Data quality in the 2018 census: Comparability problems

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 25/11/2019 - 7:00am in

The 2018 Census has been unique in many ways. Issues with under-counts resulted in the deployment of new methods to source and validate data. One of the core approaches was the use of administrative records to supplement the collected data. In many cases, this has resulted in a more complete picture than previous censuses have provided. The better coverage, in turn, creates its own issues when comparing results to previous years. Penny, our NZ expert, dives in.

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As the 2018 Census data is released in juicy bite-sized chunks, the extraordinary work Stats NZ have undertaken to remedy/overcome the problems of poor census response rates become apparent. Each dataset has its own quality rating, and for many there is a full breakdown of where the data has been gathered from.

An example is the Ethnicity dataset. It has received a HIGH grade which means that the data is regarded as being 99% accurate.

Good news! The data ratings are rock solid

The data ratings given for each data set are rock solid – carefully vetted in processes much more exacting than in prior years. For transparency, Stats NZ go into great detail to describe all data sources. This approach plays out in the following table which denotes sources for age data.

Table 1. 2018 Age dataset – sources

2018 age – Census night population


Response from 2018 Census
84.7 percent

Response from 2018 partial forms
4.1 percent

2013 Census data
0.0 percent

Administrative data
10.9 percent

Statistical imputation
0.3 percent

No information
0.0 percent

100 percent

Source: http://datainfoplus.stats.govt.nz/Item/nz.govt.stats/5deebab2-9bf0-4a06-97f3-bdcc910f5924

What are the effects of the increased use of administrative data?

The new administrative data source delivers “real data about real people” rather than imputation modelling (see our Census handbook, Worth the wait: a simple guide to navigating the 2018 Census, for a full explanation of administrative and imputed sources) or relying on a ‘Not Stated’ category as in previous censuses. Using administrative data sources immediately brings up a surprising problem of data comparability between censuses … but only in some datasets.

In the Age dataset, “administrative data” sources make up 10.9% of the data in the 2018 figures. The data has been triple checked and has a high rating. In prior censuses, if an answer to the Age question was not provided, Statistics New Zealand would have imputed the age of the respondent. There was no “Not stated” category for this variable and, consequently, no comparability issue.

However, in other data sets – such as Ethnicity – a ‘Not Stated’ category was used in past censuses to cover ‘Don’t know’ responses as well as the non-responses ‘Not Stated’ and ‘Unidentifiable’.

In the 2018 Census there is no ‘Not Stated’ category because of the use of a variety of sources to account for missing data in the Census (see Table 2) . This is where comparability – or the use of time series data – needs to be treated with great caution. An apparent increase in a category may be simply due to data being available for the full population in 2018.

Table 2. 2018 Ethnicity dataset – sources

Ethnicity – 2018 census night population


Response from 2018 Census
84.4 percent

2013 Census data
8.2 percent

Administrative data
6.2 percent

Statistical imputation
1.2 percent

No information
<0.1 percent

100 percent

Due to rounding, individual figures may not always sum to the stated total(s)
Source: http://datainfoplus.stats.govt.nz/Item/nz.govt.stats/7079024d-6231-4fc4-824f-dd8515d33141

Which topics are affected?

Of the datasets released to date, this problem with time series comparisons is particularly apparent in ethnicity, birthplace, Maori descent, dwelling and dwelling occupancy information.

To help you work with this data, our Community Profile tool includes data ratings and usage guidance on all Census 2018 data.

Australians are living longer than ever before – how long do I have left?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 21/11/2019 - 9:07am in

Recently the ABS released a brand new set of Life Tables, covering the 2016-2018 period. This may sound like some dull statistical publication, only of interest to boffins (and I do count myself as one). But this may be the most important thing you ever read. It does nothing short of telling you how long you have left to live!

I previously wrote about Life Tables in 2013 here – so it’s really time for an update. I had just turned 40 then, and halfway through my life at the time (male life expectancy was 79.9). Now I’m over the hill and washed up 6 years later, but what do life tables tell me about how long I have left?

The key number that is always quoted in this area is “Life expectancy”. What is often not mentioned is that it’s “Life expectancy AT BIRTH“. For the 2016-18 3 year average, this was 80.7 years for males, and 84.9 years for females.

Looking back at my previous blog, which was based on 2010-2012 figures, these were 79.9 years for males, and 84.3 years for females.

This is an incredible statistic! If we are talking about progress and improvement of the human condition, life expectancy is surely one of the key attributes. Australia ranks #3 in the world for male life expectancy and #7 in the world for female life expectancy. And life expectancy in the past 6 years has increased by 0.8 years for males and 0.6 years for females. So a baby born today in Australia can expect to live about 7 months longer on average than a baby born in 2012.

This inexorable trend towards longer lives has continued over a long timescale. This chart directly from the ABS publication shows a change in life expectancy over the past 30 years, and in the past 100 years, life expectancy has risen by approximately 20 years for both males and females. Full details for this are in the Australian Historical Statistics publication 3105.0.

Life expectancy at birth estimates represent the average number of years that a newborn baby could expect to live, assuming current age-specific death rates are experienced through his/her lifetime.

