Category Archives: demographics

How Many Cows Are There on Earth?

A little over a week ago, President Biden loaded up Air Force One and several other jets with cabinet members, staffers, and quite a few other gas-guzzling vehicles to travel to Glasgow, Scotland for a two-day climate conference aimed at reducing global carbon dioxide emissions. At the conference, Biden made the point of targeting methane emissions, including emissions from livestock, which generally means "cow flatulence".

That brings up the question of how big of a problem is that? Specifically, how many cows are there producing methane emissions on Earth, and of those, how many are in the United States?

We dug up the numbers, which we've presented in the following chart!

World Population of Cattle and Calves, 2021

There are over one billion cattle and calves on Earth. The nation with the largest number of cattle is India, with 305.5 million. Brazil is second with 252.7 million and China is third with 95.6 million. The U.S. ranks fourth in the world, with 93.6 million cattle and calves, as of 1 January 2021.

We then dug out the historic cattle inventory for the United States, which has annual data going back to 1867, and decade census data going back to 1840. Here's a chart showing the historic population of cattle and calves in the U.S. over that time.

Cattle Population in United States, 1840-2021

The population of cattle and calves in the U.S. peaked at 132 million in 1975. Since then, the population has decreased by 29% to reach 2021's surveyed population of 93.6 million. The U.S. accounts for 9.3% of the world's population of cattle.


Cook, Rob. World Cattle Inventory by Country. Beef Market Central. [Online Article]. 5 November 2021.

U.S. Census Bureau. United States Census of Agriculture: 1954. Volume 2. Part 6. Table 1. Cattle - Number Shown by the Census on Specified dates of Enumeration in Relation to Cyclical Changes Indicated by Annual Estimates of January 1 Inventories by Agricultural Marketing Service, for the United States. [PDF Document]. 6 February 1954.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service. Livestock and Poultry: World Markets and Trade. Cattle Stocks - Top Countries Summary. [PDF Document]. 12 October 2021.

U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service. Livestock Historic Data. [Online Database: Survey - Animals & Products - Livestock - Cattle - Inventory - Cattle, Incl Calves - Inventory - Total - National - US Total - 1867-2021 - Point in Time - First of Jan.]. Accessed 9 November 2021.

How 2020’s Coronavirus Pandemic Affected Spending in the U.S.

The arrival of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States in March 2020 and, perhaps more significantly, the lockdown measures that state and local governments imposed on Americans as their response had a major impact on how Americans spent money in 2020.

That much is evident from the results of the 2020 Consumer Expenditure Survey, which saw the average annual expenditures of American "consumer units" drop by 2.7% from their 2019 level. "Consumer units" is the affectionate nickname given by the BLS' data jocks to what are predominantly made up of U.S. households. Our first chart featuring data from the 2020 CEX survey shows that measure for each year from 1984 through 2020.

Average Annual Expenditures per Household Consumer Unit, 1984-2020

That's the big picture, but the Consumer Expenditure Survey breaks down the average annual expenditures of U.S. household consumer units into major categories of spending. Our second chart show the amount of spending from 1984 through 2020 for housing; transportation; life insurance, pension savings and Social Security; health expenditures and medical expenses; entertainment; charitable contributions; apparel and other products; and finally education, to rank them from largest to smallest.

Major Categories of Average Annual Expenditures per U.S. Household Consumer Unit, 1984-2020

The major categories of spending that rose in 2020 include housing; life insurance, pension savings and Social Security; and finally charitable contributions. Every other category fell, with the largest declines in expenditures for transportation; food; and apparel and other products.

This outcome confirms the extended negative impact of the various lockdown measures imposed by state and local governments. What's important to recognize here is that they continued in much of the country well beyond the two month-long recession that arrived when large population states first mandated their residents stay at home and shuttered businesses in March 2020 during the first wave of coronavirus infections in the U.S.

Our next chart presents the share of each of the major categories of household spending as a percentage of total annual average expenditures.

Percent Share of Major Categories of Average Annual Expenditures per U.S. Household Consumer Unit, 1984-2020

The most significant item here is housing, which jumped to represent 35% of the average American consumer unit household's spending, an all-time high for the data series.

Our final chart stacks all these major categories of household spending together to assemble the full picture of how the spending of American consumer unit households has changed each year from 1984 through 2020.

