Data tells important stories about our country. We should treat it with more respect.
These days, the very word “data” elicits fear and suspicion in many of us — and with good reason. DNA-testing companies are sharing genetic information with the government. A firm hired by the Trump campaign gained access to the private information of 50 million Facebook users. Hotels, hospitals, and a consumer credit reporting agency have admitted to major breaches. But while many of us are rightfully concerned about the misuse of our personal data by private entities, we should be just as worried about the important national stories that aren’t told when our fellow citizens don’t feel secure enough to share theirs with researchers.
Part of the reason so many of us are nervous about our data and who has access to it is that pieces of our data can be combined to paint a detailed picture of our lives: how much money we make, what we’re interested in, what car we drive. But in a similar way, individual experiences become data points in sets that shape our understanding of what’s happening in this country.
This is especially true in the public health context. One death of a black woman in a maternity ward may be dismissed as an isolated case, until it is combined with thousands of other cases and compared to white maternal morbidity rates. When residents of Flint, Mich., repeatedly complained about getting sick from orange-tinged tap water, they were largely ignored and dismissed as paranoid, only to be vindicated when Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha published a study showing that children in Flint had elevated levels of lead in their blood after the city’s water source had been switched.
Data collected by the Census Bureau — including on education status, employment, housing status, food security, income — is particularly important. It informs decisions about resource allocation and, crucially, political redistricting.
Without this kind of data, our ability to understand the world around us is restricted. Canada, where publicly available data is relatively limited in size and scope, provides a cautionary tale. Dr. Arjumand Siddiqi of the University of Toronto, tried to conduct a study similar to one done in the United States that showed middle-aged white Americans without a college degree were dying at higher rates in recent years, especially of deaths caused by alcohol and drugs. But her efforts were frustrated because death records in Canada, shockingly, do not record information on race or education.
Even in the United States, there are gaps in the data. The artist Mimi Onuoha curates “On Missing Data Sets” — a list of pieces of information that are absent from the public record. This includes things like the number of people who are excluded from public housing due to a criminal record, poverty statistics that incorporate incarcerated people and the number of police departments that use stingray technology.
When it comes to data collected by the state, those who do not appear in data sets are often marginalized people who decline to share their data because of fear and distrust. This was the concern when, in 2018, the Trump administration announced that it would put a citizenship question on the census: Critics worried that the question would stoke fear and depress responses from noncitizens as well as their family members. The administration ultimately walked back the proposal after it was struck down by the Supreme Court.
To encourage data collection that protects the rights of people, we need basic restrictions on data sharing between agencies. While there are some laws that govern the collection of data, few place restrictions on access to existing databases. Those of us who do research on health care, for instance, are governed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
(HIPAA), which dictates how we can use and gain access to sensitive patient information, while keeping the privacy of patients paramount. Law enforcement are generally exempt from provisions in HIPAA and, in those cases, can view data rather easily.
FOR THE FIRST time in memory, adults in the United States under age forty are now expected to be poorer than their parents. This is the kind of grim reality that in other times and places spurred young people to look abroad for opportunity. Indeed, it is similar to the factors that once pushed millions of people to emigrate from their home countries to make their home in America. Our nation of immigrants is, tautologically, a nation of emigrants.
>These emigrants weren’t Going Galt or being unpatriotic by leaving.
These emigrants, our ancestors, didn't bear enmity towards the countries they left – quite the contrary. They weren't “Going Galt” or being “unpatriotic” by leaving, as they often left out of sadness and melancholy, not anger. In many cases they remained homesick for the rest of their lives, leaving only because they had to, not because they wanted to.
Yet while our ancestors had America as their ultimate destination, it is not immediately obvious where those seeking opportunity might head today. Every square foot of earth is already spoken for by one (or more) nation states, every physical frontier long since closed.
With our bodies hemmed in, our minds have only the cloud – and it is the cloud that has become the destination for an extraordinary mental exodus. Hundreds of millions of people have now migrated to the cloud, spending hours per day working, playing, chatting, and laughing in real-time HD resolution with people thousands of miles away ... without knowing their next-door neighbors.
