Thursday, May 18, 2017

Why isn't Oliver as popular in the U.S. as other English-speaking countries?

On the 2016 list of top names from the SSA, Oliver came in as the 12th most popular boy's name. While that's high, and the name has been on a sharp increase in recent years (as recently as 2008 it wasn't in the top 100), that's still lower than in many other Anglophone countries where it's at or almost at the very top of the list. What's the reason people in the States haven't been quite as keen on picking up this fashionable English classic? There may be several factors in play here, but one major one may not have to do with Anglo-Americans' tastes, but rather another culture that makes up a growing part of the U.S. population diluting the stats.

That culture is the Hispanic/Latino population of the U.S. Some other name bloggers have mentioned how that population has influenced the American baby name stats, both with names popular in both cultures (e.g. Isabella and Sophia/Sofia) and with distinctly Spanish names (e.g. Joaquin) (all those examples are mentioned at the above link). On the other hand there are names which are common among English speakers but not among Spanish speakers; the name this post is about, Oliver, appears to be one of them.

With the SSA state-by-state stats just released on the day I'm writing this post, if you compare the stats of states with high Hispanic populations vs. those with low Hispanic populations this pattern emerges. Many of the less-than-average-Hispanic states do have Oliver in the top 10, with some at or almost at the top. On the other hand, Oliver does worse than average in states like California, Texas, and Florida (heavily Hispanic states).

What does this mean if you're an American with a son (or are planning on having a son) named Oliver? In terms of the odds of him sharing a name with a classmate, it's probably more likely if most of his schoolmates speak English and less likely in a more diverse bunch (this contrasts to other "international" names, such as those mentioned in the second paragraph, which are popular in multiple cultures and are more likely to be heard where there are people from a wide variety of ethnicities). As for the practical effects, giving him a decidedly Anglo name like Oliver will likely be a plus when it comes down to potential "name discrimination" - but a greater risk of spelling/pronunciation issues when interacting with Hispanics, etc. than for example a more "Spanish-friendly" name.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Why I am opposed to birthright citizenship

Donald Trump's recent comments on how he would end the practice of giving anyone born on U.S. soil (unless doing duties for a foreign government) automatic citizenship has led me to voice my opinion on this issue. I am against birthright citizenship, but not because I am racist, xenophobic, or have anything against Mexicans or any other nationality. It is because, similar to how increases in health-care technology (and the costs associated with patients using such) has rendered the idealistic concept of "free-market healthcare" an anachronistic economic liability, advances in travel (and to a lesser extent changes in gender roles) has rendered the once-closely-linked concepts of "physical place of birth" and "nationality at birth" less directly correlated with each other.

"Physical place of birth" is just that - the place where you were born at. If that was at or near the location of your parents' permanent residence than that also describes your "homeland" - where you likely grew up and your first memories were founded. Before easy long-distance travel via automobiles and airplanes was common, and when it was rare for a woman to be away from her homeland for career purposes, that correlation served true for almost all births.

"Nationality at birth" describes what country or countries you have been considered a subject of since when you were born. It makes sense, and should be the case, for you to be considered a subject of the place where you were actually born in IF that's where your parents had a legal and permanent residence. However, if your parents had violated the country's immigration laws to get there, or if they were in the country just visiting or on some other temporary basis, then the parents' children should NOT automatically be entitled to be considered a subject of that country (but would usually be a subject of the home country or countries of the parents - in the rare cases where that isn't the case and the child would be otherwise stateless an exception can be made). For those cases where the child spends a significant part of their childhood in the U.S., I would have a provision if you lived a certain number of the first 18 years of your life in the country you'd be entitled to citizenship upon request once an adult - but nothing for the parents who were here illegally and/or temporarily.

I should also note that there are MANY countries in the world that once had birthright citizenship that do not anymore for the reasons I have described (here is an article about when the last holdout in the EU, Ireland, did away with it in 2004). Also, we may not have to amend the Constitution because so far the only definitive cases (e.g. Wong Kim Ark) have dealt with parents who had permanent residence (which I do agree that those children should be citizens) - an historic precedent is that Native Americans were not automatically citizens until 1924).

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Generation X: The Most Francophobic Generation?

In recent years, especially those surrounding the Iraq war around 2003 or so when they refused to help us in the crusade, Americans have become more anti-France after them being our friends for much of our nation's history. Likewise there has been a slight stigma toward those whose foreign language of choice is French or are interested in French culture, as this blogger mentions.

