491.591.691.892.0
Foreign-born population380392401408414
Percent of group8.
Asian and Pacific Islander
Percent of total9.39.810.310.711.1
Native population20,18422,67425,33128,15231,119
Percent of group53.755.457.158.760.3
Foreign-born population17,40418,27319,06819,80520,495
Percent of group46.344.642.941.339.7
Percent of total24.325.526.627.628.6
Native population78,59886,68495,168104,025113,212
Percent of group80.081.582.984.285.4
Foreign-born population19,62919,68519,62719,48319,280
Percent of group20.018.517.115.814.6
White, Non-Hispanic
Percent of total52.851.149.648.146.8
Native population201,988202,115202,643203,659205,125
Percent of group94.894.794.694.594.5
Foreign-born population11,00211,30211,54711,74511,902
Percent of group5.
Black, Non-Hispanic
Percent of total13.213.313.313.213.2
Native population47,39948,94150,53452,19553,924
Percent of group88.788.488.288.188.0
Foreign-born population6,0666,4286,7637,0737,361
Percent of group11.311.611.811.912.0
July 1, 2050July 1, 2055July 1, 2060July 1, 2065July 1, 2070
American Indian, Non-Hispanic
Percent of total0.
Native population3,1203,2183,3163,4133,511
Percent of group96.396.
Foreign-born population120126132137141
Percent of group3.
Asian and Pacific Islander , Non-Hispanic
Percent of total8.99.39.810.210.6
Native population18,78321,13323,64326,31129,121
Percent of group52.554.255.957.659.2
Foreign-born population16,97617,84018,63319,36920,057
Percent of group47.545.844.142.440.8
source: "Table NP-T5-G. Projections of the Resident Population by Race, Hispanic Origin, and Nativity: Middle Series, 2050 to 2070," U.S. Census Bureau, Population Projections Program, Population Division, Washington, DC, 2000 [Online] [accessed March 1, 2004]

or one out of every eleven persons. In Census 2000 the number rose to some 35.3 million. The Census Bureau predicts that by 2050, Hispanics will make up 24.3 percent of the population, and by 2070, there will be nearly 132.5 million persons of Hispanic descent, making up 28.6 percent of the total population. (See Table 1.3.)

Immigration and high birth rates are two major reasons for the large growth of the Hispanic population. As a result of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (PL 99-603), by 1992 about 2.6 million Mexicans were granted legal status in the United States. In 1997 the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) estimated that, as of October 1996, approximately five million (with a range of 4.6 to 5.4 million) illegal aliens lived in the United States, with the majority (2.7 million) coming from Mexico. In 2002 the Department of Justice estimated that the number of illegal aliens had risen to 7.6 million, although there was no indication how many of these people came from Mexico.

The Census Bureau counts all persons in the United States regardless of legal status, although illegal aliens are likely to be undercounted. Many members of the Hispanic community, particularly those who immigrated to the United States in recent years, have yet to become citizens. While 74.2 percent of Hispanics who entered the country before 1970 became citizens by 2000, only 6.7 percent of those who entered the country between 1990 and 2000 became citizens by 2000. (See Figure 1.2.)

Hispanic Origins

Hispanic Americans trace their origins to a number of countries. In a population survey in March 2000, the Census Bureau reported that 66.1 percent of the Hispanics in the United States were of Mexican heritage. (See Figure 1.3.) Approximately 14.5 percent were of Central and South American origin, and 9 percent were of Puerto Rican heritage. Another 6.4 percent had origins in the Caribbean and other countries, while 4 percent were of Cuban descent. The differences in origin can often mean significant variations in where Hispanics live, their education, income, and living conditions.


The fertility rate refers to the number of live births per 1,000 women ages fifteen to forty-four in a specified group. The National Center for Health Statistics in 2000 found that Hispanic women had a higher fertility rate than non-Hispanic women. According to the National Vital Statistics Report, in 2000, there were 105.9 births per 1,000 Hispanic women ages fifteen to forty-four, compared to a fertility rate of 61.8 births per 1,000 non-Hispanic women. Among subsets of Hispanics, the fertility rate varied widely. In 2000 Mexican women had a fertility rate of 115.1 births per 1,000 women, while Puerto Rican women had a fertility rate of 84.3 births, and Cuban women had a fertility rate of 57.3 births. (See Table 1.4.)

A Younger Population

According to Census 2000, the median age (half are older, half are younger) of Hispanics was 25.8 years, considerably lower than the median age of the non-Hispanic white population of 38.6 years, indicating a great concentration of younger people. More than one-third (35 percent) of all Hispanics were less than eighteen years old, compared to 22.6 percent of the non-Hispanic white population. Only 4.9 percent of Hispanics were found by Census 2000 to be sixty-five years and older, compared to 15 percent of non-Hispanic whites. (See Table 1.5.)

Geographic Distribution

The majority of Hispanic Americans live in the western United States. As of March 2000, 44.7 percent of Hispanics lived in the West, followed by 33.2 percent in the South. Some 14.1 percent of Hispanics lived in the Northeast, while only 7.9 percent lived in the Midwest. (See Figure 1.4.)

Despite the disparity in the numbers of Hispanics living in different regions of the country, the likelihood of Hispanics living in a particular place depends upon their country of descent. According to Census 2000, Hispanics of Mexican descent made up 18.1 percent of the West population—the area of the country where they were most likely to live. (See Table 1.6.) Hispanics of Puerto Rican descent were more likely to live in the Northeast, where they made up 3.9 percent of the population. (See Table 1.7.) Hispanics of Cuban descent were more concentrated in the South, where they comprised 0.9 percent of the population. (See Table 1.8.)

Mexican Americans

The majority of Hispanic Americans are descendants of the Spanish and Mexican people who lived in the West and Southwest when those regions were first Spanish (starting in the 1500s) and later Mexican territory (after Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821). Their forebears were absorbed into the United States when Texas revolted, broke away from Mexico, became a republic, and then finally joined the United States during the 1840s. The Mexican-American War (1846–48) added California, the Southwest (Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado), and the Rio Grande boundary to the United States with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. As a result, Hispanics living in those areas became Americans.

The Mexican-origin population, which more than doubled in the last two decades of the twentieth century, continues to grow. Hispanic Americans of Mexican origin numbered 20.6 million, or 7.3 percent of the country's total population, according to Census 2000. (See Table 1.1.) They remain concentrated for the most part in the West and in the South. (See Table 1.6 and Table 1.8.)

According to Census 2000, Hispanics made up 19.3 percent of the population of central cities inside metropolitan areas. Hispanics of Mexican descent alone accounted for 11 percent of that population. (See Table 1.9.) Residents with Mexican origins also outnumbered other Hispanics living outside metropolitan areas. According to Census 2000, Hispanics of Mexican descent made up 3.8 percent of the total population outside metropolitan areas, compared with Hispanics of Puerto Rican descent (0.2 percent) and Cuban Americans (0.1 percent). (See Table 1.10.)

Puerto Rican Americans

The situation of Puerto Ricans is unique in American society. Ceded to the United States by the Treaty of Paris in 1898, which ended the Spanish-American War, the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico, formerly a Spanish colony, became a U.S. commonwealth. In 1917 the Revised Organic Act (the Jones Act) granted the island a bill of rights and its own legislature. It also conferred U.S. citizenship to all Puerto Ricans.

Following World War II (1939–45), an industrialization program was launched in Puerto Rico. While the program benefited many, it sharply reduced the number of agricultural jobs, driving many rural residents to the cities. Combined with a high birth rate, this led to unemployment, overcrowding, and poverty. More recently, industries have moved away in search of cheaper labor, further compounding the economic problems. As a result, between 1940 and 1970, approximately 750,000 Puerto Ricans immigrated to the U.S. mainland. In 1940 fewer than 70,000 Puerto Ricans lived in the contiguous United States; in 1999, three million called the United States home. Partly because of the relative ease with which Puerto Ricans can travel in the United States, many move freely between the United States and Puerto Rico.

Most of the first Puerto Ricans who arrived in the United States settled in New York City in the Manhattan neighborhood of East Harlem, which came to be known

Measure and yearAll origins1TotalMexicanPuerto RicanCubanCentral and South AmericanOther and unknown HispanicTotal2WhiteBlack
Birth rate
19926, 715.926.527.823.210.127.914.813.521.9
19916, 716.326.729.
19904, 616.726.728.721.610.927.515.714.423.0
19895, 616.326.225.723.710.028.315.414.222.8
Fertility rate
19926, 768.9108.6116.089.950.3107.064.460.285.5
19916, 769.6108.1121.680.949.199.365.461.087.6
19904, 671.0107.7118.982.952.6102.767.162.889.0
19895, 669.2104.9106.686.649.895.865.760.584.8
1Includes origin not stated.
2Includes races other than white and black.
3Excludes data for New Hampshire, which did not report Hispanic origin.
4Excludes data for New Hampshire and Oklahoma, which did not report Hispanic origin.
5Excludes data for Louisiana, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma, which did not report Hispanic origin.
6Rates for the Central and South American population include other and unknown Hispanic.
7Rates are estimated for the United States based on birth data for 49 states and the District of Columbia. Births for New Hampshire that did not report Hispanic origin are included in the rates for non-Hispanic women.
Note: Race and Hispanic origin are reported separately on birth certificates. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race. In this table Hispanic women are classified only by place of origin; non-Hispanic women are classified by race. Rates for some population groups, particularly Hispanic and Asian or Pacific Islander, may be overstated for more recent years.
source: Joyce A. Martin, Brady E. Hamilton, Stephanie J. Ventura, Fay Menacker, and Melissa M. Park, "Table 6. Live Births, Birth Rates, and Fertility Rates by Hispanic Origin of Mother and by Race for Mothers of Non-Hispanic Origin: United States, 1989–2000," in "Births: Final Data for 2000," National Vital Statistics Reports, vol. 50, no. 5, February 12, 2002

as El Barrio (the neighborhood). Eventually, Puerto Rican immigrants moved in greater numbers to other boroughs of the city and into New Jersey.

Census 2000 listed 3.4 million Hispanics of Puerto Rican descent, making up 1.2 percent of the total population. (See Table 1.1.) They are more likely to live in the Northeast and reside mainly inside central cities in metropolitan areas, where they make up 2.3 percent of the population in such areas. (See Table 1.9.)

Cuban Americans

Cuban Americans are the third-largest group of Hispanic Americans and numbered 1.2 million as of Census 2000. (See Table 1.1.) Fleeing Cuba during the early 1960s after the regime of Fulgencio Batista was overthrown by Fidel Castro, many Cubans settled in Miami, Florida, and surrounding Dade County. Most of these political refugees were older, middle class, and educated. Many fled to be able to maintain a capitalist way of life,

One race
AgeTotal populationTotalWhiteBlack or African AmericanAmerican Indian and Alaska NativeAsianNative Hawaiian and Other Pacific IslanderSome other raceTwo or more racesHispanic or Latino (of any race)White alone, not Hispanic or Latino
Five-year age groups
Total population281 421 906274 595 678211 460 62634 658 1902 475 95610 242 998398 83515 359 0736 826 22835 305 818194 552 774
Under 5 years19 175 79818 227 58312 859 8922 804 786213 052670 40633 3911 646 056948 2153 717 97411 194 346
5 to 9 years20 549 50519 719 73213 944 8823 205 512239 007680 53636 5031 613 292829 7733 623 68012 303 903
10 to 14 years20 528 07219 824 60814 322 6383 121 530245 677684 52535 7721 414 466703 4643 163 41212 882 540
15 to 19 years20 219 89019 597 99814 167 1482 929 553232 351746 51137 3281 485 107621 8923 171 64612 759 934
20 to 24 years18 964 00118 411 91713 064 8912 628 752198 010816 45238 6931 665 119552 0843 409 42711 594 742
25 to 29 years19 381 33618 868 88713 501 7732 548 968186 689986 22235 2241 610 011512 4493 385 33411 990 863
30 to 34 years20 510 38820 026 21014 818 7862 618 602186 072949 41833 1291 420 203484 1783 124 90113 365 410
35 to 39 years22 706 66422 235 94517 031 4932 826 361202 013909 43933 0311 233 608470 7192 825 15815 665 973
40 to 44 years22 441 86322 021 17617 265 9952 700 418189 201846 11828 760990 684420 6872 304 15216 135 362
45 to 49 years20 092 40419 754 15615 810 6262 275 191159 422749 77723 675735 465338 2481 775 16814 908 211
50 to 54 years17 585 54817 316 93214 213 8751 805 457128 303626 25518 938524 104268 6161 360 93513 478 949
55 to 59 years13 469 23713 280 56611 107 2471 306 64190 531433 74913 428328 970188 671960 03310 545 669
60 to 64 years10 805 44710 662 4218 945 8421 063 46967 189342 79510 142232 984143 026750 4078 482 012
65 to 69 years9 533 5459 421 5918 040 225881 78649 463274 0857 698168 334111 954599 3537 650 827
70 to 74 years8 857 4418 766 8437 648 193731 38636 434220 0665 529125 23590 598477 2667 327 622
75 to 79 years7 415 8137 348 8236 530 019550 02425 608155 9653 61483 59366 990326 7266 307 373
80 to 84 years4 945 3674 904 7144 408 597346 46514 64688 1832 15544 66840 653179 5384 284 906
85 years and over4 239 5874 205 5763 778 504313 28912 28862 4961 82537 17434 011150 7083 674 132
Selected age groups
Under 18 years72 293 81269 436 92649 598 28910 885 696840 3122 464 999127 1795 520 4512 856 88612 342 25944 027 087
Under 1 year3 805 6483 602 1032 535 928548 95542 167129 8036 464338 786203 545771 0532 190 838
1 to 4 years15 370 15014 625 48010 323 9642 255 831170 885540 60326 9271 307 270744 6702 946 9219 003 508
5 to 13 years37 025 34635 623 08925 411 0155 727 934436 6941 227 26365 1812 755 0021 402 2576 185 94722 601 452
14 to 17 years16 092 66815 586 25411 327 3822 352 976190 566567 33028 6071 119 393506 4142 438 33810 231 289
18 to 64 years174 136 341170 511 205131 456 79920 949 5441 497 2056 977 204250 8359 379 6183 625 13621 229 968121 280 827
18 to 24 years27 143 45426 344 91218 761 1623 804 437287 7851 133 43154 5082 303 589798 5424 743 88016 708 378
25 to 44 years85 040 25183 152 21862 618 04710 694 349763 9753 691 197130 1445 254 5061 888 03311 639 54557 157 608
45 to 64 years61 952 63661 014 07550 077 5906 450 758445 4452 152 57666 1831 821 523938 5614 846 54347 414 841
65 years and over34 991 75334 647 54730 405 5382 822 950138 439800 79520 821459 004344 2061 733 59129 244 860
16 years and over217 149 127212 931 366167 496 00224 938 7581 730 4348 067 815286 00810 412 3494 217 76124 203 944155 603 375
18 years and over209 128 094205 158 752161 862 33723 772 4941 635 6447 777 999271 6569 838 6223 969 34222 963 559150 525 687
21 years and over196 899 193193 295 686153 365 46922 015 3421 503 1587 298 935247 7168 865 0663 603 50720 938 932142 909 556
50 years and over76 851 98575 907 46664 672 5026 998 517424 4622 203 59463 3291 545 062944 5194 804 96661 751 490
55 years and over59 266 43758 590 53450 458 6275 193 060296 1591 577 33944 3911 020 958675 9033 444 03148 272 541
60 years and over45 797 20045 309 96839 351 3803 886 419205 6281 143 59030 963691 988487 2322 483 99837 726 872
62 years and over41 256 02940 830 93435 605 7263 436 327176 248996 67826 539589 416425 0952 162 28934 177 279
67 years and over31 101 52230 805 49627 156 4142 445 876116 797684 05117 437384 921296 0261 477 36726 159 804
72 years and over21 794 76421 601 78919 222 6261 630 16872 803430 94910 674234 569192 975923 39318 591 941
75 years and over16 600 76716 459 11314 717 1201 209 77852 542306 6447 594165 435141 654656 97214 266 411
Median age (years)35.335.637.730.228.032.727.524.622.725.838.6
Percent distribution
Total population100.0100.0100.0100.0100.0100.0100.0100.0100.0100.0100.0
Under 18 years25.725.323.531.433.924.131.935.941.935.022.6
Under 1 year1.
1 to 4 years5.
5 to 13 years13.
14 to 17 years5.
18 to 64 years61.962.162.260.460.568.162.961.
18 to 24 years9.69.68.911.011.611.113.715.011.713.48.6
25 to 44 years30.230.329.630.930.936.032.634.227.733.029.4
45 to 64 years22.022.223.718.618.021.016.611.913.713.724.4
65 years and over12.412.614.
source: "Table 1. Total Population by Age, Race and Hispanic or Latino Origin for the United States: 2000," in Population by Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic or Latino Origin for the United States: 2000, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC, 2000

and many succeeded in achieving economic prosperity in the United States. While language differences caused initial difficulties, most adapted well, and Cubans are the most economically successful of the Hispanic ethnic groups. Unlike Americans of Mexican and Puerto Rican backgrounds, who began migrating throughout the country

Total population63,197,932100.0Hispanic or Latino and race
Total population63,197,932100.0
Sex and ageHispanic or Latino (of any race)15,340,50324.3
Female31,654,45450.1Puerto Rican246,9360.4
Under 5 years4,579,2127.2Other Hispanic or Latino3,574,3085.7
5 to 9 years4,903,6837.8Not Hispanic or Latino47,857,42975.7
10 to 14 years4,768,3037.5White alone36,911,58758.4
15 to 19 years4,642,6087.3
20 to 24 years4,456,5557.1Relationship
25 to 34 years9,408,54314.9Total population63,197,932100.0
35 to 44 years10,115,03516.0In households61,715,56697.7
45 to 54 years8,324,71613.2Householder22,444,73335.5
55 to 59 years2,851,5294.5Spouse11,661,68718.5
60 to 64 years2,225,6193.5Child19,178,21830.3
65 to 74 years3,663,1515.8Own child under 18 years15,037,15023.8
75 to 84 years2,452,6913.9Other relatives4,320,0356.8
85 years and over806,2871.3Under 18 years1,527,8022.4
Median age (years)33.8(X)Nonrelatives4,110,8936.5
Unmarried partner1,329,5572.1
18 years and over46,166,47273.1In group quarters1,482,3662.3
Male22,804,04136.1Institutionalized population736,2621.2
Female23,362,43137.0Noninstitutionalized population746,1041.2
21 years and over43,382,82268.6
62 years and over8,202,61813.0Household by type
65 years and over6,922,12911.0Total households22,444,733100.0
Male2,964,0714.7Family households (families)15,311,71468.2
Female3,958,0586.3With own children under 18 years7,759,08734.6
Married-couple family11,661,68752.0
RaceWith own children under 18 years5,652,80225.2
One race60,469,64895.7Female householder, no husband present2,576,27711.5
White43,274,07468.5With own children under 18 years1,544,2866.9
Black or African American3,076,8844.9Nonfamily households7,133,01931.8
American Indian and Alaska Native1,187,9891.9Householder living alone5,436,51324.2
Asian5,003,6117.9Householder 65 years and over1,760,1017.8
Asian Indian390,7370.6
Chinese1,186,2261.9Households with individuals under 18 years8,539,07738.0
Filipino1,252,6102.0Households with individuals 65 years and over4,900,38221.8
Japanese579,8700.9Average household size2.75(X)
Korean474,0900.8Average family size3.30(X)
Other Asian1555,6540.9Housing occupancy
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander304,2460.5Total housing units24,378,020100.0
Native Hawaiian117,8530.2Occupied housing units22,444,73392.1
Guamanian or Chamorro34,4270.1Vacant housing units1,933,2877.9
Samoan73,3060.1For seasonal, recreational, or
Other Pacific Islander278,6600.1occasional use737,6293.0
Some other race7,622,84412.1
Two or more races2,728,2844.3Homeowner vacancy rate (percent)1.7(X)
Rental vacancy rate (percent)5.4(X)
Race alone or in combination with one or more other races:3Housing tenure
White45,522,19972.0Occupied housing units22,444,733100.0
Black or African American3,495,6255.5Owner-occupied housing units13,802,82061.5
American Indian and Alaska Native1,771,2442.8Renter-occupied housing units8,641,91338.5
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander637,1961.0Average household size of owner-occupied units2.82(X)
Some other race8,893,34914.1Average household size of renter-occupied units2.64(X)
-Represents zero or rounds to zero. (X) Not applicable.
1Other Asian alone, or two or more Asian categories.
2Other Pacific Islander alone, or two or more Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander categories.
3In combination with one or more of the other races listed. The six numbers may add to more than the total population and the six percentages may add to more than 100 percent because individuals may report more than one race.
source: "Table DP-1. Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 2000, Geographic Area: West Region," in Profiles of General Demographic Characteristics 2000, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC, May 2001

during the 1990s, the Cuban population has generally remained concentrated in Florida, although large numbers also live in New Jersey, New York, and California.

In 1980 Castro's forces ousted 125,000 people from Cuba in what became known as the Mariel Boatlift, named after the town in Cuba from which they sailed. Because

Total population53,594,378100.0Hispanic or Latino and race
Total population53,594,378100.0
Sex and ageHispanic or Latino (of any race)5,254,0879.8
Female27,697,05151.7Puerto Rican2,074,5743.9
Under 5 years3,395,9146.3Other Hispanic or Latino2,531,3854.7
5 to 9 years3,743,9017.0Not Hispanic or Latino48,340,29190.2
10 to 14 years3,761,9677.0White alone39,327,26273.4
15 to 19 years3,593,4986.7
20 to 24 years3,310,4116.2Relationship
25 to 34 years7,417,84913.8Total population53,594,378100.0
35 to 44 years8,807,88216.4In households51,926,61396.9
45 to 54 years7,383,30313.8Householder20,285,62237.9
55 to 59 years2,676,0175.0Spouse10,127,65318.9
60 to 64 years2,131,3544.0Child15,898,92029.7
65 to 74 years3,768,2727.0Own child under 18 years11,779,79122.0
75 to 84 years2,665,5515.0Other relatives2,911,2035.4
85 years and over938,4591.8Under 18 years965,4461.8
Median age (years)36.8(X)Nonrelatives2,703,2155.0
Unmarried partner1,077,9882.0
18 years and over40,546,59575.7In group quarters1,667,7653.1
Male19,209,25435.8Institutionalized population776,2691.4
Female21,337,34139.8Noninstitutionalized population891,4961.7
21 years and over38,389,98171.6
62 years and over8,608,84516.1Household by type
65 years and over7,372,28213.8Total households20,285,622100.0
Male2,952,3875.5Family households (families)13,547,67766.8
Female4,419,8958.2With own children under 18 years6,372,90631.4
Married-couple family10,127,65349.9
RaceWith own children under 18 years4,576,77722.6
One race52,365,91797.7Female householder, no husband present2,594,09112.8
White41,533,50277.5With own children under 18 years1,428,9827.0
Black or African American6,099,88111.4Nonfamily households6,737,94533.2
American Indian and Alaska Native162,5580.3Householder living alone5,519,31227.2
Asian2,119,4264.0Householder 65 years and over2,125,14910.5
Asian Indian554,3021.0
Chinese691,7551.3Households with individuals under 18 years6,956,20234.3
Filipino202,1000.4Households with individuals 65 years and over5,212,16425.7
Japanese76,3500.1Average household size2.56(X)
Korean246,1440.5Average family size3.14(X)
Other Asian1233,2880.4Housing occupancy
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander20,880Total housing units22,180,440100.0
Native Hawaiian4,493Occupied housing units20,285,62291.5
Guamanian or Chamorro4,595Vacant housing units1,894,8188.5
Samoan3,821For seasonal, recreational, or
Other Pacific Islander27,971occasional use823,4293.7
Some other race2,429,6704.5
Two or more races1,228,4612.3Homeowner vacancy rate (percent)1.4(X)
Rental vacancy rate (percent)5.0(X)
Race alone or in combination with one or more other races:3Housing tenure
White42,395,62579.1Occupied housing units20,285,622100.0
Black or African American6,556,90912.2Owner-occupied housing units12,651,30262.4
American Indian and Alaska Native374,0350.7Renter-occupied housing units7,634,32037.6
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander63,9070.1Average household size of owner-occupied units2.71(X)
Some other race3,138,9185.9Average household size of renter-occupied units2.30(X)
-Represents zero or rounds to zero. (X) Not applicable.
1Other Asian alone, or two or more Asian categories.
2Other Pacific Islander alone, or two or more Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander categories.
3In combination with one or more of the other races listed. The six numbers may add to more than the total population and the six percentages may add to more than 100 percent because individuals may report more than one race.
source: "Table DP-1. Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 2000, Geographic Area: Northeast Region," in Profiles of General Demographic Characteristics 2000, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC, May 2001

most of these new immigrants were from less wealthy and less educated backgrounds than their predecessors, and some were actually criminals or people who were mentally ill, many had difficulty fitting into the existing Cuban communities in the United States. Also, unlike the Cubans who came before them, they had spent twenty years living under a communist government very different from the democratic government they encountered in the United States.

Total population100,236,820100.0Hispanic or Latino and race
Total population100,236,820100.0
Sex and ageHispanic or Latino (of any race)11,586,69611.6
Female51,179,50051.1Puerto Rican759,3050.8
Under 5 years6,847,5036.8Other Hispanic or Latino3,357,8833.3
5 to 9 years7,213,8977.2Not Hispanic or Latino88,650,12488.4
10 to 14 years7,233,8917.2White alone65,927,79465.8
15 to 19 years7,217,1847.2
20 to 24 years6,880,9556.9Relationship
25 to 34 years14,319,34314.3Total population100,236,820100.0
35 to 44 years15,947,30115.9In households97,400,14897.2
45 to 54 years13,295,73113.3Householder38,015,21437.9
55 to 59 years4,871,2164.9Spouse19,740,32819.7
60 to 64 years3,971,5324.0Child29,065,94429.0
65 to 74 years6,711,8536.7Own child under 18 years22,499,81122.4
75 to 84 years4,295,8684.3Other relatives5,833,5615.8
85 years and over1,430,5461.4Under 18 years2,476,8652.5
Median age (years)35.3(X)Nonrelatives4,745,1014.7
Unmarried partner1,809,2541.8
18 years and over74,669,91774.5In group quarters2,836,6722.8
Male35,958,85235.9Institutionalized population1,604,0971.6
Female38,711,06538.6Noninstitutionalized population1,232,5751.2
21 years and over70,252,26670.1
62 years and over14,748,17614.7Household by type
65 years and over12,438,26712.4Total households38,015,214100.0
Male5,129,0115.1Family households (families)26,257,62669.1
Female7,309,2567.3With own children under 18 years12,436,53132.7
Married-couple family19,740,32851.9
RaceWith own children under 18 years8,764,41423.1
One race98,389,80598.2Female householder, no husband present4,971,49613.1
White72,819,39972.6With own children under 18 years2,910,498 7.7
Black or African American18,981,69218.9Nonfamily households11,757,58830.9
American Indian and Alaska Native725,9190.7Householder living alone9,630,16325.3
Asian1,922,4071.9Householder 65 years and over3,396,5828.9
Asian Indian440,7140.4
Chinese342,5230.3Households with individuals under 18 years13,852,93736.4
Filipino244,5470.2Households with individuals 65 years and over8,814,43423.2
Japanese77,4680.1Average household size2.56(X)
Korean224,2600.2Average family size3.08(X)
Other Asian1257,2160.3Housing occupancy
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander51,2170.1Total housing units42,382,546100.0
Native Hawaiian12,494Occupied housing units38,015,21489.7
Guamanian or Chamorro14,631Vacant housing units4,367,33210.3
Samoan8,813For seasonal, recreational, or
Other Pacific Islander215,279occasional use1,302,8073.1
Some other race3,889,1713.9
Two or more races1,847,0151.8Homeowner vacancy rate (percent)1.9(X)
Rental vacancy rate (percent)8.7(X)
Race alone or in combination with one or more other races:3Housing tenure
White74,303,74474.1Occupied housing units38,015,214100.0
Black or African American19,528,23119.5Owner-occupied housing units25,987,88668.4
American Indian and Alaska Native1,259,2301.3Renter-occupied housing units12,027,32831.6
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander117,9470.1Average household size of owner-occupied units2.63(X)
Some other race4,719,2494.7Average household size of renter-occupied units2.41(X)
–Represents zero or rounds to zero. (X) Not applicable.
1Other Asian alone, or two or more Asian categories.
2Other Pacific Islander alone, or two or more Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander categories.
3In combination with one or more of the other races listed. The six numbers may add to more than the total population and the six percentages may add to more than 100 percent because individuals may report more than one race.
source: "Table DP-1. Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 2000, Geographic Area: South Region," in Profiles of General Demographic Characteristics 2000, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC, May 2001

In 1993 and 1994 more than 29,000 Cubans tried to enter the United States after fleeing a severe economic crisis in their own country. Most attempted the trip by boats and rafts, but were intercepted by the U.S. Coast Guard and taken back to Cuba, where they were detained at the U.S. Air Force base at Guantanamo Bay. By January 1996 most detainees had been allowed to enter the United States, and the detention camps were closed.

