March 05, 2006
British Health Trust Might Offer Fertility Treatments To Single Women

Single women in Britain want the National Health Service (NHS) to provide them with fertility treatments.

Single women in their 30s and 40s are to be allowed free fertility treatment on the NHS as record numbers opt for motherhood without a man. Hospital trusts are rewriting their policies in response to demand from singletons who have lost out in the relationship stakes, either because they have been unable to find the right man or because their partners are against parenthood.

The demographic profile of single moms giving birth in their 30s is a lot more upscale and educated than is the case for teen single moms. These older single moms have more intellectual and financial resources than the stereotypical high school drop-out teen mom.

An insider at unit of the NHS expects the Camden primary care trust to start offering fertility treatments to single women.

In a pioneering move, Camden primary care trust in London is considering the introduction of free treatment for single women because of the huge demand from childless but financially secure would-be mothers.

One insider said the plan, which is expected to get the go-ahead at a funding meeting later this month, was a "sea change" from 10 years ago and would prompt other trusts to follow suit.

I've argued in the past that once cheap DNA sequencing allows detailed comparison of sperm donors more women will opt to use sperm donors. Single women in their 30s and 40s are going to become more inclined to start pregnancies on their own when the technologies available will let them select sperm that will give them much smarter, healthier, better looking, and better behaved children.

Sperm donor screening with cheap DNA sequencing, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PIGD or PGD), and other reproductive technologies will lower the risks of reproduction. The lowered risks and rosier projected outcomes (yes, Jill or Johnnie will have the intellectual resources to easily excel in challenging high status professions) will lead more women to choose to have children on their own. What is more startling is that those children born to single moms who select a genetically screened sperm donor for higher cognitive ability will be more successful as adults on average compared to children created naturally and born to married couples. The conservative family argument that children born to married parents turn out better will need a big qualifier: Naturally conceived children born to married parents will still do better than naturally conceived children born to single women. But relatively less natural conception using genetically conceived sperm will produce much better results on average.

Granted, Mr. and Mrs. medical doctor couples and Mr. and Mrs. Harvard Law graduate couples will have smarter kids than the average woman who conceives with a sperm donor. But those couples are way above average in genetic endowments for cognitive abilities. Women who have babies using sperm selected for high cognitive ability are going to have smarter (and healthier and better looking) children.

The uptake of reproductive technologies has become so big that it has noticably increased the rate of twin births. The rate of twins births in the United States has doubled since 1971 due to older moms and fertility treatments.

The twin birth rate, which stood at about 1 in 60 in 1971, has risen rapidly because of fertility treatments and an increase in the number of older moms, with almost 1 in 30 American babies now being born as part of a pair.

That's a figure that is unprecedented anywhere in the world, according to Dr. Louis Keith, an emeritus professor at Northwestern University's medical school.

"The real epidemic of twins didn't begin until the mid-1990s, so we are now in the epidemic," says Keith, president of the Center for the Study of Multiple Birth in Chicago.


Overall, experts say, one-third of the increase in twins is because of a natural tendency toward twin births in older moms and the other two-thirds to fertility treatments.

New York City is experiencing a big increase in twins births.

In 1995, there were 3,707 twin births in all the boroughs; in 2003, there were 4,153; and in 2004, there were 4,655. Triplet births have also risen, from 60 in 1995, to 299 in 2004.

Some day the norm will be to look down on natural procreation with no genetic enhancement, no IVF and PIGD, and no genetic screening of sperm. Natural procreation will be seen by the majority of Western countries as irresponsible toward offspring. How far off is that day? 30 years?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2006 March 05 12:33 PM  Bioethics Reproduction

Dave said at March 5, 2006 4:30 PM:

You are making a rather large jump with the nature vs nurture. Its not necessarily true that a extremely well endowed kid genetically in a single parent family is going to over come the disadvantage of only having one parents time and effort stimulating them as a child.
It may be the case that a child with a lot of natural potential is actually more difficult to raise if they are not getting the stimulation they require.

And as you have writen about not long ago in "Assortative Mating By Systematizers Raising Incidence Of Autism?" choosing the best genetic match might not be an easy desision.

