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National Perspective: West Virginia hopes to reverse a decade of decline

DRY FORK, W.Va. — There’s nobody here.

Well, almost nobody. This unincorporated community is in a magnificent corner of the world, garlanded by mountains, picturesque farms planted along the road, eight miles from not one but two ski areas and a state park that describes itself as a conference center and resort. Mostly the sounds here are of deep silences.
Some 1,085 people live here today. In 1900 — when loggers toiled amid the densely forested hills, a lumber mill sat on Red Creek, the community had its own railroad, and coal mines operated nearby — Dry Fork had a population of 3,224.

This is a fortunate part of the state, endowed with stunning beauty, a growing tourist industry and many advantages, including a median family income 10% higher than the rest of West Virginia and a rate of higher education double the state figure. And yet the population has fallen by two-thirds since the days when workers — the gandy dancers, as the men who worked the rails were called, or the pick-and-shovel men who dug for coal, or the logging crews from Pennsylvania and Nova Scotia who employed skidding tongs and peaveys to harvest the trees — filled the silences with their grunts. They extracted wood and coal from the area and sent the profits to Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Cleveland.

That is the West Virginia story.

That story’s latest chapter is of fresh decline. Newly released Census Bureau data show that West Virginia suffered the largest population decline in the country, a drop of nearly 60,000 people, or 3.2 percent, in the decade between 2010 and 2020. It is one of seven states that will lose a congressional seat in next year’s midterm elections.

There are several explanations, all of them partial, all plausible. Poverty is one (about one in seven West Virginians qualify for the national definition). Job loss is another (especially in coal, which has lost more than half its jobs in the past dozen years). The two, of course are related. So is drug addiction (West Virginia has by far the highest rate of opioid addiction — four times higher than Texas, almost certainly the result of the astonishing fact that seven in 10 West Virginians have been prescribed opioids).

Unemployment is especially severe in the coal-oriented southwestern counties of McDowell, Boone, Wyoming, Mingo and Logan, which have lost at least a quarter of their jobs over half a decade, the result of environmental regulation and the competitive cost of natural gas, a rival fuel source. In those places, as elsewhere, internet connections are pitiable, roads beyond the highways often are tortuous, and the refugees to brighter prospects out of state tend to be younger, better educated and better trained.

“The result is a vicious cycle where the losses make the area less attractive, and that drives away more businesses,” said John Deskins, who heads the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at West Virginia University. “It is very hard to halt that. All the tools government has are better at boosting development of areas that are on the upswing than in helping communities that are in decline. They are better at accelerating growth than reversing momentum.”

West Virginia is experiencing in the third decade of the 21st century what Iowa experienced in the last decade of the 20th century, when small towns shrank, a farm-credit crunch pinched many farmers, and broader economic changes squeezed the state’s economy. In those years, some farmers burned their barns rather than pay taxes on them.

Exactly 30 years ago, I visited Alden, Iowa, just when Linda and Tom Jass decided to abandon the family corn and soybean fields near the Iowa River, leaving Mrs. Jass’ parents, both in their 70s, to tend to the sheep and crops in a town that hadn’t had a grocery store, a doctor or a police officer in a generation. Mr. Jass told me at the time that he had lost “a ton of money” in the richest soil in the world. He had no idea where he was going to go, only that he was determined to leave.

I caught up with him the other day and discovered that the couple left shortly after we talked.

They relocated to South Dakota, where his wife taught sixth grade and he managed absentee-owner farmlands.

“I worry that small towns struggle,” said Mr. Jass. “But I am glad we left when we did.”

Mrs. Jass has no regrets. “We have enjoyed our new home and we love the town, and we love being close to Sioux Falls,” she said. “Our kids all found great spouses, and it has worked out really well. We still have family and friends back in Alden, but we are settled here in South Dakota. We are staying put, right where we are.”

What struck me all those years ago, and what seems especially poignant now, are the remarks of their son Luke. “The chances that I’ll be a farmer in Alden are almost nonexistent,” he said at age 14. “Farmers are always in debt, they don’t have any fun, they work hard and they don’t get anything out of it. I’ll do anything but farm.”

He was true to his word. Though he now works for the agricultural powerhouse Cargill Inc. in Minneapolis, he is in the company’s IT department. “I never liked it there much,” he said of his hometown of Alden. “The opportunities weren’t there.”

West Virginia is determined to avoid the phenomenon that sent the Jass family fleeing north. The state legislature passed a bill to make it easier for remote workers to operate out of the state, canceling sales and income taxes for the first 30 days of telecommuting, and lawmakers next year will consider a proposal to make the state more attractive to migrants by eliminating the income tax completely.

“This has been a big topic in the state and the driving force behind a lot of our politics,” said Sean O’Leary, a senior policy analyst at the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. “We can’t grow economically without people. As our population declines, the older and unhealthy members of our state still have growing needs.”
In the years between 2010 and 2018, 27,000 more people left West Virginia than moved in. It may be almost heaven, but the problem is that it is almost empty.

