Posts Tagged Demographics

WHAT’S BEHIND THE DAILY AVERAGE OF 22 VETERANS COMMITTING SUICIDE?

Before I start:  Let me point-out that I am not a Mental Health Care Professional.

I had already decided not to write any more about Donald J. Trump since he seems to be self-destructing right before our eyes.  But On October 3, before the Retired American Warriors, a group of military veterans, in Herndon, Virginia, he stated that military (and veterans) who develop mental health issues, are not “strong” and “can’t handle it”.  He went on to suggest that others saw many of the same things, like the members of his audience; but they were strong, and could handle it.  Now, that’s coming from a Draft-Dodger!

What Trump said certainly didn’t help those in the mental health care field, who have been trying to remove the stigma surrounding mental health issues for decades, and to move it out into the mainstream. Although similar issues abound in civilian life, the difficulty in encouraging diagnosis and treatment is more greater in the military, where strength and bravery are celebrated.

Several years ago, I ran across a blog by Steve Rose, Ph.D., a Canadian psychologist, who has done a great deal of research on PTSD among Canadian soldiers returning from Afghanistan.  I have linked his most recent blog post, in which he specifically reports some of his findings regarding the average 22 man suicide rate in the U. S:  https://steveroseblog.com/2016/08/27/who-are-the-22-veterans/.

I personally found the VA chart, which Steve included, that provides a demographic break-down, in ten-year age groupings, of suicide rates for both civilians and veterans, to be of great interest. The chart reflects the percentage of suicides in each of these groups, between 2009 and 2010, broken-down by the age demographics. Take a few moments to study the table from the report. Can you spot what is happening?

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Notice the Main Finding, right below the chart: 69% of the veteran suicide rate is among those 50 years old, and older.

In his research, Steve began to look behind the numbers.  The non-veteran suicide rate is higher than that of the veterans, up until the 50-59 year-old demographic, during which the veterans group shifts slightly higher.  In the next age group, 60-to-69, the suicide rate for Civilians drops significantly, while that of Veterans remains relatively higher.

As I look at this chart, I can only make two unprofessional observations:

1. The suicide rate for civilians is significantly higher in the younger age groups, than that of the veterans. Then, they appear to criss-cross—with civilians veering lower and veterans remaining relatively higher in the older demographic.

2. The fairly-consistent, higher suicide rate among older veterans, at least to me, suggests that military service might have something to do with the different outcomes.  I am assuming that the veterans’ statistic might be more skewed toward “lifers”, who retired within the past ten-to-fifteen years, after having served for 20-to-30.

As Professor Rose points-out, there are a number of factors, which come into play, regarding the suicide rate among veterans.  I will leave the possible medical reasons for the professionals; but, let’s consider the various societal reasons that might be causing suicide among veterans.  Research indicates that the rate is highest among white males, with a high school diploma.

There are some gender-related factors, such as the male focus on masculinity, competitiveness and accomplishment.  Oftentimes, men tend to be more geared toward work, hobbies or other “instrumental” activities, whereas women—with that maternal instinct—are somewhat less competitive, have greater empathy, and are more societal in nature.  Professor Rose points out that there can be a loneliness factor among men, whereas women tend to have more social relationships that provide some protection from depression.

A major problem for some military veterans is making the transition into civilian life.  In the service, oftentimes your co-workers might be your neighbors, or people you see around the post or a small town, on a regular basis.  That communal atmosphere can take-on greater significance in overseas assignments, and yet be even higher yet in combat units, where each member of the unit’s life depends upon the others.

As I consider what I have read on Steve Rose’s blog, as well as other things regarding communal and even tribal societies, with regard to returning veterans, I have the following points to make:

1.   Having a support group—family, friends, co-workers—can help prevent depression.
2.   Finding a job helps and, if necessary, use the GI Bill to gain job skills.
3. In the current All-Volunteer Military, roughly only one percent of Americans are either serving in the military, or has a family member that is. The makes the transition, from military to civilian life, that much more difficult.
4. I wonder if education beyond high school, possibly reflecting greater job skills, has any effect on the outcome?

NOTE:  Ladies, I am not in any way suggesting that you cannot be intelligent, accomplished and focused!

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IS CHINA TRULY IN THE BIG LEAGUES? AND, CAN IT BE TRUSTED? OR, IS IT STILL JUST A HOUSE OF CARDS?

Sure, China has the second largest economy, ranked by Gross Domestic Product, the primary measure of all economic activity within a country.  That measure, however, is mostly due to the country’s 1.36 billion population.  When qualitative measures are considered, such as Per Capita GDP and Average Annual Income, China ranks somewhat lower, than other, more advanced nations.

