Holding It Together Webinar (Twitter) (1)

Webinar: How Women Became America’s Safety Net (PRB Book Talk)

A conversation with author Jessica Calarco on her new book, Holding It Together

On June 27, our first PRB Book Talk focused on Holding It Together: How Women Became America’s Safety Net with author and sociologist Jessica Calarco.

In Holding It Together, Calarco (University of Wisconsin-Madison) draws on five years of research to show how U.S. society and policy disproportionately burden women with caregiving responsibilities. With an expert panel, we discussed Calarco’s key findings and their implications for reproductive health care policy and explore additional research on abortion, contraception, fertility, gender, and motherhood.

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American Community Survey Resources, Shortcuts, and Tools Workshop

Expert data users from PRB, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the Southern California Association of Governments review shortcuts, resources, and tools to help data users maximize their experience analyzing American Community Survey data.

An array of resources and tools can be used with American Community Survey (ACS) data to enhance the efficiency and proficiency of data users. However, given the volume of information available from the U.S. Census Bureau and elsewhere, learning about these resources and tools may be challenging for some users.

In this 90-minute workshop, expert data users from PRB, the Census Bureau, and the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) walked through some of their favorite shortcuts, resources, and tools to help data users maximize their experience analyzing ACS data.

Attendees were first introduced to the ACS data users group, an online community that provides help to members seeking to better understand ACS data and methods. The second presentation focused on accessing Census data via the API and MDAT, including basics such as how to create a call for an estimate in the API and access data through the public microdata sets (MDAT) on data.census.gov.

The third panelist provided a high-level overview of how to use R and the tidycensus package to execute commands such as switching between spatial scales, outputting a map, and looping through a query to assemble a longitudinal series from the ACS.

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Data Opportunities and Challenges in a Post-Roe World

What are the barriers to conducting abortion-related research in the United States today?

In 2022 the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade, ended the Constitutional right to an abortion and dramatically changed the health care landscape in the United States. Researchers on abortion, fertility, and reproductive health have been working to understand the implications of the Supreme Court decision, including access to care, birth rates, and health outcomes.

In this webinar expert panelists discussed questions including: What are the barriers to conducting abortion-related research today? What have we learned from the data so far? Where are the data gaps and how can we fill them?

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Webinar: Writing About Population Research for Non-Scientists

Have you ever wondered how to get your research into the hands of policymakers, or wished your findings were known by a wider audience? PRB and the Association of Population Centers (APC) organized a webinar to highlight ways to expand the reach of your research by distilling your findings into messages and formats tailored for non-technical audiences, including policymakers and the media. Panelists from Syracuse University and PRB describe how to write an effective research brief, common pitfalls in writing for non-technical audiences, and using social media to communicate about your research.

 

Date: March 7, 2024, 2:00-3:00 p.m. ET

Moderator: Diana Elliott, Vice President, U.S. Programs, PRB

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Support for this event was provided by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

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Diana Elliott, moderator: Hi everyone. Thank you for joining. Welcome to today’s today’s webinar on writing about population research for non-scientists. I’m Diana Elliott, Vice President of U.S. Programs. Though this webinar was organized by the Population Reference Bureau and the Association of Population Centers, with funding from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

I’m pleased to introduce four speakers to today’s event. Shannon Monette is the Lerner Chair in Public Health Promotion and Population Health at Syracuse University, and we’ll cover some of the benefits of writing research briefs and examples of impact at the Lerner Center. Following Shannon, we’ll have Beth Jarosz, Senior Program Director; Paul Scommegna, Senior Writer; and Mark Mather, Associate Vice President, all in the U.S. Programs department at PRB. And we’ll be providing some additional guidance for writing briefs and bridging the research and policy gap.

We’re going to save the Q&A till the end, and we encourage people to use the raise-hand feature in Zoom and to unmute yourself to ask questions. So for those of you who aren’t familiar with where this is in zoom, if you go to reactions at the bottom of the screen, you’ll see that there’s a raise hand feature under that reactions tab. The webinar is also being recorded and will send you a link to the recording and the slides in a few days. Closed captions are also available. Participants can turn on captions by selecting the Show Captions option from the Zoom control bar. Now I’ll turn it over to Shannon.

Shannon Monette: Thank you, Diana. Welcome, everybody. I’m looking forward to the conversation that we’re going to have today about writing population research for non-scientists, in addition to being Lerner Chair at Syracuse University. As Diana mentioned, I’m also the director of the Center for Policy Research here and a professor in the sociology department. And we have two brief series, one through the Learner Center and one through the Center for Policy Research. And they’ve both been quite successful. So what I’m going to do is, um, provide a motivation for writing briefs. Presumably you all think that it’s important and that’s why you’re here. But I’m going to give you a few reasons why I think that, um, writing policy and research briefs can be really exciting. Uh, I’ll talk a little bit about the purposes of and audiences for these briefs. I’m going to provide a couple of overarching tips about structure. In a couple of examples. Uh, Paola will cover more detail later about some tips for writing effective briefs. And then I’ll finish up by sharing some examples of how some of our briefs have resulted in broader attention, uh, or impact that that’s been really exciting.

Uh, so first, why might we want to disseminate our research to nonacademic audiences or non-scientists? Well, one reason is that it’s just super fun. Um, I think it’s way more fun than writing academic papers or presenting academic talks, because you can be more free in your language and your style. You can be provocative. Um, it provides the opportunity to meet different kinds of people that you might not otherwise meet and interact with. Another good reason is to help break down barriers between academics, between scientists, and between the public, and show people outside of academia that what we do can be relevant and is relevant to their lives. Um, it’s also an opportunity to show the public that we’re people to into to help build trust, which is particularly important during an era where there’s declining trust in academics and experts. Another reason is that your dean, your department chair, your research center director, your parent, your partners can use it to show off your work. Um, provost and deans love this kind of stuff because it’s really easy for them to share with donors. Um, and rather than an academic article which can be 40 pages or even longer if you consider the supplementary materials, these short 2 to 3 page briefs or something that you know the dean can share with alumni or with their advisory board members, your parents might read these things too, like mom probably isn’t going to share your academic article with their friends, but she might post your brief on Facebook. Another reason is that it’s a way to get really timely findings out more quickly than an academic journal, you know? We all know it can take forever for academic articles to come out. Sometimes we’re working on time pressing issues, and we want people to know what’s happening right now, so it’s a really good outlet for that.

Um, briefs can also get you research into the hands of unexpected audiences. It can launch unexpected opportunities. I’ll talk about some of our successes and those unexpected opportunities at the end of my presentation here. Um, and of course, these things can generate a lot of impact. They may… They may actually be your best shot at someone paying attention to and using the hard work that you’ve done. Um, academic articles are behind a paywall. They’re long, they’re dense, they’re difficult to get through. But briefs and things like op eds even get to main points quickly so they can have a lot of impact.

Uh, and so in terms of like, what are the purposes of research briefs or policy briefs and who are the audiences? Well, the purpose of briefs are to translate your findings and disseminate your findings in publicly accessible and easily digestible formats, toward some purpose, towards some action. So that purpose or that action might be to enhance knowledge or raise awareness. It could be that you want to change hearts and minds about some topic. It could be you actually want to change behaviors or practices. Um, or it could be that you want to influence policy debates. Um, the audience for these are varied. I think it’s, it’s somewhat important going into the writing that you have a target audience in mind. So your target audience may be policymakers at the national level, the state level, the local level. Um, your audience may be practitioners. If you’re writing about health care, for example, um, your audience may be reporters. A lot of faculty actually use these briefs for their undergraduate classes. So the audience may be students and the audience might also just be the general public.

Um, what I like to tell our authors when they’re writing briefs is, would your uncle Bob understand what you’re writing here, what you’re saying here? Um, so in terms of writing style, these audiences are important to keep in mind. Just a few words about brief structure. Paola is going to discuss a suggested approach for writing briefs for PRB and a checklist of things that they consider at PRB, but I thought I’d quickly provide some suggestions for how you might think about structuring a brief. And here I’ve just provided an example of our brief template that we use at the Syracuse University Center for Policy Research. Generally, policy briefs or research briefs, um, summarize 1 or 2 main findings or big picture takeaways. They’re not bogged down with a lot of detail or nuance. Is this 1 or 2 big things that you want your audience to know? They’re usually 2 to 4 pages. Sometimes they’re one page. They’re definitely not 20 pages. Briefs are, as they’re called, very brief. Um, they should provide a short intro of the problem and why your reader should care about this problem. Our briefs, we have the authors provide 1 or 2 main research findings, include visualizations if possible. Pictures are worth a lot. And also our briefs include implications for policy. And I know that that PR, er, PRB’s briefs do as well. Now, what you don’t see here is theory, a lit review, or a lengthy data or methods section for our briefs. We do include a very short data and methods section at the very end. Um, they’re very short, and we just sort of just describe what the data set is, the, the years that are represented, the sample size, and maybe a couple of sentences about variables. But then we direct the reader to a published journal article, if there’s one that exists from which the brief is, is summarizing findings.

So just show you a couple of examples from brief series here at SU. So, this first one is a brief that was led by my colleague here, Jennifer Karras Montes. You can see it’s just three pages. It provides a nice snappy title: Democratic erosion predicts rising deaths from drug poisoning and infectious disease. So, it gives the main takeaway right there in the title. It includes a couple of key findings so that if someone only read those key findings, they would know right away, uh, everything they need to know about that. The takeaways of this brief, you’ll see there’s a short introduction about the problem. Um, there are a couple of really easily understandable figures in here. And then at the very end, there is a section about what should be done about this problem. What are the policy implications? And in this section, we ask our authors to be concrete to identify the actors. Um, they’re not the place where you advocate for future research. They’re the place where you advocate for changes, for policy or practice. And I think you can be provocative here. Um, it’s okay that you didn’t study a specific policy. You’re the expert. You can speak to what you think the implications are of what you found.

Here’s just another quick example. This one is from our Center for Policy Research brief series. Again, similar sort of format. We have a snappy title, key findings, um, an easily understandable figure, a couple of sections with a little bit of information about the findings and then, um, what the policy implications are here. And so again, just notice the title and notice the headings. They provide statements about the key takeaways and the conclusions. I wanted to just quickly give you a couple of examples, um, of the difference between academic writing and public language. Okay. So, the way that we’re trained to write for journal articles is academics is not the way that we want to write for public audiences. In fact, I would actually say that I would prefer the writing for public audiences, even for academic journal articles. But, um, people might fight me on that. So, the academic text here is on the left, the public brief text is on the right. And this is from an article that, uh, coauthored with some colleagues here at SU. And you can see this lengthy academic text, um, we’re using technical language in it, things like controlling for confounders, estimated models, um, county and state level data, just all kinds of technical information that a public audience may not understand or care about. Compare that to the short end text from the brief, and we’ve condensed all of that academic language into a very short sentence that says what this brief does in very clear and simple language. It’s much shorter, it’s much simpler, and it still delivers the intent of the research. We also present visually results differently in academic publications versus briefs. So this is just an example of how we converted a complicated technical table of our findings into a simpler figure that tells the exact same story. The table, you’ll notice, uses terms like counterfactual and IMR, which is the infant mortality rate. The figure just shows different minimum wage levels and number of infant lives saved at each different level of minimum wage, so it provides the same information but in a simpler format.

This is a similar example from a paper in a brief written by Andrew London. Another one of my colleagues here at SU. And this table shows a lot of numbers with various symbols. This is from his academic paper. There are odds ratios in here. There are confidence intervals and p values. Um, which is great. This is what we want for academic papers and this is what reviewers demand. But for the brief, the bar chart shows simple probabilities of the outcome. Much easier for a policymaker or reporter or for your Uncle Bob to understand and digest.

So I’ll finish up just by talking about some successes that we’ve experienced from our from our brief series. We’ve had lots of media attention from places like NPR and CBS News and New York Times and in many other outlets. Um, we’ve gotten attention from the public. So random readers will write in to our authors to thank them for writing the brief. We get a lot more of those than we get, like, the nasty emails. Those happen once in a while, too, depending on the topic and how controversial it is. But we get a lot more just random, you know, my daughter experiences this thing. Or thank you so much for writing about this. Or like, what do you think about what’s going on with this thing? And in my city, um, we’ve also had attention from policymakers. So one of our, our graduate students here in the Lerner Center, for example, wrote a brief a couple of summers ago that that ended up being shared with a staffer for a New York state senator here. Uh, and from that, our student was invited to testify at a New York State Senate subcommittee hearing on aging, which was really exciting for her. Of course, um, one of our Center affiliates has been asked to participate in congressional briefings and give Senate testimony as a result of her briefs on veteran food insecurity. And you never know when, when this kind of thing might happen. It doesn’t happen with all briefs, but I think it’s more likely to happen with briefs than with, with academic articles, because they’re so accessible and easily digestible and people can read them in a couple of minutes there.

Um, there are also unexpected invitations and benefits that come from, from writing briefs. And I’ll just give you an example from my own experience, one of the very first briefs I ever wrote was for the Carsey School of Public Policy at University of New Hampshire, and it was on rural urban differences and adolescent opioid misuse. Now, that brief was based on a peer reviewed, published journal article. So I had the article published, and then one of my colleagues, Ken Johnson at Carsey School, said, you know, why don’t you turn this into a brief? He, he had done a lot of these and had a lot of success. So I wrote this brief. They published it through the Carsey School. And then that led to an invitation to attend a conference at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Vienna, Austria. Like, these people paid for me to fly to Vienna to give a presentation on this, this topic that I was doing research on, not because they found my academic journal article even though it existed, but because they found my brief. Um, so it was, you know, a really exciting opportunity this, you know, working class kid from rural upstate New York gets to go to Vienna, Austria, which was super cool. And I’ve had similar experiences from other briefs. So I wrote a brief while it was at Penn State on, uh, deaths of despair and support for Trump in the 2016 presidential election. And that led to a lot of media attention. But it also led to, um, this research director from this organization called the Institute for New Economic Thinking calling me up and saying, we want to give you some grant money to study this topic more. It’s, like, unheard of. It doesn’t happen. People don’t just call you and say, we want to give you money. But, but he did. And in addition to, you know, that that grant that I got to conduct more research on that topic, that organization also paid for me to, um, to go to Trento, Italy, and to Edinburgh, Scotland, to give presentations on this topic.

So again, you never know when these things are going to happen. Um, it depends a lot on the topic. It depends on who sees your brief. But I think that these types of opportunities on anticipated benefits are more likely to happen when you’re writing in a style that’s accessible for people outside of academia. So I’ll just leave you here with a couple of examples of other media coverage from some of our Lerner Center briefs, and I’ll go ahead and turn this over to Beth. Thank you.

Beth Jarosz: Thank you. Take me a minute to switch sharing screen. And we did this into our run. So, if you can’t see my slides, please let me know. I’ll assume silence means it’s okay. Um, and Shannon described there being a barrier between research and sort of the wider public, whether it’s policymakers or the public or journalists, and I’m going to describe it as a gap. But, essentially, we’re talking about the same problem. And I think I wanted to start with, um, you know, a focus on public policy specifically because most of my career has been in informing elected officials and policymakers about data so that they can make good decisions.

So I’m going to focus a little bit on that policy piece. And when I say public policy, I mean a set of actions, plans, laws, behaviors that are adopted by a government and that can be enacted through things like agency guidance or court decisions, executive orders, funding priorities, policy documents, laws, legislation, rules, regulations and so on. So that’s the angle I’m going to take. In talking about that, the really good news is that evidence can matter. Um, and as Sutcliffe said in 2005, the bad news is that often it does not. Um, and so let’s talk about some of the reasons why that gap exists.

Um, there is a deep communication gap. And I think a piece of it is different languages and different skill sets. And I’ll talk about that. But part is also that stereotypes are part of the problem. Um, so before I go on to the next slide, I want to ask each of you to take a moment and picture a policymaker. Think about the words or the phrases or the sort of emotions that come to mind when you think of someone who’s in elected office. And, and when we have asked this in the past, um, we get things like that they have very limited perspective, that they distrust research. Or if people are feeling less generous, that policymakers don’t understand research and that they are the ones who are responsible for digging up evidence and data to inform their policymaking, that their actions aren’t evidence based, and all of these have the sort of undercurrent of that policymakers are partisan. Um, which may be true in some cases, but in my career, I’ve worked with a lot of elected officials. And even when we don’t necessarily agree on policy or policy ways of achieving things, um, I think that there is a lot more, uh, appetite for having evidence informed public policy than I think sometimes they get credit for. And of course, policymakers may have stereotypes about researchers. Things like excessive use of technical jargon, um, researchers and journal articles, in particular, being very general and theoretical rather than the sort of real world or real problems that policymakers are dealing with day to day. I use if you can’t see, I use real problems, in sort of air quotes, but that that is seen as a gap between the two worlds and that researchers tend to avoid policy. I know those of us who are in the research world, um, we don’t want to assume causality when we’re when we’re looking at data where there’s a correlation. Um, and so therefore there can be an interest in shying away from policy implications when what reason, what policymakers need are those policy implications or implementations. And sort of the summary in one word of that, of that series of stereotypes is sort of the tower piece.

And all of that said, it is possible to bridge the gap between researchers and policymakers. And I’ve got a couple of practical examples of how to do that. Um, longer term and sort of fodder, perhaps, for a different workshop is thinking about that research uptake and engaging policymakers up front. Um, but what we’re going to do today, just in the interest of time, is focus on that third piece about communicating strategically. And if you take nothing else away from what I say today, I would say: assume competence, but not expertise. So assume that the person who’s going to be reading it is smart, but that they’re not using the same terminology. They don’t have the same depth of knowledge about the theory. And what their goal is, is to be educated in order to make good policy decisions.

So how do we do that? A couple of a couple of tips are to use clear and concise language and avoid jargon. Um, and what I’m going to, uh, offer to all of you is an activity. I know we’re going to take Q&A at the end, but if in the chat you could type some jargony terms that you use. Maybe there’s a term that’s very specific to your research. And those of us who are here can start to give you alternatives, but we can be your sort of live thesaurus. So if you have a term like etiology, um, maybe we would respond with the cause of disease and use that phrase instead. Um, if you regularly use a phrase like externalizing behavior, um, it could be aggressive, impulsive, or antisocial behavior. Replace it with, um, so thinking sort of about the jargon that we use can be challenging, um, but one of the tips here is write what you would write academically and then go back and, try and go back and use a thesaurus and sort of work those words back out again so that your work is more accessible to a policy audience, like, so, um, Go ahead and type those. If there’s a key, a term, a jargony term that you use that’s really important to your work, type that into the chat. And Mark, Paula, Diana, and maybe Shannon can live give you examples of what you could replace that with. A couple of, a couple of suggestions coming into the chat. So, I will let people keep working on that and move on to the next sort of two, uh, tips for work for bridging that research to policy gap. And it speaks directly to issues that policymakers care about and provide information that allows them to feel confident taking action. I’ve grouped these two together, um, because, you know, we, we as researchers might think there’s a really compelling arc about sort of the, the life-saving implications of an investment or the, the sort of social, emotional well-being of a particular marginalized group is the most important thing. But you need to know your audience. And so if, if you’re talking to a set of policymakers who, what they’re going to care about most is the budget implications of something or the fiscal impact or whether or not it brings jobs to their community, it is okay to make that the primary selling point when you’re making your policy case. It’s not pandering. It’s not disingenuous. It’s meeting a person where they are with the issue they care about.

You can and think, think about one of the more polarized issues, you know, uh, diversity, equity and inclusion. I think most of the people on this call probably care very deeply about that. But if you start out with that in a talk with someone who has been sort of socialized to resist, that they might not hear anything else that you’re going to say. So maybe start talking about, more generally, human interest, maybe talk about fiscal impact, and then you can sort of lead into those other issues, um, that might have been more sensitive before you built on that report. Just, and in terms of providing information that helps them feel confident taking action, give them data that they know the sample size is big enough. You know you’re not going to put a whole literature review in there, but you can signal things like a wide body of research also finds that this policy matters, um, you know, or study after study shows that if you do X, Y will happen. Um, you don’t have to do a full lit review to signal that they can feel confident that if they take this policy action, there’s going to be an outcome at the end that they expect.

And then, last but not least, um, propose with that solution is, and Shannon alluded to this when she did her overview. What is that concrete action step that they can take? Is it expanding a program? Is it making a budgetary change? Is it funding, um, additional health care services? Make it clear what the ask is in your writing and what the outcome is going. And so with that, I am going to turn it over to Paola to give you some specifics about how to write a brief working in those cases that I’ve talked about in terms of adding some more.

Paola Scommegna: Thanks, Beth. What I’m going to do is share some very specific techniques, um, that we use at PRB so you can recognize them and really understand the reading, the reasons behind them. And the first thing I want to share is it’s crucial to understand the, the differences between academic and journalistic writing. Academic writing, um, builds to a conclusion, starts with background, findings, and the conclusion is at the end. Next slide. But journalistic writing turns that format on its head. It’s called the inverted pyramid, and the most important information is shared first. Generally, that’s the conclusion. And then additional evidence and background comes later. And this format is used in newspapers, but also in writing for the web and policy memos. And this is what people are very used to reading. So as you begin writing for non-scientists and are aiming to communicate in a non-technical way, I would almost I would encourage you to go sit in a different desk or have a picture of your audience there so that you can think of this totally different way of communicating. And next slide. Oops.

Beth Jarosz: But I apologize. I have no idea what just happened to my computer.

Paola Scommegna: All right, well, the next one is, is on, um, writing headlines, and, um, let’s see if we can get to it. There. There we go. Okay, so these are some tips on writing headlines. It’s the first thing that you’ll do, and what we suggest is you state the main finding clearly like a newspaper headline. You may describe the action needed. You may aim for about 20 words, and it must have a verb. So, next slide, will give you some examples. And, and these examples are from recent population research. And what I’ve done is I’ve highlighted some of the verbs in red.

So you can see that these have verbs, and there’s action here. The first one: U.S. Teenage Births Hit Record Lows and Could Drop Further if Contraceptives Were More Accessible. It outlines the findings of the research, and it also implies the implications of the research. The next one was on, um, describes a natural experiment: When High Schools Moved Start Times to After 8:30 a.m., Attendance and Test Scores Rose. Um. I, very. The main message is right there. The third one is, um, looks at some pilot studies or small-scale research on, um, and the finding is: Taxes and Health Warning Labels on Sugary Beverages May Help Limit Consumption and Improve Health.

Um, next slide. And so the next thing we suggest is you begin writing with a summary of the main message. Now, Shannon shared how you can break that into three bullet points. Um, and, and, and that works quite well. And what we suggest is try to get it in the first paragraph. Um, clearly state the main problem or issue. Summarize your main research findings. Name the implications for policymakers and these three things together. Answer what we call with each other the “so what?” question. Why should people care about your research? Why should they be interested in what you found?

Um, next slide. So, this is some research out of Penn State that does that in the first two sentences. Um, the main finding of the research is the first section. The first sentence, Children in households that receive federal rental assistance are healthier and miss less school due to illness than those whose households are waiting for help. The research is summarized there. The second sentence, however: Up to 75% of renters who need federal housing assistance, including public housing or rental vouchers, don’t receive it. So the problem, the issue, the why people should care, is right there in the second sentence.