Total population85,401,127100.0Hispanic or Latino and race
Total population85,401,127100.0
Sex and ageHispanic or Latino (of any race)16,459,21719.3
Female43,883,84051.4Puerto Rican1,973,5962.3
Under 5 years6,086,8077.1Other Hispanic or Latino4,739,1085.5
5 to 9 years6,191,4127.2Not Hispanic or Latino68,941,91080.7
10 to 14 years5,820,6416.8White alone43,891,37951.4
15 to 19 years6,229,6267.3
20 to 24 years7,365,7978.6Relationship
25 to 34 years13,935,33216.3Total population85,401,127100.0
35 to 44 years13,021,39915.2In households82,487,33596.6
45 to 54 years10,441,62312.2Householder32,753,91838.4
55 to 59 years3,571,6804.2Spouse13,232,90315.5
60 to 64 years2,880,5033.4Child24,394,14928.6
65 to 74 years5,016,6875.9Own child under 18 years18,487,304,21.6
75 to 84 years3,557,9184.2Other relatives6,163,9757.2
85 years and over1,281,7021.5Under 18 years2,370,3602.8
Median age (years)32.7(X)Nonrelatives5,942,3907.0
Unmarried partner1,956,8412.3
18 years and over63,935,30674.9In group quarters2,913,7923.4
Male30,552,34335.8Institutionalized population1,122,9111.3
Female33,382,96339.1Noninstitutionalized population1,790,8812.1
21 years and over59,515,71069.7
62 years and over11,523,61313.5Household by type
65 years and over9,856,30711.5Total households32,753,918100.0
Male3,860,3934.5Family households (families)19,887,98860.7
Female5,995,9147.0With own children under 18 years9,842,76530.1
Married-couple family13,232,90340.4
RaceWith own children under 18 years6,097,76218.6
One race82,596,80796.7Female householder, no husband present5,133,10915.7
White51,220,69860.0With own children under 18 years3,048,9349.3
Black or African American18,413,53721.6Nonfamily households12,865,93039.3
American Indian and Alaska Native621,5040.7Householder living alone10,146,02131.0
Asian4,565,7395.3Householder 65 years and over3,046,3259.3
Asian Indian629,3280.7
Chinese1,200,0071.4Households with individuals under 18 years11,082,09433.8
Filipino759,3700.9Households with individuals 65 years and over7,136,65721.8
Japanese325,5710.4Average household size2.52(X)
Korean425,3840.5Average family size3.20(X)
Other Asian1672,7430.8Housing occupancy
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander138,3810.2Total housing units35,414,873100.0
Native Hawaiian35,493Occupied housing units32,753,91892.5
Guamanian or Chamorro22,586Vacant housing units2,660,9557.5
Samoan36,899For seasonal, recreational, or
Other Pacific Islander243,4030.1occasional use309,2990.9
Some other race7,636,9488.9
Two or more races2,804,3203.3Homeowner vacancy rate (percent)1.9(X)
Rental vacancy rate (percent)6.5(X)
Race alone or in combination with one or more other races:3Housing tenure
White53,337,92362.5Occupied housing units32,753,918100.0
Black or African American19,261,20222.6Owner-occupied housing units16,541,01450.5
American Indian and Alaska Native1,168,4771.4Renter-occupied housing units16,212,90449.5
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander296,8100.3Average household size of owner-occupied units2.65(X)
Some other race9,136,62010.7Average household size of renter-occupied units2.38(X)
–Represents zero or rounds to zero. (X) Not applicable.
1Other Asian alone, or two or more Asian categories.
2Other Pacific Islander alone, or two or more Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander categories.
3In combination with one or more of the other races listed. The six numbers may add to more than the total population and the six percentages may add to more than 100 percent because individuals may report more than one race.
source: "Table DP-1. Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 2000, Geographic Area: United States, Inside Metropolitan Areas, Inside Central Cities," in Profiles of General Demographic Characteristics 2000, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC, May 2001

A case that highlighted the plight of Cuban immigrants was that of six-year-old Elian Gonzalez. In November 1999 Gonzalez, along with his mother, left Cuba for the United States in a boat with several other Cubans seeking refuge in the United States. The boat capsized and several passengers drowned, including Gonzalez's mother. The six-year-old was saved and taken to live with his mother's relatives in Miami, Florida. When his father,

Total population55,440,227100.0Hispanic or Latino and race Total population55,440,227100.0
Sex and ageHispanic or Latino (of any race)3,131,8765.6
Female27,962,62350.4Puerto Rican125,0150.2
Under 5 years3,498,6526.3Other Hispanic or Latino838,1781.5
5 to 9 years3,850,6196.9Not Hispanic or Latino52,308,35194.4
10 to 14 years4,104,9517.4White alone45,437,14782.0
15 to 19 years4,239,0287.6
20 to 24 years3,527,0206.4Relationship
25 to 34 years6,773,70912.2Total population55,440,227100.0
35 to 44 years8,382,62115.1In households53,404,45096.3
45 to 54 years7,531,67113.6Householder21,175,21638.2
55 to 59 years2,907,6165.2Spouse11,735,23921.2
60 to 64 years2,490,6474.5Child15,883,59528.6
65 to 74 years4,282,5477.7Own child under 18 years12,563,09622.7
75 to 84 years2,828,8625.1Other relatives2,316,1994.2
85 years and over1,022,2841.8Under 18 years1,066,1351.9
Median age (years)37.2(X)Nonrelatives2,294,2014.1
Unmarried partner1,019,2801.8
18 years and over41,434,52574.7In group quarters2,035,7773.7
Male20,281,09336.6Institutionalized population1,315,6382.4
Female21,153,43238.2Noninstitutionalized population720,1391.3
21 years and over38,945,86870.2
62 years and over9,595,36417.3Household by type
65 years and over8,133,69314.7Total households21,175,216100.0
Male3,427,3816.2Family households (families)14,837,48670.1
Female4,706,3128.5With own children under 18 years6,755,51731.9
Married-couple family11,735,23955.4
RaceWith own children under 18 years4,923,49223.3
One race54,604,66598.5Female householder, no husband present2,265,10310.7
White46,991,33084.8With own children under 18 years1,363,2326.4
Black or African American4,764,9198.6Nonfamily households6,337,73029.9
American Indian and Alaska Native1,054,8241.9Householder living alone5,362,36125.3
Asian416,8880.8Householder 65 years and over2,346,00111.1
Asian Indian53,2180.1
Chinese56,7140.1Households with individuals under 18 years7,417,41135.0
Filipino101,2290.2Households with individuals 65 years and over5,659,96026.7
Japanese71,7890.1Average household size2.52(X)
Korean42,0290.1Average family size3.02(X)
Other Asian163,6430.1Housing occupancy
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander59,8200.1Total housing units25,091,681100.0
Native Hawaiian37,7820.1Occupied housing units21,175,21684.4
Guamanian or Chamorro5,856Vacant housing units3,916,46515.6
Samoan5,620For seasonal, recreational, or
Other Pacific Islander210,562occasional use1,937,8387.7
Some other race1,316,8842.4
Two or more races835,5621.5Homeowner vacancy rate (percent)2.1(X)
Rental vacancy rate (percent)9.3(X)
Race alone or in combination with one or more other races:3Housing tenure
White47,724,23686.1Occupied housing units21,175,216100.0
Black or African American4,922,9008.9Owner-occupied housing units15,655,00373.9
American Indian and Alaska Native1,420,5772.6Renter-occupied housing units5,520,21326.1
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander145,7910.3Average household size of owner-occupied units2.57(X)
Some other race1,552,4452.8Average household size of renter-occupied units2.38(X)
–Represents zero or rounds to zero. (X) Not applicable.
1Other Asian alone, or two or more Asian categories.
2Other Pacific Islander alone, or two or more Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander categories.
3In combination with one or more of the other races listed. The six numbers may add to more than the total population and the six percentages may add to more than 100 percent because individuals may report more than one race.
source: "Table DP-1. Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 2000, Geographic Area: United States, Outside Metropolitan Areas," in Profiles of General Demographic Characteristics 2000, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC, May 2001

who still lived in Cuba, demanded that Gonzalez be returned to him, it touched off a custody war between the father and the Florida relatives that quickly escalated and captured the attention of the media and the nation. The INS ruled that Gonzalez was to be returned to Cuba to his father, a decision that was ultimately upheld despite several legal challenges. However, many Cuban Americans pointed to the hardships under the communist rule of Castro as grounds for allowing Gonzalez to stay in the United States. Others asserted that regardless of the political situation in Cuba, the United States had no right to keep young Elian from his father, who wanted to remain in Cuba.


In 1619 the first Africans arrived in what was to become the United States. Subsequently, their numbers increased rapidly to fill the vast demand for slave labor in the new land. The first slaves were brought into this country via the West Indies, but as demand increased, they were soon brought directly to the English colonies on the mainland in North America. Most were delivered to the South and worked on plantations, where they supplied cheap labor.

The vast majority of African-Americans in the United States were kept as slaves until the Civil War (1861–65). At the outbreak of hostilities, according to the 1860 census, the states that comprised the Confederacy had a slave population of 3.5 million, compared to a white population of nearly 5.5 million. The Union states and territories, on the other hand, had a white population of 21.5 million, with slaves numbering 432,650. It is also worth noting that some Native Americans were slaveholders. The Choctaw, Cherokee, Creek, and Chickasaw tribes owned a combined total of 7,369 slaves.

In 1862 President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves in the Confederate states, which were then rebelling against the Union. In 1865 the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolished slavery throughout the United States. In 1868 the Fourteenth Amendment afforded the freed slaves equal protection under the law, while the Fifteenth Amendment of 1870 granted them the right to vote. The present population of African-Americans includes not only those descended from former slaves, but also those who have since immigrated from Africa, the West Indies, and Central and South America.

According to the Census Bureau, between 1981 and 1990 the African-American population increased from 27.1 million to 30.6 million, making African-Americans 12.3 percent of the U.S. population in 1990, up from 11.7 percent in 1980. According to Census 2000, there were 34.7 million African-Americans, making up 12.3 percent of the population—no percentage change from 1990. (See Table 1.1.)

Geographic Distribution

Few African-Americans voluntarily migrated from the southern farms and plantations in the first decades after the abolition of slavery. As a result, at the beginning of the twentieth century, 90 percent of U.S. African-Americans still lived in the South. However, when World War I (1914–18) interrupted the flow of immigrant labor from Europe, large numbers of African-Americans migrated from the rural South to northern industrial cities. Compared to the oppressive system of segregation in the South, economic and social conditions were better in the North for many African-Americans, encouraging a continuous flow of migrants. During each decade between 1910 and 1970 at least 300,000 African-Americans left the South; in the three decades between 1940 and 1970, more than one million left. The African-American migrations following World War I and World War II are among the largest voluntary internal migrations in history.

Most African-Americans moved to the Northeast and Midwest, although after 1940, significant numbers moved West. According to Census 2000, 6.5 million African-Americans lived in the Midwest. (See Table 1.11.) Approximately 6.1 million African-Americans lived in the Northeast. (See Table 1.7.) The smallest number—3.1 million—lived in the West. (See Table 1.6.) The traditional migration from the South to the North dwindled dramatically in the 1970s. In fact after 1975, due largely to the favorable economic conditions developing in booming Sunbelt cities, African-Americans started migrating to the South in droves. According to Census 2000, almost 19 million African-Americans lived in the South, making up 18.9 percent of the South's population. (See Table 1.8.)

Median Age and Fertility

In 1980 the median age for African-Americans was 24.8 years. In 2000 the median age reached 30.2 years. The African-American population remained younger compared to the median age of 38.6 years for non-Hispanic whites in 2000. In 2000, 31.4 percent of African-Americans were under the age of eighteen, compared with 22.6 percent of non-Hispanic whites under the age of eighteen. (See Table 1.5.)

In 2000 African-American women had a fertility rate of 73.7 births per 1,000 women ages fifteen to forty-four, more than that of non-Hispanic white women (58.5), but less than the rate for Hispanic women, which was 105.9. (See Table 1.4.)


The term "Asian-American" is a catch-all term that did not gain currency until the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was not until 1980 that the Census Bureau created the "Asian and Pacific Islander" category, a departure from the previous practice of counting several Asian groups separately. Although seemingly a geographic description, "Asian and Pacific Islander" contains racial overtones, given that natives of Australia and New Zealand are not included, nor are whites born in the Asian region of the former Soviet Union. According to Census 2000, the Asian-American population was 10.2 million, making up 3.6 percent of the country's population. Native Hawaiian

Total population64,392,776100.0Hispanic or Latino and race Total population64,392,776100.0
Sex and ageHispanic or Latino (of any race)3,124,5324.9
Female32,837,33851.0Puerto Rican325,3630.5
Under 5 years4,353,1696.8Other Hispanic or Latino553,6680.9
5 to 9 years4,688,0247.3Not Hispanic or Latino61,268,24495.1
10 to 14 years4,763,9117.4White alone52,386,13181.4
15 to 19 years4,766,6007.4
20 to 24 years4,316,0806.7Relationship
25 to 34 years8,745,98913.6Total population64,392,776100.0
35 to 44 years10,278,30916.0In households62,600,94697.2
45 to 54 years8,674,20213.5Householder24,734,53238.4
55 to 59 years3,070,4754.8Spouse12,963,56420.1
60 to 64 years2,476,9423.8Child19,250,31029.9
65 to 74 years4,247,7106.6Own child under 18 years15,177,88523.6
75 to 84 years2,947,0704.6Other relatives2,619,5194.1
85 years and over1,064,2951.7Under 18 years1,072,3221.7
Median age (years)35.6(X)Nonrelatives3,033,0214.7
Unmarried partner1,258,9692.0
18 years and over47,745,11074.1In group quarters1,791,8302.8
Male23,022,22035.8Institutionalized population942,4111.5
Female24,722,89038.4Noninstitutionalized population849,4191.3
21 years and over44,874,12469.7
62 years and over9,696,39015.1Household by type
65 years and over8,259,07512.8Total households24,734,532100.0
Male3,364,1565.2Family households (families)16,670,33067.4
Female4,894,9197.6With own children under 18 years8,019,84432.4
Married-couple family12,963,56452.4
RaceWith own children under 18 years5,841,51223.6
One race63,370,30898.4Female householder, no husband present2,758,23911.2
White53,833,65183.6With own children under 18 years1,678,1086.8
Black or African American6,499,73310.1Nonfamily households8,064,20232.6
American Indian and Alaska Native399,4900.6Householder living alone6,644,08726,9
Asian1,197,5541.9Householder 65 years and over2,441,0259.9
Asian Indian293,0120.5
Chinese212,0810.3Households with individuals under 18 years8,673,89935.1
Filipino151,0570.2Households with individuals 65 years and over5,745,72823.2
Japanese63,0120.1Average household size2.53(X)
Korean132,3780.2Average family size3.09(X)
Other Asian1239,0760.4Housing occupancy
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander22,492Total housing units26,963,635100.0
Native Hawaiian5,812Occupied housing units24,734,53291.7
Guamanian or Chamorro4,587Vacant housing units2,229,1038.3
Samoan5,089For seasonal, recreational, or
Other Pacific Islander27,004occasional use714,8532.7
Some other race1,417,3882.2
Two or more races1,022,4681.6Homeowner vacancy rate (percent)1.6(X)
Rental vacancy rate (percent)7.2(X)
Race alone or in combination with one or more other races:3Housing tenure
White54,709,40785.0Occupied housing units24,734,532100.0
Black or African American6,838,66910.6Owner-occupied housing units17,373,74570.2
American Indian and Alaska Native714,7921.1Renter-occupied housing units7,360,78729.8
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander55,3640.1Average household size of owner-occupied units2.66(X)
Some other race1,769,9702.7Average household size of renter-occupied units2.23(X)
–Represents zero or rounds to zero. (X) Not applicable.
1Other Asian alone, or two or more Asian categories.
2Other Pacific Islander alone, or two or more Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander categories.
3In combination with one or more of the other races listed. The six numbers may add to more than the total population and the six percentages may add to more than 100 percent because individuals may report more than one race.
source: "Table DP-1. Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 2000, Geographic Area: Midwest Region," in Profiles of General Demographic Characteristics 2000, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC, May 2001

and other Pacific Islanders had a population of 398,835, making up 0.1 percent of the total U.S. population. An additional 475,579 claimed in Census 2000 to be Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander in combination with one or more other races, bringing the total to 874,414. (See Table 1.1.)

Chinese Immigration in 1800s

The first major immigration of people from Asia to the United States involved the Chinese. From the time of the California gold rush of 1849 until the early 1880s, it is estimated that as many as 250,000 Chinese immigrated to America, with the vast majority coming from the Pearl River delta of Guangdong Province. Most hoped to strike it rich in California, the "Golden Mountain," and then return home. A few fulfilled that dream, but the vast majority stayed in America, two-thirds in California, where they faced intense discrimination. They became the object of political posturing that portrayed "cheap Chinese labor" as a threat to American workers.

While most African-Americans were able to gain citizenship with the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, an exception was carved out for Asian immigrants. They were designated "aliens ineligible to citizenship." The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 (22 Stat. 58) then stopped the entry of Chinese into the country, with the exception of a few merchants and students. As a result, China became the source of America's first illegal aliens. In addition to jumping ship or illegally crossing borders, many took advantage of the 1906 earthquake and devastating fires in San Francisco, which destroyed the city's vital statistics records, to gain legal status by forging birth certificates. By law, any male of Chinese heritage born in America had the right to return to China for any children they fathered (although they could not bring back the alien mother), so that many of these fraudulent U.S. citizens escorted to America a host of "paper sons." Despite this traffic and other means of illegal entry, the Chinese American population actually declined from the 1880s to the 1920s. Laws regarding Chinese immigration to the United States did not change until World War II, when China became an ally and President Roosevelt persuaded Congress to repeal the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Other nationalities that comprise the Asian-American category also immigrated to the United States prior to World War II. The Japanese first came to the United States in significant numbers during the 1890s, although many laborers had previously settled in Hawaii. Like the Chinese, the Japanese lived for the most part in the western United States. There was some call for a "Japanese Exclusion Act," but because Japan was an emerging Pacific power such legislation was never passed. Overall, Japanese immigrants fared better than their Chinese counterparts and soon outpaced them in population. Nevertheless, when Japan and the United States went to war in 1941, approximately 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent were removed from their homes and confined in detention camps. Although the United States was also at war with Germany and Italy, citizens of German and Italian descent or birth were not subject to incarceration without cause.

Before World War II, Filipinos, Asian Indians, and Koreans represented a negligible share of the Asian-American population, at less than 0.2 percent. In 1940 there were an estimated 250,000 Asian-Americans, of which 120,000 were Japanese, 78,000 Chinese, and 46,000 Filipinos. Asian Indians totaled some 5,000, and Koreans numbered even fewer. As was the case with Puerto Ricans, Filipinos began to immigrate to the United States in the years following the Spanish-American War, when their country was annexed and eventually granted commonwealth status. Designated "American nationals," Filipinos held a unique position: They were not eligible for citizenship, but they also could not be prevented from entering the United States. Many Filipinos immigrated during the 1920s looking for work, but the Great Depression of the 1930s stemmed this flow. Asian Indians had come to the United States in small numbers, generally settling in New York City and other eastern ports, but it was not until the early years of the twentieth century that they began immigrating to the West Coast, generally entering through western Canada. Koreans came to the United States from Hawaii, where several thousand had immigrated between 1903 and 1905. Both Asian Indians and Koreans, however, would lose their eligibility to enter the United States following the Immigration Act of 1917 (39 Stat. 874), accounting for their small populations prior to World War II. Once the Chinese Exclusion act was repealed, however, the door was also open for Filipinos and Asian Indians to gain entry to the United States as well as to earn citizenship during the postwar years. The Korean War in the early 1950s led to a long-term U.S. military presence in the country, resulting in a number of Korean-born wives of military personnel relocating to the United States. In addition, many Korean children were adopted and brought to America. A larger influx of Koreans, a family migration, took place in the mid-1960s.

Sharp Rise in Immigration

The growth of the Asian-American population during the 1980s continued a trend that had begun during the 1960s, when their population rose by more than 55 percent. During the 1970s the Asian and Pacific Islander (API) population increased 141 percent. Between 1980 and 1991 almost half (46.2 percent) of all immigrants admitted to the United States arrived from Asia. API immigration during the 1980s can be divided into two "streams." The first stream came from Asian countries that already had large populations in the United States (such as the People's Republic of China, Korea, and the Philippines). These immigrants, many of whom were highly educated, came primarily for family reunification and through employment provisions of the immigration laws. The second stream consisted primarily of immigrants and refugees from the war-torn countries of Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia). They were admitted under U.S. policies that supported admitting political refugees after the Vietnam War, as well as those escaping unstable economic and political conditions in neighboring countries. Between 1975 and 1994 more than 1.2 million refugees arrived in the United States from Southeast Asia and China.

Asian aloneAsian in combination with one or more other races
Detailed groupOne Asian group reportedTwo or more Asian groups reported1One Asian group reportedTwo or more Asian groups reported1Asian detailed group alone or in any combination
Asian Indian1,678,76540,013165,43715,3841,899,599
Chinese, except Taiwanese2,314,537130,826201,68887,7902,734,841
Indo Chinese11355238199
Iwo Jiman15360-78
Sri Lankan20,1451,2192,96625724,587
Other Asian, not specified2146,87019,576195,4497,535369,430
-Represents zero.
1The numbers by detailed Asian group do not add to the total population. This is because the detailed Asian groups are tallies of the number of Asian responses rather than the number of Asian respondents. Respondents reporting several Asian groups are counted several times. For example, a respondent reporting "Korean and Filipino" would be included in the Korean as well as the Filipino numbers.
2Includes respondents who checked the "Other Asian" response category on the census questionnaire or wrote in a generic term such as "Asian" or "Asiatic."
source: Jessica S. Barnes and Claudette E. Bennett, "Table 4. Asian Population by Detailed Group: 2000," in The Asian Population: 2000, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC, 2000

China and the Philippines were the leading Asian countries of origin for U.S. immigrants between 1981 and 1996, with 20 percent each. Vietnam had the second-highest percentage (17 percent) of immigrants moving to the United States, followed by India (12 percent), and Korea (11 percent). Other Asian immigrants comprised 19 percent of newcomers from that part of the world.

According to Census 2000, China was the top Asian country of origin for Asian-Americans, with 2.4 million residents tracing their roots to China. (See Table 1.1.) The Philippines was next with 1.9 million, and India rounded out the top three with 1.7 million reported residents. Approximately 1.1 million Asian-Americans had ancestry origins in Korea, and the same number had origins in Vietnam. (See Table 1.12.) Among Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, Native Hawaiians had the highest population according to Census 2000. (See Table 1.13.)

Geographic Distribution

The majority of Asians live in the West, which boasted a total of 5 million according to Census 2000. (See Table 1.6.) This accounted for nearly half of the Asian population in the United States. (See Figure 1.5.) The three cities with the largest populations of Asians were New York City, Los Angeles, and San Jose, California, but places such as Honolulu, Hawaii, where 67.7 percent of the total population was Asian (alone or in combination), had large percentages of Asians. (See Table 1.14.) Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are most concentrated in the West, which was home to 76.3 percent of the group's population. (See Figure 1.6.) Most Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders live in Hawaii. (See Table 1.15.)

According to Census 2000, minorities of Asian origin were more likely to live in metropolitan areas than outside metropolitan areas. Asian-Americans made up 4.3 percent of the population of metropolitan areas. Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are also more likely to live in metropolitan areas than they are outside metropolitan areas. (See Table 1.10 and Table 1.16.)

Median Age and Fertility

The median age of the Asian-origin population in the United States was 32.7 years, according to Census 2000. The median age for Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders was 27.5 years. Approximately 24.1 percent of Asian-Americans and 31.9 percent of Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders were under eighteen years of age, compared to 22.6 percent of non-Hispanic whites. Only 7.8 percent of

Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander aloneNative Hawaiian Other Pacific Islander in combination with one or more other races
Detailed groupOne Pacific Islander group reportedTwo or more Pacific Islander groups reported1One Pacific Islander group reportedTwo or more Pacific Islander groups reported1Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander detailed group alone or in any combination1
Native Hawaiian140,6525,157241,51013,843401,162
Polynesian, not specified3,4971,5473,0057478,796
Guamanian or Chamorro58,2401,24730,2412,88392,611
Mariana Islander60116010141
Micronesian, not specified7,5094111,7682529,940
Papua New Guinean1353833224
Solomon Islander12310-25
Melanesian, not specified147151494315
Other Pacific Islander240,5581,309129,0384,007174,912
-Represents zero.
1The numbers by detailed Pacific Islander groups do not add to the total population. This is because the detailed Pacific Islander groups are tallies of the number of Pacific Islander responses rather than the number of Pacific Islander respondents. Respondents reporting several Pacific Islander groups are counted several times. For example, a respondent reporting "Samoan and Tongan" would be included in the Samoan as well as the Tongan numbers.
2Includes respondents who checked the "Other Pacific Islander" response category on the census questionnaire or wrote in the generic term "Pacific Islander."
source: Elizabeth M. Grieco, "Table 4. Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander Population by Detailed Group: 2000," in The Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander Population: 2000, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC, 2000

Asians and 5.2 percent of Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders were sixty-five years and older. (See Table 1.5.)

Asian-Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders tend to have their children at later ages than other groups. In 2000 they were most likely to have their children between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-four years old. They were more likely than any other group to have children between the ages of thirty and thirty-four. The fertility rate for Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander women between the ages of thirty and thirty-four was 120.8 births per 1,000 women in 2000, compared to 97.4 births per 1,000 white women in that age group and 67.5 births per 1,000 African-American women in that age group. (See Table 1.17.)


Most experts agree that the people known as Native Americans and Alaska Natives arrived in North America from northeast Asia at least 30,000 years ago during the last of the Ice Age glaciations (coverings of large areas of Earth with ice). At that time, the two continents were connected by a land bridge over what is currently the Bering Strait. Recent studies indicate that they may have actually come over many tens of thousands of years earlier.

Migrants, who settled on the northern coast of Alaska and the Yukon River Valley, which were free of ice barriers, became known as Eskimos and Aleuts. Those who ventured farther south followed the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains and continued along the mountainous spine of North America into Central and South America. There, they moved east throughout the central plains and eastern highlands of both continents and were later erroneously named Indians by exploring Spaniards. The misnomer is attributed to Christopher Columbus (1451–1506), who, upon landing in the Bahamas in 1492, thought he had reached the islands off the eastern region of Asia, called the Indies. He therefore greeted the inhabitants as "Indians." Today, many descendants of the original settlers prefer to be called Native Americans.

Native Americans have always been associated with having a close relationship with the earth. Some have been farmers, while others have specialized in hunting and fishing. The arrival of white men from Europe eventually changed the life Native Americans had known for thousands of years. Devastating wars, disease, the annihilation of the buffalo, and the loss of land fit for cultivation led to the elimination of much of their race.

According to Census 2000, the Native American and Alaska Native population made up less than 1 percent of the U.S. population, with 2.5 million people. An additional 1.6 million people, however, indicated on Census 2000 that they were Native American or Alaska Native in combination with one or more other races. (See Table 1.1.)

Counting the number of Americans who claimed to be Native American alone, the population increased by 516,722, or 26 percent since 1990. However, counting the number of Americans who claimed to be Native American alone or in conjunction with another race, an increase of 2.2 million, or 110 percent, was recorded between 1990 and 2000, according to the Census Bureau's report Native Population 2000. Using the Native American alone numbers, population projections by the Census Bureau showed the Native American population growing to 1.1 percent of the nation's population by the year 2050 and remaining at that level through at least 2070. (See Table 1.3.)

Geographic Distribution

Native Americans and Alaska Natives were most likely to live in the West (1.2 million). (See Table 1.6.) Approximately 48 percent of the Native American and Alaska Native alone population lived in the West, while 43 percent of the Native American and Alaska Native alone or in combination population lived in the West. (See Figure 1.7.)

Many Native Americans live on, or near, reservations, and are members of groupings called "tribes." According to Census 2000, the largest tribal groupings were the Cherokee, followed by the Navajo and the Latin American Indians. (See Figure 1.8.) Many Alaska Natives are also members of such groups. The largest tribal groupings of Alaska Natives according to Census 2000 were Eskimos, followed by Tlingit-Haida, Alaska Athabascan, and Aleut. (See Figure 1.9.)

Median Age and Birth Rate

According to Census 2000, the Native American/Alaska Native population had a median age of twenty-eight years, 7.3 years younger than the U.S. median age of 35.3. (See Table 1.5.) In 2000 the fertility rate of Native Americans and Alaska Natives was highest for women between the ages of twenty and twenty-four years of age, at 135.6 live births per 1,000 women in that age group. (See Table 1.17.)

Total populationAsian aloneAsian alone or in combinationPercent of total population
PlaceRankNumberRankNumberRankNumberAsian aloneAsian alone or in combination
New York, NY18,008,2781787,0471872,7779.810.9
Los Angeles, CA23,694,8202369,2542407,44410.011.0
Chicago, IL32,896,0167125,9747140,5174.34.9
Houston, TX41,953,6318103,6948114,1405.35.8
Philadelphia, PA51,517,5501167,6541274,4354.54.9
Phoenix, AZ61,321,0453426,4493033,1942.02.5
San Diego, CA71,223,4006166,9686189,41313.615.5
Dallas, TX81,188,5802732,1182736,6652.73.1
San Antonio, TX91,144,6464817,9344224,0461.62.1
Detroit, MI10951,270949,2688412,3611.01.3
San Jose, CA11894,9433240,3753257,57126.928.8
San Francisco, CA13776,7334239,5654253,47730.832.6
Seattle, WA24563,3741073,910984,64913.115.0
Honolulu, HI*46371,6575207,5885251,68655.967.7
Fremont, CA85203,413975,1651080,97937.039.8
* Honolulu, HI, is a census designated place and is not legally incorporated.
source: Jessica S. Barnes and Claudette E. Bennett, "Table 3. Ten Largest Places in Total Population and in Asian Population: 2000," in The Asian Population: 2000, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC, 2000
Total populationNative Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander aloneNative Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone in combinationPercent of total population
PlaceRankNumberRankNumberRankNumberNative Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander aloneNative Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone in combination
New York, NY18,008,27855,430219,2030.10.2
Los Angeles, CA23,694,82025,915313,1440.20.4
Chicago, IL32,896,016191,788114,6150.10.2
Houston, TX41,953,631231,182212,8770.10.1
Philadelphia, PA51,517,55041729232,359-0.2
Phoenix, AZ61,321,045201,766173,4700.10.3
San Diego, CA71,223,40035,853410,6130.50.9
Dallas, TX81,188,58051590441,461-0.1
San Antonio, TX91,144,646271,067282,0650.10.2
Detroit, MI10951,27010225171827-0.1
San Jose, CA11894,94383,58467,0910.40.8
San Francisco, CA13776,73373,84486,2730.50.8
Seattle, WA24563,374112,80494,9770.50.9
Long Beach, CA34461,52245,60557,8631.21.7
Sacramento, CA40407,01863,86176,8330.91.7
Honolulu, HI*46371,657125,457158,1306.815.6
Salt Lake City, UT113181,74393,437134,2051.92.3
Hayward, CA154140,030122,679104,7091.93.4
West Valley City, UT213108,896103,157143,7982.93.5
-Percentage rounds to 0.0.
* Honolulu, HI is a census designated place and is not legally incorporated.
source: Elizabeth M. Grieco, "Table 3. Ten Largest Places in Total Population and in Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander Population: 2000," in The Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander Population: 2000, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC, 2000
Total population225,981,679100.0Hispanic or Latino and race Total population225,981,679100.0
Sex and ageHispanic or Latino (of any race)32,173,94214.2
Female115,405,72051.1Puerto Rican3,281,1631.5
Under 5 years15,677,1466.9Other Hispanic or Latino9,179,0664.1
5 to 9 years16,698,8867.4Not Hispanic or Latino193,807,73785.8
10 to 14 years16,423,1217.3White alone149,115,62766.0
15 to 19 years15,980,8627.1
20 to 24 years15,436,9816.8Relationship
25 to 34 years33,118,01514.7Total population 225,981,679100.0
35 to 44 years36,765,90616.3In households220,238,82397.5
45 to 54 years30,146,28113.3Householder84,304,88537.3
55 to 59 years10,561,6214.7Spouse42,757,99318.9
60 to 64 years8,314,8003.7Child67,509,79729.9
65 to 74 years14,108,4396.2Own child under 18 years51,931,54123.0
75 to 84 years9,532,3184.2Other relatives13,368,1195.9
85 years and over3,217,3031.4Under 18 years4,976,3002.2
Median age (years)34.9(X)Nonrelatives12,298,0295.4
Unmarried partner4,456,4882.0
18 years and over167,693,56974.2In group quarters5,742,8562.5
Male80,713,27435.7Institutionalized population2,743,4011.2
Female86,980,29538.5Noninstitutionalized population2,999,4551.3
21 years and over157,953,32569.9
62 years and over31,660,66514.0Household by type
65 years and over26,858,06011.9Total households84,304,885100.0
Male10,982,2444.9Family households (families)56,949,86167.6
Female15,875,8167.0With own children under 18 years27,832,85133.0
Married-couple family42,757,99350.7
RaceWith own children under 18 years19,912,01323.6
One race219,991,01397.3Female householder, no husband present10,635,00012.6
White164,469,29672.8With own children under 18 years6,198,6427.4
Black or African American29,893,27113.2Nonfamily households27,355,02432.4
American Indian and Alaska Native1,421,1320.6Householder living alone21,867,71425.9
Asian9,826,1104.3Householder 65 years and over7,376,8568.8
Asian Indian1,625,5470.7
Chinese2,375,8711.1Households with individuals under 18 years30,604,70436.3
Filipino1,749,0850.8Households with individuals 65 years and over19,012,74822.6
Japanese724,9110.3Average household size2.61(X)
Korean1,034,8430.5Average family size3.17(X)
Other Asian11,221,5910.5Housing occupancy
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander339,0150.2Total housing units90,812,960100.0
Native Hawaiian102,870Occupied housing units84,304,88592.8
Guamanian or Chamorro52,384Vacant housing units6,508,0757.2
Samoan85,409For seasonal, recreational, or
Other Pacific Islander298,352occasional use1,640,8801.8
Some other race14,042,1896.2
Two or more races5,990,6662.7Homeowner vacancy rate (percent)1.6(X)
Rental vacancy rate (percent)6.4(X)
Race alone or in combination with one
or more other races:3Housing tenure
White169,206,73974.9Occupied housing units84,304,885100.0
Black or African American31,496,53413.9Owner-occupied housing units54,160,75064.2
American Indian and Alaska Native2,698,7241.2Renter-occupied housing units30,144,13535.8
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander728,6230.3Average household size of owner-occupied units2.73(X)
Some other race16,969,0417.5Average household size of renter-occupied units2.41(X)
–Represents zero or rounds to zero. (X) Not applicable.
1Other Asian alone, or two or more Asian categories.
2Other Pacific Islander alone, or two or more Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander categories.
3In combination with one or more of the other races listed. The six numbers may add to more than the total population and the six percentages may add to more than 100 percent because individuals may report more than one race.
source: "Table DP-1. Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 2000, Geographic Area: United States, Inside Metropolitan Areas," in Profiles of General Demographic Characteristics 2000, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC, May 2001
Age of mother
15-19 years
Year and raceTotal fertility rate10-14 yearsTotal15-17 years18-19 years20-24 years25-29 years30-34 years35-39 years40-44 years45-49 years1
All races2
Age of mother
15-19 years
Year and raceTotal fertility rate10-14 yearsTotal15-17 years18-19 years20-24 years25-29 years30-34 years35-39 years40-44 years45-49 years1
Black (cont'd)
American Indian5
Asian or Pacific Islander
*Figure does not meet standards of reliability or precision; based on fewer than 20 births in numerator.
1Beginning 1997, rates computed by relating births to women aged 45-54 years to women aged 45-49 years.
2For 1970-91 includes births to races not shown separately.
3Based on 100 percent of births in selected states and on a 50-percent sample of births in all other states.
4Based on a 50-percent sample of births.
5Includes births to Aleuts and Eskimos.
Notes: Race and Hispanic origin are reported separately on birth certificates. In this table all women (including Hispanic women) are classified only according to their race. Rates for some population groups, particularly Hispanic and Asian or Pacific Islander, may be overstated for more recent years.
source: Joyce A. Martin, Brady E. Hamilton, Stephanie J. Ventura, Fay Menacker, and Melissa M. Park, "Table 4. Total Fertility Rates and Birth Rates by Age, of Mother: United States, 1970–2000, and by Age and Race of Mother: United States, 1980-2000," in "Births: Final Data for 2000," National Vital Statistics Reports, vol. 50, no. 5, February 12, 2002


views updated May 18 2018


This entry is arranged according to the following outline:

size and geographical distribution of world jewry
Major Geographical Shifts of World Jewry
up to world war i
1914 to 1939
the shoah
1948 to 1970
1970 to 2005
Dispersion and Concentration
population characteristics
Age composition
Origin Groups (Edot)


Jewish demography, like demography in general, deals essentially with the size and geographical distribution of the population, with its composition according to various characteristics (e.g., sex, age), and with population movements. The latter consist of natural movements or "*vital statistics" – births, deaths, marriages, and divorces; migratory movements (*migrations); and accessions to, or secessions from, the Jewish group. Demographic knowledge is based preponderantly on statistical data and their analysis; consequently data collection is an important part of demographic work. In recent decades, research has given increasing attention to the interrelation between demographic phenomena, in the narrow sense of the word, and cultural and economic phenomena. Since Diaspora Jews are scattered and everywhere in a minority status, and the very definition of Jewishness is today interpreted in differing ways, both the demographic profile and trends of the Jews and the study of the subject matter have peculiar aspects. Demographic work on Diaspora Jewry encounters special difficulties due to the lack of uniformity of available sources, and the need for data collection by Jewish institutions when official data are not available. Official statistics now exist only for a minority of Diaspora Jews, and even where they are forthcoming, they are mostly of a very general nature and insufficient for in-depth analysis (see *Vital Statistics).

size and geographical distribution of world jewry

Major Geographical Shifts of World Jewry

Over the last 125 years, the geography of the Jews has changed completely. As a result of the Shoah and of large-scale international migrations, many veteran Diaspora communities in Eastern and Central Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa virtually disappeared, or became small and precarious. Instead, two major demographic centers arose: the United States, whose Jewish stock arrived mainly in the period 1881–1924, and Israel, whose large-scale demographic expansion followed the establishment of the state in 1948. Several secondary Jewish population centers are now situated on either side of the Atlantic: in Western Europe, especially in France and England; in Canada, alongside the major Jewish Diaspora population in the U.S.; in South America, especially in Argentina; and in Australia.