>The concept of migrating our lives to the cloud is much more than a picturesque metaphor.
The concept of migrating our lives to the cloud is much more than a picturesque metaphor, and actually amenable to quantitative study. Though the separation between our bodies is still best characterized by the geographical distance between points on the surface of the earth, the distance between our minds is increasingly characterized by a completely different metric: the geodesic distance, the number of degrees of separation between two nodes in a social network. Importantly, this geodesic distance is just as valid a mathematical metric as the geographical. In fact, there are entire conferences devoted to cloud cartography, in which research groups from Stanford to Carnegie Mellon to MIT present the first maps of online social networks – mapping not nation states but states of mind.
Perhaps the single most important feature of these states of mind is the increasing divergence between our social and geographic neighbors, between the cloud formations of our heads and the physical communities surrounding our bodies. An infinity of subcultures outside the mainstream now blossoms on the Internet – vegans, body modifiers, CrossFitters, Wiccans, DIYers, Pinners, and support groups of all forms. Millions of people are finding their true peers in the cloud, a remedy for the isolation imposed by the anonymous apartment complex or the remote rural location.
Yet this discrepancy between our cloud subculture and our physical surroundings will not endure indefinitely. Because the latest wave of technology is not just connecting us intellectually and emotionally with remote peers: it is also making us ever more mobile, ever more able to meet our peers in person.
And so these cloud formations of mind are beginning to take physical shape, driving the reorganization of bodies. In the technology space, we have already seen this transpire at small scale: a cloud formation of 2 people coming together for 10 years facilitated by Match.com, a formation of 10 people for a year in a hacker house, a formation of 100 people for a few months at a startup incubator, and a formation of 1000 people for a few days at an open-source gathering like RailsConf. More recently we saw the thousands that occupied Wall Street for a month, the ten thousand Redditors involved in Jon Stewart's Rally, and the tens of thousands that took Tahrir Square at the height of the Arab Spring. Those trivial photo-sharing apps seem far less trivial in this light.
If you live in a major metropolis and have had enough of the steep living costs, poor air quality, rampant crime and other negatives, you're not alone. A slew of big cities around the globe are seeing an exodus of residents who are leaving the bright lights behind for a quieter, less stressful life elsewhere. Click through as we look at 15 popular urban areas that people are fleeing in their droves and reveal exactly why they are relocating.
The End of Babies
By Anna Louie Sussman
Nov. 16, 2019
In the fall of 2015, a rash of posters appeared around Copenhagen. One, in pink letters laid over an image of chicken eggs, asked, “Have you counted your eggs today?” A second — a blue-tinted close-up of human sperm — inquired, “Do they swim too slow?”
The posters, part of a campaign funded by the city to remind young Danes of the quiet ticking of their biological clocks, were not universally appreciated. They drew criticism for equating women with breeding farm animals. The timing, too, was clumsy: For some, encouraging Danes to make more babies while television news programs showed Syrian refugees trudging through Europe carried an inadvertent whiff of ugly nativism.
Dr. Soren Ziebe, former chairman of the Danish Fertility Society and one of the brains behind the campaign, believes the criticism was worth weathering. As the head of Denmark’s largest public fertility clinic, Dr. Ziebe thinks these kinds of messages, fraught as they are, are sorely needed. Denmark’s fertility rate has been below replacement level — that is, the level needed to maintain a stable population — for decades. And as Dr. Ziebe points out, the decline is not solely the result of more people deliberately choosing childlessness: Many of his patients are older couples and single women who want a family, but may have waited until too late.
But the campaign also notably failed to land with some of its prime targets, including Dr. Ziebe’s own college-age daughter. After she and several classmates at Copenhagen University interviewed him for a project on the campaign, Dr. Ziebe sought answers of his own.
“I asked them, ‘Now, you know — you have gained a lot of information, a lot of knowledge. What are you going to change in your own personal lives?’ he said. He shook his head. “The answer was ‘Nothing.’ Nothing!”
If any country should be stocked with babies, it is Denmark. The country is one of the wealthiest in Europe. New parents enjoy 12 months’ paid family leave and highly subsidized day care. Women under 40 can get state-funded in vitro fertilization. But Denmark’s fertility rate, at 1.7 births per woman, is roughly on par with that of the United States. A reproductive malaise has settled over this otherwise happy land.