Next slide. So, here are some style tips to keep in mind. We talked about jargon with Beth, that, be conversational, and one way to do that is once you’ve written something, is to read it out loud and make sure it sounds like how you speak. The second thing is to define acronyms and technical terms. For example, if you write on the EitC, you need to say “earned income tax credit,” and then in, include a few words to explain what that is: lower, middle and lower income workers tax bills. Um, and that’s certainly how you would talk with someone who isn’t familiar with the acronyms that you use often.

Third, um, write in first person. I. I did this. We investigated this. And that will help you use active voice rather than passive voice. So, you would say, “we surveyed a representative sample,” rather than “a representative sample was surveyed.” And the reason we’re so fussy about passive voice is that it’s not conversational. It takes all the action out and the actor is unclear. And so it’s something we strive to avoid in the, the things we publish.

Finally, insert citations as numbered end notes. You saw that in the pieces Shannon shared with you, and you’ll see it in the pieces on the PRB website as well.

Next slide. Um, subheads. What are they, and why use them? Um, they’re descriptive phrases with a verb, and they’re really important. They break up the text. Highlight the main points for a reader who’s skimming, and research shows that many of us are skimming, particularly when we’re reading online. It. They reinforce the main message and they provide signposting. They signal to the reader what to expect in the text in the following section.

So, next slide. So what I did here was I pulled some subheads out of a brief so you could see them separate from the text that follows them, and can see how they summarize the main messages. Um, and this piece was on parental incarceration and its impacts. Parental Incarceration Is Widespread and Taking a Severe Toll on Children’s Lives. When a Parent Is Incarcerated, Children Are More Likely to Develop Behavior Problems, Face Homelessness, and Experience Harsh Parenting. Those are the research findings, in brief. The third subhead, um, points toward the action. The policy implications: Screen Students for Parental Incarceration, Rethink Sentencing Policies. So, it’s a succinct way to communicate your, your findings and, and the main message of a piece and keep the reader going through your piece, even if they have a tendency to skim. Um.

Next slide. And now, um, finally, I have some advice on data and graphics from PB. We find that bar charts and maps are much better than tables. We aim for no more than 8 to 10 data points. The title should be non-technical and have a verb like a headline. Xs and Y axes is clearly labeled. Use whole numbers if possible. And next is a sample of a PRB figure in PRB style. And the first thing I want you to see is that the, the main title is in more conversational, less technical style. Female, White, and Highly Educated Older Adults Were Most Likely to Feel Lonelier During the Pandemic. But below it, we include a much more technically accurate description for people who might want to know more specific things. So that is there, too. Um, the, um, numbers are whole numbers. The axes are labeled. And look what we’ve done here with the colors. They are designed to help you, uh, help a reader look at what we want them to focus on. So the first two bars are age, the second two in another color or gender. The third are, um, race/ethnicity, and the fourth are related to education. So, the colors work to focus the communication as well. So, I’ll stop here and pass it over to Mark.

Mark Mather: Right. Thank you, Paola. I wanted to end just by talking a little bit about how PRB can help, what we’re, what we’re trying to do to, um, help you write your own research briefs. And so the last thing I wanted to mention in this, uh, in today’s presentation is that we have a, a new research brief series with the Association of Population Centers where we’re helping researchers. Uh, well, there’s two different options. Uh, one is that you draft a research brief, and we can assist at PRB with editing and production of that brief. Or if you prefer, we can draft a brief, a research brief on your behalf. The, um, we’re aiming for, for about a thousand words for these briefs, which is pretty typical. Uh, we try to include some simple interactive charts, and we’ll publish these, uh, materials on previous websites and share them through social media. And Lillian, you can see, just put in a link in the chat here. So this is where you can find a sample template that’s available. It shows you, uh, the basic structure for one of these briefs and as well as provide an example. And then there’s also a short online form that you can fill out if you would like to have assistance. Lillian, just put that in the chat as well. If you don’t want to fill out the form, you don’t have to. You can just send us an email and we’ll be sure to respond to you. Um, there’s no cost to you for this work. The only requirement is that the topic really needs to be related to demography and/or reproductive health and population health topics.

So, in the next slide, I just wanted to provide a list of some of the new and forthcoming research briefs that we have at PRB. The first three are currently available on our website, whereas the other, I guess five of them, are currently in production. So those have been drafted and they’re in the process of being copyedited. And just so you know, it does take a little bit of time to produce these. There’s a, you know, we want to make sure we get the data right. So there’s a fair amount of back and forth with the researcher. And then it goes to our communications team for copyediting. So, the whole process can take, um, sometimes 5 or 6 weeks, sometimes a little bit longer than that depending on people’s schedules. And you can see that these briefs are on a wide range of topics. Um, we’ve got briefs on, recent briefs on marriage, child care, coastal hazards, and gender norms.

And then I thought I’d end the next slide. Just, um. I think there’s one slide before this one. Beth. There is not. So yeah, you can just go to the next slide. But I don’t know what happened to this, the intervening slide. But, um, I thought I’d end with this because, um, this is an example where PRB wrote a research brief and, um, it ended up being picked up for a maternal mortality awareness campaign last year. And it’s, it’s, so it started with a research brief that Paola had written, and we’re really proud of this one, because it took a lot of work to, um, to work with the advocates who were organizing this campaign. There was a lot of back and forth to make sure that they were representing the NICHD-funded research. So we wanted to make sure that everything was, was accurate. Um, and, you know, not everything that we publish gets a lot of attention. But if you keep working at this, you’ll find that, um, you can have an impact. And again, um, Lillian has just shared the link to this, uh, this brief and the related materials on our website, and I think I will stop there, and we can open it up for questions.

Diana Elliott, moderator: Right. Um, so. Just to remember, as part of the Q&A, um, we’re going to ask people to use the raise hand feature and then to jump in and ask their questions when they have them. Um, raise hand feature is at the bottom as part of the reactions, um, tab at the bottom of Zoom. Um, but we have a couple of, of questions that have come in. Oh, great. Alex, Kaylee, I see your questions. I’m going to ask the ones in the chat, and then we’ll turn to Alex and then Kaylee for their questions. So, we had one question come in through the chat, which is, what is the optimal timing for composing and publishing a research brief to mitigate potential copyright issues with journal article publication. Anyone want to jump in and, and speak to that one?

Shannon Monnat: I can, um. I suppose because we publish these briefs all the time, we don’t have any problems with, with copyright, um, concerns. And this is because you’re not actually reproducing the journal article. You’re summarizing the findings from that paper, if you have one. Um, and you are not copying and pasting the figures, for example, from the article, you know, we’re reproducing the figures to be more inclined for a public audience anyway, it’s your work. So there’s no, there are no copyright infringement concerns in terms of the best timing. If these are briefs that you want to pair up with an academic journal article, and for example, you want to link the journal article into the brief which, which I would recommend, um, I would suggest drafting the brief after you’ve gotten a revise and resubmit on your paper, or it’s pretty clear that it’s going to be accepted. Maybe you’ve gotten a conditional acceptance to have it ready to go so that once the, you know, you’re sending the proofs back to the journal, um, you have this brief done, and all you’re really waiting for at that point is the link from the journal article that you can embed into the brief. But if for some reason you don’t do that, that’s not to say that you can’t publish a brief after the article is already out. Um, this happens a lot with our authors, where they have an article that’s come out, they decide they want to write a brief. It’s targeted to a different audience. So it’s not like you’re missing out on anything if you don’t have the brief done right away. That’s, that’s my $0.02 on that.

Diana Elliott, moderator: Thanks, Shannon. Um, I’ll jump to the next question, um, which is, what platforms have you been most successful with reaching different audiences?

Beth Jarosz: I can, I can probably take a first crack at that. And I think we all probably have different perspectives. Um. I have found two things to be particularly helpful. One is social media, I’m assuming this is social media platforms, um, X before it became a terrible place to be. It was very effective for communicating with journalists and sharing information out. Um, I also am in the, the sort of unique position of I regularly present work to elected officials because of some work I do here in California. So I’ve got, like, a very direct line here that I don’t think counts. Um, but LinkedIn, weirdly, can be a good place because you’ve got an audience that is, uh, sort of issue focused, can be a really good platform to share. Um, and outside of that, one-on-one communications, you know that nothing—I know we’re talking about writing for these audiences, but, but nothing really beats building a relationship with whether it’s a policymaker. And again, I kind of mentioned this in the beginning to think about how to engage policymakers early on. If what you really want to do is policy change, start building those relationships, personal relationships, early on. Same thing goes with journalists that nothing beats knowing the person on the other end of the email.

Diana Elliott, moderator: Anyone else want to chime in on that one?

Shannon Monnat: Our briefs are indexed in Google, and I presume yours are as well. And actually, most of our hits come from that, from people doing Google searches. So we, we, we post the briefs and all the outlets that Beth mentioned. And, you know, we’ll get hits on those once in a while. Um, but when you look at the, the download statistics, most of it is from people doing Google searches because those terms kind of pop up at the top. Um, so, you know, just making sure you’re publishing with a brief series that does index on Google is a good strategy.

Mark Mather: I’ll just add, it’s, it’s good to have some, it’s okay to publish these in PDF format. But um, if you do that, it’s also good to have the short blurb so that people can find it easily, so they don’t have to take that extra step of opening up a PDF. I mean, that’s what social media is all about to you want to get people to see it first, and then if they if you get their interest, then they might click to see the whole thing in a PDF format. But as a general rule, we do now publish all of our briefs in HTML format so that they’re easier to search and easier to find.

Diana Elliott, moderator: Right. I think I’ll switch to, uh, folks with their raised hands. Alex, do you want to chime in and ask your question?

Alex: Sure. Hi everyone, thanks for holding this webinar. It’s been great so far. My question is related to, I think the question was just answered, but I wanted to know basically like, you write a brief, how does it get into the hands of a journalist or, or one of these people? And I understand there’s these research series, but do you contact journalists as well? Obviously, like you use your social media presence, but are there any other tricks to kind of get it in front of people? Um, and, and yeah.

Diana Elliott, moderator: Paola, I wonder if you have some thoughts on this.

Paola Scommegna: Um, it really helps that they’re, um, indexed in Google so that when a journalist is writing on your topic and they do a search, they find you. But I also follow who’s writing about the things I’m writing about in, um, in the national media. And I will send them something, um, through the, the addresses they provide, say, the aging reporter at the New York Times. I, I do send them things. Yeah. Usually, I’ll compliment them on something they’ve written and then saying, you might be interested in this.

Beth Jarosz: So excellent strategy. The only thing I would add to that is that if there’s a particular writer who you really hope will take up the article, if you can send them an early draft before it’s live and they feel like they have an exclusive, they’re more likely to respond favorably.

Diana Elliott, moderator: Not always a guarantee that they will write, though, and sometimes that’s very disappointing. Um, but they’re also, they’ve got other competing demands or editors who have opinions as well. So, um. Anyone else want to chime in to that or should I switch to Kaylee? All right. Let me switch to Kaylee’s question. Kaylee, do you want to chime in? And I’m sorry if I’m not pronouncing your name correctly.

Kaylee: Nope. That was spot on. Um, thank you all for your presentations today. It’s been incredibly helpful. I’ve just been taking notes frantically. So, my question is, um, pretty demography specific, but one of the things that I would love to hear about your experiences with or best practices is in terms of, um, when you’re trying to express uncertainty with your results. So, I’m thinking about, in the case of, for example, like demographic forecasting, um, or modeling in that way where, you know, you might have a point estimate, but what you really want to convey is like, here’s the possible range of outcomes. Um, how do you ,how do you manage the, the balance between like being honest to what your results are actually telling you versus wanting to tell this compelling story?

Beth Jarosz: This is, I, this is what I do all the time. So a, a big piece of my work is, is doing forecasting work for regional governments in California and um. I would say, where I started my career, point estimates were the only thing that people wanted to talk about. And now, particularly in the post-COVID context, there’s an appetite and an interest for having uncertainty ranges. Um, and I have had no problem just being really clear about that. Like, here’s the point estimate we’re going to use. And then here’s how widely it might diverge at the end. And um, really appreciated and no challenges with, um, sort of understanding among that policy audience.

Diana Elliott, moderator: Shannon, do you have anything to add based on your experience?

Shannon Monnat: Um, there, there’s a sociologist who wrote a journal article a few years ago with the title that said “eff nuance.” And the point was like, you’re going to get your point across much more clearly if you provide, you know, like not all kinds of little ifs, ands, or buts about what you’re trying to present, but you just say it straight. Um, having said that, I agree with Beth that it’s perfectly reasonable to just provide a range to say, you know, like our estimates suggest this is going to be the number. But because this type of projection can be uncertain, the range might be between x and x. And just say it like that. But what I would avoid is, um, all kinds of details that are things like, well, under this conditions, this thing happens, but only for this group and only on like Mondays. Right. So, um, then you have way too much detail and nobody really knows what to do about it.

Beth Jarosz: Yes to all of that.

Diana Elliott, moderator: Do we have any other questions from the audience? I don’t see any other raised hands. Um, and there was another question that was asked, but I believe it was already answered through the course. Yeah. Winnie, would you like to go ahead and ask your question?

Winnie: Yes. Thank you. So I wanted to know, can I, can a policy brief be publicly based on someone else’s research and not necessarily my own?

Mark Mather: Wait, you’re talking about, um, summarizing someone else’s research in a brief.

Winnie: That’s right. So, uh, without necessarily being the first author or whatever, like, you just find an interesting research and then you want to turn it into a book.

Mark Mather: Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s, it’s good to, um, you know, the first thing you would do is probably just reach out to that person to let them know that you’re starting this process and because they will be important, uh, an important reviewer, we always send out our we we’re always writing briefs based on other people’s research. And, um, we send it out to them to make sure that we’re getting it right. And they like they also like to have, uh, they like to know when it, when it’s being published to so that, uh, in case somebody does come across that they’re not kind of taken by surprise when they get a call, um, that they, you know, a journalist just found this, this brief, and they want to talk to somebody about it.

Winnie: Great. Thank you.

Diana Elliott, moderator: Jan [German pronunciation]. It’s good to see you.

Jan: Good to see you, too. Thanks for the great presentations. Um, I was wondering if any of you had any, any experience with using a, AI to get a policy brief started, and if that is helpful.

Shannon Monnat: No, but that’s a great idea. I think I am. Part of me wonders. You know what I would spit back if you put in, you know, the abstract of a journal article and said, please simplify this using non-technical language. It might spit back something that could get you started. Um, and then once you’re started, it’s easier to, to proceed because it would probably identify what the most important parts of that abstract were for you. It’s worth giving it a shot.

Mark Mather: I agree. And there is one of our colleagues at PRB is using, I think it’s called a PDF or something, where you can upload a paper and ask it to pull out the key points. You can query AI for whatever you want to know about that paper. And I do think in some years’ time, you know, this business of writing my technical research briefs, we might be out of business when AI becomes much better at this. For the time being, I don’t think there, the, you know, I think that people can still tell the difference between one of Paola’s briefs and something that ChatGPT created, but who knows in ten years.

Diana Elliott, moderator: I still think there’s going to be a place for people, technical people, to review things. Well, I hold on to that, that hope for the future. Um, so, uh, I wonder if we have any other questions. Um. If not, I’d like to just sort of turn it back to the panel, and we’ve heard a few, I’d like to leave this on an uplifting note, right. We’ve heard a few, sort of tales, of success stories. I’m wondering if, if people want to chime in with some other success stories, to kind of inspire folks to write their first policy brief.

Beth Jarosz: You want that from the panelists? Or do you want anyone who’s participating to also share if they’re interested? Right, I think.

Diana Elliott, moderator: Yeah, I was thinking of the panelists, but yeah, we can absolutely open it up if if other people have success stories.

Beth Jarosz: Um, I would say in this sort of relates to the forecast question that was asked earlier. Uh, there, I wrote a brief about population decline, um, in the United States, that population growth has slowed dramatically in the wake of the pandemic, um, had been slowing leading up to that. And, you know, new Census Bureau projections show that we’re going to reach an inflection point at some point, certainly in the next several decades, if not in the next couple. So, I wrote a blog summarizing that, and a, a journalist from The Economist reached out and said, hey, I saw this blog you wrote. Would you be willing to talk about population change? So, it’s that, um, not every article you write, not every blog, not every policy brief, not every research brief is going to get picked up, but it’s having that sort of base of articles that are out there that gets you into the universe of the journalists that might be interested or the policymakers going to be interested. And then that builds. Now that journalist knows that, you know, I’m a resource for issues about population change and, and may come back to that again, you know, a year from.

Diana Elliott, moderator: And you developed a budding relationship with that journalist too, which is also really helpful. So, when Beth has something new out, she’ll send it to that journalist. And, and it helps. Um, Shannon, you had some great success stories. Not many people get to travel to such fabulous places because of their research. Um, I’m wondering if you have anything else to share on that front.

Shannon Monnat: This is the reason I keep writing briefs. I’m like, who’s going to send me on a trip next? Oh, it’s, uh, it’s so random, you know, like, I, I, um, I probably shouldn’t say it’s the reason I keep writing briefs. Because you shouldn’t write the briefs to get this kind of attention, because most often it doesn’t happen that way. So this idea that you’re building up this portfolio, that you become the go to person on this topic, that’s more likely to happen if your research is out there in the public, easily findable, not behind a paywall. When a reporter is looking for someone who’s an expert on X, you know, population projections for Beth or, you know, rural mortality. And in my case, they’re going to be more likely to find me through a brief than through a, through a journal article. And then these kinds of things happen, which can be exciting. And then you have to start saying no to things.

Mark Mather: I was just going to quickly use Paola again as an example because she, she drafted an article, I think it was 2019, Paola, the one on measuring longevity. So it’s pre-COVID, and it’s just an example of uh, if you, if you just keep producing these things, some of them will become very, uh, widely used. So when COVID, uh, happened the following year, that article started to get a ton of attention and ended up with several hundred thousand views in the first six months of 2020. So, um, so sometimes you might not get attention when you write the brief, but when certain current event, uh, policy, you know, issue comes around, it will start to get attention.

Paola Scommegna: And Mark, I was thinking of something you worked on a related to the burden renters feel or experience, and you gave data for every state, I think. And the governor of New York kept mentioning it, it just keeps turning up. Um, so there’s something you did a while back that’s driving policy.

Diana Elliott, moderator: Right. Um, hopefully that gives a little bit of inspiration for everyone on the call to ,to write, um, a policy brief, whether using AI or not. We support this completely. Um, and we can’t wait to read your briefs or to help you out with that, as Mark referenced before. So, just a reminder that this webinar has been recorded and there are slides and that link for the recording will be sent out afterwards. And I want to just thank everyone who participated who chimed in. Special thanks to Mark, Shannon, Beth, and Paola, um, for their terrific presentations and we look forward to being in touch.

11-23-Losing-More-Ground-j

Webinar: Losing More Ground: Can We Restore Generational Progress for Young American Women?

This webinar explores why, despite more education and higher earnings, Millennial young women in the United States are doing worse than their mothers and grandmothers did.

PRB and Young Invincibles brought together an expert panel to discuss the alarming findings from PRB’s new “Losing More Ground” report and explore how we can make good on the promise of generational progress for young American women.

This one-hour virtual event featured:

 

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Transcript

Jennifer Gerson, The 19th News, moderator: I just want to welcome everyone. I am Jennifer Gerson. I’m a reporter at the 19th, an independent nonprofit newsroom reporting at the intersection of gender, politics, and policy. And I just want to thank you all for joining us today. I’m really excited about this webinar, which is being recorded, where you’ll learn more about the Population Reference Bureau’s new report, Losing More Ground Revisiting Young Women’s Well-Being Across Generations.

First, Diana Elliott, who’s vice president of US programs at PRB, and Martha Sanchez, the director of health care policy and advocacy at Young Invincibles, will introduce their organizations and why they came together to present this webinar today. Next, we’ll review the report’s key findings. And then lastly, I’ll introduce our very impressive panel of experts and begin the Q&A.

If you experience any technical issues, please comment in the chat and we will try to help you resolve that as quickly as possible. And now I’d like to toss things over to Diana and Martha.

Diana Elliott, PRB: Thank you, Jennifer. And thank you also to everyone who’s joining us today. PRB is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit research organization focused on improving people’s health and well-being through evidence-based policies and practices.

When we started the research for our new report, Losing More Ground, we knew from our previous 2017 report that young women’s well-being had stalled, but we didn’t expect the declines we see in the findings. Through original data analysis, we compare women ages 25 to 34, or the Millennial generation to same aged women of the Gen X, Baby Boom, and Silent generations. We find that generational progress has declined even further for millennial women in the intervening years. While Gen Z is not yet of age to include in our overall index, our analysis finds that teen girls ages 15 to 19 show early signs of both progress and decline relative to prior generations.

Much has changed since our original report. Since 2017, the US has had two new presidents, two impeachment proceedings for Supreme Court justices, widespread social and political movements, reckoning with racial disparities and health, safety and opportunities, the overturning of federal reproductive health protections, and the COVID-19 pandemic, to name only a few changes. Our findings show that women’s generational progress has been impacted by how the world has changed.

The findings in Losing More Ground have serious implications for the young women of today and tomorrow. And when we thought of how we could best draw attention to them, it was important to us to partner with an organization dedicated to young people’s well-being. We are pleased to co-host this event with Young Invincibles, and for Martha Sanchez to say a few words about this organization.

Martha Sanchez, Young Invincibles: Thank you. Diana. I’m Martha Sanchez, the director of health policy and advocacy at Young Invincibles. We are a national nonprofit organization dedicated to the economic well-being and empowerment of young adults ages 18 to 34 when it comes to their access to higher education, health care, workforce and finance opportunities, and civic engagement, all of which are issues that are touched by this report.

Um, so we are very excited and thankful to be here and grateful for everyone who is joining, especially the young adults who are highlighted in this report. I’m sure you all have plenty to say as well and contribute to this discussion, and we look forward to hearing your ideas on how we can move things in the right direction. Thank you.

Jennifer Gerson, The 19th News, moderator: And now I believe, uh, Sarah Shrigley, who’s the research analyst at PRB, is going to share some of the key findings from the report.

Sara Srygley, PRB: Thank you, Diana. Thank you, Martha. Thank you, Jennifer, and thank you all for being here today. It’s something of a tradition, debates between the generations about who has had it worse. And this conversation comes around so reliably with each new generation that we may not always take it very seriously. But when young women today say that life is harder than it used to be, we now have the data to prove it.

The promise of generational progress has been broken for millennial women, and in many ways, Gen Z girls are already seeing similar trends as they near young adulthood. You can see in this figure that while Baby Boom women saw a sharp rise in overall well-being relative to the silent generation, their progress was more slight. For Gen X, it plateaued briefly for Millennials in 2017 and is now notably in decline.

So what’s happening to millennial women?

Despite all their efforts, today’s young women are faring worse as serious threats to their health and safety are driving this overall decline in their well-being. But let’s start with where things are going. Well. Millennial women graduate high school and attain bachelor’s degrees at rates far outpacing previous generations, making them more educated than at any point since at least the Silent Generation.

And Millennial women aren’t just more educated than ever. They’re also working hard to make gains in their professional lives. They’re more represented in high-earning and often competitive STEM fields and among business owners today than in previous generations.

And the gender wage gap has narrowed from one generation to the next, although it does still persist, as you can see here. It’s even more pronounced between women of color and white men.

When it comes to political representation, the share of women holding office in state and congressional legislation has increased with every generation. As Gen Z comes of age, we’re beginning to see a whole new generation taking a seat at the table of political leadership and civic engagement.