The International Monetary Fund had recently announced that the Chinese Renmimbi (RMB) would become a “Reserve Currency,” beginning on October 1, 2016.  It will then join the U. S. Dollar, Euro, Japanese Yen and British Pound as “freely exchangeable” currencies.  However, China had only recently stopped “pegging” the RMB (tying it) to the Dollar, and there have been numerous past occurrences of government interference with it’s trading in the open market.  Can its stability be readily expected?

China has across-the-board problems—not just in its export-oriented markets and its currency—but also with its manipulation of the stock and bond markets.  Additionally, examples of China’s dishonesty include: its cherry-picking of supposedly nationwide high school standardized test results from just Shanghai, its best-performing school district; it has enabled on-going disregard for established international copyright law with regard to intellectual property; and under-reporting past pollution results, just to name a few.

Admittedly, China has been made a permanent member of the UN Security Council, joined the World Trade Organization and the Group of 20 major economies.  And, due to its economic achievements, it will have a larger role in both the IMF and the World Bank in the near future.  But, due to its top-down economic manipulation, human rights violations and its deviant past actions, I maintain that it is still a House of Cards.

Although the government hierarchy speaks of democratic principals and market-based economics, truly everything is managed by the Communist Central Committee, the Party’s governing body.  For instance, the One-Child Policy, which limited families (with few exceptions) to have just one child; however, that will be modified this year.  But, recent surveys suggest that many Chinese women of child-bearing age have little interest in having another child.  Furthermore, it would be some twenty years before today’s newborns will be ready to join the workforce.

That instance of Social Engineering is truly one that has backfired on the CCP.  Currently, China’s workforce is aging rapidly, and the question is: where will the new workers come from?  The government-manipulated economy has never diversified toward more domestic consumption and a higher-end, professional workforce.  Such an economy might have enticed today’s older workers to work longer; but, now that appears to be too late.

This is a dilemma that authoritarian socialist governments have been failing to recognize for the better part of the past century.  But will they ever understand the risks at hand?  And, in the case of the Chinese government, it seems to believe that it is superior to the invisible hand of the marketplace and, over the past 35 years, even to nature.

NOTE:  There are a number of posts on this blog regarding China’s many and varied problems.  Just click on the China tag on the right and a list of those posts will appear.

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IS THE REVERSAL OF CHINA’S ONE-CHILD POLICY THE MAGIC BULLET?

Deng Xiaoping was the Communist Leader who led China from the late 1970s until his death in 1997. During that time, he introduced elements of a market-based economy, as well as various social reforms. One of the best-known reform is the One-Child Policy, whereby couples may only have one child.  Over time, some 22 exceptions had been permitted; however, they were not widely-known until several years ago.

In 1980, when One-Child was established, China could not produce sufficient food to feed it’s growing population.  That family planning, which was introduced under Chairman Deng, may have been necessary at the time; however, it has become a serious detriment to economic and social growth over the years since.  Currently, China has an aging work force because women have been unable to have the 2.1 children, on average, needed just to replenish the current population and, thus, the labor supply.

Over the 35 years since One-Child was instituted: women have been attending college and joining the work force; the shortage of millions of women of marriage age further compounds the shortage of young children; most of the better-paying jobs are in the big cities, away from the traditional family caretakers; and the cost of living is increasing by Chinese standards.

The government has announced that, starting next year, couples will be allowed to have two children; but, they must be spaced apart.  That may sound like a solution has finally been devised; however, the labor shortfall is not something that will disappear in 20 years, when children born today begin to join the work force of tomorrow.

In regions where women could have applied for permission to have a second child, and knew it, only about 12% have actually done so.  The shortage of women, due to female fetuses being aborted, in favor of males, and the expense of rearing a second child, have further compounded the problem.  Also, if every young woman desired to have a second child, what about the expected shortage of: midwives; daycare centers; schools; etc?

Let me back up for a moment.  China does not have a social safety net, per se.  As a result, children are expected to take care of the older generation. And, in many developing countries, it is still preferable to have male children support you, especially in China where you could only have one child.  Thus, there are some 60 million more young men than women.  The abortion of some female fetuses is responsible for that shortfall.

The development of the Chinese economy and the One-Child policy are both responsible for this problem. Young people have migrated to the major cities in search of jobs.  They appear to like the much busier lifestyle; but, the cost of living is higher.  Also, according to current policy, their children would have to return to their home regions for high school and college, even though the better schools are in the big cities.

So several things would have to change in order to begin lowering the age of the work force.  China needs to tear-down some of these barriers and update various services to accommodate a large increase in working mothers with children.  Perhaps the state can provide some financial incentives for couples to have a second child, and eliminate any restrictions whatsoever.  Lastly, let nature free, and allow the young couples to decide for themselves.

