Demography is not Destiny

by Kieran Healy on March 15, 2006

A bit of nonsense from Philip Longman by way of Daniel Drezner, about how conservatives are going to out-reproduce liberals:

It’s a pattern found throughout the world, and it augers a far more conservative future — one in which patriarchy and other traditional values make a comeback … Childlessness and small families are increasingly the norm today among progressive secularists. As a consequence, an increasing share of all children born into the world are descended from a share of the population whose conservative values have led them to raise large families. … This dynamic helps explain the gradual drift of American culture toward religious fundamentalism and social conservatism. Among states that voted for President Bush in 2004, the average fertility rate is more than 11% higher than the rate of states for Sen. John Kerry. … Tomorrow’s children, therefore, unlike members of the postwar baby boom generation, will be for the most part descendants of a comparatively narrow and culturally conservative segment of society. To be sure, some members of the rising generation may reject their parents’ values, as often happens. But when they look for fellow secularists with whom to make common cause, they will find that most of their would-be fellow travelers were quite literally never born.

There are several standard objections to this kind of line. One is that it’s always been with us: someone’s always worried that group x are breeding like flies. (Indeed, Longman even quotes Oswald Spengler on the decline of civilization by way of reproductive enervation.) A second is that it ignores the dynamics of rebellion against one’s parents. Longman tries to avoid this one by saying that prospective liberal rebels from conservative families will have no secularist “fellow-travelers” to back them up, but why should they need them in the first place? Third, the terms “conservative” and “liberal” are moving targets. Even assuming all the kids of conservative parents grow up relatively conservative, does this mean they’ll hold the same substantive views as their forebears? Insofar as there has been any drift in generally shared ideas, it seems to have been in the direction of adopting views that would have been considered liberal or radical in previous generations, not ones that would have been thought conservative or reactionary. Finally, as Simmel and Durkheim pointed out, in modern societies more people means more differentiation, more differentiation means more social roles, and roles are the raw material that you make individual identities from. If Salt Lake City continues to grow and fill with young people, increased heterogeneity (on all kinds of dimensions) is more or less inevitable—even more so if these new people are geographically mobile and well-educated. That doesn’t tell you which political views are likely to thrive or die out or change, but it should make you skeptical of the idea that a stable set of political preferences is likely to become dominant just because one group is having a lot of children.

On the other hand, it would be pretty funny if Longman were right and conservative christianity became dominant in the U.S. for essentially Darwinian reasons of reproductive success and relative fitness.

{ 4 trackbacks }

Tim Worstall
03.16.06 at 4:33 am
Depressing Reproduction Update at I Blame The Patriarchy
03.18.06 at 11:12 am
Fruits and Votes » Blog Archive » Kids, dogs,… what about cats?
03.19.06 at 12:10 pm
Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » Link Farm and Open Thread #14
03.19.06 at 10:19 pm

{ 56 comments }

1

Richard Bellamy 03.15.06 at 12:31 pm

Anyone up for a Phillip Pullman — Ruy Teixiera steel cage death match?

2

Kieran Healy 03.15.06 at 12:39 pm

And after that can we have a Susanna Clarke — Ken Mehlman followup?

3

Sebastian Holsclaw 03.15.06 at 12:41 pm

The moving target point is especially apt. “Conservatives” under the age of 40 are much more gay-friendly than “Conservatives” over the age of 40 for example.

4

abb1 03.15.06 at 12:41 pm

If they move to the cities, then they will gradually turn normal there, become progressive secularists. It’s very difficult to live in a densely populated area and remain religious fundamentalist and social conservative, not for long anyway.

5

burritoboy 03.15.06 at 12:42 pm

Beyond the standard objections, “conservative Christianity” is neither actually conservative nor actually Christianity nor actually traditional. The historic patriarchies Longman points to were highly articulated, coherent, sophisticated worldviews capable of extraordinarily high political and cultural performance.