David M. Shribman is the former executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Follow him on Twitter at ShribmanPG.

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This post originally posted here usnews


In the first volume of the magazine Strannik in 1901 appeared an extensive article by B. Titlinov devoted to the decline of religion and morality, a phenomenon we observe today – the beginning of the 21st century of the third millennium.

In the subsequent historical course, before us appears the chosen people of God – Israel. Although he was not destined to play a significant historical role, although he was one of the smallest peoples in Asia, but in religious terms, he had such an influence on all later centuries that the history of his religious life could not be silent. Despite Israel’s highly developed religious consciousness, the fluctuation of its religious sentiment cannot be ignored. Indeed, there was no room for skepticism or disbelief in the people of Israel; but his whole life is a story of turning away from Jehovah and returning to Him. And these retreats and returns testify to the decline, or rise, of religious inclinations. It is remarkable that what was observed in the later stages of human life can be seen in this case. The successes of external material life, external prosperity coincide with religious decline. Suffice it to recall the period of the judges. External enemies are defeated, peace comes to the country. Jehovah is forgotten and incense is burned before pagan deities. When troubles from the neighboring nations came and Israel groaned under the yoke of slavery, the priests again gathered at the altar, again Israel flocked to the sanctuary to pray for help and deliverance. A particularly strong rise in religious life took place after the Babylonian captivity. Foreign domination and the destruction of Jerusalem seemed to shatter all the national expectations of the Jewish people, and in this predicament, religion was the only consolation. On the banks of the mighty Euphrates, far from home, the full force of religious feeling awoke in the Jews. The people lived with him in the subsequent period of their existence.

The first crisis in the religious life of historical humanity, which deserves serious attention, dates back to the last centuries of the pre-Christian era. This is an age that is unparalleled in later centuries. Even when there were periods of declining religion and a weakening of religious sentiment, the anti-religious movement never deeply affected the masses themselves, but rather attracted, for the most part, the upper classes. We should not consider this phenomenon as sudden, unrelated to the previous course of development. On the contrary, it has been prepared for centuries, and in recent times before Christmas, religious skepticism has manifested itself with particular force. Its origin can be traced to Greece, five centuries before our era, and only by tracing it to this source is it possible to understand the state of the world in the period under consideration. Greece, as is well known, is the birthplace of philosophy and science. Here, first after India, philosophical thought awoke. To Greece the world owes the grandiose creations of reason, the most beautiful works of art, but to it, too, unfortunately, owes the eternal disease of mankind, the disease of its spiritual organism – religious skepticism. “Once the spirit has reached itself, when the power of thought is already freed from authority and ever-reliable support, and by way of free conviction, to bring the mind to the ideal, the good, and the divine, as one fully approved by of reason. Then the seeking thought must be aroused against all prejudices, and usually opinions must be accepted only by faith, until everyone with his own mind generates and brings to himself the consciousness of universal truth ”(Carrier, Art in connection with the general development of culture, vol. .II, pp. 167-168). This is the task set by Greek philosophy – to build on the principles of reason a complete worldview, free from any influence of authority. By setting a goal in this way, she naturally came into conflict with religious beliefs. As diverse as the philosophical schools of Greece were, they all had one thing in common – the destructive influence on religion. The free development of thought required, above all, freedom in the religious sphere. Then the man was filled with faith in himself. He drove his adolescence, proud of his own strength, free himself from the shackles of authority. He hoped, indeed, to find his support in reason itself, he hoped to reach the truth completely. How great was Elina’s arrogant pride is clear from the fact that Greece deified man. Amazed by his beauty, first physical, then spiritual, she worshiped this beauty, and from that time man became the true deity of Greece. However, such self-deification could not be called religion. It satisfied the aesthetic rather than the religious needs of the human spirit. A kind of spontaneous indifference was the main characteristic of Greek life at that time. The Greek, as if he did not need a deity, was completely immersed in the world of poetry and beauty. In the beginning, we still see a desire to maintain a crumbling religion, and one of the victims of that desire was Socrates, but only a century later, this same Athenian people apparently completely lost their religious sense.

When Dimitar Poliorket settled in the temple of Athena Paladas, his people sang a hymn to one true deity with the words:

“O son of the supreme god, son of Poseidon

 And Aphrodite!

 Are the other gods without ears?

Or they are too far,

Do they exist at all, but in the end

They don’t care about us…

Here we see your face…

So we pray to you! ”

In these words there is not just indifference, but ridicule of religion, a mockery of careless frivolity, testifying to the complete decline of religious attraction among the people who composed such hymns. From Greece, the wave of disbelief spread to other countries, drawing more and more circles into society. Philosophy, completing its destructive work in the homeland, acquired more and more proselytes outside it. Rome, the lord of the world at that time, is known to have been completely under the spiritual influence of conquered Greece. Two philosophical schools in Greece attracted the most followers from Roman society, and both, although diverging in their basic principles, worked together to destroy the religious foundations of life. These two schools were the Epicurean and the Stoic.