It’s not just Danes. Fertility rates have been dropping precipitously around the world for decades — in middle-income countries, in some low-income countries, but perhaps most markedly, in rich ones.
International Men’s Day 2019
What is it and why does it matter?
There have been calls for an International Men’s Day since the 1960’s and in this era of empowering gender equality, you may have even thought to yourself “Why do women have an international celebration and not men?” or “Men’s contributions and concerns deserve a day of recognition in their own right” and not merely creating an equivalent of International Women’s Day.
Following a series of small events in individual countries in the US, Europe and Australia, International Men’s Day (IMD) was initiated on 1991 and revived on 19th November 1999 in Trinidad and Tobago by history lecturer Dr. Jerome Teelucksingh. The Caribbean initiative is now an annual international event celebrated in over 70 countries with rapidly increasing interest.
International Men’s Day encourages men to teach the boys in their lives the values, character and responsibilities of being a man. It is only when we all, both men and women, lead by example that we will create a fair and safe society which allows everyone the opportunity to prosper.
There are six specific objectives of International Men’s Day:
1. To promote positive male role models; who are living decent and honest lives, not just movie stars and sports men but everyday men
2. To celebrate men's positive contributions to society, community, family, marriage, child care, and to the environment
3. To focus on men's health and wellbeing; social, emotional, physical and spiritual
4. To highlight discrimination against men; in areas of social services, social attitudes and expectations, and law
5. To improve gender relations and promote gender equality
6. To create a safer, better world; where people can be safe and grow to reach their full potential
"The concept and themes of IMD are designed to give hope to the depressed, faith to the lonely, comfort to the broken-hearted, transcend barriers, eliminate stereotypes and create a more caring humanity.” - Dr. Jerome Teelucksingh
There are many inspiring men leading by example in our community and we are fortunate to have a diverse set of role models for the Ismaili youth to emulate. Yet some of the national statistics around Gender Equality are distressing. They prove that the perceptions and attitudes in the wider societies in which we live still have a long way to go to overturn negative gender stereotypes.
At the recent Preparing for Parenthood workshop run by WAP, we discussed that only around 1% of eligible fathers in the UK took Shared Parental Leave and that it can still be perceived as strange for men to be involved with childcare. Anecdotes arose about adults at kids events or appointments casually questioning "Where's Mum?" or the hesitation husbands may feel taking time away from work when a man’s role is expected to be the “sole breadwinner” of the household.
Equally concerning is that studies show men are less likely to acknowledge illness or to seek help when sick. Men aged 20-40 are half as likely to go to their GP as women of the same age and are even less likely to be honest about their symptoms when they do go. The figures are even lower for the likelihood of men to seek help for concerns related to their mental health. A message sometimes heard by young boys is “real men sort out their own problems” which holds them back from accepting the emotional or physical support they need and often from aspiring to be role models themselves.
Communities need to build awareness and create safe environments for every individual to feel empowered to make their own choices in prioritising their family, work, health and wellbeing, rather than simply allowing gender stereotypes to take control.
Our leading example, Mowlana Hazar Imam said in a discussion with Harvard University Professor Diana L. Eck on November 12, 2015:
“Leadership qualities is not gender driven so actually, if you don’t respect the fact that both genders have competencies, outstanding capabilities, you are damaging your community by not appointing those people.”
As we reflect on the themes of International Men’s Day, let us think about how we can enable our community to continue to grow and reach its full potential. Let us respect, support and celebrate all men, women and children as we redefine social stereotypes for the benefit of ourselves and our future generations.
Debating the decline of wedlock, again, in the shadow of the baby bust.
The continued plunge in the American birthrate, amid prosperity and low unemployment, has finally made fertility a topic that’s O.K. to worry about even if you aren’t a deep-dyed reactionary.
This is a very good thing, since the question of why the world’s wealthiest societies are failing to reproduce themselves is far too important to be left to weirdo Catholic columnists like myself. The tangle of questions involved doesn’t map neatly onto the existing lines of liberalism and conservatism, and the more the left and center engage with what Anna Louie Sussman’s recent essay in these pages calls “The End of Babies,” the better our chances of averting a P.D. Jamesian destination, a permanent civilizational old age.