Major Categories of Consumer Spending as Share of Average Annual Total Expenditures, 1984-2020

This last chart is one of our favorites, in part because the colors convey which major categories of spending have generally risen over time (the purple-shaded components) or fallen over time (the green-shaded components).

We'll be exploring the wealth of data contained within the 2020 Consumer Expenditure Survey more over the next several weeks.


U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Consumer Expenditure Survey. Multiyear Tables. [PDF Documents: 1984-1991, 1992-1999, 2000-2005, 2006-2012, 2013-2020]. Accessed 9 September 2021. 

Teens, Young Adults on Different Pandemic Job Recovery Tracks

U.S. teens are leading the coronavirus pandemic recession job recovery. But why?

Conor Sen runs through a number of contributing factors that have led to this remarkable outcome:

What makes teenage employment useful to study right now is that teenagers are less affected by the factors holding back labor supply than any other demographic. If they lived at home with their parents, they weren’t eligible for economic impact payments. If they were full-time students, they’d be ineligible for unemployment insurance, making enhanced benefits a nonfactor. They’re unlikely to be parents squeezed out of the labor force by closed schools or a lack of child care. They’re obviously not older workers who may have accelerated retirement plans during the pandemic. And teens were less likely to get seriously ill from Covid-19, and so perhaps less likely to avoid working for health-related reasons.

Barry Ritholtz offers a competing theory:

In 2007, before the great financial crisis, the national minimum wage level was a paltry $5.15. This was not all that long ago. For a teenager with even the most modest withholding / FICA, their take-home is so small it’s not worth it to work. You can see that in the trends over the preceding decades. By most measures — productivity, profitability, inflation, exec comp — the minimum wage has lagged badly. Teens did the math, and said WTF, why bother?

But the minimum wage began to rise during the financial crisis despite skyrocketing unemployment. It was raised in 2008, and then in 2009, and again in 2010. Post GFC, it’s been $7.25 an hour.

Not coincidentally, at exactly that time, the labor participation rate of teenagers began trending upwards. Today, it’s even higher than it was before the pandemic began. Maybe it’s boredom, perhaps some teens just want out of the house where they’ve been stuck with mom and dad and their siblings during the past year.

Or just maybe, local employers are raising wages sufficiently to make summer jobs attractive to teens.

That is an interesting hypothesis and one we can easily investigate. Starting with the Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2020 report on the characteristics of minimum wage workers, which reports that 1,112,000 Americans earned the federal minimum wage or less in 2020. Of these, 222,000 were teens from Ages 16 through 19. Teens therefore accounted for nearly one in five minimum wage workers, the second largest group by age in the U.S.

The largest age group for minimum wage workers is young adults, Age 20 through 24. In 2020, they accounted for 307,000 minimum wage workers, or nearly 28% of the total. Together, teens and young adults represent just under 48% of all those earning the U.S. federal minimum wage or less.

If the hypothesis that local employers offering higher-than-federal minimum wage is what is drawing teens into the U.S. labor force holds, it stands to reason that young adults would be likewise motivated to enter or re-enter the job market for the exact same reason, since they make up a larger share of minimum wage workers. That would be especially true during the last several months when employers have responded to a shortage of labor by boosting wages.

The following chart reveals what happened during that time for both teens (Age 16-19) and young adults (Age 20-24). For good measure, we're showing the data from January 2007 through May 2021 to capture Barry's period of interest, which confirms the data for both groups generally follow the same patterns, but we'll be focusing on more recent months in our analysis.

Percentage of U.S. Population Employed, Age 16-19 and Age 20-24, January 2007 - May 2021

The employment-to-population ratio of teens and young adults peaked in February 2020, just ahead of the arrival of the coronavirus recession in the United States. The percentage of employed for both groups plunged before bottoming in April 2020, after which both saw a steady recovery through October 2020. The onset of the second wave of coronavirus infections through the end of 2020 saw that recovery stall, with overall employment-to-population ratios holding relatively steady during this period.

The data for both groups begins to diverge after January 2020, with the employed share of young adults holding steady while the employed share of teens has risen. Since this period coincides with increased demand for labor and rising wages, the absence of an increase in the share of young adults becoming employed in this period means we can reject the hypothesis that teens only sought jobs when entry level wages rose higher than the federal minimum wage.

As for what has led to this situation, we're afraid that employment data is subject to an abundance of confounding factors, which makes determining which factors are significant difficult to untangle. We think Conor Sen's analysis pointing to teens' ineligiblity for pandemic unemployment benefits deserves greater consideration, especially since teens and young adults aren't very different from one another with respect to the other factors he mentions.

