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Demography Roundup #5
The face of U.S. homeschooling is changing + new data on births on Singapore, the "stickiest" states, and food allergies among kids.
#1: The face of U.S. homeschooling is changing.
Since the pandemic began, homeschooling has boomed. (See “K-12 Truancy Rates Soar” and “Is Homeschooling Holding Down the Labor Supply?”) According to estimates from the Urban Institute, the homeschooling rate rose by +30% between the 2019-20 and 2021-22 school years. As newcomers flood in, surveys of homeschooling parents show that the face of homeschooling is changing. These parents have different motives from those who were homeschooling pre-pandemic.
Religious instruction, for example, has traditionally been one of the driving forces behind homeschooling. In a 2012 survey, 63% of homeschooling parents said that providing religious education was important to them. By 2016, this had slipped to 50%. And today, it’s declined much further to just 34%.
Instead of religion, today’s homeschooling parents are more likely to be motivated by worries over school shootings, bullying, and discrimination, as well as concern over politics influencing what’s being taught. The most commonly cited reason, “concern over school environment,” encompasses general worries about school safety such as drugs and peer pressure.
Compared to families who homeschooled before the pandemic began, the new crop is more racially diverse and far less likely to identify as Republican. While pre-pandemic homeschoolers were primarily concerned with imparting the right religious precepts and separating their kids from a public school system they consider per se corrupting, the post-pandemic homeschoolers are driven by more pragmatic concerns—above all, by worries about physical safety, poor quality teaching, and chaotic administration. Because these parents are less likely to be ideologically opposed to public schooling, some of them may send their kids back in future years if the conditions they’re concerned about improve.
#2: Singapore births decline, but trends differ significantly by ethnic group.
Singapore's TFR is one of the lowest in the world, between China (1.09) and South Korea (0.78). That remains true in the city state’s latest annual update. According to Singapore's Registry of Births and Deaths, the country recorded 35,605 births in 2022. That's a -7.9% YoY decline. The total fertility rate also declined from 1.12 in 2021 to 1.04.
Birthrates have always differed significantly between Singapore's two largest ethnic groups, Chinese and Malay, and that difference is growing. The Chinese majority continues to record the lowest crude birthrate at 6.5 births per 1,000 residents. This group also recorded the largest YoY decline: -11.0%. In contrast, the Malay minority recorded the highest birthrate at 14.3 per 1,000 residents. And they recorded the smallest YoY decline: -0.7%. The overall birth rate shrank as drastically as it did because the Chinese accounted for 56.4% of all births, and the Malays only 22.4%.
Why is the birthrate for Malays so high? Being primarily Muslim, Malays are predisposed to have large families. Moreover, due to Malays' lower average family income, they are probably more motivated by Singapore's generous baby bonuses. (See “Singapore Offers New Baby Bonus.”)
Looking forward, the decline in births may slow in 2023. This will be the first year without Covid-19 restrictions. Singapore’s economy surged strongly in CY 2022. And since August, the government has significantly increased its baby bonuses for kids born after February 2023. The one-time cash gift was increased by +S$3.0K ($2.2K) to S$11.0K ($8.0K) for first- and second-born children and S$13.0K ($9.5K) for additional kids. The government also has increased payouts for Child Development Accounts, which help pay for children's daycare and medical expenses. Again, these initiatives will probably have more of an effect on the Malays.
#3: Which state has the most loyal residents? Texas.
A new report by the Dallas Fed calculates the share of adults who still live in the state in which they were born. The data are derived from the Census Bureau's 2021 American Community Survey. According to their results, the "stickiest" state (i.e., retains the most native residents) is Texas (82%), followed by North Carolina (76%), Georgia (74%), California (73%), and Utah (73%).
By contrast, the least sticky state is Wyoming (45%), followed by North Dakota (49%), Alaska (49%), Rhode Island (55%), and South Dakota (54%).
What explains these figures? The stickiest states tend to be geographically large and economically diverse. As a result, native-borns have ample choice of where they work and live without needing to leave their state. For example, Texas has 25 metropolitan areas, while Wyoming only has two. Moreover, many of the sticky states are in the South, which has historically recorded low levels of geographic mobility. (I also suspect Texas is particularly sticky due to its residents’ famously strong sense of loyalty, which runs so deep that “Texas pride” has its own Wikipedia entry.)
At the other extreme, the least sticky states tend to be in the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain states. These states tend to have small populations, few metropolitan areas, and a limited number of large-scale agricultural or resource extraction industries. If you're a North Dakota native who dreams of working at something other than fracking for oil or growing winter wheat, odds are you have to pack up and move.
#4: Food allergies are on the rise among kids.
According to the CDC’s National Health Interview Survey, the share of youth with food allergies has nearly doubled over the last two decades. In 2000, 3.5% of kids ages 0-17 had a guardian-reported food allergy. By 2018, that share had risen by +3.0 percentage points to 6.5%.
2021 data is not comparable to previous years because the CDC significantly changed its methodology. Nevertheless, in 2021, about 7.9% of kids had a parent-reported food allergy. That’s significantly higher than the share of kids with a doctor-diagnosed food allergy (5.8%). But that’s to be expected: Parents typically over-report by a few percentage points.
So why are allergies on the rise? One of the leading theories is over-cleanliness. According to the “hygiene hypothesis,” kids need sufficient contact with dirt and pathogens for their immune systems to develop properly. And if their environment is too clean, kids’ bodies are prone to overreact when encountering new substances. Boomer and Xer parents, along with some pediatricians, may have facilitated the rise in allergies by shielding Millennials and Homelanders from anything dirty. (See “Kids Growing More Allergy-Prone.”)
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