Still, there is one key fact about the recent decline in the American fertility rate that inevitably revives, rather than transcends, a long-running right-left argument. While marital fertility fell in the 1970s after the baby boom ran its course, the baby bust of the last 10 years hasn’t affected married couples, whose fertility rate has stayed level or very modestly increased.
So while it’s important to debate questions like how the cost of child care affects childbearing decisions within marriages, the question of why marriage has declined so precipitously in the first place still looms over the fertility discussion. And with it comes a longstanding liberal-versus-conservative disagreement about how much to emphasize economic trends versus cultural transformations — or, more tersely, neoliberalism versus cultural liberalism — to explaining the waning of wedlock.
How Communist cruelty and Western folly built an underpopulation bomb.
In recent days both this newspaper and The Wall Street Journal have carried reports on one of the most important geopolitical facts of the 21st century: The world’s great rising power, the People’s Republic of China, is headed for a demographic crisis.
Like the United States and most developed countries, China has a birthrate that is well below replacement level. Unlike most developed countries, China is growing old without first having grown rich.
Of course China has grown richer: My colleague David Leonhardt, who spent time in China at the beginning and the end of the 2010s, just wrote a column emphasizing the “maturing” of the Chinese economy over that period, the growth of start-ups and consumer spending and the middle class.
But even after years of growth, Chinese per capita G.D.P. is still about one-third or one-fourth the size of neighboring countries like South Korea and Japan. And yet its birthrate has converged with the rich world much more quickly and completely — which has two interrelated implications, both of them grim.
First, China will have to pay for the care of a vast elderly population without the resources available to richer societies facing the same challenge. Second, China’s future growth prospects will dim with every year of below-replacement birthrates, because low fertility creates a self-reinforcing cycle — in which a less youthful society loses dynamism and growth, which reduces economic support for would-be parents, which reduces birthrates, which reduces growth …
Older, longer: The super-aging of Canadians has taken everyone by surprise
Every generation is having fewer children than the one before it, leaving fewer and fewer people to care for us in our increasingly long lives. It is a crisis we ignore at our own peril
The oldest of the baby boomers will turn 75 next year. The generation that defined us all, that fought for peace and cheap drugs and no-fault divorce, that gave us the personal computer and the internet and the culture wars and the war on terror, that is responsible for the best and the worst of the human condition as we live it today, is getting old. And as always – always – they’re making it all about them.
The boomers are living inconveniently long lives. Over the course of the next three decades, the number of people aged 85 and older will more than triple.
“More and more people are living into their 80s and 90s than were ever expected to,” says Parminder Raina, Canada research chair in geroscience at McMaster University. “The rapidity of aging is the real issue for policy makers.”
And just as you’d expect, the boomers haven’t saved enough. Which means looking after them will cost younger generations a great deal of time and money.
Worst of all, because the boomers were also the first generation to stop having enough children to replace themselves, there are fewer young people available to look after the old.
Every generation is having fewer children than the generation before. Things are going to be even harder for Generation X. And harder still for the millennials.
“This is a fundamental, paradigmatic shift in society, and for too long we’ve buried our heads,” says Michael Nicin, executive director of Ryerson University’s National Institute on Ageing.
The family structure we’ve held up as the cultural ideal for the past half century has been a catastrophe for many. It’s time to figure out better ways to live together.
This is the story of our times—the story of the family, once a dense cluster of many siblings and extended kin, fragmenting into ever smaller and more fragile forms. The initial result of that fragmentation, the nuclear family, didn’t seem so bad. But then, because the nuclear family is so brittle, the fragmentation continued. In many sectors of society, nuclear families fragmented into single-parent families, single-parent families into chaotic families or no families.