We would also suggest investigating to what extent employers desperate to fill jobs may have lowered their standards for new hires. If we're talking about standards that favored previous experience, training, or education in hiring, then we may have a good candidate for explaining why teens and not young adults are leading the job recovery in 2021.


U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey. Employed persons and employment-population ratios by age. [Online Database]. Accessed 14 June 2021.

U.S. Teens Lead Coronavirus Recession Job Recovery by Age Group

U.S. teens have become the first demographic group to fully recover their pre-coronavirus pandemic recession job levels as measured by percentage of the population employed.

That surprising result is visible in the following chart, we've tracked the non-seasonally adjusted employment-to-population ratio the various 5-year age group cohorts whose employment status is tracked through the Current Population Survey. The chart covers the period from January 2017 through May 2021, where February 2020 represents the last month before existing trends were broken by the negative employment impact of the coronavirus pandemic arriving in the United States.

Percentage of U.S. Population Employed by Age Group, January 2017 - May 2021

In the next chart, we're showing three separate snapshots in time, for February 2020 (before), April 2020 (the bottom), and May 2021 (the latest data at this writing). The chart makes it very easy to see that the employed share of the teen population has surpassed its pre-coronavirus level, unlike every other age demographic group.

Post-Coronavirus Recession Employment to Population Ratio Job Recovery by Age Group, Snapshots on February 2020, April 2020, and May 2021

With respect to all other age groups, teens are the least educated, least skilled, and least experienced segment of the U.S. labor force. And yet, this demographic group has the first to recover to its pre-coronavirus recession level of employment. We'll explore the possible reasons for that in an upcoming post.


U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey. Employed persons and employment-population ratios by age. [Online Database]. Accessed 14 June 2021.

COVID and the Magnitude of the Border Migration Crisis in Arizona

How many migrants have unlawfully crossed the U.S. border into Arizona during the Biden-Harris border migration crisis?

That's a question we realized we might be able to answer using the state's detailed COVID-19 data after seeing the surge in detentions along the southwestern border since January 2021. The trick to doing that lies in converting the number of excess COVID-19 cases in the state arising from the incoming migrants into a back-of-the-envelope estimate of their total number.

We've previously estimated that from 19 February 2021 through 30 April 2021, Arizona has recorded at least 8,150 excess COVID-19 cases because of the border migration crisis, as shown in the following chart, based on the difference between Arizona's first and second troughs following its recorded peaks in COVID cases:

Comparing Arizona's First and Second Wave COVID Troughs

That number includes the incoming migrants and also Arizona residents who might have been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus from their encounters with any infected migrants who entered Arizona during these months, where the real number would be a percentage of that figure. That's something we can reasonably estimate. Once we have that number, we can divide it by the percentage of migrants in the U.S. government's detention facilities with COVID-19, which the Federal Emergency Management Agency indicated was "less than 6% positive" in mid-March 2021. Doing so will give us an estimate of the number of "surplus" migrants who have entered Arizona during the border migration crisis.

The rest is as easy as building a tool to do that math. Which we did, so you can supply the one missing piece of information we don't have: the percentage of Arizona's excess COVID-19 cases represented by the incoming migrants. We've set a conservative estimate default value of 50% in the following tool, which you can change as appropriate. Then click the "Calculate" button to generate your estimate (if you're accessing this article that republishes our RSS news feed, please click here to access a working version on our site).

Arizona's Excess COVID Data
Input Data Values
Excess Number of COVID Cases in Arizona During Border Migration Crisis
Percentage of Excess Cases Represented by Incoming Migrants
Percentage of Migrants Testing Positive for COVID in Detention Centers

Estimated Surplus Migrants Entering Arizona
Calculated Results Estimates
Surplus Migrants Entering Arizona During Border Migration Crisis

Using the 50% default value, we estimate some 67,916 surplus migrants entered Arizona since the end of January 2021. That's a little shy of 1% of Arizona's estimated 2020 population of 7.4 million. If the percentage is higher, it's no wonder the Biden-Harris administration is taking steps to contain the negative impacts from its policies.

The following 15-minute video report describes how ICE's mishandling of COVID-19 fueled outbreaks around the country:

Many of the factors described in the video report have played out in Arizona since early February 2021 with the Biden-Harris administration's border migration crisis.