Modern American “conservative Christianity” is fundamentally incapable of any actual political performance. It is inherently unable to create any profund cultural or artistic artifacts either (at minimum, even the most severe of 17th century Puritans were capable of literary and philosophic achievements that contemporary “conservative Christianity” can’t even begin to understand). It is also inherently completely incoherent, since a mythologized neoclassical economics is messily elevated next to a farcical cartoon version of “Christianity”.

6

Bro. Bartleby 03.15.06 at 12:48 pm

“Childlessness and small families are increasingly the norm today among progressive secularists.”

Oh dear! A most shocking thought! Could the brothers here at the monastery be, in fact, secularists!

Does a pet lizard count?

Bro. Bartleby

7

Hogan 03.15.06 at 1:03 pm

What’s the evidence for this “gradual drift of American culture toward religious fundamentalism and social conservatism”? A couple of narrow and extremely suspect victories in presidential elections? Really, what else is there?

8

roger 03.15.06 at 1:20 pm

Actually, this is very bad news for the cons. If the study quoted by E.J. Dionne in the WAPO today is correct, Bush’s red state victories are powered by the overwhelming support for him in upper middle and upper class Red State households — the poorer you are, the more your tendency to vote Dem in the Red States. The pattern only changes in the Blue states, where higher income people are more evenly split between Dem and Republican. Surely the hightest rate of reproduction in, say, Texas, is among Hispanic laborers instead of white Dallas stockbrokers. As this keeps up, the Red states will become much more competitive. So, LBJ’s long strategy might be vindicated after all. Reproduce, you red staters!

9

madison 03.15.06 at 1:37 pm

rebels from conservative families will have no secularist “fellow-travelers” to back them up, but why should they need them in the first place?

some of my best friends are books.

10

David 03.15.06 at 1:39 pm

Interestingly enough, this calls to mind a major critique of the by-now cliched “conservative churches are growing” meme. It goes like this: If one disaggregates the sources of conservative growth in the 1970s (when the meme first took hold), it turns out to have been primarily a combination of two factors: the higher fertility rate of evangelicals relative to their “mainline” counterparts, and their increasing ability to keep their most successful co-religionists from “trading up” to be Presbyterians or Episcopalians. The latter was more important at the time, because the mainline churches had long had much lower birthrates than the more conservative churches, whose membership tended to be poorer, disproportionately southern, and much less far along in the “demographic transition.” Before the 1970s mainline churches relied heavily on new recruits “trading up” to keep their numbers up (indeed, they still do, albeit to a much lesser extent), but in the flush of postwar prosperity and the economic resurgence of the South, successful evangelicals started remaining evangelical.

Note that this explanation sees no conservative growth from proselytizing, or from poaching disgruntled members from the “liberal” mainline denominations–both favorite explanations put forward by (usually interested) parties. Indeed, mainline churches continue to enjoy a positive “balance of trade” with evangelicals–while losing their young people to secularism or simple uninterest. Furthermore–and here’s the nub of the critique–conservative churches aren’t really growing like they used to, because as evangelicals have become mainstream, their fertility rates have gone down.

And, in the end, this is a major problem with arguments built around extrapolating present trends–things change.

11

Barry 03.15.06 at 2:05 pm

“Tomorrow’s children, therefore, unlike members of the postwar baby boom generation, will be for the most part descendants of a comparatively narrow and culturally conservative segment of society. “

So the baby boom was a violation of the laws of social reproduction, or what?

12

John Faughnan 03.15.06 at 2:14 pm

The Longman post is silly, but there’s something more interesting under the surface. It’s always puzzled me why wealth is so strongly associated with decreased fertility. Twenty years ago I used to study this stuff, and none of the explanations of the time persuaded me. They still don’t.

My best guess is that it’s an evolutionary oddity. We moved so quickly out of our historic milieu that we behave “illogically”, we react to massive surplus by decreasing fertility rather than maximizing it.

Such oddities can’t last. Some will be resistant to the wealth effect, and they will produce many children. Of course their children may also have some resistance … Whether that’s associated with patriarchy or polygamy or whatever would be interesting to see.

