2011 May 29 Sunday
Sex-Selective Abortions Lead To Fewer Girls In India

In India cheap fetal ultrasound, cheap abortions, and a strong preference for sons has pushed the ratios of young girls to young boys 914 to 1000.

In 1961, for every 1,000 boys under the age of seven, there were 976 girls. Today, the figure has dropped to a dismal 914 girls.

This will have a number of long term impacts. Notably, lots of young men will feel frustrated by their poor marriage prospects. Will this translate into political unrest? Or will these guys become more depressed and withdrawn? Some young men might become more motivated to find ways to make more money. So maybe the economy will grow more as a result?

In Haryana state the ratio is even lower at 830 to 1000.

But Birbal was unable to find a bride in Haryana, which has the most unbalanced sex ratio in the country, with 877 women for every 1,000 men. Among under sevens, that ratio drops to just 830 girls for every 1,000 boys.

Whereas historically the families of brides have had to pay dowry the female shortage is flipping around who pays. How much does it cost a poor family to raise a daughter? Could the price for brides ever get so high that poor families will raise daughters for profit?

Men in Haryana, unable to find a bride at home, are willing to pay up to 100,000 rupees ($2,222) to marry an "imported" girl from states like West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar or Madhya Pradesh.

In Bihar state the government has a Girl Protection Scheme (Kanya Suraksha Yojana) that pays money out to girls who reach age 18.

One effect for sure: Fewer wombs for baby-making mean slower population growth in India. Due to rapid population growth India's 1.21 billion population will surpass China's by 2025. India's government is offering cash to poor folks to delay reproduction, with future estimates for India's population ranging from 1.5 to 1.9 billion. Rising levels of education for girls will fertility.

Education alone is not enough to avoid the practice of sex-selective abortion. It is widely practiced in many countries, notably China. Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, South Korea, India, Serbia, and Belarus. This leads to bride markets across national borders.

By Randall Parker    2011 May 29 10:19 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (4)
2010 August 22 Sunday
Indian Government Paying To Delay Childbirths

Selling 2 year delays in childbirth.

SATARA, India — Sunita Laxman Jadhav is a door-to-door saleswoman who sells waiting. She sweeps along muddy village lanes in her nurse’s white sari, calling on newly married couples with an unblushing proposition: Wait two years before getting pregnant, and the government will thank you

With 1.173 billion mostly poor people, an average age of 25, 2.65 children born/woman (2010 est.), and a population growth rate of 1.376% (2010 est.) India is on a path toward adding over 500 million more people by 2050. A shocking number given that India already has 10 times the population density of the United States.

5,000 rupees to delay childbirth for 2 years. What a deal.

It also will pay you.

“I want to tell you about our honeymoon package,” began Ms. Jadhav, an auxiliary nurse, during a recent house call on a new bride in this farming region in the state of Maharashtra. Ms. Jadhav explained that the district government would pay 5,000 rupees, or about $106, if the couple waited to have children. Waiting, she promised, would allow them time to finish their schooling or to save money.

Delays will slow population growth by increasing times between population doublings.

Africa, firmly stuck in a Malthusian Trap, is on course to double its population to 2.1 billion people by 2050.

By Randall Parker    2010 August 22 02:44 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (3)
2010 July 29 Thursday
Amish Population Boom

The future belongs to those who make babies.

The number of Amish in North America has doubled since 1991 and their distinctive communities can now be found in Canada as well as 28 U.S. states, including unlikely ones like Texas and Maine.

That was a 19 year doubling. But their growth rate has increased and the next doubling will only take 14 years. If they keep that up they'll hit 1 million in 2038 and 2 million in 2052. By 2064 they could hit 4 million but still likely less than 1% of the US population at that time. It'll take them till 2078 before they are solidly over 1% of the American population at current rates.

My prediction: Groups that have high fertility will be selected for until the world human fertility decline reverses. Only a world dictatorship might prevent runaway population growth.

Naturally I flash on Weird Al Yankovic singing Amish Paradise. He's partying like its 1699.

By Randall Parker    2010 July 29 09:11 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (7)
2010 May 05 Wednesday
The World Moving Into Cities

The future is bright lights and big cities.

In 1950, fewer than 30 percent of the world's 2.5 billion inhabitants lived in urban regions. By 2050, almost 70 percent of the world's estimated 10 billion inhabitants – or more than the number of people living today – will be part of massive urban networks, according to the Population Division of the United Nations' Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

Part of this trend is due to massive migrations into cities. But another part of it is due to expansion of cities into surrounding areas as populations grow.

What amazes me about this trend is the fact it happens even among poor populations. My picture of cities is a relative degree of affluence. But the scale of the migration into cities is so large that it must include hundreds of millions of very poor people

Today, on average, 3 out of 4 people living in modern industrialized states are already building their lives within an urban area – a ratio that will jump to more than 5 in 6 by 2050. By contrast, today in the least-developed regions of the world, more than 2 out of 3 people still eke out a living in a rural area. For these people, even the slumdog existence in places like Dharavi can offer more opportunities than their villages ever could. And within these developing regions, according to UN-HABITAT, cities are gaining an average of 5 million new residents – per month.

Humanity is losing its experience and understanding of nature while at the same time humans reduce the amount of ground that is still in any sense wild.

Will this trend continue? Can the world really support 10 billion mostly urbanized people?

By Randall Parker    2010 May 05 11:43 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (11)
2009 September 20 Sunday
Death Of Norman Borlaug And World Hunger

Norman Borlaug, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for is work in developing new plant strains to boost crop output to reduce world hunger, died recently. This has occasioned many essays about his legacy. In the past I've read arguments that Borlaug and the Green Revolution showed that we do not have to worry about world hunger as long as science, technology, and free markets are allowed to flourish. I am skeptical of that line of argument. It is interesting to note that Borlaug did not believe innovations in food production eliminated the need to control human reproduction.

Borlaug was not naive on these issues, though. In his Nobel acceptance speech, he recognised that "we are dealing with two opposing forces, the scientific power of food production and the biologic power of human reproduction":

There can be no permanent progress in the battle against hunger until the agencies that fight for increased food production and those that fight for population control unite in a common effort. Fighting alone, they may win temporary skirmishes, but united they can win a decisive and lasting victory to provide food and other amenities of a progressive civilization for the benefit of all mankind.

Borlaug said this in 1970 when the global human population stood at 3.7 billion. Today, it is fast approaching seven billion. Modern farming has won the "battle" with population control convincingly.

Think we've made great strides in eliminating hunger? In fact, advances that boosted food production have enabled the human popuation to grow so large that we can have far more people hungry than was the case 200 years ago. Every day 1 billion people go hungry.

19 June 2009, Rome - World hunger is projected to reach a historic high in 2009 with 1 020 million people going hungry every day, according to new estimates published by FAO today.

The world's population hit 1 billion in the year 1804. So more humans are hungry today than were hungry in 1804 (since not all humans in 1804 were hungry). I am curious to know whether one could somehow calculate the percentage of people who were hungry in 1804 and later in the 1800s. How big did the human population grow until 1 billion people were hungry? To 2 billion? 3 billion?

I expect the hunger problem to worsen as declining oil production in the 2010s causes economic contraction even as populations grow. Higher costs for fertilizer, fuel for tractors, and other energy-dependent inputs will reduce per capita food availability.

By Randall Parker    2009 September 20 08:01 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (18)
2009 August 26 Wednesday
Sudan Getting Low Cost IVF

Truth is stranger than fiction.

POOR and war-torn, Sudan might be the last place you would expect to find an experiment in cutting-edge fertility treatments.

Well, I'd put a few countries further down my list of so poor that they'd be unlikely to get IVF clinics.About 45 countries are poorer than Sudan. Zimbabwe sits at the bottom. So a clinic in Khartoum isn't the least likely. Since a clinic is opening in Tanzania (which is 11 positions lower than Sudan in poverty but still with $1300 per capita GDP) my reaction is along the lines of "what, sub-$1000 per capita countries not good enough for IVF?". I'm sure you share my outrage.

But by the end of October, a clinic at the University of Khartoum plans to offer in vitro fertilisation to couples for less than $300, a fraction of its cost in the west.

A foundation in Switzerland couldn't find something more valuable to do with their money.

The clinic is one of three funded by the Low Cost IVF Foundation (LCIF) of Massagno, Switzerland, the brainchild of IVF pioneer Alan Trounson, who is now president of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. The other clinics are in Arusha, Tanzania, and Cape Town, South Africa.

This in a country where over 40% of the population is under the age of 15 and the population is growing at the rate of over 2.1% per year. The population is approximately 8 times what it was 100 years ago and it is on course to more than double.

Suppose you wanted to help the Sudanese people. Any big problems in Sudan (cough, Darfour, cough) come to mind? How about the 4.9 million displaced people?

Sudan’s internally displaced population has topped 4.9 million, giving the east African country the unenviable distinction as having the largest displaced population in the world, according to a new report out this week.

Over 10% of those under the age of 5 die in Sudan.

By Randall Parker    2009 August 26 10:03 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (4)
2009 August 05 Wednesday
Fertility Decline With Rising Incomes Reverses At High Incomes

More money does not mean fewer babies indefinitely.

PHILADELPHIA – A team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and the Università Bocconi in Milan have released a study that challenges one of the most established and accepted standards in the social sciences: Human fertility levels tend to decline as countries advance towards high levels of social and economic development.

The researchers question the conventional wisdom by documenting new findings, potentially relevant to discussions of economic and social policy, of a reversal of fertility declines in highly developed countries once they reach a certain level of wealth.

The study, "Advances in Development Reverse Fertility Declines," by Hans-Peter Kohler and Mikko Myrskylä of Penn's Populations Studies Center and Francesco C. Billari of the Università Bocconi, is published in the current issue of the journal Nature.

I am not surprised by this result. Children can be viewed as luxury consumption goods. You can show your high status by living in a big house and raising lots of children.

If this trend holds up then world population might not peak at only 9 billion people.

Researchers looked at total fertility rate and the human development index, HDI, in 24 developed countries during a 30-year period. The data demonstrated that the well-established negative relationship between fertility and development has been reversing as the global population entered the 21st century. While social and economic development continues to promote fertility decline at low and medium levels of HDI, at advanced HDI levels further development can reverse the declining trend in fertility.