Source: ABS, Life Tables, Australia, 3302.0.55.001

The important point here though is that this figure (Life Expectancy at Birth) which is most commonly quoted, is actually just a special case in the life tables. It’s the remaining life expectancy for a person at age zero. The life tables actually estimate how long a person has to live at every single year of age from zero through to 100. This is based on the current death rates by age in Australia, and assumes that the current rates of death for each age group apply throughout a person’s life.

What we know with some certainty is that they won’t. Now as they say in the classics, “Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance”, but with such a long-term trend, it would be hard to bet on there not being further increases in life expectancy. So it’s quite likely that a baby born today will live substantially longer than the 80-85 years indicated by the current life tables.

And the life tables show that each year you survive, you can expect to live a bit longer. A child making it through the first year of life adds about 0.3 of a year to life expectancy, despite Australia’s very low infant mortality rate. Even at age 85, which is beyond life expectancy at birth for both sexes, on average you will have around 7 years left to live.

This is an update of the table from 2013, showing an increase in the remaining years of life at every age.

Remaining years of life at key ages, updated











The single year of age version is found in the Life Tables publication, so you can look up exactly how many years you have to live. It’s also based on where you live, by state, which I’ll cover in another blog.

When I wrote the previous blog in 2013, I’d just turned 40. The life tables at the time told me that as a 40 year old male living in Victoria, I had 41.8 years left to live, so I should make it to 81.8.

Now I’m 46, and the new life tables show that I have 37.2 years left to live. While this might be a bit depressing, it does mean that I should live now to 83.2 years, which is 1.4 years longer than I reasonably expected to live 6 years ago. The increase is a result of both surviving another 6 years, and the increased life expectancy inherent in the lower death rates we have in 2019 compared to 2012.

To look at it over a longer-term, I was born in 1973. According to the life tables, my life expectancy was approximately 69.2 years (figures only exist for 1971 and 1976 but I’ve interpolated between those). Just by surviving to age 46, and now living in a time with lower death rates, my remaining life expectancy is now 14 years longer than when I was born. This is the reason I think that life expectancy at birth currently is very conservative. History has shown that this increases over time.

Life tables, of course, have very practical applications in things like retirement planning, insurance calculations, working out how long superannuation will last etc. They raise questions about the age pension as well. But I also find it quite inspiring – while media reports doom and gloom the reality is that we’re all living longer than we were, even just a few years ago. We live in the safest time that has ever been, in one of the safest and most prosperous countries in the world.

Of course it’s not perfect – it says nothing about the quality of life, and of course, no-one can predict when an individual is going to die. These are all statistical averages. One of the interesting things about life expectancy is that it does depend somewhat on your socio-economic status and place of residence. That’s the topic of my next blog…

Book Review: Falter by Bill McKibben

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 14/11/2019 - 2:58am in

By Herman Daly

Thanks to Bill McKibben, not just for his new book but for 30 years of honest, eloquent, and insightful environmental writing and activism.

Thomas Merton Center dinner honoring Bill McKibben, 11/4/2013

Thomas Merton Center dinner honoring Bill McKibben. (Image CC BY 2.0, Credit: Mark Dixon)

He begins Falter by pointing out that the human game we’ve been playing has no rules and no end, but it does come with two logical imperatives. The first is to keep it going, and the second is to keep it human.”

What McKibben calls “the game” that we must keep going and keep human is similar to what C. S. Lewis called the “Tao” in his 1944 classic, The Abolition of Man. The Tao refers to the common morality informed by natural law and spiritual insight—the given yet evolving conscience and wisdom of mankind. The Tao also develops and evolves out of its own past. It is our best understanding of objective value. We cannot logically depart from it in any fundamental way—it transcends both subjectivism and naturalism.

In McKibben’s version, the “human game” has to continue and remain human. It is the second part that gets close to Lewis’ idea, who wrote long before the age of genetic engineering with CRISPR technology. Lewis’ “Conditioners,” social engineers in effect, were only educators and psychologists. Lewis granted them the complete power to mold their subjects, the same power that seems to be possessed by the modern genetic Conditioners of today, so his argument remains relevant, indeed becomes more so.

CS Lewis

CS Lewis (Public Domain)

Lewis’ argument is simple: the Conditioners want to create in their subjects a new artificial Tao, a “better” one. They have the power to do so. They may appeal to the traditional Tao for guidance on how to make the artificial Tao better. But then they are still servants of the Tao and not creators of a new Tao. In other words, they are developing the Tao, not replacing it. To replace the Tao, they must step outside of it to find the criteria for how to remake it. But in stepping outside, they step into an ethical void. “I should” or “I ought” comes from the historical Tao and disappears with its absence. What remains to motivate the Conditioners is “I want.”

The personal desires of the Conditioners, uninstructed by the Tao from which they have emancipated themselves, become the motives directing the “I can” of these all-powerful Conditioners. What appeared to be the collective power of mankind over the Tao has turned out to be the arbitrary power of some over many. The future subjects are no longer men but creatures of the Conditioners’ wants, whims, desires, and fantasies. Hence the title, Abolition of Man.

Lewis is not arguing against knowledge or technology. For each step in controlling nature, it may (or may not) be that the benefits outweigh the costs. He is insisting, however, that the last step of treating the Tao as another part of nature to be remade according to human desire is fundamentally different, like dividing by zero instead of by a smaller and smaller number. At this last step, the process does not continue—it blows up in your face.

