Common Ground Between North and South Korea: Aging and Shrinking Populations

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics, North Korea, South Korea

The birth rate in South Korea, where I live and work, hit a record low this year, leading to concern about the impact an aging (and, eventually, shrinking) population might have on the nation’s society and economy.

These charts show the long-term trends, both in actual population and projected changes, according to United Nations data. I’ve added North Korea, which actually has a higher fertility rate today, for context.

First, let’s look at the populations of the two countries, which share an ethnic background and a (mostly) common language — despite the Korean War-era division of the peninsula.

South Korea has about 51 million residents, roughly twice the number of people in the North, which has 25 million. That’s the number of South Koreans who love in the Seoul metro area, by the way.

Both populations are expected to peak in two decades — and then begin to decline.

That downward trend, for now, is much more pronounced in South Korea because of the nation’s low birth rate. Having a large family in South Korea, where housing and education costs are pricey, isn’t possible or practical for many people. The nation also has relatively weak maternity leave policies (and stubbornly traditional gender roles in the home and workplace), leading women to postpone childbirth to pursue their careers.

South Korea is slightly smaller geographically (about the size of Indiana, in terms of area) than the North (roughly the area of Pennsylvania). So their respective population densities vary, too:

Here’s how South Korea has grown, in five-year-increments, since 1950 — when the Korean War began and ultimately changed the trajectories for both countries. South Korea saw relatively rapid growth rate immediately after the war, perhaps as refugees resettled. Projections show that rate declining by 2035:

The North experienced a rapid decline during the war, mostly likely from the death toll during the conflict, the political purges that followed — and the southern migration before the border was secured. Its growth rate soon recovered, however, but could begin declining again by 2045.

Here’s hoping the Korean fertility rate rebounds, or the two nation’s unify — or either becomes more welcoming and accommodating of immigrants. At things stand now, South Korea could become “extinct” by 2750 — a worrying (though simplistic and imperfect) simulation for a uniquely homogenous society that traces its roots back thousands of years.

Four Decades of State Unemployment Rates, in Small Multiples, Part 2

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Economy & Finance

I posted recently about how the state-by-state unemployment rate has changed during my lifetime. The result was a small multiples grid that put the states in context with one another.

Today I’ve created a new version aimed at identifying more precisely how each state has differed from the national unemployment rate during the last four decades. The lines show the percentage point difference — above (worst) or below (better) — from the national rate.

This view allows us easily to identify the most anomalous states in both directions (West Virginia, for example, had quite an unemployment spike during the 1980s; South Dakota, on the other hand, has never been worse than the national rate).

There’s plenty more to explore in this quick remix:

Four Decades of State Unemployment Rates, in Small Multiples

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Economy & Finance

There’s good news this week in the monthly jobs report, the latest sign that the economy, however grudgingly, has healed from the financial crisis nine years ago:

The unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent, the Labor Department said, from 4.9 percent. The last time it was this low was August 2007. That was the month, you may recall, when global money markets first froze up because of losses on United States mortgage-related bonds: early tremors of what would become a recession four months later and a global financial crisis nine months after that.

These things, of course, are cyclical. Here’s how the unemployment rate has changed, by state, during my lifetime:

See a full-screen version for a larger grid.

Charting Historical Voter Turnout

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Policy & Politics

As FiveThirtyEight notes, turnout in the 2016 presidential election isn’t dramatically lower than it was four years ago, according to the latest estimates. And with many mail-in and provision ballots still being counted, the 2016 turnout rate could still change:

Approximately 58.1 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in last week’s presidential election, according to the latest estimates from Michael McDonald, associate professor at the University of Florida, who gathers data at the U.S. Elections Project. That’s down only slightly from 2012, when turnout was 58.6 percent, and well above 2000’s rate of 54.2 percent. Turnout may end up being higher than in any presidential election year between 1972 and 2000….

We won’t have final turnout numbers for weeks or months because some states are still counting ballots; millions remain uncounted. That means estimates based solely on votes counted so far will understate turnout — though already more presidential votes have been counted this year than in 2012 (contrary to reports that fewer voters turned out this year). In the meantime, most news organizations rely on estimates from McDonald.

Here’s a quick look at historic turnout in both midterm and general elections, according to estimates compiled by McDonald:

How Far Above (Or Below) .500 Did Each MLB Team Finish This Season?

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Sports

I live in South Korea, where it isn’t always easy to watch American baseball (unless you’re a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers or the Texas Rangers). So I’m catching up with data.

Charting Taiwan’s Sea of Scooters

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics, Taiwan

Scooters at a Taipei intersection. Credit: Quatro Valvole/Wikimieda

Scooters at a Taipei intersection. Credit: Quatro Valvole/Wikimieda

I’m in Taiwan this month to study Mandarin. During breaks, I’ll be posting occasionally about the island nation’s demographics, politics and (sticky) weather.

