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Saving the life of the country: the dangers of “demographic suicide”

family, human capital, marriage, sexual revolution, world population No comments
Kevin J. Burns, Intern
Ever since Paul Ehrlich’s 1968 best-selling book The Population Bomb, there have been widespread concerns about overpopulation. But overpopulation is a myth, especially in western society. As Alejandro Macarron Larumbe argues in his recently-published article in Expansión, a Spanish economic newspaper, western populations are quickly shrinking and western economies are shrinking with them.
In developed countries, a fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman will ensure population status quo. Larumbe’s article seeks to bring attention to Spain’s paltry fertility rate of 1.35. Across Europe, the native population is quickly shrinking, with an average fertility rate of 1.5. Even in the United States, the fertility rate is expected to bottom out at a 25-year low of 1.89 for 2012, down from a high of 2.12 in 2007.
Falling birth rates in the west should come as no surprise. In the wake of the sexual revolution – with the advent of no-fault divorce, cohabitation and legalized abortion – Americans have consistently chosen to put off having children until later in life, or even to avoid having children altogether. Even Carl Djerassi, one of the scientists who helped to develop the birth control pill, has protested against the devastating effects of this trend, warning that there is no longer any “connection at all between sexuality and reproduction.” One can make moral arguments about this phenomenon, but in this case moral arguments are unnecessary to prove the disastrous long-term consequences of our spiraling birth rates. With the decline in our fertility rates and population, our economic stability and viability are at stake.
Larumbe warns that the trend of “demographic suicide” in Spain may have massive economic repercussions on the country. Although he admits that Spain’s economy grew for roughly 40 years after her birthrates began to fall off – as a result of women working instead of staying at home with children, less capital spent on child-care, education and the like – Larumbe points out the blatantly obvious fact that this trend cannot continue into perpetuity.
We face the same harsh reality in the United States. Through the post-World War II era, the United States expected roughly four percent annual GDP growth, mostly from human capital (those skills, capacities and know-how contained in the human person and valued in the labor market). However, since the decline of the family and the nation’s fertility rates in the 1960s and 1970s, human capital’s contribution to GDP growth has been more than halved.
What is happening in Spain and the U.S. has global implications. The United Nations’ Population Division reports, “Perhaps the most significant demographic change over the past three decades has been the substantial decline in fertility in all areas of the world. Since 1970-1975 world total fertility has declined by 37 percent: from 4.5 births per woman to the 1995-2000 level of 2.8.”

Demography: The Russian Case Study

divorce, MARRI, social institutions, world population No comments
MARRI Interns
Studying the social effects of marriage is seldom without surprise for the researcher because those effects manifest themselves in some of the most unexpected locations.  This dynamic confirms that the family is the foundation of civilization, and a concurring case study of this dynamic is Russia’s declining demography and its significant geopolitical import.
Writing recently in Foreign Affairs magazine, Nicholas Eberstadt of the National Bureau of Asian Research argued: “Over the past two decades, Russia has been caught in the grip of a devastating and highly anomalous peacetime population crisis.”  Yearly deaths in Russia are exceeding new births by 800,000 per year, disease is ubiquitous, and life expectancy is below several developing sub-Saharan African countries. 
According to Eberstadt, one of the many factors contributing to Russia’s decline is “family formation trends,” including sub-replacement-level birth rates and a divorce rate of 56 percent. These family-related factors are substantial in themselves, but a body of research shows that familial stability also correlates to better performance on a number of indicators that are also problematic in Russian society.  A number of the other facts Eberstadt mentions as causes of concern – risky behaviors, educational performance, and public health – have correlatives with familial and marital stability, and the literature suggests that an increase in the strength and stability of familial ties in Russia might go far to ameliorate those problematic factors as well. Indeed, recent MARRI research on the social effects of marriage (and divorce) suggest that only an unfeasibly exorbitant amount of social spending would be able to rectify the social costs of fragmented families. 
While simple reduction of all of Russia’s ills to a function of family structure exclusively would be too myopic, the Russian Case Study confirms the correlation between familial instability and social weakness more broadly, and it demonstrates that MARRI’s research has applicability on both a domestic and an international scale.

Unnatural Selection, Part II: A Review

abortion, Asia, crime, economics, family, marriage, men, monogamy, polygamy, pro-life, world population No comments
By MARRI Interns
Mara Hvistendahl’s latest book, Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men, is a riveting book full of anecdotes that are simultaneously heartbreaking and revelatory of our global opinions toward the value of life, marriage, and women. From the anti-romance of the East China Sea economy of wife trafficking, wherein Asian airports are the inauspicious meeting places of future loving couples, to the yuppie dream of Southern California fertility clinics, wherein a woman can be artificially impregnated during her lunch hour, to the unnervingly nonchalant disposal of aborted fetuses in India, the anecdotes shared in Unnatural Selection reveal a global confusion about the value of baby girls.