These changes consisted largely of a westward shift of the world Jewish population. Only since 1948 was an eastward counterpull exercised by Israel. It has been calculated that, geographically, the virtual central point of world Jewry (considering both location and size of the various Jewish populations) was at the border of the Ukraine and Galicia in 1850. It shifted to a spot just west of Scotland in 1933 and toward the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean in 1960. It has since moved eastward reflecting the growing size and share of Jewish population In Israel. Likewise, the cultural-linguistic milieus in which the Jews live changed greatly. Until the onset of the modern migration movement toward the end of the 19th century, most Jews lived among peoples with Slavic languages, while other large Jewish populations had German-speaking surroundings in Europe and Arabic-speaking surroundings in Asia and Africa. All these milieus lost much of their importance for the Jews because of the Shoah and emigration. Correspondingly, there was a great rise in the proportion of Jews residing in countries whose official language is primarily English but also French or Spanish. With the growing demographic importance of Israel, Hebrew became the official as well as the everyday language of a considerable proportion of all Jews. On the other hand the diffusion of traditional Jewish languages of the Diaspora – Yiddish and Ladino – dramatically diminished in favor of the official languages of the various countries of Jewish residence. This reflected not only the special impact of emigration and the Shoah on the traditional centers of Yiddish and of Ladino in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, but also internal social and cultural processes among the Jews and changing relationships between them and the surrounding non-Jewish populations.

Official Language193119672005
a Ranked by frequency in 2005.
Russian and other Slavic Languages41183
Spanish and Portuguese353

Finally, the "newness" of most of the numerically important Jewish populations of the various countries deserves to be emphasized. The majority of Jews now live in countries where, some generations ago, few or hardly any Jews were to be found. The countries with the 10 largest Jewish populations that accounted for about 95% of world Jewry in 2005, accounted only for a minor share in 1850. This has implications for the relationship between the Jews and the general population of the respective countries. In fact, most of those are immigration countries where not only the Jews but a large part of the population is of comparatively recent standing. In addition, the newness of many numerically important Jewish Diaspora groups affects the sphere of internal integration and organization, especially in view of the weakening over time of the religious factor (see *Community, Organization). The situation is obviously different in Israel, where common national aspirations and common practical needs generate stronger cohesive tendencies.

up to world war i

During part of the 19th century, information on the number of Jews in various countries was unsatisfactory. Taking of official censuses was only gradually coming into use, and the completeness of some of the earlier censuses with regard to the Jews left much to be desired. There were virtually no censuses in Asia and Africa. In the Czarist Empire, which contained the largest number of Jews in the world, the first general census was taken only as late as 1897. In some countries of Western Europe and America, the Jews were not distinguished as such in the official statistics. Moreover, examination of the alleged number of Jews from successive official counts in Austria-Hungary and in some parts of the Czarist Empire makes the incompleteness of the earlier figures evident. This was apparently often due to a deliberate tendency on the part of many Jews to evade inclusion in official registrations and counts. Under these circumstances, comprehensive figures on the Jewish world population must be based partly on conjecture and cannot be viewed as more than very rough indications of an order of magnitude. A. *Ruppin estimated the total number of Jews at the end of the 18th century at 2,500,000. J. *Lestschinsky arrived at an estimate of about 3,250,000 Jews in 1825, of whom 2,750,000 (i.e., more than 80%) in Europe.

The figures on the subsequent development up to World War i, as presented in Table 2, are based (with some adaptations) on the studies of Lestschinsky.

World Jewish Population increased from about 4¾ million in 1850 to 13½ million in 1914, i.e., by 180% or by 16 per 1,000 annually. In comparison, during 1850–1900 the total world population is estimated to have grown by six-seven per 1,000 annually, and the population of Europe, North America, and Oceania by 11 per 1,000 annually. The faster growth of the Jews was due to their relatively larger natural increase, in consequence of the faster reduction of mortality among European Jewish communities. The proportion of Jews in Asia and Africa among all Jews in the world declined somewhat. This was due to their lower natural increase at that time, mainly because of higher mortality, as compared with the Jews in Europe and America (see *Vital Statistics).

A far more spectacular change in the geographical distribution of world Jewry was the increase in the proportion of Jews in America after 1880: from about 250,000 in that year to 1,175,000 in 1900 and nearly 3,500,000 in 1914, and from 3% to 11% and, by 1914, a quarter of world Jewry. The corresponding figures for the United States and Canada (together) were about 1,115,000 in 1900 and 3,360,000 in 1914. This rapid expansion of American Jewry was due to the migration of about 2,400,000 Jews during the years 1881–1914, of whom 2,150,000 went to the United States and Canada (see *Migration). Equally due to immigration, but on a much smaller scale, was the growth of the Jewish populations in South Africa and in Oceania.

While the proportion of European Jews among all the Jews in the world was reduced from 88% in 1880 to about two thirds in 1914, as a result of the heavy emigration, the absolute number of the Jews in Europe kept on growing from more than 4,000,000 in 1850 to 6,800,000 in 1880, 8,700,000 in 1900 and 9,100,000 in 1914. This numerical growth despite the heavy emigration drain – which, during the peak period of 1901–14, led to the departure of 1,600,000 Jews from Europe – is striking evidence for the natural increase of European Jews at that time. Even the number of Jews in Eastern Europe rose greatly from 1880 to 1900 and maintained itself from 1900 to 1914, though nearly all the overseas emigration consisted of persons originating from that region and there was, in addition, migration from Eastern to Central and Western Europe.

1914 to 1939

During the period up to the outbreak of World War ii, the Jewish population of the globe is estimated to have risen from about 13,500,000 to 16,500,000. The rate of growth was smaller than in the preceding period because of the reduction in natural increase caused by the spread of birth control among the Jews in Europe and America (see *Vital Statistics). The annual increase of world Jewry was about eight per 1,000. In comparison, total world population grew from 1920 to 1940 by ten per 1,000 annually, while the populations of Europe, North America, and Oceania, which underwent a demographic slowdown, grew by nine per 1,000 annually. Whereas the relative growth of the Jews had exceeded that of the peoples of Europe, North America, etc. in the 19th century, this was no longer so in the period between the two world wars.

The relative share of the European Jews among total world Jewry continued to decline from about two thirds in 1914 to 58% in 1939, mainly because of emigration to America, South Africa, Australia, and Ereẓ Israel. For the same reason and because of the reduced natural increase, the absolute number of Jews residing in Europe grew only a little between the two world wars. On the other hand, the proportion of American Jews among world Jewry grew from about a quarter in 1914 to a third in 1939. During this period, the relative growth of the number of Jews was much greater in Latin America and South Africa than in North America. This was due to the limitations imposed on immigration into the U.S., which very strongly affected the Jews (see *Migration).

On the other hand, there was a rise in the relative share of Jews in North Africa and, especially, in Asia. The main reasons were considerable Jewish migration to Ereẓ Israel, to the Asian territories of the U.S.S.R., and also to Egypt and an upward swing in the natural increase of the local Jewish population because of reduced mortality.

a Minor discrepancies due to rounding.
b May 15.
c December 31.
d January 1.
e Eastern European countries that joined the European Union included in Eastern Europe.
f Including Asian parts of Russian Republic. Including Baltic countries.
g Asian parts of Turkey included in Europe.
h Including Ethiopia.
i South Africa, Zimbabwe, and other sub-Saharan countries.
j U.S.A., Canada.
k Australia, New Zealand.
World total1,1002,50010,60016,50011,50012,66213,034
Total Diaspora1,0952,49310,55016,05510,73510,0807,796
Total Erez Israel57504456502,5825,238
Western Europee1803631,2301,4251,0351,1191,066
Eastern Europe and Balkanse2658033,4504,68076521694
Former USSR in Europef2758544,0853,3951,9501,906360
Former USSR in Asia} 195} 253} 39016535026220
Other Asiag39027510019
North Africah170200305500595835
South Africai5123510010512474
North Americaj} 5} 81,0004,9405,2155,6865,652
Latin America40430520514397
World total100.0100.0100.0100.0100.0100.0100.0
Total Diaspora99.599.799.597.393.379.659.8
Total Erez Israel0.
Western Europee16.414.511.
Eastern Europe and Balkanse24.132.132.528.
Former USSR in Europef25.034.238.520.617.015.12.8
Former USSR in Asia} 17.7} 10.1}
Other Asiag2.
North Africah15.
South Africai0.
North Americaj} 0.5} 0.39.429.945.344.943.4
Latin America0.

the shoah

About six millions of Jews perished during the Nazi persecutions. In addition, there was a very low birth rate and survival of newborn among the Jews in the occupied territories. After the catastrophe, the total number of Jews was reduced by over one third. In consequence, a far-reaching change also took place in the geographical distribution of world Jewry. As the numerical strength of the European Jews waned, the relative shares of the Jews on the other continents rose. When it was again possible to do some statistical stocktaking in 1948, on the eve of the establishment of the State of Israel, less than a third of all Jews were found in Europe, as against more than a half in 1939. This change was essentially due to the enormous biological losses caused by the Shoah, but there was also some emigration from Europe in the early war years and again after the end of the war.

The Shoah was most devastating in the eastern parts of Europe occupied by the Nazis. In the years after the end of the war, a movement of *Displaced Persons also took place from Eastern to Central Europe. Therefore, if the regional distribution of the Jews inside Europe in 1948 is compared with that in 1939, an enormous reduction in absolute numbers is found everywhere, but the proportions of the various regions had changed greatly. Before the war, Eastern Europe, excluding the U.S.S.R., accounted for one half of European Jewry; by 1948 its share was diminished to less than a quarter, while the Jews in the U.S.S.R. constituted one half of all European Jews. Contributory causes for this development were the enlargement of the area of the U.S.S.R. after World War ii and the departure of Displaced Persons from the other East European states; but the essential cause was the differential loss of life during the Shoah, when a much larger part of the Jews was

Country19391945Percent Change
a Including territory in Asia.
b Including Bessarabia/Moldavia.
c Including Albania.
d Territory in Europe only.
e Including Gibraltar.
f Including Luxembourg.
g Including Ireland.
h Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland.
Eastern Europe and Balkans
Estonia5} 66} −74
Western Europe
Portugal, Spaine69+50
United Kingdomg345350+1
Displaced persons107210+96

spared in Russia than in the rest of Eastern Europe. Also the proportion of Jews in Western and Central Europe among all Jews of that continent was higher in 1948 (about a third) than in 1939 (about 20%). This happened, among other things, because the Jews in England had remained safe and because of the influx of Displaced Persons.

As against the great drop in the share of European Jewry, the proportion of American Jewry rose from one third of world Jewry in 1939 to one half in 1948, and that of Asia including Palestine rose from 6 to 11%. There had been some immigration of Jews into these continents during the intervening years, but this was only a secondary factor in producing the marked changes in the respective proportions.

The direct outcome of the Shoah was the physical destruction of the majority of the Jews who had lived in Europe. Soon after the war came to an end, the vivid memory of the horrors, the renewed hostility of the non-Jews in some countries and, on the other hand, the creation of the State of Israel produced mass emigration of the survivors from Europe (see *Migration). The demographic aftereffects of the Shoah – particularly, distortions in the age and sex composition of the survivors – are conspicuous up to the present and will make themselves felt for a considerable time to come, not only in Europe, but also among those Jewish Diaspora populations elsewhere that have absorbed survivors from Europe. It has been estimated that if the expected growth of the generations that were destroyed and of those that were not born are factored in, the cumulative demographic impact of the Shoah might have ranged between 12 and 18 million lost people around the year 2000.

1948 to 1970

After World War ii, the statistical documentation available on the Jewish Diaspora based on official state sources greatly diminished. Before the War, the majority of world Jewry lived in countries (mainly in Europe) where official statistics furnished copious data on Jews. Now the situation was reversed: putting aside the State of Israel, over 70% of Diaspora Jews lived in countries without any official statistics on Jews, mainly in the United States. Besides, great conceptual problems emerged because of the growing frequency of "marginal Jews." On the other hand, over the years Jewish-sponsored efforts at collecting statistical information on Jewish populations produced a significant database for the study of Jewish demography (see *Vital Statistics). Under these circumstances, the quality of Jewish population estimates in many countries is unsatisfactory.

Since World War ii, no assessment of Jewish demographic trends is possible without explaining what the data mean, particularly the statistical definition of "who is a Jew." The figures reported here usually relate to the concept of core Jewish population, i.e. all those who, when asked, identify themselves as Jews; or, if the respondent is a different person in the same household, are identified by him/her as Jews. This is an intentionally comprehensive approach, reflecting both subjective feelings and community norms and bonds. The definition is admittedly looser in the Diaspora than in Israel where personal status is subject to the ruling of the Ministry of the Interior. The core Jewish population broadly overlaps but does not necessarily coincide with the halakhic (rabbinic) definition of a Jew as someone who is the child of a Jewish mother or converted by appropriate religious and legal procedure. Inclusion in the core Jewish population does not depend on any measure of a person's Jewish commitment or behavior in terms of religiosity, beliefs, knowledge, communal affiliation, or otherwise. The core Jewish population includes all those who converted to Judaism, or decided to join the Jewish group informally and declare themselves Jewish. It excludes those of Jewish descent who have formally adopted another religion, as well as other individuals who did not convert out but currently refuse to recognize their Jewishness.

Concurrently, the concept of an enlarged Jewish population includes the sum of (a) the core Jewish population, (b) all other persons Jewish by birth or parentage who do not currently identify as Jews, and (c) all the respective non-Jewish household members (spouses, children, etc.). The enlarged Jewish population is by definition significantly larger than the core population.

The *Law of Return – Israel's distinctive legal framework for the eligibility and absorption of new immigrants – further extends its provisions to all current Jews, their Jewish or non-Jewish spouses, children, and grandchildren, and the respective spouses. As a result of its three-generation time perspective and lateral extension, the Law of Return applies to a much wider population than core and enlarged Jewish populations alike. The Law of Return, per se, does not effect a person's Jewish status, which, as noted, is adjudicated by Israel's Ministry of the Interior or rabbinical authorities. In practice, while the Law of Return defines objective, clear-cut normative rules for the attribution of certain rights and prerogatives, the initiative for being entitled to its provisions normally stems from people's subjective, individual awareness of belonging (directly or indirectly) to the Jewish collective. In Germany, since the 1990s, legislation similar to the principles of the Law of Return regulates the eligibility of Jewish immigrants.

The period from 1948 onward began during the "baby boom" of early postwar years; however, it was soon followed by a renewed decline in Jewish birth rates in Europe, America, and other Western countries. Jewish populations in Europe about which there is any statistical documentation reached a state of demographic stagnation and decline, with deaths consistently outnumbering births and additional losses to the Jewish population being occasioned by "withdrawals," whether in connection with frequent intermarriages or not. In the U.S., Canada, South Africa, and Australia, the only source of any Jewish population growth was international migration, but eventually in some cases this was insufficient to compensate for the deficit of internal demographic changes (see *Vital Statistics). Though there has been persistent natural increase in Israel, changes in the overall size of the Jewish world population have been rather limited.

Very conspicuous geographical shifts in the world Jewish population occurred over the years 1948–70. Throughout the period, the Jews in America accounted for about half of world Jewry. Nine-tenths of them resided in North America. But there were marked changes in the relative shares of other regions among world Jewry. The proportion of European Jews continued to decline from about a third of all Jews in 1948 to a quarter in 1970. It would have declined even somewhat further, were it not for an influx from North Africa. The relative share of Eastern Europe excluding the U.S.S.R. dropped both among total Jews in Europe (from more than 20 to less than 10%) and among world Jewry (from 7 to 2%). Throughout this period, the Jews in the European territories of the U.S.S.R. were one half or more of all Jews residing in Europe. The aggregate number and proportion of the Jews in other countries of Europe, i.e., mainly in the west and center of that continent, were first reduced by departures of Displaced Persons and others, most of whom went to Israel. But subsequently they were raised by intermittent immigration from countries of Eastern Europe and North Africa and the Middle East.

The proportion of Jews in North Africa and, consequently, in the whole of Africa, dropped drastically during 1948–70 (North Africa, from 5.5 to 0.5% of world Jewry). This was due to large-scale emigration from the Maghreb and other Arabic-speaking states. The emigrants went mainly to Israel and in the second place to France. The drain started after Israel's War of Independence (1948) and had come near to emptying North Africa of its once numerous Jewish population by the Six-Day War period (1967). A notable episode was the exodus of over 100,000 Jews from Algeria to France, together with the European population, in 1961–62.

Similarly, the share of Asia, excluding Israel and the Asian territories of the U.S.S.R., dropped from 3 to 1% of world Jewry during 1948–70. Most of the respective Jews had resided in Arabic-speaking countries; nearly all of them moved to Israel in a spectacular mass migration soon after the foundation of the new state.

On the other hand, the total share of Asia among world Jewry doubled from 1948 (11.5%) to 1967 (21.5%). This resulted essentially from the rapid growth of the Jewish population in Israel from 650,000 in May 1948 to almost 2,400,000 by the end of 1970. The number of Jews in the Asian territories of the U.S.S.R. also increased somewhat.

In all but one of the countries of Eastern and Central Europe, the number of Jews was very much smaller in 1970 than in 1939. This was due, of course, to the successive effects of the Shoah and of emigration. The most glaring instance in this respect is that of Poland, with 3,250,000 and only about 25,000 Jews, respectively (the latter figure relates to the reduced postwar territory). The one country in that region with a relatively smaller diminution in the number of Jews is the U.S.S.R., whose territory was only partly occupied by the Nazis during World War ii and much enlarged after the war and where emigration is barred. The number of Jews in the European part of the U.S.S.R. amounted to 1,900,000 in 1959, according to the official census of that year. This number is probably below the actual figure, but there is no alternative statistical figure in existence. With regard to the 1939 figures in Table 2, those for Germany and Austria (at that time a German province) already showed the effects of Nazi rule: there were half a million Jews in Germany in 1933 and 190,000 in Austria in 1934. The number of Jews in 1939 on the enlarged post-World War ii territory of the U.S.S.R. in Europe may be estimated at more than 4½ million.

In most countries of Western Europe, the number of Jews likewise declined, due to the Shoah and subsequent emigration. But the two notable exceptions are precisely the countries with the largest Jewish populations in that region. The Jews in England did not suffer directly from the Nazi persecutions; on the contrary, their numbers were swelled by the influx of refugees and survivors. The Jews in France did suffer from the Nazis and their number was estimated at only 180,000 in 1946, as compared with 320,000 in 1939. But the wartime losses were more than compensated by successive immigration from two sources: Eastern Europe (Displaced Persons, refugees after the Hungarian uprising of 1956, etc.), and North Africa, particularly Algeria.

As a result of all the demographic changes produced by the differential effects of the Shoah and of the subsequent migrations in the various European countries, a geographical polarization of the Jews in Europe has taken place. The main concentrations are now in the extreme east (the former U.S.S.R.) and in the extreme west (France, England). Over the postwar decades there was an increase in the number of Jews in nearly all countries of America, with the one conspicuous exception of Cuba, and in Oceania. The rise in the estimated Jewish population of the U.S. is shown in Table 4.

The number of Jews in South Africa increased, according to census figures, from 91,000 in 1936 to 115,000 in 1960. On the other hand, the number of Jews in each of the North African countries decreased reflecting the post-War de-colonization process.

Table 5 shows the expansion of the Jewish population in Ereẓ Israel.

The number of Jews in the Asian territories of the U.S.S.R. was, according to the official censuses, about 220,000 in 1939 and 370,000 in 1959. On the other hand, the two Arab countries in Asia with the largest Jewish populations had been Iraq and Yemen. To judge from the subsequent immigration to Israel, in the middle of 1948 there were about 125,000 Jews in Iraq and 50,000 in Yemen and Aden.

1970 to 2005

Since 1970, significant changes affected the geographical distribution of world Jewry and the relative weight of communities in different regions of the world. The size of world Jewry at the beginning of 2005 was assessed at 13,034,000 (by the core Jewish population definition). World Jewry constituted 2.04 per 1,000 of the world's total population of 6,396 million. One in about 490 people in the world was a Jew. World Jewry's overall increase from 1970 through 2005 was about 3% (or 0.06% a year), as against an increase of over 70% in total world population (about 1.5% yearly). Significantly, Jewish zero population growth worldwide was the product of two entirely different trends compensating each other. The State of Israel and the rest of the world – or the Diaspora – are the two typological components of a contemporary.

YearJewsTotal US% Jews

world Jewish population that responds to two quite contrasting, if not conflicting, sets of demographic determinants and consequences. The Israeli component, approaching 40% of the world total in 2005, operates as the majority within its own sovereign state. The Diaspora, about 60% of world Jewry, consists of a large number of communities of different absolute sizes, each constituting a very small to minuscule share of the total population of the respective country.

In synthesis, Israel's Jewish population grew by more than two million between 1945 and 1970, and by another 2.6 million between 1970 and 2005. Diaspora Jewry diminished by about 400,000 between 1945 and 1970, and declined by another 2.3 million between 1970 and 2005. These changes reflect in part the net transfer of over 2.2 million Jewish migrants from the Diaspora to Israel over the whole period since World War ii, including about one million since 1970. A substantial contribution to total population changes, however, comes from a very different balance of Jewish births and deaths, as well as to a different impact of accessions and secessions. Especially since the 1970s, these factors produced further substantial population increases in Israel, and visible declines in the aggregate of other Jewish communities.

Trends to growth, stability, or decline in the major Jewish communities were quite variable. The Jewish population in the United States increased by an estimated 100,000 between 1970 and 1990, from 5.4 to 5.5 million, less than might have been expected considering the total amount of known Jewish immigration to the U.S. Between 1990 and 2000, the number of U.S. Jews should have increased by an additional 200,000 only due to international migration. Instead, two new surveys undertaken in 2001, the njps and the ajis, found a total of 5,200,000–5,350,000 or 150,000 to 300,000 less than in 1990. Substantial numbers of Jews did move to North America from the fsu, Israel, Latin America, South Africa, Iran, and other countries, but the internal interplay of demographic, social, and cultural forces balanced out much of the expected population increase and actually created a deficit.

The about 13 million Jews estimated worldwide at the dawn of the 21st century were intimately connected to several more millions of people. Some of the latter had Jewish origins or family connections but were not currently Jewish, whether because they changed their own identification, were the non-Jewish children of intermarried parents, or were non-Jewish members in intermarried households. These non-Jews shared the daily life experience, social and economic concerns, and cultural environment of their Jewish mates. The following examples indicate the extent of variation of core and enlarged Jewish populations in selected countries. The criteria followed in the ensuing comparison were not the same in each place.

In the Russian Republic in 2001, the Jewish population was estimated at 275,000 and the enlarged population including all non-Jewish members in the respective households was estimated at 520,000 – a difference of 89 percent. In the U.S. in 2001, based on two different surveys, a core Jewish population of 5,300,000 was part of an enlarged population estimated at 8.8 to 10 million – a difference of 69 to 89 percent. In the Netherlands, a 2000 survey found 30,000 Jews by matrilineal descent and another 13,000 by patrilineal descent – a 43 percent difference. In Brazil, according to the 1991 census, the reported Jewish population of 86,000 was part of an enlarged population of 117,000 in Jewish households – a difference of 36 percent. In France, according to a 2002 survey, 500,000 Jews had at least another 75,000 non-Jewish household members – a 15 percent difference. In Israel at the end of 2001, 5,025,000 Jews were accompanied by 275,000 non-Jewish family members, mostly in families that had immigrated from the F.S.U. – a difference of 5 percent. The gap between the numbers of individuals covered by the enlarged and core Jewish population definitions tended to increase in connection with growing rates of out-marriage. In some cases an increase in the enlarged population could be noted along with reduction of the respective core.

Recently, instances of accession or "return" to Judaism can be observed in connection with the absorption in Israel of immigrants from Eastern Europe and Ethiopia, and the comprehensive provisions of the Israeli Law of Return. The return or first-time access to Judaism of some of such previously unincluded or unidentified individuals contributed to slowing down the pace of decline of the relevant Diaspora Jewish populations and some gains for the Jewish population in Israel.

Table 6 gives an overall picture of Jewish population country by country for the beginning of 2005 as compared to 1970. The number of Jews in Israel rose from 2,582,000 in 1970 to 5,237,600 at the beginning of 2005, an increase of 2,655,600 people, or 102.9 percent (more than double the initial population). In contrast the estimated Jewish population in the Diaspora diminished from 10,063,200 to 7,796,500 – a decrease of 2,266,700 people, or 22.5 percent. These changes reflect the continuing Jewish emigration from the Former U.S.S.R. (fsu) and other countries, but also the internal decrease typical of the aggregate of Diaspora Jewry. While it took 13 years to add one million to world Jewry's postwar size, over 46 years were needed to add another million. The data also outline the slow Jewish population growth rate versus total population growth globally, and the declining Jewish share of world population. In 2005 the share of Jews per 1,000 world population was less than half what it was in 1945.

World Total12,642,30013,034,1003.1
Americas, total6,199,8006,049,500−2.4
North America5,686,0005,652,000−0.6
United States5,40,0005,280,000−2.2
Central America46,80051,90010.9
a Core Jewish population definition. See text.
b Including Monaco.
c In 1970: West Germany 28500; East Germany 1500.
d Including areas in Asia.
e Of which in 2005: Bosnia-Herzegovina 300; Croatia 1300; Macedonia 100; Serbia-Montenegro 1500; Slovenia 100.
f Including Hong Kong.
g Including other.
Costa Rica1,5002,50066.7
Dominican Republic350100−71.4
Netherlands Antilles700200−71.4
Puerto Rico1,2001,50025.0
Virgin Islands20030050.0
South America467,000345,600−26.0
Europe, total3,241,2001,519,600−53.1
European Union1,097,4501,015,200−7.5
United Kingdom390,000297,000−23.8
Other West Europe21,45019,800−7.7
Former USSR (Europe)1,906,000359,500−81.1
Other East Europe, Balkans216,30094,100−56.5
Czech Republic7,0004,000−42.9
Former Yugoslaviae7,0003,900−44.3
Asia, total2,944,2005,277,10079.2
Former USSR (Asia)261,90020,300−92.0
Other Asia100,30019,200−80.9
Africa, total207,10078,800−62.0
North Africa82,6004,800−94.2
Other Africa124,50074,000−40.6
South Africa118,00072,500−38.6
Oceania, totalg70,000109,10055.9
New Zealand5,0007,00040.0

In 2005, over 47 percent of the world's Jews resided in the Americas, with over 43 percent in North America. Over 40 percent lived in Asia, including the Asian republics of the F.S.U. (but not the Asian parts of the Russian Republic and Turkey) – most of them in Israel. Europe, including the Asian territories of the Russian Republic and Turkey, accounted for about 12 percent of the total. Fewer than 2 percent of the world's Jews lived in Africa and Oceania.

Comparing the 2005 and 1970 Jewish geographical distributions, North America remained nearly unchanged, with some losses in the United States – mostly due to identificational assimilation – compensated by growth in Canada – mostly due to immigration. Communities in Central America had an overall increase of about 11 percent – mostly in Mexico, Panama, and Costa Rica, whereas other smaller communities diminished quite significantly. In South America there was an overall decrease of 26 percent. All countries registered a smaller Jewish population in 2005, most notably Argentina with a decrease of 34 percent. The exceptions were Brazil and Venezuela both of which, however, were past their peak and were experiencing some recent population attrition.

In Europe, the main event was the return of continental majority to Western European Jewish communities, after several centuries of East European predominance. The main determinant of such epochal change was the dissolution of the U.S.S.R. and the massive Jewish emigration that started in December 1989. Among the 15 countries of the European Union (before the enlargement of 2004 to 25 countries), between 1970 and 2005 Jewish population increased by 7.5 percent. This reflected very unequal patterns of change. Germany after reunification in 1991 experienced the most dramatic pace of growth of any Jewish community worldwide, increasing by 283 percent (nearly four times the initial size). Other communities in the eu and other Western European countries with some Jewish population increase included Austria, Denmark, Spain, and Norway. All other western countries experienced Jewish population decreases, most notably the United Kingdom with a decrease of 24 percent, and France with a 7 percent loss.

The European former Soviet republics lost overall 81 percent of their initial Jewish population in 1970. Decreases were most dramatic in Moldova (−95 percent), Ukraine (−89 percent), Lithuania (−86 percent), and Belarus (−86 percent), and somewhat less dramatic in Latvia (−74 percent), Russia (−71 percent), and Estonia (−64 percent). The Asian former Soviet republics lost overall 92 percent of their initial Jewish population. The most resilient community was in Azerbaijan, which nonetheless lost 83 percent of its Jewish population.

In other East European and Balkan countries, the Jewish population decreased overall by 56 percent, ranging between Hungary (−29 percent) and Romania (−85 percent).

The total Jewish population in Asia grew by 80 percent between 1970 and 2005, but this was due to Israel's more than doubling its Jewish population, and the rest of the continent's Jews (including the former Soviet republics) shrinking by 89 percent. In Central and Eastern Asia, the main change was a decline by 85 percent in the size of the Jewish community in Iran. Small Jewish communities tended to become established and expand in rapidly growing economic powers such as China, Japan, and South Korea.

In Africa, the total Jewish population diminished by 62 percent – 94 percent in North Africa (including Ethiopia), and 41 percent in Southern Africa, respectively. Finally, in Oceania the Jewish population increased by 56 percent – 57 percent in Australia and 40 percent in New Zealand, respectively.

In the course of time, Jewish population has become overwhelmingly concentrated in a relatively small number of countries. In 2005 two countries dominate the geography of world Jewry: the United States with about 5,280,000 core Jewish population, and the State of Israel with 5,235,000 (each accounting for about 40 percent of the world total). The remaining two and a half million Jews (20 percent), were highly dispersed. Four countries alone include more than one half of total non-U.S. and non-Israeli Jews: France (with an estimated 496,000 Jews in 2005), followed by Canada (372,000), the United Kingdom (297,000), and the Russian Republic (235,000). Further important Jewish communities lived in Argentina (estimated at 185,000 in 2005), Germany (115,000 in 1996), Australia (102,000), Brazil (97,000), Ukraine (84,000), and South Africa (73,000). Jewish populations of at least 100 existed in 93 countries.