One of the first things you’ll notice about the streets of Taiwan — other than the excellent food, sweet people and formidable humidity, of course — is the constant buzz of scooters. They are everywhere — and loud and perhaps a little unsafe.

That’s true even in Taipei, the capitol region, which has a world-class subway system and yet about 1 million motorcycles on the roads (as opposed to roughly 800,000 cars and trucks).

It turns out there’s a proportionally startling number of motorcycles, as the government classifies them, on the roads across this country: More than 13 million in nation of just 23 million.

Most homes have them, for example:

And there are nearly twice as many motorcycles on the roads than cars and trucks, according to the government:

Though the rate of motorcycles per 1,000 population is declining:

Someday I’ll Say Goodbye to Seoul. I Might Miss the Weather.

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: South Korea, Weather

Note: I followed my wife, a foreign correspondent for NPR News, to Seoul last year. This is one of a series of posts exploring our adopted country’s demographics, politics and other nerdy data stuff. Let me know if you have ideas for future posts.

I’ve been in Seoul just over a year, and I can’t stay here forever, so I’m starting to think seriously about the next city. For me, a key consideration is weather (and, you know, work and kids’ schools and such).

Seoul’s been pretty great, especially the relatively mild summers. But what can I expect from the next town? Here are the average monthly temperatures for the likely contenders. Some are warmer than others:

weather

Or maybe one of these 269 places?

Data source: NOAA Comparative Climate Data

Charting the Popularity of ‘Hillary’

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics, News, Policy & Politics

Despite her big win in New York, trouble looms for Hillary Clinton in the general election, according to a new poll that shows her favorable/unfavorable ratings at dangerously low levels among key demographic groups.

Clinton has seen her fair share of bad polls over the years, yet she’s found ways to rebound. The same can’t really be said about her first name, however.

Perhaps one measure of her favorability — if so, a cruel one — is the frequency with which American parents have decided to call their daughters “Hillary”. The name peaked historically the year her husband, Bill Clinton, won the White House. It then plummeted dramatically, according to Social Security card application data released by the federal government.

This chart shows the proportion of parents who picked “Hillary” since 1947, the presidential candidate’s birth year:

“Hillary” was most popular in 1992, when about 2,500 girls received the name — roughly .14 percent of those listed in the data that year. Two years later, only about 400 girls received the name, or about .02 percent. (“Hillary”, by the way, made a small but brief comeback in 2008).

The figures in both years seem low, given the size of the country. But remember that Americans get creative with their kids’ names. There were about 1.84 million girls who received Social Security cards in 1992, and their parents picked at least 15,000 different name iterations, from Aaisha to Zykeia. Ashley was most popular with about 38,000 applications (or roughly 2 percent of the listed names).

Perhaps Hillary would be slightly more popular if parents conformed (or could spell). In 1992, for example, a few hundred poor souls got these iterations of Clinton’s name: Hilliary, Hillery, Hillari, Hillarie and Hillaree. Also: Hilary.

My name — Matthew — has taken a roller coaster ride, too. It peaked in 1983, with about 50,000 boys receiving it — roughly 2.8 percent of the 1.8 million boys who received Social Security cards with that birth year. What caused the name’s rise? Perhaps I’ll never know, though my mother picked it not from the New Testament but from a John Denver song.

Thanks, Mom. (At least you spelled it correctly).

Want to see your name? Tell me in the comments.

New Show, Knife Raise O.J.’s Google Profile

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Crime, News

More than 20 years after his blockbuster murder trial, O.J. Simpson is back in the news — this time after Los Angeles police reportedly found a knife on the grounds of his former estate.

O.J. Simpson

O.J. Simpson

According to the Los Angeles Times, a retired police officer “has handed over a knife given to him by a construction worker who helped raze Simpson’s mansion in 1998.” The knife, which could have been used in the slayings of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, is now being tested by the police.

The news comes a month after a new television show dramatizing his sensational trial began airing on FOX.

The renewed interest in Simpson, now serving a prison term in Nevada for an unrelated robbery and kidnapping case, is reflected in online search traffic, according to Google Trends.

This graph shows search volume since 2004. Traffic has been relatively dormant over the years except for spikes, like in September 2007, when Simpson was arrested in Las Vegas on multiple felony counts after an altercation over sports memorabilia. Another spike in late 2008 reflects his conviction at trial. He’s now serving out a 33-year-term but is eligible for parole next year.

Searches for his name spiked significantly after the new show, starring Cuba Gooding Jr., began airing Feb. 2.

Regional trends are also evident in the searches. This map shows that searches in Nevada and the Las Vegas metro area more common than in other parts of the country. That makes sense because of the location of his trial and incarceration.

Screenshot 2016-03-05 09.23.51

Someday O.J. Simpson will no longer capture the collective imaginations of Americans. Today is not that day, apparently.