Epicureanism is a system of an absolutely materialistic nature. For the philosophers of this trend, the world was a collection of atoms, infinitesimal indivisible particles, the various combinations of which explain all the phenomena of life. Man revolved entirely in this cycle of matter; both his body and his soul are no more and no less aggregates of material particles, whose ultimate destiny was the destruction, the decomposition of their constituent elements. The ultimate goal in this life was the enjoyment, the harmonious enjoyment of the world, to which the Epicurean assigned all his happiness. It is understandable in what relation to religion such a doctrine stood. There is no place for the deity in this world, since the latter is reduced to a simple conglomeration of matter. “Everything is a lie that the gods usually tell us,” Epicurus wrote in one of his letters, “and there is nothing just in the punishments that are supposed to be sent to the wicked, nor in the rewards provided for the good.” The students were faithful to their teacher. The derisive and contemptuous attitude towards religious beliefs was forever a hallmark of the Epicureans. Lucretius mocks the belief in variety. Heaven is powerless before fate and the laws of nature. There is no deity, no afterlife, no fear of punishment. Nature is the only deity worthy of worship, and only its sacred harmony is worthy of worship, because nature is the source of all life, it creates and develops everything according to its own laws. This deity of Epicurean philosophy needed no sacrifices, no worship, no prayers. Tears would be in vain here – the universe is eternally silent and no, because atoms are indifferent to human suffering. By the way, this circumstance did not bother the followers of Epicurus in the least. It seemed to them that they did not need a living deity, because the very need for a religious feeling had almost died out in their souls. On the contrary, even the very thought of a being above nature and beyond seemed unpleasant and disgusting to them, because it disturbed the clear and bright state of their spirit, disturbed his happy peace.

Stoic philosophy found its widest distribution in the ancient world on the border between the Old and New Testaments. But her influence is no less anti-religious than that of Epicurus. And if the latter was materialism in its purest form, then the former embodied the pantheistic worldview. There the world is seen as a collection of atoms, here descended from the deity, evolving from him according to certain laws, as from the grain grows a plant. There the deity was banished from the world, and his place was taken by the universe; here it merged with the universe, and, therefore, in the end, a lifeless, dead nature remained again. In this way, two different teachings merged into their final conclusions, and if the Epicureans suppressed any religious inclinations, their doctrine had the same effect on the Stoics.

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This post originally posted here The European Times News

How to live longer: Two surprising foods that help fight decline in later life

“I was pleasantly surprised that our results suggest that responsibly eating cheese and drinking red wine daily are not just good for helping us cope with our current COVID-19 pandemic, but perhaps also dealing with an increasingly complex world that never seems to slow down,” Willette said.

“While we took into account whether this was just due to what well-off people eat and drink, randomised clinical trials are needed to determine if making easy changes in our diet could help our brains in significant ways.”

What else did the researchers find out?

Weekly consumption of lamb, but not other red meats, was shown to improve long-term cognitive function.

Excessive consumption of salt is invariably bad, but only individuals already at risk for Alzheimer’s Disease may need to watch their intake to avoid cognitive problems over time, the study suggested.

This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Health Feed
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Joe Biden in danger of failing two major Covid milestones as US vaccination rates decline

The US President set out two targets earlier this year – he wanted 70 percent of the country to have had a Covid vaccine by July 4, and wanted to ship 80 million doses worldwide by the end of June.

As of writing, 54 percent of the US has had at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine while 46 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.

According to Our World In Data, the US has administered 177,088,290 first doses and 149,667,646 second doses of coronavirus vaccine as of Sunday.

But vaccination rates have slowed dramatically, with the Centres of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reporting 848,611 preliminary jabs administered on Monday.

The New York Times has warned that if the rate of vaccinations stays at current levels, only 67 percent of adults will have had at least one vaccine dose by July 4.

READ MORE: Joe Biden broke royal protocol ‘to throw US media a bone’

Press secretary Jen Psaki has insisted the US is making “tremendous” progress with its vaccine rollout, but blamed younger people for the lower uptake.

She said in a press briefing on Monday: “First let me say we’ve made tremendous progress in our vaccination efforts to date.

“As we dig into the data, we know that what we’re seeing is a lower rate among young people.

“That’s concerning especially with the Delta variant being on the rise as it as it is, which does not discriminate by age, which still could cause death, serious illness.”

On Monday, the White House detailed distribution plans for the first 55 million Covid jabs to be sent abroad out of the promised 80 million.

According to a fact sheet from the White House, approximately 41 million vaccine doses will be shared through COVAX with 14 million for Latin America, 16 million for Asia and 10 million for Africa.

The remaining 14 million will “be shared with regional priorities and other recipients” like Colombia.

The White House said in a statement: “Sharing millions of U.S. vaccines with other countries signals a major commitment by the U.S. Government.

“Just like we have in our domestic response, we will move as expeditiously as possible, while abiding by U.S. and host country regulatory and legal requirements, to facilitate the safe and secure transport of vaccines across international borders.”


But so far, less than 10 million of the promised doses have been delivered with the US Government previously saying they would “allocate” all 80 million by the end of June.