To further understand the logic of the changes in geographical distribution in the course of the last quarter of a century, the main aspects of the intensive and manifold relationship that exists between Jewish communities and contemporary society at large deserve closer scrutiny. The Jewish presence – as expressed in absolute numbers and as a percentage of the total population – appears to be strongly related to major social and economic indicators of the world regions, individual countries, provinces, cities, and neighborhoods where they live. Jews simply do not move and redistribute at random, but their mobility patterns reflect the inherent attraction or repulsion of the main instrumental forces that operate in society at large.

During the early 2000s, 92 percent of the Jews globally lived in the highest ranked quintile of countries including most western nations and the state of Israel, 6.5 percent lived in the second best quintile of countries, whereas only 1.5 percent lived in the bottom three-fifths. By the same token, in the 1990s, over 59 percent of Jews in the European Union lived in the best fifth of economic regions, against 1 percent in the bottom fifth; and in 2000, 64 percent of Jews in the United States lived in the top fifth of states, against 1 percent in the bottom fifth. The different concentration of the Jewish presence out of the total population, by level of development of the environment, is thus very consistent and statistically significant, passing from densest in the wealthier and more sophisticated areas to scantiest in the poorest and more backward areas.

Dispersion and Concentration

For many centuries the Jews have been a dispersed people. Yet their dispersion was never uniform; there always developed major centers of Jewish residence with large absolute numbers of Jews and comparatively greater proportions among all Jews and among the respective general population. In this connection, the degree of urbanization of the Jews deserves particular attention. Both dispersion of the Jews and their relative concentration have been much altered in recent generations.

Dispersion of the Jews increased through the changes in geographical distribution produced by emigration from Europe and by the drastic reduction of European Jewry due to the Shoah. The intercontinental distribution of the Jews has undergone periods of growing dispersion and growing concentration. Whereas in 1880 one continent, Europe, accounted for nearly 90 percent of all Jews, during the 1960s the numerically most important continent of Jewish residence, America, contained barely one half of all Jews, while Europe and Asia comprised each more than 20 percent.

In keeping with these changes, the geographical distances involved in the dispersion of the larger Jewish populations increased greatly. Only in the 20th century did the dispersion of the Jews become a virtually global one, with the notable exceptions of East Asia and large parts of Africa. Since the 1970s the tendency of Jews to be regrouped in few countries became again predominant, with 80 percent of world Jewry residing in the United States and in Israel.

Before World War i, the Czarist empire contained 5¼ million Jews (census of 1897), Austria–Hungary, 2¼ million (census of 1910), and the number of Jews in the United States had risen from about 50,000 in 1850 to about 3¼ million at the beginning of the war. The next largest Jewish population in size, Germany, numbered about 600,000 in 1910. After the boundary changes that resulted from World War i, the United States became the country with the largest Jewish population, estimated at 4¼ million in 1927 and at 4¼ million in 1937. The Jews of Poland numbered 3¼ million (estimate for 1939; the census figure of 1931 was 3.1 million) and those in the U.S.S.R., 3 million (1939 census). The next-ranking country was Romania, with about 800,000 Jews in 1939. Germany had about half a million Jews when Hitler came to power, but far fewer on the eve of World War ii. All other countries had considerably less than half a million Jews each.

The concentration of the Jews in a limited number of countries expresses itself clearly in the high proportion of the respective Jewish populations among world Jewry.

The concentration in the top group increased since the period before World War ii. The three countries that then had more than one million Jews each comprised together 67 percent of world Jewry in 1931, whereas the two countries in that category now comprise over 80%. Moreover, there was and is a tendency for the countries with large populations, in absolute numbers, to also have a comparatively large percentage of Jews in relation to the general population; however, there were and are some exceptions. Before World War ii, Poland was the European country with the largest number of Jews and had the highest share of Jews in the general population of all Diaspora countries (about 10 percent). Around 1970, of the ten countries with Jewish populations of 100,000 and over, nine had 0.5 percent or more Jews in their total population. The U.S. had both the largest number of Jews and the largest percentage of Jews among all inhabitants (nearly 3 percent), and the U.S.S.R., especially its European territories, came in next according to the relative frequency of Jews (1–2 percent of the total population).

The number of individual countries with sizable Jewish populations of 50,000 and over rose since the beginning of the modern Jewish migration movement in about 1880. In the last few decades, though, there has been a significant decrease in the number of those countries, as compared with the position prior to World War ii, because of the effects of the Shoah and of emigration from Europe and from the Arabic-speaking countries. While in the late 1960s there were 41 countries with at least 5,000 Jews, this had diminished to 36 in 2005, in spite of the significant increase in the number of independent states following the dismemberment of the U.S.S.R., Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia.

Jewish population concentration occurred not only at the global level, but also regionally within countries. This partly reflected the tendency of Jews to congregate in the major cities of the various countries (see Urbanization below). In the Czarist empire, the Jews were largely segregated in the Polish provinces and in the so-called *Pale of Settlement along the western borders of Russia. According to the 1939 census of the Soviet Union, the percentage of Jews among all inhabitants varied in the main regions as follows: total, 1.8; all European Russia, 2:1; Belarus, 6.7; Ukraine, 4.9; rest of European Russia, 0.9; Asian Russia, 0.7. According to the 1959 census of the Soviet Union, three-quarters of the Jews were enumerated in the two most populous republics, the Russian S.F.S.R. and the Ukraine. The highest proportions of Jews in the general population were found in some of the republics lining the western border of the Soviet territory, in the Caucasus region, and in the Uzbek Republic in central Asia (where Bukhara is situated).

In Poland between the two world wars, concentration of the Jews was much heavier in the former Russian and Austrian provinces than in the areas previously belonging to the German empire. In the U.S., there long was a heavy concentration of the Jews in the northeastern region and particularly in New York since the inception of mass immigration. Only in the last few decades has the share of the Pacific region risen somewhat. In both 1937 and 1967, the State of New York accounted for about 45% of the entire Jewish population of the U.S., and the 10 states with the largest number of Jews comprised close to 90% of all Jews of the U.S. but somewhat less than one half of the general population of the U.S. In keeping with the rise of the total number of Jews in the U.S., the respective 10 states all had more than 100,000 Jews in 1967, while only eight did in 1937. On the whole, the respective 10 states were also those with a higher relative frequency of Jews among the general population. In 1937 the overall percentage of the Jews in the U.S. was 3.7 percent of the general population; the 10 states with the largest Jewish populations had each more than 2 percent Jews in their general population (and there were only five more such states); six of the 10 top-ranking states had more than 4 percent Jews in their population. By 1967 the overall share of the Jews in the U.S. had declined to about 2.9 percent, because of the slower growth of the Jews compared with the total population. The 10 states with the largest number of Jews all had at least 1.5 percent Jews among their general population (and there were only four more such states), while in seven of the 10 states the proportion of the Jews amounted to more than 3 percent (see Table 7). By the early 2000s, U.S. Jewry constituted less than 2 percent of total population, and the percent Jewish tended to decline all across the board of U.S. states.

In 2005, reflecting global Jewish population stagnation along with growing concentration in a few countries, 97 percent of world Jewry lived in the largest 15 communities, and, excluding Israel from the count, 96 percent lives in the 14 largest communities of the Diaspora, of which 68 percent were in the United States (see Table 8). There were at least 100 Jews in 93 different countries. Two countries had Jewish populations above 5 million individuals each (the U.S. and Israel), another seven had more than 100,000 Jews, three had 50,000–100,000, five had 25,000–50,000, ten had 10,000–25,000, and nine had 9 had 5,000–10,000. Another 57 countries had less than 5,000 and overall accounted for 1 percent of world Jewry; 22 had 1,000–5,000 Jews, and 35 had less than 1,000.

In only seven communities outside of Israel did Jews constitute at least about 5 per 1,000 (0.5 percent) of their country's total population (see Table 9). In descending order by the relative weight (not size) of their Jewish population they were Gibraltar (24.0 Jews per 1,000 inhabitants), the United States (18.0), Canada (11.7), France (8.2), Uruguay (5.7), Australia (5.1), and the United Kingdom (5.0).

By combining the two criteria of Jewish population size and density, for 2005 we obtain the following taxonomy of the 26 Jewish communities with populations over 10,000 (excluding Israel). There were five countries with over 100,000 Jews and at least 5 Jews per 1,000 of total population: the U.S., France, Canada, the U.K., and Australia; another three countries with over 100,000 Jews and at least 1 per 1,000 of total population: Argentina, Russia, and Germany; one country with 10,000–100,000 Jews and at least 5 per 1,000 of total population:

Regions and StatesJewsPercent distributionPercent of Jews among general population
a Source: American Jewish Year Book. Data include unknown percentages of non-Jewish members of Jewish households, and some amount of duplication of multi residential households.
New England397,300426,0006.
thereof: Massachusetts257,700275,0004.
Middle Atlantic3,326,4002,424,00057.539.39.06.1
thereof: New York2,520,1001,657,00043.626.913.78.7
New Jersey363,000485,0006.
East North Central598,400574,00010.
thereof: Ohio160,600149,0002.
West North Central135,200132,0002.
South Atlantic460,4001,071,0008.
thereof: Maryland177,100213,0003.
East South Central41,40040,0000.
West South Central88,800154,0001.
thereof: Texas64,000131,0001.
thereof: California653,600999,00011.316.23.42.9

Uruguay; nine more countries with 10,000–100,000 Jews and at least 1 per 1,000 of total population: Ukraine, South Africa, Hungary, Belgium, the Netherlands, Chile, Belarus, Switzerland, and Sweden; and eight countries with 10,000–100,000 Jews and less than 1 per 1,000 of total population: Brazil, Mexico, Italy, Turkey, Venezuela, Spain, Iran, and Romania.


In the traditional countries of Jewish residence in Europe, there was even in the past a strong tendency for the Jews to live in towns. The residential location of the Jews in towns was often imposed by the authorities, but also had strong links with the economic activities of the Jews and with their religious-communal organization. Exceptions existed in some regions of Central Europe, where the Jews had been banned from the towns and settled on the rural estates of the nobility. In Eastern Europe, a considerable proportion of the Jews lived in villages and in townlets very similar to villages. But even there the share of the Jews in the urban and semiurban population was much larger than in the village population. In many of the Islamic countries as well, a high proportion of the Jews used to live in towns.

In the second half of the 19th century, when middle-sized and large towns developed in the economic centers and capital cities of Central and Eastern Europe, the Jews, who by then had obtained civic rights and freedom to settle where they pleased, participated with particular intensity in this urban evolution. Both the absolute and relative frequency of the Jews rose rapidly in the expanding larger towns (except for central Russia, where Jewish residence continued to be virtually barred). On the other hand, there was a drain away from many customary local Jewish communities in small towns and (where applicable) in villages. In the course of time, the out-migration from the smaller localities led to the extinction of an ever increasing number of Jewish communities there, some of them centuries old. In regions of Jewish in-migration – Western Europe, overseas, and, after the Russian Revolution, also central Russia – the Jews tended to settle directly in the main economic centers and capital cities.

In the 20th century, high proportions of the Jews in the world as a whole and in many individual countries are found in large towns and particularly in the very largest towns (with more than 1,000,000 inhabitants), where those exist. The respective proportions are, as a rule, much larger among the Jews than among the non-Jews of the same country. The relative frequency of the Jews is, therefore, greater in the large localities than in smaller ones. All the same, before World War ii the countries of Jewish residence could be divided roughly into three groups, according to the degree of urbanization of the Jews:

  1. All but a small percentage of the Jews were town-dwellers in countries of recent immigration in Western Europe, America, and the like.
  2. More than 10 percent of the Jews lived in the small localities of some countries of Central Europe.
  3. In Eastern Europe, the proportion of Jews resident in small localities was about 20 percent or above, e.g., 25 percent in Poland (1931), 31 percent in Romania (1930).

Under very different conditions, the Jews of Ereẓ Israel also fell into this category at that time. There were also some other countries in Asia and Africa where a considerable percentage of the Jews lived in small localities.

% of Total Jewish Population
JewishIn the WorldIn the Diaspora
1United States5,280,00040.540.567.767.7
5United Kingdom297,0002.389.63.882.6
12South Africa72,5000.696.40.994.1
Number ofJews per 1,000 Population
Jews in CountryTotal0.0–0.91.0–4.95.0–9.910.0–24.925.0+
a Grand total includes countries with fewer than 100 Jews, for a total of 1,100 Jews. Minor discrepancies due to rounding. Israel includes West Bank and Gaza.
Number of Countries
1,000,000 or more211
Jewish Population Distribution (Absolute Numbers)
1,000,000 or more10,517,6005,280,0005,237,600
Jewish Population Distribution (Percent Distribution)
1,000,000 or more80.

By 1925 Lestschinsky found that 23 percent of all Jews in the world lived in centers of over 1,000,000 inhabitants and 45 percent lived in centers of more than 100,000 inhabitants. Fifty-five percent of all Jews could be estimated to reside in about 166 localities, each comprising at least 10,000 Jews and 29 percent of all Jews in 15 localities having each more than 100,000 Jews. Of the 166 localities listed by Lestschinsky as containing at least 10,000 Jews each in 1925, 22 had a majority of Jewish inhabitants. These places were in Eastern Europe, with the exception of only two in Ereẓ Israel.

In the 1930s, 20 centers were estimated to have over 100,000 Jews. First and foremost among them ranked the uniquely large Jewish agglomeration of Greater New York, which was already estimated at about 2,000,000 persons – an eighth of world Jewry, exceeding the Jewish population of all but two individual countries outside the U.S. (namely Poland and the U.S.S.R.). It was estimated that the Jews formed nearly 30 percent of the total population of Greater New York. At a great interval, the next ranking group of cities had 3–400,000 Jews each: Chicago, Philadelphia, and Warsaw. Altogether, the 20 cities with more than 100,000 Jews each were geographically distributed as follows: Eastern Europe, 7 (5 in U.S.S.R., 2 in Poland); Central Europe, 3; Western Europe, 2; U.S., 6; South America, 1; Palestine, 1. The devastations of the Shoah, in terms of loss of life and uprooting of Jews; the geographical regrouping of the survivors returning to the original countries of residence; the large-scale emigration from Eastern Europe, as well as from Islamic countries – all affected the situation of the Jews with regard to urbanization. Under the new conditions, the previously existing tendency for Jews to congregate in the major towns was further accentuated. The scattered small Jewish communities and splinter groups in townlets and villages of Eastern Europe and of the Arabic-speaking countries virtually disappeared because the Jews flocked to the larger towns of those countries – for economic, cultural, and security reasons – or emigrated altogether. The great majority of the Jews who migrated to countries other than Israel settled directly in major cities, and even Israel provides only a partial exception to this rule.

An official population survey taken in the U.S. in 1957 showed that 96 percent of the (adult) Jews lived in urban localities and no fewer than 87 percent in urbanized areas of more than 250,000 inhabitants, while the corresponding proportions in the general population were only 64 and 37 percent respectively. In the U.S.S.R., according to the 1959 census, 95 percent of the Jews, but only 48 percent of the general population, lived in urban localities. Even in Israel, where 273,000 Jews lived in 705 rural localities in 1967, they constituted only 11 percent of the entire Jewish population, while 89 percent lived in urban localities of more than 2,000 inhabitants and 54 percent in towns of 50,000 and over. Also in virtually all other countries of Jewish residence, there is now a very high degree of urbanization of the Jews.

In 1967, there were 21 cities which (together with their outskirts) contained each more than 100,000 Jews. Greater New York continued to lead this array with an estimated number much above 2 million Jews. Next in size, at a long distance, comes Los Angeles, with 500,000 Jews. Of other towns, only four more had 300,000 Jews or over: Philadelphia, Buenos Aires, Paris, and Tel Aviv. The 21 major towns of Jewish residence were divided as follows according to geographical region: U.S.S.R., 4; Western Europe, 2; North America, 10 (thereof 9 in the U.S.); South America, 1; Israel, 4. In comparison with the distribution prior to World War ii, the disappearance of the large Jewish populations in cities of Poland and Central Europe was conspicuous, as was the increased prominence of Israel.

In recent decades, many of the above-mentioned towns extended far beyond their municipal boundaries through the formation of conurbations that combined the main city as well as adjacent towns or suburbs into one continuous metropolitan area. These developments affected the Jewish population no less than the general one. One notable indicator of the sensitivity to global market forces of Jewish population distribution was the overwhelming concentration in major urban areas resulting from intensive international and internal migrations. The extraordinary urbanization of the Jews is evinced by the fact that in 2005, 52 percent of world Jewry lived in only five metropolitan areas – Tel Aviv, New York, Los Angeles, Jerusalem, and Haifa – and another 25 percent lived in the next 15 largest metropolitan areas (see Table 10). The Jewish population in the Tel Aviv urban conurbation extending from Netanyah to Ashdod (2,707,000)

RankMetro AreaaCountryJewishShare of World–s Jews
Population%Cumulative %
a Most metropolitan areas include extended inhabited territory and several municipal authorities around central city. Definitions vary by country. Some of the estimates may include non-core Jews.
b As newly defined in the 1995 Israeli Census.
c Includes Ramat Gan, Bene Beraq, Petach Tikvah, Bat Yam, Holon, Rishon Lezion, Netanya, and Ashdod, each with a Jewish population above 100,000.
d Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area (CMSA).
e Revised estimate. Includes the whole Jerusalem District and parts of Judea and Samaria District.
f Miami-Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach-Boca Raton CMSA.
g Departments 75,77,78,91,92,93,94, 95.
h Greater London and contiguous postcode areas.
i Census Metropolitan Area.
j Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA).
k Capital Federal and Gran Buenos Aires Partidos (AMBA).
l Territory administered by city council.
1Tel Avivb, cIsrael2,707,00020.820.8
2New YorkdU.S.2,051,00015.736.5
3Los AngelesdU.S.668,0005.141.6
6Southeast Floridad, fU.S.498,0003.855.5
7Be–er ShevabIsrael347,0002.758.2
12San FranciscodU.S.218,0001.768.2
13LondonhUnited Kingdom195,0001.569.7
16Buenos AireskArgentina165,0001.373.6

exceeded by far that in the New York Standard Metropolitan Area (2,051,000) extending from New York State to parts of Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Of the 22 largest metropolitan areas of Jewish residence, 12 were located in the U.S. (in descending order New York, Los Angeles, Southeast Florida, Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Washington, Baltimore, Detroit, Cleveland, and Atlanta), four in Israel (the three mentioned plus Beersheba), two in Canada (Toronto and Montreal), and one each in France (Paris), the U.K. (London), Argentina (Buenos Aires), and Russia (Moscow). In these central places of world economic and cultural significance, large numbers of Jews enjoy favorable and perhaps unprecedented standards of living and can bring to fruition high levels of professional specialization.

While these trends augur well for the Jews, and set the stage and expected rules of possible geographical changes in the future, they also portend a substantial amount of dependency of the Jewish minority upon the favorable conditions created by the majority. The new situation is radically different from the one that prevailed during most of modern Jewish history when Jews were tolerated or discriminated against, and often nurtured hopes for societal changes that would benefit their political and social status. Under the more stable and attractive contemporary conditions, Jewish interests tend to increasingly coincide with the established societal order. At the end of a long transformation which brought with it political emancipation and economic achievement, the Jews find themselves in a more conservative mood facing society at large. Under these conditions Jews also face the challenge of more intensive competition with and easy access to alternative, non-Jewish cultures and social networks. At least in the Diaspora, Jewish cultural continuity appears to be a more difficult target precisely where Jews are physically more secure and where socioeconomic achievement is more easily attainable.

To conclude the topic of the residential concentration of the Jews, it must be said that there have been numerous instances of the Jews living more densely in certain areas of a city or conurbation than in others. The ghettos and mellahs of the past were cases in point. In recent generations, the tendency for urban neighborhoods with greater-than-average density of the Jews has responded to religious, organizational, and social requirements of Jewish life in the Diaspora. It has also facilitated the economic absorption of Jewish in-migrants. Whereas in the earlier part of this century there were well-known cases of quarters with many poor Jews in the large towns, the picture has more recently shifted to residential areas, often suburban, preferred by middle-class or well-to-do Jews.

population characteristics

Age Composition

The age structure of a population depends on several factors. The first is the vital statistics pattern. High or low levels of fertility or mortality, and any changes in these levels, are reflected in the age distribution of populations. A reduction in births leads to a diminished proportion of children in the population. At first, this increases the relative weight of the adults at age groups typical for work and demographic reproduction. But if the birth rate is low over an extended period, a more advanced stage in the process of aging may be reached, when the relative share of elderly and old persons in the population rises considerably. The impact of a sudden rise in mortality, through calamities, is usually differential according to age and, therefore, affects the age structure of the survivors. The Shoah for example carried away relatively more children and old persons than young adults among the afflicted Jews.

In turn, young adults tend to participate in migrations relatively more than children or older people. Therefore it is usual to find that the proportion of young adults goes down in populations with a negative migration balance (i.e., an excess of emigrants over immigrants) and rises in populations with a positive migration balance. Conditions may be different in the rare cases where almost an entire population is transferred from one country to another, as happened with some Diaspora Jewries that were transplanted in Israel in the first years after the establishment of the Jewish state.

Withdrawals from a Jewish population, whether through conversion to another religion or otherwise, can also affect the age structure if the relative frequency of these withdrawals varies at different ages. Accessions to the Jewish group may exercise similar influences in the reverse. As time passes after changes in the age structure were produced by any of the above factors, the effects make themselves felt in ever higher age groups. Twenty-five years after the Shoah, the particularly heavy deficiency of children originally caused by the persecutions was felt in the age groups 25–40 of the survivors.

Since many Jewish populations have been influenced by stringent birth control, the Shoah, massive immigrations or emigrations, withdrawals, etc., their age structure tends to show distortions due to these various factors and to the time intervals at which they exercised their influence.

All Jewish communities throughout history and geography can be described within a common demographic framework by observing their evolving age composition. Notably, changes affecting different communities over time were not synchronic.

In the middle of the 19th century, large proportions of children (aged 0–14) were still found among the Jews all over Europe, where data are available. With the reduction in fertility, a diminution in the proportion of children set in followed after a while by a marked rise in the percentage of elderly persons. As the decline in fertility affected the Jews in various parts of Europe at different times, so did the consequent changes in the age structure. Both developments began and proceeded at earlier dates among the more assimilated Jews of Western and Central Europe than among the great bulk of traditional Jews in the eastern part of the continent. The movement went from west to east, but before the outbreak of World War ii its effects were clearly also visible among the Jews of Eastern Europe. Insofar as sufficient statistical documentation is available, the gradual aging of the Jewish population in one country or town can be observed over successive decades. Since the Jews usually preceded the non-Jews, among whom they lived, in the reduction of fertility, they also preceded them with regard to the consequent changes in age structure. Among the Jews of one country, there were frequently differences in the speed of these transitions according to their varying degree of traditionalism or assimilation. This can be seen, in the data of Table 11, through comparison of the Jews in the various provinces of Czechoslovakia in 1930 and of Jews in Polish localities of different sizes in 1931: the Jews

CountryaYearTotal0–1415–2930–4445–6465+Median ageb
a Countries sorted by the descending percentage of population at age 0–14. The largest age group in each population is underlined.
b The median divides the population into two equal parts: one half having higher and one half having lower ages than the median age.
Traditional type
Russian Empire189710041281612319.8
Transitional type
Ageing type
United Kingdom1986100171919212441.1
Russian Republic195910014192336941.2
Terminal type
Russian Republic1970100101623312045.5
Russian Republic197910081521312549.2
Russian Republic200210051114333757.5
Israeli type

of Carpatho-Ruthenia in Czechoslovakia and the Jews of the smaller localities in Poland, who adhered to a more traditional mode of life in their respective country, had preserved higher percentages of children.

In the 1930s, the great decline in births occurred in the industrialized countries and made itself particularly felt among the Jews (see *Vital Statistics). As a result, the proportion of 0–14 year-olds in the Jewish populations of Central Europe and, where statistical data are available, of Western Europe dropped below 20 percent, while the proportion of the 60 year-olds and over rose considerably above 10 percent. In Eastern Europe aging was less pronounced, though it had slightly risen there too. In the whole of Poland, the relative share of children under 15 among the Jews declined from 34 percent in 1921 to somewhat less than 30 percent in 1931. At the latter date, it was 26 percent among the Jews of Warsaw. In some Diaspora countries that had absorbed considerable Jewish immigration, the proportion of children aged 0–14 among the Jews tended to be about 20 percent in the 1930s or 1940s – though with considerable variations due to the character of each such Jewish population and the year of the respective data. On the other hand, there were still relatively few old persons and consequently a high percentage of adults in the age range 15–59. This can be seen from Jewish community surveys taken at that time in various towns of the U.S. as well as from statistics of the Jews in Canada, South Africa, Australia, etc. Among the Jews of Palestine, the proportion of children remained relatively high, because the presence of many young adult immigrants had raised the birth figures. But owing to decreasing fertility, there also the percentage of the 0–14 year-old children declined.

The ravages of the Shoah were particularly heavy among the children and the elderly. Therefore, immediately after the war, unusually high proportions of young and middle-aged adults were found among the survivors. The deficiency of birth cohorts from about 1930 to 1945 continues to make itself strongly felt among the Jews of Europe. Because many survivors emigrated from Europe, the peculiarities of their age composition have influenced the absorbing Jewish populations, whether in Israel or elsewhere. Besides, smaller populations tend, in general, to have less regular age distributions. The drastic reduction in size of the Jewish groups extant in European countries and, particularly, in individual localities makes in itself for increased age distortions.

Outside Europe, the Jews of European origin did not suffer physical losses from the Shoah. Still, the 1930s and early 1940s were the time of the great slump in Jewish births in America and elsewhere (see *Vital Statistics). The deficiency of the birth cohorts of that time is reflected in the age distributions of the respective Jewish populations to this day. After World War ii, the "baby boom" occurred among the Jews in Europe, America, Oceania, and Israel. This rise in births was similar to analogous developments in the industrialized societies of the world, but it was rather short-lived among the Jews. The bulge in the age distribution produced by the increased cohorts born in the second half of the 1940s or around 1950 still clearly appeared in many Jewish populations fifty year later. So were the effects of the subsequent renewed decline in Jewish births which led to a reduction of the child population. For example, in many Jewish populations studied in the 1960s, the 0–4 year-olds were less numerous than the 5–9 and 10–14 year-olds, respectively.

The overall age profile of Jews in Western Europe included fewer young children than adults and, more significantly, than elders in their mid-60s or early 70s. While there are some internal differences within the continent, it is quite an aging Jewish population. The age profile of Jews in the United States and Canada in the 1990s was somewhat younger. The proportion of children and young adults was larger, reflecting the rather large cohorts born during the baby boom of the 1950s and 1960s, and the echo effect of the generations born to the baby-boomers during the 1980s and 1990s. But ageing is well visible in the most recent North American data.

The age profile of East European Jewry, largely influenced by the FSU Jewish population, is striking. It points to the consequences for a population of prolonged very low levels of fertility, very high rates of assimilation, and selective emigration of a comparatively higher proportion of younger families, leaving behind a large share of the elderly and the very elderly. East European Jewry has lost most of its demographic basis for the future.

Because of their high fertility, the Jews in Asia and Africa used to have a younger age composition, with a high proportion (40 percent and over) of children aged 0–14 and a rather regular decrease of frequency in successively higher age groups, culminating in a small proportion (less than 5 percent) in ages 65 and over. These features can be seen in the age distributions of the Jews of Morocco and of the immigrants to Israel from Asia and Africa. Most of the Jews from Asia and Africa have left their traditional countries of residence and have settled elsewhere, especially in Israel and France. The lowering of fertility in the new surroundings (see *Vital Statistics) cannot but have its gradual effects on their age structure.

Finally, the age profile of the Jewish population in Israel provides the only example of a demographically balanced Jewish population with a larger basis of children sustaining gradually smaller shares of young adults, mature adults, and elders. This mainly reflects Israel's sustained birth rate, and to a minor extent the continuous influx of a high proportion of young adults among new immigrants.


In populations sufficiently large for standard biological trends to express themselves, there is a small surplus of males over females among the newborn, but the age-specific mortality rates are usually lower for females and, therefore, a surplus of females is to be expected in the adult population (unless external factors, such as migrations, exert a contrary influence). Where statistical data have been available, these general tendencies have been found to operate among the Jews also. Another widespread tendency is the larger participation of men than women in migrations. In this case, the proportion of males is, by the fact of migration, lowered in the population of origin and raised in the population of destination. Modern Jewish migrations have been less motivated by economic considerations and more by the search for refuge than those of most other nations, and this has reduced the sex differential; but in many cases a larger participation of men has also been found in migrations of Jews.

Jewish populations in the Diaspora are usually small, and this fact operates by itself to create irregularities in the sex age composition. Besides, they have often been strongly influenced by migrations, withdrawals, and the aftereffects of the Shoah. Hence, distortions in the sex-age composition are frequent. For the Jewish population of entire countries, the ratio of males per 1,000 females (irrespective of age) has ranged in recent years from 833 in the U.S.S.R. (1959), where war losses of men were very heavy among the Jews (as among the general population), to more than 1,100 in some other Diaspora countries, e.g., Germany and Austria.

The sex-ratio is particularly significant in the principal ages of marriage, because under modern conditions, when the religious factor has been weakened, this ratio has an influence on the proportions of endogamic Jewish marriages and *intermarriages of Jews, respectively. It must be borne in mind, though, that on the average there is an age difference of several years between grooms and brides. When the ratio of Jewish men aged, say, 25–39 to 1,000 Jewish women aged 20–34 is calculated, marked disparities are found in some countries.

Origin Groups (Edot)

It has been customary to divide the Jewish world population into several groups, called edot ("communities") and distinguished according to a combination of historical, geographic, and linguistic criteria. These groups have somewhat differing liturgical usages. In countries where Jews of several origin groups resided, they sometimes established separate organizational frameworks for the maintenance of synagogues and other religious and communal services. This led to the term edah, or its equivalents in other languages, being sometimes used not from the demographic, but from the organizational viewpoint. There has never been a generally accepted classification of all Jewish origin groups. Yet it is usual to distinguish three main groups:

1. *Ashkenazim, who constitute the overwhelming majority of the Jews in Europe (except for Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, and parts of the former Yugoslavia), North and South America, South Africa, and Oceania. In the past, a large proportion of the Ashkenazim were Yiddish-speaking.

2. *Sephardim (in a narrow sense of the term of descendants of Jews from Spain), who were concentrated in Greece, Bulgaria, southern Yugoslavia, and western Turkey and formed a considerable proportion of the Jewish populations in Lebanon and Syria, Egypt and Northwest Africa. Sephardi communities were organized in several Latin American countries. Many of the Sephardim used to speak Ladino.

3. Oriental communities. The further breakdown of this group has varied among different scholars, but the principal divisions are the following:

a) Jews of Arabic-speaking countries, especially Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco. Migrants from these communities created new community centers in France, Latin America (especially Mexico and Venezuela), the United States, and other western countries.

b) Jews of Persia, Afghanistan, and Bukhara, speaking Persian or related languages. Emigrants from Iran created communities in the United States and other western countries.

c) Kurdish Jews, part of whom use an Aramaic dialect.

d) Jews of the Caucasus region. With the massive emigration of Jews from the former U.S.S.R., Jews from the Caucasus resettled in the United States, Germany, and other countries.

e) Indian Jews. These include the Bnei Israel, the Baghdadi community, and the Jews from Kochin.

f) Italian Jews include the descendants of an ancient core of early settlers who reached the south European shores before and during the period of the Roman Empire, long before the notions of Askhenaz and Sepharad had even developed.

g) Ethiopian Jews, including the Beta Israel and the Falashmura community of Jewish ancestry.

More refined divisions are uncertain, because of the smallness and instability of some of the groups distinguished.

These origin groups cannot be thought of as completely separated from one another. Migrations and/or marriages between Jews of different origin often led to transfers of individuals, even between the major divisions. Besides, the linguistic criterion for group affiliation lost much of its importance in recent generations, because of the increased importance of the official languages of the various countries for the respective Jewish populations.

