Saturday, December 02, 2006

Jaakkeli says....   posted by Razib @ 12/02/2006 12:37:00 AM

From the mouth of Finns....
It seems like the high American total fertility rate is purely a result of a) recent immigration of high-fertility groups and older presence of minorities with higher birth rates and b) an artifact how the total fertility rate responds to the different age patterns in fertility, not a difference in eventual child number. White Americans have simply average European fertility. Those who believe otherwise invariably turn out to have just swallowed a silly self-congratulatory/doomsday myth (pick one depending on whether you're an Europe-hating American or an America-hating European) without doing any fact-checking.

To eliminate total fertility rate illusions, it's easy to just look at completed fertility rates. This gives old data, but it should be recent enough to test ideas about secularity and birth rate. For women born in 1960 (in baby-making age mainly during the 1980s and the 1990s, we should see secularisation differences here) the top 10 of OECD baby makers are, with babies per woman...

1. Iceland 2.46
2. Ireland 2.41
3. New Zealand 2.36
4. Slovak Republic 2.18
5. Poland 2.18
6. Australia 2.12
7. France 2.10
8. Norway 2.09
9. Sweden 2.04
10. Czech Republic 2.03

I bet someone expected to see the United States there. Well, I told you that it's a silly myth! The Americans are not far behind with 2.02, but they're still beaten by some super-atheists and even the supremely decadent French (who really do have high birth rates - no, it's not just the Muslim immigrants!). Especially interesting is how white English-speaking Protestant Urheimat UK is so close with its 1.97 - since the US most likely had a bigger boost from minority birth rates, it seems like a good guess that UK and US white birth rates were almost exactly the same and practically the same as the OECD average of 1.96.

The total fertility rate underestimates eventual fertility whenever the age of mothers is increasing [if this is not obvious to someone, well, those punks shouldn't be discussing birth rates as if they know anything! you can't discuss fertility rates meaningfully if you don't even know what a fertility rate is!] and it's obvious that this DOES have a correlation with religion: countries with higher religiosity have higher youth birth rates. So, the supposed higher morality of the US is actually a statistical artifact caused by the US failure to stop teenage pregnancies and European success in it. No kidding. (Average age at first childbirth in 2000 was 24.90, compared to eg. 29.10 in the UK.) Current low Eastern European total fertility rates are in many cases caused mainly by rapidly rising ages of mothers (EE countries have consistently had young mothers as some bizarre communist legacy that I don't understand at all, and now they're turning Western European).

Obvious prediction: if the US ever does manage to either massively limit immigration or cut into the teenage pregnancy rate, total fertility rates will plummet and clueless commentators who don't understand how easily illusions pop up in total fertility rates will launch into equally silly and pointless doom-mongerism/schadenfreude about how the Americans are going to vanish because they're too decadent to make babies and how the US will soon be taken over by the Amish. Or something equally dumb.