White House officials admitted Mr Biden would fall short of his commitment because of regulatory and other hurdles, according to the AP.

Ms Psaki downplayed the delay, and blamed logistical challenges for the delay in getting doses of the vaccine overseas, including customs, language barriers and shipping issues.

She said: “What we found to be the biggest challenge is not actually the supply.

“We have plenty of doses to share with the world, but this is a Herculean logistical challenge and we’ve seen that as we’ve begun to implement.

“When we work with countries, we need to ensure that there’s safety and regulatory information is shared…
“Sometimes it’s even language barriers that occur as we’re working to get these doses out to countries.”

It comes as Mr Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and First Lady Dr Jill Biden all visited vaccination centres to boost uptake.

On Monday, the US recorded another 3,892 cases and 83 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

In total, the country has recorded 33,552,686 cases and 602,047 deaths.

This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: World Feed

Marks and Spencer’s ‘painfully apparent’ cause of decline pinpointed by expert: ‘Outdated’

Marks and Spencer: How company was ‘overwhelmed’ in 1980

Last year, the 136-year-old company accelerated plans to cut 950 jobs as part of a restructuring process following the impact of coronavirus. M&S said the move marked “an important step” in it becoming a “stronger, leaner” business, but many felt it was long overdue. It came after the company — which became adored for selling high-quality British-made products under its ‘St Michael’ brand — made the unprecedented change in 2000 to switch to overseas suppliers.

Marks and Spencer

Analysts have often tipped this as the catalyst to its more recent struggles, but fashion expert Jan Shure disagrees.

Writing in the Jewish Chronicle, she stated: “By the 2010s fashion at M&S was in the doldrums.

“I didn’t hold back in my criticism at the time – fabrics were foul, colours were lurid, styles were hideous.

“CEOs seemed never to be given quite enough time to complete the transformation.

“It seemed to me that, in the absence of rocketing fashion sales, M&S CEOs — like the football manager who can’t rescue a failing club in a single season — were ousted and the next person was ushered into the boardroom to see what he or she could do.

“But, slowly, with new teams in place, M&S pulled back inch by inch.”

Ms Shure, who is the co-founder of online fashion site SoSensational, stated that she believed the clothes were not the issue that needed addressing.

She added: “I don’t know whether the truly gorgeous clothes and accessories on sale now result from changes put in place several years ago, or are the result of a more recent overhaul by chairman Archie Norman and CEO Steve Rowe. Yet, still, M&S fashion sales are in decline.

“Beautiful merchandise, therefore, wasn’t — isn’t — the answer.

READ MORE: Marks and Spencer ripped apart for ‘not listening’ to customers: ‘People loved them’

“Why not? One reason is what Steve Rowe calls ‘profound structural change in our industry’ — in other words, how online shopping has killed the high street.

“And then there is M&S’s ‘ageing customer base,’ explicitly acknowledged by Rowe in a statement.

“But, in my view, older customers and the internet are not the only reasons — or even the main reasons — for the continued downward trend in M&S fashion sales.”

Ms Shure pointed out in her piece that she believed the “dismal presentation” of the “sheer number of items of clothing” she saw at stores was one reason why many had fallen out of love with M&S.

She added: “I’ve also recently visited M&S at Westfield, Stratford. Completed in 2012, its aesthetic is flawless. It is all gleaming surfaces, light-flooded spaces and artfully arranged merchandise.

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“Yet you feel as though you are shopping in an aircraft hangar. And no one — of any age — wishes to feel that they are shopping in an aircraft hangar.

“That is especially true for younger customers, more accustomed to the intimacy and chiaroscuro of a Hollister or a Victoria’s Secret.

“But however much M&S might fiddle with the lighting, or carve out floor space, however they may rearrange the racks and rails into less linear and more welcoming shapes, the sheer size and scale of its stores make the shopping experience feel dismal and outdated.”

Ms Shure argued in 2018 that the retailer would benefit from investing in smaller stores.

And the company appears to be following that idea.

Last year, in response to the pandemic, it launched its “Never the same again” programme which aimed to use the lessons of the crisis to “radically accelerate the pace and ambition of its transformation plan”.

It said: ”While some consumer habits will return to normal, others have been changed forever.”

M&S core shops now typically feature a selection of the company’s clothing, homeware and beauty ranges and an M&S Foodhall.

But many stores are now standalone Foodhalls and in 2019, M&S launched five of these as part of the transformation of the business.

Tonight Marks and Spencer will feature in a Channel 5 documentary: ‘M&S vs Waitrose: Which Is Better Value?’ which will seek to examine the rivalry between the supermarkets as they face “tough challenges”.

This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Life and Style Feed
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The U.S. Birthrate Has Dropped Again. The Pandemic May Be Accelerating the Decline.

michael barbaro

From The New York Times, I’m Michael Barbaro. This is The Daily.


A few days ago, the U.S. government revealed that the country’s population is growing at the slowest rate in nearly a century. Today, Astead Herndon spoke with our colleague Sabrina Tavernise about why that is and just how profoundly it could shape America’s future.