Special difficulties exist with regard to the distinction of Sephardim and Oriental communities. Not all Sephardim were Ladino-speaking even some generations ago. The Sephardim established in Northwest Africa had long since gone over to the use of Arabic. Moreover, there has been a tendency to broaden the concept of Sephardim so as to make it include all Jews who are not Ashkenazim. This has been so both because of the prestige which the name Sephardim commands and because, organizationally, Sephardi institutions have often also comprised the Oriental elements in Jewish populations of mixed origin. About 1930, Ruppin estimated that there were roughly 1,300,000 Sephardim and Oriental Jews, constituting 8% of world Jewry. In the past, the proportion of this group was greater, but went down in the 19th and early 20th centuries because of the higher natural increase of the Ashkenazim, i.e., the European Jews, at that time. Of the 1,300,000 Sephardim and Oriental Jews in 1930, two thirds lived in Asia and Africa, but only 3% in Ereẓ Israel. Since then, the absolute and relative number of Sephardim and Oriental communities within Jewry has been altered. Around 2000, they were estimated at 3,400,000 or about 26 percent of all Jews. The increase in their proportion is due to the reduced number of Ashkenazim after the Shoah and to their own high natural increase during the last few decades, which recently greatly exceeded that of the Ashkenazim.

The geographical distribution of most origin groups changed completely. Two thirds of the Ashkenazim in 1930, but only about 30 percent in 1967 and 14 percent in 2000, lived in Europe. On the other hand, the share of America among the Ashkenazim rose over the same time interval from a third in 1930 to about 60 percent in 1967 and the same in 2000, and that of Ereẓ Israel from less than 1 percent in 1930 to about 10 percent in 1967 and 26 percent in 2000. Of the Ladino-speaking Sephardim, a small number remained in only one of their traditional countries of residence, Turkey. Most of the other Ladino-speaking Sephardim either perished in the Shoah (Greece, Yugoslavia) or moved to Israel (particularly those of Bulgaria). Of the Jews of the Arabic-speaking countries, nearly all those who lived in Asia and a great part of those from North Africa found new homes in Israel. Israel has also attracted many Jews from Turkey, Iran, India, etc. Around 2000, about two-thirds of all Sephardim and Oriental Jews were in-gathered in Israel, another large section moved to France, the rest were scattered over many countries in all continents. Some of the Oriental groups transferred almost in their entirety to Israel, e.g., Yemenites, "Babylonians" (i.e., from central and southern Iraq), the Kurdish Jews, several groups from Syria, the Libyan Jews.

While the division into the traditional origin groups reflected the geographical-cultural plurality of world Jewry before the upheavals and mass migrations of recent decades, its present value for indicating demographic differences other than mere origin is rapidly disappearing. The Sephardim of the Balkan countries showed in the recent past the same demographic patterns characteristic of European populations. Most Oriental Jews after moving to Israel and France, respectively, were exposed to the rapidly modifying influences of the respective surroundings. Israel in particular provided the meeting ground of Jews of all origin groups. The life in common there and many intergroup marriages rapidly reduced and eventually annulled any previously existing demographic differences between the various origin groups. Factors other than mere origin, such as education, occupation, and place of residence, became increasingly important for differentiation in demographic behavior in a context of general convergence. The growing impact of out-marriage and assimilation further reduced the impact of edot on contemporary Jewish demography. Nonetheless, the relevance of separate traditions and community organizations continued to play a significant role in the patterns of Jewish identification among contemporary Jewry.


U.O. Schmelz, in: ajyb, 70 (1969), 273–88; U.O. Schmelz and P. Glikson, Jewish Population Studies, 1961–1968 (1970); ajyb (1899– ); A. Ruppin, in: L. Finkelstein (ed.), Jewish People Past and Present, 1 (1946), 348–60; idem, Soziologie der Juden, 1 (1930); H.S. Halevi, Hashpa'at Milḥemet ha-Olam ha-Sheniyyah al ha-Tekhunot ha-Demografiyyot shel Am Yisrael (1963), Eng. introd. and summ.; J. Lestschinsky, in: Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv, 30 (1929), 123–365. add. bibliography: R. Bachi, The Population of Israel (1976); S. DellaPergola, in: Holocaust and Genocide Studies, 10:1 (1996), 34–51; idem, World Jewry Beyond 2000: The Demographic Prospects (1999); idem, in: Pe'amim, 93 (2002), 149–56; idem, in: ajyb, 105 (2005); S. DellaPergola, U. Rebhun, and M. Tolts, in: Israel Studies, 10:1 (2005), 61–95; M. Tolts, in: Jews in Russia and Eastern Europe, 1 (52), 37–63.

[Usiel Oscar Schmelz /

Sergio DellaPergola (2nd ed.)]


views updated Jun 11 2018


Demography is the study of human populations. It is an important part of sociology and the other social sciences because all persisting social aggregates—societies, states, communities, racial or ethnic groups, professions, formal organizations, kinship groups, and so on—are also populations. The size of the population, its growth or decline, the location and spatial movement of its people, and their changing characteristics are important features of an aggregate whether one sees it as a culture, an economy, a polity, or a society. As a result some anthropologists, economists, historians, political scientists, and sociologists are also demographers, and most demographers are members of one of the traditional social science disciplines.

A central question for each of the social sciences is: How does the community, society, or whatever, seen as a culture, an economy, a polity, or whatever, produce and renew itself over the years? Formal demography answers this question for aggregates seen as populations. This formal part of demography is fairly independent of the traditional social sciences and has a lengthy history in mathematics and statistics (Smith and Keyfitz 1977; Stone 1997; Desrosières 1998). It depends on a definition of age and on the relationship of age to fertility and mortality. Those relationships certainly are socially conditioned, but their major outlines are constrained by biology.

Beyond pursuing formal demography, the task of most social scientist-demographers is detailing the relationships between demographic change and other aspects of social change. Working with concepts, methods, and questions arising from the traditions of each of the social science disciplines as well as those of demography per se, scholars have investigated the relationship between demographic changes and such social changes as those in the nature of families (Davis 1985; Sweet and Bumpass 1987; Bumpass 1990; Waite 1995), levels of economic growth (Johnson and Lee 1987; Nerlove and Raut 1997), the development of colonialism (McNeill 1990), changes in kinship structures (Dyke and Morrill 1980), nationalism and interethnic strife (Tietelbaum and Winter 1998), and the development of the nation-state (Watkins 1991).


At the heart of demography is a body of strong and useful mathematical theory about how populations renew themselves (Keyfitz 1968, 1985; Coale 1972; Bourgeois-Pichat 1994). The theory envisions a succession of female birth cohorts living out their lives subject to a schedule of age-specific mortality chances and age-specific chances of having a female baby. In the simplest form of the model the age-specific rates are presumed constant from year to year.

Each new annual birth cohort is created because the age-specific fertility rates affect women in earlier birth cohorts who have come to a specific age in the year in question. Thus, the mothers of a new cohort of babies are spread among previous cohorts. The size of the new cohort is a weighted average of the age-specific fertility rates. The sizes of preceding cohorts, survived to the year in question, are the weights.

As a cohort of women age through their fertile period, they die and have children in successive years according to the age-specific rates appropriate to those years. Thus, the children of a single birth cohort of women are spread over a sequence of succeeding birth cohorts.

The number of girls ever born to a birth cohort, taken as a ratio to the initial size of the cohort, is implicit in the age-specific fertility and mortality rates. This ratio, called the net reproduction rate, describes the growth rate over a generation that is implicit in the age-specific rates. The length of this generation is also implicit in the agespecific rates as the average age of mothers at the birth of the second-generation daughters. With a rate of increase over a generation and a length of the generation, it is clear that an annual rate of increase is intrinsic to the age-specific rates.

The distribution of the children of a birth cohort over a series of succeeding cohorts has an important effect. If an unusually small or large birth cohort is created, the effects of its largeness or smallness will be distributed among a number of succeeding cohorts. In each of those succeeding cohorts, the effect of the unusual cohort is averaged with that of other birth cohorts to create the new cohort's size. Those new cohorts' "inherited" smallness or largeness, now diminished by averaging, will also be spread over succeeding cohorts. In a few generations the smallness or largeness will have averaged out and no reflection of the initial disturbance will be apparent.

Thus, without regard to peculiarities in the initial age distribution, the eventual age distribution of a population experiencing fixed age-specific fertility and mortality will become proportionately constant. As this happens, the population will take on a fixed aggregate birth and death rate and, consequently, a fixed rate of increase. The population so created is called a stable population and its rates, called intrinsic rates, are those implicit in the net reproduction rate and the length of a generation. Such rates, as well as the net reproduction rates, are frequently calculated for the age-specific fertility and mortality rates occurring for a single year as a kind of descriptive, "what if" summary.

This theory is elaborated in a number of ways. In one variant, age-specific rates are not constant but change in a fixed way (Lopez 1961). In another elaboration the population is divided into a number of states with fixed age-specific migration or mobility among the states (Land and Rogers 1982; Schoen 1988). States may be geographic regions, marital circumstances, educational levels, or whatever.

In part, the value of this theory is in the light it sheds on how populations work. For example, it explains how a population can outlive all of its contemporary members and yet retain its median age, percent in each race, and its regional distribution.

The fruit of the theory lies in its utility for estimation and forecasting. Using aspects of the theory, demographers are able to elaborate rather modest bits and pieces of information about a population to a fairly full description of its trajectory (Coale and Demeny 1983). Combined with this mathematical theory is a body of practical forecasting techniques, statistical estimation procedures, and data-collection wisdom that makes up a core area in demography that is sometimes called formal demography (United Nations 1983; Shryock and Siegel 1976; Pollard, Yusuf, and Pollard 1990; Namboodiri 1991; Hinde 1998).


Generating the various rates and probabilities used in formal demography requires two different kinds of data. On the one hand are data that count the number of events occurring in the population in a given period of time. How many births, deaths, marriages, divorces, and so on have occurred in the past year? These kinds of data are usually collected through a vital registration system (National Research Council 1981; United Nations 1985, 1991). On the other hand are data that count the number of persons in a given circumstance at a given time. How many never-married women age twenty to twenty-four were there on July 1? These kinds of data are usually collected through a population census or large-scale demographic survey (United Nations 1992; Anderson 1988; Anderson and Fienberg 1999). From a vital registration system one gets, for example, the number of births to black women age twenty. From a census one collects the number of black women at age twenty. The division of the number of events by the population exposed to the risk of having the event occur to them yields the demographic rate, that is, the fertility rate for black women age twenty. These two data collection systems—vital statistics and census—are remarkably different in their character. To be effective, a vital statistics system must be ever alert to see that an event is recorded promptly and accurately. A census is more of an emergency. Most countries conduct a census every ten years, trying to enumerate all of the population in a brief time.

If a vital registration system had existed for a long time, were very accurate, and there were no uncounted migrations, one could use past births and deaths to tally up the current population by age. To the degree that such a tallying up does not match a census, one or more of the data collections systems is faulty.


One of the standard definitions of demography is that given by Hauser and Duncan: "Demography is the study of the size, territorial distribution and composition of populations, changes therein, and the components of such change, which may be identified as natality, mortality, territorial movement (migration) and social mobility (change of status)" (1959, p. 2). Each of these parts—size, territorial distribution, and composition—is a major arena in which the relationships between demographic change and social change are investigated by social scientist-demographers. Each part has a somewhat separate literature, tradition, method, and body of substantive theory.

Population Size. The issue of population size and change in size is dominated by the shadow of Malthus (Malthus 1959), who held that while food production can grow only arithmetically because of diminishing returns to investment in land and other resources, population can grow geometrically and will do so, given the chance. Writing in a time of limited information about birth control and considerable disapproval of its use, and holding little hope that many people would abstain from sexual relations, Malthus believed that populations would naturally grow to the point at which starvation and other deprivations would curtail future expansion. At that point, the average level of living would be barely above the starvation level. Transitory improvements in the supply of food would only lead to increased births and subsequent deaths as the population returned to its equilibrium size. Any permanent improvement in food supplies due to technological advances would, in Malthus's theory, simply lead to a larger population surviving at the previous level of misery.

Although there is good evidence that Malthus understood his contemporary world quite well (Lee 1980; Wrigley 1983), he missed the beginnings of the birth control movement, which were contemporaneous (McLaren 1978). The ability to limit births, albeit at some cost, without limiting sexual activity requires important modifications to the Malthusian model.

Questions of the relationship among population growth, economic growth, and resources persist into the contemporary period. The bulk of the literature is in economics. A good summary of that literature can be found in T. P. Schultz (1981), in Rosensweig and Stark (1997), and in a National Research Council report on population policy (1985). A more polemical treatment, but one that may be more accessible to the noneconomist, is offered by the World Bank (1985).

Sharing the study of population size and its change with Malthusian issues is a body of substantive and empirical work on the demographic revolution or transition (Notestein 1945). The model for this transition is the course of fertility and mortality in Europe during the Industrial Revolution. The transition is thought to occur concurrently with "modernization" in many countries (Coale and Watkins 1986) and to be still in process in many less developed parts of the world (United Nations 1990). This transition is a change from (1) a condition of high and stable birthrates combined with high and fluctuating death rates, through (2) a period of initially lowering death rates and subsequently lowering birthrates, to (3) a period of low and fairly constant death rates combined with low and fluctuating birthrates. In the course of part (2) of this transition, the population grows very considerably because the rate of increase, absent migration, is the difference between the birthrate and the death rate.

In large measure because of anxiety that fertility might not fall rapidly enough in developing countries, a good deal of research has focused on the fertility part of the transition. One branch of this research has been a detailed historical investigation of what actually happened in Europe, since that is the base for the analogy about what is thought likely to happen elsewhere (Coale and Watkins 1986). A second branch was the World Fertility Survey, perhaps the largest international social science research project ever undertaken. This project conducted carefully designed, comparable surveys with 341,300 women in seventy-one countries to investigate the circumstances of contemporary fertility decline (Cleland and Hobcraft 1985). In 1983, a continuation of this project was undertaken under the name Demographic and Health Surveys. To date, this project has provided technical assistance for more than 100 surveys in Africa, Asia, the Near East, Latin America, and the Caribbean. For more complete information about current activities see their web site at

Scholars analyzing these projects come to a fairly similar assessment of the roots of historical and contemporary fertility decline as centering in an increased secular rationality and growing norms of individual responsibility.

Detailed investigation of the mortality side of the European demographic transition has primarily been conducted by historians. A particularly useful collection of papers is available in Schofield, Reher, and Bideau (1991). For the United States, a particularly useful book on child and infant mortality at the turn of the twentieth century is by Haines and Preston (1991).

The utility of the idea of a demographic transition to understand population change in the developing world has, of course, been a matter of considerable debate. A good summary of this literature is found in Jones et al. (1997).

Territorial Distribution. Research on the territorial distribution of populations is conducted in sociology, geography, and economics. The history of population distribution appears to be one of population dispersion at the macroscopic level of continents, nations, or regions, and one of population concentration at the more microscopic level of larger towns and cities.

The diffusion of the human population over the globe, begun perhaps as the ice shields retreated in the late Pleistocene, continues to the present (Barraclough 1978; Bairoch 1988). More newly inhabited continents fill up and less habitable land becomes occupied as technological and social change makes it possible to live in previously remote areas. Transportation lines, whether caravan, rail, or superhighway, extend across remote areas to connect distant population centers. Stops along the way become villages and towns specializing in servicing the travelers and the goods in transit. These places are no longer "remote." Exploitation of resources proximate to these places may now become viable because of the access to transportation as well as services newly available in the stopover towns.

As the increasing efficiency of agriculture has released larger and larger fractions of the population from the need to till the soil, it has become possible to sustain increasing numbers of urban people. There is a kind of urban transition more or less concomitant with the demographic transition during which a population's distribution by city size shifts to larger and larger sizes (Kelley and Williamson 1984; Wrigley 1987). Of course, the continuing urban transition presents continuing problems for the developing world (United Nations 1998).

Population Composition. The characteristics included as compositional ones in demographic work are not predefined theoretically, with the exception, perhaps, of age and sex. In general, compositional characteristics are those characteristics inquired about on censuses, demographic surveys, and vital registration forms. Such items vary over time as social, economic, and political concerns change. Nonetheless, it is possible to classify most compositional items into one of three classes. First are those items that are close to the reproductive core of a society. They include age, sex, family relationships, and household living arrangements. The second group of items are those characteristics that identify the major, usually fairly endogamous, social groups in the population. They include race, ethnicity, religion, and language. Finally there is a set of socioeconomic characteristics such as education, occupation, industry, earnings, and labor force participation.

Within the first category of characteristics, contemporary research interest has focused on families and households because the period since 1970 has seen such dramatic changes in developed countries (Van de Kaa 1987; Davis 1985; Farley 1996, ch. 2). Divorce, previously uncommon, has become a common event. Many couples now live together without record of a civil or religious ceremony having occurred. Generally these unions are not initially for the purposes of procreation, although children are sometimes born into them. Sometimes they appear to be trial marriages and are succeeded by legal marriages. A small but increasing fraction of women in the more developed countries seem to feel that a husband is not a necessary ornament to motherhood. Because of these changes, older models of how marriage comes about and how marriage relates to fertility (Coale and McNeil 1972; Coale and Trussell 1974) are in need of review as demographers work toward a new demography of the family (Bongaarts 1983; Keyfitz 1987).

Those characteristics that indicate membership in one or another of the major social groupings within a population vary from place to place. Since such social groupings are the basis of inequality, political division, or cultural separation, their demography becomes of interest to social scientists and to policy makers (Harrison and Bennett 1995). To the degree that endogamy holds, it is often useful to analyze a social group as a separate population, as is done for the black population in the United States (Farley 1970). Fertility and mortality rates, as well as marital and family arrangements, for blacks in the United States are different from those of the majority population. The relationship between these facts, their implications, and the socioeconomic discrimination and residential segregation experienced by this population is a matter of historic and continuing scholarly work (Farley and Allen 1987; Lieberson 1980; Farley 1996, ch. 6).

For other groups, such as religious or ethnic groups in the United States, the issue of endogamy becomes central in determining the continuing importance of the characteristic for the social life of the larger population (Johnson 1980; Kalmijn 1991). Unlike the black population, ethnic and religious groups seem to be of decreasing appropriateness to analyze as separate populations within the United States, since membership may be a matter of changeable opinion.

The socioeconomic characteristics of a population are analyzed widely by sociologists, economists, and policy-oriented researchers. Other than being involved in the data production for much of this research, the uniquely demographic contributions come in two ways. First is the consideration of the relationship between demographic change and change in these characteristics. The relationship between female labor force participation and changing fertility patterns has been a main topic of the "new home economics" within economic demography (Becker 1960; T. W. Schultz 1974; T. P. Schultz 1981; Bergstrom 1997). The relationship between cohort size and earnings is a topic treated by both economists and sociologists (Winsborough 1975; Welch 1979). A system of relationships between cohort size, economic well-being, and fertility has been proposed by Easterlin (1980) in an effort to explain both fertility cycles and long swings in the business cycle.

A second uniquely demographic contribution to the study of socioeconomic characteristics appears to be the notion of a cohort moving through its socioeconomic life course (Duncan and Hodge 1963; Hauser and Featherman 1977; Mare 1980). The process of leaving school, getting a first job, then subsequent jobs, each of which yields income, was initially modeled as a sequence of recursive equations and subsequently in more detailed ways. Early in the history of this project it was pointed out that the process could be modeled as a multistate population (Matras 1967), but early data collected in the project did not lend itself to such modeling and the idea was not pursued.


The consideration and analysis of various population policies is often seen as a part of demography. Population policy has two important parts. First is policy related to the population of one's own nation. The United Nations routinely conducts inquiries about the population policies of member nations (United Nations 1995). Most responding governments claim to have official positions about a number of demographic issues, and many have policies to deal with them. It is interesting to note that the odds a developed country that states its fertility is too low has a policy to raise the rate is about seven to one, while the odds that a less developed country that states that its fertility is too high has a policy to lower the rate is about 4.6 to one. The prospect of declining population in the United States has already begun to generate policy proposals (Teitelbaum and Winter 1985).

The second part of population policy is the policy a nation has about the population of other countries. For example, should a country insist on family-planning efforts in a developing country prior to providing economic aid? A selection of opinions and some recommendations for policy in the United States are provided in Menken (1986) and in the National Research Council (1985).


Three areas of demographic research are of especially current interest. Each is, in a sense, a sequela of the demographic transition. They are:

  1. Institutional arrangements for the production of children,
  2. Immigration, emigration, ethnicity, and nationalism,
  3. Population aging, morbidity, and mortality.

Institutional arrangements for the production of children. The posttransition developed world has seen dramatic changes in the institutional arrangements for the production of children. Tracking these changes has become a major preoccupation of contemporary demography. Modern contraception has broken the biological link between sexual intercourse and pregnancy. Decisions about sexual relations can be made with less concern about pregnancy. The decision to have a child is less colored by the need for sexual gratification. People no longer must choose between the celibate single life or the succession of pregnancies and children of a married one. Women are employed before, during, and after marriage. Their earning power makes marriage more an option and a context for child raising than an alternative employment. Women marry later, are older when they have children, and are having fewer children than in the past. Divorce has moved from an uncommon event to a common one. Cohabitation is a new, and somewhat inchoate, lifestyle that influences the circumstances for childbearing and child rearing. Although only a modest number of children are currently born to cohabiting couples, most children will spend some time living with a parent in such a relationship before they are adults (Bumpass and Lu 1999). Changes such as these have occurred in most of Europe and North America and appear to be increasing in those parts of Asia where the demographic transitions occurred first. The changes have, of course, been met with considerable resistance in many places. Will they continue to occur in other countries as the demographic transitions proceed around the world? How serious will the resistance be in countries more patriarchal than those of Europe? These issues await future demographic research.

Immigration, emigration, ethnicity, and nationalism. The difference between immigration and emigration is, of course, net migration as a component of population growth. In general, the direct impact of net migration on growth has been modest. Certainly emigration provided some outlet for population growth in Europe during the transition (Curtin 1989) and played a role in the population of the Americas, Australia, and New Zealand. Most of the effect of immigration to the New World was indirect, however. It was the children of immigrants who peopled the continents rather than the immigrants themselves. Contemporary interest in international migration has three sources. First is an abiding concern for refugees and displaced persons. Second is interest in a highly mobile international labor force in the construction industry. Third, and perhaps most important, is the migration of workers from less developed countries to developed ones in order to satisfy the demand for labor in a population in real or incipient decline (Teitelbaum and Winter 1998). In France, Germany, and England immigrants who come and stay change the ethnic mix of the population. In the United States, legal and illegal immigration from Mexico has received considerable attention (Chiswick and Sullivan 1995). The immigration of skilled Asians raises issues of another kind. In all of these countries, the permanent settlement of new immigrants arouses powerful nationalistic concerns. The situation provides ample opportunity for the investigation of the development of ethnicity and the place of endogamy in its maintenance. As with changes for child rearing, these changes seem consequences of the demographic transition. Below-replacement fertility seems to generate the need for imported workers and their consequent inclusion in the society. If this speculation is true, how will countries more recently passing through the transition react to this opportunity and challenge? This is another arena for future demographic investigation.

Population aging, morbidity, and mortality. Accompanying the reduction of fertility and of population growth is the aging of the population (Treas and Torrecilha 1995). Much of the developed world is experiencing this aging and its concomitants. Countries that made a rapid demographic transition have especially dramatic imbalances in their age distribution. Concerns about retirement, health, and other programs for the elderly generate interest in demographic research in these areas. Will increasing life expectancy add years to the working life so that retirement can begin later? Or will the added years all be spent in nursing homes? These questions are currently of great policy interest and pose interesting and difficult problems for demographic research (Manton and Singer 1994). Traditional demographic modeling has assumed that frailty, the likelihood of death, varies according to measurable traits such as age, sex, race, education, wealth, and so on, but are constant within joint values of these variables. But what happens if frailty is a random variable? In survival models, randomness in frailty is not helpful, or at least benign, as it is in so many other statistical circumstances. Rather, it can have quite dramatic effects (Vaupel and Yashin 1985). How one models frailty appears to make a considerable amount of difference in the answers one gets to important policy questions surrounding population aging.


Most demographers in the United States are trained in sociology. Many others have their highest degree in economics, history, or public health. A few are anthropologists, statisticians, or political scientists. Graduate training of demographers in the United States and in much of the rest of the world now occurs primarily in centers. Demography centers are often quasi-departmental organizations that serve the research and training needs of scholars in several departments. In the United States there are about twenty such centers, twelve of which have National Institutes of Health grants. The Ford Foundation has supported similar demography centers at universities in the less developed parts of the world.

Today, then, most new demographers, without regard for their disciplinary leanings, are trained at a relatively few universities. Most will work as faculty or researchers within universities or at demography centers. Another main source of employment for demographers is government agencies. Census bureaus and vital statistics agencies both provide much of the raw material for demographic work and employ many demographers around the world. There is a small but rapidly growing demand for demographers in the private sector in marketing and strategic planning.

Support for research and training in demography began in the United States in the 1920s with the interest of the Rockefeller Foundation in issues related to population problems. Its support led to the first demography center, the Office of Population Research at Princeton University. The Population Council in New York was established as a separate foundation by the Rockefeller brothers in the 1930s. Substantial additional foundation support for the field has come from the Ford Foundation, the Scripps Foundation, and, more recently, the Hewlett Foundation. Demography was the first of the social sciences to be supported by the newly founded National Science Foundation in the immediate post-World War II era. In the mid-1960s the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development undertook support of demographic research.

(see also: Birth and Death Rates; Census; Demographic Methods; Demographic Transition; Life Expectancy; Population)


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All the components of population growth—mortality, fertility, and migration—underwent fundamental changes in Europe during the twentieth century. The century represents a transition toward a completely new demographic regime and a break with the past. The steep decline of mortality, interrupted only by military conflicts, was the result of an epidemiologic revolution. The fertility transition led to the advent of a new reproductive regime characterized by small families; further declines by the beginning of the twenty-first century even threatened to lead to a regression of population size, while the resulting aging was expected to place an unbearable burden on social support systems. Net migration, finally, which had long been negative for Europe, became positive during the second half of the twentieth century.


The secular decline of mortality had started to pick up speed before 1914 after the discovery of the germ theory of disease and the resulting improvements in public and private sanitation. It was interrupted by World War I, which caused over ten million European deaths, and by the influenza epidemic of 1918, which may have caused two million European deaths. (As in the case of other estimates of mortality in times of war and catastrophe, the figures have large margins of error because the systems of data collection typically break down as a result of crises.) There were other high mortalities before World War II but more restricted in scope: the civil war in Russia from 1918 to 1920, the famines of 1921 and 1933 in parts of Russia and Ukraine (2.6 million people may have died from the 1933 famine in Ukraine alone), or the Spanish civil war (over 300,000 deaths). The toll of World War II for Europe may be estimated at more than forty million, but this would include civilian deaths and the victims of genocide, including approximately six million Jews and 250,000 Gypsies. The total number of war deaths (civilians and military, including prisoners of war) may have reached twenty six million for the USSR (including those of Asian origin), between 4.6 and 6 million for Germany, 5.8 million for Poland (15 percent of the population), and 1.5 million for Yugoslavia. England lost 300,000, France 600,000, and Italy 450,000 people. Several smaller countries of eastern Europe (Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Greece) each lost more than 400,000 people, comparatively a very large toll. The second half of the century, however, was relatively free of wars with European participation, with the exception of the civil wars attending the breakup of Yugoslavia during the 1990s, which may have caused 200,000 deaths.

In 1910 the average expectation of life at birth for Europe (excluding Russia) amounted to forty-eight years for both sexes together, with highs at fifty-seven in Sweden, Denmark, and Norway and lows close to forty in eastern Europe. (Tables 1 and 2 show expectation of life at birth for both sexes in a selection of countries during the twentieth century.) Infant mortality was below one hundred deaths under age one per thousand births in the three Scandinavian countries by the beginning of the century but was still at least twice as high in Germany, Austria, and most of eastern and southern

England & Wales51.558.368.071.775.4
Note: Boundaries of the time. For Russia, European part of USSR in 1930, entire USSR in 1960. For the United Kingdom in 1910, 1930, and 1960, figures are for England and Wales only.

Europe. Wars did not interrupt and may even have stimulated medical innovation, and the general trend of expectation of life was steadily upward, except for the countries of eastern Europe where it stagnated or even receded after 1960. The century witnessed a revolution in the mortality regime, which has received the name of epidemiologic transition. The expression refers to a movement from a situation dominated by infectious diseases to one where people die mostly from chronic and degenerative conditions. In the 1910s childhood diseases and gastrointestinal and respiratory infections were the most lethal, and tuberculosis was the most important single cause of death that affected young adults as well as persons of other ages; in 2000 mortality was largely cardiovascular in nature (strokes and heart conditions) or the result of cancers. The changes resulted from a variety of factors, and the exact causal relation is hard to pin down. Medical progress certainly played an important role, particularly the development of vaccines that could be administered routinely to small children. Mortality from several infectious diseases, however, was strongly reduced before effective medication had been discovered; thus measles came down before the introduction of an effective vaccine and tuberculosis before the use of streptomycin for its treatment. Public health and sanitation improved and contributed to erasing the prevailing excess mortality of the cities over the countryside. Health education familiarized the public with simple hygienic measures, while increases in the standard of living improved living conditions and nutrition. A great medical breakthrough occurred with the development of antibacterial drugs from the late 1930s onward. The decline was remarkably similar in all countries throughout most of the century, although trends started to diverge in eastern Europe during the last quarter of the period.

By the 1960s there had been a great deal of convergence of mortality levels among European countries. It appeared that the great mortality transition was over and that the era of infectious diseases was over. Infant mortality had decreased from levels around one hundred deaths of children under age one per thousand births at the eve of the Great War to levels around twenty per thousand in the 1960s. The decline would continue in northwestern Europe, to average levels close to five deaths per thousand births by the year 2000, with extreme values of three in Iceland and six in Ireland. In eastern Europe, however, infant mortality remained at higher levels, in excess of fifteen per thousand in Romania and Russia. On the whole, however, infant and child mortality had reached such low levels by the 1960s that further improvement had only a moderate impact on the expectation of life.

United Kingdom55.462.473.977.680.2
Note: Boundaries of the time. For Russia, European part of USSR in 1930, entire USSR in 1960. For the United Kingdom in 1910, 1930, and 1960, figures are for England and Wales only.

If the increase in the duration of life before 1960 was principally the result of declines of mortality before age fifty, after 1960 it became increasingly the result of the improved survival at older ages. New causes of deaths became prominent that were linked to behavior and particularly deadly among young adults, such as tobacco smoking and automobile accidents, and late in the century HIV/AIDS. Contrary to predictions, however, expectation of life at older ages continued to increase steadily in most countries, without appreciable slowdown. By the end of the century the expectation of life at birth exceeded seventy-five years for men and eighty years for women in the countries of northwest and southern Europe, but it was lagging behind by around ten years for men and seven years for women in most countries of eastern Europe. Russia, with an expectation of life at birth of fifty-nine years for men and seventy-two years for women, had slid back to the lowest levels in Europe and below its own level in 1960.

The extension of life for the older population was the dominant factor of change in the mortality regime during the second half of the twentieth century. It was characterized by a reduction of chronic degenerative diseases, particularly of cardiovascular conditions. It is unclear to what extent this development was the result of changes in lifestyle, of the prevention of self-inflicted conditions such as alcoholism, smoking, and accidents, of the better tracking and management of chronic diseases, of new medications or surgical procedures, or of the long-term effect on the organism of reduction of childhood diseases that occurred many years earlier. Interestingly, Mediterranean countries (Italy, Spain, and France, which were among the relatively high-mortality countries of Europe at the beginning of the twentieth century) had among the highest expectations of life in Europe in the early twenty-first century despite relatively high tobacco consumption. This resulted mainly from a relatively low prevalence of cardiovascular diseases and is probably related to lifestyle and diet rather than to the effectiveness of the public health system. On the other hand, the former communist countries of eastern Europe, which benefited to the full from the reduction of infectious diseases before 1960, were unable to adapt to the changes in behavior that would curb man-made diseases and improve the personal management of health and did not benefit from the decline of cardiovascular diseases that took place in the rest of Europe.


The secular decline of mortality had a considerable positive impact on the growth rate of Europe and compensated for the simultaneous decline of fertility. On the eve of the First World War, practically all European countries (with the exception of Ireland and Albania) had become engaged in what is known as the fertility transition. The latter term refers to the widespread adoption of methods of family limitation by couples in the population at large, which resulted in the progressive control of marital fertility. The methods were still crude (mostly withdrawal) and relatively ineffective, but the motivations were powerful. For selected countries through the century, table 3 shows total fertility, that is, the number of children a woman would have by the end of childbearing if she were exposed to the fertility of the specific period.

There were many reasons for the changes in the pattern of reproduction. They certainly included the decline of mortality, which made it possible for couples to attain the same final family size, and for populations to maintain their size and growth, with fewer births. A concern for the health of mothers and children and for the economic prosperity of couples helped shift the emphasis from the quantity of children to their quality. Confronted with the fertility decline in a context of military conflict and labor force needs, some nations of Europe attempted to reverse the trend by legislating access to contraceptive information (as in a law passed by the French assembly in 1920) or by promulgating policies in favor of the family (most notably in Sweden).