McKibben’s argument is similar in form but different in its terms. The Tao is “the human game” that must continue and remain human. The continuation of the game is threatened by the fact that we are destroying the physical board (or sphere) on which the game is played. Much of McKibben’s writing and activism has been motivated by saving the biophysical board necessary to keep playing the game, specifically, saving a climate conducive to life. What is new in this book is the emphasis on keeping the game human or “within the Tao” in Lewis’ terms.

McKibben declares, “I am not great with eschatology; I don’t know the final destination. While I don’t know how to change the ‘system,’ the urgent nature of the climate crisis doesn’t let us simply put off action. The biophysics doesn’t allow it.”

One understands his reluctance to “go eschatological” and to stick with the biophysical. Yet McKibben is already neck deep in eschatology, and necessarily so, by emphasizing early on the apocalyptic consequences of the climate crisis. Some technocrats go on to argue that since our civilization is unsustainable anyway, we are justified in taking extreme technical risks to save it, like a dying cancer patient volunteering for any experimental treatment. But where things really get specific is in his reflections on the full-blown and frank eschatology of the Silicon Valley billionaire self-creationists.

As McKibben reports, a number of these folks are planning to live forever, not in the New Jerusalem or in a Platonic spirit world but here on the unredeemed earth. Either survive whole or freeze your severed head until the Singularity (Second Coming?) when science will resurrect you, or at least your consciousness, by uploading it into silicon memory chips. Where, oh Death, is now thy sting? What these Silicon Valley self-creationists ridicule as naive religious belief, a remnant of the old Tao, they recreate as a new technological religion, an eternal digital heaven on earth (or maybe Mars) populated not by mortal men, but by—what? Marxists had something similar (but much less extreme) in mind with their eschatology of the new socialist man and classless society.

McKibben is politely dismissive of the eschatology of these “self-rapturing” techies, noting their extreme individualism (stemming from their common hero, Ayn Rand) that leads them to appropriate a kind of heaven on earth for themselves. McKibben also reminds us that these are the richest people in the world, and what they believe is influential. Modern theologians have prematurely “closed the office of eschatology.” Now it has been reopened, under new management. G.K. Chesterton famously said that when people stop believing in God, the problem is not that they then believe nothing, but that they are likely to believe anything. Could be.

Cryonics Institute

Cryogenics: Abolition of Tao? (Image CC BY-SA 4.0, Credit: Dan)

Keeping the present creation going as long as possible is an ethical judgment in favor of longevity, not a logical imperative. Nothing in logic prevents extinction or death; indeed, evolution requires it for individuals and species. Whether the end is entropic heat death or new creation is the eschatological question—a question of reasoned hope rather than demonstrated knowledge.

We tend to dismiss eschatology on the grounds that the sun will last for some billions of years and thoughts about the final end will distract our attention from the immediate crisis. Fair enough, but the scientific materialism underlying Salvation-by-Singularity has given us the power to destroy creation without providing—indeed by undercutting—any reason to keep it going other than chanting the colorless abstract noun “sustainability.” Meanwhile, the Silicon Valley eschatologists are working out their personal salvation independently. They probably already have started marketing it to those who can afford it.

McKibben has explained that the climate threat is so pressing and so intermingled with current economic arrangements, that it provides the best possible lever for making profound change in other aspects of the economy…” I suspect that a serious effort to solve the climate crisis—or the biodiversity crisis, or water crisis, or political crisis for that matter—will soon lead to the recognition of their underlying common cause, namely the continuous growth of the human economy and its consequent displacement and degradation of the rest of our world.

Nevertheless, most discussions of climate change usually fail to make the connection to growth. The focus is on how to accommodate growth within the structure of complex climate models and their predictions. The main accommodation is to advocate a switch from nonrenewable to renewable energy resources but without recognizing that renewables effectively become nonrenewable, once growth leads to exploitation levels beyond sustainable yield.

Maybe, after repeated failures, a steady state economy will begin to seem like a reasonable policy to save whatever is left for however long it can last. That falls far short of a real eschatological vision, but it is better than the cryogenic rapture of the Singularity preached by the technical Gnostics. McKibben does not pursue his initial critique of Silicon Valley eschatology, and one cannot blame him because the topic is daunting. But the eschatological question of ultimate purpose and final end keeps breaking through into policy discussions, however unwelcome to present attitudes. In Falter, McKibben at least identifies this usually repressed issue.

by Bill McKibben
Henry Holt and Co., 2019


Herman DalyHerman Daly is an emeritus professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Affairs and a member of the CASSE executive board. He is co-founder and associate editor of the journal Ecological Economics, and he was a senior economist with the World Bank from 1988 to 1994. His interests in economic development, population, resources, and environment have resulted in more than 100 articles in professional journals and anthologies, as well as numerous books.


The post Book Review: <em>Falter</em> by Bill McKibben appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.

The changing multicultural face of Perth

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 25/10/2019 - 10:00am in

Migration to Australia

Overseas migration has always played a key role in Western Australia’s population, but the past decade has seen some significant changes. In today’s post, Glenn takes a deep dive into the changing migration patterns in Perth and around the state, and the move towards more multicultural cities.

While Perth might not be the most remote in the world, it is nevertheless quite remote from any other large city, and tends to follow its own population trends, which have a lot to do with Western Australia’s boom and bust cycles based on mining and construction. One really interesting trend which happened over the last 10 years has been a big increase in multicultural populations in Perth – an increase seen elsewhere in Australia too, but not quite to the same magnitude.