And young women today are also avoiding key risk factors to their health, like cigarette smoking, teen pregnancy at a higher rate than peers in previous generations.

So all of these data tell the story of a generation working hard to obtain their personal and professional goals. And despite all this progress and more, which is detailed in our report, why are Millennial young women still faring worse overall when compared with their mothers’ and grandmothers’ generations?

A key part of this answer is difficult to accept: A young woman in the U.S. today, between the ages of 25 and 34, is more likely to die than at any point since at least the 1960s.

Maternal mortality rates have dramatically increased between Gen X and Millennial young women. In just a few years’ time, this rate climbed abruptly by nearly 60%. And women of color, particularly black women, are disproportionately impacted by these sharp increases.

And suicide rates have also risen, driven by increases for women of color. In fact, during the 2018 to 2021 time period, the suicide rate actually declined for white young women by about 6%. But disparities for women of color drove this overall pattern of worsening suicide rates.

Homicide rates, too, have taken an alarming turn for the worse, and there are racial disparities here as well. The increase has been particularly stark for Black young women, who are five times more likely to die by homicide than their white peers.

We’ve seen that young women today are doing many of the things they’ve been promised would lead to a better life, and these are things that worked in the past. Yet the evidence from our analysis shows that despite their best efforts, they still face very real challenges compared with previous generations in some of the most fundamental areas of life.

How we address these threats to millennial women’s well-being will set the stage for how Gen Z fairs as they reach their young adulthood, and whether they see a restoration of the promise of generational progress. Now I’ll turn things over to Jennifer to begin the Q&A.

Jennifer Gerson, The 19th News, moderator: Thank you so much, Sarah and Diana and Martha. I’m really excited to engage with the other members of our panel right now.

We are also joined today by Kara Brumfield, who is the Director of Income and Work supports at the Center for Law and Social Policy. And Doctor Jamelia Harris, Senior Director of Research at the Justice and Joy National Collaborative.

So I’m really excited to speak with you all and, um, about all the things that Sarah just shared with us. You know, when it comes to education, Sarah just talked about some real wins for Millennial women with high school dropout rates declining and bachelor’s degree attainment rising. But at the same time, we’re seeing overall well-being decline for this generation, both over the last few years and especially relative to other generations.

You know, Martha, I was wondering if you could start off for us. What do you make of knowing that more Millennial women are accessing more education, but still facing worse outcomes, especially when it comes to their health and mortality?

Martha Sanchez, Young Invincibles: Yeah. Thank you for this question. I think the report, um, highlighted, um, that it is still so important to attain higher education in this country. The average salary, uh, for a college diploma is around $61,000, compared to 21,000 for the high school diploma. Um, and so when I think about, though, the experiences of young Latinas like myself, um, and first generation, um, Latinas, um, I have to also consider the fact that many of these higher education institutions, really all of them were not built for us. And so the challenges that we face throughout these academic years, um, definitely influence, um, the health outcomes that we have throughout our higher education experience as well as afterwards when we graduate.

And we see that when it comes to our mental health as well as the financial outcomes, um, financially, even with a college degree, women earn less, um, than men. But women of color continue to earn much less than white woman or, um, white men. And so when you have these disparities, it’s going to affect our ability to build wealth, because we realize that we have to work ten times harder. Um, and even then do not really receive equality or equity when it comes to our earning potential and income.

But that also takes a toll on our mental health, because there were so many sacrifices made along the way from our parents and our family and ourselves to accomplish these goals, these milestones of college graduation, for example, that when we see the reality and when you face all of these challenges, um, it is very it definitely takes a toll on us. And I think an example of what we see on, on college campuses, uh, when it comes to mental health, you know, half of young adults 18 to 25 deal with, um, depression, depression or anxiety.

And in the report, it’s all young women. Um, for almost 40% of them deal with anxiety and loneliness. Um, but on college campuses, we don’t really have the resources. We don’t really have the counselors available. Um, the mental health resources. Why? I we are pushing for a federal designation of campuses that meet, um, a healthy mind standard of of providing resources to students, um, both when it comes to in-person or telehealth, uh, or peer to peer. Um, all of these resources would make a difference in their ability to actually cope with the challenges that before them, especially first generation Latinas and African American students, um, who need these, need these resources in order to actually thrive when it comes to higher education.

Jennifer Gerson, The 19th News, moderator: Thank you so much for that. You know, to kind of continue this, take this to the next step, just like you were talking about. Martha, when we look at indicators where Millennial women are doing worse, we saw some pretty stark contrast between outcomes for white women and outcomes for women of color. You know, especially oftentimes when it came for black women and native and indigenous women.

Doctor Harris, I was hoping you could tell us about what this data tells us about how we understand equity in this conversation when it comes to understanding outcomes, and what kind of policies do you think could really help address this gap we’re seeing?

Dr. Jamelia Harris, Justice and Joy National Collaborative: Absolutely. And first and foremost, I want to thank the report authors for intentionally centering, uh, disaggregate lens that, uh, presents the data across race, age, and gender. And, and as a researcher, I don’t take that for granted, as oftentimes we see that, uh, there is an incomplete story when we don’t have this disaggregate this, this aggregate lens that, uh, really helps us to understand the particular challenges faced by girls and women of color in society.

And, uh, I want to just start out with foregrounding that a lot of the patterns of inequity that we see reflected in the report, uh, are really connected to deep seated histories of racial and gender inequality that girls and women of color have been facing for centuries. Discriminatory policies. Institutional practices have created deep-seated inequities across sectors, including education, health, the criminal legal system. And so, uh, some of the data points that we see, uh, that really are highlighting and illuminating the inequities that women of color, uh, face can really be contextualized by understanding this history.

And so I did want to flag a few data points that for me as a Black woman, uh, were particularly stood out, stood out as concerns of equity for women and girls of color. Uh, one of them being that black women saw a 16% increase in suicide rates during this time period. We also saw that even while educational attainment and incarceration rates improved among young women, overall gaps persisted based on race and ethnicity. And I think that these gaps that we’re still seeing, uh, for women of color, particularly for Black women and Indigenous women, really point to how the compounding of oppression due to race, age, gender create unique barriers and challenges for women of color and these data points also really underscore the necessity of what Black feminist scholars have long been calling, uh, as a need for us to prioritize intersectional lenses into the ways that we are addressing our policy solutions.

And so what that means is that our analysis, our policy solutions, should put the people who are the most vulnerable to being harmed by systems and structures due to their location at the forefront, um, of the initiative. And just as we can’t see these inequities without a disaggregate lens, we also cannot address, uh, the specific challenges that women of color are facing without a lens that addresses their race, their age, their gender, and the compounding effect that that has on their experiences in society. And so I would say that while we have a long way, um, while we have, I have to acknowledge many of the strides that this report presents.

We still have a long way to go until this vision of racial and gender justice are actualized. But that work must come from, uh, intersectional and intergenerational policy solutions that are for fronting the people who are most harmed by these systems and structures.

Jennifer Gerson, The 19th News, moderator: Thank you so much, Doctor Harris. It’s really important context to keep really top of mind in this conversation today. You know, to move this even, you know, forward even more. We just, like you were saying, talking about health and mortality components that we just heard about in the data, especially in terms of this really jarring increase in maternal mortality rates, in the suicide rates for women of color.

You know, to the whole panel, I was hoping to hear from, you know, anyone who wants to jump in, what relationship you see between the increase and the maternal mortality rate, the increase in suicide rates and the increase in homicide rates among millennial women, and whether we need to think about all these things as separate issues or how related these things are, especially when we start to break down the racial divide we see in the data.

Cara Brumfield, The Center for Law and Social Policy: I’m happy to start. Um, I think one through line there is definitely, um, mental health. And we know that millennials face really unique, um, challenges, including economic challenges like coming to age and entering the workforce during a recession. Really oppressive levels of student loan debt, housing costs, job insecurity. Um, all of these things, uh, create a really stressful, um, stressful life. And that weighs on your mental health. Uh, we also know that domestic and intimate partner violence and gun violence both increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as social isolation, which Martha also mentioned. Um, and those things, of course, have mental health implications as well.

Um, and we also know that Millennials are experiencing just, uh, a unique set of social pressures. Um, we have delayed life milestones, like having children. So we’re having children later in our lives, which makes having children, uh, more risky from a health perspective. Um, but we’re also facing the dual pressures of society to make a family and be educated and have a successful career despite the economic environment that makes all of those things really hard to do. Uh, and, uh, you know, we have data that shows that pregnant women, 18 to 44, since about 2014 have shown, uh, 30% increases in major depression, hypertension, type two diabetes.

All these things are risk factors for maternal mortality. Um, but we can’t talk about maternal mortality without talking about the experiences of women of color, um, and women experiencing poverty, but especially black women who face systemic barriers to high quality care. Doctors do not take Black women’s pain seriously. And the data shows that wealth is not a protective factor for Black women when it comes to maternal health and mortality. Um, and we’re not really going in the right direction. So, for example, right now in Mississippi, which is one of the most dangerous places to give birth in the U.S. Um, officials are making changes. Officials are sort of failing to make changes to Medicaid that would allow pregnant people more timely access to prenatal care. And we know that that early access to care is really critical for health outcomes.

Martha Sanchez, Young Invincibles: Um, and I can add to this as well. Um, when we look at where we are today, we see that, um, there are policies at the state and federal level that are actively dismantling our ability to have agency over our own bodies and make decisions over our own health care, whether that is by straight out, um, bans on abortion across the country, the overturning of Roe v. Wade, or by the fact that for many of us, we simply cannot afford our health care services, especially when it comes to mental health. Um, so, you know, there are multiple causes, um, and stressors that are affecting our mental health. Everything from these, uh, the, these policies and the lack of agency that we have over our bodies.

But then even when we take the most courageous steps someone can take, which is to ask for help when it comes to our mental health, we find that: A) we can’t afford it because who can really pay a $90 co-pay per session per week? That’s just not realistic financially. Um, and B) there are not enough, um, culturally competent mental health providers out there. And oftentimes insurance plans and companies get away with ghost directories. Um, which means that, you know, they’ll say that they have in-network providers within a 20-mile radius, and then you find out that actually they no longer take that insurers and no longer afford it.

Um, so we are really failing our women when it comes to protecting them, protecting their health, um, their ability to seek help, whether it’s reproductive care, abortion care or mental health.

Jennifer Gerson, The 19th News, moderator: Thank you so much, Martha and Cara. You know, while we’re kind of talking about these economic factors and the toll they can often play, I was hoping we can give some more context to folks on that.

And, Diana, I was wondering if you could tell us a little about what we’re seeing right now with kind of the state, you know, the state of the union of the economy. We saw poverty rates decrease during the pandemic, and they’ve recently bumped back up again at the same time, young women’s labor force participation is at an all-time high.

So, Diana, if you could just talk to us a little about what’s happened since the pandemic in terms of both women’s labor force participation and the poverty rates and the way you kind of saw that iterate in this data set.

Diana Elliott, PRB: Yeah. I mean, women’s labor force participation right now is at a high. Um, so, you know, I think it’s something on the order of 77.8% or so. Don’t hold me to that. Um, but it’s it’s at an all-time high right now, and or at least in recent memory. And one of the reasons for that is we have a really tight labor market right now. And, um, we have this scenario where employers are willing to be a little bit more flexible.

We don’t always have this situation, though, and certainly one of the things that holds us back in our in this country from women, particularly 25 to 34, from having even higher labor force participation, is our lack of a care structure, that we don’t have adequate supports for childcare in the way that other similar peer countries do is a problem, and we are at this critical juncture right now where funding and supports for child care that were there during the pandemic are about to disappear. And this means that certain subsidies that were in place that allowed, um, child care operations to continue and persist, um, may not be there in the very near future because it’s really expensive and hard to run a child care center without that extra support.

So we could see a situation where this might be the high point in women’s labor force participation. Um, and, you know, as we tie this in with poverty, um, there are certain subsidies that make childcare more possible for, for women who are, you know, on the lower end of the income ladder. And again, without those supports and structures, um, they don’t necessarily, you know, they might qualify, for example, for subsidies, but they might not always have slots in various, um, childcare centers.

So we’re about to experience a potential cliff in terms of what women’s labor force participation looks like and whether that can persist. So, um, at least for women in this 25 to 34 year old age group, um, we’re seeing all time highs. But I fear that those highs will not last without adequate supports.

Jennifer Gerson, The 19th News, moderator: That’s really important to keep in mind. You know, when we think about, um. This economic picture we’re in right now.

To Cara, I was hoping you could tell us a little bit about what helped drive down poverty during the pandemic, and what policies do you think could further bolster the winds. We were seeing for some women, in terms of the gender wage gap and employment to even more women, especially across these racial divides.

Cara Brumfield, The Center for Law and Social Policy: Yeah, absolutely. So, um. Something that made a huge impact on poverty during the pandemic, of course, is the American Rescue Plan. It played a huge role. It represented a huge investment in the well-being of our nation. And it really demonstrated that, uh, these kinds of investments are both possible and really impactful. And it made it even more clear and even more obvious how poverty really is a policy choice that we’re making.

We expanded access to Medicaid. Right now, we’re seeing the devastating of, uh, sort of impacts of unwinding those Medicaid provisions that were established during the pandemic, um, over 6 million, I don’t know the current number. I know it’s over 6 million people have already lost access to Medicaid. Um, we saw, uh, lower health care premiums, which is hugely important. We saw an eviction moratorium. Um, we saw relief payments that made a really big difference for a lot of people. We saw student loan debt relief, um, all of these things that are particularly impactful for people of color, people experiencing poverty, for women and for Millennials.

Uh, the American Rescue Plan Act also enhanced a child tax credit [CTC], which really, it helped slash poverty nearly in half. Um, a particular impact, obviously, on, um, families with young children, but also was really huge for people of color. Um, corporate lobbies helped kill the expanded CTC. Uh, at the same time, they were raking in record profits and often paying little to nothing in federal income taxes. Um. So I think that what we see is that we know what the policies are that help address poverty. It’s getting cash in hand to people who need it through things like tax credits, for example. It’s also bolstering our public benefits programs that help people access their basic needs, like food, health care and housing. Um, and we really need to be making those investments that have been proven to make a huge, significant difference.

Um, when it comes to sort of the, um, the wage, uh, gap, I think it’s important to remember that even as women are increasingly educated and increasingly entering the workforce, um, that when you think about it, um, sort of when you start to disaggregate it by race, you see that women of color are still disproportionately in those jobs that are the lowest paid, the jobs that have the most sort of hectic and unpredictable work schedules, uh, which makes it really challenging to have your health care or your child care needs met. Um, uh, so that has an impact on your ability to stay employed and to advance in your career. Um, and we know that given all of the student loan debt and how oppressive that has been, particularly for, for people of color, that those educational gains and those employment gains just aren’t paying off for folks the same way, um, that they might have expected them to.

Jennifer Gerson, The 19th News, moderator: Fantastic. Thank you so much, Cara. Uh, Sara, I have a question for you as well. I was hoping you could talk to us a little bit about what we’re seeing and what you’ve seen from your data about Gen Z and their political power right now. You know, you said Gen Z is really coming of age, taking a seat at the political table. What will this mean in terms of not just representation, but change, not just for that generation or kind of youngest voters, but for the millennial women ahead of them to.

Sara Srygley, PRB: That’s a great question. We know that millions of new Gen Z members will be eligible to vote before the 2024 election, so in pure numbers, the potential voting bloc for Gen Z and Millennials combined is actually poised to outnumber baby boom voters. What we don’t know is if they’ll vote. So that’s the potential voting bloc. But that doesn’t guarantee that they’ll vote. We also don’t know how they’ll vote. They certainly have the numbers to see what’s important to them represented and in policy and in election outcomes at all levels.

But what we really need to be focusing on is empowering that generation, empowering Gen Z, and empowering Millennial members of our society to feel like they can make a difference and to understand how to do that, how to become engaged in their communities, how to become politically and civically engaged so that they can use those numbers that they have and represent their interests on those larger stages.

Jennifer Gerson, The 19th News, moderator: Fantastic. And I’d like to do one more question to the panel as a whole before I ask for questions from our audience today, but I would love to just hear from you each right now. You know, one thing that really comes through in this data is the fact that there seems to be this bigger story about millennial women, and they are dying for a whole slew of different reasons. So I was wondering from where you all sit, how you’re thinking about what we can do to change this. What policy solutions are most needed right now to address how fatal it just is to be a young woman in America today? So if someone wants to jump in or I’ll pick on someone to start. Martha, you want to hop in?

Martha Sanchez, Young Invincibles: Yeah, I think, I mean, first we have to, um, work and fight for policies that protect women’s ability to make decisions over their own health care and their own bodies. Um, and I think, too, um, given what we’re seeing in terms of the increase in suicide rates, especially for women of color, we do need to reform, um, mental health.

Um, and the way that it is delivered in this country, mental health should not be treated as a specialty service 100% of the time. It should be a preventive care service. It should be as easy and as important as scheduling your annual physical to obtain mental health services from your provider. Um, and so that and that includes making at least the first three visits free. Um, under all private insurance plans. Um, and ensuring that we are changing the narrative of what it means to be healthy. Um, the same way that we look at social determinants of health, we have to look at the social determinants and economic determinants of mental health. So I think that’s where we have to focus on.

Jennifer Gerson, The 19th News, moderator: Doctor Harris or Cara, either. Oh, you both jumped in. Okay, here, I’ll pick. Dr. Harris, okay.

Dr. Jamelia Harris, Justice and Joy National Collaborative: Yes, we just unmute at the same time! So, yes, I spoke a little bit about just concerns around the data that is showing that Black women particularly are experiencing higher rates of suicide and something that, uh, our recent research we have been engaging has been looking at the impact of police violence on girls and gender expansive young, uh, folks of color. We found that particularly, uh, police violence has, uh, detrimental impact on the mental health of Black girls and gender expansive young people. And we are now, uh, recently releasing a report that’s looking at the impact of vicarious trauma.

So thinking about experiences of engaging with police violence through social media, um, and especially thinking about this unprecedented moment, uh, of the COVID-19 pandemic, in which many young people were socially isolated from their peers and their loved ones. And in order to stay connected to them, uh, they were engaging on social media and an all-time high that we are seeing that many young people have vocalize at one, uh, they are severely experiencing mental health issues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that two, police violence is a serious, uh, social health, uh, indicator of some of the challenges that they are experiencing with regard to mental health. And so I would say that, uh, one, I think that we really need to be talking about police violence as a global health, uh, related issue. And two, I think that we really need to be more intentional in thinking about the ways that we are engaging young folks in seeking solutions.

We recently, uh, had some conversations with young people and thinking about what their visions were for futures free from police violence, and they had incredible ideas and insights about ways that we can go about addressing police brutality. And to, to quote earlier, it was mentioned that, uh, young folks are now reaching the age in which they have political power and deserve a seat at the table. And I would say that we know that young folks have always, uh, really pushed for social, political justice in their communities, that they have always, even if they weren’t extended seats at the table.

To paraphrase the words of Shirley Chisholm, they brought their folding chairs, and they really can be the beacon of incredible change in their communities if we allow them, uh, to be a part of, of these spaces and allow them to be a part of seeking solutions to some of the challenges that we’re facing.

Cara Brumfield, The Center for Law and Social Policy: Yeah, I’ll, I’ll underline everything that was already shared. And I’ll just talk a little bit about poverty. Um, we need to address poverty. It is, um, extremely painful, stressful, traumatic. And I think we forget that it’s deadly. Poverty kills us. And as I mentioned earlier, it’s within our power and, uh, to, to address poverty with policy. And we need to do things that work that are demonstrated to have worked like the child tax credit.

We also need to invest, um, in our benefits system that helps meet basic needs. And we need to go beyond meeting just basic needs and try to build a system of benefits that is designed for people to thrive and experience abundance. Um, we also need to address, uh, corporate power, the corporate power that is undermining our shared prosperity in this country and especially oppressive for people of color and people experiencing poverty. And we need to do things that, uh, protect workers like, um, improve wages and provide other protections and supports like access to paid leave, for example, so that we can care for each other.

Diana Elliott, PRB: I’ll chime in and well, I’ll just say thank you to our panelists for those fantastic recommendations. Um, and at least from our perspective at PRB. I mean, we see a lot of power and data. I think these data really show how important it is to disaggregate data for different groups. Um, and that there is real power in being able to tell these stories, because on some of these measures, these deadly measures, we’re seeing different directions. Um, so you might see that white women, for example, have done better on some of these measures over time. While it’s not the case for women of color. So, um, power and data and showing as much disaggregated data as we possibly can.

Jennifer Gerson, The 19th News, moderator: Thank you so much for that, Diana. I’m gonna, um. Very well. Some questions we’ve got from our audience right now. And I just want to remind everyone that anyone who’s here and in the audience, you are welcome to ask the question. And you can do so by just typing it into the Q&A box. And I will read it out loud, just like you’re about to see. And a panelist will answer. And when you’re asking a question, please be sure to also identify yourself and your organizational affiliation.

So I just want to start with, um, some of these that we have here. Um, we have a first question that says that, you know, we’ve got data showing that going to college, um, that, you know, women that go to college do make more annually than those that don’t. But what can we say from the report? What did you find in terms of that comparisons? And is it worth it for women to get into more debt at this point in time and more generally, what does this mean in terms of debt that Millennial women are carrying as a result of accessing this level of education compared to previous generations?

Sara Srygley, PRB: We did look in the report at other research. We did a lot of background research and looked into student loan debt and the racial and ethnic components as well as the gender component. And we did find that women hold more student loan debt than male peers, and that women of color hold more student loan debt than white women. So there, again, is a real disparity there that not only presents those barriers to higher education, but also increased stress for those who do obtain higher education.

So we’re seeing these higher rates of education, but with those higher rates of college degree attainment, we’re seeing that student loan debt coming alongside. And there are some real consequences to student loan debt beyond just the monetary consequences. There’s been research to support that. Mental and physical health is negatively impacted by student loan debt. And so whether or not the trade off is worth it, I think I’ll defer to some of Diana’s expertise on the benefits in terms of the finances of debt and degree attainment. But for sure, we see massive disparities, and we also see some real serious impacts to people’s health when they carry that student loan debt.

Diana Elliott, PRB: Yeah. And I’ll just chime in to say that one of the hardest statistics for me to see personally is that, um, non-completers who are more often first generation students, they’re more often students of color. Um, often go down the path of going to school trying to sort of gain that degree to improve their future prospects and have trouble completing for some of the reasons that Martha articulated earlier, that it, it can be a really sort of unwelcoming place.

And for various reasons, there are other family needs or other needs that arise along the way. They tend to be the people with sort of low amounts of debt that are the ones that go into delinquency the most. Um, and some previous research and work that I did looked at how, um, those who would benefit the most from student debt relief are actually black women. Um, Black women would stand to, to gain the most by student debt relief. So when we think about these policies being proposed by the administration in federal, um, sort of discussions, um, it’s really important to think about, um, how this could change a trajectory and create equity, for example.

Jennifer Gerson, The 19th News, moderator: Thank you so much, everyone on that one. Um, you know, uh, Martha and maybe Doctor Harris, too. We have another question from Emma Bittner, who asks, can you speak more about the importance of cultural competency and the impact of the lack of providers of color when we’re talking about mental health care? Of course, anyone can jump in.