If you want to summarize the changes in family structure over the past century, the truest thing to say is this: We’ve made life freer for individuals and more unstable for families. We’ve made life better for adults but worse for children. We’ve moved from big, interconnected, and extended families, which helped protect the most vulnerable people in society from the shocks of life, to smaller, detached nuclear families (a married couple and their children), which give the most privileged people in society room to maximize their talents and expand their options. The shift from bigger and interconnected extended families to smaller and detached nuclear families ultimately led to a familial system that liberates the rich and ravages the working-class and the poor.
This article is about that process, and the devastation it has wrought—and about how Americans are now groping to build new kinds of family and find better ways to live.
Dating is hard. A government campaign to get you married is worse.
“Sheng nu” (“leftover women”) is a term used to describe single women who are 27 or older in China. Most of these women live in cities and lead rewarding professional lives. The term was coined in 2007 by a government organization responsible for the protection and promotion of women’s rights and policies. That same year, the Ministry of Education added “sheng nu” to the official lexicon.
In this Op-Doc, based on the Independent Lens feature documentary “Leftover Women,” we follow one of those women — Qiu Huamei, contending with the stigma and social pressure forcing her to go on a grueling quest in search of a husband. She grew up in a small village five hours south of Beijing and is the second youngest of five sisters. Ms. Qiu is a successful lawyer, fluent in English and opinionated — but those qualities do not outweigh one key flaw: She is not married.
In recent years, the Chinese government has been waging an aggressive campaign to pressure women into marriage. Single women are caricatured in news reports, editorials and social media. The orchestrated campaign is a byproduct of China’s one-child policy, which created a great gender imbalance in the population.
Ms. Qiu does all she can to comply with expectations and find a partner. But the search sometimes feels incompatible with the life she envisions for herself. When she goes on dates, she hears again and again how a woman’s place is at home. Her intellectual and professional achievements are irrelevant. She is measured only by traditional values. And so with every year that passes, her value in the marriage market diminishes.
What Women Who Criticize Plastic Surgery Don’t See
The “natural” body movement is unfairly exclusive.
Young black people have, in theory, embraced the concept of “body positivity,” which encourages self-love and acceptance of “natural” features. I wish this movement was a capacious one that not only critiqued unrealistic beauty standards but also embraced all kinds of bodies. Instead, it has been co-opted by women who uphold the status quo by celebrating only conventionally attractive bodies and policing how women can achieve them.
It may be surprising, but the conversation that dominates the body positivity movement is not about hair but about plastic surgery, which has become popular among black millennials, some of whom even go abroad for their procedures or seek underground alternatives to save money.
There are two factions in this conversation. On one side are women like Cardi B, who are candid about undergoing procedures to obtain exaggerated hourglass proportions. The beauty elites of black Instagram, Amber Rose, Blac Chyna and Summer Walker, have all acknowledged having surgical procedures, in some way or another. Plastic surgery, once the province of wealthy white women who sought to keep their procedures secret, is now a trend among black millennials.
On the other side, the much louder one, are those who are adamant that women should have only “natural” bodies. This camp has co-opted the language of body positivity to shame women, including Cardi B, who use plastic surgery to get hourglass figures. Those on #TeamNatural claim that the reality TV star Angela Simmons and the rappers Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion, who both described themselves as “natural,” have ideal bodies.
But these women are all conventionally attractive with flat stomachs and round derrières. The truth is, the adherents of #TeamNatural are upholding the beauty hierarchy that has always existed. They are content to keep the narrow body standard just wide enough to accommodate women like them, but not to radically challenge the standard itself.
The singer Lizzo, for example, is often praised for bringing much-needed plus-size representation to pop culture as a fat black woman. She is heralded for being confident and visible, despite her size. But I’ve never seen anyone bother to comment on whether her body is “natural.” And when she’s smeared with fatphobic comments, #TeamNatural doesn’t rush to her defense. Marginalized bodies — those that are fat, differently abled or trans — are notably absent from the natural camp’s rhetoric. It seems that the so-called honor of being natural seems to be reserved for bodies that uphold existing norms and ideals.
Like many of the things that millennials dive into, plastic surgery has been oversimplified as unnecessary, self-obsessed and harmful. But conventional plastic surgery is remarkably safe. Still, horror stories about women left disfigured or dead after undergoing black market surgeries occasionally go viral; people latch onto them as cautionary tales or exploit them in an effort to publicly shame others. Rather than encourage women to choose only safe options for surgery, those who oppose these procedures condemn women for wanting to pursue them in the first place.