Western Australia has always been a state founded on overseas migration. It has the largest percentage overseas-born of any state in Australia, at 32.2% of population in 2016. This has mainly been founded on a very large United Kingdom and South African-born population, and this continues on. Greater Perth continues to have over 10% of population born in the UK, and receives further migration every year from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Suburbs along the coast, such as Burns Beach in the City of Joondalup, have around 30% of the population born in the UK.

How has migration to Perth and WA changed?

In the last 10 years Perth – and WA more widely – has been getting a substantially larger share of migrants from non-English speaking countries. Couple this with the very high overall migration levels seen in the mining boom years, and Perth is rapidly changing into a very multicultural city.

Net Overseas Migration, Western Australia, 1972 to 2018

What language groups are represented?

This is evident in the languages spoken in the Greater Perth area.

In the 10 years from 2006 to 2016, Greater Perth’s percentage of population speaking a language other than English has risen from 13.3%, to 20.1% of population. This is a huge increase, and represents 44% of Perth’s total population growth of 431,000 people in this time period. So almost half of Perth’s population growth is due to people who speak a language other than English.

While the total of 20.1% is still well below that found in our most multicultural cities of Sydney (35.8%) and Melbourne (32.3%), it represents a larger percentage increase than either of these capitals, and the largest increase in multicultural population of any region in Australia.

These are the main languages spoken in Perth (other than English) in 2016.

All of the top 10 languages, except Italian, have increased in 10 years. The growth in Mandarin speakers, and Indian-language speakers (split among Hindi, Punjabi etc.) is quite astounding. Mandarin alone increased by almost 30,000.

How will councils respond?

It is fair to say Perth has not been known for being a very multicultural city before this, and it has taken the region by surprise, to some extent. Local Government in Sydney and Melbourne are in many ways set up to deal with multicultural populations. Settlement services, translations and labour force assistance for new arrivals are in many cases part of the remit of Local Government. This has been the case only to a lesser extent in Perth, and many councils are now grappling with how to engage with and provide services for a very language-diverse population.

Nowhere is this more evident than the epicentre of migration, the South-Eastern suburbs of Perth. This includes the cities of Belmont, Canning, Gosnells, and Armadale, all of which have seen a very large increase in multicultural populations.

A closer look at Gosnells

Take the City of Gosnells for example. Their non-English-speaking-background population has gone from 13.6% in 2006, when it was around the Perth average, to a massive 31.6% in 2016.  In 10 years the number of people speaking a language other than English more than tripled, from about 12,000 to 37,000.

This is an incredible change in one Local Government Area of just over 100,000 people and, as you can see, while Chinese speakers make up a large part of it, it’s spread across many diverse groups – the essence of multiculturalism. With such change in a short period of time, it’s no wonder LGAs aren’t really set up to deal with the demands of diverse populations yet.

It’s a similar story in nearby Canning (22.5% to 39.7% in 10 years), Armadale (5.7% to 18.7%) and Belmont (14.9% to 29.5%).

How can you get a clearer picture?

The Communities of Interest module is an add-on to profile.id, which provides councils with a great deal of evidence around the characteristics of multicultural communities. For total overseas-born or non-English speaking, or a specific birthplace or language group, users can look at age structures, cultural background, qualifications, workforce participation, household and dwelling characteristics. These groups in the local area can be compared to the same group elsewhere, to the total population, and can look at change over time.

If your multicultural population is large, or increasing, or both, it’s worth considering adding this module to give you the wherewithal to plan services and understand your multicultural community better.

For more information on the Communities of Interest, see this blog post.



[Book Review] Empty Planet: The Shock of Global Population Decline

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 20/09/2019 - 1:07am in

by Max Kummerow

In Empty Planet: The Shock of Global Population Decline (Crown Publishing Group, New York, 2019) Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson argue that population decline will bring many social and economic changes—some good, some bad. They assert that “In three decades, give or take…global population starts to decline.”

Women in education contributes to falling fertility rates. (Public Domain)

Women in education contribute to falling fertility rates. (Public Domain)

Note that their title is a bit misleading. World population will probably rise to over 10 billion before the slow decline would begin. The reversal of population growth is not a done deal. Growth still totals 80 million more of us per year.

The authors build a plausible case that fertility rates could fall more than currently projected by the United Nations (UN) as the world modernizes and urbanizes. Women with more access to education, careers, and family planning have lower rates of childbearing in many developed countries.

Readers of E.O. Wilson and Elizabeth Kolbert’s work on Earth’s sixth extinction event might expect the “empty planet” title to refer to a world with radically fewer birds, insects, polar bears, giraffes, whales, fish, and forests; a world less habitable for humans due to soil erosion, ocean acidification, and loss of millions of species; and a hot planet where people’s numbers collapse. The authors are two Canadians: a newspaperman and an opinion researcher. They don’t emphasize “carrying capacity” or “limits to growth” warnings from scientists.

A more realistic forecast would emphasize contingency—future population paths depend on yet-to-be enacted policies and family planning decisions. Continuing population growth is taking us from three billion people in 1960 to a UN projection of 10 billion by 2055. The title Empty Planet might sell books, but Overpopulated Planet seems closer to reality.