I also expect the reversal of fertility decline to happen as a result of natural selection. People who carry genes that make them more friendly toward the idea of making babies will pass along those genes to more offspring.

Update: What I'd like to know: Did the researchers study the effects of immigration on fertility? Poorer immigrant populations have higher fertility. In fact, Mexican immigrants in the US who get amnesty have higher fertility than Mexicans in Mexico. So US immigration policies are boosting overall world fertility.

By Randall Parker    2009 August 05 10:48 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (12)
2009 April 19 Sunday
SUNY ESF Profs Rank Overpopulation Above Global Warming As Problem

Professors who work on environmental research place human overpopulation as the top environmental problem on planet Earth.

Overpopulation is the world’s top environmental issue, followed closely by climate change and the need to develop renewable energy resources to replace fossil fuels, according to a survey of the faculty at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF).

Just in time for Earth Day (April 22) the faculty at the college, at which environmental issues are the sole focus, was asked to help prioritize the planet’s most pressing environmental problems.

Overpopulation came out on top, with several professors pointing out its ties to other problems that rank high on the list.

“Overpopulation is the only problem,” said Dr. Charles A. Hall, a systems ecologist. “If we had 100 million people on Earth — or better, 10 million — no others would be a problem.” (Current estimates put the planet’s population at more than six billion.)

Dr. Allan P. Drew, a forest ecologist, put it this way: “Overpopulation means that we are putting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than we should, just because more people are doing it and this is related to overconsumption by people in general, especially in the ‘developed’ world.”

Charles Hall is correct that with a much smaller population our environmental problems would be far smaller. I think the optimal human population is well above 10 million though. We need more scientists and engineers to develop the technologies we need to live longer and healthier lives. 10 million people just could not accomplish that much scientifically and technologically. But 1 billion would probably be enough.

With only 1 billion people our rate of consumption of oil, coal, and other natural resources would be a smaller and tolerable rate. Our resources would last longer. Ocean overfishing wouldn't be a problem. Species extinctions would be a small fraction of the current rate. Much more of the world would be covered with forests. Particulate pollution would be much lower and greenhouse gases would be much lower as well.

What I would like to know: If environmental scientists and other types of scientists from many more universities were asked to rank human problems how would they rank them? In the mainstream press global warming (now rebranded as climate change) gets by far the most attention. Species extinctions, habitat loss, and resource depletion attract very little attention in comparison. But these environmental scientists at SUNY ESF rank human overpopulation as the top environmental problem on planet Earth.

I agree with these professors. The larger the human population gets the more it impinges on all the other species on the planet. But as long as human reproduction is seen as a basic right I expect the human population to continue to grow. Even the projected peaking of human population later in the 21st century is probably overoptimistic because selective pressures to raise fertility are bound to cause a rebound eventually. Humanity is under heavy selective pressure for genes that raise fertility. That selective pressure will eventually change the frequency of genes that govern reproductive behavior and humans will make more babies as a result.

By Randall Parker    2009 April 19 01:36 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (15)
2009 March 29 Sunday
1 Billion Humans Chronically Hungry

Progress isn't inevitable.

The number of chronically hungry people has surpassed the 1bn mark for the first time as the economic crisis compounds the impact of high food prices, the United Nations' top agriculture official has warned.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Jacques Diouf, director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, warned that the increasing numbers of undernourished people could trigger political instability in developing countries.

As the prices of commodities skyrocketed the percentage that are chronically hungry rose. Then the recession hit and agricultural prices plummeted due to declining buying power. So first the food became too expensive and then the food prices only dropped because people are making less money with which to buy food.

The percentage who are hungry dropped and then half of the percentage decline has since been lost.

The percentage fell from 20 per cent in 1990-92 to a low of just below 16 per cent in 2003-05. But with 1bn people chronically hungry now, the percentage has risen to almost 18 per cent.

When I write posts about resource depletion and overpopulation some cornucopians write comments asserting that things have never been better and keep getting better. But they are missing an important part of the picture: The human population has increased so fast in poor countries that the absolute amount of suffering and hunger has actually increased over the last century. Take Kenya as an example. Kenya has a population of about 38 million. Over 100 years ago Kenya's population was about 1.4 million. They didn't have all that many people to go to bed hungry or starve to death. Food supply limitations prevented population growth. Then along came the agricultural revolution and population growth exploded. Kenya's population has grown by a factor of 6 since 1950 and by a factor of 27 in a little over a century. Kenya's population is projected to hit 50 million by 2030 unless hunger intervenes. Another site projects a population of 51 million by 2025 and 65 million by 2050.

Kenya of course contains endangered species. But by 2025, 2030, and 2050 Kenya will have fewer endangered species. Better go see them now if you intend to see them. The omnivorous homo sapiens will eat them all.

By Randall Parker    2009 March 29 01:54 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (5)
2008 June 15 Sunday
Soap Operas Lower Fertility Rate In Brazil?

Preeti Aroon reports on a Foreign Policy blog that soap operas seem to cut down the fertility rate.

Many factors account for the drop in Brazilian fertility, but one recent study identified a factor most people probably wouldn't consider: soap operas (novelas).


During the past few decades, the vast majority of the population, of all social classes, has regularly tuned into the evening showings. The study, conducted by Eliana La Ferrara of Italy's Bocconi University and Alberto Chong and Suzanne Duryea of the Inter-American Development Bank, analyzed novelas aired from 1965 to 1999 in the top two time slots and found that they depict families that are much smaller than those in the real Brazil. Seventy-two percent of leading female characters age 50 or below had no children at all, and 21 percent had just one child. Hence, the authors hypothesized that the soap operas could be acting as a kind of birth control.

Using census data from 1970 to 1991 and data on the entry of Rede Globo into different markets, the researchers found that women living in areas that received Globo's broadcast signal had significantly lower fertility.

The researchers controlled for many factors that might have biased the results.

Think about this. Extremely poor countries in Africa have very high fertility rates and they are stuck in a Malthusian trap. How to fix this problem? Subsidize access to TV and movies for the poorest people in Africa.

Nonetheless, with total fertility rates of 7.38 in Mali and 7.37 in Niger (as of mid-2007), the resultant growth in these countries' populations is expected to be phenomenal over the next few years, unless growth rates and total fertility rates drop. For example, Mali's 2007 population is approximately 12 million. With its high total fertility rate per woman, Mali is expected to grow to more than 15 million (a 3 million or 25% increase) by 2015! Mali's 2007 growth rate of 2.7 means a doubling time of just 26 years. Other countries with high total fertility rates include Afghanistan at 6.64, Yemen at 6.49, and Samoa at 4.21.

Check out this list of high fertility rate countries that need soap operas.

Western aid agencies should be funded to put up satellite TV over Africa. The TVs can be delivered with solar panels to villages all over Africa. This will increase demand for solar power and therefore accelerate the development of photovoltaics technology. So we'll get a two-fer out of this deal. But if the villagers watch soaps during the daylight hours will this be effective? Probably so if the soaps work by changing attitudes.

By Randall Parker    2008 June 15 06:21 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (11)
2008 January 09 Wednesday
Africa Human Population To At Least Double By 2050

Here is a far bigger crisis than global warming. Say good bye to Africa's wildlife as Sub-Saharan Africa's population doubles or more to between 1.5 and 2 billion by 2050.

Sub-Saharan Africa has been experiencing phenomenal population growth since the beginning of the XXth Century, following several centuries of population stagnation attributable to the slave trade and colonization. The region’s population in fact increased from 100 million in 1900 to 770 million in 2005. The latest United Nations projections, published in March 2007, envisaged a figure of 1.5 to 2 billion inhabitants being reached between the present and 2050.

The report of a demographic study, coordinated by the Centre Population et Développement (CEPED), commissioned by the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), was published recently. The work was performed by a joint team involving scientists from the IRD and specialist academics from Belgium, Cameroon, France and the Ivory Coast (2). They examined the recent and projected future population trends in Sub-Saharan Africa and the relationships between these tendencies and the development of the region. This review effectively demolished some generally accepted ideas, in particular the one that Sub-Saharan Africa is underpopulated.

Today, two out of three inhabitants of this large region of Africa are under 25 years of age (twice the number prevailing in Europe) and, with 32 inhabitants per km2, Sub-Saharan Africa is more densely populated on average than Latin America (28 inhabitants/km2). And although two-thirds of its population still live in rural areas, massive migration to the towns and cities is under way. Thus, whereas in 1960, just one city, Johannesburg, had a population of over one million, Africa now has about 40 of them. At the present rate of rural exodus, half Sub-Saharan Africa’s population would be urban dwellers by 2030.

So Sub-Saharan Africa's population density is going to rise to over double where Latin America is today. Good bye jungles and rain forests. Good bye savannahs. Add in growing Chinese demand for rare animal parts and I do not see how many of Africa's species of cats and primates survive. I guess they'll survive in zoos along with elephants.

5 or more babies per woman. Little use of contraception. Yet our dysfunctional elites are too busy with biomass energy ideas and global warming meetings to do anything about it.

A parallel factor at work is fecundity, equal to or higher than 5 children per woman. This is two to three times higher as in the rest of the world, an important factor being that four out of five African women live in countries where there is little access to contraception. Indeed less than 20% of women use modern contraceptive methods, as against 60% or more in Latin America and Asia.

11 countries have fertility above 6 babies per woman and 9 of them are in Africa. Some Panglossians argue that the problem of human population growth will be solved naturally by declining fertility. Well, maybe in Japan and South Korea. But the top two high fertility countries in the world have seen their fertility rise from 2000 to 2007. Mali rose from 6.89 to 7.38. Niger rose from 7.16 to 7.37. They aren't alone. 5th place Afghanistan rose from 5.87 to 6.64 and 7th place Burundi rose from 6.25 to 6.48. This is a huge tragedy for our environment.

Update: At the suggestion of commenter HellKaiserRyo: Bad Catholic Church! Bad! Bad! Bad! Your position on contraceptives is irresponsible. Change your position. Human population growth isn't going to stop without contraceptives. Continued human population growth is the road to ruin.