Martha Sanchez, Young Invincibles: Yeah. Um, I think in two different spaces. So we were just talking about how college campuses can not be a welcoming place for first generation students or students of color. Um, that’s because, you know, these institutions expect, um, that we come with the $5,000 to afford the meal plan or the dorm. Um, in the books and everything, on top of being an excellent student. Um, I know that one time I asked a professor for an extension and she said, well, in the real world, you don’t get extensions. But the reason why I need it is because I was working 30 hours a week as being a full-time student. So the stressors that students face on these campuses, um, where they don’t when they don’t have parents that are providing them with all of the financial and emotional support, are can be quite defining of their experience and of their ability to succeed. And it’s time that colleges take a realistic look at their needs in terms of the financial supports that need to be in place, that our government and state governments actually make investments in our ability to succeed in higher education.

Um, but in in these resources, something that will make a tremendous difference. Um, are the mental health resources, um, because for many first gen students, depending on, on their cultures, there’s a lot of stigma around mental health. And college campuses are actually the first safe place, oftentimes, where they can get free resources, free counseling, and the ability to connect with a counselor that understands their cultural experience or is at least open and willing to understand is really key and important, and then feeling supported. Um, so I think at the college level, increasing mental health resources is key. But then outside of that, um, we know that there’s a shortage of culturally competent providers. And that has to do with, again, the fact that that career path is not affordable.

We should be creating scholarships and financial assistance for students to go into the mental health fields, especially students of color, not just at the graduate level, because we know the data tells us, right, that students of color are not attaining master’s degrees at the same level as their white peers.

We need to look at the undergraduate level two and make sure that these students feel like that is a field open to them. Um, and that getting a psychology, psychology degree won’t just mean that they end up in debt and can never actually do anything with that. So we need to really take a look at our higher education systems. Are majors the financial requirements for them and be serious about what kind of workforce do we want to have in this country. Because even from an economic perspective, there is a need, there is a demand, and we’re not doing anything to meet that. And it’s, it’s unfortunate that we’re not providing these resources for the people who will be your doctors and teachers and politicians and scientists of tomorrow.

Jennifer Gerson, The 19th News, moderator: If anyone else, uh, wants to help and let me know. But otherwise I’ll move on to our next question, which is from Roger. Mark D’Souza from Pack Two asks, women from marginalized communities faced intersecting forms of discrimination. How could we recognize and address intersectionality in data, policies and programs and better amplify diverse voices and foster inclusivity? Who wants to hop in before I pick on someone?

Dr. Jamelia Harris, Justice and Joy National Collaborative: I can hop in and just start us out. I think that the first point is the acknowledgment, uh, that an intersectional lens is necessary. Um, I think that, as I mentioned, the research that, that the Losing More Ground report is depicting is really a rarity. And, and I want to be clear, as someone who’s coming from the background of education, that oftentimes, uh, the data that we get is just not disaggregated. And that really, uh, prevents us from having a full picture of what is happening for so long.

Uh, there was this, this, uh, broad and dominant narrative that girls were doing fine in schools because we didn’t have the data that was showing that black, Latinx, Indigenous young folks, uh, were experiencing particular challenges. And so now that we have additional insights into some of the challenges that are facing Black girls within our public education system, such as their push out into the criminal justice system, we know that, uh, Black girls are one of the highest, uh, represented among girls who are suspended, expelled, arrested. And this has consequences on their, uh, social, political, economical outcomes later on in life. Now that we have that understanding, we’re able to implement the policies to, uh, address this inequity. We’re able to implement the programing initiatives that are specifically targeting their identities at the intersection of race and gender.

And so I think that it’s one a first step is, is really the acknowledgment, uh, that we need to be prioritizing an intersectional lens. And I believe that a second step of this is that, uh, we really need to be ensuring that the folks who we are, uh, trying to understand their experiences within these various social inequities are at the forefront of seeking solutions. Uh, Justice and Joy National Collaborative are a big part of our work, is really rooted in our belief that nothing about us should be without us.

And so we are constantly, uh, engaging young people who are systems impacted as we are taking on our research initiatives, as we’re taking on our policy advocacy, if we’re taking on our programing initiatives, and we really do this with the intention of prioritizing lived experience as expertise, which is something that I fundamentally believe, uh, needs to be happening across the board.

And so one of the questions that I always ask myself whenever I’m doing this work is, who’s in the room, who’s not in the room, whose voices need to be in this space, whose voices aren’t, uh, reflected in this space. And once we start to be more intentional and paying attention to who those folks are that are consistently not given a seat at the table. To go back to that, uh, analogy, then we can really move towards ensuring that we have the kinds of representation that we need to push the needle forward for all, uh, young women of color.

Sara Srygley, PRB: I’ll add to that. As Doctor Harris said, the availability of data to disaggregate in this way is a real challenge. So speaking from a data perspective, how we can improve this and continue to take that intersectional lens is we need responsible collection and analysis of data on marginalized groups. And there’s a lot of discussion right now. For example, one of the things that we dive into as much as possible in the report, but we’re really limited in, is looking at gender identity and sexual orientation and the impacts of those identities on health and safety and outcomes for young women today.

And there’s not a lot of data out there, and there’s not necessarily comparable data across generations. And so we were really limited. There’s discussion now around the inclusion of questions of gender identity and sexual orientation in some government data sets and things like that. Thinking about the responsible collection of data and the responsible handling of that data for marginalized groups is going to be a really important piece moving forward to how we are able to identify communities that are most at risk and address those risks.

Jennifer Gerson, The 19th News, moderator: Fantastic. Thank you. And we have another question from Mark Mather who says this report is really about young women’s well-being. But he was wondering if anyone could speak to the potential impact of these patterns on children, since many of these women are also mothers.

Sara Srygley, PRB: So it’s absolutely true that many of these women are mothers, and we know that adverse childhood experiences have a long term impact for children. So these factors such as poverty, maternal stress, maternal mental health, uh, they will have those trickle down effects on the children of women today who are facing these problems and may increase adverse childhood experiences which affect the health and well-being of future generations. So when we talk about this data, it’s not just about today’s Millennial young women. It’s really about where we are today and where we’re going in the future. And so that’s why it’s so critical, because it’s not just about this moment in time. It’s about generations to come as well.

Jennifer Gerson, The 19th News, moderator: You to go kind of a little bit more about what we were just talking about with data. I was hoping we could all stack, but we got a question from Jeff Jordan at PRB, who wanted to talk about disaggregated data and threats to the collection of this kind of data, what you’re seeing, what you’re feeling in this field, and then kind of conversely, what potentially new or promising sources in the future might provide even more evidence for policymakers and program planners. So, Sara, I know you just spoke a little bit about that, but we’d love to hear a little more from Diana, Sara, anyone else who wants to hop in?

Diana Elliott, PRB: Yeah, I can hop in. Um, you know, I think one of the biggest threats that we have is changes in administration and changes in policies on data or shall we say, preferences on what data are collected and what are not collected. Um, now, um, there are efforts afoot. OMB is, is in the process of collecting public commentary on, for example, the sexual orientation and gender identity question. There is the process of vetting new race and ethnicity questions, which could improve how some of these data are disaggregated. Um, but there is a real risk to, um, changes in terms of who can control or who can stop collection of data. We certainly saw that happen in 2016, certainly with race and ethnicity data and changes to federal surveys.

So there is a risk. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t stop trying, though, because it’s incredibly important for understanding, as Sara was saying, which groups are affected most and which groups could most be helped by targeted and, um, specific policies in different areas. So, um, you know, I think the, the push for better data, data collection goes on. Um, and I don’t know if Cara has anything to add to this, since I know that she thinks about this a lot as well.

Cara Brumfield, The Center for Law and Social Policy: Yeah. Thanks, Diana. Um, I am a bona fide census nerd, which Diana knows well. Um, one of the challenges that I think about a lot is, um, how poorly we do at counting people of color in the decennial census, which is really the foundation of all of our data. Um, in the, in our nation, it sort of, it’s the universe from which we create samples for all other data analyzes. And we have never, in our history accurately counted, um, people of color, Black people. Um, we also have some challenges around disaggregation of census data. Um, I’ll just highlight that the Asian population, for example, a lot of disparities, um, are completely hidden when all of the Asian ethnicities and subgroups are sort of collapsed into this one big category. Uh, something else that I think a lot about is diversity and inclusion in, uh, among the data experts and, uh, the, the folks who make up the data infrastructure.

Um, we need, just as we need more diversity in the folks who provide us with our health care, we need more diversity in the people who collect and analyze and and discuss our data. Um, because they’re making a lot of decisions about which data to collect and how to collect those data and what those data mean, what the stories, those data are telling us. And we need people with lived experience of poverty, and we need people of color in those positions, because that’s going to help us have a more accurate understanding of what, um, what the data really means.

Sara Srygley, PRB: Absolutely. Uh, Cara, you’re so right that the decisions around what data to collect are really linked to the policy. And that goes back to that political and civic engagement. One thing that comes to mind for me, aside from that population data, is things like firearms research. We talk a bit in the report about some of the limitations that we face when looking at things like homicide rates and suicide rates, because there’s been limitations to funding at the federal level for agencies like the CDC to do quality research on the public health impacts of gun violence.

And so those changes in administration, those changes in policy have really limited our ability to compare gun violence and the impacts across generations in this report and continue to limit our understanding of those issues even today. So it extends really to sort of every area of data collection that is really critical to understanding what’s going on in our country and why we’re seeing these worse outcomes.

Jennifer Gerson, The 19th News, moderator: Thank you so much, all of you. I know we are coming up against it. So I have one last question. Diana. I would just love for you to kind of close out our panel with a look ahead and what you see on the horizon for not only young millennial women right now, but for the generations of women coming after them. Despite all the losses in progress, this data set really points to what wins do you see ahead when it comes to women and equity?

Diana Elliott, PRB: Yeah. Thank you. Jennifer. Um, first of all, I just want to say that I am so heartened by, um, just the amazing panelists on this group. I mean, if this is the future of research and policy, we’re in really, really good hands here. Um, and I’ll say it was really a point of pride for us that we had multiple generations represented as authors on this report. We had a Gen Z author who created our Gen Z pop out box and did research to sort of figure out what issues were most important to her and her peers. Um, we have a Millennial lead author. Um, we have Gen X represented, um, trying to, you know, sort of, uh, represent our, our small and mighty, um, generation. So it was really important that we had this, this cross, um, perspective across generations. Um, and I think the future, um, is really bright, right? We, we know that we have really civically engaged younger generations, Millennial and Gen Z women are civically engaged.

Again, we have, we had this discussion earlier about whether they feel that they have a seat at the table or where they’re whether they’re, um, brought into even these discussions. I think that’s something that we all need to be mindful of moving forward, because, um, you need diversity of perspectives. You need diversity across generations to make the best policy. I’d say the other area where I’d like to see some positive traction is more evidence used for policymaking. So inclusion of lots of voices and evidence based policymaking. I think if we have those two put together, we have a really bright future in this country.

Jennifer Gerson, The 19th News, moderator: Thank you so much, Diana, and thank you to all of our really engaging, informed panelists today. Thank you all for attending and joining us today to and to learn more about losing more ground, please visit prb.org or click on the link in the chat. We’ll drop in right now to follow PRB on X @PRBdata or on LinkedIn. And thank you so much again, everyone for joining us today.

10-23-TED-Talk

PRB x TED: How Do We Respond to an Aging World?

As headlines announce fewer babies and more older people the data are clear: The world is undergoing a massive demographic shift. But is demography our destiny? In her TED Talk, Jennifer D. Sciubba, Vice Chair of PRB’s Board of Trustees, presents three potential paths we might take to navigate these demographic changes and outlines how we can build a more resilient world.

This one-hour virtual event featured a screening of Dr. Sciubba’s TED Talk, followed by a discussion with a distinguished panel, including:

  • Diana Elliott, Vice President for U.S. Programs, PRB (moderator).
  • Bintu Zahara Sakor, Doctoral Researcher, Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) and Visiting Scholar, Harvard University Center for African Studies.
  • Jennifer D. Sciubba, Vice Chair of PRB’s Board of Trustees and author of 8 Billion and Counting: How Sex, Death, and Migration Shape Our World.
  • Rebecca Shamash, Research Director, Institute for the Future.

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Transcript

Speaker, Diana Elliott: We will kick off today’s event by watching Dr. Jennifer Sciubba’s newly released TED Talk, The Truth About Human Population Decline. And then we’ll continue our watch party with a panel discussion, including Jennifer, as well as additional panelists Bintu Zahara Sakor and Dr. Rebecca Shamash. We welcome questions from the audience about ideas presented today. Finally, a bit of housekeeping before we begin. If you have any questions during the presentation, please type them into the question mark box in your webinar control panel. All attendees are muted. We will also share a recording of the webinar after the event on PBS’s YouTube channel.

And now I invite Dr. Jennifer D. Sciubba to turn her camera on. Jennifer D. Sciubba is an internationally recognized expert in the field of demographic security. In addition to numerous academic articles, she is the author of 8 Billion and Counting How Sex, Death, and Migration Shape Our World from 2022 and the Future Faces of War, Population and National Security from 2011, and the editor of A Research Agenda for Political Demography from 2021. Dr. Sciubba is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and is vice chair of PRB’s Board of Trustees. She has a Ph.D. in Government and Politics from the University of Maryland, and a bachelor’s degree from Agnes Scott College. I now turn things over to Dr. Sciubba to introduce her TED Talk.

Speaker, Jennifer Sciubba: Thank you so much, Diana, and a big thank you to everyone at PRB for helping to put this on, Nancy and Raquel and Lillian, and thank you all for joining us today. I’m so excited to have these two distinguished panelists help me bring this talk to an audience, to this audience, and be able to expand on the ideas there.

When I had the opportunity to put this TED Talk together, it’s really obviously an intimidating process, as I’m sure you can imagine, and knowing that you only have ten minutes (because these talks are shorter than they used to be), I wanted to make sure that I had some concrete goals and, as you’ll hear, those of you who have not watched it yet, the number one goal is a really simple one, which is just to point out that trends really have changed.

And as someone who’s been studying population aging for the last 20 years, it’s like I’ve been watching all along. But even for me, it has surprised me how much trends have changed in the past few years. And so I thought, if I can still be surprised by population trends and still excited by them, then this is a message that needs to get out there. Because as I started to launch 8 Billion and Counting in 2022, most of the rhetoric around population aging, excuse me, around population was really about overpopulation still, and how we really needed to come together to slow population growth and how there were so many people and the audiences couldn’t believe that we were about to hit 8 billion collectively. And I thought, while it’s true that hitting 8 billion is a milestone, I realized that not many people understood how radically global birth trends had changed.

And so the main purpose of this talk, if it did nothing else, was to try to help people update what they knew about population trends. Secondly, though, I think the really important thing is to go from there and change the narrative, because I’ve also noticed, and many of you may have as well, that once people do buy into the fact that globally, trends are changing and two out of three people in the world live somewhere with below-replacement fertility, the next step in that conversation seems to just be, and now how do we turn that trend around?

I think that’s the wrong approach, as you’ll hear in the Talk. I think that’s the approach that happens in a fearful world. And I have a lot of worries about human rights that go along with that. But I also think that that kind of narrative is not preparing us for the very near future. And so I’m hoping that we can all work together to be much more innovative about what this population moment means for us, and think about how we can be resilient and adapt to make a greater, smaller world a better one, as you will hear. So, I hope that you enjoy it. I hope it sparks lots of conversation for us, and I look forward to your response.

Speaker, Jennifer Sciubba, TED Talk: Astronomers tell us that when we look to the night sky, we’re actually looking back in time. Light from those faraway stars take so long to reach our eyes here on earth. That by the time we wish upon a particular star, it may no longer even exist. I’m here to tell you, the population of Earth is a lot like those stars in parts of the globe. The human population is already or will soon be shrinking.

I know what you’re thinking and, yes, total population is still growing from 8 billion today to a peak of probably 9 or 10 billion. But when we track total increase, we’re looking at the star that seems to be shining brightly, but in actuality has already imploded. And that’s because there’s a difference between what’s happening on the surface, which is obvious total growth and the tectonic forces beneath.

Since the 1960s, world population has more than doubled, but the growth rate has been falling the entire time. We’re witnessing the most fundamental shift to take place in modern human history. The shift towards pervasive and permanent low fertility, population aging and eventual population fertility is down everywhere, just at different rates in different places. If fertility stays the same as it is today—just hold still—by the end of this century, China’s population will be less than half of its current size. It’s a loss of 800 million people. South Korea’s will be down by 63%. Poland’s and Japan’s by half. Italy’s and Thailand’s by 44%, Eastern Europe by 40%.

Even greater number of countries are already ageing again. Just 20 years ago, if we’d lined up everyone in Japan or Italy or Germany, from the youngest person to the oldest, and we ask that person in the middle of their age, they would have been 40 years old. Today, the populations of Thailand, Kuwait and Cuba are just as old, with Chile, Iran, and Vietnam close behind and even India as it seems to be. This bright star, assuming the throne as world’s most populous country, has below-replacement fertility. The number of young people entering into India’s workforce has already peaked.

People are the foundation of everything in a society, we’re the workers and the voters and the soldiers and the caregivers. So how many of us there are and who we are, that matters? We’re on track for there to be more people over age 60 than under the age of 14 by the middle of this century. That radical shift in modern human society presents us with a world of possibilities.

Our demography is our destiny, yes, but how we react to that demography is not preordained. What possible worlds might we create if we thoughtfully plan for an older, smaller population?

In one possible world. We put our heads in the sand and keep going about our business as usual. We have seen most societies react like they’re living in this world and throw money at people to have more babies, but it doesn’t work. South Korea has spent $210 billion over the last 16 years trying to raise fertility, and they keep hitting record lows under one child per woman on average.

In this status quo world, we keep the same economic models that assume infinite population growth and amass more debt to pay for our public spending, our social safety net, stay the same, which those rely on more inputs from workers than withdrawals from retirees. That’s what we call a pay-as-you-go system. Western Europe is already struggling to keep these systems afloat because in many of those countries, there are only two workers for every retiree. You can see how top heavy the population’s age structure is here, and how in the next few years it will grow even more so that way.

In a status quo world, the world’s most powerful countries continue to increase military spending and try to project power beyond their borders, even as their national budgets strain and the recruiting pool for soldiers shrinks. Hello Russia, China, and maybe even the United States. So, what results from failing to adapt and clinging to the status quo? Systems overload and break. We have higher labor costs which lead to inflation, and that just makes it even more expensive to have children. Social security systems go bankrupt, and we lose the gains we’ve made in reducing old age poverty.

But a head-in-the-sand world isn’t as bad as a fearful one. In a fearful world, the ability to choose how many children to have and when to have them gets taken away. Something that’s easier and less democratic settings. And not good news here either. Twenty years ago, almost all of our aging countries were democracies. Now, a quarter of them, those with median ages of 35 or higher, aren’t free.

And I know we see this idea of coercion in science fiction, but it’s not just science fiction. In 1965, when Nicolae Ceausescu took the helm in Romania and he wanted more Romanian babies, he forced it to happen through invasive measures. Fertility temporarily spiked, but not without dire consequences for women and for those children, many of whom were abandoned to orphanages.

In a fearful world, immigration becomes more restricted. There’s more hatred and division as majority groups fear being replaced by people who don’t look like them. There’s less global cooperation as aging, shrinking countries, or they lose the willingness and ability to think about causes outside their borders and fund those. We can’t come together on pandemics or climate change or other transboundary issues. Does any of this sound familiar?

I actually don’t think we’re fully in this world yet, even if way too much of this hits close to home. But I can imagine how we might get there if we aren’t proactive to shape the world we want.

And what kind of world would we want? Well, in a resilient world, we compete to attract talent from across the globe and set aside our nationalist tendencies. A shrinking world is in our future, but obviously some places are much closer than others. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Tanzania, fertility is still high enough that each generation is twice the size of the one before it. Those young and growing populations can be a tremendous resource for their national economies. If we have investments in human capital and other policies that can help these countries reap a demographic dividend. And they can be a resource for the global economy, too. I mean.

Speaker, ad interruption: I chose Wix for my business because of its massive scope for functionality, and.

Speaker, Jennifer Sciubba, TED Talk: The U.S. and Canada. They stand out as still growing despite below replacement fertility in both. And in fact, Canada had record population growth last year, 96% of which was due to immigration. Those aren’t the only models for immigration, and there are obvious trade-offs to opening your borders. But no one said this would be easy.

And speaking of things not being easy, we’re going to have to work longer. Me too. You too. And that’s because in nearly half of economies that the OECD tracks, fewer than 10% of people over the age of 65 still work. That is not going to fly in a resilient world. But in a resilient world, we’ve re-thought what work looks like at older ages, and we strategically leverage technology to maximize our productivity. And we can work longer because we’re healthier in a resilient world. We finally realized that investing in health is a much better use of time and resources than trying to dictate population size.

Similarly, in a resilient world, we’ve put in place policies, incentives and technologies that recognize how we consume is just as important as how many of us consume. And the environment is healing. In a resilient world, those societies closer to the start of this demographic transition take advantage of the time to plan and institute sustainable systems in the face of their demographic change. This is important because for the population ages 60 plus to go from 15% of the total to 30%.

It’ll take Ireland 92 years, the United Kingdom 89 years, and Germany 70 years for that same demographic shift to happen. Now, it’ll take India 34 years. Mexico 32. Iran 20. And Thailand only 19. It’s happening faster now. We really need to realize this because those countries have to act, including suites of policies like moving away from informal economies that increase the risk of poverty in older ages.

You know, there are so many people on the planet right now, just between the ages of 65 and 74, that altogether they’d be the third most populous country in the world. There’s far more of them than there are global migrants, which we don’t hear about. Right. And there’ll be 800 million of them by the middle of this century. They’re a vast untapped resource in most places in the world right now, but a well-utilized one in a resilient world and to mutual benefit.

We should run from a fearful world and get our heads out of the sand, and we should be able to imagine a much better, more resilient world. I’ve always thought that the way we feel about population aging to a large extent reflects the really negative way we feel about our individual aging. And that bias has held us back. But just as with our own aging, this shift is inevitable.

So, what are we going to do about it? As individuals, we know that our actions now set us up to live longer, healthier, more financially secure lives. Our society’s actions set us up for one of these three worlds to become our reality. Let’s make it a resilient world and reimagine a grayer, smaller world as a beautiful one. Thank you.

Speaker, Diana Elliott: That was terrific and incredibly thought provoking. Jennifer, um, so you’ve presented ideas here that few of us have begun to grapple with. So I’m curious, what’s been the reaction so far to your talk?

Speaker, Jennier Sciubba: You know, it’s it has surprised me how it hit half a million views last night, which, if you are most of the everyone on here probably loves population, and you know that we don’t have the hot topic. This is especially—think about what’s happened in the world, this is in under two weeks and what has happened in the last two weeks, which is just unbelievable.

I think it touched a nerve. I think it touched a nerve. And the same motivation that I had for giving that message, to really draw attention to how much trends have changed people, some people do not want to hear it. And, you know, I have a lot of thoughts about why that is the case, but it just shows me that we have so much more work to do at the very basics, which I hope that we will all be motivated to do, so that we can then get that resilient narrative going even more.