If current world fertility rates persisted unchanged, and the planet could handle such growth, the result would be a population of 24 billion by 2100. The UN’s 11.2 billion scenario in 2100 (compared to 7.8 billion now) remains contingent on fertility rates falling significantly in countries where high fertility rates have been persistent so far. A less optimistic scenario has low-fertility groups dying out and high-fertility groups inheriting an overpopulated, damaged planet.

The authors focus their discussion on fears of slower economic growth (fewer consumers buying fewer sofas and refrigerators) and the burdens of supporting higher percentages of older people. Yet plenty of data show that fewer numbers offer our best chances for universal prosperity. An economy can actually get smaller with a falling population, even while allowing individuals to enjoy higher incomes and quality of life. As population falls, land per capita increases, commodity prices decline, and damage to the planet decreases.

The problems of an aging population can be solved by maintaining a steady savings and older people working longer and/or part-time. Need more innovative young people? Try sending everybody to college. Spend proportionately more on research and development. Increasing productivity increases production with fewer workers.

Incomes are high and continue to rise in Germany and Japan where people are older and populations are declining. The global pattern is as follows: low-fertility countries are rich, while high-fertility countries are poor. (See Figure 1 examples.)

Figure 1: Countries with older populations do better on incomes and growth

Per Capita Income 1990-2018

Source: World Bank

Reduced population means cheaper housing, cheaper food, less crowded subways, and less polluted air. With half as many people, overpopulated Japan will be closer to self sufficiency. Hydropower and other renewable energy sources will comprise higher percentages of energy. Low-fertility countries like Germany, Japan, Norway, and Singapore are doing fine. China, during the one-child policy, benefited from GDP per capita growth.

A better title than Empty Planet would have been Falling Fertility Gives Hope for Prosperity. Business boosters forget that with more people there are not only more refrigerators sold, but also more competitors and higher-priced inputs. The data show that ending population growth makes people sustainably better off.

For example, in 2017 economists Daron Acemoglu and Pascual Restrepo looked at how rapidly GDP per capita grew between 1995 and 2015. They compared the GDP growth to how much the ratio of older people to working-age people changed over the same time period, expecting to find a relationship between GDP and age ratio. Yet there was no connection at all (Spross 2019).

Leaving out lamentations about lost refrigerator sales, Empty Planet contains good news: family size preferences change and fertility rates fall when women are educated and have access to family planning resources. If Bricker and Ibbitson are right, the transition to low fertility won’t be that difficult to accomplish. More family planning aid, an emphasis on educating women, and other sustainable policies can get it done.




Spross, J. 2019. Is an Aging Population Actually Bad for the Economy? The Week (July 2019).

Max Kummerow, Ph.D., is a retired business school professor and population activist who researches demography, ecology, and economic development. He has presented papers at ESA, PJSA, NCSE, PAA, and EAERE meetings showing the benefits of accelerating the world’s stalled demographic transition toward lower fertility rates.



The post [Book Review] Empty Planet: The Shock of Global Population Decline appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.

People's Landscapes: Living in Landscapes

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 23/07/2019 - 7:01pm in

A roundtable discussion explore landscape as a space for living, considering the pressures on land from population growth and discussing questions of preservation vs. development. People's Landscapes: Beyond the Green and Pleasant Land is a lecture series convened by the University of Oxford's National Trust Partnership, which brings together experts and commentators from a range of institutions, professions and academic disciplines to explore people's engagement with and impact upon land and landscape in the past, present and future. The National Trust cares for 248,000 hectares of open space across England, Wales and Northern Ireland; landscapes which hold the voices and heritage of millions of people and track the dramatic social changes that occurred across our nations' past. In the year when Manchester remembers the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo massacre, the National Trust's 2019 People’s Landscapes programme is drawing out the stories of the places where people joined to challenge the social order and where they demonstrated the power of a group of people standing together in a shared place. Throughout this year the National Trust is asking people to look again, to see beyond the green and pleasant land, and to find the radical histories that lie, often hidden, beneath their feet. At the third event in the series, Living in Landscapes, panellists explore landscape as a space for living, considering the pressures on land from population growth, discussing questions of preservation vs. development, and asking: who should decide how we live in landscape?

Speakers: Alice Purkiss | National Trust Partnership Lead | University of Oxford (Welcome)

Lucy Footer| National Public Programme Producer| National Trust (Introduction)

Dr Ingrid Samuel| Historic Environment Director | National Trust (Chair)

Crispin Truman | Chief Executive | Campaign to Protect Rural England

Dave Lomax | Senior Associate | Waugh Thistleton Architects

Professor Caitlin Desilvey | Associate Professor of Cultural Geography | University of Exeter

Dr David Howard | Associate Professor in Sustainable Urban Development | University of Oxford

For more information about the People’s Landscapes Lecture Series and the National Trust Partnership at the University of Oxford please visit: www.torch.ox.ac.uk/national-trust-partnership

Keep Our Counties Great – Safe, Scenic, and Sustaining

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 19/07/2019 - 2:32am in

Left: Trump Tower and Sears Tower (Chad Kainz, CC BY 2.0). Right: Colorado Rocky Mountains (Public Domain)

Which is greater?


By Brian Czech

When you look out your window, do you like what you see? Would you like to keep it that way? Are you afraid the forces of growth will deface, degrade, or “develop” your favorite places? Then Keep Our Counties Great is the campaign for you!