Update II: Peak Oil, followed by Peak Natural Gas and Peak Coal, might drive up world food prices so high that current African population trends won't be sustainable. But I suspect the hunger caused by a peak fossil fuels will be fairly short-lived (granted it will kill a lot of people). We'll have several tough years until energy substitutes come on line. Necessity is a mother. Well, we are going to go up against a pretty big dose of necessity as fossil fuels supplies decline. So after a period of hunger will once again come the capacity to subsidize African food production and food supplies. We really do need to lower fertility in Africa to stop continued population growth there.

By Randall Parker    2008 January 09 07:14 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (34)
2008 January 07 Monday
Japanese Embrace Robots For Demographic Crisis

Read this Washington Post article on Japan's embrace of robots for their demographic problem: Demographic Crisis, Robotic Cure? Rejecting Immigration, Japan Turns to Technology as Workforce Shrinks

TOKYO -- With a surfeit of the old and a shortage of the young, Japan is on course for a population collapse unlike any in human history.

See my third excerpt below and try to guess why I do not expect this demographic collapse to happen.

The hope is that service robots will take care of old folks.

But engineers say it's the "service robots," which can't dance a lick and don't look remotely human, that can bail out Japan, which has the world's largest proportion of residents over 65 and smallest proportion of children under 15. One such gizmo, on display at the show, can spoon-feed the elderly. Others are being designed to hoist them onto a toilet and phone a nurse when they won't take their pills.

Toyota, the world's largest car company, announced last month that service robots would soon become one of its core businesses. The government heavily subsidizes development of these machines. Other cheerleaders for robots include universities and much of the news media.

If artificial intelligence comes in 30 or 40 years then service robots will far exceed the goals which some skeptics (quoted in the article) have about them.

So here are the supposedly horrific numbers on the future population of Japan.

Population shrinkage began here three years ago and is gathering pace. Within 50 years, the population, now 127 million, will fall by a third, the government projects. Within a century, two-thirds of the population will be gone. That would leave Japan, now the world's second-largest economy, with about 42 million people.

First off, picture the population of the whole world dropping by two thirds. I find the prospect very appealing. Huge numbers of other species would be saved from extinction. The consequences of dwindling fossil fuels (Peak Oil, Peak Natural Gas, and Peak Coal) would become much less severe. Also, the air and water would be far less polluted. Picture China today with only a third its current population. The massive exhaust plumes stretching out over the Pacific would be much smaller.

But why won't Japan's population drop by two thirds? I can see two reasons:

  • Natural selection will select for Japanese people who more want to have children. Right now the Japanese are under huge selective pressure where genetic variations that boost fertility are getting selected for. Those alleles will raise fertility of future generations of Japanese.
  • Life spans will greatly increase as a result of advances in biotechnology. Our approaching war on aging will make shrinking populations into stable or growing populations. We will probably achieve actuarial escape velocity in some countries by mid 21st century. Then our life expectancy will increase by at least a year every year.

As I see it, the current demographic trend in Japan will make it easier for the Japanese to transition to a post-humanist society where people live with young bodies for thousands of years. Their shrinking population which seems like such a problem today will become a great advantage for those who are still alive 50 years from now.

By Randall Parker    2008 January 07 07:53 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (17)
2007 December 23 Sunday
South Korean Boy Baby Preference Declines

Girls provide better care for their parents in old age. Girls also are less likely to run afoul of the law. Girls are less extreme. Yet in many societies (e.g. China and India) ultrasound, selective abortion, and other reproductive technologies are getting used to tilt live births toward boys. However, in South Korea the preference for boys seems to be ending.

In South Korea, once one of Asia’s most rigidly patriarchal societies, a centuries-old preference for baby boys is fast receding. And that has led to what seems to be a decrease in the number of abortions performed after ultrasounds that reveal the sex of a fetus.

According to a study released by the World Bank in October, South Korea is the first of several Asian countries with large sex imbalances at birth to reverse the trend, moving toward greater parity between the sexes. Last year, the ratio was 107.4 boys born for every 100 girls, still above what is considered normal, but down from a peak of 116.5 boys born for every 100 girls in 1990.

Rising status and more career opportunities for women helped reduce the desire for boys.

In some Asian countries the preference for boys is still quite strong.

In China in 2005, the ratio was 120 boys born for every 100 girls, according to the United Nations Population Fund. Vietnam reported a ratio of 110 boys to 100 girls last year. And although India recorded about 108 boys for every 100 girls in 2001, when the last census was taken, experts say the gap is sure to have widened by now.

In some Indian provinces the male to female ratio is much higher.

NEW DELHI: The sex ratio has further declined in the five northern States with Punjab showing the worst results ­ there were only 527 girls for every 1,000 boys in 2005 as against 754 girls as per the 2001 Census.

I see one big benefit: slower population growth. Girls can make babies. Fewer girls means fewer babies. So Punjab 15 to 20 years from now will show less population growth than other parts of India where selective abortion is less practiced. One of the biggest problems in the world is too many people. If we had fewer people habitat destruction would be far less, extinctions would be less, fossil fuels depletion would be less, and many other problems would be smaller.

South Korea, with a fertility rate of just 1.15, doesn't really need a sex ratio imbalance to control population. Whereas China and especially India would benefit from smaller populations. Even more so, large parts of Africa and Afghanistan with disastrously high fertility rates (and see this human fertility rate map) would benefit from sex ratio imbalances or anything else that would lower their fertilities. These places are stuck in a Malthusian Trap where any increase in capacity to grow food gets used up by population growth. The people suffer. The wildlife shrinks as their habitats get shifted into human habitats. This is horrible.

I see another benefit from the sex ratio imbalance: higher male competition for females might boost average IQ because dumber guys will probably lose the competition at higher rates than smarter guys. It is a politicallly incorrect truth (and therefore ignored or denounced) that the dummies are breeding faster than the smarties (demonstrated by smart South Korea's pathetic fertility rate). Any selective pressure for higher IQ is a welcome trend.

But there are potential downsides to the boy surplus. The high ratio of boys to girls can be expected to increase violence and crime. Also, large numbers of sexually frustrated young single men could rise up and rebel against their governments.

Though again on the bright side, the Chinese sex ratio imbalance might bring down the North Korean regime due to Chinese wife purchasing of North Korean girls.

By Randall Parker    2007 December 23 09:58 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (7)
2007 October 28 Sunday
Human Migrations Into Wilderness Areas

The wilderness areas around US national forests and parks are going to see a huge surge in human populations in the next 50 years.

PORTLAND, Ore. October 25, 2007. America’s national forests and grasslands provide the largest single source of freshwater in the United States, habitat for a third of all federally listed threatened or endangered species, and recreation opportunities for people (about 205 million visits are made annually to national forests).

These and other benefits could be altered by increased housing growth. The population of the United States is projected to increase by 135 million people between 2000 and 2050. Americans are moving closer to national forests and other public lands because of the amenities they provide. As a result, housing density is expected to increase on more than 21.7 million acres of rural private lands located within 10 miles of national forests and grasslands by 2030, according to a recent study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service.

“Forests, farms, ranches, and other open spaces are rapidly being developed as more people are choosing to live at the urban fringe and in scenic, rural areas,” says Forest Service Chief Abigail Kimbell. “This development is affecting our ability to manage national forests and grasslands as well as our ability to help private landowners and communities manage their land for public benefits and ecosystem services.”

The full report is downloadable as a couple of PDFs.

Modest proposal: Put a halt to immigration and prevent most of that projected population growth. America doesn't need more people. Neither does the rest of the world. Adding a few billion more to the entire world's human population will only lower our quality of life and drive many species to extinction. More people means bigger footprints of land used by humans rather than wildlife. More people means more competition for dwindling fossil fuels and other resources. More people means more crowded highways and more polluted air.

Humans are driving lots of species extinct.

Hainan, China – Mankind’s closest living relatives – the world’s apes, monkeys, lemurs and other primates – are under unprecedented threat from destruction of tropical forests, illegal wildlife trade and commercial bushmeat hunting, with 29 percent of all species in danger of going extinct, according to a new report by the Primate Specialist Group of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission (SSC) and the International Primatological Society (IPS), in collaboration with Conservation International (CI).

Titled Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates—2006–2008, the report compiled by 60 experts from 21 countries warns that failure to respond to the mounting threats now exacerbated by climate change will bring the first primate extinctions in more than a century. Overall, 114 of the world’s 394 primate species are classified as threatened with extinction on the IUCN Red List.

Hunters kill primates for food and to sell the meat; traders capture them for live sale; and loggers, farmers, and land developers destroy their habitat. One species, Miss Waldron’s red colobus of Ivory Coast and Ghana, already is feared extinct, while the golden-headed langur of Vietnam and China’s Hainan gibbon number only in the dozens. The Horton Plains slender loris of Sri Lanka has been sighted just four times since 1937.

Many of these endangered species are doomed.

All the people who imagine themselves as greens for advocating biomass energy need to wake up. Lands cleared of tropical forests to make room for agriculture expansion are a major cause of habitat loss. Clearing loands to grow more sugar cane for ethanol just makes that problem worse.

Habitat loss due to the clearing of tropical forests for agriculture, logging, and the collection of fuel wood continues to be the major factor in the declining number of primates, according to the report. Tropical deforestation also emits 20 percent of total greenhouse gases that cause climate change, which is more than all the world’s cars, trucks, trains and airplanes combined.

See the bottom of this page for pictures of threatened species.

A new UN report sees only unfavorable trends on major issues related to nature.

Since 1987 annual emissions of carbon dioxide—the leading greenhouse gas warming the globe—have risen by a third, global fishing yields have declined by 10.6 million metric tons and the amount of land required to sustain humanity has swelled to more than 54 acres (22 hectares) per person. Yet, Earth can provide only roughly 39 acres (15 hectares) for every person living today, according to the United Nation's Environmental Program's (UNEP) Global Environment Outlook, released this week. "There are no major issues," the report's authors write of the period since their first report in 1987, "for which the foreseeable trends are favorable."

The BBC has some graphs and tables from the Global Environment Outlook. Check out the Biodiversity Ecosystems map for where the damage is greatest. They also have the Global Environment Outlook itself (PDF).

UNEP expects a combination of population growth and rising affluence will triple demand for food. Well, bye bye other species. Good bye animals. Make room for an explosion of human demand on habitats all over the world.

