The Demographic Profession Asleep at the Switch

The 6th Herzliya Conference, January 23, 2006

Reviewing the America-Israel Demographic Research Group (AIDRG)

 

“Friends, in discussing demography and the future of the Jewish State I’m very mindful of my status as an outsider being both a US citizen and a Roman Catholic Christian.  For this reason, I’ll limit my remarks to some technical but I hope nonetheless relevant comments.

 

“First of all, I want to salute Bennett Zimmerman and his Team for their path-breaking study.  None of the Team members happen to be professional demographers, but they caught the demographic profession asleep at the switch.  Serious internal inconsistencies are evident in the data and estimates on the current demographic situation in the PA areas and this report brilliantly reviews these.  Further, the conclusions of this report are not only plausible but quite persuasive.

 

“Why?  Because it relies upon rigorous logic and simple, but very powerful, arithmetic to reach its results.  And because this arithmetic offers internally consistent reconstructions of overall trends the findings look not only defensible, but really quite robust.  Second, this study should be carefully read by professional demographers and I hope it will impel, not only local, but also international statistical organizations to look at the PA demographic situation a little bit more carefully than they have been doing. 

 

“Right now there are some fairly significant discrepancies in the PA’s own internal population estimates.  The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics estimates fertility levels for the population to be nearly 1.5 births per woman higher than other parts of the government.  That’s a 25% gap, right within PA numbers.  There are also fairly important discrepancies between the estimates of the US Census Bureau and the UN Population Division, the two most authoritative international demographic providers.  Until there is a credible new population count in the PA areas, there will be some irreducible uncertainties but now is the time for the demographic profession to seek truth from facts here following the Zimmerman Team’s very important invitation.”