This county-level initiative has long been pondered at CASSE, and it’s time to act. This does not mean we’re forgetting about the nation as the focal point of fiscal and monetary policy. Nor are we dropping our obligations and interests in international diplomacy. Rather, Keep Our Counties Great will have synergistic effects, especially with our long-term legislative project, the Full and Sustainable Employment Act (our major amendments to the outdated Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act).

Many counties and closely related municipal governments are in the throes of the growth debate already. For example, the good Virginians of beautiful counties such as Rappahannock, Albemarle, and Roanoke are constantly discussing the pros and cons of further growth. These discussions play out in the opinion columns and letters to editors of local newspapers, which in many counties are the primary sources of civic expression and idea sharing.Screenshot from The Advocate article, "No growth or more infrastructure? Ascension Parish Master Plan reflects residents conflicts views

The county discussions take place verbally, too, in the town halls, council chambers, and Main Street diners. We – CASSE staff, volunteers, friends, and signatories – merely have to show up and talk shop about limits to growth and the need for a steady state economy, and we fit right in. Already our brief forays have garnered a collective response to the effect, “Now that makes sense. Why haven’t we heard of this before? The ‘steady state economy’ – that’s exactly what we’ve been looking for!”

Virginia’s counties are far from alone in debating the merits of further growth. Nearly identical discussions play out in Colorado counties such as Pitkin, Garfield, and Eagle, in Louisiana parishes such as Ascension, St. James, and Plaquemines, and in Alaskan boroughs such as Juneau, Yakutat, and Fairbanks North Star.

In the New England states, the primary level of government is the town or, in some rural areas, the township. Yet the conversations in the local papers are the same: Should the beauty, peace, and calm way of life in towns such as Chittenden (Vermont), Waterville (Maine), and Dover (New Hampshire) be risked, or even knowingly sacrificed in some cases, for the wages of growth?

As with beauty, greatness is in the eyes of the beholder. All non-comatose Americans have heard about “making” America great “again.” At least one prominent politician believes the number one metric of greatness is GDP. His Manhattan-developer vision is super-simple and sadly simplistic: a furious rate of GDP growth, no holds barred.

In contrast at CASSE and for many counties, greatness has nothing to do with “making,” much less “again.” It’s more about protecting, conserving, and sustaining the greatness encompassing nature’s splendor, historical sites, cultural integrity, pride in workmanship, and social fabric.

Note that word “conserving,” especially the root word “conserve.” Have you ever asked yourself who the real “conservatives” are? Are they the humble folks down at the local farmland trust, protecting the bounty we are blessed with, or the Big Money bullies and bulldozers who come in and tear up the streets and the landscapes so integral to our greatness?

Osgood Castle is a mansion built in the early 20th century by a developer who wanted to open up Colorado to coal mining.

Osgood Castle is a mansion built in the early 20th century by a developer who wanted to open up Colorado to coal mining. (Image: Jeffrey Beall, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Now it’s true that not every county would be viewed as great by its residents, other Americans, or even planetary aliens. Some counties are so full of litter and landfills and toxic pollutants that they will forever be pockmarked, literally and figuratively. These counties sit at the tailpipe of economic growth.

Usually in such cases it wasn’t the county residents’ fault that conditions deteriorated so badly. Rather, it was the obsession with GDP at the national level and the political power of corporate developers who “installed” the tailpipe in the county backyards instead of the CEOs’. Counties such as Ottawa (Oklahoma) and Passaic (New Jersey) – with lead contamination and a smorgasbord of contaminants, respectively – suffer a complex of GDP-related illth.  The environmental deterioration is most obvious, but the environmental dots connect to public health disasters and all the way up to social stigmas that impact the economic futures of these tarnished counties. We might even call this complex of illth the Gross Domestic Problem.

Then there are counties with remnants of natural beauty and pockets of happy citizens, but so far down the road of GDP growth, they’re seldom seen as great any more. Take Kern County in California, for example. A sprawling county once splendid with mountains and valleys, fish and wildlife, health and happiness, has seen its splendor reduced to the public lands we taxpayers have sheltered from the GDP bulldozer. No one in any way associated with the word “conserve” could possibly leave the high sublimity of Sequoia National Forest for the low, foul air of Bakersfield without realizing that GDP is hardly what made Kern County great. God and Mother Nature made Kern County great; GDP did more to desecrate it than to conserve it.

Construction of the Cross Street Bridge in Middlebury, Vermont has taken a cycle of more than 50 years of planning and abandoning the project.

Construction of the Cross Street Bridge in Middlebury, Vermont has taken a cycle of more than 50 years of planning and abandoning the project. (Image: Don Shall, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

So, the Keep Our Counties Great campaign is all about true conservatism; that is, conserving what we’ve been given, with the humility of precaution and the husbandry of care. It’s not about communism or central planning, much less eliminating economic activity. Nor is it about striking it rich, buying a spread the size of a county park, and posting a NIMBY sign at the gates. People do have to make a living. The overlooked part is that there cannot be ever more people and ever more GDP. As we like to say at CASSE, greatness is a steady state economy.

How will we go about the Keep our Counties Great campaign? First, we’ll help to identify those counties where the growth debates have begun. Where counties have already “gone the way of the bulldozer” such as in Loudon (Virginia), Tarrant (Texas), and Cuyahoga (Ohio), we’ll probably take a pass. These county economies are runaway trains; any surrounding county will be hard-pressed to fend off the wreckage.