When will environmentalists wake up and remember how back in the 1970s they understood that human population growth is a big problem? When will they regain this lost knowledge?

By Randall Parker    2007 October 28 05:01 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (7)
2007 August 16 Thursday
Baby Making Contest In Ulyanovsk Russia

Women who give birth on September 12th in the Ulyanovsk province in Russia get entered into a contest with an assortment of prizes.

A Russian region best known as the birthplace of Vladimir Lenin has found a novel way to fight the nation's birthrate crisis: It has declared Sept. 12 the Day of Conception and for the third year running is giving couples time off from work to procreate.

The hope is for a brood of babies exactly nine months later on Russia's national day. Couples who ``give birth to a patriot'' during the June 12 festivities win money, cars, refrigerators and other prizes.

Ulyanovsk, a region on the Volga River about 550 miles east of Moscow, has held similar contests since 2005. Since then, the number of competitors, and the number of babies born to them, has been on the rise.

See the article for the full details on the promising results.

In his 7th state-of-the-nation address to the Russian Federal Assembly on May 10, 2006 President Vladimir Putin called Russia's declining birth rate the biggest problem facing Russia.

But the bulk of Putin's speech focused mainly on domestic issues. Chief among them was what Putin called "the main issue," to which he devoted one-fourth of his speech -- Russia's demographic crisis.

The Russian president decried the country's annual decline of nearly 700,000 people a year, and presented a detailed plan for improving child-care benefits in order to encourage women to have at least the two children needed to maintain a stable population.

"When planning to have a child, a woman is faced with the choice whether to have a child but lose her job, or not to have a child," Putin said. "This is a very difficult choice. The encouragement of childbirth should include a whole range of measures of administrative, financial, and social support for young families."

The Russian population looks set to shrink big time.

According to the most recent forecasts, Russia's population of 143 million people is expected to decrease by 22 percent between now and the year 2050. If the figures are borne out, Russia could lose up to 42 percent of its active working population.

The decline is being fueled primarily by two things: low birth rates, with Russian women increasingly choosing work over motherhood, and increased death rates among a rapidly aging population.

Some see the Russian state's pension system as removing an incentive to have kids who Russians used to have to depend on for retirement support.

The Russian president also rejected calls to abolish Russia's state pension fund and return to a more Soviet-style system, whereby the elderly would rely on their children, rather than the state, for essential support.

Modest proposal that would make a substantial difference: Make the state pension fund pay-outs bigger for people who have more kids. Make the act of procreation something that connects the tax revenues generated by offspring to how well off the parents will be. A number of variations on this are possible. For example, parents could get more government payments in their old age if their kids make more money and pay more in taxes.

Update: The Cossacks are embracing a way of life conducive to baby-making.

The local leader, "Ataman" Viktor Vasilyevich, received me with open arms. He was dressed in traditional Cossack costume, which includes a full-length black coat, a sheepskin hat and a sword. He oozed authority, and it was immediately clear that he was held in deep respect by his family and the other villagers.

Cossack family life is a rigid, hierarchical system in which the eldest man's word is law. Unashamedly, the Ataman explained that Cossack families should be as large as possible. He introduced me to one of his own sons, already the father of seven children.

Will the Cossacks save Russia from demographic oblivion? I am reminded of Tolstoy's short story The Cossacks.

By Randall Parker    2007 August 16 09:33 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (4)
2007 August 07 Tuesday
Upper Class Fertility Rising Due To Competitive Birthing?

Harvard labor economics prof George Borjas points to a National Public Radio story on the trend toward larger families among the most affluent:

The newest status symbol for the nation's most affluent families is fast becoming a big brood of kids.

Historically, the country-club set has had the smallest number of kids. But in the past 10 years, the number of high-end earners who are having three or more kids has shot up nearly 30 percent.

Some say the trend is driven by a generation of over-achieving career women who have quit work and transferred all of their competitive energy to baby making.

They call it "competitive birthing."

Gotta keep up with the Joneses, especially when you and the Joneses are investment bankers. But if you want to compete Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar of Arkansas have set the bar for competitive birthing very high.

Borjas believes the phenomenon is real.

I don't know if the rise in the number of children among more affluent families is due to "competitive birthing" or not. But the data, and many anecdotal observations, clearly suggest that there's something going on.

It is not unusual, for instance, to find families in the Boston suburbs where the mother has an advanced academic degree, obviously can earn a high wage in the labor market, but has instead decided to be a stay-at-home mom for a brood of 3 or 4 children. I would not classify these families as part of the "country-club set." These families are often making a substantial financial sacrifice.

I keep saying that natural selection will turn around the decline in fertility rates in Western nations. The people having babies are more likely to carry genes that make them want to have babies. So those genes are getting selected for. But selective pressures aren't the only force at work that can drive up fertility in some segments of populations. The desire to own and experience and consume in large amounts will drive some around to the thought "But we haven't had the experience of raising children and controlling and shaping them. We've got to have kids if we are going to have it all." Also, children (especially if driven to expensive private schools in a new Range Rover) are a way to signal one's ability to engage in conspicuous consumption. Children confer status. The desire for higher status is an innate drive of humans.

Once we develop the ability to turn back the biological aging clock and make ourselves young again will the desire for children interact with the huge reduction in deaths from aging to cause a massive population explosion? I think so.

By Randall Parker    2007 August 07 10:52 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (13)
2007 July 19 Thursday
Do We Need More Babies Or Higher Producing Babies?

Writing in the Times of London Melanie McDonaghon argues that Europe needs more babies to pay for the retirement of older generations.

Europe needs more babies – the average continental family has a mere 1.37 children. Cutting back non-EU immigration to limit pressure on housing stock would help. So would state cash handouts. In Portugal, where the birthrate has fallen to 1.7 children per couple, the Government has considered giving tax breaks to people who have more than two children and levying higher taxes on those who have fewer. Germany is similarly concerned – it could lose the equivalent of the population of the former East Germany within 50 years. Russia’s population is contracting at the rate of three quarters of a million a year: the resourceful Mr Putin is paying mothers to have a second child.

Let us leave aside, for the moment, the eventual development of rejuvenation therapies which will make restrictions on reproduction necessary (unless you like the idea of covering the world with structures of gradually increasing heights). Suppose that industrialized countries really need babies. What kind of babies (dare I ask?) do industrialized countries really need? Wealth creators and large net taxpayers. Babies that will grow up to produce lots of goods and services and pay lots of taxes. Babies that earn high incomes on which lots of taxes can be extracted. In a nutshell: quality over quantity.

The approach of commentators who argue for more babies tends to be a game of playing averages. If women have more babies some small subset of those babies will grow up to become the highly skilled and high producing workers. Those workers and not the majority create the wealth and provide the services needed to take care of older generations. Well, suppose we could just create those workers rather than create a much larger set out of which the high producers emerge.

Smarter people have, on average, greater capacities to produce wealth. But not all very high IQ people choose to accumulate lots of wealth. In fact quite a few very smart people choose occupations that they find intellectually entertaining and not too demanding. Some get tenure in colleges and universities that do not expect much research output. Others get jobs where they are the smartest in their corporate or government department. In such jobs they can coast along and produce about as much as others without need for hard work.

The problem of smart underachieving low producers is solvable. Some people are workaholics. Some are smart. Some are accumulators and investors. Surely genetic factors play a role in all three of these characteristics. The coming era of extremely cheap DNA testing will allow us to identify all the genetic variations that influence how smart, hard working, wealth creating, and wealth accumulating humans become. Then genetic engineering techniques applied to reproduction will provide a way to create smart miser workaholic babies.

Once offspring genetic engineering becomes technologically possible the question arises as to what governments will tolerate or require for people who want to genetically engineer their babies. I'm about to propose something that might not become politically doable by Western countries (though the more pragmatic Chinese might pick up on it): Restrict reproduction to allow only the creation of wealth creators. I'm not saying restrict reproduction to those who own their own high tech companies and those who write lots of patents. Couples determined to reproduce in the face of legal requirements for the creation of big net assets offspring could use genetic engineering techniques to insert some genetic variations that will bring their babies up to legal standards.

If anyone is tempted to get all morally indignant on me: I do not recognize a basic right to reproduce. How can an act that creates huge external costs be a right? Second, eugenics is not an evil word. People practice eugenics on pets quite routinely. People practice human eugenics when they choose mates.

The main question to decide on eugenics isn't whether to do it. We will do it more and more as we develop more powerful tools for choosing offspring genetic characteristics. The main questions on eugenics revolve around which genetic choices produce costs and benefits for all of us and how big of costs come from each choice.

The general public isn't yet ready to seriously debate what our goals should be in the use of eugenic practices because we still lack the technology which will enable us to make eugenic choices. But the era of offspring genetic engineering is fast approaching and we need to start thinking about these questions.

By Randall Parker    2007 July 19 11:01 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (27)
2007 April 04 Wednesday
Denmark Fertility Boosted By Reproductive Technologies

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and other artificial reproductive technologies (ART) have helped keep Denmark's fertility rate (1.9 babies per woman) higher than most Western countries. IVF usage in Denmark is heavily subsidized and much more heavily used.

The secret of Denmark's success seems to be a strikingly high use of artificial reproductive technologies (ART), according to an analysis presented at a meeting of the Population Association of America in New York last week. The proportion of babies born in Denmark through ART was 4.2 per cent in 2002, compared with 1.4 per cent in the UK that year and 1.2 per cent in the US in 2004. The finding lends support to calls for increased government funding of IVF in other countries with flagging birth rates. In Denmark, IVF is widely accepted, heavily subsidised and waiting times are short.

For Danish women born in 1978 6 percent of their babies are getting born with the help of IVF and other reproductive technologies.

This provides evidence for an argument I've made here previously: fertility rates in developed countries will eventually rebound. Part of the rebound will be due to selective pressures. Those women who are having more kids have genes which give them cognitive characteristics that make them more fertile. So their kids will be more inclined to make choices that cause them to make babies. But another part of the rebound will come from technological advances.