But I’ve had lots of support and I would say the industries, there are some industries that figured this out a long time ago, a lot in the housing industries, retirement planning, obviously, and I’ve heard from a lot of those folks who are grateful to have a different kind of person, someone outside their industry, sharing this message to bring more attention to that. And by the way, you know, sorry to everyone about the the blip [the advertisement interruption] in the middle. TED is great, but they won’t give you your own file. I’m sure that surprises no one. So we have to use the online version.

Speaker, Diana Elliott: Yes, and special thanks to Raquel behind the scenes who made that show flawlessly. So, thank you. Um, excellent. So now let’s turn to our panel discussion.

I’d like to welcome all of our panelists to turn on their cameras and a reminder to the audience that you can submit questions to the panel at any time using the Q&A feature. So, we’re thrilled today to be joined by panelists Binta Zahara Sakor and Rebecca Shamash. So Binta Zahara Sakor is a doctoral researcher at the Peace Research Institute in Oslo, or PRIO, and a visiting scholar at Harvard University’s Center for African Studies. Her key research areas include political and economic development of sub-Saharan Africa, demography, youth bulges, and gender and conflict in West Africa and the Sahel. Zahara holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations and a master’s degree in conflict resolution from University of Essex, United Kingdom.

Rebecca Shamash is a research director at ITF [Institute for the Future], where she helps lead the Equitable Enterprise Initiative, addressing issues such as economic inequality, corporate responsibility, higher education, philanthropy and inequities of race and gender. Before joining Institute for the future, Rebecca was associate director of research at Stanford University’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. She has a Ph.D. in education from the University of Minnesota and a bachelor’s degree in international relations and Italian from the University of Southern California.

Thank you all so much for joining us today. We’re just delighted to have you all here. So first, you know, I’m just going to open this question up to everyone to respond to as you would like to jump in. Jen’s TED Talk concludes with a call for a reimagined and resilient world in light of a slower growing and aging population. What’s your vision of a resilient world?

Speaker, Rebecca Shamash: I’m happy to jump in and thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be here. And was they found your talk so thought provoking, Jen. So happy to get to discuss it. But you know, at ITF we do a lot of scenario planning and thinking boldly and provocatively about the future. And when I was listening to you in my head, I was thinking, there are just so many opportunities to make a more equitable and prosperous future, given the changes that we’re seeing, even if they can be construed as largely negative or challenging.

First, I think about how we could reimagine economic systems, maybe around values like cooperation instead of competition. Like, what if we could get rid of these fierce narratives of competition, even around things like immigration, for example? Um, you know, there’s been a lot of talk that neoliberalism as a paradigm is kind of on the way out. So what might replace that? That would give us a better chance at widespread prosperity from an economic perspective.

And Jen, you mentioned that production and consumption are going to need to change. And so if we could really rethink those in a context where we have half as many mouths to feed and bodies to clothe and houses to build, um, how could we support a greener future in that way? I feel like there are opportunities there to really support, you know, the green movement and to address a lot of the environmental issues that we’re facing together. Um, I think that my version of a resilient world would also include a lot more public assets and shared resources. And I’m thinking also about the technological boom that we’re witnessing right now and artificial intelligence.

And of course, we don’t know how that’s going to play out or what it might do, but there is really a chance that this leads to massive productivity gains. And if that was something that we could harness to really set ourselves up for this future world, if we could start really thinking about the types of work that we’re going to need to be doing, the types of resources that we’re going to collectively need, how could we use this technology to get us there a little bit faster, and to help us create more comfortable lives in the future? And I think having some of those assets be public or communal is going to be really important to that.

And then I’ll throw in one more thing: But I think if we have, you know, fewer babies being born, it’s going to mean that we’re having fewer start smaller families and different types of family structures and kin networks and care networks. And so I think a resilient world is going to have to offer us better ways of taking care of each other and really more mutualistic relationships with each other. And so I think there are opportunities for inequality there, but also, really, opportunities for us to rethink how we care for one another and how we care for families. Um, yeah, I’ll stop there.

Speaker, Bintu Zahara Sakor: First of all, thank you so much, Jen, for the presentation. I really enjoyed the TED Talk, and I learned a lot ,actually, from it. And I’ll also just to jump in, I think in regards to like the aging society, I think you really touch upon very key factors which include, for example, nations putting aside a nationalistic tendency in order to embrace migration and what migration can do for us. I think this is very important and also the aspect of technological advancement and how this can really enhance our productivity.

In regards to the resilient world that you ask, Diana, I think I would like to focus more on the younger society, which again, Jen, you really touch upon. And I think for me, when I think of a resilient world in the context of a younger society, particularly in the context of the Global South, more precisely sub-Saharan Africa, what I’m envisioning is a world where intergenerational cohesion is fostered together with transfer of knowledge.

So what do I mean with that? I mean that we leverage on the youth demography in order to achieve economic development, but also innovations through investment in rightful human capital development and skill development. At the same time, we also foster an environment, an environment where the elderly population feel somehow a part of the community. You know, that they appreciated that they, ah, the contribution is still seen regardless of the age. And in that process, I also think that, um, another part of that in the context of the younger society is reducing economic vulnerabilities. So providing jobs so that most of these youth population actually have a sense of belonging. And there’s a source income or stability in terms of income. And I think this does not only reduce recruitment into armed groups, but it also mitigate potential for conflict in this society.

And last but not least, in context of, I think, Jen, you mentioned something about this, but in the context of what’s happening in the world now, for me, a resilient world is a world of really foster peacebuilding and also conflict resolution as a world of really emphasis on not just. I don’t know, ah, mitigating conflict, but also putting in place where we have preventions, you know, taking places and that in post-conflict society we provide infrastructure that makes it so that the peace is sustainable and it’s a positive and that conflict does not reoccur. So for me, it’s really about a world that we appreciate and value and nurture each stage of the life, you know? So, I think that would be my argument in regards to.

Speaker, Jennifer Sciubba: Those are such great points. I think, you know, what a what a shame to think that with dwindling resources and stress, that how conflict just makes all of that so much worse and gives no good outcome because you just end up in these cycles. I think for me, a resilient world, and that’s what my, my research and next book project, of course, grows out of this. And a lot of it has to do with things that Rebecca mentioned. So how do we have this paradigmatic shift?

So if we can get people to buy into the fact that for most of the world, the trends have changed, then what? And so how do we reimagine that? And so, I think about how do we scale down? And that’s really the phrase that I have latched onto, that it’s something between infinite growth and collapse. I think there’s a lot in the middle there. And that is this intentional scaling down. And so many of the things that that Rebecca mentioned would be part of that.

But as Zahara mentioned as well, there are going to be people who really resist a paradigmatic shift. And that’s where we could end up with a lot of this intergenerational conflict, because it is the younger folks who will have to do most of the changing. And that’s, that’s where we have the real policy challenges to overcome.

Speaker, Rebecca Shamash: I’m just going to throw in. I loved the point about offering opportunities to young people and my work is us focused. So pardon me for not having a better global perspective, but in the U.S., we’ve seen such huge wealth transfers from young to old over the last several decades.

And so how can we use this as an opportunity to offer kind of dignity and belonging to older people who are often kind of cast out from social spaces in society, but also to offer more opportunity and perhaps even wealth building opportunities to younger people, particularly as they’re starting families?

Speaker, Diana Elliott: This is all great. I think one of the themes that we touched upon each, you know, as you each spoke, was this question about inequality, whether that’s wealth transfers, whether that’s between countries, whether that’s young and old. Um, you know, I think one of the things that Jen raises a little bit in this conversation, but I’ll pull out here, is that there are places in the world where population growth is still rapid.

So how do we address the needs of youthful, growing countries amidst wealthy and powerful countries confronting different challenges, moving in the different in a different direction? And I don’t know if you all want to chime in on sort of the, the global inequalities here.

Speaker, Bintu Zahara Sakor: I think I can jump in here. This is one of my [inaudible]. Um, I think for me, um, in regards to the aging part generally, Jen, I think that there’s no need to cover that because she talks about investment in health care, elderly infrastructure so that the, the aging population feels supported. Right. So again, because my research focuses on the youthful society, so I think I will bring more into aspect about that.

So for me, I think in order to ensure this transition, the smooth transition, so when we talk about transition we’re talking about policy. So what policy do we need to put in place in order to ensure that, you know, the gap is reduced? So I think in the context of many sub-Saharan African youthful society, which are predominantly in the Global South, I think there’s a need to really think about a holistic approach, not only in terms of access, um, accelerating the potential realization of social, political, economic, but also the gender dividend.

So what I mean with this, is if you look at the social, I mean, the economic aspect, we will be really focusing on investing really in human capital, the rightful human capital, you know, so that they can achieve this kind of dividends, right? And think again, like I said, it has something to do with education, because in many part of this, in this society, youthful society, many of the education is actually outdated. So there’s a gap between the education system and what the labor market’s needs are. So which, you know, many of the youth are left, youth population are left in between this thing where they don’t know what to do with this themselves. And this creates a kind of like frustration and grievances and the feeling of being neglected, you know, by the state. And I think in order to change that, we also have to think about inclusive economic growth, right?

So what this means is that half of the world population is women. And they really are not considered in some part of the world, right? So I think involving them in economic development, both in improving the access to reproductive health, but also education, but most importantly, involving them in labor market is very, very important. Like recently the, the Nobel Peace Prize in regards to the economy went to Claudia [Goldin], right? So this really touched upon the importance of really providing infrastructure that really cares and take into account the need of the marginalized population in the society.

And last but not least, just briefly, I think it has something to do with political inclusion. So if you look at part of the world where there is a youthful society and the aging society, you also see a gap in terms of political direction they taken. So many parts of the world in terms of the aging society, usually consolidated democracy, and in some part of the world with the youthful population, mainly youth population, you see a backsliding of democracy, right?

So how do we ensure that the transition towards, uh, democracy and liberal values are taking place? So, in order to achieve this, there has to be some kind of economic development achieved at the same time as there’s a sense that they have education. You cannot participate in voting if you don’t know what you’re voting for. So I think like this, all these things are very interlinked in some way. So, Jennifer, you could jump in, yeah.

Speaker, Jennifer Sciubba: Yes, I think I would, I would love to be able to give a positive view to this, to say, oh, here are the things that we can do to fix this. But I do think this is one of our biggest challenges. And, you know, I could only fit one phrase in the talk because of time constraints. But I have a big worry that divergent demographic experiences around the world will translate to divergent priorities. And that’s how I actually framed my book that came out last year, which is to look at this demographic divide.

I think that it’s really problematic because, you know, there’s a sense that we’re so zoomed out that we just say, well, our main problem of now, in the future, is aging in this set of countries. And the main problem and, you can’t see my air quotes, but I’m doing air quotes here because, you know, it’s what you do with your demography that matters not, not a problematic in and of itself. The main problem for the lower-income countries is youthful populations. But it’s the case that in every youthful population there are lots of older people, and in older societies there are lots of young people as well. So I think perhaps being able to zoom in a little bit more once we check the box on zooming out and saying, okay, we’re buying that there’s big overall issues here, but understanding that all of these people exist within a society and within every society globally can make a difference.

And there are some great organizations out there, I think the social movements realm would be one. So, you know, let’s go nongovernmental here and think about what nonprofits, international NGOs, can do in order to show commonality of interest, like HelpAge [International], for example, is an organization that operates worldwide and looks at the commonality of experiences of seniors across the globe. I mean, those types of things I think can, can make a difference, but I think really it is one of our biggest challenges to try to overcome this, particularly as countries perhaps turn more inward and don’t think about cooperation on the global scale. So I think we have a real mountain to climb with this one.

Speaker, Diana Elliott: Rebecca?

Speaker, Rebecca Shamash: Yeah, I’m sure I can hop into, you know, one of the topics that we’re thinking of or we’re working on a lot at ITF, is the future of belonging and how people identify how they, other people, how people draw boundaries around their social groups. And, you know, Zahara is talking about the policy needs around this topic. And I’m thinking that there also is cultural change that’s going to need to take place or hopefully will take place. And of course, this is the million-dollar question, because how do you get people to write, like bring more people into their collective?

We, and I don’t have an answer for that, but I think that if this is going to happen successfully, like we collectively might need to reconceptualize how we think about who we are and who counts as our kind of in groups. And hopefully that’s a very big group at some point. Um, I think again, potentially, if this new technology wave and artificial intelligence really, really grows, that might offer us an opportunity to think about human progress really broadly in a way that maybe would offer opportunities for breaking down barriers or could do the opposite.

And I also wonder, you know, as families, again, get smaller and communities start shrinking, what does that mean for certain types of nationalism or ethnic identities, and how will that shape us? And so, um, yeah, I guess I would, I would be hopeful for some new type of, of identifying and of, of thinking about what groups we belong to. But I think that would also be a place where we’d see a lot of conflict.

Speaker, Diana Elliott: Yeah, I think you’re each touching upon a piece that I’d like to draw out a little bit more. And, Zahara, you pull this out specifically, but gender equality is one of those big questions. I think that is a little bit unanswered about what this resilient world looks like.

You know, one of the things that I am always surprised by when I look at the data is that women’s labor force participation, no matter what country you’re in, is never on par with men’s labor force participation. It feels like there’s a lot of untapped potential. Some of that is because of how we think about caregiving. Some of that is how we think about roles. And these roles are sort of across many, many countries. I wonder if you could each respond to the promises and risks of a greater, smaller world for gender equity specifically?

Speaker, Jennifer Sciubba: Yeah. I can go first this time. It’s, I think, one of the biggest risks is when we continue to frame population as something that women are responsible for. And, you know, it has to do with, partly with how we measure our data, if we’re looking at fertility rates. Well, it’s the average number of children expected to be born to a woman in her lifetime. So, it is not a far step to then say women are having too few babies. They’re having too many babies. I’ve described this before as Goldilocks and her porridge. It’s never the right number of children, you know. And so I, in many audiences it comes down to why aren’t women doing what they’re supposed to do in order to have whatever that person sees as a sustainable population, which could be all over the place?

And so I think it’s really important to shift the narrative away from that, because really, in every society we know that, let’s say, in a low fertility society, men’s preferences for marriage and childbearing have changed just alongside women’s preferences there. But I think women’s experiences really are valuable. So at the same time, we don’t want to put blame on women for too many or too few, women’s experiences do, in fact, drive our demographic patterns, and they are a key to our resilient future.

So, the same as we might think about a very high-fertility society is one where typically women do not have the opportunities for education and work outside the home that women in lower-fertility societies have. I think we can also use super-low fertility as an indicator that, perhaps, women do not have a full set of choices available to them. I think that that’s where we’re going to see some of our research going, and some of the people on this call today are doing research in this area, and I would really like to see more on the super-low fertility side—not trying to raise super low fertility, but to think about what those experiences are like for women in terms of caregiving and the workforce that have had the indicator show up as super-low fertility, because I think particularly on that caregiving and workforce part, those are things that, you know, making—

It’s only going to become more intense as the workforce numbers shrink and as the care burden for older people gets greater. So we have to understand that better now in order to make the experiences of women richer, more fulfilling, and more prosperous.

And then in the end, the byproduct could be higher fertility. But that would not be the point. The point would be for better lives. And I really think there’s a lot that can be done in research and policy in that area.

Speaker, Bintu Zahara Sakor: Rebecca, you want to go? Okay.

Speaker, Rebecca Shamash: Yeah, sure, I’m happy to. I mean, I’m still stuck on this care piece, I think. And, and, you know, if we, if we imagine that care, the care crisis is just going to get worse. And many of the people working in that field are going to be women, I think it’s going to be really imperative that we redesign work, you know, in a particular way and ideally find a way to value and remunerate care, work much better, create positions that are more dignified, pay. That’s better. Maybe that’s through government subsidies. Something else, taking out middlemen, for example, in health care structures to get more money to workers.

But I think we’re going to have to figure out a way to increase the assets and dignity of the less wealthy people working in these care sectors. Um, and then, you know, I also think about the ways that work is kind of unevenly distributed in the United States, for example, even if we have relatively low labor force participation rates for women, women of color work at much higher rates because they have to work outside of the house, because they aren’t living in situations where they can rely on, you know, a single income.

And so, I also think it’s important, as we think about how this is going to impact women, to think about who, you know, has to be working and in what types of roles, and that’s going to look really different depending on people’s race and economic status.

Speaker, Bintu Zahara Sakor: I think I would just briefly mention, because Jen, you talked about blame, right? So when we talk about the aspect of blame, sometimes a lot of blame are put on women in the developing countries, right? Because of lack of education, they produce more babies. This is the reason, which is a narrative that is very raw. Right? First of all, that’s my opinion. But I think in regards to what you mentioned, in terms of how around the world we are seeing this, regardless of which country it is, we’re seeing that women’s participation in the workforce is still it’s still not at supposed to be right. And I think the main issue still, even in the developed country, what we’re seeing is the gender gap, right?

So the pay gap and all these things are factors that are still not being addressed regardless, right? And then in the, most of the developing countries, what you we need to think in terms of the sectors. So many women are actually contributing in many African societies, women are like the backbone of families and they are the most contributors, right? But they’re mainly contributing in the informal sector, right. And sometimes this is not often translated as because when we think economic development, we’re thinking about the formal sector, not the informal sector, right, where women are merely contributing.

So I think it’s about how do we bridge this gap? Because women are contributing, but they don’t contribute as what people expect them or where they expect them to contribute. So how do we bridge this gap? And I think this is a question that many countries are still struggling, because gender relations and how we define femininity and masculinity, still define people. And in this world, we really are facing with issues of, it’s not an issue, it’s actually something we should embrace more. It’s intersectionality.

Many women are not just a woman. We more than a woman. We, you know, our ethnic background can matter. The race, you know, our religion, everything. So how do we find a world or create a resilient world? I can mention that we embrace this and this inclusiveness of what women bring on table, both in the forms of labor market, but also in other aspects of the society, you know. So, yeah.

Speaker, Diana Elliott: Thank you. I’m delighted to say we have some really great questions coming in from the audience. One, you know, this is a theme that seems to be running through a couple of the questions is that, you know, there’s an assumption that people will happily work beyond the age of 65, let’s say, or that that, for example, I mean, we know for a fact that discrimination exists for older workers, that disabilities become more prevalent as older as workers age.

So there’s, there’s factors that also put a limit on people’s ability to work beyond age 65, whether that’s, you know, workplace discrimination policies or, you know, health issues, for example. So, you know, in response to the audience questions about this, you know, one of them is, is, for example, I notice the panelists are making statements that assume what the population 65 and older wants. Have you any of you conducted a study to ask this demographic group ages 65 and older, what they want? And let’s frame this in terms of work.

And another question is, what are some global best practices or recommendations that support working beyond age 65? I’ll let you kind of take this topic in the direction you would like to, and I’ll open it up to you about sort of this question about working beyond the age of 65.

Speaker, Jennifer Sciubba: I have tons to say on this. So, Rebecca, if you do, you want to jump in, go ahead.

Speaker, Rebecca Shamash: Why don’t you jump in?

Speaker, Jennifer Sciubba: I think there is, there’s so much that can be done. And so let me simply say that. It’s a narrow way of us to think. It’s narrow thinking to say, okay, everyone after 65 has to work. The same as it’s narrow thinking to say every country has to open their borders completely to immigration. I think those are the same types of thoughts.

Instead, I tend to think about it as this menu—I need to come up with a better, you know, analogy here—but there’s a menu of choices that aging countries have to make themselves more resilient. But then within, one of the, on the menu can be immigration, on the menu can be extending working lives. But within extending working lives is a menu itself. There are so many policy levers there.

And so yes, we do know that in many contexts people want to work longer than 65, and in fact, in many places they do. We think about the average age of exit from the workforce, what we call the effective retirement age, is about 71 years in South Korea. And in Japan it is higher than official retirement age. Whereas in some, you know, maybe Southern European context, it is lower than official retirement age. And so that differs around the world. And, of course, it differs by individual as well.

So let’s take those folks who do want to work longer. And then let’s take the, what are the policy levers we have there. Diana, you mentioned age discrimination. There are so many legal things that can be done to change age discrimination. So that would be one policy lever, allow the people who want to work longer to work longer.

But these do not all have to be government-based policies. I think a lot where, in fact, that’s the place where we’re going to see the most innovation is in the private sector. Over the coming decades, where companies are realizing that people who are ending, coming closer to their working lives, would like to stay involved somehow. Because there’s lots of research to show that it’s great for you cognitively and physically in terms of health, to stay active and working, but they don’t necessarily want to work at the same pace or in the same role as in the past. So companies are making more flexible pathways for those older workers to stay on as consultants or part time in different kinds of roles with the company so that they can continue to be a resource, but in a way that’s mutually that benefits the individuals as well.

So there is a lot that can be done. I can kind of go on and on with this, but there are also many things that need to happen in terms of re-skilling, education, retraining. There’s a report that came out from the OECD on Monday that I’ll put in my newsletter for next week that talks a lot about what older workers need to do and what companies need to do to make sure that older people can be a continued economic resource for themselves and for the company. We don’t have to just be instrumental here.

But, you know, there’s also an element of, of choice here because, you know, I don’t get full Social Security, Social Security benefits at 65. I have to work into my 70s. So it’s already shifted. And I’m not sure a lot of older people realize that the bar moved for younger people as well. And I don’t even know if you, depends on how old you are, if you consider me younger or not, but those folks even younger than me, the bar shifted even more for them, at least for my generation. I’m still Gen X. We were able to, to build some household wealth. We were able to purchase homes, etcetera, whereas for younger Millennials that has not been the case.

Speaker, Rebecca Shamash: And I might hop in here too. And Jen, you mentioned in your talk briefly, and I don’t think you had a lot of time for it, that work was going to look different in the future, and I’d love to also hear how you’re thinking that it would look different.

But, you know, over the last couple of years since COVID started, work for many people, office workers in particular, has changed dramatically in ways that we could not have really imagined a couple of years prior. And so I think if we’re looking on a time horizon of 10 to 20 years, there’s also, like, there’s a very good chance that work is going to be something very different than work is today. So it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re working 40, 50, 60 hours, you know, just trying to stay alive in jobs for, you know, 60 years or something like that. We hopefully will have, you know, technologies that allow us to be more productive in certain ways.

I also read a paper recently that I thought was super interesting, that said that we were distributing work across the life course, problematically, and that people, when they’re, like, in the stage of having children, for example, or have young families, shouldn’t actually be working full time. They should be doing more care work for their children and out of the labor force, and then maybe working more when they’re older. So I think there’s also opportunities to rethink how we work throughout the life course, potentially, in addition to just focusing on longer work at the end.

Speaker, Jennifer Sciubba: They think to bring the gender part into there as well. You know, for for many women that may want to pull back from the labor force when children are younger and then can’t get back into it when they’re older because of entrenched discrimination. So there’s and other issues.

Speaker, Bintu Zahara Sakor: I think that there’s no need for me to add extensively about this, because I think Jen really covered that, but I just wanted to highlight that also, what we define as work depend on the cultural context, right? So in some context that means like going to work 9 to 5 or it means to, you know, it means different thing for people.

So I think for many societies, like I would just give an example of my own upbringing in, in Africa, in many African society, the elderly in terms of the wisdom is really tapped into because they don’t only have like, um, I guess, expertise in certain areas or knowledge and experience, but they also guide, you know? And I think this is something that in some culture has really, this has been missed. We think that the work, you know, elderly has to go to work like they did, they did before. But I think that they can contribute to the society in different ways through culture, through norm settings.

I think these are factors that really we should also think about or not, and not just in terms of, like, the physical aspect of the work, you know, but other factors related to that. So, I think, yeah.