It’s Tuesday, May 4.

astead herndon

So Sabrina, when the U.S. government finished counting the American people this time in the census, it found that the American population was growing really slowly. That was a bit surprising to me personally. What’s going on here?

sabrina tavernise

So this is a very interesting and relatively new thing for the United States. We have this extremely slow population increase, which is different for the United States. The United States usually grows really quickly. What we saw with the census data was the second-slowest decade for population growth in American history. That is since 1790, when the United States government started taking the census. So that’s really surprising. We had known that there was some slowdown for some time, but this census data really tells us this is really the new normal in the United States.

astead herndon

So population is growing at a slower rate. How do we explain this?

sabrina tavernise

So Astead, there are two forces that make up population growth. One is immigration and the other is births. Then, of course, there are deaths. So you put all of these things together, and that’s what makes a population grow. And so for the past decade or so, we’ve seen a real slowdown in immigration. And there are a number of reasons for that. A lot fewer people coming from Mexico. That’s in part because the Mexican economy is a bit better, the birth rate in Mexico itself has gone way down so there’s less pressure for people to come to the United States to work. But the real interesting part of what’s going on and the real mystery is the birth rate.


So the birth rate began to decline in 2008, during the financial crisis. And we would expect that because birth rates tend to decline when countries have financial crises, when they’re in economic distress. People put off having babies. But usually, once the economy starts to pick up again, the birth rate goes back up. And that’s precisely what demographers were expecting to happen in 2009, ‘10, and ‘11.

But something very strange happened, which was the birth rate kept going down. It went down and down and down. And no one could understand why. So it used to be that there were 2.1 children born to every American woman. That was before 2008. That’s exactly enough to replace their parents when they die. That’s called replacement-level fertility. But now it’s 1.7 children per woman, which is below the rate of replacement.

astead herndon

So if we didn’t have any immigration at all, our population would actually be declining.

sabrina tavernise

Eventually, yes. And that has opened up this whole new line of inquiry. Demographers are asking, why is this happening?

astead herndon

Well, let’s get into those ideas. Why do folks think— why do demographers, economists, think that the birth rate is declining?

sabrina tavernise

So the most straightforward theory right now is that it’s about the economy. So essentially you have this large group of American women, younger millennials, women in their 20s, who are putting off having children. And it’s not because they don’t want to have kids. They do want to have kids. We know that from survey work that’s been done. But they just don’t feel like they can afford to have kids.

And if you think about it, this group of women, they’re graduating and going out into the world as adults into a really different economy than their parents did. So they have huge amounts of student debt. That wasn’t the case in the past. Home prices and rents are just skyrocketing that’s also very different than what their parents had. And there’s also been 40 years of economic inequality in this country. And that is essentially made a very, very difficult job market and life for people in the lower middle classes who are trying to make it on essentially low-wage work, cobbling together a couple of different jobs.

Schedules are incredibly erratic, which makes it very difficult to plan around a daycare pick-up. And the other driver is that there’s a very weak social safety net in the United States. Unlike other countries, it has a lot of holes. So think about it— no parental leave, no sick leave, extremely difficult to get a child-care subsidy. So essentially what you have is this whole group of young women looking out there into the economy, looking at their lives, and essentially saying, no way can I afford to have a kid right now. It’s too expensive. I can’t afford it.

astead herndon

So you’re describing young women waiting. But when they do decide to have children eventually, are they still having the same number of children that they would have had before or not?

sabrina tavernise

So the short answer is it’s really too early to tell. We know that, when women do delay having kids, they tend to have fewer kids because they start later. We do also know that older millennials have been having kids. It has not been them forgoing having children altogether. But we really don’t know what will happen with the big bulk of this generation, whether this is a delay or forgoing altogether.

astead herndon

OK, so what’s going on with millennials, then, does not seem to explain the entirety of this trend.

sabrina tavernise

No, it doesn’t. But there is this other theory that goes beyond economics. If you look at the data, you see that the absolute biggest decline has been among teens ages 15 to 19. It’s declined by around 80 percent over the past 20 years. And that’s really interesting, because those are people who really aren’t quite yet in the labor force. So what is motivating them? Why have teenagers practically stopped having pregnancies? That’s a really big change. And so when we look at that, what we see is a couple of reasons. Again, these are theories.

One is that contraception use has gone up. So that’s a behavioral change for teens. That didn’t used to be the case in the 1980s, 1990s. Another is that teenagers are actually having sex less. There’s a whole kind of new area of thinking and research and work about how social media has changed us, how smartphones have changed us. Kids are spending more time online. There’s pornography people are using they have much easier access to. And then another idea about this very young group is that perhaps there’s something good going on for them about the American economy and the way they see their futures, that these young women feel like there’s a real reason to hold off having children because there’s a real chance for them to make it to go to community college, to come out in a place where it makes sense to not have their baby until they’re 28 or 29 instead of 21 and 22, which it had always been.