I don’t think that the women who are staunchly against plastic surgery are worried about women’s health or self-esteem; I think they are motivated by fear that their pretty privilege — the benefits they get to enjoy for meeting those standards without the help of a doctor — is at risk. If beauty becomes democratized by more people simply paying surgeons for it, the proverbial finish line gets pushed further away. But upholding a limited body ideal and rewarding the cluster of folks closest to it isn’t the solution. Embracing autonomy and a variety of body aesthetics is.
The notion of beauty is fueled, in part, by exclusivity. Those relatively few who have it are revered. Whether we like it or not, we are all subject to privileges and disadvantages based on our appearance. We enhance ourselves with makeup, hair extensions and fake nails because we are all under pressure to achieve the unattainable standards of Beyoncé and the Kardashians. We adjust our bodies with shapewear and strategic clothing choices. Singling out plastic surgery as both unnecessary and unnatural is missing the bigger picture.
People with marginalized bodies are acutely aware of the consequences of not meeting the standards of physical beauty. Black women’s bodies are constantly policed, targeted for violence, marked as deviant or excessive and mined for cultural appropriation. Fatphobia, transphobia and ableism are part of our daily realities, especially for women of color.
While some of us choose a path of radical self-acceptance and reject the beauty ideals that we’ve been told we haven’t reached, many of us have instead found ways to leverage those standards for our own survival and success. We adopt certain beauty practices, from fake lashes to cheek fillers, in order to pass, to survive and to thrive.
There is no shame in any of these choices when the systems of oppression will always render black femme bodies less valuable than others. A ‘natural body’ movement that doesn’t include all of us is the real danger. We need to make room for weave, highlight and contour alongside wheelchairs, fatness and full 360 liposuction with Brazilian butt lifts.
‘Social distance socializing’ isn’t just a temporary stopgap. Online gatherings are the culmination of a broader shift.
Last week, I went to the opera with a few friends. We dressed up, exchanged pleasantries, and toasted with prosecco at intermission. A day later I went to my favorite queer singalong piano bar, Marie’s Crisis, in the West Village, tipping my favorite pianist, the regular Friday bartender. I planned a workout class with a friend who lived in the neighborhood, a brunch and play reading with a group of theatrically minded friends. I said Compline — a traditional Christian nighttime prayer — with friends from church.
I did not leave the house.
Over the past two weeks, as the first wave of closures of bars and restaurants gave way to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s full-on stay-at-home order, I’ve watched the contours of my social world move steadily, inexorably, into the digital. Some of this transformation is economic. Using videoconferencing platforms like Zoom or Facebook Messenger, friends and colleagues whose livelihoods have been affected by the spread of coronavirus and its attendant lockdowns, have sought out newly disembodied sources of income: A jazz musician I know is crowdfunding an E.P. on which every instrumentalist will self-record separately; a vintage hairstylist is offering video-conferenced hair and makeup tutorials. Local trainers are offering video-conferenced barre and yoga classes. Those of us who can work remotely do.
But, no less integrally, our social lives, too, are embracing through necessity the possibilities of digital presence. We live-stream films and operas (the Metropolitan Opera’s nightly free streaming options have become a highlight of my week) over Zoom. We meet for regular cocktail hours and cocktail breaks. We dial into the “happy hour” of our favorite bars — Marie’s Crisis offers its nightly song-request hour via Facebook Live, with Venmo details easily visible for all the staff that would be working that night. We keep in touch with our parish — which is posting videos of prerecorded services, and with friends through the practice becoming known as “Zoom Karaoke.”
It would be easy to dismiss the rise of “social distance socializing” as a product of pure necessity, a stopgap until we are, hopefully, able to safely congregate in person again. But these online gatherings are the culmination of a much broader cultural shift: the revelation that so much of our lives is already lived online. What we might call our “digital bodies” — our online avatars, the words we write on Twitter or Facebook, the photos we post on Instagram — are not artificial projections of who we are into an artificial space, but rather part and parcel of our identities. Our “digital bodies” are as much part of us as our legs or our fingers.