I have found this francophobia largely comes from a particular generation of Americans, the one now at the middle of its life: Generation X. (Of course this and other points mentioned here are a generalization; no offense to any Xers who are francophiles instead.) Why is that? Well, a lot of things modern France is known for runs counter to the philosophy of an average Xer - such as being too "socialist" and an example of why "New Urbanism" (which many Millennials are embracing) is a much more environmentally friendly way of living as compared to the sprawl typical in America. By the way, except for possibly the "old-old" GIs, Xers are in general probably the least environmentally-friendly generation alive today (especially when it comes to regulations on business) - the last one to embrace the consumerism and car culture typical of Americans in the past saeculum (and actually turned back the progress Boomers made towards a "greener" lifestyle - one that Millennials are reviving).

An outiler to this (ironic considering they're the ones typically blamed for the decline in the interest of the French language in America) are Latinos (which as I've said the first-generation ones in America are most concentrated among Xers). In fact, as some bilingual English-Spanish families such as one from this site have done with their children, when a third language is studied guess which one they're most likely to go for? You guessed it, French (which for those who already know English and Spanish is a relatively easy step, and those three languages together will allow you to get around a significant part of the world).

So which language do I think is French's biggest "enemy" in the language-to-study-war? It's the language of an Asian country that is quickly becoming more like America in the way a lot of pro-suburbia, anti-environmental people like (and if that group wins then life on this planet may cease to exist in a few decades). The country is China, and the language is Mandarin Chinese. I had originally planned to do a blog post on that language, but since that fell by the wayside I'll touch on it here.

Xers are probably the generation that has done the most promotion of the study of Mandarin, citing that there are more speakers of it than any other language in the world, that China is quickly becoming a superpower, and that the language may be the new "global" one in a few decades like English is now. The opposition (which I side with) cites that the importance of Chinese is overemphasized since its complexity compared to most "Western" languages means it's unlikely to attain importance at a global level, and unlike for example English, French, or Spanish which are spoken in multiple countries across multiple continents the only place Chinese is spoken as a "primary" language is in China (apart from "Chinatowns" around the world). (Not that I have anything against Chinese people or their culture, but like many Millennials Chinese political ideals run counter to what we want and that although studying Mandarin is a worthy venture it's not necessarily THE language you should study. Another reason not to go that route is that it takes on average A LOT more study to achieve a comparable fluency in Mandarin than it does with languages more closely related to English, unless you already know another Asian language.)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Generations and Foreign Languages, Part 2: French - (Not) a Dying Language

A few months ago someone wrote about how French is supposedly becoming a "mostly pointless" language, while someone else rebutted his argument with ways that the language is still a useful one to know. There were plenty of comments to each article expressing both sides of the debate - and I agree with those that say that there's still plenty of ways that French can be useful (especially at the global level). There are also plenty of intangible ways that knowledge of French can be beneficial - such as being "the language of love and romance" and an important one in the arts (which are reasons some people enjoy learning it - and it's easier to learn a language that interests you).

Because of the perception of French no longer being "important" and other languages being perceived more so (like the last and next ones I'm covering) its relative popularity (not necessarily absolute, since the number of students learning a foreign language in general has risen over the past few decades, likely tied to the general globalization phenomenon) in the U.S. as a foreign language has dropped in recent times. However I'm predicting that may somewhat reverse once the New Silents become of age to take high school and college foreign language courses for a couple of reasons (once again putting my non-linear generational-based hypotheses on the line):

1. The francophobia from the post-9/11 and War on Terror era when France refused to join us will likely be less present (or virtually not present at all) in this generation that doesn't remember it. (For the same reason I'm predicting they will rebel against many of the "Homeland Security" practices that have since been enacted - which is why "Homelanders" is a term I've decided not to use; but that's a topic for another time. Links are to posts on the message board.)

2. In terms of generational archetypes I think that Adaptives/Artists and Idealists/Prophets are more attracted to the things the French language is known for (in the last sentence of the first paragraph) than Reactives/Nomads and Civics/Heroes (the latter two being more drawn to practical/tangible aspects). Since "practicality" is more important during a Crisis era than other turnings, that will also lessen the relevance of that factor for those that won't be finished with school until the new saeculum begins.

The next installment will focus on a language that has quickly grown in popularity in recent years - (Mandarin) Chinese.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Generations and Foreign Languages, Part 1: Spanish - The (Once) Top Language for Americans to Learn

This is the first in a three-part series discussing the past, present, and predicted future popularity of various foreign languages among Americans.

If you're an American Xer or Millennial, chances are during your schooling you were told that among the choices for a foreign language to learn that Spanish was your best bet with the predicted rise of the Hispanic population. Sure enough, we're now to the point that you now see many bilingual items in English and Spanish, bilingual service workers have been in greater demand, and in some regions Hispanics are now the largest minority group. But does that mean that the Spanish language will continue to be in even greater demand in the coming years and decades? Not necessarily, for several reasons.