Remember, this is China.  Can it happen?  Will it happen?

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PUERTO RICO. THE FINANCIAL BASKET CASE…JUST OFF OUR SHORES.

The debt crisis in Puerto Rico has been overshadowed by Greece’s on-going negotiations with its European creditors.  When Governor Alejandro García Padilla announced yesterday that Puerto Rico could not repay its $72 billion in debt and $50 billion in pensions, however, the Commonwealth’s problems moved to front and center.

Yes, there are similarities, as in any potential bankruptcy situation; however, the two situations are also quite different.  But, in this post, I will focus primarily on what is going on in Puerto Rico, and why I think that it might have happened.  Let me also point-out that the legal status of the Commonwealth places it in a limbo situation–somewhat like a U.S. state, but yet it also lacks some of the financial options that states have.

Only 37.6% of the commonwealth’s 3.62 million population are in the labor force, while even 12.4% of those are unemployed. It is important to remember that Puerto Ricans are U.S. Citizens and, as such, they are entitled to migrate to, and work on, the Mainland, where unemployment is roughly half as high.  Most of the other residents of Puerto Rico, that are not included in the labor force, are either retirees or children.  And, the percentage of seniors in the population is growing fast.

With a debt-to-GDP (Commonwealth Debt divided by Economic Activity) ratio of 69.9%, Puerto Rico appears to be in much better shape than the U.S., which has a ratio of 109%. Unfortunately, the Puerto Rican economy does not produce much except for what is manufactured by U.S. corporations on the island.  The financial problems, on the other hand, continue to abound.

Besides the high unemployment rate, a third of the private sector jobs are at the minimum-wage level, and a significant proportion of the population is employed by various government bodies.  Thus, there is little attraction for creativity and entrepreneurship skills in the local workforce.  Additionally, with a brain drain of younger and more-educated people migrating to the Mainland, there is little reason to expect a resurgence of younger workers in the Island’s labor force.

And, that brings us to the Puerto Rican economic woes.  Similar to Greece and other weak economies in the Eurozone, its economy exists within a much stronger, more vibrant economic system, that of the U.S.  Under more normal circumstance, an independent Puerto Rico could devalue its own currency–thus discouraging imports, while making its exports more attractive in foreign markets.  Also, unlike Greece and even Detroit, Michigan, the Commonwealth cannot declare bankruptcy.

Over the recent decades, Puerto Rico has not opted for Statehood, which would have provided potential solutions for it.  And, for some reason, Washington has not been forceful in encouraging such necessary support that would potentially breathe new financial life into the Island’s economy.  I believe that it is time for the residents of the Commonwealth to finally vote “Si” for Statehood, instead of just “Mañana”.

NOTE:  On a political note, there might not be much interest in Washington to grant Statehood for Puerto Rico since the residents tend to vote overwhelmingly for the Democratic candidates.

 

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THE GREAT SENIOR SELL-OFF

For the past several years, I have been warning Pre-Retirees to be aware that the age-old idea of selling their large house, downsizing into something smaller or a condo, might not give their Retirement Nest Egg as much as they might be expecting. In essence, a glut of large houses, and increased demand for smaller ones, would throw the economics concept of Supply and Demand out of whack.

Mary Umberger, of Tribune Newspapers, recently wrote the linked article, http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-04-01/classified/sc-cons-0328-umberger-20130329_1_boomers-housing-market-homes. It summarizes the research that Arthur C. Nelson, Professor of Urban Planning at the University of Utah has done on the topic. Besides the economics, other factors come into play, as well.

Several of the factors that will be working against tapping the equity in the large house are as follows: the demographic group following the Baby Boomers will be smaller and not looking for as many larger houses; the houses from the Retirees will not necessarily be where today’s jobs are; there appears to be more of a demand for rental housing; and, also, with the weaker Economy today, the affordability will favor more economical housing. And, don’t forget that there is somewhat of a shift to housing that is closer-in to cities, where the jobs, shopping, sport and entertainment venues are–as well as greater use of Mass Transit.

So, if you are in the Boomer mix, you might want to consider downsizing earlier and being ahead of the curve, rather than behind it.

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GOP FAILED TO KEEP ITS EYE ON THE PRIZE

One week after the Presidential Election, the two primary factions of the Republican Party–the “Right” Wing and the “”Ultra Right”–are pointing fingers at each other. The “Right” says that the Ultras and Evangelicals have moved the Party too far to the “Right”. And, the Ultras are claiming that the “Right” lost the Election by not staying true to the Party’s Conservative Philosophy. Remember that this is the Party in which Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater would reportedly not be able to be nominated today.