Yet, this tome is not the product of an opponent of abortion. Hvistendahl herself admits in the preface that she endorses abortion even though “the finer points of the abortion debate elude me.” She then resorts to this redoubt of agnosticism in order to withhold her judgment on a practice whose ramifications she lambasts on every page: “Since I refuse to venture a guess at when life begins, this is not a book about death and killing… but about the potential for life—and denying that potential to the very group responsible for perpetuating our beleaguered species.”

With this preface, thus begins Hvistendahl’s 300-page endeavor to elucidate the defining demographic dynamic of our day—the global paucity of women and its attendant social disturbances. She primarily investigates the effects of this demographic inequality in Asia, where the social sciences display unanimously pernicious effects of the lack of women, including a rise in violent crime. Studies across China show “a clear link between a large share of males and unlawfulness, concluding a mere 1 percent increase in sex ratio at birth resulted in a five to six point increase in an area’s crime rate.” Nor are these trends confined only to China: “The best way to predict whether a certain part of India has a high murder rate, indeed, is to look at its sex ratio.” Bachelors report generally lower standards of living than married men, culminating in poorer physical and mental health, and a shorter lifespan. 

By increasing the rate of crime, the sex selection bias against women thus creates a social dynamic similar to that of a society in which the number of available women is depleted by polygamy. In “The Puzzle of Monogamous Marriage,” a recent articlepublished in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of Biological Sciences, Joseph Henrich and colleagues use an elementary economic model to explain the rise of monogamous marriage as a social dynamic designed to foment a number of beneficial social dynamics, including “reduc[ing] the size of the pool of unmarried men.” In economic terms, both polygamy (when more than one woman enters a marriage relationship with one man) and sex selection against females creates a deficit of women in the pool of available marriage partners. Elementary economic theory dictates that the “price” of wives will then increase concomitantly with the increase in competition for them. This competition will squeeze lower-class males out of the marriage market since they have neither the financial resources nor the social standing to attract women. Consequently, the less affluent and socially inferior men are left without brides. This is doubly pernicious since it is exactly that class of men that is most likely to commit crimes, and “across all crimes, marriage reduces a man’s likelihood of committing a crime by 35%.”

Furthermore, Henrich et al. postulate that this paucity of women will be equally deleterious toward the women themselves: “the reduced supply of unmarried women, who are absorbed into polygamous marriages, causes men of all ages to pursue younger and younger women.”

Nicholas Eberstadt of The New Atlantis elaborateseven further upon the negative social effects of a sex selection-induced decline of women and applies them globally to say that “sex-selective abortion is by now so widespread and so frequent that it has come to distort the population composition of the entire human species.” Thus the pernicious trends identified in Hvistendahl’s book as sweeping the Asian subcontinent presents serious hazards for the future of the entirety of mankind. If the international demographic data is to be believed at all, one must confess that all is not well with the global practice of abortion.

Dr. Henry Potrykus, Senior Fellow at the Marriage and Religion Research Institute, has also done work on demographics and the future of the West illustrating not only the effects of abortion or sex-selective abortion, but the decline in women’s fertility in general. He finds that “[t]he peoples of the West are self-depleting because of the adoption of extra-marital sexual norms coupled with a rejection of fertility: Negative trends in the openness to marriage and the openness to children drive an exponential decrease in the generations to come in Europe.”

To address this decline in fertility, Potrykus suggests that society must re-adopt stable marriage between a man and a woman as a societal norm. Governments and cultures must reject the non-sustainable model of society that is devoid of religion but open to polymorphous sexuality and serial polygamy. Placing religion and family at the center of a culture is the only way to make it thrive.

Marriage, Contraception, and Where the West is Headed

family, MARRI, marriage, religion, US population, world population No comments

By Anna Dorminey, Staff

New MARRI Original Research is out! “Marriage, Contraception & The Future of Western Peoples” shows that the peoples of the West are depleting because of their adoption of extra-marital sexual norms and simultaneous rejection of fertility. The generations to come will decrease exponentially as a direct effect of declining trends in fertility and declining desires and expectations to have children, both in the generation currently having children, and in future generations. This trend is of one cloth with the West’s shift in economic orientation from family enterprise to individualist labor activity, and its simultaneous movement from religious to secular social values. Remediation lies in re-adopting stable marriage as a societal norm and in rejecting the non-sustainable model of society, which discards religion, traditional sexual norms, and lifelong commitment, and replacing it with a less secular, more traditional, family-oriented life.

Marriage and Fertility Predictability in Austria

Austria, children, Christianity, cohabitation, family, marriage, religion, world population No comments
By Anna Dorminey and Henry Potrykus, Ph.D., Staff

We all like to believe that, as unique individuals, we’re masters of our own destiny and originals in our own right. We may still cling to this privilege in the U.S., but Austrians have officially lost the dispensation, at least with regard to their likelihood to marry and bear children.