Which is to say that the ‘demographic transition’ will turn out to be transitory, and that in 100-200 years wealthy nations would be churning out people too.

Of course the likelihood that the world 100-200 years from now will resemble our own is pretty darned slim …

13

yoyo 03.15.06 at 2:16 pm

‘Evangelical’ style denominations or churches liberalise over time as well.

14

Bracton 03.15.06 at 2:36 pm

Does the Longman analysis also fail if the differing social cross-sections – X-believers and Y-believers – are not assumed to be homogenous masses consisting in more-or-less fungible individuals? In other words, the analysis might still hold if the scope of the differentia between the groups is expanded to include variables such as education/upbringing or national origin. So, for example, the conservative-to-liberal balance in any given pluralistic country will almost invariably be fundamentally altered by international immigration, or, for that matter, private or religious education of non-immigrants

Perhaps I am missing the point, but it seems that divorcing the issue of the conservatisvism/liberalsim balance from a possibly non-homogenous constitutive society upon which it must supervene is a distorting oversimplification. Or perhaps the analysis is only supposed to be true of selected regions…

15

eb 03.15.06 at 3:04 pm

The halfway covenant, I would maintain then, was neither a sign of decline in piety nor a betrayal of the standards of the founding fathers, but an honest attempt to rescue the concept of a church of visible saints from the tangle of problems created in time by human reproduction.

–Edmund Morgan, Visible Saints, The History of a Puritan Idea.

16

Colin Danby 03.15.06 at 3:21 pm

“the gradual drift of American culture away from secular individualism and toward religious fundamentalism”

So the American past was secular? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Awakening
Arguments of this kind also have a hard time explaining where “progressive secularism” came from in the first place … unless it’s a spandrel related to some other adaptive trait … but of course the whole setup here is idiotic.

Anyone who talks about “the gradual drift of American culture” without saying what American culture is, and *how* we make claims about it, is wasting our time.

And how exactly is “progressive” being used here?

17

burritoboy 03.15.06 at 3:33 pm

I ran a quick test model of Longman’s hypothesis with the following assumptions:

liberal birthrate is zero (replacement level)(100 liberals produce 100 adult children)
conservative birthrate is 11% (100 conservatives produce 111 adult children).

liberal and conservative defection rates are equal (liberal parents produce x number of conservative children and vice versa)

Results:

3 generations later (75-100+ years out)(the second generation is still alive, but the third generation is already of voting age). (original cohort is generation 0):

if defection rates are low (10%), only in generations 2+3 are there 10% more conservatives than liberal.

if defection rates are between 25 and 50%, even in generations 2+3, the population is 47%-50%liberal versus 53%-50% conservative, i.e. the effect is largely irrelevant, especially considering likely political changes after 75-100+ years.

The model only produces quick substantive results if conservative birthrates are much, much higher and defection rates are quite low compared to any reasonable extrapolation of the current situation.

18

Jaybird 03.15.06 at 3:36 pm

I don’t know that this is a theory that can be so easily dismissed.

I mean, yeah, if he’s saying that Democrats are, effectively, Shakers then he’s nuts.

If, however, he’s saying that the results of the census are going to give Red States more electoral votes in 2010, I’m not sure that this is so easily dismissed.

19

Jim Harrison 03.15.06 at 3:47 pm

Quite apart from its possible benefit for their political prospects, many conservatives promote population growth. Some of this boosterism for fertility is theocratic (Be Fruitful and Multiply!) and some of it is based on a secular but utopian faith in the limitless ability of technology to meet any level of need (the Caucasian Cargo Cult). In the not very long run, I think reality is going to have something to say about the feasibility of this sort of thing.

20

aretino 03.15.06 at 3:50 pm

I think Longman’s projection of a demographically-fueled conservative future is plausible, and some of the objections here seem like wishful thinking. That said, I see a lot to object to.