As this story above illustrates, biotechnologies will provide an additional source of increase in fertility. IVF and other reproductive technologies keep getting better too. For example, see my posts Embryo Tests More Than Double IVF Pregnancy Rate, IVF Experts Call For Lower Fertility Drug Doses, Biopsy Doubles Success Rate For IVF Babies, and Lower Fertility Drug Doses Just As Effective For IVF. Stem cell research will eventually lead to ways for women to make fresh healthy eggs in their 40s and 50s. The effective period during which women can reproduce will get extended by decades.

I am also expecting a rebound in fertility due to effective declines in the cost of child raising. Computerized learning, computerized child-minding (picture an AI notifying mom when junior is about to wander out of the yard), and a huge rise in living standards as a result of the development of nanotech replicators.

Expect a far larger boost in fertility to come from rejuvenation therapies that make bodies young again. Women in their 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and beyond will gain the ability to make their bodies young again and fertile once more. Population growth will only be controllable by strict legal restrictions on reproduction. One of my open questions about the future: will humanity restrict population growth or will we fall back down into a Malthusian trap and wipe out most of the remaining wild natural areas in the process?

By Randall Parker    2007 April 04 06:28 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (27)
2007 March 04 Sunday
Public Child Care Services Boost Fertility?

An article in the New York Times examines the question of which European social policies are most pro-natalist.

Curiously, Europe’s lowest birthrates are seen in countries, mostly Catholic, where the old idea that the man is the breadwinner and the woman is the child-raiser holds strong. Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece have among the lowest fertility rates in Western Europe. Meanwhile, countries that support high numbers of working women, like Finland, Norway and Denmark, have among the highest birthrates. How did what’s been called “the fertility paradox” come about?

One explanation is that the more traditional countries face particular challenges when their women do start to work. In these countries, the welfare of the family is still typically seen as the responsibility of individuals rather than of the government, according to Peter McDonald and Francis Castles, who are demographic theorists. And with little public support for working mothers forthcoming, women are likely to think they must choose work or motherhood. At least for now, it seems, many are choosing neither. Statistics show that women in these countries are both less likely to work and less likely to bear children than their counterparts in, say, Scandinavia.

Welfare states need high income taxpayers to fund all the social programs. So the Europeans (and the United States and other Western countries) need demographic profiles that'll generate tax revenue. But aging populations are reducing the proportion of populations that are of working age. Plus, immigration in many countries is increasing the proportion that are low skilled and low earning. So the welfare states face tough times ahead.

Pro-natalist policies getting adopted by some European countries will only deliver a net benefit if they generate more babies that'll grow up to become highly skilled and hard working.

Once genetic testing becomes cheap countries that need more high tax revenue workers would score big on future tax revenues if they provided financial incentives for women to make babies who have genes that boost intelligence and other traits that boost salaries. For example, my guess is there are genetically controlled traits that affect the compulsion to work. Once those traits are identified it would make sense for a welfare state or a socialist state to provide incentives for women to genetically engineer offspring to be smart, curious (so they'll like learning), and with a compulsion to get things done.

What I wonder: Will robots so automate child care that child care will become cheap and women will have many more babies?

Some are skeptical that government policies can boost fertility by much. Yet the French government's pro-natalist policies are working.

in 2006, France pushed past Ireland to become the most fecund nation in the European Union, with an average of two babies per woman.


The number of babies born per woman is higher among the immigrant population than among those born in France, but even the latter bear an average of 1.8 babies, far beyond the rate in neighboring Germany and Spain .

But what is the fertility rate of Muslims in France? Also, of those who are born in France who have babies not all are ethnically French. Some are Muslims too. So what is the non-Muslim ethnically French fertility rate?

Some countries are saddled with too much fertility. Sub-Saharan Africa appears stuck in a Malthusian trap where they have so many babies that their living standards stay low. The babies overwhelm the benefits of imported technologies (e.g. high yield grain crop seeds, fertilizers, electric power plants, computers, fiber optics. cars, vaccines, etc) that boost living standards in much of the world. Also, the imported technologies allow more babies to survive and since their fertility rates do not drop the tech imports just raise populations. You might ask why is that?

In industrialized countries fertility rates have dropped. But I consider this a temporary phase. Selective pressures will increase the frequency of alleles that boost fertility. Much like Elvis, Darwin is everywhere. An Australian twins study (see here and here) found evidence that alleles that boost fertility are getting selected for in Western populations. Here are the reasons I expect to see rises in fertility in industrialized countries:

  • Selective pressures will increase the frequency of alleles that cause women to have more babies.
  • Continued advances in reproductive technology will allow infertile women to have babies and for older women to have babies.
  • The development of rejuvenation therapies will eventually allow women to remain young and fertile for centuries. The reproductive potential of each woman will skyrocket.
  • Some parents will genetically engineer their offspring to want to have kids and the parents will do that to ensure they'll get desired grandchildren.
  • Some religious cults will arise that are very pro-fertility.

What could prevent all this from coming to pass? A number of possibilities come to mind:

  • When huge population growth looks likely governments (mostly non-democratic ones) will regulate fertility and even require offspring to be genetically engineered to lack instincts to reproduce.
  • War or terrorism with bioweapons could kill a large fraction of humanity.
  • Humans might live increasingly in simulated reality and satisfy their desires for offspring by raising simulated offspring with artificial intelligence.
  • Robots or nanobots might take over and wipe out humanity.

I do not expect democratically elected governments to effectively regulate fertility because I expect the majority to vote according to their instincts and to therefore oppose fertility restrictions. One wild card there: Genetically engineered IQ boosts might so raise intelligence of humans that they can understand and appreciate the damaging effects of overpopulation to an extent that they will support restrictions on reproduction.

By Randall Parker    2007 March 04 01:22 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (6)
2006 November 21 Tuesday
US General Fertility Rate Rose Slightly In 2005

In my posts Eternal Youth, Overpopulation, And Instincts To Reproduce and Selective Pressure Grows For Belief In God I argued that a continued decline in fertility rates in industrialized countries seems unlikely because selective pressures are increasing the frequency of alleles that favor the desire to have offspring. Not everyone was persuaded by this argument, as the comments on those posts attest. Well, a new study by the CDC reports not only did fertility in the United States not decline in 2005, it actually increased slightly.

The number of births and the general fertility rate (GFR) increased slightly, whereas the crude birth rate remained unchanged from 2004 to 2005. The preliminary estimate of births in 2005, 4,140,419, increased 1 percent from 2004 (Tables 1, 5, 6, and 8) (2). Births rose for Hispanic, American Indian or Alaska Native (AIAN), Asian or Pacific Islander (API), and non-Hispanic black women, but declined slightly for non-Hispanic white women. The crude birth rate in 2005 was 14.0 births per 1,000 total population, unchanged from 2004. The preliminary 2005 GFR (66.7 births per 1,000 women age 15-44 years), however, rose slightly from 2004, to the highest level since 1993 (2). The GFR rose for Hispanic and AIAN women, declined slightly for API women, and was essentially unchanged for non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic black women.

We are going to witness an increase in fertility as both genes and beliefs that favor fertility get selected for. It is not reasonable to expect the human race will escape selective pressures for higher fertility.

Even the development of biotechnologies for offspring genetic engineering will not stop natural selection from operating on the human genome. Natural selection operates on genetic variations. Whether the genetic variations are generated by chance events that generate mutations or by human minds choosing alleles from a catalog the result will be variations in offspring desire to have children of their own. Therefore selective pressures will still be able to work when we reach the point where people can make choices on which genes to give to their offspring.

It seems reasonable to expect that people who like children the most will be the ones who are most inclined to select genetic variations that cause their offspring to share their ardour for babies and children. Those children will have more children and will be more likely to give their children the same sorts of genetic variations. So how does reproductive biotechnology end natural selection? I do not see it happening unless governments intervene.

By Randall Parker    2006 November 21 09:31 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (3)
2006 November 07 Tuesday
Selective Pressure Grows For Belief In God

In the comments section of my previous post Eternal Youth, Overpopulation, And Instincts To Reproduce some readers objected to my argument that natural selection will reverse the continuing decline in fertility seen in many (though not all) countries. My response is simple: I'm not going out on some speculative limb. This is basic Darwinian Evolution 101. Given new selective pressures (in this case industrial society) increasing frequencies of alleles that raise fertility will eventually reverse the decline in baby making. The signs of this selective pressure are not hard to find. Eric Kaufmann has an essay in the November 2006 issue of Prospect Magazine entitled Breeding for God where he argues the fertility advantage of religious believers over non-believers is selecting for more religious populations.

The Mormons, for example, like Stark's early Christians, have maintained a 40 per cent per decade population growth rate for 100 years. They remain 70 per cent of Utah's population in the teeth of substantial non-Mormon immigration, and have even expanded into neighbouring states. In the 1980s, the Mormon fertility rate was around three times that of American Jews. Today the Mormons, once a fringe sect, outnumber Jews among Americans under the age of 45.

Natural selection is selecting for genetic variations that favor religious belief because religious believers are more inclined to put having children above having higher living standards. In the process of selecting for more fertile humans natural selection is also selecting for more religious humans.

The rise of the conservative religious Right in America is due to natural selection. Liberals have fewer babies than conservatives. Some of the difference is genetic. Some is due to values passed along to children.

An important recent article in the American Journal of Sociology by Michael Hout, Andrew Greeley and Melissa Wilde examines trends in American religious denominational growth in the 20th century. The authors find that conservative Protestant denominations increased their share of all white Protestants from one third among those born in 1900 to two thirds for those born in 1975. Three quarters of the growth of white conservative Protestant denominations is demographic, since they have maintained a fertility advantage over more liberal denominations for many decades.

We can not count on a continued decline in fertility in industrialized societies.

The world march toward secularism and lower fertility shows signs of reversing. The proportion of the world's population that is religious is now growing. Fertility will likely follow.

The share of the world's population that is religious is growing, after nearly a century of modest decline. This effect has been produced by the younger generations in the developing world rejecting secularisation, combined with higher religious fertility levels. Throughout the world, the religious tend to have more children, irrespective of age, education or wealth. "Secular" Europe is no exception. In an analysis of European data from ten west European countries in the period 1981-2004 I found that next to age and marital status, a woman's religiosity was the strongest predictor of her number of offspring.

Genetic variations that increase both conservatism and religiosity are being selected for in America.

