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Yale research on immigration, aging runners makes news

Edward KaplanA recent study by Yale University professor and former INFORMS President Edward H. Kaplan (photo) and Yale colleague Jonathan Feinstein and Mohammad M. Fazel-Zarandi of MIT suggests that the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States is nearly twice as many as experts previously thought. Since its publication last month, the study, which estimates the number of such immigrants at 22.1 million instead of 11.3 million, has garnered worldwide attention from major media outlets including the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, Fox News, Bloomberg News and the Daily Mail.

The study, which provides an estimated range of undocumented immigrants between 16 million and 29 million with 22.1 million as the mean, is based on demographic modeling with data from 1990 to 2016. The authors are quick to point out, as Kaplan did in an appearance on “Fox and Friends,” that their research does not indicate that the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. is suddenly exploding. To the contrary, the research shows that the greatest growth of undocumented immigrants occurred in the 1990s through the mid-2000s, that it was vastly undercounted at the time, and that the number has remained relatively stable over the past decade.

As the Yale School of Management’s Insights notes, the approach in the new research was based on operational data, such as deportations, visa overstays and demographic data, including death rates and immigration rates. “We combined these data using a demographic model that follows a very simple logic,” Kaplan explains. “The population today is equal to the initial population plus everyone who came in minus everyone who went out. It’s that simple.”

Kaplan adds, “The analysis we’ve done can be thought of as estimating the size of a hidden population. People who are undocumented immigrants are not walking around with labels on their foreheads. Neither are populations of homeless people, neither are populations of drug users, and neither are populations of terrorists. Yet for policy, it is very important to know the size of these hidden populations because that sets the scale of the problem in each of these different policy areas.”

Another study co-authored by Kaplan – this one co-authored with Yale economist Ray Fair and focused on running and aging – served as the basis for an Oct. 3 article (“We Slow as We Age, but May Not Need to Slow Too Much”) in the New York Times by Gretchen Reynolds.

“The new analysis, which refines famous past research by one of the scientists [Fair], finds that, although declines in running performance with age are ineluctable, they may be less steep than many of us fear,” Reynolds writes. “And, perhaps most important, the new research updates a popular formula and calculator that runners past the age of 40 can use to determine how fast we can expect to slow down and provides us with reasonable, age-appropriate finishing-time targets for ourselves.”

As part of their research, Fair and Kaplan analyzed data on world masters running records for men ages 35 to 95 for the 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon events. (The data on women runners was limited and statistically suspect.)

“The complicated calculations indicate that current world records for older runners theoretically could drop by as much as 8 percent in the future, Dr. Kaplan says, providing all of us new benchmarks for our own aging performance,” the Times article concludes.

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