His evidence is selective and sometimes not to the point. It seems odd to bring up higher birth rates in more socially conservative states in the USA while neglecting the lower birth rates in the more patriarchal countries in Europe, for instance. In any case, discussing birth rates in terms of red and blue states reeks of the fallacy of composition.

The explanation of the birth-rate differential trend from patriarchy also doesn’t wash. The overwhelming demographic fact of the last century is that women in developed societies have fewer children, and that cuts across all ideologies. Even conservative and religious women have far fewer children on average than the mean among all women a century ago. Birth rates among conservatives have simply stabilized at a higher level than among progressives.

However, the evidence for lower birth rates among progressives and secularists seems solid and consequential.

I’m not really convinced by the arguments that the children will stray from the views of their parents.

I don’t see what reason there is to expect a rebellion against parental views among the new generation. The existence of such rebellion is a cliche, but I’m not aware of any actual evidence for it as a social fact. To me, parental political affiliation has always looked like a very strong predictor for the political affiliation of offspring.

It’s true that the terms conservative and liberal moving targets, but they can move different ways on different issues. At least some polling of young people has shown a conservative trend on abortion, for example.

The notion that larger populations of conservatives will have a tendency to become politically diverse strikes me as simplistic, too. If political affiliation really changed that way, then I have a hard time seeing why New York City has remained so liberal despite being the hoem to 8 million people. Wouldn’t a large number of them sought out “conservative” niches already?

21

burritoboy 03.15.06 at 3:59 pm

“Such oddities can’t last. Some will be resistant to the wealth effect, and they will produce many children.”

You can run the following study:

take a well-documented body of European aristocrats with a substantive cohort of members ennobled within a short time frame – say, the Napoleonic aristocrats (Napoleon ennobled a large number of his army officers and officials into the comparatively much older and more stable general body of French aristocrats). These Napoleonic nobles came from a wide array of classes within society.

We can assume that most of the upper Napoleonic nobles, after ennoblement, were comparatively much richer (or at least had MUCH higher status) than their birth parents – thus, they should be suffering from the wealth effect while the older French aristocracy should have much higher birth-rates at the same time. After time, the Napoleonic familyline birthrates should return to the norm of all French aristocrats.

22

Marc 03.15.06 at 4:16 pm

Any discussion of birthrates in the US that does not include a discussion of immigration is meaningless. There is a substantial fertility difference between immigrants and native citizens, and this has been true in the US for a very long time. The children of immigrants tend towards the national norms.

e.g. most of what he is talking about amounts to allocating the children of Mexican-American Catholics to “red state, religious” and thus claiming a trend towards “conservative, protestant” political views.

23

Doormat 03.15.06 at 4:58 pm

It strikes me that birth rates and politics just operate on different time scales. Birth rates serious affect population over 10s of years (c.f. burritoboy’s analysis); politics can change fairly radically over the 4 year election cycle. As John Faughnan points out, the facts on the ground are going to change in so many (utterly unforseen) ways in the next few generations that I for one wouldn’t like to guess where republicans and democrates will be.

24

SamChevre 03.15.06 at 5:11 pm

burritoboy,

Your numbers are helpful, but the disparity in birth rates is MUCH bigger–my guess would be that it’s 50/200 for college-educated liberals vs college-educated conservatives.

25

burritoboy 03.15.06 at 5:34 pm

Samchevre,

Produce some actual data that supports that (and I don’t see what college has to do with anything) and I’ll work it into the model. Otherwise, the only figures I’ve seen is that conservatives have only a moderately higher birth-rate (which is why I used the 11% suggested in Longman’s piece).

26

burritoboy 03.15.06 at 5:46 pm

I could run a model where there are six groups:

1. ultra-left (5% of pop) with highly negative birthrates, and high defection rates
2. moderate left (20% of pop) with negative birthrates and moderate defection rates
3. liberal (center-left) (25% of pop) with slightly negative birthrates and moderate defection rates
4. center-right (25% of pop) with slightly positive birthrates and moderate defection rates
5. moderate conservative (20% of pop) with slightly more positive birthrates and moderate defection rates
6. ultra-right (5% of pop) with high birthrates and high defection rates

not going to do that this afternoon, however.