As Arthur Brooks of Syracuse University recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal, "if you picked 100 unrelated politically liberal adults at random, you would find that they had, between them, 147 children. If you picked 100 conservatives, you would find 208 kids. That's a 'fertility gap' of 41 per cent. Given that about 80 per cent of people with an identifiable party preference grow up to vote the same way as their parents, this gap translates into lots more little Republicans than little Democrats to vote in future elections."

Secularization of Muslims in Europe is not going to bring Musliim fertility down to white European fertility. Why? The Muslims aren't secularizing. So much for the inevitability of secularization.

Muslim secularisation would certainly alter this picture and forms a cornerstone of the Norris-Inglehart thesis. But a glance at the surveys of ethnic minorities in Europe reveals little evidence of this. In Britain, second-generation Afro-Caribbeans and eastern European Christians tend to be less religious than their parents but more so than the wider population. Yet there is virtually no change at all in the religiosity of Bangladeshi and Pakistani Muslims between the first and second generations. A recent study of Dutch ethnic minorities paints a similar picture of religious retention among Muslim groups.

Supposedly inevitable never-ending trends like secularization and declining fertilty are not forever.

Conservatism might be getting selected for independent of religiosity.The full Arthur Brooks essay points out that even adjusted for religious belief conservatives are more fertile than liberals.

The fertility gap doesn't budge when we correct for factors like age, income, education, sex, race--or even religion. Indeed, if a conservative and a liberal are identical in all these ways, the liberal will still be 19 percentage points more likely to be childless than the conservative.

Breaking fertility rates down by race and state brings out big differences between fertility rates.

The single most useful and understandable birthrate measure is the “total fertility rate.” This estimates, based on recent births, how many children the average woman currently in her childbearing years will have. The National Center for Health Statistics reported that in 2002 the average white woman was giving birth at a pace consistent with having 1.83 babies during her lifetime, or 13 percent below the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman. This below-replacement level has not changed dramatically in three decades.

States, however, differ significantly in white fertility. The most fecund whites are in heavily Mormon Utah, which, not coincidentally, was the only state where Bush received over 70 percent. White women average 2.45 babies in Utah compared to merely 1.11 babies in Washington, D.C., where Bush earned but 9 percent. The three New England states where Bush won less than 40 percent—Massachusetts, Vermont, and Rhode Island—are three of the four states with the lowest white birthrates, with little Rhode Island dipping below 1.5 babies per woman.

Average fertility rates of large groups are less important than large differences between fertility rates of smaller groups. Those large differences are a sign that there are factors at work that are cancelling out the trend toward lower fertility. Those groups with higher fertility are going to be much larger portions of future generations. So will their higher rates of fertility. Just as they do their kids will have more kids.

Before anyone argues that religiosity's effect on fertility is due to social environment rather than genetics check out my post Twins Study Finds Adult Religiosity Heritable. Also see my previous post Sydney Brenner: Biological Evolution Is An Obsolete Technology

Offspring genetic engineering to raise IQ could in theory work against religiosity and fertility. IQ and religiosity are highly negatively correlated. On the other hand, religious folks could probably choose genetic variations that increase religiosity to balance the genetic variations they give their offspring to increase intelligence. Also, people could give their offspring genetic variations that boost the odds that the parents will become grandparents. See my post Will Offspring Genetic Engineering Cause Population Explosion?.

I expect natural selection will win and drive human populations up by orders of magnitude unless instincts are reprogrammed with genetic engineering.

By Randall Parker    2006 November 07 04:38 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (24)
2006 October 25 Wednesday
Industrial Nations Increase Incentives For Babies

Faced with graying populations and the need for more younger workers to pay taxes to support growing retired populations many industrial nations are adopting pro-natal policies. France has managed to achieve a fertility rate high above the average in Europe.

While falling birthrates threaten to undermine economies and social stability across much of an aging Europe, French fertility rates are increasing. France now has the second-highest fertility rate in Europe -- 1.94 children born per woman, exceeded slightly by Ireland's rate of 1.99. The U.S. fertility rate is 2.01 children.

What I'd like to know: what is the native French fertility rate and what is the Muslim fertility rate? The French need babies that'll grow up to be smart, highly skilled, and work in occupations with high pay and hence big tax revenue boosters.

French government incentives for reproduction are seen as the cause of the higher French fertility rate.

France heavily subsidizes children and families from pregnancy to young adulthood with liberal maternity leaves and part-time work laws for women. The government also covers some child-care costs of toddlers up to 3 years old and offers free child-care centers from age 3 to kindergarten, in addition to tax breaks and discounts on transportation, cultural events and shopping.

This summer, the government -- concerned that French women still were not producing enough children to guarantee a full replacement generation -- very publicly urged French women to have even more babies. A new law provides greater maternity leave benefits, tax credits and other incentives for families who have a third child. During a year-long leave after the birth of the third child, mothers will receive $960 a month from the government, twice the allowance for the second child.

Tax cuts for women who have children make sense because the taxes not paid by mom get offset in the longer run by taxes paid when the babies grow up and start working. The tax cuts should be in percentage terms so that higher income and higher tax paying people receive greater incentives to have children. People in high tax brackets tend to have children who reach higher tax brackets.

Other governments are offering financial incentives for couples that have kids.

Australia offers a $2,000 bonus to each couple that has a third child. "Go home and do your patriotic duty tonight," finance minister Peter Costello urged Australians in May.

Estonia will pay a mother a full year's wages to have a child. Singapore offers cash payments of about $10,000 for third or fourth children, and more vacation days for working parents.

In Estonia women who have babies can receive as much as 2.4 times the average $650 per month salary for a year.

Estonia's wake-up call came in 2001, when the United Nations' annual world-population report showed that Estonia was one of the fastest-shrinking nations on earth, at risk of losing nearly half its 1.4 million people by mid-century. Estonia's fertility rate -- the average number of children a woman bears -- had collapsed to 1.3 in the late 1990s, down from 2.2 under communism only a decade earlier.

In an attempt to stop that downward spiral, Estonia took a bold step: In 2004 it began paying women to have babies. Working women who take time off after giving birth get their entire monthly income for up to 15 months, up to a ceiling of $1,560. Non-wage-earners get $200 a month. The welfare perk -- known locally as the "mother's salary" -- was a sharp about-face for the radically free-market government.

Other European governments are trying money for babies.

Some European countries are experimenting with monthly cash compensation to women who leave work to have babies, including Lithuania, Austria and Slovenia. Starting next year, Germany and Bulgaria plan to pay new mothers benefits linked to their previous earnings. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who bemoaned his country's lack of children in his last state-of-the-nation speech in May, has also promised more aid to parents.

These policies need to be crafted to provide the biggest incentives for the smartest women. On average smarter women make more from their jobs. So fixed cash amounts per month tend to favor reproduction by lower income, less skilled, and less bright women. The Bulgarian and German plans to link the size of benefits to previous earnings will provide better incentives for the women who'll have - on average - higher achieving offspring.

By Randall Parker    2006 October 25 10:21 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (34)
2006 July 02 Sunday
Americans Becoming Lonelier

I hear Sting singing "I feel lonely, I'm so lonely, I feel so low". People have fewer confidants.

Durham, N.C. -- Americans’ circle of confidants has shrunk dramatically in the past two decades and the number of people who say they have no one with whom to discuss important matters has more than doubled, according to a new study by sociologists at DukeUniversity and the University of Arizona.

“The evidence shows that Americans have fewer confidants and those ties are also more family-based than they used to be,” said Lynn Smith-Lovin, Robert L. Wilson Professor of Sociology at Duke University and one of the authors of " Social Isolation in America: Changes in Core Discussion Networks Over Two Decades."

“This change indicates something that’s not good for our society. Ties with a close network of people create a safety net. These ties also lead to civic engagement and local political action,” she said.

The study, published in the June issue of American Sociological Review, is based on the first nationally representative survey on this topic in 19 years.

It compared data from 1985 and 2004 and found that the mean number of people with whom Americans can discuss matters important to them dropped by nearly one-third, from 2.94 people in 1985 to 2.08 in 2004.

Researchers also found that the number of people who said they had no one with whom to discuss such matters more than doubled, to nearly 25 percent. The survey found that both family and non-family confidants dropped, with the loss greatest in non-family connections.

The study paints a picture of Americans’ social contacts as a “densely connected, close, homogeneous set of ties slowly closing in on itself, becoming smaller, more tightly interconnected, more focused on the very strong bonds of the nuclear family.”

That means fewer contacts created through clubs, neighbors and organizations outside the home -- a phenomenon popularly known as “bowling alone,” from the 2000 book of the same title by Robert D. Putnam.

The researchers speculated that changes in communities and families, such as the increase in the number of hours that family members spend at work and the influence of Internet communication, may contribute to the decrease in the size of close-knit circles of friends and relatives.

The study also finds that:

-- The trend toward social isolation mirrors other class divides. Non-whites and people with less education tend to have smaller networks than white Americans and those with higher educational levels.

-- Racial diversity among people’s networks has increased. The percentage of people who count at least one person of another race in their close network has gone up from about 9 percent to more than 15 percent.

-- The percentage of people who talk only to family members about important matters increased from about 57 percent to about 80 percent, while the number of people who depend totally on their spouse has increased from about 5 percent to about 9 percent.

The social scientists who did this research are uncertain about explanations.

One possibility is that people interpreted the questions differently in 2004 than they did in 1985. What people define as “important” might have changed, or people might not equate emailing or instant messaging with “discussing.”

The researchers also suggest that changes in work and the geographical scattering of families may foster a broader, shallower network of ties, rather than the close bonds measured by this study.

Research also shows a decline in the number of groups that people belong to and the amount of time they spend with these clubs and other organizations. Members of families spend more time at work and have less time to spend on activities outside the home that might lead to close relationships.

And new technology, while it allows people to connect over larger distances, might diminish the need for face-to-face visits with friends, family or neighbors, the study said.

I certainly spend more time communicating with people remotely due to the internet. But hasn't the decline in the cost of phone calls shifted more time spent communicating to remote communication as well?

On the one hand, phones let people stay in contact with other people who are no longer living near them. On the other hand, time spent on the phone reduces time available to deal with people face-to-face. That face time seems more likely to develop friendships.

What I wonder: Are people specializing their relationship needs? Instead of having a friend that one uses for many things do people have more relationships where each relationship satisfies a smaller range of needs?