Speaker, Diana Elliott: That’s great. One of the things that you touched upon earlier, Zahara, is sort of this intergenerational exchange of information. And there’s really fantastic examples, like, I’m thinking of, for example, in the apprenticeship space of how older workers train younger workers, and it provides this really great exchange of knowledge and how if we had more of those processes formalized, we could sort of have important roles across the gender or, the age divide, I should say.

One of the questions I really want to get to, I think we have two more important areas, but I’m going to tackle this one. First, it’s really about policies. We got a great question from the audience saying, how can governmental policies for older persons of color in first world and developing countries help promote intergenerational cooperation, values, and not competition? Um, and you can think about policies generally sort of across, I would say, maybe not restricted necessarily to government policies. Jen, as you suggested earlier. Sometimes these are going to be from the private sector as well, some of these policy shifts.

So I don’t know if you want to speak to this question of policies and creating more, for example, equity, in in how we promote cooperation and not competition.

Speaker, Jennifer Sciubba: That is a really tough one because and, to that question, that it’s, I think, somewhat of a companion of this one that said, do older people even want to work longer? You know, not everyone does. So I’ll actually, I was optimistic on that last answer. But let’s talk about that segment that maybe does not necessarily want to work longer. And what I mean here is that, you know, for some groups they may have they may not have the skills to be employed at older ages, and that is something that they might have lacked because of systemic discrimination. You know, they were maybe set up in their 20s to already be behind the curve here.

We know that health issues, again, because of systemic discrimination or being excluded from health infrastructure, can make a difference. There’s work out of AARP that looks at older persons of color in the United States, and how the health outcomes, life expectancy, health span are far lower, I mean by a decade in some cases than they are for other communities. And so, it is, we have to be careful when we say—it depends on how much time you have—to say, hey, everyone needs to work longer. But then when you have more time and more nuance to put in there, you can, you have to open up to say, not everyone can work longer because of health or because of skilling and experiences. And so I think there is a danger that blanket policies that force everyone into the same outcome can actually exacerbate discrimination for some groups. And so there has to be nuance in our policymaking.

And I know there’s a question from Geoff Dabelko. It’s the hardest question, Geoff, which is it’s not even fair that he asks in this chat, which is how do you overcome the silos? Our policymaking is often not nuanced, and it’s in part because of the way our—I’m a political scientist. I know it’s, it’s how our institutions are set up. But making sure that voices are continued to be represented in politics, that point out that not everyone’s experience is the same at older ages, is incredibly important.

And I think that continuing to involve NGOs and policymaking is one important part of that. And that includes representatives from older groups, representatives from younger groups, representatives from different, depending on what country we’re in, different ethnic groups or religious groups. But more inclusive voices at the table will hopefully help us get more inclusive policies, but it is a real challenge.

Speaker, Diana Elliott: I want to interject actually here at this moment, because a really great question came in about how do we improve demographic literacy among policymakers and others. And I don’t know if you all have, like, uh, running down the time really quickly. I knew this would be a wonderful conversation. Too short. Um, I wonder if you can respond in sort of a lightning round way about what’s, what’s one quick way we could improve demographic literacy among policymakers?

Speaker, Bintu Zahara Sakor: I think I will jump in here. I think, first of all, we need to really think about how our education systems in general are, right? So I think policymakers come from education systems. So, I think creating a system that really, not only in terms of the aging population, which is in general population, and the multi complexity of different populations are really incorporated in various education systems. Right.

So, speaking of our policymakers, I think one of the things is like demography is often represented as a very negative thing, you know, and I think that the emphasis is often on in terms of demography, the migration aspect, right. So migration is bad, it leads to terrorism and all these things. So I think it’s really to, to, to help not only in terms of the research we scholars can do in terms of putting it out there, but also what the NGOs does in various settings to really highlight that demography, like our future, depends on our capability of adapting and also being more inclusive. Right? So whether that’s in terms of policy development or in regards to population or maybe in terms of labor market, right?

So I think that really we need to also think about what we as a scholar and also as a civil society can do to really help many of these policymakers. Because a lot of times they come from specific background that is very narrow, you know, and they don’t think outside the box that, you know, they’ve been educated in. So, like, uh, really change in the education system, but also various aspects that we ourselves can do in order to help them.

Speaker, Diana Elliott: Any other quick takes because have one more question I really want to ask that will also be will say.

Speaker, Jennifer Sciubba: What we can do for demographic literacy is people should pay attention to PPB, that’s for sure, because they you know, while why do I love and have been involved for years, it’s a non-alarmist group that focuses on data and evidence. And I think, you know, amplifying more of these voices that are, do not have a political agenda and are not alarmist is the way to go. And then, you know, in addition to that could by 8 Billion and Counting, my book. But go to PRB!

Speaker, Diana Elliott: Well done, Jen. Final again. Lightning-round question with two minutes left. Does anyone want to talk about—this is too big for two minutes—the intersection of climate and climate change and longevity. This person asks, would you see similarities between the characteristics of aging societies and societies that have had to adapt for climate change? How do we unpack how progressive aging policy would support climate change mitigation as well as adaptation?

Too big a question for one minute left now, but if anyone has like a quick answer, that would be terrific. Rebecca, I know that you had talked a little bit about this earlier.

Speaker, Rebecca Shamash: A little bit, I mean, yeah. Oh, gosh. In relation to aging specifically, I don’t know. I hope this isn’t the wrong direction. But one thing we think a lot about is migration in relation to climate and what that’s going to look like. And so, if there are also concerns about needing young people in the workforce or needing more people in the workforce, and that might change the conversation really significantly on immigration. And then, just like Jen said, consumption is going to need to change in some ways. But how that relates specifically to aging, I don’t know that I can speak to.

Speaker, Jennifer Sciubba: Yeah, I think that number one, we can borrow the language from climate change and think about adaptation and resilience. And that’s one of the things that I keep trying to do. But absolutely, we can think through how the scaled down world might actually have mutual benefit for our increasingly aged society, but for the environment as well. Because I think the one danger in thinking, and I’ve seen this a lot in comments on my TED Talk, is that people say, oh, a smaller world. Great, our environmental problems are solved.

But we know, of course, that that is not how it works because of that little factor about consumption there. And so, I think we have to, we actually can’t analytically separate our environmental stresses and our aging world because they go together.

Speaker, Diana Elliott: Zahara, you get the last opportunity. We’re over time.

Speaker, Bintu Zahara Sakor: This is such a big question! I don’t know where to start. Why would you say like, I think, Jen and Rebecca really highlighted the main thing here. This is really not my expertise. But what I will say is, I think in order to even talk about the issues of climate change, there’s a big gap between the Global North and the Global South. Right?

So how do we really just foster a genuine collaboration, but also an equal part, right, in order to just not only address the climate issues and, but also the demographic issues that is connected to the climate change and the consumptions that Jen mentioned. So, yeah, it’s too broad.

Speaker, Jennifer Sciubba: And I’m hoping we can get to some of these great questions, maybe in some products or, you know, blog posts and such. So we will we’ll save these questions. Thank you all for asking them. They’re really thought provoking.

Speaker, Diana Elliott: Yeah, they were terrific questions. And we knew that this would be tight doing this within an hour. But it was really, really wonderful. And we thank everyone so much in the audience for, for staying, for asking really great questions. And we know that you’re all engaged behind the scenes, and we’d like to engage further on these topics. So with that, I want to thank our panel so much for their thoughtful contributions. Again, to you as our audience for joining us today.

We hope you’ve all learned something new or thought maybe a little bit differently about, about these topic areas. And if you’ve enjoyed today’s conversation, consider donating to PRB.org\donate so we can continue to offer high-quality events and content like the one you enjoyed today.

So with that, thank you all and enjoy the rest of your day.

Speaker, Jennifer Sciubba: Thank you.

 


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Nigerian colleagues with laptop talking in garden

Beyond the Headlines: As China and India Age, Young Africa Has Potential to Power Global Workforce

In this webinar, we examine data on the growth of sub-Saharan Africa’s working-age population and discuss its potential to power the global workforce.

Presenters

Barbara Seligman, Senior Vice President of International Programs

Aïssata Fall, Africa Director

Moderator

Marlene Lee, Associate Vice President of International Programs

 

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Transcript

Speaker, Marlene Lee (PRB): Thank you, everyone, for joining us today for this public briefing. Beyond the Headlines, As China and India Age, Young Africa Has the Potential to Power the Global Workforce. I am Marlene Lee, Associate Vice President at the Population Reference Bureau and the webinar moderator today. Before our main event, let me give you a brief orientation to the webinar controls for presentations. All microphones but the speakers’ are muted. You will see on the bottom of your screen “Q&A.” You may click and enter questions about the webinar at any time. Please include your affiliation with your question. I will be monitoring the space. If you do not see “Q&A,” look for three dots and click on those, then the Q&A should appear.

For technical difficulties, please raise your hand electronically and Walker Irving will reach out to you to help resolve the issue. Any issues? Okay.

Diving right in again, welcome and thank you for joining us today at this public briefing. Beyond the Headlines, As China and India Age, Young Africa Has the Potential to Power the Global Workforce. Again, for those of you who just joined, I’m Marlene Lee, your moderator.

Let me briefly introduce our speakers and an outline of today’s session before our presentation begins. Our speakers today are Barbara Seligman. Barbara is Senior Vice President responsible for leading International Programs at PRB. She has advised development partners and governments in low- and middle-income countries on developing population and reproductive health policies for more than 30 years. Aïssata Fall is Africa Director and West and Central Africa Representative at PRB. She’s based in Dakar, Senegal. Aïssata has worked on policy dialogue in social protection, access to basic social services, and decentralization for international development agencies and African governments for more than 30 years.

For those of you not familiar with PRB, or Population Reference Bureau, we are a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that harnesses the power of population data to inform and advance solutions to the most urgent challenges facing our world. We analyze and disseminate information so that it can be used to inform decisions that improve lives. As part of our work, we train researchers, journalists, advocates, and others around the world to use information in support of decision-making.

Now, without delay, we will move to our main event. Barbara Seligman will speak on projected changes in the global working age population over the next 30 years, focusing on China, India, and sub-Saharan Africa. Then Aïssata Fall will speak on measures African governments are taking to prepare for a demographic dividend. A moderated question and answer session will follow, and I thank you all for putting all this wonderful information about yourselves in the chat. Barbara, welcome.

 

Speaker, Barbara Seligman (PRB): Thank you very much, Marlene, and welcome to all of you. I’m really looking forward to our conversation today. I know that many of you are enthusiasts about population matters, and the last couple of months have been really exciting times because so much attention has focused on population issues, notably the fact that India has surpassed China as the most populous country in the world. One of the things that we’re going to focus on today are some of the notable demographic changes that are projected to occur over the next 30 years that are more overlooked, that are not talked about so much. And we appear to have had the good fortune to speak to a number of reporters who’ve been covering the India population story and to help them see some of these other changes. And we look forward to hearing from you and the discussion about some of your observations about all of this press coverage, about the changing composition of the global working-age population.

So, to start, while India is following China’s path to become the most populous country in the world, it’s also following China’s path to become an aged society. By the mid, er,, mid-2050s, India’s population 65 and older will double from its current level of 7% to 14%. It will take 26 years to experience that doubling. China, which just crossed that threshold, the 14% threshold, took 23 years to make that transition. So, India is falling behind China’s path to become an aged society and is doing so a little bit more gradually and with a lag of about 25 years.

Sub-Saharan African countries are already driving growth of the global working-age population, that is, the population between the ages of 15 and 64. While no single African country, of course, can match India in terms of its contribution to the growth of the global working-age population, those 50 or so countries together already account for a greater share of the growth in the global working-age population today than India. And as India and China’s contributions to the growth of the global working-age population decline, sub-Saharan Africa will continue to rise. And when we look at the picture at mid-century, we really see the dominance of sub-Saharan Africa in terms of its contribution to this productive age cohort. And last but not least, we find that it’s very important to look closely at young Africans when we talk about the future working-age population, the characteristics of those entrants to the working-age population, those who are 15 to 19 years old, are can be strikingly different from the characteristics of young Africans entering the working-age population as recently as 20 years ago and certainly compared to 30 or even 40 years ago.

So, let’s take a look at the aggregate numbers. And here what we’re showing is the total global working-age population, [ages] 15 to 64 from 1970 projected through 2050. And we’re looking at India, China, and the region of sub-Saharan Africa. Again, those 50 or so countries. We include the United States here for comparison and because a number of members of our audience are in the U.S., and it helps to show that the U.S. is sort of small fry when we’re talking about these numbers.

So, here in 2023, China continues to have to account for more members of the working-age population at this moment in time. Back in 2015, China crossed the threshold where its working-age population numbered 1 billion. India is going to cross that same threshold sometime later this decade, so between 2025 and 2030. Sub-Saharan Africa is going to cross that threshold another 15 years or so from now. So, between 2035 and 2040, by the time we get to the end of this decade, India will have a larger working-age population than China. By the time we get to mid-century, sub-Saharan Africa’s working-age population will be larger than India’s. These are the aggregate, the total numbers, but they help to set the stage.

Now let’s take a look at where the growth in the global working-age population is coming from. And again, here we have the same three countries plus the region of sub-Saharan Africa for comparison. So, if we look at China, China’s at the beginning of this century, it’s hard to believe. At the beginning of this century, China was, if not the largest one of, nearly the largest contributor to the growth of the global working-age population. But its contribution began to decline in the early 2000s. Now with India: India’s contribution to the growth of the global working-age population, it has has just peaked. And by the time we get to mid-century, India’s contribution to that growth is going to come to close to zero. And as I said, when we look at sub-Saharan Africa in 2023, we see that, collectively, those countries are already contributing a greater share of the growth in the global working-age population than India.

But the real story is what happens as we move out towards the mid-century mark. And in fact, by the time we get to 2050, if I were to write the headline for this slide, it would say today in 2050, Nigeria accounts for a quarter of the growth in the global working-age population. So, over a relatively short period of time, we’re going to see some pretty tremendous changes that maybe are not so appreciated as so much attention focuses on what’s happening between India and China. So, behind the growth of the working-age population, we have fertility that’s really what the driver is of this growth.

So, let’s take a few minutes to look closely at what’s happening with fertility, um, in India, China, and in sub-Saharan Africa. So, we see in China, fertility decline began in the in the [19]70s. It was accelerated. The steep drop in fertility was accelerated by the one-child policy. And really since 1990, fertility has been at replacement or below replacement levels. Now replacement fertility—2.1 children per woman—represents the fertility rate that will kind of keep a population stable.

Now, when we look at India, we see that fertility has declined much more gradually, according to the 2019-2021 Demographic and Health Survey. Fertility in India is 2.0, so just below replacement level. And that’s quite an accomplishment. India is a very diverse country with great diversity across its different states. One of the things that’s very interesting to observe is that the states that historically have had higher fertility have in recent years seen that fertility decline. Even the state of Bihar, India’s most populous, has a total fertility rate of 3. It’s higher, relatively higher. Fertility is offset by the fact that so many states in India have low replacement fertility rates or are quite close to replacement. We therefore are confident that as we move towards mid-century, India’s fertility rate will stabilize at a, at a place a little bit below replacement levels. Um, there’s been a lot of news coverage. Many of you are aware of efforts by China and other countries to try to encourage women to have children. And we don’t think that those efforts are really going to have much of an impact on these macro-level projections of fertility in China or, for that matter, in India.

Now, looking at sub-Saharan Africa, we’re seeing we project a steady fertility decline. But even by the time we get to 2050, we think that the fertility rate will still be above replacement, which means that the working-age population in sub-Saharan Africa will continue to grow as we move into the second half of the century. So, fertility rate is directly tied to the size of the working-age entrant population, those 15-to-19-year-olds. So, even as fertility declines, we have a bit of a lag before we start to see the decline in the age of that 15-to-19-year-old cohort. And you see that here in China. Where the decline in the 15-to-19-year-old population began around 2005, despite fertility reaching replacement levels earlier in India. We see that decline in the 15-to-19-year-old population cohort beginning around 2020, 2023, right around now. And in sub-Saharan Africa, we don’t see that decline because, as I said, our projections through mid-century show that fertility continues to stay above replacement level. So, what you see with the projected growth of the population cohort, those entrants, 15 to 19 years old, 19 years old, is they continue to grow significantly. And the sum of the extra growth that you’re seeing here is that even though fertility is trending downwards, we have, at least for the course of a generation, more and more women who are having children than ever before. So, it takes a little bit of time for the fertility, um, for those momentum effects to be captured.

So, let’s take a look at trends in the number of working-age entrants over this projection period. I think this is a really striking graph that I think maybe not so many people are aware of. Indeed, by the time we get to 2050, when we look at those new entrants into the workforce, we’re going to see India contributing what, some number that’s about, uh, 110 million, with sub-Saharan Africa producing or accounting for not quite twice that number. It’s a staggering difference and will have really important implications for the global working-age population.

Up until now, I have talked about sub-Saharan Africa as a region consisting of approximately 50 countries. I want to briefly look at the three African countries that are driving the growth in sub-Saharan Africa’s population. Those are the three most populous ones: Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo (or the DRC), and Ethiopia. And as you see here, I think the principal takeaway is that at the beginning of this century, in 2000, Nigerians, Congolese, and Ethiopians accounted for a pretty small share of the working-age population. By the time we get to 2050—and in this case, we’re projecting out until 2065—it’s a very, very different story. Now, of course, other countries in sub-Saharan Africa together account for the difference that’s shown in gray [on the slide], but none of those other countries individually contributes as much as these three.

So, now let’s take a look at some of the characteristics of working-age populations from these countries that have been driving the growth of the global working-age population since the beginning of the of the 21st century. If we look at female literacy, it’s sort of a crude indicator of women’s status. We see that today, female literacy in China is virtually universal, and female literacy rates have been high for a long time. China really stands apart from the other countries in that regard. There’s some really good news here that, personally, was somewhat surprising to me was to just see how much progress the Democratic Republic of Congo has made in improving its female literacy rates to the point where they’re substantially higher than female literacy for in India.

And in India there’s been much coverage of the fact that the status of women in many Indian states lags significantly, and that has the potential to really mean that the sort of, the economic gains that are propelled through the demographic transition are not necessarily going to look like they did for China. And then we look at Nigeria and Ethiopia, which, you know, perform on this indicator more poorly than India. Remember here we are looking at ages 15 and over. That will be important when we come to our next slide.

If we take a look at an economic measure, and here we choose to look at gross national income per capita, again, China is in a category by itself, far wealthier than any of the other countries that we’re looking at. India and Nigeria are wealthier than the other two countries. I think it’s worth mentioning that the Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the world’s poorer countries. So, the composition of the working-age population, the countries from which the working-age population are coming—that will dominate the size of the, or the growth of the working-age population at mid-century—their characteristics are going to look different than they did at the beginning of this century and certainly before then.

Many of you who are in this audience are academics or students of population. And you know better than I how important it is to look beyond averages. And that averages can mask important trends, and they can mask real stories. And here again, we want to implore you to look at young Africans and to take a look at some of the changes that are happening in human capital formation, that is, in education, health, job experience among these young cohorts of Africans who are entering the working-age population today and in the foreseeable future. When we look at female literacy rates, yeah, Ethiopia didn’t look so good when we looked at the average for women [ages] 15 and over. But my goodness, look at the progress that’s taken place in female literacy in Ethiopia over the course of the last 20 years. Similar gains in DRC, also more modest gains in Nigeria.

But what we’re seeing are, we’re seeing is that the young Africans today really look different than they did even a generation ago in terms of their human capital. We see that with life expectancy, too. Ethiopia’s investments in health in particular are maybe known to many of you, and they really are sort of captured in what we see here as life expectancy gains at age 15. The story with Nigeria, you know, somebody’s going to ask a question about it. We’re still trying to figure out and have asked some people to see if they can help us understand what’s going on there.

And then finally, adolescent fertility, which signifies trends in early marriage investments or girls’ secondary school attendance and sort of speaks for a number of different indicators. And again, over the course of the last 30 years, staggering improvement in Ethiopia, really staggering drop in teen fertility rates, adolescent fertility rates, important declines in DRC and in Nigeria as well.

So, as we look ahead to the future of the global working-age labor force, let me just recap some of the things that we’ve talked about. The demographic dominance of the global working-age population has changed over time. Indeed, it’s changed over the century from China to India and soon to the sub-Saharan Africa region. As the United States, Europe, and other high-income countries age, they will need to look beyond their own populations to meet their economic and social needs, among which includes caring for ever-growing populations of older adults. Countries with young populations and relatively high fertility, such as those in sub-Saharan Africa, such as the three that we’ve mentioned, could contribute to meeting demand for labor and other social and economic needs.

And on that note, I will turn the mic over to my colleague, the esteemed Aïssata Fall, PRB’s Director for Africa, who will be talking about some of the measures that African governments are putting in place to prepare for sub-Saharan Africa’s dominance in the global labor force. So over to you, Aïssata.

 

Speaker, Aïssata Fall (PRB): Thank you, Barbara. And sorry for the camera, but I’m on the phone. Um, so. We saw today that if we look at sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, its demographic dynamic is dominated by Ethiopia, DRC, and Nigeria. However, to understand how African leaders are prioritizing investments in the future working-age population, it is critical to think about these needs within their respective geographical, economic, and political contexts. These three countries are part of the African Union, which is composed of 55 member states, um, of Africa. Its primary role is to promote unity, integration, and cooperation among African countries to advance the continent’s socioeconomic development, peace, and security.

Then, the African Union is made up of five regions, as you can see, north, west, central, east, and south. And there is a sixth region, an interesting one, the diaspora, which is defined by African Union as people of African origin living outside the continent, irrespective of their citizenship and nationality, which is an important aspect.

Regional and continental integration is crucial in the African Union’s agenda because it fosters unity and solidarity among African nations so they can collectively address common challenges and pursue shared goals, integrations, and aims to strengthen Africa’s position in the global arena, allowing it to negotiate and engage on equal footing with other regions of the world.

Alongside these six regions, Africa’s regional economic communities, known as the RECs, such as the Economic Community of West African states, known as ECOWAS, are a vital component of the continent’s integration efforts. They are building blocks of the African Union and facilitate economic integration between members of the region and through the wider African economic community.

Each of Africa’s regions has its own dynamics, especially when it comes to demographics. For example, a citizen from one of the West Africa region’s 15 countries, like Nigeria, can travel to another country within the region with a simple ID card thanks to ECOWAS, the regional economic community. And despite being in a region dominated by the French language, Nigerian people travel a lot within the region to find a job. In another example, a Senegalese citizen can be hired as a staff in the government of Benin’s administration. Such free movement of people do not exist in the Central Africa region, which includes the DRC. While the Central Africa region also has an economic community, people there need a visa, therefore a passport, to travel between countries.

And so, the difference of the cost of a passport compared to a simple ID here shapes access to educational opportunities and also to labor markets, and especially for young people. Then, as we reflect about the working age, working-age population and the drivers for a successful workforce in the future, we must think beyond countries borders.

In Africa, the future of the workforce is embedded in a continental way of thinking and is framed by countries commitment, and also implemented with consideration for different regional and country contexts. Slide, please.

In 2013—you should click, Barbara. In 2013, all 15 member states of the African Union adopted the Agenda 2063, named the Africa We Want. This is a strategic framework for the socioeconomic transformation of the African continent by the year 2063. It outlines key goals and aspirations for Africa’s development. And I want to mention here the first two aspirations related to our topic today.