27

Andrew 03.15.06 at 8:22 pm

In California, the biggest blue state of the all, the population is still increasing rapidly because of immigration.

28

y81 03.15.06 at 8:55 pm

Why does Kieran say that there has been a drift toward accepting ideas that would have been considered liberal or radical in the past? That might be true with respect to sexual conduct, but surely not with respect to economics: there is much less support not just for Communism, but for government intervention in the economy generally, than there was 50 years ago. And the idea that sexual freedom is more important than socialism would have been deeply offensive to most leftists of 50 years ago.

Of course, over time, things change so much that it is hard to label political actors as liberal or conservative: were the Puritans to the left or to the right of Elizabeth and James?

29

MQ 03.15.06 at 9:25 pm

Utah’s birthrate is about 75% higher than the birthrate in Vermont. That would be a good place to start for the difference between hardcore conservatives vs. hardcore liberals. An 11% difference is way too low.

30

Kieran Healy 03.15.06 at 9:31 pm

Why does Kieran say that there has been a drift toward accepting ideas that would have been considered liberal or radical in the past?

I was thinking in terms of political freedoms, broadly conceived, as well. The point about economics is a fair one — though even here it seems there’s more ebb-and-flow than one way drift.

31

Barry 03.15.06 at 9:58 pm

John Faughnan:

“The Longman post is silly, but there’s something more interesting under the surface. It’s always puzzled me why wealth is so strongly associated with decreased fertility. Twenty years ago I used to study this stuff, and none of the explanations of the time persuaded me. They still don’t.”

If you think of it as a social behavior, reproducing SES/class, it makes sense. upper-class children cost more than lower-class children. Once the lower class is no longer suffering under a Malthusian constraint, then one would expect more children in lower-class families. Upper-class women may have more access to birth control, whether knowledge, medical birth control, or not sleeping with their husbands (who father children on lower-class women).

Those upper-class families who have large numbers of children have to come up with increased resources, or most of those children become middle class.

32

soc anon 03.15.06 at 10:24 pm

Faughnan wrote: “It’s always puzzled me why wealth is so strongly associated with decreased fertility.”

Taking a page from recent arguments in the Inueqlity thread: Sam Walton has a boatload of kids, and he was one of the wealthiest guys around, so that proves wealth isn’t associated with decreased fertility unless you look at the top 10% of wealth holders, which isn’t relevant because kids who grow up with lots of siblings can still make it into the upper classes if they just work really hard and invent stuff…

In all seriousness, comment 27 hits the nail on the head. In terms of political consequences, differential fertility only matters if you assume that the majority of generation t+1 voters have parents who voted at time t. In a country with as much immigration as the US, this assumption seems highly implausible at best. Garbage (assumptions) in, garbage conclusions out.

33

tregetour 03.15.06 at 10:34 pm

While it may be nonsense in the u.s. the basic idea isn’t crazy. Orthodox Jews have a much much higher birthrate than secular Jews. This is very much becoming an issue in Israeli politics.

34

mightyiguana 03.15.06 at 10:39 pm

It is a vicious cycle, by increasing our standards of living, it makes it more expensive to have children but having heatly supply of productive adults makes possible the high standard of living. Take Japan for example, the place is hardly a feminist’s paradise, in fact it is still expected for married women with children to quit working, but the country has a very low birthrate because the standard of living is so high.
It is never exactly clear what demography arguments advocate, because people like Longman never come close to saying that women should quit working and have more kids.
I mean short of forcing women to have more kids which I would not like, or having government mandate paid family leave which I believe makes standard of living even more expensive. We cannot do anything more than depend on immigration.

