Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Predicting the Latino Population

An article at Nebraska's NPR site cites a report predicting that the state's Latino population will triple by 2050. I clicked on the link for the University of Nebraska at Omaha's Center for Public Affairs but couldn't find the report.

Predicting is a very tricky business. I am giving a presentation next month at the Conference Series on Aging in the Americas in Austin, a work with my dad examining the implications of Latino aging in the South. Having some fun with numbers, we look at the 2010 census data, then make two projections for each southern state in 2040: a low one where the Latino population grows at the same rate as the non-Latino one did in 2000-2010, and a high one where it keeps growing at the same pace it did in 2000-2010.

We know, of course, that the answer will likely be somewhere in between but the comparisons are illustrative and in some cases show how much the Latino population will grow even in the low scenario. But where in the middle will it be? Back to the article:

The predicted growth of Nebraska’s Hispanic/Latino population is just that, a prediction. Experts say there are unknowns that could change the numbers, like the impact of potential immigration reform policy. But after Nebraska’s Hispanic/Latino population increased by 77 percent in the last decade, few doubt more growth is in the future.

Yes. As Donald Rumsfeld once said:

As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don't know
We don't know.
—Feb. 12, 2002, Department of Defense news briefing

There are many unknowns. As a result, we need to be quite careful about specific predictions, and think of them more as projections that can intelligently inform policy.

h/t Roque Planas on Twitter


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