We can meet many more people. We can live in more places, work in more places, play in more places. We can communicate with people around the world. Look at yourself reading my writing right now. You can read some thoughts of some guy who is not a professional writer and you can respond to him in the comments and read my responses in return. That all pulls you away from developing relationships in person where you are.

But if the decline in relationships is greater in the lower classes then that argues against the internet playing the major role. The influence of the internet is greater among the more affluent.

Further into the future perhaps this trend will reverse. When we develop the ability to reverse the aging process people will have centuries in which to develop relationships. Automation will probably increase the amount of free time. Will people spend some of that time developing relationships?

On the other hand, automation will reduce many ways in which we need to come into contact with others. For example, look at education. It is incredibly inefficient. Every year the same basic calculus course gets taught thousands of times. Why not record more lectures and save all that labor? Plus, people could watch lectures whenever they wanted to. Tests could get delivered and graded automatically over the internet. But automation of much of learning would reduce contacts with teachers, school administrators, and fellow students.

Will work involve more human-to-human contact or less? Also, some jobs require lots of contact but of very short duration or via phone. Will jobs tend to involve more longer term relationships? Or will more of the customized delivery of services be done via computer records remembering customer preferences and will each customer service representative deal with a constantly changing set of customers with short interactions?

Anyone think they have insights on the causes of the decrease in real friendships?

Update: To what extent does movement to take new jobs cause a reduction in the number of friendships people maintain? Over the last couple of decades has there been a reduction in the average amount of time people spend in a neighborhood before moving a substantial distance?

I also wonder whether rising economic output and the resulting widening range of incomes has decreased the amount people have in common with each other. When a larger fraction of the population worked in factories salaries and career trajectories were more similar. Knowledge work might pull people apart as specialization in education and in career work reduces the extent of common experiences.

Update II: I think media make people less interested in those around them. You can find better looking people on TV, in movies, and on the internet. In contrast to who you can meet locally in electronic venues you can find funnier people, more thoughtful people, more original people, more energetic, pretty, sexy and alluring people, smarter, and more informed people. Getting to know your neighbors seems unrewarding to most people. That's a harsh thing to say. But for the vast bulk of the population it is also true. Most people are not that interesting to most other people.

What does this portend for the future?

By Randall Parker    2006 July 02 10:09 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (19)
2006 May 21 Sunday
Russia Offers Cash For Babies

With a UN report predicting a one third decline in Russia's population by 2050 the Russian government has finally awakened to the scale of the problem they face.

MOSCOW – Cash for babies is the Kremlin's offer to women in its latest bid to reverse a population decline that threatens to leave large swaths of Russia virtually uninhabited within 50 years.

President Vladimir Putin last week defined the crisis as Russia's most acute problem, and promised to spend some of the country's oil profits on efforts to relieve it. He ordered parliament to more than double monthly child support payments to 1,500 rubles (about $55) and added that women who choose to have a second baby will receive 250,000 rubles ($9,200), a staggering sum in a country where average monthly incomes hover close to $330.

The article quotes Russian mothers saying that the sums offered are not large enough to cause them to have another kid. The Russian birth rate has fallen almost in half since communism collapsed. Does the insecurity in Russia make women reluctant to reproduce?

Russia's birthrate, falling for decades, has plunged in post-Soviet times, to just 1.17 in 2004 from 2.08 babies per woman in 1990 - far below the 2.4 children required to maintain the population - according to the Federal State Statistics Service.

I'd like to know what most changed the thinking of Russian women. High unemployment of prospective mates? Higher criminality around them? Their own lower job security? Lower living standards? What?

If I was the Tsar of Russia (which Mr. Putin more or less is at this point) I'd make the money available only to smarter women (say a 115 or 120 IQ threshold) and I'd up the amount offered per woman per baby. Smarter kids will make far larger contributions to Russia's economy and will be less likely to become criminals or unemployed.

Another thought: Offer greater job security to men and women who have large families. Make some kinds of prestigious, highly secure, and well-paying jobs available only to those who have 3 or more kids.

If someone wants to get morally indignant at me for advocating eugenic policies I have an answer for them: Ho hum. Excuse me while I yawn.

Update: Thinking about Russian women who are reticent to have children given current conditions in Russia a thought came to me: When it becomes possible to boost offspring IQ and other desirable traits (about about very good looks?) using genetic engineering that will serve as an incentive to have children. Think about it. Worried how your children might turn out? Worried they will be poor and attracted to a criminal life? Worried whether you will be able to provide them sufficient education to land high paying jobs? If you can be guaranteed your kids will have 130+ IQs then those worries go way down. Again see this chart of how white males in America do as a function of IQ which I linked to above with a comment about criminals and the unemployed. Moms who know their kids will find school and intellectually demanding jobs to be easy are Moms who can look forward to happy times as their children grow up and become adults. Also, genetic engineering applied to embryos will decrease the odds of birth defects and development problems. I figure women will become more eager to reproduce when they can look forward to having successful kids.

By Randall Parker    2006 May 21 12:11 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (7)
2006 April 02 Sunday
Will Offspring Genetic Engineering Cause Population Explosion?

Several years ago Steve Sailer commented that what parents most want from their children are grandchildren.

Feminists and gay male leaders will also soon grow concerned that allowing parents to select embryos will leave them with fewer followers. This is because free market Galtonism will increase the gap between the sexes. Parents will select for square-jawed, ambitious, high testosterone, first-born sons, and lovely, nurturing, high-oestrogen, latter-born daughters. Why? What parents want most from their children are grandchildren, and high-achieving sons, such as business executives, produce far more grandchildren on average than high-achieving daughters. Further, parents will want loving daughters to take care of them in their old age.

Thus, boys will become more masculine and girls more feminine.

That statement was made in the context of what people will select to give as characteristics to their children and how Lefists will oppose individual choice in offspring genetic because parents will choose characteristics that Leftists, and feminists in particular, will not like.

The focus in that essay on the battle between ideological factions (important though it is) distracted me for years from noticing something far more important: If parents want their children to have grandchildren then won't parents tend to select cognitive characteristics for their children that will cause their children to want to have children of their own? If so, won't that lead to a population explosion?

Lately I happened to have several conversations with friends and acquaintances who were incredibly enthused about becoming grandparents. Then I recalled Steve's comments and got to thinking about the ramifications of so many parents wanting to become grandparents. This strikes me as a big problem once that desire meets up with offspring genetic engineering.

Years ago Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper did a song called "Elvis Is Everywhere" (except in Joan Rivers and Michael J. Fox). Well, Darwin is a lot like Elvis. He's everywhere. Natural selection is happening all around you all the time. Darwinian natural selection is like Spock's brain controlling an entire planet. It is that pervasive.

Currently fertility rates are declining below replacement levels in many Western nations. In the past natural selection ensured reproduction by use of lust. But birth control pills and other methods of contraception have (seemingly) defeated natural selection. But Darwinian natural selection is relentless and not so easily defeated. Therefore I do not buy the argument that the decline in fertility is a one way street.

As I've previously reported on an Australian twins study (see here and here) characteristics that increase fertility appear to be under positive selective pressure in humans. So just from natural selection I expect to eventually see an upswing in fertility in Western populations. But will humans do genetic engineering to their offspring that greatly speeds on selection for the desire for children and hence for increased fertility? This seems plausible, even likely.

Worse yet, suppose some members of future generations are genetically engineered to really really like having children. Then suppose we achieve the ability to rejuvenate using Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS). People will live for thousands of years with youthful bodies. If they have a very strong genetically engineered urge to reproduce they might not be satisfied with just one child. Every one or two hundred years they might plot ways to have more children. If such people become a large fraction of the total population then I could easily envision them achieving a democratic majority to vote for continued unlimited reproductive rights. What happens then? Potentially the birth of tens of billions of humans. The human population could double and double and double again many times.

Anyone see a reason why this won't happen? Getting taken over by AI robots that wipe us out is one way that future might not come to past. But short of that, can a human population explosion be prevented?

By Randall Parker    2006 April 02 02:15 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (16)
2006 January 02 Monday
Aging Baby Boomers Begin To Turn 60

The earliest post World War 2 baby boomers have begun turning 60 years old.

The baby boom, a post World War II population explosion, began 60 years ago today, on Jan. 1, 1946. By the time it ended in 1964, 75.8 million children had been born in the United States. By Dec. 31, about 2.8 million boomers will have turned 60, the leading edge of a demographic shift that will make America, and the world, statistically older than ever before.

I am hopeful that the boomers are far less willing to resign themselves to aging than previous generations and as the fact of their aging sinks in that they will begin to push harder for acceleration of research into rejuvenation therapies. Aubrey de Grey's appearance on the very popular CBS 60 Minutes TV news show just introduced tens of millions of boomers to the idea of Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS). The 60 Minutes show introduced the Methuselah Mouse Prize as a way to incentivize anti-aging research just as the X Prize accelerated the development of technology for space exploration. Those of us who promote the idea of full body rejuvenation as an achievable goal have seen this cause come a long way from the fringe to the mainstream. About 8 or 9 years ago Aubrey was discussing rejuvenation with a small handful of us on the Usenet group sci.life-extension. Gradually he's made it into major print publications and TV with the idea that aging is curable.

The rise in the average age of Western populations increases the economic value of rejuvenation therapies. When only a very small fraction of societies were old the economic return on rejuvenation was much less. But with so many highly skilled people basically wearing out and deterioriating the loss of human capital from aging is immense. Efforts to rejuvenate humans would have an economic return that is analogous to the return from rebuilding worn out capital equipment.

The reason I see rejuvenation as an achievable goal is that aging is just a changing of the arrangement of matter and our ability to rearrange matter is advancing very rapidly. Ray Kurzweil (see The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology) makes this argument with logarithmic charts and graphs showing continuing accelerations of CPU speeds, hard disk capacities, fiber optic bandwidths and other measures. While none of his trends will continue unbroken indefinitely (e.g. we will reach the point where electronic devices can't get any smaller than atoms) the trends will continue along far enough to eventually produce nanotechnological devices that make full body rejuvenation and enhancement very easy to do. Barring the destruction of human civilization (which could happen any of several plausible ways including a massive supernova or other interstellar event reaching Earth) the development of rejuvenation therapies is not a question of if. It is a question of when. Current demographic trends provide a powerful argument for accelerating the development of rejuvenation therapies. Of course, the personal desire to not grow old and decrepit is another powerful argument for reversing the aging process.