35

derrida derider 03.15.06 at 10:43 pm

I think that the prospects for conservatism throughout the developed world are (unfortunately) very good, but not for quasi-Darwinian reasons (others have pointed out the fallacies here quite well). Rather, its simple population aging, which is much more pronounced in low-immigration societies like Japan than the US.

The old are generally not very fond of creative destruction.

36

Martha Bridegam 03.15.06 at 11:45 pm

It’s true everywhere that when women have more substantive rights and better education they bear fewer children, and their children, in turn, are less likely to grow up poor. Why shouldn’t it also be true in the U.S.? We are not, after all, exceptions to the human.

Also true, however, is that children are not their parents. This Longman person, for example, clearly does not live in San Francisco, where everyone is from someplace else and had a terrible time in high school.

37

'As you know' Bob 03.15.06 at 11:58 pm

#12 “It’s always puzzled me why wealth is so strongly associated with decreased fertility. “

That’s actually an easy one: It’s because gestating babies and raising children is insanely hard work. If a woman has other options, she is likely to limit how much of her life she dedicates to the process. ‘Increased prosperity’ by definition means that a woman sees an increase in her options.

#28 “Why does Kieran say that there has been a drift toward accepting ideas that would have been considered liberal or radical in the past? “

Because, taking the long view, ‘conservatism’ has traditionally opposed EVERYTHING in modern economic life: child-labor laws, the 40-hr week, the minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, social security . . . right down to the ADA. These were ALL radical ideas when first introduced by liberals.

Today’s ‘conservatives’ have grudgingly come to tolerate these ideas, as even Bush discovered when he floated the idea of dismantling social security.

38

nick s 03.16.06 at 12:21 am

If Salt Lake City continues to grow and fill with young people, increased heterogeneity (on all kinds of dimensions) is more or less inevitable—even more so if these new people are geographically mobile and well-educated.

Actually, SLC is an interesting example: it has returned Democrats as mayor since 1970, and Rocky Anderson is a bona fide liberal. It’s a ‘sapphire city’ like Austin.

Orthodox Jews have a much much higher birthrate than secular Jews. This is very much becoming an issue in Israeli politics.

Well, that’s because of a number of issues, many dating back to when Sharon relied upon the religious parties to prop up a coalition: namely, the additional welfare provided to large families and the exemption from military service for yeshiva students.

If Israeli child benefits were replicated in the US, the debate would become very, very different.

39

Helen of Troy 03.16.06 at 3:15 am

Thing about this article that struck me as I read it two days ago was a half-hidden smirk of misogeny. As if someone did a mashup of a political demographic trend essay with one of John Norman’s Gor books (if you don’t know the latter, good).

The whole thing felt deterministic: no belief that technological, medical, or social advances could prevent this return to patriachy. And, of course, why would anyone want to? Sure, sux to be teh women, but that’s what we get for ignoring our destiny.

Has he read any recent work on development economics and/or demographic transitions? Life during and after a Malthusian society? I recommend Gregory Clark’s book on “The Economics of the Ascent of Man: A Brief Economic History of the World” or papers (www.econ.ucdavis.edu/faculty/gclark) such as “The Condition of the Working-Class in England 1209-2003″ for useful reads on life w/ Malthus.

While reading Longman, I kept on thinking that he sees no permanent changes due to technology. For example, over the past millenia upper-class families had access to wetnurses (and why were all those wetnurses available?…). Now women live in a world where technology can help– technologies like breast pumps. Well, yes, formula too, but I’m thinking about technologies which help both parents be fully engaged in their biology while parenting, without either having to give up careers. Or are patriachs just supposed to feel the love, but not then be motivated to help out?

Individuals- especially women- will have to change to meet the requirements of society. Not societies must change to meet the requirements of individuals and their newly claimed rights, technologies and education. Seems to be my takeaway from Longman’s essay. Did anyone else find that?

40

abb1 03.16.06 at 3:28 am

#12 “It’s always puzzled me why wealth is so strongly associated with decreased fertility. ”

That’s actually an easy one: It’s because gestating babies and raising children is insanely hard work.