So these are obviously really good things. Public health officials spent decades trying to convince young women not to have babies in their teens. Teen pregnancy was a whole public health problem that people were trying to solve. And they essentially solved it. I mean, it’s, for all intents and purposes, dramatically declined. And women are taking more control over their lives and over childbearing. And when you look at the rates of unintended pregnancy, those are down really dramatically. So that gives us another clue as to what’s going on here, that there’s some behavioral change as well as the economics. There’s something else going on.

astead herndon

OK, so you’re describing changes that happen among millennial women and also women who are younger than millennials. So that spans from teenagers all the way through women in their 30s. But I’m also interested in a different slice of that population— immigrants. Are birth rates declining among that population as well?

sabrina tavernise

So Astead, this is very interesting because, in fact, the birthrate is declining most precipitously among precisely that group. So for a long time, the kind of story about what was going on was that immigrants who were coming in were having many more children. And to a certain extent that was true. Women who were coming from Mexico in the 1980s and 1990s and even in the early 2000s, they were coming from families where there were six and seven children in the family. And they were arriving to the United States. And they were having more babies and having babies younger. So this was really boosting the birth rate a lot. But what happened was their children changed. Their children were born in the United States. And they acted a lot more like everyone else who was born in the United States, which meant they had far fewer children and later. So this is a huge change from the immigrant generation to their native-born children.

astead herndon

OK, so many women are delaying childbirth as an economic calculation or as just a general life calculation. That seems to make total sense.

sabrina tavernise

It does seem to make sense. But here’s the thing. When you zoom out and compare the U.S. to other developed countries, it actually gets a lot more confusing. Because actually this is starting to happen in all rich countries around the world. Most developed countries are seeing this decline in the birth rate— Germany, Spain, Italy, France, lots of countries in Europe and also countries in East Asia, South Korea, Japan. And so it’s very confusing because these countries have really different economies than the United States and these countries have really different social safety nets.

The Scandinavian countries have very strong social safety nets. But yet this birth rate is also dropping in these places. So what is going on that these countries with, certainly, stronger social safety nets and, to some extent, better economies, are also experiencing the same thing. So one of the working hypotheses is that this, fundamentally, is the place where women want to be that they want fewer children, that they want precisely the number of children that they are actually having, that as time has gone on, they’ve become more attached to the labor market, they’ve developed careers, they have rising pay in relation to men. And that means that they are wanting to have babies at times that makes sense for them in the labor market. So one of the arguments is that this is simply going to be the new normal for modern societies in which women are more equal with men.

astead herndon

OK, Sabrina, so what I am hearing is the common reporter frustration that we have a lot of theories as to why this is happening but we don’t know for sure why it’s happening.

sabrina tavernise

Yeah, that’s right. There’s not a lot of certainty. Demographers will be really quick to tell you we’re really just in uncharted waters right now. We haven’t seen this trend before, ever, in the United States. And we’ve only seen it in the very, very early stages in Europe and in East Asia. So the question we have to ask ourselves is, how worried should we be?

astead herndon

OK, Sabrina, how worried should we be about these falling birth rates?

sabrina tavernise

So Astead, as usual, the answer is it’s complicated. But the fact is a number of economists and demographers have raised some pretty troubling alarms.

astead herndon

What are those?

sabrina tavernise

They start with what might happen with the economy. So if you have a really, really slow-growing population, that means, at some point in the pretty near future, you’re going to have a much smaller workforce. And that could be, potentially, a real problem for economic growth. It’s harder to keep up with big, growing, booming economies like China. And there are fewer workers to support older Americans who rely on social security, on Medicare, Medicaid. There are not as many workers to pay into the tax system to support this much larger population of older people.

astead herndon

So to think of our society as kind of a pyramid, it requires a base of people paying in to support those at the top. If we don’t have enough babies, if we aren’t having enough young people, that pyramid gets messed up.

sabrina tavernise

Exactly. Like flip the pyramid. So you have this kind of tiny, spindly bottom trying to support everybody at the top. And that becomes very difficult. Americans are living much, much longer lives. And they are living at the end of their life with lots of care from caretakers who tend to be disproportionately young, disproportionately female. That is also a concern— who will take care of these people? Who will take care of the mostly-older Americans once we get down the road into this demographic future?

But the economic effects also kind of trickle down into the culture. So in places that are already experiencing this in an advanced way in the United States, like a lot of counties in New England and the Plains states, some people living in communities like this do feel like there is a sense of loss or of sadness. I say this because I am from a little town in Western Massachusetts that has had a lot of these same problems. It’s an aging population. My parents still live there. They’re almost in their 80s. And it’s really hard to get someone to come shovel out their walk because there’s not the large population of young people that there used to be. My little grammar school closed, I believe, three years ago because there just weren’t enough kids to fill it. And I think that some people have this sense that growth means vitality, that getting bigger is good and better, and that decline is, in some sense, kind of signifying a death or a weakness.

astead herndon

Well, when you put it like that, I mean, both in the economic sense and in the personal sense— there’s the schools closing, the folks without the ability to shovel out their driveways— it definitely feels as if this trend is a bad trend if it is one that sustains. Are policymakers already thinking about this issue?