The Republican Party is set to hold brain-storming sessions to determine what happened. Brainless? The horse is already out of the barn, and two counties over.

Now, remember that this Party doesn’t seem to believe in science–Evolution, the Earth is six billion years old, Global Warming and Basic Reproduction. How is the Party going to grow by counting on Old White Men, while shunning: Gays and Lesbians, Blacks, Hispanics/Latinos, Women, The Young and just about anyone else with a Brain?

The Birth Rate among Hispanics/Latinos represents roughly 25% of the National Live Births–and growing. Jeb Bush, Florida’s Former Governor and Brother of George W, has said repeatedly that, in the very near future, Texas will become a Blue State. Will Florida be far behind? And, I don’t think that the Republican Party’s problems can be solved in one Presidentia Term. Just think about the Four Largest being firmly in the Blue Column.

Now, focusing on “The Prize”. The Supreme Court currently has four Republicans, four Democrats and Anthony Kennedy, who appears to be “Right”-Leaning, but is often considered to be the Swing Vote. Four of them, however, have ages ranging from 76 to 79. So, it is assumed that, in the next Presidential Term, perhaps two might retire or have to resign for various reasons.

Personally, I believe that (Former) President Bill Clinton campaigned so hard for President Barack Obama to grease the wheels in case Hillary Clinton wants to run in 2016. Better to replace a Two-Pewrm President than a One-Term Incumbant Who in the Republican Party could defeat her? I doubt that any Democrat would wish to contest her nomination. Just think what that could mean for the Court’s Composition? Twelve more years!

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HISPANIC OR LATINO?

During the recent Political Conventions and Debates, the question came up frequently as to what to call people. Living in South Florida, we have a microcosm of people (including many friends, co-workers and former clients) who immigrated from many other countries, but, mainly from the Caribbean, or Central or South America. Some are Citizens, Permanent Residents or Visitors. So, Who are They? My question is, do we really have to categorize them, as to being some monolith?

Also, in reality, it is not just a question of Hispanic or Latino. Blacks from the Caribbean prefer to be referred to as Jamaican or Bahamian. People from Brazil, which traces its heritage back to Portugal–not Spain–would not be Hispanic, but perhaps Latino. My wife, from the Philippines, corrects me that she is Asian, not Oriental. To top it all off, I once met a blond, blue-eyed Caucasian Lady from Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia), who claimed that she was truly African-American–and rightfully so!

For the most part, people prefer to be referred to by their Home Country–Mexican or Mexican-American, Columbian or Columbian-American, Cuban or Cuban-American, etc. Well, similarly, you cannot categorize them politically either. Or economically. But, the real issues goes beyond a name.

Cuban-Americans tend to vote Republican; however, there is starting to be an age differentiation there. The first and second generations of immigrants overwhelmingly vote Republican, because they feel that President Kennedy didn’t adequately support the botched Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961. Keep in mind that, by then, although I have no proof of this, the U.S. might have already been working on (or analyzing) the Missile Stand-Off, with Russia deploying ICBMs to Cuba, which came to a head in 1962. Republicans have certainly played-up to this situation, seeking Cuban-American support

Younger Cuban-Americans don’t tend to fear the two Castro Dinosaurs, and they have their families, careers and roots buried deeply in the U.S. So the younger generations tend to vote pretty much, based on the current issues, rather than Ancient History.

Most others in this discussion, Nationwide, tend to vote somewhat in favor of Democratic Candidates, however many do not feel locked-in, one way or the other. Contrary to popular belief, however, Hispanics/Latinos voted in favor of President Obama in 2008, and recent polls show a reoccurrence of that this coming November, as well.

This situation merely points-out a major problem with the Republican Party, perhaps since they appear to have given control to Evangelical Christians and Tea Party (Backers). The Hispanic/Latino Population currently represents one-in-six Americans; however, their birth rate is higher (one-of-every four) than other Demographic Groups. So, the potential Political Clout of this Group is increasing.

Republicans have done very little to recruit from Hispanic/Latino Demographic Group. Voting against the DREAM Act, making it harder for people to vote, Diabolic Immigration Laws, vowing to de-fund Planned Parenthood* (which provides a wide range of Women’s Health Care, especially in poor and rural areas), are just a few of the ways they are working against this Group.

Jeb Bush, among other prominent Republicans, has encouraged an abrupt change in strategy, rather than have the Party become less and less relevant. But, perhaps the real strength behind the Party–the Super-PACs–are simply not interested.

* Approximately just three percent of Planned Parenthood’s activities involve Abortions, and they are not performed from Federal Funding.  Whether or not you believe in Abortion,  would you fel comfortable in condemning some Woman’s Right to Choose?

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