No, raising children is not hard. And it’s not wealth necessarily that’s associated with decreased fertility; it’s social safety net.

Either you do need 15 children (of whom 10 are likely to survive) to support you when you’re old or disabled – or you don’t. If you don’t, then you’re likely to have only one or two.

41

CKR 03.16.06 at 8:49 am

Oh please.

Can’t you see that this is just macho conservative chest-beating?

We produce more babies with our increased virility.

We keep our women and children in line, so there’s no adolescent rebellion.

We will win over you wimpy liberals.

That’s at least a three-fer, and I’ll bet you can think of more.

42

abb1 03.16.06 at 9:13 am

Our wives and children are fatter than yours.

43

lemuel pitkin 03.16.06 at 11:45 am

As are our cattle.

44

bellatrys 03.16.06 at 12:42 pm

This is such nonsense. Most liberals are, despite conservative propaganda, actually heterosexuals getting married and having kids like everyone throughout human history. They may not be having *as many* kids, and some of them are childless, voluntarily or not, as humans have always been one way or another. But as a liberal who was raised conservative from a reactionary Catholic family, the oldest of more than-six [classified number] siblings, I can assure you that 6+ is actually not the norm, that most conservatives are either very good at celibacy or using birth control despite the public condemnations of it as “anti-openness-to-live” and very few have more than 4 kids.

And one result of being one of 6+ kids is that you grow up thinking “whoah, that sucked, I’m never going to do that to my kids, I’m going to make sure that I can take proper care of them all.” (If you were stuck raising most of your younger siblings, you may elect not to have any. This is not unknown.) That happened a hundred years ago, too, which is why most Italian-Americans, Irish-Americans, Polish-Americans, and French-Canadians of the present generation don’t have 6+ brothers and sisters.

Also, the rampant sexism of the Xtian Right is a big part of driving away formerly-dyed-in-the-wool members like me. There’s only so much self-hate a girl can swallow before barfing on it. If they let you go to school, to the library, to the mall, eventually you’re going to encounter some real live gays, liberals, feminists – and find out that they’re not Teh Ebol!!!1! after all.

45

Functional 03.16.06 at 1:34 pm

If you think of it as a social behavior, reproducing SES/class, it makes sense. upper-class children cost more than lower-class children. Once the lower class is no longer suffering under a Malthusian constraint, then one would expect more children in lower-class families.

But even if children cost more in the upper classes, the upper classes have more money to spend in the first place. This argument doesn’t seem to go anywhere.

Opportunity cost, on the other hand, is useful to think about.

46

Steve Reuland 03.16.06 at 5:32 pm

I wrote a critique on Longman’s article here:

http://stevereuland.blogspot.com/2006/03/one-baby-two-baby-red-baby-blue-baby.html

The problems are far more serious than simply assuming that kids reliably adopt the political beliefs of their parents. Longman doesn’t even establish a higher fertility rate for conservatives and he ignores the well-documented differences in fertility rate for ethinic groups, which are far more signficant than any liberal/conservative difference in breeding could possibly be. And he ignores immigration.

The only evidence he gives for a contemporary liberal/conservative variance in fertility is the fact that “red states” had an 11% higher fertility rate than “blue states”. Ignoring the fact that this probably has nothing to do with politics, I did a quick analysis and discovered that if the populations in these states were to start off with a 50/50 split, after a half century, the red state population will only have increased to 51.9% of the total. It takes about 270 years for it to increase to 60%. You’d better warn your great, great, great, great, great, great grandkids.

47

burritoboy 03.16.06 at 7:24 pm

Steve,

Exactly, confirming the results of my own model (I have defection rates in mine too, which additionally mutes the “fecund conservative” theme).

After playing with the model, the “baby gap” between conservatives and liberals would need to be at least ~20% and defections no more than ~20% (i.e. only 1 out of 5 kids has different politics than their parents)to produce 10% more conservatives than liberals in 2 generations (50-70 years).