Caroline Berghammer of the Vienna Institute of Demography, through analysis of the 2008-2009 Austrian Generations and Gender Survey, charted family life paths and individual likelihood of choosing them, based on personal religiosity, family size growing up, and other factors. (Because Austria’s religious population is mostly Catholic, Berghammer only includes Catholics in her “religious” category.)
This chart lays out the most common “family life paths” in Austria, among the men and women included in the study who were between the ages of 40 and 45. The numbers represent how many children a person has, and the colors indicate a person’s relationship status.
Relaxing a little the age rigidity of these life-paths, she found that the largest proportion of the Austrian population (19.1%) chooses never to have children and to live in one cohabiting relationship after another (she calls this “sequential cohabitation”). The smallest proportion (6%) chooses traditional parenthood—direct marriage, no cohabitation—with three or more children.
Berghammer found that those who attend Mass monthly or weekly are more likely to marry directly, without cohabiting, and to have at least two children. She also found that a person’s odds of cohabiting sequentially (versus his likelihood to follow the most common life path—cohabiting, eventually marrying and having two kids along the way) are halved if they attend religious services.
Those who don’t claim any religion are 87% more likely than Roman Catholics to have children outside of marriage. Additionally, for every sibling a person has, he or she is 29% more likely to choose traditional parenthood and to have three or more children rather than the aforementioned “most common life path.”
Notably, people who consider themselves religious but don’t regularly attend church don’t seem to differ much from those who don’t consider themselves religious.
 

Figures and chart: Caroline Berghammer, “Family life trajectories and religiosity in Austria,” August 2010 draft version- later published in the European Sociological Review (2010).

The Devil is in the (Demographic) Details

anti-natal, economics, family, Sweden, world population No comments
By Julia Kiewit and Henry Potrykus, Ph.D., Staff
Despite critiques of the U.N.’s world population predictions, a recent Wall Street Journal article by Jonathan Last could have gone even further in pointing out how bleak the developed world’s demographic picture is.
This past May, the U.N. released its latest report on world demographics, saying that Italy, Poland, and the European continent as a whole, have rosy demographic futures. Mr. Last correctly takes issue with these predictions, saying that in order for the world to actually achieve the U.N.’s projected numbers, one big assumption had to be made: That “starting tomorrow, every country in the world with fertility below the replacement rate of 2.1 will increase its fertility. And this rise will continue unabated, year after year, until every First Worldcountry has a Total Fertility Rate (TFR) near replacement.”
Mr. Last reasons that this projection is dubious, in part because the U.N.’s model was based on data taken from a small group of mostly Scandinavian countries that have “recovered (sort of)” from sub-replacement fertility. Last highlights Sweden, saying that its story is a complicated one, “involving pro-natalist policies, culture and not a little luck”—but somehow, the U.N. assumes that all low-fertility, industrialized countries from Russia to Italy to South Korea will follow this pattern.
While Last does highlight the dubious nature of the U.N.’s projections, he has not gone far enough in emphasizing exactly how incorrect they are. His suspicion was correct that other countries will not necessarily follow Scandinavia’s supposed trend. Though it (reportedly) experienced positive fertility results, even if Sweden’s success were based on culture and policies, these are not universal. However, the fact of the matter is that any projection made based off the “success” of these countries will be incorrect.
Focusing on Sweden, the story of their fertility rates must differentiate between the fertility of nationals and the fertility of foreigners (immigrants). According to the Vienna Institute of Demographics, from 1986-2008, the increase in the total fertility rate of Sweden’s nationals went from 1.76 to 1.85, a difference that is statistically insignificant, and is actually because the ‘dip’ to 1.76 in 1986 was a TFR underestimate! The total fertility rate of foreigners ranged from 2.24 (1986) to 2.55 (2008)—a range that is above both the replacement level, as well as the level of Swedish nationals. Any increase in Swedish fertility levels must be understood with this division in mind, with the result that Swedenwould not experience population increases of its young for any reason other than immigration. This casts the U.N.’s model into question, as immigration is not a true account for the increase in a country’s fertility. Furthermore, immigration depends strongly on (relative) economic factors, something that varies between countries and is difficult to predict.
Additionally, we all know that Romewas not built in a day—it takes around 20 years before our newborns are ready to enter society as adults, and cultures change about as quickly. Why then should the U.N. anticipate that Italy, Poland, Japanor any country would change overnight? There is no reason to suspect that we will see a drastic positive change in the fertility habits of individuals (and, thus, nations) any time soon. On the contrary, anti-natal trends are alive and well in the West when cultures are spawning no-kids-allowed movements: Malaysia airlines banned babies from many of their first-class cabins; McDain’s Restaurant, in Pennsylvania no longer allows children under 6 to dine; Double Windsor bar in New York bans babies after 5 p.m.; a Central Florida homeowners association is considering a ban on children from playing outside, and the examples continue.  All of this is strong indication that the trend we’re seeing, and one modeled by more serious demographers than those at the U.N., is here to stay.
We are still slouching into a demographic crisis, and Mr. Last is right to highlight economic concerns that will spin off from low fertility rates.