sabrina tavernise

There’s some thinking going on around the edges of this. But it’s a very big problem. And it has implications for all parts of the economy and all parts of American society. And the real question at this point is whether policymakers are going to try to stop it or reverse it or adapt and embrace it.

astead herndon

Hmm. Well, that’s interesting. What are the options on that front? What could policymakers do to actually reverse the declining birth rates?

sabrina tavernise

So there are a few things. One is we see, in Russia and in Hungary, populist leaders rewarding women for having more children. And in some sense, the fact that the United States right now is getting more serious about patching up the social safety net is some nod to the fact that, yes, women need more support. So you could go directly to the issue of the birth rate itself and try to make conditions more advantageous for women to have more children more often.

But the other piece of this which we need to remember is, of course, immigration. That is the other big driver of population growth. And immigration has gone down substantially over the past 10 years. But that is a policy decision. The government could open up immigration to many more people. Now, as we in the United States, that is quite politically fraught and that is potentially a big fight. So it’s not so easy as to just turn on or off a spigot. But in terms of the economy and growth and what the future is for the population, immigration is an absolutely critical piece of that.

astead herndon

So those are the options to reversing the declining birth rate. What are the options of adapting to that reality and basically living with an aging and changing population?

sabrina tavernise

So if the trend sticks, policymakers are going to have a lot of work to do to plan for how we care for this much larger older population. That inverted pyramid we talked about, where we’re going to have many more older people than younger people, that will continue to be true unless this trend reverses. And that’s going to be really expensive. So we have to figure that out. We have to plan for it. And it’s really, really difficult. So the other piece of this is the economy. If we choose to accept this and to adapt, that might mean accepting that we’re just not going to be the major market superpower that we had been. And that adaptation, that might be hard to swallow. America’s superpower status and super economic status is pretty fundamental to how the country sees itself in the global stage.

astead herndon

Both these options seem pretty fraught. I mean, what you’re explaining for either incentivizing new births or in terms of adapting to a declining birth rate, both those options seem like they require real societal restructuring. Those are big things. So how do we decide which one to choose? For example, is there any reason that a declining birth rate could be a good thing and that it’s actually preferable for us to continue down the road with this trend?

sabrina tavernise

So first of all, it could be good for the climate. Climate change is happening all around us. And a smaller population could be a more sustainable way to live on the Earth. And that is something that people are talking about a lot. Also, in the economy, a slightly smaller population of workers would give workers themselves more clout and more ability to bargain, to have higher wages. Another example is, for the next generation of children, fewer children and families could lead to more investment in each individual child— more likely that that child will be able to go to college, more tutoring time, more invested in each kid.

astead herndon

Sabrina, personally, I never thought much about America’s birth rate. And I think a lot of folks are like that. But what you seem to be describing is that those issues we do think about often, things like immigration and health care and climate change, that all of those are actually a part of this growth-rate question and that doing something about the birth rate will require thinking about all of these issues all at once?

sabrina tavernise

Yeah, that’s right, Astead. I mean, it seems like just a nerdy little number. But the truth is it’s incredibly important because it touches on almost every aspect of American life. I mean, think about it— immigration, the social safety net, health insurance, hospitals, elder care, the role of government, how large it should be. I mean, these are huge arguments in this country and they have been for a long time. And the problem is we as Americans have gotten unused to thinking of ourselves as one group. It’s much less we and much more I. We’ve become tribal in a way that will really complicate collective decision-making on these really, really important issues. So that is potentially a very serious problem because we are barreling toward a very fundamental change in American society. And it is going to take all of our collective effort to solve this problem.

astead herndon

Thank you so much for your time.

sabrina tavernise

Thank you, Astead.

michael barbaro

Here’s what else you need to know today. The Times reports that the F.D.A. is preparing to authorize the use of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine in adolescents 12 to 15 years old by early next week. That would a crucial new phase in the U.S. vaccination campaign, since immunizing children is considered essential to limiting the spread of the virus. And—

archived recording (andrew cuomo)

Today is a milestone for New York State and a significant moment of transition.

michael barbaro

On Monday officials from three neighboring states, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, said they would allow many businesses to fully reopen on May 19, from restaurants and offices to theaters and gyms, and said they were acting together because their economies are deeply interconnected.

archived recording (andrew cuomo)

We live in a tri-state area. We say the restaurants are open in Connecticut but not in New York, you’ll have New Yorkers driving to Connecticut, you’ll have New Yorkers driving to New Jersey. The coordination is important.

michael barbaro

But there were caveats. In New York, for instance, businesses will still have to abide by the federal government’s six-foot social distancing rules unless they require workers and customers to provide proof that they are vaccinated or that they have tested negative for the virus.

Finally, President Biden said he would allow about 62,000 refugees into the U.S. over the next six months, reversing a limit of 15,000 put in place by President Trump. A few weeks ago, Biden had said he would maintain the 15,000 limit, drawing criticism from Democratic lawmakers and advocates for refugees, and prompting the White House to change course.