So, the first one is for a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development that aims to achieve high levels of economic growth, job creation, and sustainable development across the continent, ensuring that the benefits are shared by all African people. One way is the African Union is aiming to accomplish this goal is through the African Continental Free Trade Area, which is intended to create a single market for goods and services across the continent. It has a potential to bring substantial benefits to small-scale businesses and to women and ultimately to spur job creation across various sectors.

The second aspiration of Agenda 2063 is for an integrated continent, politically united and based on the ideals of Pan-Africanism, which seeks to achieve a politically united Africa to promote peace, stability, and good governance, and also to strengthen continental integration. Here the African Passport Initiative is intended to facilitate the free movement of people across the continent by introducing a common passport for African citizens. Several countries like Benin, Senegal, Rwanda, and Madagascar are already offering visa-free access or visa on arrival for African people. This freedom of movement can really unlock new opportunities for the transfer of skills, for knowledge, and also labor, while supporting economic growth and development.

Then we see that the African Union Agenda 2063 sets out the long-term vision and aspiration for Africa’s development across various sectors and provide a comprehensive framework for Africa’s overall transformation and progress. It recognizes the youth population and gender equality as key drivers of Africa’s future development. And since 2013, during the last decade, the African Union and its member states have been setting the path with new strategies, plans, and tools to achieve the Agenda’s goals. And the African Union Roadmap on Harnessing the Demographic Dividend is one of these strategies.

This was signed by all state members in 2017, and it specifically focuses on strategies and action to leverage the potential of Africa’s youth population for economic growth and development. The Roadmap provides a targeted and specific plan to address challenges and opportunities associated with the demographic dividend, with a particular emphasis on youth-focused policies and investment. Then, given the significant share of the young people thinking about the working age population in sub-Saharan Africa means thinking about the demographic dividend, which refers to the accelerated economic growth that can result when more of the country’s population is of working age and employed in well-paying jobs than is too young or too old to work. The African Union’s demographic dividend roadmap focuses on several key areas, including, among other things, education and skills development, and employment and entrepreneurship, and gender equality and empowerment, regional integration, and free movement of people.

Aims of both the Roadmap and the Agenda 2063 would remove barriers and create an enabling environment for youth to travel across borders, to access educational opportunities, employment, and entrepreneurship as they can, access larger markets, and expand their businesses beyond national boundaries. Through the Roadmap, support for small- and medium-sized enterprises and steps to ease access to finances and markets, it can also foster an environment that enables young people to start and grow businesses, thereby creating employment opportunities.

And when it comes to gender, the demographic dividend roadmap acknowledges that equality—gender equality—is not only a matter of social justice, but it is also an essential driver of economic development. The Roadmap aims to ensure that women have equal access to education, economic opportunities, and leadership roles, and with this, its emphasis on girls education. This Roadmap acknowledges that educated girls are more likely to become economically productive adults then.

Both Agenda 2063 and the demographic dividend roadmap work together to guide African countries and decisionmakers in implementing gender-sensitive and youth-centric policies and programs that help achieve sustainable economic growth and maximize the demographic dividend.

To implement the African Union’s Roadmap and realize the structural transformation needed to obtain a demographic dividend, countries must apply appropriate policies, frameworks, and funding, as well as measure and monitor their progress. Different methods and tools have been developed to help inform policy decisions based on a deep understanding of their potential opportunities and challenges, while also considering youth and gender equality aspects, especially to understand their country’s population structure regarding demographic economics, define their current potential for economic transformation, and also use evidence on effective budget allocations as a main instrument for economic based decision.

Achieving this Agenda 2063’s ambitious goals and implementing the demographic dividend roadmap requires changing our mindset. It requires considering the different drivers of success for a strong and productive working-age population within the context of their interrelationships. And, for example, to do so, some monitoring tools that systematically integrate youth and gender aspects are being institutionally institutionalized—sorry for my English—to monitor five critical dimensions using standard indicators agreed by experts at country and continental levels regarding economic dependency, quality of life, poverty transition, human capital, but also networks and territories.

This process of standards and tools used by all countries is a significant step forward because the indicators are defined collectively and enable more appropriate policies to be adopted. The progress lies in the definition by African countries, by themselves, of the results to be achieved and the pathways to follow, anchoring a new way of evidence-based governance principles for the younger generation. And this new way is critical for sustainable policy change and also supports one of the most important agendas, Agenda 2063, the aspiration of empowering women and youth and showing their active participation in decision-making process and their inclusion in the development agenda.

So, what does all this mean for Africa and for its future working-age population? Actually, it is a combination of good news and challenges that need still to be addressed. Agenda 2063 is a new way of thinking about development in Africa, with its focus on integration, youth involvement, and gender equality as drivers for economic growth. And this approach is a positive development needed to help countries and regions give more comprehensive consideration to their populations.

While gaps still exist, decisionmakers in African countries are putting new focus on data on youth and gender in their economic decision-making. We see this emphasis in both Agenda 2063 and the demographic dividend roadmap, as well as in countries’ policies and commitments, but also in the new kind of tools and methods they are using to analyze the situation and inform their policymaking process.

As we look to the future, we must pay attention to what is happening today. Youth employment is an urgent problem on the continent. It is exacting high economic, social, and political costs now and needs creative solutions. Some of these solutions are through partnerships between African researchers, decisionmakers, and organizations like the Regional Consortium for Research in Generational Economy in Senegal, known as CREG, which helps link scientific research to decision-making.

Organizations like PRB can also help countries develop forecasting, look at how a potential demographic dividend could be amplified through increasing gender and youth analysis and communicate evidence for policy decision-making. Africa today and in the future has a lot to offer, and we will continue to follow the evidence and act in close collaboration with our local partners to support countries achieving their potential. Thank you.

Marlene, I give you the floor now.

 

Speaker, Marlene Lee: Thank you. Thank you, Barbara and Aïssata, for giving a closer look at the geographic shift in the concentration of the global working-age population and the prominence of sub-Saharan Africa’s young population and the policy context within Africa. Truly, continued local and international commitment to African countries’ actions to prepare their working-age populations and to create an enabling environment for job creation is an investment in shaping a global workforce for the future.

Now I’m going to turn to some wonderful questions from our participants. We have participants from Ghana, India, Philippines, Canada, Ethiopia, Nepal, Slovenia, Nigeria, Washington, DC, and more. And we have research professors, geography, teachers, government staff, longtime followers, journalists, and more. So, I hope you are up to the challenge of these questions.

Barbara, we will start with you. Let me read a couple of related questions for you from Sulayman Willie Baldeh. “Why is the life expectancy for Nigeria the same level? I would have expected it to rise. I don’t think this is good if there are improvements on health and development.” From one Wondwosen Teklesilasie, “I think young people’s skills, rather than their numbers, will influence the global economy.” And from Abuja, Abebaw Woldekiros. He wonders what the source of data is. “The life expectancy for Ethiopia was not 54. In 2021, it’s much more than this.” So, if you could answer briefly, I think these are related questions. You are muted, Barbara.

 

Speaker, Barbara Seligman: Yeah, yeah. Thank you very much for your questions. And again, I’m so flattered that so many of you from so many different corners of the world have joined us this, this morning.

Sulayman, as I mentioned, we too are perplexed by the Nigeria numbers. And I’ve actually put out a request. Unfortunately, I didn’t get an answer in time for this presentation. I want to make clear, though, that we’re looking at life expectancy at age 15. So, life expectancy at birth in Nigeria, of course, is increased importantly because of those big gains in child survival. But we’re still puzzling over why the life expectancy level stays flat over this 30-year period when we look at life expectancy at age 15, and any ideas you might have, sources that you might be able to put us in touch with, to help understand what’s going on there would be most appreciated.

And then, Mr. Teklesilasie, I couldn’t agree with you more. The numbers are a very crude measure. And one of the things that we’ve really tried to be careful about is that in the first part of the presentation, we’re really talking about the size of the global working-age population. And the size of the global working-age population, of course, is not the same as the global workforce. And the point that you make about the skills is part of that translation between numbers and productive engagement in the global workforce. So, thank you for pointing that out.

With respect to life expectancy in in Ethiopia, I am not able to look at that slide right now. But I believe if the source is not listed there, I will make sure to get back to you with that source. And if there’s a, if there’s something that we have misunderstood or there’s something about that source that we should know, that means that we shouldn’t use it. I most recently, most would be very grateful to, have that information and follow that up offline. Over.

 

Speaker, Marlene Lee: Barbara, I just want to clarify that perhaps there’s a misunderstanding. Our life expectancy numbers that we gave were life expectancy at age 15, not life expectancy at birth.

 

Speaker, Barbara Seligman: Thank you very much, Marlene. Yes. So we talked about that in the context of Nigeria. But yes, that is true for all of the countries. So, we really wanted to focus on measures of well-being for those who are working, you know, who are entering the workforce, people who are between the ages of 15 to 19, which is why we didn’t use life expectancy at birth. Over.

 

Speaker, Marlene Lee: Thank you. Aïssata, I’m going to try to read this comment and question slowly. This is from Margaret Walton-Roberts. “If Africa is being demographically positioned to provide labour to the global economy, what does this mean for health systems? Health care workers from Africa are already significant in OECD countries, but the issue of mutual benefits for African-sending countries is not well addressed at the current time. What further policy frameworks are needed from WHO and African regional blocs to safeguard health systems in Africa in light of the increasing role of Africa in health and care labour migration?”

 

Speaker, Aïssata Fall: Thank you, Marlene, and thank you, Margaret, for this question, which is a great one and a topic we are starting to work on with CREG especially. I would, um, how can I say, that I would frame this question more in the broader issue about care economy and, and what it means globally and for Africa. So, some frameworks are, or some topics are, discussed, especially, for example, around elderly long-term care. And WHO has a lot about that. And what I can tell you is that at country level or at regional levels, the conversation about care, caregivers, the cost of domestic care—which encompass taking care of the family or being able to take care of, um, what is not supported by the government to provide you the minimum of living standards—is quite complex, but not discussed topic in the region.

And one of the first issue is that, as you mentioned, a lot of people are moving and you are talking about health care worker, but you can really broaden this about caregivers for older people, for example, that are working outside Africa. While here, there is no recognition of this need, what is interesting—it could be a long conversation—but what is interesting to consider and I’m happy to talk more about that aside, if you want, as the first thing is, what does care mean in Africa? How is it recognized in the new context and in this demographic context today with an aging population. Yes, we have a young population, but the part of the population is growing, is getting old. And at politic policy level, we have absolutely nothing regarding standards, even considering the needs, because traditionally this is part of the unpaid care work which is today supported by women. And there is a need to really focus this because one, we are we are going to face a big issue on the continent around just care. Is it health care? It is care, just domestic care for elderly.

This is becoming a critical issue, not in 50 years, when in less than 20 years we have no standard. Data exist but are not analyzed, and this is part of the gaps I was mentioning, saying there are still some gaps to have, some complementary analysis to really help to think about our future here and make economic decisions, but also some specific social policies that are considering all these different aspects.

The second part of the issue of who is going to take care and where is going to be the workforce for health care or caregiver, where are they going to be the best employed and use, is about the fact that taking care, addressing this topic, would be a good way to meet the different agendas about decent work. This totally related what you tell about health and care labor migration. The first thing is about having our policymakers better informed about that, which means having analyses, being able to be properly supported, to be done and communicated. I’m very sorry for my not very good English around that. I hope I answered the questions that were quite complex. I’m sorry, Marlene.

 

Speaker, Marlene Lee: No, no, thank you very much. I think as we look at the questions that some very complex issues are being raised. And from Issa Masarweh, the Secretary General of the Jordan Higher Population Council, there’s a comment that says the huge population size and demographic trends in China and India should concern every country because we all share global environment and prices of basic food items.

Also from Alaka Basu, known to many of us, the DRC levels in female literacy are very high and remarkable and historical policy factors. What historical policy factors account for this? But I believe she had a comment about that. What could be the negative factors in India in the future? From Alana Larrazabal, “What could be the negative factors in India as it transitions to becoming an aged society in 20 years or so?” And from Karoline Schmid, says she takes a more pessimistic view of Africa. Because mortality is declining faster than fertility and the region is experiencing continued population growth. So, how how do you meet the challenge of educating the growing number of youth and the challenge of political instability in many countries in the region? So, I’ve touched the environment, I’ve touched education, I’ve touched aging societies. And I’m going to give both of you, Aïssata and Barbara, an opportunity to pick one of these issues and have a final comment, because we are running out of time. So, Barbara, pick an issue. You’re muted.

 

Speaker, Barbara Seligman: Thank you so much for your questions and lively engagement. I’ll just pick a couple of the things that were mentioned here. Uh, easy, easy things. First, Alaka—Alaka Basu has been a long time Board member for PRB. If you look at the earlier slide that showed progress in female literacy over the course of the last 20 years, you’ll see that some very substantial gains in female literacy have taken place just quite recently. So, I do want to draw your attention to that. Although the base in 2000 was also pretty high. I think about 63% or so. Again, that’s literacy rates among 15-to-19, 15-to-24-year-olds. So, I think this question about aging is one that’s really, that deserves a lot more attention.

That’s something that we could, we at PRB look forward to exploring both in terms of the question that was addressed earlier about sort of the, you know, we look at the demographics of the working force writ large. What we really want to do more with is looking at the demography of different occupational segments, including home care workers, nurses, and other members of the care economy. Um, and I think that what, you know, I think many planners in India are very worried about making sure that they have the kind of social safety nets in place to, um, you know, to take care of so many elderly.

We look at countries that have gone through very rapid fertility decline, went through the fertility, the demographic transition, quickly. I think about countries like Turkey and Korea, China. Um, the other side of that is rapid aging. And I know from the little that I read about sort of credit ratings and things like that, that insurers and the people who offer credit in the commercial market are paying careful attention to what provisions are in place to care for what will be rapidly aging populations in India and in some other countries. So, I think I’ll stop there and let Aïssata take some of the other questions. I apologize. I didn’t get to all of them.

 

Speaker, Aïssata Fall: Thank you, Barbara. Thank you, Marlene. Um, I’m going to quickly try to respond to Karoline Schmid’s question about, um, the fact that have a positive view of the chance for a demographic dividend in sub-Saharan Africa and being pessimistic around the current political instability in many countries. Um, well, first thing, I have a positive view about what has been happening in terms of how we are now in Africa—looking at what we need to decide and how we are analyzing the data, demographics, to better consider the two critical key drivers that are youth and gender equality. And I totally agree with you that there is an issue around educating the growing number of youth, providing jobs for the growing workforce, and also political instability, etcetera.

So, I have to be optimistic if I want to do my job, actually, because it would not be easy. I mentioned that discussing the usual analyses, what is being done on education, fertility rates, talking job creation is not sufficient. There is a clear issue around infrastructure and energy that is not sufficiently discussed alongside with social issues, social policies, social policy topics, or human capital topics. The government has to provide the conditions for a conducive environment for the private sector to be able to create jobs. And this needs to be discussed around investments that are not sufficient around energy and infrastructure. That is clear.

Where I am optimistic—it’s not about the demographic dividend. You might be right. Maybe all this should have started earlier. I’m sure, it should have started earlier, but it is now that it is really, this last decade that demonstrated a total mindset shift regarding how policymakers are using different tools to look at their own continent or country differently. And at the same time, what is interesting is that in doing that, there is this gradual, more and more, involvement of youth people. I’m now going to talk about younger, young men, young people, those that are building their future so that they can be part of this decision. If you know Africa, you know that being young in Africa is not that easy. You are a young man until you’re 40, but you’re voting since you’ve been 18.

So, this young participation, equipping young people, this young generation with the tools but also working on bringing them into the policy dialogue spaces. For me, it’s fundamental for them to really root this new governance principles that integrates youth and gender, but also to help them to see that they can be listened to. They can be [listened to] because they are fully fledged citizens. And there are also solutions to that violence. And you talk about instability, and I’m currently in Dakar, and I’m on the phone because of riots and power cuts. So, I totally know what you’re talking about. But when I see all these youth advocates we are working with, helping them to be in the right political space and policy conversation spaces is, for me, a concrete way to help them to become a citizen.

And I just would conclude about what you are, what you are saying for me, and this is a personal opinion, what is missing in this conversation is that the word, the word citizen never appears. When I was talking about mindset shifting? It’s about we are technicians. Let’s talk techniques. Let’s talk electricity, technical, sectoral domain. But let’s not forget that all this is needed to support a real democratic dialogue. And we are talking not about beneficiaries or partners. We are talking about citizens. Actually, this is for me, something that needs to be pushed forward. So, thank you.

 

Speaker, Marlene Lee: Thank you, Aïssata. You’ve touched up on some of the issues raised in other questions, and we have run out of time for questions, but we will be looking forward to future discussions.

I’ll just mention that Robert Thompson raised the issue that we didn’t look at urban or rural. We didn’t look at rural migration to urban areas and what that means for employment and food product, productivity. And the question of why we’re looking at continental data and comparing it to other countries. So, doing more breakdowns at the national level is definitely something we can think about for the future.

I really am sorry we don’t have a green room session after this where we could just open it up to the audience. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to do that. I want to thank our audience. Please look for our post-briefing email.

We will continue the conversation in coming months to learn more about these demographic trends and related policy in African countries. Please follow Barbara Seligman and Aïssata Fall and PRB on LinkedIn. URLs to their profiles are in the chat and thank you for participating in our webinar.

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Récapitulatif de la série de webinaires : Jeunesse, religion et contraception en Afrique francophone

Introduction

En Afrique francophone, les jeunes âgés de 15 à 24 ans ont difficilement accès aux informations et services de planification familiale (PF) de qualité. De plus, ils affichent un taux d’abandon de la contraception supérieur à celui de leurs aînées et sont particulièrement sensibles aux effets indésirables.  En mars 2022, PRB a tenu une série de quatre webinaires s’inscrivant dans la suite du dialogue initié en 2021 sur l’utilisation durable des contraceptifs chez les jeunes. L’initiative est portée par le projet PACE, financé par l’Agence Américaine pour le Développement (USAID) en collaboration avec le projet Knowledge SUCCESS. La série a réuni différents représentants du Ministère de la Santé, d’organisations de jeunes, de leaders religieux, et de Partenaires Techniques et Financiers (PTF) engagés dans l’amélioration de l’accès à la contraception par les jeunes. L’accès durable des jeunes à la PF a été discuté, sur la base d’une analyse du paysage politique des pays du Partenariat de Ouagadougou (PO), réalisée par le projet PACE. Les outils de communication développés par ce même projet pour renforcer le dialogue sur la PF pour les jeunes informés par des données probantes ont été présentés pour soutenir les échanges.

Résumés des interventions

8 mars 2022 : soutenir le recours à la contraception chez les jeunes dans le contexte des engagements envers FP2030.

Le paysage politique pour l’utilisation durable de la contraception par les jeunes dans les neufs pays du PO a été analysée sur la base de sept recommandations définies dans une note de politique rédigée par PRB en 2021. Ces recommandations visent à assurer que tout jeune accède, sans discrimination, à la méthode contraceptive de son choix quand et où il le souhaite. L’examen des documents politiques et règlementaires de différents pays, notamment les engagements FP2030, les lois relatives à la Santé de la Reproduction (SR) et les Plans d’Action Nationaux Budgétisés de la Planification Familiale (PANB/PF), montre que dans l’ensemble, l’environnement politique des pays demeure peu favorable à l’utilisation durable de la contraception par les jeunes. La plupart des pays reconnaissent les jeunes comme un groupe aux besoins spécifiques, mais l’accessibilité financière, le suivi personnalisé et l’accès à toute la gamme de contraceptifs, particulièrement aux méthodes auto-administrées, sont largement insuffisants. Les panélistes ont débattu des priorités pour leurs pays respectifs.

En Guinée, l’insuffisance des ressources domestiques, le contexte socio-culturel et le manque de services adaptés aux jeunes sont les obstacles à surmonter. La disponibilité de la gamme complète des produits contraceptifs est relevée comme essentielle, problématique actuellement traitée par un engagement dans l’élargissement de l’offre de produits dans les infirmeries scolaires, le secteur privé et les garnisons militaires. Cette dynamique s’appuie également sur la collaboration avec les organisations de la société civile, les PTF et la participation active des jeunes.

Au Sénégal, la prise en compte de la diversité des besoins des jeunes est identifiée comme prioritaire, considérant leur hétérogénéité en termes d’âge, de statut marital et de milieu de vie.  Les organisations de jeunes saisiront l’opportunité du nouveau PANB/PF pour améliorer l’accès à la contraception pour les jeunes non mariés – ignorés dans les documents actuels. Enfin, la RDC (pays extérieur au PO) met la priorité sur la facilité d’accès à la contraception dans le secteur privé. Des organisations de jeunes y ont mené un plaidoyer informé par des données pour la reconnaissance des besoins spécifiques des jeunes, et obtenu la signature par le gouvernement provincial, d’un arrêté soutenant un plan quinquennal pour l’accès des jeunes à la contraception, intégrant leur diversité.

14 et 24 mars 2022 : renforcer les partenariats avec les leaders de la jeunesse et les chefs religieux afin d’améliorer l’accès des jeunes à la planification familiale grâce à des dialogues communautaires éclairés.

Le rôle des leaders religieux pour démystifier les tabous autour de la PF pour les jeunes et renforcer un dialogue informé par des données est largement démontré. Des vidéos produites par le projet PACE en collaboration avec des leaders religieux et des jeunes du Sahel ont illustré l’engagement des diverses confessions religieuses dans la promotion de l’utilisation de la contraception par les jeunes afin d’assurer le bien-être de la mère et de l’enfant. Et si leurs messages s’inscrivent dans le contexte du mariage quel que soit le pays, l’accès à la contraception pour tous les jeunes, y compris ceux non-mariés, est pris en compte dans les politiques de pays laïcs comme le Mali ou la RCA. Au Mali, des campagnes annuelles offrent les services de PF à toutes les utilisatrices sans restriction, en cohérence avec les principes de non-discrimination, particulièrement pour les jeunes, avec l’appui des PTF.

Tous les panélistes reconnaissent l’importance d’informer la communication sur la PF avec des données probantes – telles que celles des enquêtes nationales Enquête Démographique et Santé (EDS) et Enquête en grappes à multiples indicateurs (MICS) – mais constatent qu’elles restent insuffisantes pour alimenter les dialogues et le plaidoyer. Les données existantes, souvent quantitatives et informant sur un temps donné, ne permettent pas de comprendre la dynamique de l’utilisation de la contraception par les jeunes. Des analyses secondaires des données nationales peuvent aider à expliquer l’abandon de la contraception et à comprendre l’impact des effets secondaires afin d’améliorer les messages tant pour les décideurs politiques que pour la communauté. Elles sont également importantes pour démontrer, par exemple, le rôle la PF pour la réduction de la mortalité maternelle et néonatale et des grossesses précoces. La nécessité d’un cadre de gouvernance et de coordination des données produites par les EÉtats et les PTF a été également soulignée. Les PTF sont encouragés à publier sur leurs sites les données qu’ils produisent pour un meilleur suivi des engagements dans le cadre du PO et de FP2030.

29 mars 2022 : renforcer la position des dirigeants communautaires en tant qu’alliés en faveur d’une utilisation continue des méthodes contraceptives chez les jeunes.