At the other end of the spectrum, think of a county that retains a healthy agricultural base, has a mixed economy with well-respected public and private sectors, and is occupied by conservatives and progressive thinkers with a sense of place. Doesn’t that sound like a great county to keep great? It’s probably a rural county you’re thinking of, isn’t it? And that’s a good sign for the Keep Our Counties Great campaign because farmers, ranchers, loggers, hunters, fishermen, and other participants in rural economies have the most common sense about limits to growth and the conflict between growth and their ways of life. Of course, most environmental activists get it as well, and so do a lot of small business owners, civil servants, and students who have taken the time to think about it.

Now if the county commission has already been co-opted by “development” interests (as succinctly described in Eben Fodor’s classic, Better Not Bigger), then we’ll face a longer uphill struggle to reach a steady state economy. And reaching the steady state economy is, of course, the whole idea here. We wouldn’t go so far as to say that the steady state economy is the goal per se; rather, the steady state economy is a necessary condition for the goal of keeping the county great.

Not all development interests are locked into perpetual growth, so we will try to work with them also. Construction contractors, surveyors, sand and gravel companies, fuel distributors, heavy equipment operators, road crews… many went directly into their occupations without a particular stance on growth. People have to make a living, and those types of occupations tend to proffer more jobs than in other sectors.

Each of these occupations will be needed in a steady state economy, too, but with a focus on maintenance rather than expansion. For example, houses need to be repaired, remodeled, and even re-constructed. Plenty of construction activity, in other words, may occur in the absence of “housing starts” (one of the closely monitored correlates of GDP).

Carbondale, Colorado with Mount Sopris in the background; as viewed from Red Hill/Mushroom Rock.

Carbondale, Colorado with Mount Sopris in the background; as viewed from Red Hill/Mushroom Rock. (Image: Pierre Hollard, CC BY-SA 3.0)

What exactly will we do in those counties that seek to retain their natural, economic, and social greatness? At a minimum, we’ll help get the discussion going on limits to growth and the steady state economy as the sustainable alternative. Perhaps the maximum conceivable product is a comprehensive plan that serves as a transition from the current growth path to a great steady state economy.

In between the minimum and maximum, we’ll offer a menu of options. For example, we’ll be drafting a template preamble for existing or future comprehensive plans. The preamble will serve as the county’s acknowledgment of limits to growth and its desire to move toward a steady state economy. We will also offer to assist with growth impact assessments, demographic analyses, economic capacity studies, and perhaps even charters for establishing mini steady states in portions of counties, boroughs, parishes, or townships.

Coming full circle, do you like what you see when you look out the window? Chances are, if you’re in Rappahannock County, the borough of Yakutat, Ascension Parish, the town of Dover, or any number of beautiful, safe, and enjoyable counties, you like it a lot and you want to keep it that way.

And the more you think about it the more you’ll realize, “that way” is the steady state economy.




Brian Czech is the founder and executive director of the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy. He is the author of three books, Supply Shock, Shoveling Fuel for a Runaway Train, and The Endangered Species Act, as well as more than 50 academic journal articles. He served as a conservation biologist in the headquarters of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from 1999-2017 and as a visiting professor of natural resource economics in Virginia Tech’s National Capitol Region.


The post Keep Our Counties Great – Safe, Scenic, and Sustaining appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.

The Connection Between Population, Income, and Health

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 04/07/2019 - 6:38am in

By Max Kummerow

For hundreds of years, economists have debated whether population growth is good or bad. Malthus said exponential population growth increases labor supply, so wages fall until starvation, war, or plague stops growth in numbers. Marx said capitalism causes poverty and hunger, so population growth is good, because “every stomach is born with a pair of hands”, bringing revolution and justice closer.

Nearly 200 years later, Garrett Hardin and Julian Simon were still debating the same question.1 Hardin insisted that individuals’ decisions whether to have children without considering the tragedy of the commons could add up collectively to overpopulation and environmental catastrophe. Simon responded that human ingenuity is “the ultimate resource”. Shortages lead to new inventions that benefit the collective whole. Simon cited 300 years of falling commodity prices, indicating less scarcity, not more, despite population growth from 500 million to 5 billion.

The debate is ongoing, with most mainstream economists supporting population growth, while ecological economists warn about “overshoot” and collapse as the earth’s resources are used up.

One reason this debate has taken so long to settle is that both sides are right. Economies of scale and technological progress mean bigger cities, businesses, machines, and farms can often be more efficient, raising economic output. But with too many people, there are negative externalities—pollution, traffic congestion, crowding, and resource shortages. Above optimum size, cities, businesses, machines, and farms get less efficient.

Graph showing that optimum population maximizes incomes.

Optimum population size maximizes incomes.

The ideal level of population depends on preferences. How rich do you want to be, and what lifestyle do you wish to lead? Do you want to live in a McMansion (or even a “regular” mansion)? How much space should be reserved for other species? How much space should be reserved for the functioning of ecosystem services such as water purification, carbon sequestration, and nutrient recycling? Do future generations count in these calculations? How much traffic congestion can you tolerate? These questions aren’t asked often enough by sufficient numbers of people.