The Great Depression provided additional economic reasons to postpone births or avoid them altogether. During the early 1930s, total fertility would reach levels below two children per woman for England and Wales, Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland. The decline continued until 1935 for many countries and past that date for some, particularly in eastern Europe, but a recovery had started here and there by the late 1930s. In all countries, the generations of women born between 1920 and 1945 had in excess of two births on average. The Second World War concealed the long-term tendency for a time, but it became clear after the war that the long decline of fertility was over and that a resurgence of childbearing was taking place. This was widely characterized as the "baby boom." At first the rise was interpreted as the making up of births postponed during the depression and the war, but the reversal of the trend toward decline persisted during the 1960s, resulting in total fertility rates in excess of 2.5 children per woman for the decade in northwestern, central, and southern Europe. The phenomenon was explained in part by a marriage boom, characterized by more people marrying and doing so at a younger age. For example in the Netherlands, the mean age at first marriage of women declined from twenty-six years in 1948 to less than twenty-three years in 1975. Even in Ireland, a country with a high marriage age and a high proportion of people never marrying, the behavior of couples reflected the new popularity of marriage as on the Continent. It appeared, then, that the European countries had reestablished a demographic equilibrium between the birthrate and the death rate that would result in moderate growth or constant population size in the long run. The impression was deceptive, though, as a large proportion of the births were unwanted, with children born to very young couples who hardly could afford them and had no access to effective contraceptive methods—even though the resort to illegally induced abortions was increasing.

Toward the mid-1960s many laws regulating the diffusion of contraception were relaxed. Later, starting in the 1970s, abortion was progressively legalized in most European countries. Increasingly the states of noncommunist Europe adopted a laissez-faire policy in matters of reproduction. Military might, a primary consideration in 1914, ceased to be a determinant of public policy. The excesses of populationism and eugenism during the interwar years (ranging from the prevention of contraceptive access to forced sterilization of less desirable members of the population including ethnic minorities in Nazi Germany) inspired great caution on the part of governments with regard to interference with reproductive freedom. The generalization of family allowances occurred on social rather than demographic grounds.

Reproduction in eastern Europe followed a distinctly different course from the rest of the Continent. Traditionally, contrasted marriage patterns had prevailed on both sides of a line running from the Adriatic to the Baltic Sea. Marriage was earlier and more universal in eastern Europe, and this resulted in a pattern of early family formation. The secular decline of fertility had started later and

United Kingdom2.951.882.851.801.65
Note: Boundaries of the time. For Russia, USSR until 1980–84. For Germany, data for 1960–64 and 1980–84 are for the FDR only.

continued into the 1980s; there was little evidence of a baby boom. As a result of national policies, access to contraception remained more limited than in western Europe and abortion became a common technique of birth control, while generous regimes of family allowances and marriage support encouraged medium-size to large families. Several countries attempted to raise their fertility by restricting access to abortion where it had become the main technique of birth control. In Romania, a change in the law in 1967 resulted in a spectacular but momentary peak in fertility, followed by a long decline at higher levels than in most countries of the region.

Contrary to most forecasts, the decline of fertility resumed in the noncommunist European countries after 1964 and eventually led to levels that could not ensure replacement in the long term. At prevailing mortality levels it would take an average of 2.1 children per woman to ensure the replacement of a generation. By the early 1980s only Ireland, Greece, and Portugal, plus all the countries of communist eastern Europe except East Germany, had total fertility rates above two. In West Germany, the rate dropped below 1.3 in 1985; Spain (1.6) and Italy (1.4) were not far behind. Among younger cohorts of women, child-lessness was rising rapidly. Eastern Europe engaged in a new demographic regime of very low fertility after the collapse of the communist regimes. The eastern part of Germany that used to be the Democratic German Republic even attained the record low total fertility level of 0.84 children per woman in 1995 but recovered slightly thereafter.

The changes were aided by innovations in birth control technology. Hormonal contraception diffused from the mid-1960s on, at the same time as intrauterine devices. These methods were especially adapted to the prevention of births early in the reproductive lives of women. As a backup in case of contraceptive failure, safe techniques were developed to induce abortion. Northern, western, and central Europe adopted a change in reproductive behavior that has received the name of second demographic transition. It was characterized by new approaches to marriage and celibacy, leading to below-reproduction levels of fertility. The normative sequence in Europe had long followed a well-established pattern: courtship, wedding, sexual relations, one or two children following promptly upon marriage, and the avoidance or postponement of subsequent births. Extramarital births were frowned upon, and an ideal of monogamy and conjugal fidelity was promoted, if not always conformed to. Scandinavian countries, where cohabitation was more common that elsewhere in Europe, led the way in adopting new patterns of nuptiality. These were characterized by the postponement of a formal wedding while the couple was already cohabiting and possibly having children, or even by the complete forsaking of any marriage ceremony. On the one hand, the age at marriage went up (in the Netherlands, for example, from 22.6 years in 1975 to 27.5 in 1995 for women, and the increase was very similar in France). On the other hand, an increasing proportion of couples lived together without being married. In 2000 the proportions of extramarital birth reached 56 percent in Sweden and exceeded 40 percent in Denmark, France, and Norway. Increasingly the laws of European countries have granted recognition of equal rights to children born outside of marriage and accepted new forms of legal unions, as for example the civil solidarity pacts in France that provide rights to nonmarried, stable partners. Even in the countries of southern Europe, where the traditional forms of marriage continue to prevail, and in eastern Europe, the age at marriage has been going up, and the birth of children occurs typically at an older age of the parents. Meanwhile the number of divorces has increased, and cohabitations are less stable than formal marriages.

There has been much speculation on the reasons behind the second demographic transition and the collapse of fertility levels. Inferred psychological causes have included the growth of individualism and the decline in importance of the family as a provider of services and resources in welfare states. Concerns for sustainable growth, the preservation of the environment, quality of life, and the rights of women have become important shapers of policy. The main factor, however, appears to have been rising female schooling and labor force participation. During the second part of the twentieth century the male breadwinner system of the past increasingly yielded to the two-earner family. Those countries that have attempted to reduce the conflict for women between working outside the home and having children, for example by providing free childcare facilities or other benefits, appear to have been better able to sustain their fertility levels than those where the assistance to working mothers has lagged behind.

The effect of low fertility on population growth has more than compensated the effect of the decline of mortality. However, its impact has been concealed to some extent by the increase in the flow of migrants to Europe after the Second World War.


The large streams of European migration that contributed to the settlement of America, as well as Australia and New Zealand, essentially dried up during the First World War and were greatly reduced between the wars, particularly when the Great Depression eliminated the overseas demand for foreign labor. Intracontinental migration and refugee movements were considerable, however, as a result of the world wars, of the boundary changes imposed at the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, and of the civil wars and ethnic conflicts of the period. The Russian Revolution and the expulsion of minorities in eastern and central Europe may have resulted in the forced displacement of 10 million persons after the First World War; the conflict between Greece and Turkey resulted in the resettlement of 1.5 million ethnic Greeks, and the Spanish civil war led to the departure of a half-million refugees. The Second World War gave rise to even larger population movements. As many as 30 million people were forced to move between 1939 and 1948, including some 10 million ethnic Germans expelled from eastern Europe. The creation of a political division between the Western world and the communist countries resulted in substantial flows of refugees, particularly between East and West Germany before and even after the establishment of the Berlin Wall in 1961 (for a net movement of 4.1 million persons), and in 1956–1957, 1968, and 1980–1981 on the occasions of the uprisings in Hungary and Czechoslovakia and the imposition of martial law in Poland. In excess of 320,000 Russian Jews migrated to Israel and the United States between 1970 and 1989. In the early 1990s close to 5 million people fled from the various countries that had made up Yugoslavia; most of the moves were temporary, however.

Germany adopted a right of return for people of German origin living abroad and does not consider them as migrants. In addition to postwar refugees, before the disappearance of the Iron Curtain, West Germany negotiated the repatriation of close to three million ethnic Germans from Russia and Poland; others came from Austria, the

United Kingdom46,59652,16459,6231.121.14
Note: Boundaries of the time. Some of the countries gained or lost some territory in the intervening periods. For Germany in 1960, sum of GDR and FRG.

Balkans, and other parts of the world. Between 1945 and 1992 the Federal Republic of Germany integrated about twenty-four million foreign-born persons. By providing labor, the influx contributed to the success of German industry in the postwar era and sustained population growth at a time when fertility had become very low. Italy and Spain also freely readmitted individuals of national origin, particularly from Latin America.

The dissolution of colonial empires (Dutch, British, French, and Belgian) resulted in the return migration of European settlers as well as in a flow of migrants from former territories to the former mother countries or to other parts of Europe. England had a policy of free access from countries of the Commonwealth until 1971. With the economic boom of the 1960s and 1970s, a demand for labor resulted in the hiring of "guest workers" from Yugoslavia, Turkey, and North Africa, who progressively replaced migrants from European countries such as Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, and Ireland. These countries had themselves become countries of immigration, or return migration, by the end of the century. Whereas the labor movements from countries outside of the European Union consisted at first of men alone, in a second stage their impact was multiplied by family reunification.

Migration streams have doubly contributed to European population growth: first by the migrants themselves, second by their higher-than-average fertility. By 2000 there were 18.5 million foreigners recorded, or about 7 percent of the population of the European Union. The assimilation of some ethnic minorities has proven difficult, and at the turn of the century, with the growth of unemployment in the European Union and a shift of public opinion against migration, increasing legal restrictions have been placed on new arrivals. Undocumented entries and refugee movements have continued, however, and at the turn of the century the number of undocumented aliens in the European Union was estimated in excess of 3 million. Meanwhile immigration from eastern Europe has become more important. Poland in particular has become a major supplier of skilled, temporary labor to western Europe.


European population growth was sustained throughout the twentieth century, as shown in table 4. As a whole, the population of Europe grew from 422 million in 1900 to 548 million in 1950 and 727 million in 2000. Growth was moderate in contrast with that of most other parts of the world, so that the share of Europe in the world population totals was cut in half, from 24 percent at the beginning of the century to 12 percent in 2000. The geopolitical advantages of large populations are uncertain, however. The Continent is densely populated as it is, and it has accommodated its population while preserving its environment and its living patterns. No European city features among the twelve largest in the world, and the proportion of the urban population residing in moderate-size cities, or less than 500,000, has remained stable at slightly above 60 percent. In itself, the relaxation of population pressure would cause little concern to the nations of Europe were it not for the impact of the decline of fertility on the age distribution of the population.

Despite fertility below replacement for a number of years, the large number of young women in the population (resulting from the higher fertility at midcentury) resulted in a continued excess of births over deaths. This effect of a favorable age distribution has been termed population momentum. The situation has now been reversed in many countries, and only immigration prevents the shrinking of their populations. In the year 2002, deaths exceeded births in the all the countries of the former USSR and of eastern Europe, as well as in Germany, Greece, and Italy, while positive population growth still prevailed in the former three countries; eastern Europe was losing, rather than attracting, migrants. Both negative natural increase and absolute decline of population are likely to become more common in the twenty-first century, as the reproductive age groups are thinned down by the low fertility of the last quarter of the twentieth century. In 2000 the number of European women between ages twenty and forty largely exceeded the female population under age twenty, thus presaging a sharp reduction in the future number of births.

No country is willing to face the large absolute decline of its population that would result from present levels of the birthrate, or, alternatively, the cultural and political consequence of the level of migration from countries outside Europe that would be necessary to prevent the collapse of population numbers. For example, with a continuation of present fertility and migration levels, the population of Italy would decline from fifty-eight million in 2000 to forty-six million by 2050 and twenty-nine million in 2100. Moreover, the percentage of the population above age sixty-five would become close to 40 percent (from its 2006 level of 18 percent). The level of migration necessary to halt the decline would be so high that it would progressively replace the population of Italian stock.

The effect of low fertility on population aging is of major concern to the governments of Europe. The proportion of the population over age sixty-five in 2000 was 14.7 percent for Europe as a whole, compared with 8.2 percent in 1950 and a projected 23 percent in 2030. As the baby boom cohorts are reaching the age of retirement, the proportion of old-age dependents relying on pension schemes is bound to increase rapidly. These schemes, however, are usually based on the "payas-you-go" principle, meaning that a contribution levied on the working population supports the retirement of the older population. As the ratio of the retired to those in the labor force increases, this becomes a source of financial problems for the sponsoring states. This is compounded by the fact that the proportion of the oldest old (age eighty-five and above) is increasing too, thus increasing the cost of state-supported medical insurance schemes.

Thus, in the early years of the twenty-first century it is increasingly obvious to governments and public opinion that the low fertility of European countries is not sustainable in the long run. What should be done to restore fertility levels that will ensure the reproduction of the population is not obvious. Various measures have been suggested, ranging from more generous family allowances to privileges accorded parents on the labor market and special family voting rights. Nations are turning to the example of Scandinavian and French family policies aiming to enhance the compatibility of motherhood and family life with labor force participation. For example, the German parliament passed laws entitling all children age three and older to a place in a kindergarten. The effect of such measures, however, will at best only be perceptible with time; at best, they would only alleviate the consequences of aging in the long run.

See alsoAbortion; Decolonization; Divorce; Immigration and Internal Migration; Sexuality.


Bardet, Jean-Pierre, and Jacques Dupâquier, eds. Histoire des populations de l'Europe. Vol. 3: Les temps incertains, 1914–1998. Paris, 1999. Extensive discussion by European specialists, with chapters on the components of demographic change and on individual countries.

Demeny, Paul. "Population Policy Dilemmas in Europe at the Dawn of the Twenty-first Century." Population and Development Review 29, no. 2 (2003): 1–28.

Fassman, Heinz, and Rainer Münz, eds. European Migration in the Late Twentieth Century: Historical Patterns, Actual Trends, and Social Implications. Laxenburg, Austria, 1994.

Meslé, France, and Jacques Vallin. "Mortality in Europe: The Divergence between East and West." Population-E 57, no. 2 (2002): 157–198.

Sardon, Jean-Paul. "Recent Demographic Trends in the Developed Countries." Population-E 57, no. 2 (2002): 111–156; Population-E 59, no. 2 (2004): 263–314.

United Nations. Policy Responses to Population Decline and Ageing. Special issue of Population Bulletin of the United Nations, nos. 44–45. New York, 2002.

Etienne van de Walle


views updated May 14 2018


This entry contains the following:

Allen Douglas

Rebecca Kippen

Craig Davis

Sunita Kishor

Bertrade Ngo-Ngijol Banoum


The countries of Europe and North America (the United States and Canada) are historically linked. Both the United States and Canada are populated largely by migrants from Europe. Political, cultural, and linguistic ties are also close. Nevertheless the countries of Europe and North America belong, demographically, to three different groups. On the one hand, the countries of western and much of central Europe are mature industrial democracies with the low birth and death rates characteristic of the third phase of the demographic transition. The same is true of Canada and the United States, with the difference that these two countries are lands of traditional immigration, whereas most western and central European countries have not traditionally been on the receiving end of large-scale immigration. Most eastern European countries and some central European countries were part of the Soviet Bloc and possessed the economic and political institutions of the communist system until its collapse after 1989. This makes their demography, and their economics, distinct from that of western and central Europe. From the point of view of sex and gender, the most significant issue in the demography of all three zones is that of fertility levels, that is, the number of births per woman.

The dictatorial systems in communist countries made dramatic shifts in fertility policy possible. In Romania birthrates took a steep dip in the mid-1980s (lowering by 14.3 %) after having stabilized in previous years. In 1984 the leader, Nicolae Ceaușescu (1918–1989), tried to reverse this trend by suddenly and forcefully blocking access to abortion, up to that time (and as in most communist countries) the most common form of birth control. The heavy hand of the state came down on women and abortion providers. Gynecologist's offices were occupied, and factory physicians had their wages docked if their female workers did not meet a birth quota. In a move similar to policies in fascist Italy, unmarried individuals over twenty-five were assessed a 10 percent tax on wages. As the Romanian dictator put it: "The fetus is the socialist property of the whole society. Giving birth is a patriotic duty" (Teitelbaum and Winter 1998, pp. 118-119). Whereas the birthrate did go up, especially in the birth of third and fourth children, the resulting social stress contributed to political upheaval and eventually aided the fall of the regime in 1989. One of the first actions of the new government in 1990 was to relegalize abortion.

In the Soviet Union abortion remained the most popular form of birth control, but the government did institute a number of pronatal policies, adding support for large families being one example. These policies disproportionately benefited the already larger families in the non-European republics of the Caucasus and central Asia. Following the breakup of the Soviet Union and the disintegration of the communist system, however, birthrates plummeted in the Russian Federation, the principal successor state. They went from about 2.12 per woman between 1985 and 1990, to 1.55 between 1990 and 1995, 1.25 between the years 1995 and 2000, then slightly rebounding to 1.3 between 2000 and 2005. These figures are far below the rate for population replacement of approximately 2.1 births per woman. It is easiest to understand this plummeting fertility in terms of the collapse of the Russian economy and of general standards of welfare during the same period. After all, life expectancy also declined from age 68.8 between 1985 and 1990 to 64.8 between 2000 and 2005.

The example of another formerly communist nation, Poland, however, calls part of the conclusion into question. Poland, as with the other historically Catholic (as opposed to Orthodox) nations of eastern Europe (Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic), had a far smoother transition, both politically and economically, from communism to capitalism and integration into the European Union. Yet in Poland births per woman also declined from 2.15 between 1985 and 1990 to 1.25 between 2000 and 2005. But the general welfare actually improved as measured in life expectancy, which increased from age 70.9 (1985–1990) to 74.6 (2000–2005).

Further, this decline in European fertility is not limited to eastern Europe. French fertility declined gradually but steadily from a postwar (baby boom) high of 2.73 (1950–1955) to 1.71 (1990–1995) only to rebound slightly to 1.88 (2000–2005). In Germany fertility rose from 2.16 (1950–1955) to a high of 2.49 (1960–1965) only to decline continually (despite the absorption of the German Democratic Republic) to 1.35 (2000–2005). Italy, which had no change of borders, had a similar pattern, a postwar rise from 2.32 (1950–1955) to 2.5 (1960–1965), a decline to 1.21 (1995–2000), with a rebound to 1.29 between the years 2000 and 2005.

Hence, these prosperous, mature industrial nations experienced, grosso modo, the same fertility declines as the formerly communist states. Because all these figures are far below replacement levels, it could be argued that the historic European stock is dying out. The populations of Italy and France continued to rise between the years 1950 and 2005 due largely to immigration. German population declined briefly during the 1970s and 1980s only to increase with reunification and then continue to grow.

The combination of declining fertility with immigration means that the makeup of populations is changing. Those on the far right see this as the suicide of European civilization (or of the white race). On the left and moderate right, these changing populations are a challenge that must be met either by assimilation (for some) or by multiculturalism (for others). The debate has been sharpest in France despite the fact that French fertility rates have remained higher than those of many of its European neighbors. The apparent paradox is because the French elite are used to debating demographic issues.

The French birthrate began to moderate as early as the eighteenth century, and France gradually lost its demographic advantage, and also much of its political power, over its neighbors during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Partly as a result successive French governments of both the right and the left since 1939 have maintained pronatal policies of extra support for larger families. Some of the slightly stronger French birthrate is the result of these policies. Some is the result of earlier immigration into France than in many of its west European neighbors, meaning that some of the births come from the children and grandchildren of immigrants from North Africa. A few mayors of the French right-wing party, the National Front, have attempted to restrict or redirect government welfare to national, that is, non-North African, families. Such attempts have been systematically overturned by the authorities of the French Republic. The assimilation of immigrant populations has been a problem in almost all west European nations. The relatively high rates of unemployment in France and Germany have been an exacerbating factor, as have cultural clashes between Muslim immigrants (and their children) and Christian or post-Christian nations. Terrorism, for which European states such as France have been targets long before the attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, increases the public unease.

In the United States fertility rates have also declined, in this case from a postwar high of 3.71 births per woman between 1955 and 1960 to 2.03 between 2000 and 2005, a figure that is almost replacement level. Why have U.S. rates done so much better? American homes are larger and population density is far lower than in Europe. Yet Canada, also with a low population density, has had a European pattern of fertility decline—from 3.88 between 1955 and 1960 to 1.52 between 2000 and 2005, well below replacement level. Canadian welfare policies are closer to European models than to U.S. models.

Both Canada and the United States are traditional recipients of immigration, with Canada being even more open than the United States to migrants (but many more Canadian immigrants subsequently leave for a third country, often the United States). Yet fertility has more political salience in Canada. Leaders of the French-speaking community of Quebec have been concerned that particularly low fertility rates among francophones threaten the submergence of French-speaking Quebec (and francophone minorities in other provinces) by a rising number of English speakers. The problem has been exacerbated by immigration because, when given the choice, immigrants who are neither English nor French speaking overwhelmingly choose English-based education for their children.

The United States, too, has its periodic concerns over immigration. But such political dustups concern competition for employment, cultural challenges, and, since September 2001, security fears. No one publicly worries about the birthrate of citizens. When conservatives wish to express their anxieties about the future, they are more likely to focus on what they see as threats to the institution of marriage (either through its expansion to same-sex couples or through increasing numbers of unmarried couples).


Teitelbaum, Michael S., and Jay Winter. 1998. A Question of Numbers: High Migration, Low Fertility, and the Politics of National Identity. New York: Hill & Wang.

United Nations—Economic and Social Development. "World Population Prospects: The 2006 Revision Population Database." Updated March 2007. Available from

                                          Allen Douglas


The population of Australia reached 20 million in 2004 and at that time was growing by just over 1 percent a year. Half of that growth consisted of natural increase (births minus deaths), and the remainder was accounted for by positive net migration. Ethnically, the population of Australia is largely of Anglo-Celtic origin, reflecting the British colonization of the country since the late eighteenth century, although it has become increasingly ethnically diverse through a strong immigration program. In the 2001 census Aborigines made up 2 percent of the population, and around one-quarter of Australians were born overseas (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006a).

Women have been giving birth at progressively older ages, and more recent cohorts have smaller average family sizes than did cohorts in the past. For example, Australian women born in 1940 had an average of 2.8 children each, with a median age at birth of 25.6 years. In contrast, women born in 1965 had 2.1 children each, with a median age at birth of 28.7 years. The national total fertility rate was fairly constant at 1.8 births per woman over the decade after the mid-1990s. In 2005 two-thirds of births occurred within a legal marriage. Among the remainder the father was acknowledged on the birth register in 90 percent of cases (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006b).

Most Australians eventually marry, although the age at which they do so has been increasing over time. The median age at marriage rose six years over the two decades after 1985, reaching 32.0 years for men and 29.7 years for women in 2005. Three-quarters of couples who married in 2005 lived together before marriage. Marriages performed by civil celebrants are more common than are those performed by ministers of religion (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006c). Around one-third of marriages end in divorce (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006d), and remarriage after divorce is common. In the first decade of the twenty-first century marriage between same-sex partners was not permitted in Australia, and such marriages legally contracted in other countries were not recognized.

Life expectancy in Australia continues to be one of the highest in the world. Death rates in the period 2003–2005 implied average life expectancies at birth of 78.5 years for males and 83.3 years for females. Males experience higher average mortality at every age than do females, with the differential at its greatest in the late teens and twenties (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006e). Infant and maternal mortality are both very low by international standards. Five in a thousand live-born babies die before the first birthday, and there are four maternal deaths for every hundred thousand live births (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006f). Estimates indicate that Aboriginal life expectancy is around 15 years lower than that of the general Australian population (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006e).

Schooling is compulsory between ages six and fifteen years, although most students stay in school until age seventeen or eighteen. Retention at older ages is higher for females than for males. Most Australians go on to receive further education; the levels are higher for females. In 2005 around 90 percent of men age twenty-five to fifty-four years were in the labor force. Participation rates were lower for women at around 75 percent over the same age range, reflecting women's status as primary caregivers for children. Participation rates have been declining for men and increasing for women (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006a).


Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2006a. Year Book, Australia, 2006. Canberra: ABS. Available from

Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2006b. Births, Australia, 2005. Canberra: ABS. Available from

Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2006c. Marriages, Australia, 2005. Canberra: ABS. Available from

Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2006d. Divorces, Australia, 2005. Canberra: ABS. Available from

Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2006e. Deaths, Australia, 2005. Canberra: ABS. Available from

Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2006f. Causes of Death, Australia, 2004. Canberra: ABS. Available from

                                             Rebecca Kippen


For the purposes of this article, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) refers to the countries defined as MENA by the World Bank to include Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malta, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, West Bank and Gaza, and Yemen. An estimated 300 million people reside in the MENA region. The demography provides insight into a variety of important social, economic, and political factors in the region. Population growth rates, access to quality education, and the youth bulge, for instance, carry implications for economic development and political stability.

Social (human) development indicators have improved for the region since the 1970s. Only 1.6 percent of the population (or 5 million) survives below the international poverty line (living on less than U.S. $1 per day). This figure represents the lowest percentage for any region in the world. South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa rank highest with 31.2 percent and 44 percent of the population living on less than a dollar per day. Despite stagnant economic growth in most of the region, improvements in access to education and health are partly responsible for the steady reduction in poverty.


Improved access to health in MENA has resulted in a reduction in fertility and mortality and a decline in the incidence of communicable diseases. Life expectancy at birth across the region is 69 years of age compared with 69 years in Europe and Central Asia and 70 years in East Asia and the Pacific. Eighty-eight percent of the population has reasonable access to water supplies, whereas 75 percent has access to improved sanitation or facilities that prevent human, animal, and insect contact with excreta. Maternal and child health care have improved since the 1980s. The infant mortality rate is 44 deaths per 1,000. The adolescent fertility rate—number of births given by women between their fifteenth and nineteenth birthdays—is 33, comparable to Europe and Central Asia (30) but significantly less than half that of Latin America and the Caribbean (78) and South Asia (80). Over the course of her lifetime, an average Egyptian girl is expected to bear 3.1 children, approximately half the birth rate for her counterpart during the 1970s. Ninety-three percent of children in the MENA region are immunized for measles, diphtheria, whooping cough, and tetanus before their first birthday, which is among the highest regional rates of immunization in the world.


Since 1970, significant inroads have been made toward improving access to education across MENA. Primary and secondary education enrollment rates are 104 percent and 67 percent, respectively. Completion rates for primary education are a respectable 89 percent for boys and 86 percent for girls. Despite these gains lack of quality and relevant education still haunts education systems in the region. Adult literacy rates, particularly female literacy, are still low. Only 59.4 percent of women in Egypt are literate compared with 39.6 percent of Moroccan women. Approximately 6.4 million primary-school-aged children are out of school. Parents often cite the lack of relevant education as the reason children abandon school. The tertiary (or higher education) enrollment rate is 23 percent, less than half that of Europe and Central Asia (47 percent). Graduates of education systems in the region are routinely ill-prepared to meet the challenges of the labor market, and unemployment is high.


Migration affects the MENA region in variety of ways. The lack of adequate economic opportunities sends many workers abroad seeking better paying jobs. Between 2000 and 2005 some 1.4 million residents of MENA left their homes and moved abroad. Workers living in foreign countries routinely send remittances to family members in their countries of origin. In 2004 the MENA region received an estimated $20.4 billion in officially recorded remittances. Real figures were almost certainly much higher.

Significant annual remittances notwithstanding, emigration from the MENA region also contributes to the brain drain as skilled and highly educated inhabitants migrate to developed nations in pursuit of more promising careers. Drafters of the 2003 Arab Human Development Report referred to the brain drain as "reverse development aid" (p. 145) as a result of the diminishing pool of Arab talent required for local development. An estimated 835,000 MENA refugees fled their countries of origin in 2004 and 1.4 million were awaiting asylum status in other countries, a significant decrease from figures a decade earlier (2.5 million). However, those figures are likely to increase as a result of violence in Iraq between 2004 and 2007 that sent a flood of refugees to Syria, Egypt, Jordan, and elsewhere.

Migration affects women and children in a variety of ways. Since the 1990s women have been migrating in increasing numbers—either as dependents or independently, particularly in the case of Moroccan women to the European Union. Because of Islamic traditions restricting women's movement without a male relative, spousal separation may make daily life more difficult for dependents left behind (Omelaniuk 2005). Women and children are the most vulnerable refugee populations. There is evidence to suggest that Iraqi women are trafficked to Syria, Jordan, and other Arab countries for commercial sexual exploitation.


Of the 300 million people living in the MENA region, more than one third is under the age of fifteen and roughly 62 percent are between the ages of fifteen and sixty-four. Only 4 percent of the population accounts for ages sixty-five and older. Although the population growth rate has declined from its peak of 3 percent in 1980 to 2 percent between 1990 and 2004, the MENA region still ranks second highest in world behind sub-Saharan Africa (2.5%). Most government infrastructures and systems in MENA are ill equipped to deal with such a substantial youth population, often referred to as the youth bulge. The youth bulge places significant strains on public education, health, and social services systems. Securing productive employment is also a problem for this demographic group. First-time job seekers often suffer the highest unemployment rates. The youth bulge also presents a huge political challenge for governments throughout the region because unemployed, undereducated, and frequently politically disenfranchised youth serve as a fertile field for recruitment by Islamic extremists.


Davis, Craig. 2006. "North Africa: History and Economic Development." Encyclopedia of the Developing World. Vol. 2, ed. Thomas M. Leonard. New York: Routledge.

Disease Control Priorities Project. 2006. "Investing in Global Health: A Regional Spotlight on the Middle East and North Africa Region." Disease Control Priorities Project. Available from

Omelaniuk, Irena. 2005. "Gender, Poverty Reduction and Migration." Paper presented at the "International Women Leaders' Conference on Migration and Gender Issues," Haifa, September 2005.

Roudi, Farzaneh (Nazy). 2001. "Population Trends and Challenges in the Middle East and North Africa," Washington, DC: Population Reference Bureau. Available from

UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS). 2006. UIS Online Database, Montreal. Available from

United Nations Development Programme. 2003. Arab Human Development Report 2003: Building a Knowledge Society. New York: United Nations Development Programme.

World Bank Group. 2006. The World Development Indicators—2006. The World Bank Group. Available from

                                             Craig Davis


The population of Asia was estimated in 2006 at 3.9 billion, which accounts for more than 60 percent of the world's population. Of the ten most populous countries in the world, six (China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Japan) are in Asia. The density of population per square mile in Asia, at 324, is 2.5 times the average for the world and is greater than the population density of any other continent. Between 2000 and 2005, the population grew at 1.2 percent per annum and virtually all of this growth was due to natural increase alone. Although trivial in terms of its effect on population change, the net migration rate for Asia is negative, with more persons leaving than entering each year (UN 2005 Population Reference Bureau 2006).

Most childbirth in Asia takes place within marriage. According to the Demographic and Health Surveys' data, although median age at first marriage for women has risen steadily, it remains below twenty years of age in large parts of South and Southeast Asia and is as low as fifteen in Bangladesh. On average, women in Asia have 2.4 children. and 49 of every 1,000 infants die in their first year. Fertility rates have been falling in Asia with women in several countries, including China and Japan, having less than two children each. However, in Afghanistan, East Timor, and Yemen, women have more than six children on average. Almost one in three persons in Asia is below the age of fifteen and only 6 percent are sixty-five or over. With a young population, a relatively low mortality rate, and a fertility rate that is above replacement, the population of Asia is expected to top 4.7 billion by 2025 (Population Reference Bureau 2006).

Life expectancy in Asia has risen sharply in the last half century, from forty-seven to sixty-seven years, with women living four years longer than men. Despite greater female longevity, the sex ratio, at 104 males per 100 females, makes Asia the only continent with significantly more males than females (UN 2005). This high sex ratio is a consequence of a preference for sons in a number of Asian countries including China, India, and Pakistan. Historically, female infanticide or neglect was used to eliminate unwanted girl babies; in 2006, higher child mortality rates of girls than boys were still seen in countries like India, but there was much less evidence of infanticide. Instead, sex ratios at birth are becoming more masculine because new technologies allow pre-selection of the sex of a child before conception or can identify the sex of a fetus early in the pregnancy, thereby enabling sex-selective abortions.

The Web site supported by UNESCO reports that literacy and access to education vary greatly across Asia. Whereas most countries of Central and East Asia have near-universal literacy, rates in South and West Asia are only 74 percent for men and 49 percent for women. Even among male and female youth (ages fifteen to twenty-four), literacy rates remain relatively low at 84 and 67 percent, respectively. School enrollment has risen sharply in the region, but 14 percent of girls and 7 percent of boys who should be in school are not.