Besides, I am from UK and I believe its wrong to be offering lifestyle choices on the NHS (at the expense of the tax payer).

Randall Parker said at March 5, 2006 4:47 PM:


As for the autism problem: But the mother's genetic sequences will be compared with those of tens of thousands of potential sperm donors to choose compatible donors that will reduce the odds of autism. Women who are at greater risk of autism will be able to choose a donor that reduces their risk.

As for genetically well endowed kids: Yes, they are far better able to overcome environmental disadvantages. Environmental advantages matter far far less than having a higher IQ. This has been shown through adoption studies. A kid is far better off with a 20 point IQ boost than with two parents at home.

Offering lifestyle choices at taxpayer expense: Well, your problem is that you have socialized medicine.

Dave said at March 5, 2006 7:56 PM:

yes the UK has a socialized NHS, but its possible to go private if you want to, its not like the government blocks private medicine as in some other countries.

Regarding autism, genetically you want two mathematically orientated parents to produce a child to create the possibility that the child will be even better than them, but by doing so you introduce a lot of risk that a problem will occur. You cannot simply play it safe by picking a tried and tested gene match as that is not going to break any new ground regarding intelligence, evolution is about testing new gene combinations some workout but a lot do not.

Its hard to comment on this study of adopted children showing genetic difference is more important cause I've not seen it. But I'm skeptical.
1, often these kind of studies are influenced by anti-male feminists trying to make single mothers feel better.
2, you didn't say anything about the quality of parents. If a high IQ kid went to a good but not real smart home then sure the kid will do well, but high IQ kid going to a really bad home where he doesn't get the stimulation he needs I'm not so sure he is going to naturally end up a smart adult..
3, 20 point IQ boost is quite a large boost!
4, Its not just that the child wont have a father, they will only have 1 set of family aunts, uncles, grandparents etc, the effect of the break down of the family could in the long term have a huge negative effect. We might like to believe we are individuals but in times of difficulty many people do need a strong family support network, maybe super IQ people don't? but I doubt it.

Carl Shulman said at March 5, 2006 8:20 PM:

Increased use of sperm donors by single women is certainly worth watching, but I think you could see a much greater impact from human reproductive cloning eventually. Steve Sailer, citing Charles Brand, ( claims that the average IQ boost from using a 160 IQ donor is only 12 points: there are numerous genes involved in intelligence, all of which can be altered in meiosis. Unless you are going to screen numerous cells for all of these genes, you will not get the same boost as simply copying exceptional genotypes, and I would expect the high mortality of cloned embryos to be solved well before all of the genes governing intelligence and other complex traits can be simultaneously screened for in sperm or engineered.

Thus, if eugenic change is going to have a substantial effect on world history before genetic endowments are rendered irrelevant (by AI, etc) I would say cloning is the best bet: imagine a Chinese cloning program using IQ 180+ scientists with good conscientiousness and track records, with 100,000 women carrying the children to term. 20 years later you would have a situation in which 90+% of human beings at that level of ability would be products of the program (assuming no competing efforts), and the kids could then kick off a technological Singularity if one had not yet occurred.

aa2 said at March 5, 2006 10:09 PM:

30 years sounsd like a good estimate for a much more serious eugenics then is done today. Of course I think it will be a process where each step is only a small step from the last step. Climbing up a staircase. For example we already are aborting children with severe genetic problems, 300 down syndrome children born in the UK in 2004, versus 600 in 2000. We already are implanting women with sperm to help conception, or for women who can't select a mate they want to procreate with.

The process will just keep marching forward until like you say it will be looked down upon for those who aren't taking advantage of technologies to help their children become smarter, healthier, more attractive etc.. Like the people today who refuse all medical treatment.

I personally believe in liberty for each family making the decision for themselves, however I also believe I shouldn't be responsible for their decisions. But the reality is I am responsible for their decisions, for example welfare, jail, social care for criminals and others.... so because I am responsible I want the state to step in and ensure that the next generation has the weeds taken out.

rsilvetz said at March 5, 2006 11:10 PM:

So -- GATTACA right? And is that inevitable?

Randall Parker said at March 6, 2006 4:32 PM:


With sperm screening one can get a much higher certainly of higher IQ because one can reject heterozygotes for a given IQ-boosting allele.