However, data already exists to settle the long-running economists’ debate about population growth’s effects on incomes and health. Countries that achieved “demographic transitions” to less than 2.1 children per woman enjoy dramatically better economic and health outcomes. The table below compares the most relevant figures associated with four levels of fertility.


Table 1 Better outcomes with lower fertility rates (TFR, children/woman)

In 2015, the low-fertility countries (<2.1) had average incomes nine times higher than those of high-fertility countries (>4.1). Infant mortality was 47 per 1,000 births lower, and life expectancy was 18 years greater. Of course, many other factors determine incomes and health outcomes: education, natural resources, health care systems, rule of law, improved status of women, and other factors. But the constellation of factors that helps countries prosper strongly correlates with low birth rates. Persistent high fertility rates leave countries treading water, while lower fertility rates make improving the other variables easier. The graph below shows falling global fertility but the substantial discrepancy in fertility between low- and high-income countries..

Fertility rates for world, high and low income countries, 1960-2015

Fertility rates for world, high and low income countries, 1960-2015

When birthrates fall, a country faces less tax burden because there is less need to expand infrastructure, education, and health care. A “demographic dividend” comes from increased labor force participation by women, more educational expenditure per child, and freeing of capital for investment. Slower growth in population moderates demand and prices of scarce commodities such as land, housing, food, energy, and other commodities.

These effects can also be seen at an individual family level. USDA estimates the cost to raise a child to age 17 at $233,000.3 Women who delay childbearing to get more education have higher lifetime earnings. If parents choose to have fewer children, they can have significantly improved standards of living and higher retirement savings. An only child will probably inherit more than four times as much as a child in a family with four children. In a subsistence farming community, a four-child family-size as the norm halves land per capita every generation. One child doubles per capita family land.

These recent data should end the long-running economists’ debate. In our present world, having fewer children improves economic and health outcomes for individual families and for countries. As the world moves toward steady state economies, reversing population growth improves lives for everyone.

In summary:

  • World population still grows by 80 million per year, headed from 1 billion in 1800 to 10 billion by mid-century.
  • Nearly half of the world’s countries have accomplished “fertility transitions” to birthrates that, if continued, would begin to decrease populations after the fifty years of further growth that results from “population momentum”.
  • Increased efforts to promote family planning in countries with persistent high birthrates will be required to complete the transition to a steady-state population.

[1] They were literally debating. I attended one of their debates, moderated by a history professor in Madison, Wisconsin in 1983.

[2] World Bank’s World Development Indicators. Income is a “purchasing power parity” comparison.

[3] https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2017/01/13/cost-raising-child


Max Kummerow, Ph.D., is a retired business school professor and population activist who researches demography, ecology, and economic development. He has presented papers at ESA, PJSA, NCSE, PAA and EAERE meetings showing the benefits of accelerating the world’s stalled demographic transition toward lower fertility rates.



The post The Connection Between Population, Income, and Health appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.

Quarterly population update: a surge in the South

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 21/06/2019 - 8:30am in


Yesterday the ABS released population estimates for the December 2018 quarter. The figures tell us that Australia continues to grow steadily, with Victoria remaining the fastest growing state in the country. But the big story is Tasmania, as that state records growth at levels not seen in nearly 30 years.

Australia’s population at December 31, 2018 stood at 25,180,200, an increase of 404,800 in the calendar year, and 188,000 in 6 months. (the December quarter always has a slower rate of growth than the rest of the year).

  • This is a 1.6% annual increase for 2018 – this has been very consistent between about 1.5% and 1.7% for the past 5 years.
  • The “25 millionth Australian” was celebrated in the media based on projections, on 8th August 2018. The final data shows that the population on June 30th was 24,992,700 – and based on the growth over the next quarter, the 25 millionth Australian probably arrived around the 7th of July, more than a month earlier.

The state-level statistics also show an interesting story (sourced from this table on the ABS website)



Population 31 Dec 2018
Change over previous year
Annual change %

New South Wales



South Australia

Western Australia


Northern Territory

Australian Capital Territory

Australia Total

Source: ABS Australian Demographic Statistics (3101.0).

The population story at a state level

  • Victoria continues to be the fastest growing state, adding 2.2% in the last year (139,400 people). Victoria has now been the fastest growing state 5 years in a row.
  • Queensland is growing again, adding almost 90,000 people in a year, 1.8% – the second-fastest growth in the nation, and the state’s population has just exceeded 5 million.
  • Western Australia’s growth is still modest, at 0.8% p.a. as it has been since the end of the mining construction boom in 2014 – but just starting to tick up again, at almost 24,000 in the past year.
  • The Northern Territory’s decline is accelerating, losing 0.4%, about 1,000 people in the last year, with the December quarter showing even more decline.

The growth of Tasmania

A big story is the growth of Tasmania. The island state added 6,500 people in a year – this may not seem like much but in the context of population size, it equates to a rate of 1.2%. This is the fastest growth in Tasmania in almost 30 years, due mainly to interstate migrants – and the state is now growing faster than SA and WA. It’s also the only state with a Department of State Growth – coincidence?

How population updates are made to our public profiles

This update from the ABS is an interim quarterly update, where the population figures are made available for states. The annual update for local government and smaller area population estimates (which are included in .id’s community profiles and other online tools) are done for the June quarter only, and normally come out in March each year.