Asia has long had a tradition of finding a role for transgender individuals. This is reflected in the fact that in several countries, the spoken language has a word for the "third sex," for example hijra in South Asia and kathoey in Thailand. While neither term equates to the English "gay," each usually refers to persons born with male or androgynous genitalia but who have a female or non-male gender identity. Hijras in India typically form their own communities and run households in which they socialize younger members into their distinct ways. In Thailand, the kathoey are visible members of society and are often found in female occupations. No reliable estimates exist for the numbers of transgender individuals in Asia, because potential sources of estimates, such as national censuses, do not provide separate information for transgender individuals.


Population Reference Bureau. 2006. 2006 World Population Data Sheet. Washington, DC.

UN. 2005. World Population Prospects: The 2004 Revisions Database. United Nation Population Division: Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

                                             Sunita Kishor


Africa is a vast and diverse continent more than three times the size of the continental United States, with more than a thousand ethnolinguistic groups; three major religions; diverse climates, vegetation, and wildlife; and a combined population of about 800 million. Africans are divided by boundaries of fifty-three nation-states, ethnic identities, class divisions, urban and rural locations, geographic barriers, and vast distances. The continent's demography is as diverse as its other features. For example the central African country of Gabon has just over 1 million people, the size of many American cities, whereas Nigeria has more than 115 million people. The Gambia is less than half the size of New Hampshire, whereas the Sudan is almost four times the size of Texas (Martin and O'Meara 1995). Contemporary diversity is deeply rooted in historical processes (e.g., the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, colonization, Cold War, globalization) that have intensified the continent's complexity (Falola 2003). Determining demographic trends in such a vast and diverse region of the world is understandably challenging.

African population densities vary depending on the geographic and climatic characteristics of a given area. Rain-forest regions are more densely populated than are those of the Savannah, whereas the vast desert of the Sahara is only marginally inhabited.

The United Nations World Population Prospects 2006 Revision confirms the diversity of demographic dynamics among various African regions. Overall, African populations continue to grow, yielding relatively youthful populations expected to age only moderately over the foreseeable future. The continent stands apart as the only major region of the world where population is still relatively abundant and largely young and where the number of elderly people, although increasing, is projected to be far below the number of children in 2050, that is, 1.2 billion.

Underlying these varied patterns of growth and changes in age structure are distinct trends in fertility and mortality. Even though African fertility rates have declined considerably since the late 1960s and are expected to reach their lowest levels by 2050, they still remain higher than in other parts of the world. Between 2005 and 2010, fertility is projected to remain above five children per woman in most African countries; however, most countries with such high fertility rates are poor and are classified as among the least developed. Fertility levels in most other countries are expected to drop from 2.75 children per woman between 2005 and 2010 to 2.05 children per woman in the projected period 2045 to 2050. The decrease forecast in the least developed countries is even sharper: from 4.63 children per woman to 2.50. To achieve such levels, access to family planning also needs to be expanded.

Child mortality rates are a significant indicator of the development and well-being of children; although it has fallen in all geographic areas of the world, sub-Saharan Africa has lagged behind. By 2010 mortality in children younger than five years of age will reach 155 per 1,000 in the region. These levels are due to deteriorating social and economic conditions exacerbated by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which has taken a devastating toll in terms of population loss in sub-Saharan Africa.

Population aging is less pronounced in African societies: just 8 percent of the population is aged sixty or over in the early twenty-first century; however, by 2050, 20 percent of the population is projected to fall within that age range. The proportion of older people is expected to rise from 64 percent to nearly 80 percent in 2050. African populations will remain relatively young where fertility is still high. Between 2005 and 2050, the populations of Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Niger, and Uganda are projected to at least triple.

Life expectancy remains low in African countries, at just fifty-five years, and is projected to reach sixty-six years between 2045 and 2050, a full 11 years below the next lowest major area, Asia. The projected levels can only be attained by controlling the expansion of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, resurgent infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria, economic stagnation, protracted armed conflict, poverty, and violence against women. These factors have hindered reduction of mortality by at least fifteen years. Females' life expectancy at birth is higher than that of males, 55.8 versus 53.4, and this gender gap is expected to widen between 2045 and 2050.


Falola, Toyin, ed. 2003. Africa 5: Contemporary Africa. Durham: Carolina Academic Press.

Martin, Phyllis M., and Patrick O'Meara, eds. 1995. Africa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS). 2006. UIS Online Database, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Available from

United Nations Economic and Social Development. 2006. World Population Prospects: The 2006 Revision Population Database. Available from

                             Bertrade Ngo-Ngijol Banoum


views updated Jun 11 2018


Demography is the study of the growth, change, and structure of the human population. Changes in a population's size and structure are caused by changes in the birthrate, the death rate, and the net migration rates. Demographic research focuses on why people have the number of children they do; on factors that affect death rates; and on the reasons for immigration, emigration, and geographic mobility. Understanding a society's demography is an essential tool in determining current and future public health needs.


The twentieth century was a very unusual period, demographically. World population grew at a more rapid and sustained pace than at any time in human history, as shown in Figure 1. The global population grew from approximately 1.7 billion people in 1900 to 6 billion in 1999. The annual population growth rate averaged 1.3 percent for the entire twentieth century, and was as high as 2.3 percent between 1965 and 1970. (A sustained 2.3 percent annual growth rate would have meant a doubling of the world's population in thirty years.)

By contrast, throughout most of history the human population grew very slowly. Occasionally, in some regions, there were periods of very rapid population growthand also very rapid population decline. However, these periods generally averaged out over time, and overall population growth was extremely slow. For example, between the years 1 c.e. and 1750, the average annual population growth rate was only 0.06 percent. (At this rate, the population would double, on average, only once every 1,250 years.) A period of rapid population growth began around 1750 in Europe and North America. Rapid population growth in most other parts of the world began between 1920 and 1960.

Why did the population begin to grow rapidly first in Europe and North America, next in Japan,

Figure 1

Australia, and New Zealand, then in most of Asia and Latin America, and finally in Africa and the rest of the world? The answer lies in how a population grows or declines. A change in the size of a population occurs in only a few ways: Either births and immigrants add new members to the population, or deaths and emigrants remove members from the population. Throughout most of human history both birthtates and death rates were high, though birthrates were slightly higher than death rates on average. Slightly higher birthrates than death rates meant that the population was growing, although at a very slow rate. Migration added to some populations and subtracted from others at different periods in history.

Beginning in the eighteenth century, however, death rates began to decline, slowly at first and then more rapidly. For example, death rates declined from about 35 to 45 deaths per 1,000 population in the period from 1750 to 1850 to around 8 to 12 deaths per 1,000 in low-mortality countries (Europe, North America, Japan, and Australasia) in the late twentieth century. This decline began in different parts of the world at different times. In North America and Europe, the timing of the mortality decline was closely tied to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. In Asia, Latin America, and Africa, declines in death rates took place mostly during the twentieth century. Declining death rates in combination with continuing high birthrates triggered the rapid growth of the population. Simply put, many more people were born into the population each year than left it through death.

Historical research shows that much of the mortality decline in Europe and North America occurred before most modern changes in medical technology and treatment, and therefore was caused by other factors. These factors include improvements in public health (including sanitation, waste disposal, clean water supply, and quarantine); changes in personal hygiene (including bathing, handwashing, and household cleanliness); improved standards of living (including better nutrition and housing); and improved political, economic, and transportation systems, which led to better responses to food shortages and drought.

These factors also played an important role in reducing death rates in Asia, Latin America, and Africa during the twentieth century. However, improvements in medical and public health technology were also important in these regions. For example, immunization programs, pesticide spraying against mosquitos that spread malaria and yellow fever; oral rehydration therapy for diarrhea; antibiotics; and improved and more widely available health care have all contributed to mortality reduction.

Despite continuing gains in health and survival, the pace of population growth began to slow in industrialized countries in the midtwentieth century and in other regions of the world in the last three decades of the twentieth century. The reason is that birthrates began to decline. In some European countries, birthrates fell so low by the end of the twentieth century that their population growth rates became slightly negative, meaning that the number of people in these countries is declining slightly. For example, between 1995 and 2000, Italy had a birthrate of 9 per 1,000 population, or an average of about 1.2 births per woman. During this period, Italy's death rate was 10.4 per 1,000 population, so the Italian population became slightly smaller each year. Birthrates have also fallen to historically low levels in many countries in Asia and Latin America. There is also substantial evidence that birthrates are declining in many African countries as well. However, there is still great variability in birth and death rates among regions of the world, as the figures in Table 1 show.

The decline in birthrates is due to dramatic changes in economic and social conditions, ideas about the family and the role of children and women, the availability of family planning programs, and the acceptance and use of contraception. Although much of the fertility decline in

Table 1

Average Annual Birth Rates, Death Rates, Total Fertility Rates, and Life Expectancy for Regions of the World, 1995-2000
Birth Rate (per 1000 population)Death Rate (per 1000 population)Total Fertility Rate (Avg. Births per Woman)Life Expactancy (Avg. Years of Life)
source: United Nations (1999) World Population Prospects: The 1998 Revision. Volume I: Comprehensive Tables. New York: Population Division, Dept. of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations. ST/ESA/SER.A/177, Table A.1.
World Total22.18.92.765.4
Latin America and the Caribbean23.16.52.769.2
Northern America13.88.31.976.9
United States14.

Europe and North America occurred before many modern contraceptive methods were available, the development and widespread use of contraceptive methods has played a major role in reducing fertility throughout the world. Contraceptive methods include the hormonal pill, the intrauterine device (IUD), sterilization (vasectomy for men and tubal ligation for women), hormonal injections and implants, and barrier methods such as condoms, spermicidal foam and jelly, diaphragms, and cervical caps. In some countries, such as the former Soviet Union and Japan, induced abortion has also played an important role in reducing the birthrate.

Even though birthrates have fallen substantially in many countries, their populations continue to grow because of the effects of their age structure, or "population momentum." For example, the U.S. population continued to grow at almost 1 percent per year during the 1980s and 1990s despite a very low birthrate. The reason is that a substantial proportion of the population was in their childbearing years because of the "baby boom" in the 1950s and early 1960s. The effects of population momentum is temporary: In the absence of immigration, if birthrates remain low for the next fifty years, the size of the U.S. population will begin to decline. However, immigration is likely to continue during this period, keeping the U.S. population growing at a relatively slow pace.


Demographers use several standard ways to measure population processes. Birthrates and death rates are the two most important measures. A birthrate (also called a crude birth rate) is the number of births in a given place and year per 1,000 population:

Similarly, the death rate (also called a crude death rate) is the number of deaths in a given place and year per 1,000 population:

The birthrate and death rate for the United States between 1995 and 2000 were 14 births per 1,000 population and 8.5 deaths per 1,000 population.

In a population with no immigration or emigration, the population growth rate is simply the birthrate minus the death rate divided by 10. By convention, population growth rates are expressed in percent (that is, per hundred people) rather than per thousand people. In the United States, the annual population growth rate (which was 0.83 percent for the years 1995 to 2000) is higher than the difference between the birthrates and death rates, because of immigration. In fact, immigration accounted for approximately one-third of the annual growth rate in the United States between 1995 and 2000.

Two other indices are commonly used to measure population change. The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) measures the average number of children that women would have in their lifetime if birthrates remain at current rates in the future. Between 1995 and 2000 the TFR ranged from 1.2 children per woman in Italy to 7.1 children per woman in Uganda. Life expectancy measures the average number of years that people would live if death rates remain at the current in the future. Table 1 shows that the TFR and life expectancy varied substantially among different regions in the world between 1995 and 2000.


At the start of the twenty-first century, the population of the United States indicates historically low birthrates and death rates and relatively slow population growth. The U.S. average annual population growth rate was 0.83 percent between 1995 and 2000. About two-thirds of this growth rate is accounted for by more births than deaths in the United States each year. About one-third is due to the presence of more immigrants than emigrants each year.

A major influence on the U.S. population in 2000 is the "baby boom" that took place between approximately 1948 and 1965. Birthrates rose substantially in the United States during this period because many couples postponed having children during the Great Depression in the 1930s and during World War II. These couples began to have children at the same time as younger couples who were just getting married. Another reason for the baby boom was the good economic climate conditions during the 1950s, which meant that couples could afford to have more children. Demographers use the term "cohort" to mean all people who were born during a particular year. The cohorts born during the baby boom were much larger than the cohorts born in previous years. Because of the larger cohorts during the baby boom, hospital maternity wards were overcrowded and demand for obstetric and pediatric health services rose substantially. As the baby boom cohorts got older, elementary schools, then high schools, and then colleges bulged at the seams as they tried to cope with a sudden increase in the number of students.

As the baby boom cohorts began to enter their childbearing years (conventionally defined as 15 to 49 years of age for women), they had much lower fertility rates than their parents. For example, the Total Fertility Rate for women during the baby boom years 1955 and 1960 averaged 3.7 children per woman. Women born during the baby boom who were having their children between 1985 and 1990 averaged only 1.9 children per woman. However, because the baby boomers were a large proportion of the U.S. population, the number of births actually rose between 1985 and 1995 compared with earlier years. This is the process of population momentum, described above. The United States has an unusual age structure as a result of the baby boom. Because of this age structure, the U.S. population will continue to grow for several more decades even if fertility rates remain low.

The baby boom will continue to have another major impact on the demography of the United States in the next several decadesbaby boomers will contribute to the aging of the population. People born at the beginning of the baby boom are just beginning to approach retirement age in 2000. Between 2010 and 2030, most people in the baby boom cohorts will reach age 65. America's population will continue to grow older, on average, because of the aging of the baby boom cohorts. Another reason that Americans will be older on average is that fertility and death rates are low. That means that a smaller proportion of the population are young children, and therefore, that a larger proportion of the population are older adults. It also means that people are living longer lives, on average, than in the past.

The aging of the U.S. population has been gradual during the last quarter of the twentieth century. In 1975, 10.5 percent of the population was age 65 and older. By 2000, this figure had grown only to 12.5 percent, a relatively modest increase. However, by 2025, almost 19 percent will be age 65 and older, and by 2050 the figure will be almost one-quarter of the population. Undoubtedly, the aging of the population means that the health needs and problems of older Americans will become an increasingly important focus for public health policy in the early twenty-first century.

Another major demographic trend in the United States is immigration. The United States is a country of immigration. Almost all Americans are descended from immigrants to North America. Even Native Americans, who preceded European and African settlers by many centuries, are believed to have immigrated to North America from Asia. The volume of immigration to the United States has been increasing since the 1950s. Between 1992 and 1999, an average of 800,000 immigrants were legally admitted to the United States every year. This number includes family members of U.S. citizens and residents, as well as refugees, highly skilled workers, and farm workers and lower-skilled workers. An additional 250,000 immigrants probably entered the United States illegally during the same period. Approximately 220,000 people were estimated to emigrate (that is, to move to other countries) each year in the late 1990s.

Between the beginning of European settlement in the 1600s and the Civil War, most immigrants came from northern and western Europe or (generally as slaves) from Africa. Between 1880 and 1914, there was a major wave of immigration to the United States. In 1914, approximately 1.2 million immigrants were admitted, a number which far exceeds the average annual number of legal immigrants in the late 1990s. Although most immigrants arriving during this period continued to come from northern and western Europe, a substantial proportion came from southern and eastern Europe and from Asia.

Among immigrants arriving legally in the 1990s, approximately half came from Latin America, 30 percent from Asia, and 13 percent from Europe. Just as earlier waves of immigration molded the ethnic composition of the United States, recent immigration patterns have contributed to the current ethnic makeup as well. However, other factors have also had an important effect on ethnic composition at the end of the twentieth century, including intermarriage among couples of different ethnic backgrounds and small but significant differences in fertility rates between ethnic groups. In 2000, approximately 72 percent of Americans were white non-Hispanics, 12 percent were African American, 11 percent were Hispanic, 4 percent were Asian, and 1 percent were Native American. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that by 2025 about 62 percent of the population will be non-Hispanics whites, 13 percent African America, 18 percent Hispanic, 6 percent Asian, and 1 percent Native American. Many Americans have multiple ethnic backgrounds, however, and cannot be classified easily into a single ethnic category. For this reason, the United States 2000 Census allowed people to classify themselves in more than one ethnic group. Estimates of the future ethnic composition of the United States have to realize that classification by a single ethnic origin is likely to be less useful in the future.


Understanding a society's demography is an essential tool in determining current and future public health needs. Demographic structure can affect public health needs in at least three ways: (1) age structure and sex ratio affect the types of health problems encountered, (2) population growth rates affect future needs for health care delivery, and (3) the existence of substantial immigrant and refugee populations can also be important.

The health needs of a population differ considerably by age and by sex. A population's history of birth and death rates changes the age structure in a way that is easy to predict. Generally, a fertility decline reduces the proportion of children in a population, while a decline in death rates increases life expectancy and the proportion of elderly in the population.

The United States provides a good illustration. During the baby boom period the age structure of the population was relatively "young" because birthrates were fairly high. A major emphasis of health care policy during that period was on prenatal and maternity care and on the health problems of mothers and children. In countries with even higher fertility rates, such as many African and some Asian countries, maternal and child health needs are even more of a priority because the proportion of the population at younger ages is even higher. During the last decades of the twentieth century, the population of the United States became older, on average. By 2025, a substantial and growing portion of the American population will be 65 and older. Therefore, health policy is increasingly being focused on the needs of the elderly.

The sex ratio can also affect health care needs. For most age groups, the sex ratio (that is the ratio of males to females) is close to equal. In general, however, men have higher death rates than women. As a result, at older ages sex ratios are generally much lower. That is, there are many fewer men than women. While women are likely to have longer life spans than men, they are also more likely to become widows and to have to care for themselves at older ages.

Population growth rates can affect the size and rate of growth in health care needs in a population. Specifically, provision of health services to a rapidly growing population is more difficult than to a population growing more slowly. In the United States, most policymakers seek to increase access to health services among the poor and underserved

Table 2

Example of the Effects of Population Growth on the Demand for Health Services
Country ACountry B
source: Courtesy of author.
1990 Total Population1,000,0001,000,000
No. of People Covered by Health Services in 1990 (25%)250,000250,000
Annual Population Growth Rate3.0%1.5%
1995 Total Population1,161,8341,077,884
No. of people covered in 1995 if 25% coverage is maintained290,459269,471
No. of people covered in 1995 if target of 35% coverage is met406,641377,260

segments of the population. In developing countries, policymakers are even more concerned with expanding access to health services. Rapid population growth can make it difficult to continue to provide the same level of services to all segments of the population, and even harder to increase the level of health services available.

Consider two relatively poor countries, both of which have exactly 1 million people in 1990, as shown in Table 2. In 1990, each country is providing health services to 25 percent of the population, or 250,000 people, and each country has a goal of extending health care to cover 35 percent of the population by 1995. If Country A is growing at 3 percent per year and Country B is growing at 1.5 percent, Country A is going to have a harder time both maintaining 25 percent health-service coverage and expanding its health services to cover 35 percent of the population.

To maintain health care coverage at a level of 25 percent, both countries will have to expand the number of people covered between 1990 and 1995 by training more personnel, building more facilities, and investing more in supplies and equipment. However, as Table 2 shows, Country B will have to cover only 19,471 more people in 1995 while Country A will have to cover an additional 40,459 people in order to maintain 25 percent coverage. To increase coverage to 35 percent, Country B will have to provide services to an additional 127,260 people while Country A will have to cover an additional 156,641 people. As this example shows, health planners need to take population growth rates into account when estimating the future health care needs of a population. The United Nations Population Division and the United States Census Bureau regularly produce population projections which can be used as guides to the likely future size and structure of a country's or local area's population.

With improvements in transportation and changing political and economic circumstances, immigration and emigration will be an important issue for the United States, and for most of the countries of the world, in the twenty-first century. Governments and international organizations generally divide immigrants into two groups: refugees, who are those fleeing their home countries because of political persecution or war; and labor or economic migrants, who go to other countries seeking employment and a better life. Refugees and economic migrants can move between two countries or within a single country. Note that the distinction between refugees and economic migrants is often not very clear. For example, migrants from a country facing severe drought may be fleeing to seek better economic opportunities and/or because they may face starvation and violence due to drought if they remain at home.

Immigrant populations, and particularly refugees, often pose important challenges for health planners and health-service providers. For example, recent immigrants may have little knowledge of the health care system or health and social-service providers. They often arrive with a different set of health beliefs and they may face language and cultural barriers when seeking health care. Recent immigrants are also likely to have lower incomes and to be more vulnerable to downturns in economic conditions such as recessions. Although immigrants in established migration streams usually have a network of social and family contacts in the country then migrate to, recent migrants often live closer to the margin than long-term immigrant groups.

Refugees often have additional health problems because of the political persecution they have faced. Their special health needs may include psychological treatment for conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, as well as treatment for infectious diseases, injuries, and malnutrition. Refugees, like other immigrants, may also face discrimination in employment or in access to health and social services in the country they migrate to, which is likely to affect their health status.

While many refugees settle in the United States or other industrialized countries, the majority (more than 80%) find asylum in developing countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, where health services are often poor. Refugees often face serious barriers to finding employment in countries of asylum for two reasons: (1) farm land is not readily available to outsiders, especially those without funds to purchase land, and (2) few jobs exist in other sectors of the economy. As a result, they can become dependent on international aid organizations for economic support, food aid, and health services. Examples of this situation during the 1990s include Cambodian refugee camps on the Thai-Cambodian border, Ethiopian refugees in Sudan and Somalia, Somalian refugees in Kenya, and Guatemalan and El Salvadoran refugees in Mexico.

Anne R. Pebley

(see also: Behavior; Birthrate; Contraception; Family Planning Immigration; Life Expectancy and Life Tables; Planning for Public Health; Population Forecasts; Population Growth; Population Policies; Population Pyramid )


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United Nations (1999). World Population Prospects: The 1998 Revision, Vol. I: Comprehensive Tables. New York: Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations.


views updated Jun 08 2018



Demography is the scientific study of the size, composition, and distribution of human populations, and their changes resulting from fertility, mortality, and migration. Demography is concerned with how large (or small) populations are, that is, their size; how the populations are composed according to age, sex, race, marital status, and other characteristics, that is, their composition; and how populations are distributed in physical space (e.g., how urban and rural they are), that is, their spatial distribution (Bogue 1969). Demography is also interested in the changes over time in the size, composition, and distribution of human populations, and how these result from the processes of fertility, mortality, and migration.

The term demography is from the Greek demos (population) and graphia (writing). It is believed to have first appeared in print in 1855 in the book Elements of Human Statistics or Comparative Demography by the Belgian statistician Achille Guillard (17991876) (Borrie 1973, p. 75; Rowland 2003, p. 16).

Some demographers argue that demography is best treated as a subdiscipline or specialization of sociology owing to its organizational relationship with sociology (Moore 1959, p. 833). However, the organizational affinity in universities between demography and sociology is not universal. In some Eastern European universities, demography is organizationally linked with economics, and in some Western European universities, with geography. In many countries (e.g., China), demography is taught in a separate university department.

The American sociologist Kingsley Davis (19081997), who served at different times as president of both the Population Association of America and the American Sociological Association, wrote in 1948 in his classic sociology textbook, Human Society, that the science of population, sometimes called demography, represents a fundamental approach to the understanding of human society (1948, p. 551). The relationship between sociology and demography is hence a fundamental one: Society is both a necessary and sufficient cause of population trends (1948, pp. 553554).

There are only two ways to enter a population, by birth and by in-migration. There are two ways to leave a population, by death and by out-migration. Thus, a population is often defined by demographers according to the specific needs of the research and researcher. Samuel Preston and his colleagues have written that the term population refers to a collection of items, for example, balls in an urn. Demographers use the term in a similar way to denote a collection of persons alive at a specified point in time who meet certain criteria (2001, p 1). For example, the population of interest may be that of students attending a specific university during a specific year. In this situation, the students are born (i.e., enter) into the population when they enroll, and they die (i.e., leave) when they graduate.

Generally, demographers use vital registration (birth and death) records to count births and deaths in a population to determine fertility and mortality rates. The more difficult demographic process to measure is migration because in most countries registration records are not maintained when persons migrate into or out of the population. Data gathered around the world from decennial census and sample surveys are also used by demographers to examine demographic and sociodemographic issues.

Demographic techniques allow for the calculation of population projections, which specify the future size of the population by utilizing specific assumptions about the parameters driving the future fertility, mortality, and migration of the population. Population projections for all the countries around the world are periodically calculated by demographers at the United Nations and other international organizations and are made publicly available. Such projections are often used by government agencies and private firms to plan the infrastructure of cities, such as the number of schools, hospitals, airports, and parks that would be needed in the future in order for the cities to be able to function properly.

Demography is concerned not only with the observation and description of the size, composition, and spatial distribution of human populations and the changes resulting from fertility, mortality, and migration. Demography is also concerned with developing explanations for why the demographic variables operate and change in the ways they do: That is, why do some populations increase in size and others decrease? Why do some become older and others become younger? Why are some more urban and others more rural?

One paradigm in demography, known as formal demography, uses only demographic variables, such as age and sex, as independent variables to answer the above questions. Another paradigm, known as social demography, uses such nondemographic variables as marital status, race, education, socioeconomic status, occupation, household size, and type of place of residencevariables drawn mainly from sociology, economics, psychology, geography, anthropology, biology, and other disciplinesto answer the questions.

To illustrate, formal demographers might address differences in populations in their birth rates and death rates by considering their differences in age composition or in sex composition. Younger populations typically have higher birth rates than older populations; and populations with more females than males will usually have lower death rates than populations with more males than females (Poston 2005). Social demographers might address the above differences in populations in their birth rates and death rates by examining differences among them in, say, their socioeconomic status. Usually, populations with high socioeconomic status will have lower birth rates and death rates than populations with low socioeconomic status.

Demographic data may be introduced to provide some perspective for distinguishing between these two approaches. Human populations have different levels of fertility. Countries thus differ with respect to their total fertility rates (roughly defined as the average number of children born to a woman during her childbearing years). In 2004 Poland and Romania had very low fertility rates of 1.2, among the lowest in the world. Conversely, Niger, Guinea-Bissau, and Yemen had very high fertility rates of 8.0, 7.1, and 7.0, respectivelythe highest in the world (Population Reference Bureau, 2004). Why do these fertility differences exist? Why do Niger, Guinea-Bissau, and Yemen have fertility rates that are so much higher than those of Poland and Romania? To answer this question, the social demographer would go beyond purely demographic issues of age and sex composition and would focus on the processes of industrialization and modernization.

Another example focuses on what demographers refer to as the percentage rate of natural increase/decrease, that is, the difference between the birth rate and the death rate. In 2004 both Russia and Bulgaria had a rate of -0.6 percent: that is, the difference between their crude birth and death rates was about -6/1000 or -0.6/100. In contrast, the rate in both Madagascar and Saudi Arabia was 3.0 percent. In these countries, the difference between their birth and death rates was 30/1000 or 3/100.

Why are these four countries growing at such drastically different rates? Why do Russia and Bulgaria have negative growth rates, and why do Madagascar and Saudi Arabia have positive rates? The formal demographer might develop an answer by considering the birth rates of these countries. The numbers of babies born per 1,000 population in 2004 in Russia, Bulgaria, Madagascar, and Saudi Arabia were 10, 10, 43, and 32, respectively. The latter two countries have higher rates of growth than the former two countries because their birth rates are so much higher. The social demographer would first consider the birth rate differentials, but would then go beyond this demographic consideration to an answer involving nondemographic factors that may be influencing the birth rates. Perhaps the economy has something to do with it (poorer countries have higher birth rates). Perhaps the level of industrialization of the country has an impact (the more industrialized countries generally have lower birth rates). Perhaps the role of women compared to men is having an effect (countries with more gender equity tend to have lower birth rates).

Whatever the reasons, the social demographer extends the answer beyond demographic reasons. Social demography is broader in scope and orientation than formal demography. Preston has noted, for example, that demography includes research of any disciplinary stripe on the causes and consequences of population change (1993, p. 593).

Given the impact of industrialization in the reduction of fertility and mortality and the international migration flows from less developed to more developed countries around the world, it is a common practice among demographers to observe separately the demographic processes in less developed countries from those in more developed countries. The issues that concern demographers often vary depending on the level of industrialization of each country. In less developed countries, high levels of fertility, high levels of infant mortality, a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, and high levels of out-migration to more developed countries tend to be some of the main demographic concerns. In more developed countries, low fertility patterns, women having babies at later ages, populations with below replacement levels of fertility, and large numbers of migrants from less developed countries are some of the main issues being examined by demographers.

A frequent concern in demography is the extent to which changes in individual-level behavior have an effect on aggregate processes (Preston et al. 2001). For example, if it suddenly became normative for individuals in a population to become smokers once they reach a certain age, then the demographer would want to find out to what extent the life expectancy at age x would be affected, as well as the death rate for that population. Similarly, regarding fertility, if women in a certain country decided to have children at older ages, then the concern becomes to what extent such behavior can have an effect on the total fertility rate, on the growth rate, and on whether the population will be maintained at a replacement level of fertility (which in populations with low levels of mortality is around 2.1 children per woman).

Demographers also are often concerned with how social policy could impact the aggregate population processes. In China, for example, demographers have identified a relationship between the enforcement of fertility policies and increasing levels of social and economic development and the sex ratio at birth (Poston et al. 1997; Poston and Glover 2005). The sex ratio at birth is the number of males born per 100 females born and is around 105 in most societies. Since the 1980s in China it has been significantly above 105. In 2000 Chinas sex ratio at birth was near 120. The rapid reduction of fertility in China, along with the long-standing preference for sons, has led to the selective abortion of female fetuses, and a sex ratio at birth above normal levels. As a consequence, in China there will not be enough women in the population for the next few decades for Chinese men to marry. This is a major effect of societal modernization and fertility-control policies (Poston and Morrison 2005).

Demographers do not always agree about the boundaries and restrictions of their field. John Caldwell stated the problem succinctly: What demography is and what demographers should be confined to doing remains a difficult area in terms not only of the scope of professional interests, but also of the coverage aimed at in the syllabuses for students and in what is acceptable for journals in the field (1996, p. 305).

Other demographers argue for a broader approach, noting that demography is not a specialization of sociology, or of any discipline, but a discipline in its own right. Consider the definition of demography in the popular demography textbook Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues by John Weeks: Demography is concerned with virtually everything that influences, or can be influenced by population size, distribution, processes, structures, or characteristics (2005, p. 5).

It is no wonder that J. Mayone Stycos observed that as a field with its own body of interrelated concepts, techniques, journals and professional associations, demography is clearly a discipline (1987, p. 616). Caldwell also reached this conclusion, but more for methodological reasons: Demography will remain a distinct discipline because of its approach: its demand that conclusions be in keeping with observable and testable data in the real world, that these data be used as shrewdly as possible to elicit their real meanings, and that the study should be representative of sizable or significant and definable populations (1996, p. 333).

SEE ALSO Fertility, Human; Malthus, Thomas Robert; Population Growth


Bogue, Donald J. 1969. Principles of Demography. New York: Wiley.

Borrie, W. D. 1973. The Place of Demography in the Development of the Social Sciences. In International Population Conference, Liege, 1973, 7393. Liege, Belgium: International Union for the Scientific Study of Population.

Caldwell, John C. 1996. Demography and Social Science. Population Studies 50: 305333.

Davis, Kingsley. 1948. Human Society. New York: Macmillan.

Hauser, Philip M., and Otis Dudley Duncan. 1959. The Nature of Demography. In The Study of Population: An Inventory and Appraisal, ed. Philip M. Hauser and Otis Dudley Duncan, 2944. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

McFalls, Joseph, Jr. 2003. Population: A Lively Introduction. 4th ed. Population Bulletin 58 (4).

Micklin, Michael, and Dudley L. Poston Jr. 2005. Prologue: The Demographers Ken: 50 Years of Growth and Change. In Handbook of Population, ed. Dudley L. Poston Jr. and Michael Micklin, 115. New York: Springer.

Moore, Wilbert E. 1959. Sociology and Demography. In The Study of Population: An Inventory and Appraisal, ed. Philip M. Hauser and Otis Dudley Duncan, 832851. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Population Reference Bureau. 2004. 2004 World Population Data Sheet. Washington, DC: Population Reference Bureau. http:/

Population Reference Bureau. 2005. 2005 World Population Data Sheet. Washington, DC: Population Reference Bureau.

Poston, Dudley L., Jr. 2005. Age and Sex. In Handbook of Population, ed. Dudley L. Poston Jr. and Michael Micklin, 1958. New York: Springer.

Poston, Dudley L., Jr., and Karen S. Glover. 2005. Too Many Males: Marriage Market Implications of Gender Imbalances in China. Genus 61: 119140.

Poston, Dudley L., Jr., Baochang Gu, Peihang Liu, and Terra McDaniel. 1997. Son Preference and the Sex Ratio at Birth in China: A Provincial Level Analysis. Social Biology 44: 5576.