Also, I've read contrary claims on the size of the IQ boost when there's a gap between parents in IQ. The 160/100 match that provides a 112 IQ offspring seems implausible to me. I'm going to ask some experts and get back to you on that.

Randall Parker said at March 6, 2006 4:34 PM:

BTW, if anyone has tried to post comments and the comments aren't showing up: I think I might be under spammer attack at the moment and the server might be heavily taxed and choking as a result. Sorry.

Randall Parker said at March 6, 2006 5:03 PM:

Admin Note: A heavy spam attack somehow wiped out today's comment postings. I can forward some of them (not sure if I have them all) to the posters if you contact me in private email at future pundit at sign future pundit dotcom. I suspect my hosting service wiped out the postings for a time range today in order to get rid of over a thousand spams. Sorry about that.

Carl Shulman said at March 6, 2006 6:11 PM:

I did acknowledge that screening for specific genes would have an impact: "before all of the genes governing intelligence and other complex traits can be simultaneously screened for." Multiple loci and complex interactions among genes make it more difficult to screen, and the more genes you need to screen for the greater the number of embryos you need to produce, in a combinatorial explosion. So screening would get you an average IQ intermediate between cloning the sperm donor and using a random sperm, but not enough to match cloning. If, say, a 2 SD gap remains between screening and cloning then even if cloning of exceptional donors is only 5-10% as common as sperm screening (of the sperm from said exceptional donors) its impact will be substantially greater.

On the cited regression to the mean: it does seem severe, but one thing to consider is that regression to the mean will become much more pronounced at the far right of the bell curve, where almost everything 'went right' genetically, so the reshuffling of meiosis and fertilization will be more likely to disrupt a favorable genetic sequence. Also, extreme right tail individuals are proportionately more likely to have had good environmental factors (no infections or toxins in the womb), while offspring face developmental noise and environmental factors anew.

Doug said at March 6, 2006 7:52 PM:

I wonder what women will think of husbands who are ambitious not only to be fathers but also to be sperm donors. Will such an ambition provoke envy? Will envy provoke secrecy? I wonder also if there will be very many men whose primary income is from the sale of their highly-rated sperm. Last, for the moment at least, I wonder what the incidence will be of women choosing sperm from donors who are highly rated for mental, physical, and emotional attributes, and whose motive for donating their sperm is that they're homosexual and don't expect to become fathers.

Engineer-Poet said at March 6, 2006 8:39 PM:

A shift from 100 IQ to 112 in a generation would be enormous; that's almost an entire standard deviation.

The thing I would worry about from such efforts is a reduction in total fitness from reduced genetic diversity; putting a large part of humanity through an artificial population bottleneck is likely to have unforseen consequences, and we'd be well-advised to keep "control naturals" around as insurance.

Randall Parker said at March 7, 2006 6:36 AM:

This is a test after a severe spam attack and database repair.

Note that some March 7 comments were lost due to the spam attack's effects on the MySQL database. Sorry.

scottynx said at March 7, 2006 9:35 AM:

I'd bet that a majority of people with IQs of 160 come from families with average IQ's much, much higher than average. Actually, I can prove that right now. Jews get half of american nobel prizes and win as many spots at Harvard as white gentiles. It's thus safe to say that the majority of people with IQ 160 or more are jewish, and the jewish average IQ is 118. Also, take into account achieving families like that of Charles Darwin (it's an extreme case, but I'd bet a lot of people with IQs of 160, jew or not, come from families not that much less accomplished). Jodie Fosters kid's future= probably bright, even if raised by a Congo prostitute.

Bob Badour said at March 7, 2006 9:46 AM:


What do you think about the high correlations between single parenthood, step fathers and criminality? Might these women create hordes of intelligent criminals?

Al said at March 7, 2006 10:58 AM:

hehehehehehhe! Correllation Vs causation: Is ther any proof that high IQ leads to better life? Life comprises of more than just IQ. Moreover, people with high IQ may opt to use thier intelligence for devious purposes eg terrorism or white collar fraud.

Kids born in single parent familes are more likely to poor and indulge in crime. so women may have the ability to choose the best genes but end up raising a kid in the wrong family which has a profound effect on the kid's future.