La recommandation politique sur la reconnaissance des besoins propres aux jeunes et celle sur la disponibilité d’une gamme complète de contraceptifs ont été spécifiquement discutées. Les panélistes (Ministère de la santé, organisation des jeunes et PTF) ont relevé les progrès réalisés, tels que l’approbation du programme d’éducation aux valeurs et à la santé sexuelle au Togo, la promotion par les autorités de RDC d’espaces conviviaux “jeunes” dans les structures de santé et la communauté, ou encore que les lois SR de leurs pays (Mali, RDC, Sénégal et Togo) intègrent l’utilisation de la contraception par les jeunes.  Cependant, ce cadre légal reste insuffisant ou fait face aux pesanteurs socio-culturelles. En RDC, la loi restreint le choix des méthodes contraceptives accessibles sans l’autorisation des parents pour les 15-17 ans, et interdit l’accès sans consentement parental aux moins de 15 ans. Au Mali ou au Togo, la faible compétence des prestataires de santé en counseling adapté aux jeunes, les préjugés, leur fréquentation des centres de santé et l’influence de leaders religieux conservateurs représentent des obstacles majeurs. Malgré l’engagement croissant de la société civile et des chefs religieux, les barrières socio-culturelles demeurent. Le constat est unanime quant à l’absence d’améliorations notables pour l’accès des jeunes à la contraception et sur la nécessité impérative de renforcer leur reconnaissance et leur implication comme acteurs à part entière des processus de formulation des politiques et programmes.

Conclusion/Recommandations

Le paysage politique des pays du PO demeure peu favorable à l’utilisation durable de la contraception par les jeunes. Malgré des progrès en termes d’engagements forts et d’adoption de textes règlementaires, les jeunes font face à plusieurs défis pour accéder durablement à une méthode contraceptive moderne quand et où ils le souhaitent. Les restrictions fondées sur l’âge, le coût, les préjugés des prestataires sont autant d’obstacles qui doivent disparaître. Face à cette situation récurrente, la participation des jeunes n’est pas optionnelle. Ils représentent la majeure partie de la population et doivent être pleinement impliqués dans la formulation des politiques qui les concernent et qui construisent leur futur. Ils doivent disposer du savoir nécessaire pour être entendus et assurer la prise en compte effective de leurs besoins spécifiques. Acteurs à part entière de la communauté, ils sont les alliés des gouvernements. Dans des sociétés fondamentalement guidées par la foi, les chefs religieux sont une force pour renforcer le dialogue et démystifier les fausses croyances. Leur collaboration avec les jeunes pour provoquer des changements positifs dans la communauté doit alors être soutenue pour amplifier une communication pertinente basée sur des données probantes, utilisant des messages adaptés et partagés par tous.

Ressources clés

Les ressources suivantes du projet PACE ont été partagées au cours de la série de webinaires :

  • Note de politique – Meilleures pratiques pour l’utilisation durable des contraceptifs chez les jeunes : cette note de politique décrit les modèles d’abandon de la contraception chez les jeunes et résume les preuves sur les facteurs d’abandon, à savoir les préoccupations liées à la méthode et la qualité des soins. Il présente une nouvelle analyse des principaux éléments d’insatisfaction à l’égard des services de PF chez les jeunes qui peuvent contribuer à l’arrêt de la contraception. Elle décrit les stratégies politiques et programmatiques qui peuvent améliorer la continuation contraceptive chez les jeunes femmes qui souhaitent prévenir, retarder ou espacer les grossesses.
  • Une présentation ENGAGE – Renforcer la confiance des communautés et le dialogue avec elles sur la foi, les mutilations génitales féminines et la planification familiale (Mauritanie) : PRB a collaboré avec l’Association des Gestionnaires pour le Développement (AGD) et le Cadre des Religieux pour la Santé et le Développement (CRSD) pour réunir un groupe multidisciplinaire engagé pour l’espacement des naissances chez les couples mariés et l’abandon de la pratique des mutilations génitales féminines et l’excision en Mauritanie. Ce groupe multidisciplinaire est constitué par des représentants du Ministère de la santé, les leaders religieux, les jeunes et les PTF. Il a validé le développement et la production d’une vidéo destinée aux leaders religieux et aux jeunes de la Mauritanie et du Sahel. Le but de la vidéo est de catalyser le dialogue régional et national sur les intersections positives entre la religion islamique et les besoins de santé reproductive et du bien-être des femmes et des jeunes de la Mauritanie. Elle montre les formes de collaboration possibles entre les leaders religieux et les jeunes afin de créer un environnement favorable aux politiques et programmes de santé reproductive des jeunes.
  • Une présentation ENGAGE – Rien N’est Tabou ! (Région du Sahel) :la présentation ENGAGE montre comment les communautés religieuses et les jeunes dans le Sahel peuvent œuvrer ensemble à faire avancer l’avenir de la région en promouvant un dialogue franc et ouvert et en encourageant en priorité la tolérance sociale. Elle souligne comment les leaders religieux peuvent se servir de leur influence de manière positive pour condamner les pratiques de mariage d’enfants et de mutilations génitales féminines. La présentation renforce également le message selon lequel les leaders religieux de la région sont disposés à encourager l’usage de la planification familiale chez les jeunes couples mariés et à soutenir les programmes d’éducation à la vie familiale.
  • Une présentation ENGAGE – Le Sénégal s’Engage : la Religion et la Santé familiale : Il s’agit d’un outil de plaidoyer pour relier les questions de santé reproductive et de planification familiale aux attitudes et croyances confessionnelles. S’appuyant sur des chefs communautaires et religieux, la présentation relie les impacts de la planification familiale et de l’espacement des naissances à des résultats positifs pour les soins, la nutrition et l’éducation des enfants ainsi que pour les ressources naturelles. La présentation illustre comment la planification familiale améliore la santé des mères et des enfants et contribue au bien-être des familles sénégalaises. En décomposant des concepts complexes et en utilisant un langage non technique, la présentation montre comment les chefs religieux du Sénégal peuvent guider les familles afin qu’elles puissent mener une vie spirituelle, heureuse et saine.
  • Analyse du paysage politique – Rapide analyse de l’environnement politique de l’utilisation durable de la contraception chez les jeunes : Le document d’analyse de paysage politique présente l’état de la mise en œuvre des sept recommandations de la note de politique dans les neuf pays du PO. Chaque recommandation est déclinée en critères auxquels des indicateurs sont attribués. La revue des documents politiques et de programmes a permis d’attribuer à chaque indicateur une notation. La méthode d’analyse des indicateurs a tenu essentiellement compte de l’accessibilité immédiate ou pas d’une jeune de 15-24 ans dans le besoin des services de PF. La notation retenue pour chaque indicateur est donc : Oui ou Non. L’objectif du document est de mettre à la disposition des acteurs de plaidoyers des informations et des données issues des documents nationaux pour alimenter leurs messages et leurs dialogues avec les décideurs politiques.

Webinaire 1 : soutenir le recours à la contraception chez les jeunes dans le contexte des engagements envers FP2030

Modératrice : Madame Aissata Fall, Représentante Régionale pour l’Afrique de l’Ouest et du Centre – PRB

Panélistes :

  1. Madame Fatou Diop, membre fondatrice du Cadre Consultatif des organisations de la société civile jeune du Sénégal et point focal jeunes du Sénégal de FP2030
  2. Dr Simon Mambo, co-fondateur/directeur exécutif, Alliance des Jeunes pour la Santé de la reproduction (YARH), RDC
  3. Dr Siré Camara, Cheffe de Division PF à la Direction Nationale de la santé familiale et de la nutrition (DNSFN) au Ministère de la Santé et de l’Hygiène Publique, Guinée

Webinaire 2 : renforcer les partenariats avec les leaders de la jeunesse et les chefs religieux afin d’améliorer l’accès des jeunes à la planification familiale

Modératrice : Madame Célia d’Almeida, Consultante en communication – Directrice ODEKA Médias & Formations

Panélistes :

  1. Monsieur Aly Kébé, membre du réseau des jeunes ambassadeurs SR/PF en Mauritanie
  2. Imam Abdallah Sarr, Secrétaire Générale de l’Association Mains de la fraternité en Mauritanie
  3. Dr Ben Moulaye Idriss, Directeur Général de l’Office National de la Santé de la Reproduction (ONASR), Mali
  4. Dr Konan Jules Yao, Représentant Adjoint, UNFPA RCA

Webinaire 3 : promouvoir les programmes politiques grâce à des dialogues communautaires éclairés

Modératrice : Madame Célia d’Almeida, Consultante en communication – Directrice ODEKA Médias & Formations

Panélistes :

  1. Madame Hayathe Ayeva, Jeune leaders, Ambassadrice SR/PF, Togo
  2. Madame Marlène Quenum, Présidente de l’ONG Allô Bénin, Chargée de l’organisation de la coalition des organisations de la société civile du Bénin
  3. Cheikh Elh Oumarou Mahaman Bachir, Président de l’Alliance des Religieux de l’Afrique de l’Ouest, Niger
  4. Monsieur Aliou Diop, Président de l’Association des Gestionnaires pour le Développement, point focal PF2030 pour la société civile, Mauritanie
  5. Dr Koudaogo Ouédraogo, Représentant Résident, UNFPA RCA

Webinaire 4 : renforcer la position des dirigeants communautaires en tant qu’alliés en faveur d’une utilisation continue des méthodes contraceptives chez les jeunes

Modératrice : Madame Aïssata Fall, Représentante Régionale pour l’Afrique de l’Ouest et du Centre – PRB

Panélistes :

  1. Madame Sorofing Traoré, point focal jeunes UCPO/FP2030 Mali
  2. Dr Alice Ndjoka, Directrice Adjointe, Programme National de la Santé de la Reproduction, Ministère de la Santé Publique, Hygiène et Prévention, R.D.C
  3. Madame Aminatou Sar, Directrice du Hub Afrique de l’Ouest et du bureau Sénégal de PATH
  4. Dr Bwato N’sindi, Spécialiste Technique, MH/RHCS Chef de l’unité Santé Sexuelle et Reproduction, UNFPA Togo
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Webinar Series Recap: Youth, Faith, and Contraception in Francophone Africa

Introduction

In Francophone Africa, young people ages 15 to 24 have difficulty accessing quality family planning (FP) information and services. In addition, they have a higher contraceptive discontinuation rate than older women and are particularly sensitive to adverse effects.  In March 2022, PRB convened a series of four webinars as a follow-up to the dialogue initiated in 2021 on sustainable youth contraceptive use. This webinar series was supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded PACE project, in collaboration with Knowledge SUCCESS. The series brought together representatives from the Ministries of Health of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Guinea, and Mali, youth organizations, religious leaders, and technical and financial partners (TFPs) committed to improving FP access for youth. Panelists discussed sustainable FP access for youth based on a PACE analysis of the policy landscape in the Ouagadougou Partnership (OP) countries. Project-developed communication tools designed to strengthen the evidence-based dialogue on FP for youth supported the discussions.

Summary of Webinar Sessions

March 8, 2022: Sustaining Youth Contraceptive Use in the Context of FP2030 Commitments

The policy landscape for sustainable youth contraceptive use in the nine OP countries was analyzed based on seven recommendations outlined in a 2021 PRB policy brief. These recommendations aim to ensure that every young person has access, without discrimination, to the contraceptive method of their choice when and where they want it. A review of policy and regulatory documents from different countries, including FP2030 commitments, reproductive health laws, and National Budgeted Family Planning Action Plans, shows that overall, the policy environment in countries remains unsupportive of youth sustainable contraceptive use. Most countries recognize youth as a special needs group, but affordability, personalized follow-up, and access to the full range of contraceptives, especially self-administered methods, are largely inadequate. Panelists discussed priorities for their respective countries.

In Guinea, insufficient domestic resources, the sociocultural context, and the lack of youth-friendly services are the obstacles to overcome. The availability of a full range of contraceptive products was identified as a key issue, which is currently being addressed through a commitment to expand the supply of products in school infirmaries, the private sector, and military garrisons. This dynamic is also based on collaboration with civil society organizations, TFPs, and the active participation of young people.

In Senegal, addressing the diversity of youth needs was identified as a priority, considering their heterogeneity in terms of age, marital status, and living situation.  Youth organizations will seize the opportunity of the new National Budgeted Family Planning Action Plans to improve access to contraception for unmarried youth who are ignored in the current documents. Finally, the Democratic Republic of Congo (a country outside the OP) is prioritizing easy access to contraception in the private sector. Youth organizations there have conducted data-informed advocacy for the recognition of the specific needs of youth and obtained the signature of the provincial government on a decree supporting a five-year plan for youth access to contraception that emphasizes the importance of client-centered care.

March 14 and 24, 2022: Strengthening Partnerships With Youth and Religious Leaders to Improve Youth Access to Family Planning Through Informed Community Dialogue

The role of religious leaders in demystifying the taboos around FP for youth and reinforcing an evidence-informed dialogue is amply demonstrated. Videos produced by the PACE project in collaboration with religious leaders and youth in the Sahel illustrated the commitment of various religious denominations in promoting youth contraceptive use to ensure the well-being of the mother and child. And while their messages are framed in the context of marriage in any country, access to contraception for all youth, including unmarried youth, is included in the policies of secular countries such as Mali and the Central African Republic. In Mali, annual campaigns offer FP services to all users without restriction, in accordance with the principles of non-discrimination, particularly for young people, with the support of TFPs.

All panelists recognized the importance of informing FP communication with evidence – such as national Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) and Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) data – but noted that it remains insufficient to inform dialogue and advocacy. Existing data, often quantitative and time-specific, do not provide insight into the dynamics of youth contraceptive use. Secondary analyses of country data can help explain contraceptive discontinuation and convey the impact of side effects to improve messaging for both policymakers and the community. They are also important to demonstrate, for example, the role of FP in reducing maternal and neonatal mortality and early pregnancy. Panelists emphasized the need for a framework for governance and coordination of data produced by states and TFPs. The TFPs were encouraged to publish the data they produce on their sites for better monitoring of commitments in the OP and FP2030 frameworks.

March 29, 2022: Reinforcing Community Leaders as Allies for Continued Youth Contraceptive Use

Policy recommendations from the brief regarding recognizing the unique needs of youth and on the availability of a full range of contraceptives were specifically discussed. The panelists (Ministry of Health, youth organizations, and TFPs) noted the progress made, such as approval of the values and sexual health education program in Togo, promotion by DRC authorities of “youth-friendly” spaces in health facilities and the community, and inclusion of the use of contraception by youth in the reproductive health laws of their respective countries (DRC, Mali, Senegal, and Togo).  However, this legal context remains insufficient or is subject to sociocultural constraints. In the DRC, the law restricts 15-to-17-year-olds’ choice of contraceptive methods that can be accessed without parental authorization and prohibits access without parental consent for those under 15. In Mali and Togo, prejudice, health care providers’ lack of youth-friendly counseling skills, and the influence of conservative religious leaders are major obstacles. Despite the growing commitment of civil society and religious leaders, sociocultural barriers remain. Agreement is unanimous that no significant improvement in youth access to contraception has been made, underscoring the need to strengthen recognition and involvement of youth as full-fledged actors in policy and program formulation processes.

Conclusion/Recommendations

The policy landscape in OP countries remains unsupportive of youth sustainable contraceptive use. Despite progress in terms of strong commitments and the adoption of regulations, young people face several challenges in gaining sustainable access to a modern contraceptive method when and where they want it. Restrictions based on age, cost, and provider bias are all obstacles that must be overcome. Given this persistent situation, meaningful youth participation cannot be considered optional. Youth represent the majority of the population and must be fully involved in the formulation of policies that affect them and build their future. They must have the necessary knowledge to be heard and to ensure that their specific needs are effectively taken into account. As full-fledged actors in the community, they are the allies of governments. In societies fundamentally guided by faith, religious leaders are a force for strengthening dialogue and debunking false beliefs. Religious leaders’ collaboration with youth to bring about positive change in the community must be supported to amplify relevant evidence-based communication, using messages that are appropriate and shared by all.

Key Resources

The following PACE project resources were shared during the webinar series:

  • Policy brief—Best Practices for Sustainable Contraceptive Use Among Youth: This policy brief describes patterns of contraceptive discontinuation among youth and summarizes the evidence on the drivers of discontinuation, namely method concerns and quality of care. It presents a new analysis of key elements of dissatisfaction with FP services among youth that may contribute to contraceptive discontinuation. It describes policy and programmatic strategies that can improve contraceptive continuation among young women who want to prevent, delay, or space pregnancies.
  • An ENGAGE presentation—Building Community Confidence and Dialogue on Faith, Female Genital Mutilation, and Family Planning (Mauritania): PRB collaborated with the Association des Gestionnaires pour le Développement (AGD) and the Cadre des Religieux pour la Santé et le Développement (CRSD) to convene a multidisciplinary group committed to birth spacing among married couples and the abandonment of the practice of female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C) in Mauritania. This multidisciplinary group is made up of representatives from the Ministry of Health, religious leaders, youth, and donors. The group validated the development and production of a video aimed at religious leaders and youth in Mauritania and the Sahel. The purpose of the video is to catalyze regional and national dialogue on the positive intersections between the Islamic religion and the reproductive health and wellness needs of women and youth in Mauritania. It shows possible forms of collaboration between religious leaders and youth to create an enabling environment for youth reproductive health policies and programs.
  • An ENGAGE presentation—Nothing is Taboo! (Sahel Region): The ENGAGE presentation shows how religious communities and youth in the Sahel can work together to advance the future of the region by promoting frank and open dialogue and by prioritizing social tolerance. It highlights how religious leaders can use their influence in a positive way to condemn the practices of child marriage and FGM/C. The presentation also reinforces the message that religious leaders in the region are willing to encourage the use of FP among young married couples and to support family life education programs.
  • An ENGAGE presentation—Senegal is Committed: Religion and Family Health—is an an advocacy tool to link reproductive health and family planning issues to faith-based attitudes and beliefs. Drawing on community and religious leaders, the presentation links the impacts of family planning and birth spacing to positive outcomes for childcare, nutrition, and education, as well as for natural resources. The presentation illustrates how family planning improves maternal and child health and contributes to the well-being of Senegalese families. By breaking down complex concepts and using non-technical language, the presentation shows how religious leaders in Senegal can guide families to lead spiritual, happy, and healthy lives.
  • Rapid analysis—Policy Landscape for Sustaining Youth Contraceptive Use in the Nine Ouagadougou Partnership Countries: The Policy Landscape Analysis presents the status of implementation of the seven recommendations of the policy brief in the nine OP countries. Each recommendation is broken down into criteria to which indicators are assigned. The review of policy and program documents made it possible to assign a rating to each indicator. The method of analysis of the indicators essentially took into account the immediate accessibility or lack of services for a young person ages 15 to 24 in need of FP services. The rating for each indicator was therefore: Yes or No. The objective of the document is to provide advocacy actors with information and data from national documents to inform their messages and their dialogue with policymakers.

Webinar 1: Sustaining Youth Contraceptive Use in the Context of FP2030 Commitments

Moderator: Ms. Aissata Fall, Regional Representative for West and Central Africa – PRB

Panelists:

  1. Fatou Diop, Founding member of FP2030’s consultative group of young civil society organizations, Senegal
  2. Simon Mambo, Co-Founder/Executive Director, Youth Alliance for Reproductive Health, Democratic Republic of the Congo
  3. Siré Camara, Head of the Division of Family Planning at the National Directorate of Family Health and Nutrition (DNSFN) at the Ministry of Health and Hygiene, Guinea

Webinar 2: Reinforcing Partnerships With Youth and Faith Leaders to Improve Youth’s Access to Family Planning

Moderator: Ms. Célia d’Almeida, Communication Consultant – Director at Odeka Media & Training

Panelists:

  1. Aly Kébé, Member of the network of youth SRH/FP ambassadors in Mauritania
  2. Imam Abdallah Sarr, Secretary General of the Hands of Fraternity Association in Mauritania
  3. Ben Moulaye Idriss, Director General of the National Office of Reproductive Health (ONASR), Mali
  4. Konan Jules Yao, Deputy Representative, UNFPA Central African Republic

Webinar 3: Advancing Policy Agendas Through Informed Community Dialogues

Moderator: Ms. Célia d’Almeida, Communication consultant – Director at Odeka Media & Training

Panelists:

  1. Hayathe Ayeva, Young leader and SRH/FP ambassador, Togo
  2. Marlène Quenum, President of Hello Benin NGO, Head of the coalition of civil society organizations of Benin
  3. Cheikh Elh Oumarou Mahaman Bachir, President of the Religious Alliance of West Africa, Niger
  4. Aliou Diop, President of the Association of Managers for Development, FP2030 civil society focal point, Mauritania
  5. Koudaogo Ouédraogo, Resident Representative, UNFPA Central African Republic

Webinar 4: Reinforcing Community Leaders as Allies for Continued Youth Contraceptive Use

Moderator: Ms. Aissata Fall, Regional Representative for West and Central Africa – PRB

Panelists:

  1. Sorofing Traoré, UCPO/FP2030 youth focal point, Mali
  2. Alice Ndjoka, Assistant Director, National Reproductive Health Program at the Ministry of Public Heath, Hygiene, and Prevention, Democratic Republic of the Congo
  3. Aminatou Sar, Director of West Africa Hub and Senegal Office, PATH
  4. Bwato N’sindi, Technical Specialist (MH/RHCS), Head of Sexual and Reproductive Health Unit, UNFPA Togo
Print

Webinaire. Dialogue politique entre Jeunes et Décideurs sur l’utilisation durable de la contraception chez les jeunes en Afrique de l’Ouest

Webinaire

Mercredi 26 mai 2021 – 14H00 à 16H00 GMT

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En collaboration avec le
Réseau des Femmes Sénégalaises pour la Promotion de la Planification Familiale (REFESPF) et le projet Knowledge SUCCESS, le Project PACE, mis en œuvre par PRB, vous invite à un dialogue politique virtuel entre des jeunes leaders et des décideurs politiques.

Ce dialogue est basé sur une note de politique élaborée par PACE, une analyse secondaire de résultats de recherches fournissant des recommandations politiques pour réduire les barrières à l’utilisation durable des contraceptifs par les jeunes.

Cette rencontre a pour objectif de renforcer l’engagement des décideurs régionaux à surmonter les obstacles à l’utilisation durable de la contraception chez les jeunes, et également de créer des liens et des opportunités de collaboration entre les organisations dirigées par des jeunes, les journalistes et les jeunes chercheurs.

 

Les présentations seront suivies d’une table ronde avec :

  • M Rachid Awal, AfriYAN Niger
  • Fatou Diop, Point focal Jeune du Partenariat de Ouagadougou et de FP2030 au Sénégal, Chargée de la recherche à l’ANJSR/PF
  • Honorable Assoupi Amèle Adjeh, Vice-Présidente de la Commission Santé de l’Assemblée Nationale du Togo
  • Angelo Evariste Ahouandjinou, Maire de la commune de Abomey-Calavi du Bénin
  • Dr Siré Camara, Cheffe de Division PF/DNSFN au Ministere de la santé de Guinée Conakry
  • Mme Fatimata Sanou Toure, Magistrat et Experte en genre et en Droit de la Santé Sexuelle et Reproductive du Burkina Faso

 

Modéré par :

Aïssata Fall, Conseillère Régionale Afrique de l’Ouest et du Centre, PRB

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