48

'As you know' Bob 03.16.06 at 9:11 pm

#40 abb1: No, raising children is not hard. And it’s not wealth necessarily that’s associated with decreased fertility; it’s social safety net.

I’m not sure if we’re actually disagreeing here, but:

Making babies kills some fraction of mothers (a smaller number today than yesterday, but it is never risk-free). When women have other options, they tend to avoid staying pregnant continually, because making and raising children entails serious costs. One traditional formulation was “A tooth for each baby.” After a dozen pregnancies with inadequate nutrition, a mother may no longer be able to eat solid food. Making babies has high costs.

And “wealth” and “safety net” are private and public manifestations that amount to the same thing: if an individual amasses enough resources to support yourself, or whether the society you live in arranges things to support people when they need help, they’re both solutions only possible in a post-Malthusian economy. Only wealthy societies can have a safety net.

49

Mitchell Young 03.17.06 at 1:33 am

Demography is not destiny

Yeah, I’ll bet that’s what the Indians (native Americans) though.

50

abb1 03.17.06 at 2:19 am

AYKB,
Making babies has high costs.

For women. In a traditional patriarchal society it’s much less important than what happens to your cow.

Only wealthy societies can have a safety net.

Birth rates here

175 Luxembourg 12.06
176 Cuba 12.03

51

'As you know' Bob 03.17.06 at 11:44 pm

abb1,

this is what we’re haggling over: the demographic transition occurs in developed societies, and not in traditional societies. When women have choices, the birthrate plummets. And ‘having choices’ is a function of wealth, viewed either individually or societally.

And by ‘wealthy societies’ I’m contrasting societies that have acccess to modern medicine, or not – – and Cuba makes it into that club.

Places like Haiti (…and now South Dakota…) don’t.

52

abb1 03.18.06 at 6:47 am

OK, forget Cuba, let’s talk about Italy. Italians used to have large families – but in 1970s their birth rate began dropping and now it’s one of the lowest in the world.

So, what happened there – did they suddenly get tremendous access to modern medicine? Did they see the light and become feminists?

No, what happened is that they got probably the most generous pension system in the world: you work for 25 years and you retire with 80% of your income; people were retiring at 43 with no worries at all. That’s the reason, I think.

53

Tom West 03.18.06 at 11:24 am

No, raising children is not hard.

I’ve got a pair of children that I’d like to lend you :-).

Raising children is the hardest job I’ve ever done, bar none! It’s at least 2-3 full-time equivalents when they’re young and it maybe falls to 1 when they’re older.

Maybe teenagers are less effort, but I doubt it. It simply switches from them demanding your attention to them needing your attention :-).

54

abb1 03.18.06 at 12:24 pm

Well, Tom, that the whole point. You aren’t raising your children as an investment; you don’t need them to support you when you’re old.

You do it out of love, as a hobby; having children is not a rational choice in your case. That’s why one or two is more than enough for you.

If you were raising children in a rational way, like people do in societies without social protection, it would’ve been totally different, probably much less difficult than raising cattle.

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Lorenzo 03.18.06 at 9:46 pm

If you read Longman to mean religious conservatives are going to produce more religious conservatives with the same political positions than secular liberals, you’ve got to trash the idea. But kids are the product of their upbringing. The values they’ve received during their formative years will always be there, no matter how far they stray from their parents’political convictions. A politician or party that can invoke those values can get a sympathetic hearing.

Immigration is part of the mix, but the majority of immigrants are Mexicans who are conservative and traditionalist. In fact, most of the poor are latently conservative. When conservatives learn to court them instead of talking of building walls on the border and/or rounding up the illegals and shipping them back where they came from, the voting demographic can change radically.

56

Joanna 03.18.06 at 9:47 pm

While wealth, access to health care, and social safety nets all certainly affect women’s ability to control their fertility, it’s my understanding that one of the most important factors in lower birth rates turns out to be women’s access to education.

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