Which gene sequence denotes high IQ? You may quantify IQ through tests administred to an individual but if you got my DNA Vs yours you might not be able to verify who has higher IQ.

aa2 said at March 7, 2006 1:25 PM:

On the issue of the 160 iq parent, having an average of a 112 iq child. That seems extreme to me, however realize that you couldn't even do a study with 160 iq people, as there are very few. And you have to take other factors into account such as the grandparents iq and even relatives. Like dog breeders do. They are as interested in family lines, as they are in the specimen.

aa2 said at March 7, 2006 1:31 PM:

Doug - "I wonder also if there will be very many men whose primary income is from the sale of their highly-rated sperm."

I know the dog breeder, where my parents got their golden retreivers make more money now selling high end sperm of champion dogs, then selling puppies. 4,000$ a vial.

I can only imagine what champion human sperm would be worth a vial if it became widely accepted.

One other point is an analogy. This mexican I was talking to online said in her village there was a boy born who had light skin and blonde hair. All of the women from the village wanted him to father their children when he grew up, so their children would carry his traits.

Carl Shulman said at March 7, 2006 1:44 PM:

There are ads in the Harvard Crimson for egg donors offering $50,000 daily. But the costs of production for sperm are lower: one man can provide a large number cheaply and without an invasive procedure, which keeps donation prices down for men.

Bob Badour said at March 7, 2006 2:49 PM:


You are discounting the 'champion lines' aspect. Sure any man can create sperm by the billions. Not every man can create sperm that offers higher intelligence, greater athleticism, better health and more sex appeal all at the same time. The guys in that sweet spot will have the ability to make money from it.

Creating dog sperm is no big feat either. Having the right dog makes all the difference.

Randall Parker said at March 7, 2006 7:05 PM:


A few points:

1) If a sperm bank can get DNA info on, say, a million smart men (granted this would be hard to do) then that sperm bank could find lots of alleles that are homozygous for desired traits. This would greatly reduce the need to check many embryos using PGID. The males who are more homozygous for desired alleles will be in much greater demand.

2) For a woman at IQ 100 it will far easier to get a 20 or 30 IQ point boost than for a woman at IQ 125. The lower the IQ the easier it will be. So donor sperm will have more to offer lower IQ women. Though higher IQ women are more likely to be reluctant about getting pregnant under less than ideal situations (they can model the downsides in more realistic detail). So it is hard to say who will be more attracted to extremely well characterised donor sperm.

3) How hard it will be to get IQ boosting sperm will depend on just how many alleles affect IQ and whether some small number of alleles exert a large effect on IQ. The jury is still out on that one.

5) I agree that cloning will more reliably give higher IQ offspring. But most non-brilliant women want to have kids that have their own DNA. Also, reproductive cloning encounters big political opposition in the United States and other Western nations.

6) Another attraction of donor sperm DNA sequence information for women is risk reduction. Maybe they won't be guaranteed a brilliant kid. But if they can be assured a minimum IQ that is acceptable to them and absence of alleles that make for trouble (asthma or criminality or whatever they most fear) then that'll lower the barriers to pregnancy. Combine sperm selection with PGID and women will be more likely to want to get themselves knocked up.

Randall Parker said at March 7, 2006 7:41 PM:


If we adjust for IQ I suspect most of the criminality impact of single parenthood goes away and the remainder of it can be explained by SES influences. Single moms with high IQ kids in good neighborhoods aren't going to raise criminals. Above 125 IQ less than 1 percent of white men are ever incarcerated. (that graph is based on data of whites)

Carl Shulman said at March 7, 2006 8:28 PM:


1) Good point.
2) True, but I emphasize the relative effectiveness of the two techniques in producing extreme genius because the extreme right end of the bell curve is responsible for such an extraordinary portion of technological and scientific advance. Sperm selection will produce more extreme geniuses than natural reproduction, but far less than cloning.
3) Sure.
4 and 6) I mentioned the desire to incorporate one's own gamete, and of course it's true that sperm selection would deliver many benefits aside from one-in-a-million genius. As I said earlier, sperm selection will be more common and thus will have more of an effect on voting patterns or crime rates. However, an increased population of true geniuses will accelerate the rate at which lower IQ workers can be wholly replaced by robotics, surveillance and neurotechnology to prevent crime, etc.