The first is that, in part thanks to us moving into a Fourth Turning with the economic collapse circa 2008, the number of new and existing illegal aliens (read: mainly Hispanics) declined at the time of the collapse and has remained fairly steady since. This of course means the linear predictions made a decade or two ago that we would continue to have more and more new illegals settle in our country have, for the most part, not come true (since the peak around 2007 or so). Fourth Turnings in America's past have represented a leveling-off or decline in immigration, and it appears that this time around will be no different.

Now you may be thinking about the existing Hispanics living here and their higher-than-average birthrate contributing to the future demand of more hispanophones. Although the parents may not be fluent in English (which is where that language demand mainly comes from), their children who go through the American school system do get exposed to English (and in fact typically make that their primary language). Therefore we have a cohort most concentrated among Xers where most of the demand for bilinguals is found; since this group has largely been fixed and will grow older over the coming turnings we can see there will probably be minimal new demand for Spanish-speakers among non-Hispanic Americans (of course in certain services, like health care that will increasingly cater to those aging Latinos, there may still be a rise in demand). Although the number of people of Hispanic descent may continue to (and will probably) rise, the number of people that speak Spanish but not English probably won't.

Finally since learning Spanish has been so encouraged over the past generation or two we are becoming more saturated with suitable bilinguals - meaning that the supply/demand equilibrium has become more balanced. In fact, since the children of the immigrants I mentioned in the above paragraph will naturally know both languages, that may further tilt the balance towards there being an excess of available hispanophones available.

I'm not saying that Spanish would ever be a poor choice to learn as a foreign language for Americans; after all it's still, and most likely will remain, the most spoken language in the Western Hemisphere. My point is that for various (and often overlooked by linear thinkers) reasons the hype that it is *the* language you *should* learn has largely gone out the window with the Third Turning. If you live or plan to live in the "Latino Belt" roughly consisting of the Southwestern States and Florida (or other locality where Spanish is used virtually as much or more than English), or plan on being in an occupation where you'll frequently be interacting with the (aging) non-anglophone Hispanics, it may still be true that your best bet is to learn Spanish; otherwise if another language interests you more or has the potential to be more useful for you I say go with it instead.

In the next installment I'll be discussing Spanish's biggest "competitor" in foreign language choice - the sister Romance Language of French.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

What's In a Name: The Obamacare "Mandate" and "Penalty"

No, this isn't on my usual subject of baby names. Rather, it's about the so-called mandate and penalty in the PPACA (aka Obamacare). The authors of the law knew that part of making the law work was to get more healthy people (who "voluntarily" chose not to have health insurance) to pay into the system (especially since banning denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions means you could always get coverage later). Some early drafts of health-care reform law proposals did have an actual mandate with criminal penalties for noncompliance. That proved to be politically risky (and as I'll explain would probably make the difference in the Supreme Court outcome), so they inserted a "mandate" with a "penalty" that is nothing more than an additional amount owed to the IRS on your income tax (and on top of that the IRS cannot use many of its tactics like liens or garnishments to collect the amount; about all they can do is withhold a tax refund or possibly try to sue you). Since that basically amounts to an additional income tax (and would've been unequivocally constitutional if instead they raised everyone's taxes by the penalty amount with a credit of the same sum if you have health insurance), that's what saved it in the Supreme Court (remember that in the decision they said that Congress does not have the power to require people to buy insurance, rather they can only tax you). If the mandate did come with criminal penalties for not complying, that would've most likely been ruled unconstitutional. For those who are upset that this means that Congress has new powers, it's no different than all the many other tax deductions and credits for doing certain actions (like carrying a home mortgage or having children); the only difference is it's written in a way to be "negative reinforcement" for not doing such an action rather than "positive reinforcement" for doing so (which ultimately makes no difference in the amount you pay; you pay the same greater amount for not having health insurance than if you do). It was made into a "penalty" rather than a "credit" simply because it would likely lure more people into buying health insurance by making it sound "wrong" not to purchase it, but on a de facto basis both ways would have the same monetary costs (the opposite of for example laws that on a de jure basis are neutral on the face but in reality burden and discriminate against certain groups more than others).

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

BabyCenter's Name Statistics

Generally I take name popularity lists compiled by non-government sources (e.g. based on what their members like and/or choose for their children with a grain of salt. However, there is one that I have noticed appears to indicate some clues to upcoming trends: The BabyCenter list, based on what their members have named their babies. Except for the very low-ranking names, they have enough members to level out the "noise" that occurs when the data sample is small. In addition, their graphs tend to more or less follow the trends in the population at large; since their data is up-to-the-present (unlike the SSA whose data does not come out until May of the year following the one in question) the BabyCenter stats often give a clue as to where names will be heading over the next year or two. In addition, comparing a name's rank between the BC and SSA lists gives a clue on the cultural groups most using the respective name: In-style names tend to rank higher on the BC list, while names more commonly used in immigrant families tend to rank lower.