Poston, Dudley L., Jr., and Peter A. Morrison. 2005. China: Bachelor Bomb. International Herald Tribune (September 14): 10.

Pressat, Roland. 1985. The Dictionary of Demography. Oxford: Blackwell.

Preston, Samuel H. 1993. The Contours of Demography: Estimates and Projections. Demography 30: 593606.

Preston, Samuel H., Patrick Heuveline, and Michel Guillot. 2001. Demography: Measuring and Modeling Population Processes. Oxford: Blackwell.

Rowland, Donald T. 2003. Demographic Methods and Concepts. New York: Oxford University Press.

Stycos, J. Mayone. 1987. Demography as an Interdiscipline. Sociological Forum 2: 615628.

Weeks, John R. 2005. Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues. 9th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Dudley L. Poston Jr.

Nadia Y. Flores


views updated Jun 08 2018


The approximately 150 million people of African descent who inhabit the Americas are concentrated on the coastal rim of Brazil, the eastern and southern parts of the United States, and the Caribbean region, helping to create a geographical pattern characterized by some people as the "Black Atlantic." Yet important concentrations of these peoples are found throughout the Western Hemisphere, the result of a continuing dispersion or movement of black peoples that continues in the twenty-first century.

With relatively few exceptions, blacks in the Americas are descendants of the slaves transported from Africa in the transatlantic slave trade that lasted from the early sixteenth century to the late nineteenth century. The origins of this trade were nearly simultaneous with the exploration and conquest of the Americas by Europeans. Blacks actively resisted enslavement from the start; as early as 1505, African slaves escaped into the mountains of what is now the Dominican Republic, thereby establishing a free black presence in the Americas that predates the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock by more than a century.

In 1969 the historian Philip Curtin, having researched censuses, ship records, and similar documents, estimated that a total of 9.6 million African slaves were brought across the Atlantic in the four centuries of the slave trade. Subsequent academic work has revised these figures, usually upwards. Taken altogether, these studies reveal the broad contours of the Atlantic slave trade. The overwhelming majority of slaves were from West and West Central African, from Senegal south to Angola. The main destination for African slaves (nearly 40%) was Brazil. African supply patterns and the labor requirements and economic cycles for tropical and subtropical plantation staple crops in the Americas led to an uneven flow of slaves, rather than a continuous movement. The overall numbers of slaves brought to particular regions did not necessarily predict population totals of later years; very high slave imports into the Caribbean, for example, were almost always reduced by the tragically high slave death rates in the region.

Liberation and emancipation movements of the nineteenth century, from Haiti's successful rebellion of 1803 to the last slave emancipations in Brazil and Cuba in the

1880s, led to increased mobility. Since that time, black individuals, families, and groups, have moved from country to city, from one region to another, and internationally. These movements defy simple classification, reflecting at once coercion, opportunity, dissatisfaction, and personal choice, and they have complicated explanations for subsequent black population patterns in the Western Hemisphere and elsewhere.

A further complication is the impossibility of designating a common meaning of who is and is not "black." The intermixing of those of pure African descent with others in the Americas has led to an almost infinite gradation of skin colors and other physical attributes among individuals, so that an individual considered "black" in the United States may not be so designated in Jamaica or Brazil. These varying attributes or features also lead to difficulties and ambiguities in self-identity that often change over time, greatly complicating the tasks of census takers.

North America

The 2000 population census of the United States enumerated 281 million people, of whom 36.4 million (nearly 13%) considered themselves black. Among black Americans, 55 percent resided in the South, 18 percent in both the Midwest and the East, and 9 percent in the West. In the District of Columbia, 61 percent of the residents were black, and the states with the highest black percentages were Mississippi (37%), Louisiana (33%), South Carolina (30%), Georgia (29%), and Maryland (29%).

Whereas the prototypical black American of the early twenty-first century lives in a southern town or small city, the greatest concentrations are in the large urban areas. The 2000 census counted 2.3 million black people (accounting for 28.5% of the city's total population) in New York, while Chicago had over one million black residents. Among the largest cities in the country, Detroit (82%), Philadelphia (44%), and Chicago (37%) had the largest percentages of black people. In Baltimore, Memphis, Washington D.C., and New Orleans over 60 percent of the population was black.

The census data gathered in 2000 contributed to a national statistical profile showing that blacks (36% of males were under eighteen) were younger than non-Hispanic whites (24%). At the other end of the age spectrum, only 7 percent of black males lived past age 65 and were therefore able to collect full social security benefits, whereas their non-Hispanic white counterparts were twice as likely to live beyond 65. A lower percentage of black families were headed by married couples than whites; 43 percent of black families were headed by a single woman and 9 percent of black families headed by a single man. An estimated 32.9 million people in the United States lived below the poverty line, among them 23 percent of blacks (8.1 million) and 8 percent of whites (15.3 million).

The statistical contours of the black American populace delineated by the 2000 census data were, of course, the cumulative result of decades of demographic history. The United States population census of 1790, which showed a total human population of almost four million, enumerated over 757,000 African Americans, roughly 19 percent of the total. And although studies of British colonial demographic history are complicated by conflicting and unreliable data, scholars agree that, beginning around the 1730s, the black population of British North America (later the United States) showed a high rate of natural increase, especially when compared with the British West Indies.

Roughly 95 percent of the blacks enumerated in the 1790 census were slaves, about the same percentage as in 1810, by which time the black population of the United States had nearly doubled to 1,378,000. This dramatic rise came from a combination of slave imports (until the trade was abolished in 1807) and natural increases. In the next half century, as plantation cotton came to dominate the U.S. Gulf Coast states all the way to Texas, the black slave population grew accordingly. In 1870, the year of the first U.S. census taken since slave emancipation in 1862, the black American population had grown to 4,880,000.

This figure grew in the next half century, and in 1920 there were 10,463,000 blacks in the United States. Yet because of the remarkably high immigration rates of Europeans into the United States in the latter part of the nineteenth century, the percentage of African Americans in 1920 was just under 10 percent, down from the nearly 20 percent in colonial days. The early and middle decades of the twentieth century saw an expansion of black America into the country's heartland. From border states such as Kentucky and Missouri, African Americans began migrating north in substantial numbers during World War I, followed by larger numbers from the Deep South in subsequent decades to Chicago, Detroit, and other industrial cities. The overall percentages of blacks in the country's total population increased somewhat by the end of the century; the 1980 U.S. census enumerated a total of 226.5 million Americans, of whom 26.5 million (11.7%) were black; there were 30 million African Americans (12.1%) among the overall total of 249 million in 1990; and in 2000, the census counted almost 35 million African Americans (12.3%) among the 281 million U.S. residents.

Black immigrants coming to the United States have augmented natural population increases in the latter decades of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. Notably, Caribbean peoples have come in the thousandssome to Miami and other large cities, but the great majority to New York. Perhaps two million black people of Caribbean descent inhabited the New York area at the start of the twenty-first century, but any such figure is an estimate because many have come without formal documentation and because there is much back-and-forth movement between the Caribbean and New York.

Perhaps one million Canadians are black. The 2001 census, enumerating nearly 30 million Canadians, included "Black" as a category, but it also included categories such as "Jamaican," "Haitian," and "West Indian," which include black people. Blacks have lived in Canada since colonial days. Their numbers were increased by the Underground Railroad traffic in the 1800s during U.S. slavery. In the latter decades of the twentieth century, thousands of black West Indian immigrants settled mainly in the eastern part of Canada, with English-speakers concentrated in Ontario and French-speakers in Quebec. A few tens of thousands of noticeably black peoples live in the coastal areas of Mexico's Vera Cruz state and also in the Pacific "Costa Chica" zone of Guerrero and Oaxaca states. An important presence of descendants of black slaves in Mexico has been reduced, however, apparently through absorption into the larger population.

The Caribbean and Central America

Probably two-thirds of the 35 to 40 million people inhabiting the Caribbean region in the early twenty-first century are of African descent. The region's relatively small population does not square with the estimate that 50 percent of all African slaves brought to the Western Hemisphere during the four centuries of the slave trade came to the Caribbean. The slaves' high death rates in the region, and their subsequent inability to sustain their own populations, came from overwork, an alien disease environment,

and precarious food sources that often depended upon imports.

Although most people in the Caribbean are black and consider themselves so, the region is characterized by ethnic and racial complexity. An estimated 62 percent of Cuba's 11 million people are black or Mulatto. Well over 90 percent of the 2.5 million Jamaicans and 7 million Haitians are black. The 11 percent black population among the nearly 9 million people in the Dominican Republic, Haiti's neighbor on the eastern side of the island of Hispaniola, does not include the nation's very high percentage of mixed-blood peoples. Only 8 percent of the 3.8 million Puerto Ricans counted in the 2000 U.S. population census considered themselves "Black," yet an additional 11 percent were of "some other race." Among the islands of the eastern Caribbean, most people are blackon some of the smallest islands almost every person could be classified as Afro-Caribbean. Yet among the 1.5 million Trinidadians, only half are of African ancestry; this is because of the presence of hundreds of thousands who descend from indentured laborers from India.

Caribbean demography is further complicated by high rates of migration. Since British slave emancipation in the 1830s, black men and women have traveled awaypermanently and temporarilyin quest of better opportunities elsewhere, to improve conditions at home, as an antidote to the boredom of insularity, and for many other reasons. The probable majority of these movements have been within the Caribbean itself, resulting in enclaves of outsiders residing on nearly every island. But Caribbean migrants have moved internationally as well. When attractive prospects elsewhere have combined with economic distress at home, these migrations have taken on sizable proportions. Tens of thousands of black West Indians traveled to work on the Panama Canal in the early twentieth century and to Cuban and Dominican sugar cane fields thereafter. Similar numbers have migrated to Europe since the mid-twentieth century.

The historically recent movements of black peoples from the Caribbean to New York and elsewhere in the United States has reinforced an earlier African presence that is centuries old and has greatly affected American culture. Early-twentieth-century labor and cultural movements (such as the Harlem Renaissance) were heavily influenced by black Caribbean migrants. Music and sport in the United States in the late twentieth century would be very different without black West Indians. Important personalities all along the black American political spectrumincluding Harry Belafonte, Shirley Chisholm, Louis Farrakhan, Malcolm X, and Colin Powelltrace their heritage to the Caribbean.

Caribbean migrants have also traveled to work destinations in Central America, both as individuals and as groups of laborers. In some cases they have encountered black descendants of earlier enslavement there. The resulting black presence in Central America is most noticeable along the Caribbean rim of the isthmus. In any case, population estimates of AfroCentral American peoples are contested and unreliable. Conservative estimates for other black populations in the region are Honduras: 110,000; Nicaragua: 379,000; Costa Rica: 103,000; and Panama: 379,000.

South America

As one would assume from historical slavery estimates, by far the largest numbers of AfroSouth Americans are Brazilian. Brazil's estimated total population of 182 million in 2003 included 6 percent black and 38 percent of mixed black ancestrypercentages that many consider too low, owing to a widespread desire to be considered white for purposes of socioeconomic advancement. Like most people in the country, Afro-Brazilians are mainly urban dwellers, and high percentages of black people reside in the enormous cities of southern Brazil; an estimated 25 percent of the 18 million people residing in São Paolo are of African descent, and 66 percent of Rio de Janeiro's 10 million people are black. In the same way that many U.S. blacks continue to inhabit the nineteenth-century tobacco and cotton zones of the U.S. South, many Afro-Brazilians reside in the former sugar cane zones in the northeastern part of the country. Bahia (or Salvador), the principal city in that region, and Brazil's third largest urban area at 2.5 million people, is estimated to have a black populace nearing 80 percent.

Brazilian demographic data show a distressing disparity in well-being between whites and blacks, and thereby run counter to exuberant claims that the country is a "racial democracy." Infant mortality rates among white Brazilians are 37 per 1000 live births, but 62 per 1,000 for Afro-Brazilians; white life expectancy is 66 years, while for blacks it is 59; and literacy rates are 85 percent for whites but only 65 percent for blacks. Brazilian education, income, and employment figures show similar disparities between blacks and whites.

After Brazil, Colombia (with an estimated total population of 41 million in 2001) has the largest black populace in South America. An estimated 7 million (18% of all Colombians) are of African ancestry, and probably twothirds of them are mixed-blood peoples. Black Colombians descend from slaves brought by the Spaniards to work in colonial mines and plantations. Early in the twenty-first century, Afro-Colombians inhabit the nation's Caribbean coastal areas and the Cauca and Magdalena river valleys farther south. In both Venezuela (where 2.3 million people of black ancestry reside) and Ecuador (1.2 million blacks), people of African ancestry make up about 3 to 5 percent of national populations. An estimated 750,000 blacks live in Peru, and smaller numbers of AfroSouth Americans are found elsewhere on the continent.

A numerically tiny yet culturally significant black group lives in the rainforests of northern South America. The so-called "Bush Negro" peoples of interior Suriname inhabit river settlements inland from the coastal zone of the small country. Numbering only a few thousand, they are direct descendants of slaves who escaped from Dutch colonial plantations. Their material culture is thus heavily influenced by their African heritage, and their oral history tells of their escapes from plantation control and a centuries-long resistance to European domination. These small African village settlements along the rapids of Suriname's rivers are thereby a living microcosm of the historical sweep of a black African presence in the Western Hemisphere for five hundred years.

See also African Diaspora; Identity and Race in the United States; Migration; Mortality and Morbidity, Latin America and the Caribbean; Mortality and Morbidity, United States; Slave Trade


Conniff, Michael L. and Thomas J. Davis, eds. Africans in the Americas: A History of the Black Diaspora. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994.

Curtin, Philip D. The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Census. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1969.

Farley, Reynolds. Growth of the Black Population: A Study of Demographic Trends. Chicago: Markham, 1970.

Graham, Richard, ed. The Idea of Race in Latin America, 18791940. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1990.

Haines, Michael R. and Richard H. Steckel, eds. A Population History of North America. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Hine, Darlene Clark and Jacqueline McLeod, eds. Crossing Boundaries: Comparative History of Black People in Diaspora. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999.

Klein, Herbert S. The Atlantic Slave Trade. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

McKinnon, Jesse. "The Black Population: 2000." U.S. Census report, pp. 112. Available from <>.

Palmer, Colin A. Slaves of the White God: Blacks in Mexico, 15701650. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1976.

Price, Richard. First-Time: The Historical Vision of an Afro-American People, 2d ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002.

Reichmann, Rebecca, ed. Race in Contemporary Brazil: From Indifference to Inequality. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999.

Reid, Ira De A. The Negro Immigrant: His Background, Characteristics, and Social Adjustment, 18991937. New York: Columbia University Press, 1939. Reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1969.

Richardson, Bonham C. The Caribbean in the Wider World, 14921992: A Regional Geography. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

Waters, Mary C. Black Identities: West Indian Immigrant Dreams and American Realities. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999.

bonham c. richardson (2005)


views updated Jun 11 2018


The demography of Russia has influenced, and been influenced by, historical events. Demographic shifts can be seen in the population pyramid of 2002. The imbalance at the top of the chart indicates many more women live to older ages than men. The small numbers aged 55-59 represents the drastic declines in fertility from Soviet population catastrophes during the 1930s and 1940s, followed by a postwar baby boom aged 40-55. The relatively smaller number of men and women aged 30-34 reflects the echo of the 5559 year old cohort. The larger cohorts at younger ages reflect the echo effect of Soviet baby boomers. The Russian population pyramid is unique in its dramatic variation in cohort

Table 1

size, and illustrates how population has influenced, and been influenced by, historical events.

Trends in migration, fertility, morbidity and mortality shaped Russia's growth rate, changed the distribution of population resources, and altered the ethnic and linguistic structure of the population. The implications of demographic change varied by the historical period in which it occurred, generated different effects between individuals of different age groups, and influenced some birth cohorts more than others. Throughout Russia's history, demographic trends were largely determined by global pandemics, governmental policies and interventions, economic development, public health practices, and severe population shocks associated with war and famine.

As in other countries, population trends provided a clear window into social stratification within Russia, as improvements in public health tended to be concentrated among elites, leaving the poor more susceptible to illness, uncontrolled fertility, and shorter life spans.

Two unique aspects concerning Russia's demographic history warrant note. During both the Imperial and Soviet periods, demographic data were manipulated to serve the ideological needs of the state. Second, Russia's demographic profile during the 1990s raised questions concerning the permanence of the epidemiological transition (of high mortality and deaths by infectious disease to low mortality and deaths by degenerative disease). Life expectancies fell dramatically and infectious diseases re-emerged during the 1990s as demographic concerns became significant security issues.

sources of demographic data

The Mongols instituted the first population registry in Russia, but few large-scale repositories of demographic information existed before the late Imperial period. Regional land registry (cadastral ) records provided household size information and could be used with church records, tax assessment documents, serf work assignments, and urban hospital records to provide indirect and localized estimates of population, and in some cases, family formation, fertility, and mortality data. In 1718, the focus of enumeration shifted to an enumeration of individuals, with adjustments or revizy, conducted for verification. The move to local self-government, and the creation of zemstvos in 1864, also provided a wealth of historical data, particularly regarding the demographic situation within peasant households, but as previous sources, the data were limited to small scale regional indicators. In 1897, across the entire Russian Empire a population census with 100,000 enumerators collected information from 127 million present (nalichnoye ) and permanent (postoyannoye ) residents on residence, social class, language (but not ethnicity), occupation, literacy, and religion. A second census was planned but not executed due to the outbreak of World War I.

Enumeration and registration of the population was a serious concern in the Soviet period, and censuses of the population supplied important verification of residence, linguistic identity, and ethnic composition. The first comprehensive census in 1926 enumerated 147 million residents of the Soviet Union, 92.7 million of whom resided in the RSFSR. The next full census of 1939 was not published, due to political concerns. Subsequent postwar censuses in the Soviet Union (1959, 1970, 1979, 1989) improved significantly upon previous censuses in terms of quality of coverage. These data provided information that could be evaluated with increasingly comprehensive records on fertility, mortality, migration, and public health indicators collected through various state ministries at the allunion and republic levels.

During the post-Soviet period, scholars agree the quality of population information declined during the early 1990s, as state ministries reorganized, funding for statistical offices became erratic, and decentralization increased burdens for record keeping for individual oblasts. A micro census was carried out in 1994 of a 5 percent population sample. After false starts in 1999 and 2001 and heated debates over questionnaire content, the first post-Soviet census was conducted in October of 2002.

demographic trends in the russian empire

During the Time of Troubles (15981613), Russia experienced a sharp population decline due to declines in mortality and fertility. During the 1600s Russia's population increased, but the rate and stability of the trend over the century is subject to debate. During the following century substantial efforts to address public health needs were made in Russia's urban areas. Catherine II (the Great) established the first medical administration during the later 1700s, leading to some of the earliest epidemiological records for Russia. During the nineteenth century, mortality rates across age groups were higher than those found in Europe. Infant mortality was problematically high, declining only during the late 1800s due to increased public health campaigns.

Social changes such as the reforms of the 1860s served as catalysts for improved living standards, particularly in rural areas. These in turn improved the population's health. At the same time increases in literacy also improved health practices. Education and improvements in literacy across the empire led to linguistic Russification with members of various ethnic groups identifying primarily with Russian language. The positive influence of improved social conditions on demographic trends was checked by persistently unreliable food production and distribution, leading to widespread famines throughout the imperial period, but most notably in 1890. At the century's close, increased population density, particularly in urban areas, and extremely poor public works infrastructural provided an excellent breeding ground for deadly outbreaks of infectious diseases such as influenza, cholera, tuberculosis, and typhoid. Deaths from infectious diseases were higher in Russia than Europe during the early 1890s. Voluntary Public Health Commissions operated in the last decades of imperial rule. Lacking official state financial support, the commissions were unable to improve the health of the lower classes living in conditions conducive to disease transmission.

The state monitored the collection and dissemination of demographic information throughout the Imperial period. Records indicate that urban population counts, estimated deaths due to infectious disease, and population declines related to famines were, in some cases, corrected in three specific ways in order to minimize negative interpretations of living conditions within Russia and to avoid possible public unrest. First, information was simply not collected or published. In the case of fertility and mortality statistics this avenue was easily followed as most births and deaths took place at home and were not always registered. Secondly, selected information was published for small scale populations who tended to exhibit better health and survival profiles than the population at large. Focusing upon epidemiological records from large urban hospitals, imperial estimates tend to undercount the health profiles among rural residents and the very poor, which tend to be far worse than those with access to formal urban care. Lastly, records may have been generated, but not published. This appears to be the case in several analyses of the 1890 famine and cholera outbreaks in southern Russian during the 1800s. Rather than utilizing demographic information to assist the development of informed social policy, scholars conclude that national demographic information was often manipulated in order to achieve specific ideological goals.

demographic trends during the soviet era

The early years of Soviet rule were marked by widespread popular unrest, food shortages, civil war, and massive migration movements. The catastrophic effects of World War I, a global influenza epidemic, political and economic upheavals, and a civil war led to steep increases in mortality, declines in fertility, and deteriorations in overall population health. Between 1920 and 1922, famine combined with cholera and typhus outbreaks evoked a severe population crisis. As Soviet power solidified, several policies were enacted in the public health area, specifically in the realm of maternal and child health. Though underfunded, in combination with the expansion of primary medical care through feldshers (basic medical personnel), these programs were associated with declines in infant mortality, increased medical access, and improved population health into the 1930s.

During the late 1920s food instability reappeared in the Soviet Union, followed by a brutal collectivization of agriculture during the early 1930s. Millions of citizens of the Soviet Union perished in the collectivization drive and the famine that followed. Additional population losses occurred as a result of the Stalinist repression campaigns, as mortality was extremely high among the nearly fifteen million individuals sent to forced labor camps during the 1930s, and among the numerous ethnic groups subject to forced deportation and resettlement. These population losses were accelerated by massive civilian and military casualties during World War II. While each of these events is significant in its own right, in combination they produced a catastrophic loss of population that significantly influenced the age structure of the Russian Federation for decades to come. The population loss consisted of not only those who perished, but also the precipitous declines in fertility in the period, in spite of intense pro-natalist efforts. The precise population loss associated with this series of events is a subject of intense and emotional debate, with estimates of population loss ranging from 12 to nearly 40 million. Even individuals surviving this tumultuous period were affected. Those in their infancy or early childhood during the period exhibited compromised health throughout their lives as a result of the severe deprivation of the period. Even after the end of the war, economic instability and intense shortages exacted a significant toll on living standards, fertility, and health during the 1950s.

The 1959 census documented increasing population growth, improvements in life expectancy, and increases in fertility across Russia. Life expectancy increased to sixty-eight years by 1959, twenty-six years longer than the life expectancy reported in 1926 (forty-two). The total fertility rate in 1956 stood at 2.63, a marked increase from the 1940s. Urbanization increased the proportion of the population with access to modern water and sewer systems, and formal medical care. The following decades were periods of economic stability, improving living standards, expanded social services, improved health and decreased infectious disease prevalence. While overall fertility rates declined, population growth was positive and noticeable improvements were reported for infant and maternal mortality in Russia.

During the late socialist period, improvements in population health stalled, as Russia entered a period of economic and social stagnation. Increased educational and employment opportunities for women, combined with housing shortages and the need for dual income earners in each family, drove fertility below replacement levels by 1970. Life expectancy, which peaked in 1961 at 63.78 for men and 72.35 for women, declined during the 1970s for both sexes. Negative health behaviors such as smoking and drinking appeared to rise throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, and some reports of outbreaks of cholera and typhus were reported, especially in the southern and eastern regions of the country. Official statistics indicate an improvement in all demographic indicators in the mid-1980s, and links to pro-family policies and a strict anti-alcohol campaign could be drawn, but improved mortality and increased fertility were short-lived. By the late 1980s increased mortality among males of working age was observed.

The Soviet state also manipulated demographic data to serve ideological ends. At best, official publications regarding issues such as life expectancy were often overly optimistic. At worst, the compilation of standard indicators (such as infant mortality rates) was altered to improve the relative standing of the Soviet Union in comparison to capitalist countries. Most significantly, demographic information was withheld from publication, and sometimes not collected. In spite of achieving remarkable improvements in public health and high rates of population growth in decades after World War II, as its predecessor, employed population information to further its ideology as well as to inform policy development.

demographic trends during the post-soviet era

The post-Soviet era is marked by dire demographic trends. Rapid and wide scale increases in mortality and marked declines in already low fertility and marriage rates generated negative natural rates of increase throughout the 1990s. Population decline was avoided only due to substantial immigration from other successor states during the period. This period has been identified as the most dramatic peacetime demographic collapse ever observed. Aspects of the crisis are linked to long-term processes begun in the Soviet period, but were significantly exacerbated by economic and institutional instability of the later period.

Increasing male mortality, especially among older working-aged males, gained momentum during the 1990s. Estimates vary, but official estimates reported a six-year decline in male life expectancy between 1985 and 1995. Female life expectancy also declined, however more modestly. Deaths from lung cancer, accidents, suicide, poisoning, and other causes related to alcohol consumption underpin the change in mortality, but death rates for heart disease and cancer also increased. Period explanations focus on the stress generated by the economic transition, linking that stress to the mortality increase. Age effect models argue that men at these ages are somehow uniquely susceptible to stress. Cohort explanations point out that men in the later working ages (5059) in 1990 represent the birth cohorts of 1940s, and the declining mortality of the 1990s is an echo of the deprivations of the post World War II period. Each explanation contributed to explaining the mortality increase, which took place amidst health care and infrastructural collapse.

The Soviet system of health care was very successful in improving public health during the early years of the regime, and during the initial period after World War II, however the distribution and organization of care led to diminishing return in the later years of the regime and the organizational structure proved ineffective in the post-Soviet period. During the 1990s financial crises lead to serious shortages of medical supplies, wage arrears in the governmental health sector, and the rise of private pay clinics and pharmacies. Increased poverty rates, especially among the growing pension aged population, precluded health care access. Public works (hospitals, prisons, sewer systems, etc.) were poorly maintained during the late Soviet era, and contributed to the resurgence of old health risks such as cholera, typhus, and drug resistant forms of tuberculosis during the 1990s. The reemergence of infectious disease shocked demographers and epidemiologists, who previously contended improvements in mortality were permanent, and that deaths infectious diseases were a unique characteristic of undeveloped societies. The resurgence of infectious diseases includes HIV/AIDS. The numbers of infected were low, but in 2003 HIV infection rates were projected to increase in the near future.

Russia's post-Soviet demographic crises generated concerns over declining population size, especially in the Far East where border security is a concern. Immigration helped maintain population size without shifting the ethnic composition, but anti-immigrant sentiments were strong during the late 1990s. In 2002 government attention had turned to below replacement fertility, but as in the rest of Europe the fertility rate remained very low. During the second decade after Soviet rule, demographic trends were cause for serious concern, but indicators, if not political attitudes, were stabilized.

See also: colonial expansion; colonialism; empire, ussr as


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Cynthia J. Buckley


views updated May 21 2018


Demography is the statistical study of populations; the roots of the word come from the Greek for people (demos ) and picture (graphy ). Demographics, thus, are pictures of the people derived from statistics. The largest single, consistent collection of data on the population is the U.S. census conducted every ten years under the auspices of the U.S. Census Bureau. The Bureau also collects partial data every year, published as "population estimates." The census itself is at least theoretically a 100 percent count, although controversies about "under-counted" elements of the population break out every decade. This national count covers numbers, gender, age, family relationships, ethnicity and/or race, location, income, occupation, and data on housing patterns. The geographical coverage is down to the census tract level (just a few blocks in extent), so that, for census years, anyway, data can be obtained down to the zip-code level.

All demographics are ultimately based on the census, although the data are extended by many other surveys, many conducted by government agencies. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), for instance, tracks health issues; U.S. Department of Labor follows employment trends; U.S. Department of Education captures data on educational levels; U.S. Department of Agriculture collects and publishes data on farmers; and state vehicle registration offices collect data on driving. And so on.

Added to this are many, many private surveys which attempt to track consumer preferences, buying habits, attitudes, opinions, and so on ad infinitum. The best-known private survey is probably the TV-rating service provided by Nielsen Media Research. People who use discount cards at major grocery or other retail stores are supplying demographic data every time they purchase something. Every subscriber to any kind of print publication is generating demographic information for the publisherwhich the publisher uses to set advertising rates. In the mid-2000s the Internet has become a major engine for collecting demographic information if the user bothers to fill out brief questionnaires in which he or she supplies a home address. That home addressplus demographic data from the censusreveal much about the person filling in the boxes: his or her likely ethnicity, age, income, and more. The values obtained are approximate because the census does not reveal individual household data, but people with similar profiles tend to live together.

It is simply to state the obvious that in the modern American culture data collection in some form or another accompanies most commercial transactions done using credit cards. Vast amounts of information come to be stored in countless computers. Techniques of "data mining" from such stores have developed over the years providing companies information better to target their customers.

The public sector (defined to include the academic) is also a major generator and user of demographic information. Health surveys, for instance, are based on doctors' patients' records. Voter registration records trigger selection of juries. HHS tracks birth and death records to generate projections of life expectancywhich in turn serve commercial purposes, e.g., life insurance. Companies and agencies can, if they make the effort, construct quite accurate "pictures" of many different aggregations of peopleSuperbowl attendees, large boat buyers, first-time voters, and adherents to religions or parties. Demographics is simply an aspect of modern life.


Extensive collection of demographic data by virtually all larger institutions is both necessitated and motivated by a mass culture. In contrast to Colonial times when sellers knew their customers and principals knew their students, information could be left to ordinary human memory. The gradual evolution of very large institutions far removed from what we are pleased to call "the action," the actual interchange between people, has produced disconnects between decision makers and their constituencies.

The costs of collecting precise demographic data are high, even when in part subsidized by public services like the census. A major trend in this field is to automate data collection using computers and incentives. Free information on the Internet (but you must register ) or small discounts available when you use a discount card (but you had to tell something about yourself to get it) are two examples of incentives provided. The data collected are then consulted using specialized analytical software the reports from which are integrated into the decision stream.

Indirect marketing by mail or advertising are notoriously hit and miss. Producing ever better profiles of people who watch a show or people who live in a zip code helps advertisers and marketers to pinpoint the right "venue" on which to spend money to reach its most desired audience, be that that the "young" or the "young-at-heart."

The high costs of mass marketing can be made more effective by ever more precisely targeted marketing aimed at pre-qualified buyers. But for this method to work, it must remain automated. The highest costs are associated with actual contact between a researcher and a would-be customer; and for this contact to yield any meaningful results, it will require 20 minutes of interaction. Such contacts are only made with tiny samples.


The vast stocks of demographic data held by many thousands of institutions in easily searchable and correlatable forms has spawned a debate about privacy. The issue has heated up since Internet browsing became widespread and techniques were developed, through search engines or Internet portals, to track and to record the interests of a user. Articles appear at regular intervals in which a savvy investigator shows just how rapidly he or she can determine intimate details about the life of a celebrity. The issue will continue to evolve, of course. The simple fact is that privacy is attainable, if attainable at all, only by opting out of any and all transactions that require electronic mechanisms or filling in forms. The real protection consumers have is that the exploitation of the data by marketer or others is costly and difficult. As anyone leafing through the day's mail can attest, despite a vast amount of information out there, many people sending letters to us are aiming at an altogether wrong profile.


It is something of a truism that the business close to its clientele can do without fancy demographics to reach its market. Some small businesses, of course, are in business precisely to provide such data to their customers. They will, therefore, be very knowledgeable about demographics; they are still not likely to use such data to reach their markets. Other small businesses may be servicing a national market through a Web site, for instance, and, through that web site, may have access to data on their customers that might be exploitable. For most small businesses thinking of turning demographic data to good use for expansion, through a direct mailing for instance, might explore the field by using the services of an advertising agency. The agency will have knowledge of and access to much of the tooling required, including existing and well-honed mailing lists.

see also Market Segmentation


Alarcon, Camille. "No More Demographics?" B&T Weekly. 2 December 2005.

Berkenfeld, Diane. "The Hispanic Market." Photo Trade News. November 2005.

"Changing Demographics Set to Ratchet Up Pressure with Only Migrants to Ease Threat." Financial Adviser. 3 November 2005.

Lindsay, Greg. "Control Freak Consumers Reinventing Media Usage; Demographics Plays Key Role in Companies' Rate to Supply Content, Attract Viewers." Television Week. 9 January 2006.

Miller, Berna. "A Beginner's Guide to Demographics." Marketing Tools. October 1995.

"Naw 2006." Electrical Wholesaling. 6 February 2006.

Sheehan, Robert J. "Annual Survey Details Apartment Demographics." Units. January 2006.

Zoler, Mitchel L. "Cancer Survival Lags in African American Patients." Family Practice News. 15 September 2004.

                                                 Darnay, ECDI