Which do you consider the tighter constraint on economic and technical development in the West, the availability of large numbers of IQ 125+ citizens, or the supply of real luminaries? (Or is the problem an excessively high *proportion* of less capable citizens acting irrationally in the political sphere?)

Randall Parker said at March 7, 2006 8:47 PM:


Tighter constraint: I guess it comes down to ratios. How many 125 IQ people would I trade for 1 140 IQ person or 1 160 IQ person? Not sure.

In the short term we'd be far better off raising the IQs of lower IQ people to 115 than raising a small number of 125 IQ people to 160. We'd experience a huge drop in the crime rate, in poverty, in unemployment, in street people, etc if lower level IQs were raised. But the very high IQ people would make more scientific and technological advances and therefore have bigger long term impacts (can you say Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence? sure!).

However, if the lower IQ people had their IQs raised then more higher IQ people would be freed up from caring for the lower IQ people. Prosecutors and judges be more productively employed. Dummies turned moderate smarties would not get sick as often, have premie babies, and do other things that generate demand for high skilled high IQ medical workers. Then more of the existing higher IQ people could work as researchers and in other occupations where innovations are developed.

Extreme geniuses and cloning versus DNA screened sperm donors: Well, how much of really extreme genius is due to genetics and how much due to noise in the regulatory systems for brain development? I do not have an answer to the question.

PJ Goober said at March 7, 2006 9:20 PM:

Financial markets would willingly lend ton's of money at low interest rates for government subsidy of genetic engineering for all citizens, even to a third world nation.

John S Bolton said at March 8, 2006 1:25 AM:

There isn't much chance of that, but the above does raise the question of what the government or the taxpayer is reasonably to expect if public support of eugenics goes further. This is a chance for me to present a hypothesis, on the assumption that there is a state interest in making soldiers by such means. Suppose that a fourteen or fifteen year old donor is matched to an over 30 mother.
If this happened in ancient times, it would probably mean that the older men had been nearly all killed off in a war. Natural selection then would favor the resultant of this sort of mating to favor soldier types. Perhaps there were tribal wars where the casualties on both sides were near equally high on both sides, and such that there were occasions where this could happen.
It requires that there be some recognition system as to the age, or the relative age, of the germline cells around conception. Possibly a tenfold or higher chance of getting soldiers would come from maximizing the age difference between male and female contributors, with the sperm donor being the young one.
Inadvertently, we may now be repeating an approximation of that age gap with AI; and the hypothesized militarization effect should show, if looked for specifically where it would concentrate.

aa2 said at March 9, 2006 4:15 PM:

Imo socialists should favor eugenics the most. Think of how generous Scandanavia's welfare system is. They can afford this kind of help for their most unfortunate citizens because the vast bulk of their citizenry is so capable. If America had 2,000$ a month welfare as an example, much of the population would have no incentive to work. And think of a country like Mexico, how could they have enough people productive enough to not only provide for themselves but their children and others in need.

Meanwhile IQ is the determinant for every social problem I have seen. Think of criminality, and what it costs in policing and imprisoning hundreds of thousands of people. Or 2 million like in the US. Compare that to Norway which hardly has a prison population, and few polie per capita. (even with their nanny statism).

aa2 said at March 9, 2006 4:24 PM:

The way the global economy is going one genius is probably worth many above average intelligence people. I think the key thing however is to make a great deal of the population over 115 IQ. That is generally considered the level that you need to get a college degree. Of course to get a real degree aka science or engineering, based on the laws of nature you may need slightly above that.

That is teh pointless thing of the government and parents telling everyone they need a college degree to succeed. First its not really true, just look at what crane operators and other skilled trades make right now. But secondly most people can't get anything useful out of university level education. Maybe they will get a history degree, or women's studies, with little practical value.

Engineer-Poet said at March 10, 2006 4:15 PM:
(Or is the problem an excessively high *proportion* of less capable citizens acting irrationally in the political sphere?)
It's wrong to assume that more-capable citizens act more rationally in the political sphere.
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