Today’s episode was produced by Luke Vander Ploeg and Eric Krupke. It was edited by Paige Cowett and engineered by Chris Wood.


That’s it for The Daily. I’m Michael Barbaro. See you tomorrow.

Author: Sabrina Tavernise
This post originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News

Britcoin? UK considers developing digital sterling as cash payments decline

The Bank of England said it would team up with the UK Treasury to explore a potential national virtual currency as Britain eyes joining the crypto-frenzy that has gripped state regulators across the world.

The taskforce will coordinate work on a possible “Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC)” that could be used by both households and businesses, and would exist alongside cash and bank deposits.

“Our vision is for a more open, greener, and more technologically advanced financial services sector,” the UK Treasury chief Rishi Sunak told a fintech conference.
Also on rt.com Washington mulls digital dollar, sees Chinese e-yuan as potential threat – report
“And if we can capture the extraordinary potential of technology, we’ll cement the UK’s position as the world’s preeminent financial center,” the state official added.

The CBDC taskforce is expected to look at use cases, opportunities and risks of a potential “digital pound.”

The decision comes amid a progressive decline in cash payments, partially as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Just one in ten payments in Britain is expected to be made with traditional paper money by the end of this decade.
Also on rt.com Half of Russians voice support for public use of new digital ruble – poll
“The world is going the way of digital currencies and we have to find a place for them in the mainstream,” said Anne Boden, founder and chief executive of app-based Starling Bank, as quoted by AP.

Virtual currencies for use on the national level are currently being explored, and even implemented by several countries. China is close to becoming the first major economy to do so.

Earlier this month, the Bank of Japan announced that it had begun experiments to study the feasibility of issuing its own digital currency, while the Bank of Russia revealed a concept for the digital ruble, pledging to create the prototype by the end of 2021. Top US officials are reportedly mulling the idea of creating a digital dollar.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section


This article originally appeared on RT Business News

Hedging against US dollar decline: Bitcoin rises after Fed signals loose monetary policy

The price of bitcoin continues to rise as investors opt for crypto assets in an effort to find shelter from the decline of the US dollar’s purchasing power.

The world’s most valuable cryptocurrency climbed 6% over the past 24 hours, trading at nearly $ 58,480 per token at 10:39 GMT.

Another daily surge has been reportedly evoked by the latest decision of the US Federal Reserve to keep interest rates close to zero at least through 2023. The move predictably caused deep concerns among crypto investors, bolstering the cryptocurrency’s appeal as a hedge against rising inflation.
Also on rt.com Bitcoin market cap tops $ 1 TRILLION again as its rollercoaster ride takes another upturn
The price of bitcoin has grown tenfold over the past year. Most analysts attribute the gains to higher attention to alternative assets, as stimulus measures adopted by the world’s biggest economy to fight the Covid-19 pandemic are weakening the greenback.

Moreover, digital currencies are now in growing demand from institutional investors, with a wide range of corporate giants and banking institutions making notable purchases of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section


UK faces decline in oil production

The UK oil industry is facing a marked decline in production due to a drop in investment amid the pandemic, Bloomberg reports, citing data from Oil & Gas UK.

Oil production in the country already declined by five percent annually last year and will continue down, as spending on development and operations took a 23-percent dive to the lowest level since 2004, the industry body said.

“Most companies in our industry remain in a fragile state,” even as economies start to reopen, chief executive Deirdre Michie said. “This year is likely to remain highly challenging, as companies continue to navigate the operational issues associated with the pandemic.”

The organization sees oil production in the UK declining by another five to seven percent this year and next, not just because of lower development spending but also because of maintenance outages that we delayed last year because of the pandemic.
Also on rt.com World’s largest offshore rig owner files bankruptcy
The report comes on the heels of news that the UK government is considering a ban on new oil and gas exploration in the North Sea. The idea, The Telegraph reported earlier this week, is to facilitate the UK’s efforts in achieving its 2050 net-zero emission goals. According to the report, the ban, if agreed, will not come into effect soon but possibly from 2040. A temporary ban on licenses is also on the table.

“Any curtailment of activity by licensing constraints risks impeding the UK’s ability to deliver a net-zero future, damaging our domestic supply chain and increasing energy imports whilst exporting the jobs and skills,” Oil & Gas UK’s sustainability director, Mike Tholen, said in comments soon after the report’s publication.

“Our industry is leading the way on green technologies, including the switch to hydrogen and long-term storage of CO2. Achieving this through UK companies will require significant investment and we continue to work constructively with government to show this industry has the essential expertise and commitment to ensure delivery.”

This article was originally published on Oilprice.com


Dementia symptoms: The three main signs of the cognitive decline disease

Reading and writing, if once a breeze, may suddenly become more difficult to do.

“They might experience changes in personality and behaviour, mood swings, anxiety and depression,” added Dementia UK.

A more socially interactive individual may become socially withdrawn, finding conversations difficult and tiring.

What are the most common types of dementia?

There is Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common form of dementia in the UK.