America’s Biggest Cities Were Already Losing Their Allure. What Happens Next?
The urge among some residents to leave because of the coronavirus may be temporary. But it follows a deeper, more powerful demographic trend.
Even before the coronavirus, Nina Brajovic wasn’t so sure about her life in New York. As a consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers, she spent most weeks out of town traveling for work. She often wondered whether she could do her same job for cheaper — and more easily — while based in her hometown, Pittsburgh.
Over the past month, she has gotten a sneak peek of that life, moving back in with her parents to avoid the wall-to-wall density of New York and working out of her childhood bedroom. She is now savoring life’s slowness, eating her father’s soup and watching movies on an L-shaped couch with her mom.
“Part of it feels like, why am I even living in New York?” said Ms. Brajovic, 24, who pays $1,860 in rent each month for her share of an apartment with two roommates in Manhattan. “Why am I always paying all of this rent?”
With her lease up for renewal, she is contemplating whether to make the move more permanent.
“I have no idea what I am going to do,” said Ms. Brajovic. “But it is a thought in my mind: the potential of not going back.”
The pandemic has been particularly devastating to America’s biggest cities, as the virus has found fertile ground in the density that is otherwise prized. And it comes as the country’s major urban centers were already losing their appeal for many Americans, as skyrocketing rents and changes in the labor market have pushed the country’s youngest adults to suburbs and smaller cities often far from the coasts.
The country’s three largest metropolitan areas, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, all lost population in the past several years, according to an analysis by William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. Even slightly smaller metro areas, like Houston, Washington, D.C., and Miami grew more slowly than before. In all, growth in the country’s major metropolitan areas fell by nearly half over the course of the past decade, Mr. Frey found.
Now, as local leaders contemplate how to reopen, the future of life in America’s biggest, most dense cities is unclear. Mayors are already warning of precipitous drops in tax revenue from joblessness. Public spaces like parks and buses, the central arteries of urban life, have become danger zones. And with vast numbers of professionals now working remotely, some may reconsider whether they need to live in the middle of a big city after all.
What’s Really Behind the Gender Gap in Covid-19 Deaths?
When in doubt, look to social factors first, not biology.
More men than women are dying of Covid-19. The numbers are striking. In Italy, men in their 50s died at four times the rate of women in their 50s. Globally, twice as many men than women may be dying of Covid-19.
When a sex difference is observed with some magnitude in deaths across diverse populations, it is commonly assumed that factors in women’s and men’s bodies drive the difference. This assumption has even led some clinicians to experiment with injecting estrogen into men suffering from Covid-19. However, early indicators and past experience with similar diseases suggest that social and other demographic factors, including age, race or ethnicity and class, and comorbidities, not sex, most likely explain a far greater portion of variation in Covid-19 outcomes between women and men. Appreciating the role of these factors is important, because understanding what’s really driving these outcomes helps better target both the research and the public health efforts that can save lives.
As we report this week, emerging Covid-19 data already shows an important role for social context in generating sex disparities. In Connecticut and Massachusetts there is no sex difference in confirmed Covid-19 fatalities, while in New York and Florida, men account for about 60 percent of Covid-19 deaths. Globally, the male-to-female death ratio varies from a staggering 2:1 in the Netherlands to 1:1 in Iran and Canada. It’s too early to say what accounts for these levels of variation; what they do seem to indicate is that sex difference alone isn’t meaningful without incorporating other factors.
During the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, with which the coronavirus pandemic has been widely compared, men also died in larger numbers in many places. But this wasn’t because of sex alone. It was because of sex and gender-related differences in both occupations — a social variable — and pre-existing health conditions. During the Spanish flu, men in the military and unskilled manual laborers working outside the home died at far higher rates than the general population, probably because they had less freedom to engage in social distancing; it’s noteworthy that nonmilitary and upper-class males perished at rates similar to women overall. For similar social reasons — they were less able to social distance than women — men in 1918 already carried a significantly higher burden of tuberculosis relative to women when the pandemic began. This, when combined with influenza-induced pneumonia, proved deadly.
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