By Randall Parker    2006 January 02 10:43 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (39)
2005 December 04 Sunday
Girls Sold For Marriage In India Due To Sex Selective Abortions

A shortage of females in India due to sex selective abortion is producing a market for females as brides.

BIR KHURD, India -- Harmesh Singh, a 40-year-old vegetable farmer, had explored the conventional methods of finding a wife. He had consulted female relatives and older women in his village and buttonholed family members in other towns in a quest for leads. After years of searching, however, he still had not found a bride. So last year, he bought one.

Dipping into his meager savings, Singh paid a marriage broker to introduce him to Bibi Kaur, a runaway from Calcutta who says she is 17 but looks considerably younger. Singh would not say how much he paid, but social workers in the area say the fee typically ranges from $100 to $300, depending on the age and appearance of the bride-to-be.

So runaway girls in India probably get hunted down by marriage brokers.

The relative wealth of the Punjab state allows people to afford ultrasound and sex selective abortions. As a result in 2001 there were only 874 females per 1000 males. Probably the imbalance is even greater at younger ages. Once again, the streets find their own uses for technology. The uses often bear little resemblance to the goals the developers of a technology had in mind.

Some girls get sold by their families.

The dearth of potential young brides in Punjab has fueled a demand for women from poor eastern states such as West Bengal and from neighboring Bangladesh and Nepal, where the sex ratio is not as skewed but unemployment and poverty are widespread. Some of the women go willingly. But others are enticed by false promises of jobs, social workers say, or are sold by their families to brokers, a practice that is illegal.

Keep in mind that many of these people are extremely poor. The sale of a daughter might yield money to something valuable for food like a water buffalo.

What I want to know: Will the selling of females essentially as slaves lead to an end to dowry and eventually even a rise in the status of women in India? Or will only further industrialization create conditions that raise the status of women?

By Randall Parker    2005 December 04 10:02 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (10)
2005 October 27 Thursday
Dearth Of Suitable Males For University Educated Japanese Women

Social demographer James Raymo, at University of Wisconsin-Madison and Miho Iwasawa of the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research in Tokyo Japan have found that the willingness of better educated Japanese men to marry less educated women has left many more educated Japanese women single.

Highly educated women generally seek out equally educated spouses, says Raymo, but in Japan, husbands don't necessarily share a similar preference. Due to the extreme difficulty of tending to family and having a job simultaneously, Japanese wives are more likely than their American counterparts to stay home and financially depend on their husbands. Consequently, the researcher notes, Japanese men have less incentive to choose partners of the same educational background.

"Most highly educated Japanese women still want to marry, but can't do that as easily as they could in the past," says Raymo. "Women's increasing educational attainment, combined with lack of change in family roles, has created a potential 'marriage market mismatch' in Japan."

Raymo and co-author Miho Iwasawa of Tokyo's National Institute of Population and Social Security Research analyzed data from Japan's largest fertility and marriage survey, which has collected information on up to 10,000 married women and a similar number of unmarried men and women since 1952. The researchers' analysis revealed that approximately one-fourth of the decline in marriages among university-educated Japanese women can be explained by the dearth of available mates.

In a nutshell: smarter men are willing to marry relatively dumber women. This leaves a deficit of smarter men for the smarter women to marry. This problem is not unique to Japan by any means. Does the preference for equally well educated spouses run more strongly in some Western countries as compared to other Western countries?

Why does mismatch of male and female mating preferences happen? It is probably a consequence of Darwinian natural selection. Women tend to place a higher value on status in mates. Men tend to place a higher value in fertility signals (most notably youth). So a man can get a younger and sexier looking mate by sacrificing the status level he's willing to recruit from. But then that leaves quite a few smart women with a much less desirable field of men to choose among.

Where this phenomenon occurs one would also expect to see a lower rate of marriage among poorly educated and lower IQ men as compared to women of similar lower intellectual abilities. Where this phenomenon occurs such societies end up with lots of unmarried smarter women and dumber men.

Some years back I can remember when Lee Kuan Yew (former prime minister and current "senior minister" of Singapore) organized social events to bring smart men and smart women together at dances or dinners. He wanted the smart male engineers to marry the smart women who had majored in the humanities in college. I wonder if he had any success and whether these social get-togethers are still arranged by the government in Singapore.

Also see my previous posts "Men Prefer Subordinate Women For Long Term Relationships", "Humans Have Been Polygamous For Most Of History", and "Baby Boys Keep Marriages Together Better Than Baby Girls".

By Randall Parker    2005 October 27 01:26 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (20)
2005 May 24 Tuesday
South Korea Birth Rate Hits New Low Of 1.15

South Korea's birth rate breaks a new low record.

The birth rate is estimated to have plunged to its lowest point ever at 1.15. The lowest total fertility rate recorded so far was the 1.17 recorded in 2002.

In a population where everyone has only one child no one would have a cousin or aunts or uncles. Think about it. Your parent would have no brothers or sisters and hence you couldn't have aunts or uncles, let alone cousins.

Once rejuvenation therapies come to market then in a society where everyone has only one child the population would at most double. Picture 128 people forming 64 couples to make 64 offspring. Then those 64 have 32 children. Then those 32 have 16 children who have 8 who have 4 who have 2. Those last two mate with each other and have a single last child.

But once rejuvenation is commonplace and people can stay young for hundreds or even thousands of years most people would want to have more children. Instead of a woman having a 20 year window during which she could reproduce she could work for 50 or 100 or 200 years, amass great wealth, and then easily afford to have a dozen children over a fwe of decades. So once rejuvenation therapies become available only government regulation could prevent long term population growth.

A 2004 article reports that Korea has the lowest total fertility rate in the world.

Last year, the total fertility rate (TFR) among Korean women was the lowest in the world, at 1.19, a figure much lower than the average 1.6 to 1.7 for OECD member countries and significantly lower than the 2.1 needed to maintain the current population level in this country. The TFR is the average number of babies born to women during their reproductive years between ages 15 and 49. The number of births, which once reached as many as one million in 1970 alone, fell to 493,500 last year. From 2017, 13 years from now, the country’s total population will start to decrease.

Korea's businesses are shaping incentives to encourage Korean women to make more babies.

Employers are coming up with a plethora of ideas to help boost Korea’s worryingly low birthrate, with incentives ranging from the sensible to the bizarre. Maternity leave events and maternity lounges, birth bonuses and child rearing support are all on the list, as are “sterility sabbaticals.”

South Korea will be losing 0.2 percent population per year by 2030.

The population growth is forecast to record a negative growth rate of 0.2 percent in 2030 as the number of newly born babies would continue to decline in the future.


An average Korean worker would have to pay about 54.7 percent of his or her income in taxes, pension contributions, and other social welfare-related payments to support the aged population in 2030, up from 39.3 percent in 2005.

The high taxes to pay for an increasing elderly population will serve as an additional disincentive for having children.

In the longer run Darwinian natural selection will have its way. As compared to the women who are having fewer children the South Korean women who are having larger families carry, on average, more genotypes that cause them to have more children. So genotypes that encourage having more offspring are being selected for in South Korea (and in the rest of the industrialized world for that matter). This process of natural selection takes generations to play out. But the anti-natal effects of industrialised society will eventually be overcome by increased frequency of genes that lead to a much stronger desire to have children. Selective pressures can not be escaped from without genetic engineering and government intervention.

By Randall Parker    2005 May 24 09:32 AM   Entry Permalink | Comments (29)
2005 March 05 Saturday
Nicholas Eberstadt On Russia's Unfolding Demographic Disaster

Nicholas Eberstadt paints a bleak picture of Russia's demographic future.

On New Year's Day 1992—one week after the dissolution of the Soviet Union—Russia's population was estimated to be 148.7 million. As of mid 2004, according to the Russian State Statistics Committee (Goskomstat), the Russian Federation's population was 143.8 million. During its first eleven and a half years of post-Communist independence, Russia's population had apparently declined by almost five million people, or over 3 percent.

In proportional terms, this was by no means the largest population loss recorded during that period. According to estimates and projections by the U.N. Bureau of the Census, over a dozen states with a million people or more experienced a population decline between mid 1992 and mid 2004, 11 of these amounting to drops of 3.1 percent or more. Unlike some of these drops, however—Bosnia, for example, whose population total fell almost 10 percent—Russia's decline could not be explained by war or violent upheaval. In other places, population decline was due entirely to emigration (Armenia, Kazakhstan), or nearly so (Georgia). Russia, by contrast, had absorbed a substantial net influx of migrants during those years—a total net addition of over 5.5 million newcomers was tabulated between the territory's Soviet-era January 1989 census and its October 2002 population count.

Despite the mitigating impact of immigration, Russia's post-Communist population decline was larger in absolute terms than any other country's over the past decade. Furthermore, continuing population decline—at a decidedly faster tempo—is envisioned for Russia for as far as demographers care to project into the future. The only question is how steep the downward path will be. The U.S. Census Bureau, for example, offers the relatively optimistic projection of a "mere" 14 million person drop in Russia's population between 2000 and 2025—an average net decline of about 560,000 persons a year. The U.N. Population Division's (UNPD) "medium variant" projection, by contrast, suggests a drop of more than 21 million over that same quarter century—about 840,000 persons a year for the period as a whole.

To maintain their current population Russian women need to bear more children than the 2.1 often cited in industrialized countries as replacement level reproduction.

Consider Russia's current fertility patterns. In a society with the Russian Federation's present survival patterns, women must bear an average of about 2.33 children per lifetime to assure population stability over successive generations. In the late Soviet era, Russian fertility levels were near replacement: The country's total fertility rate (TFR) fluctuated near two births per woman from the mid 1960s through the mid 1980s. But with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian fertility rate likewise collapsed, plummeting from 2.19 births per woman in 1986-87 to 1.17 in 1999. Moreover, extreme subreplacement fertility is not peculiar to certain regions of Russia today; to the contrary, it prevails across almost the entire territorial expanse of the Federation.

Since 2001, there have been some indications of a resurgence of fertility in the Russian Federation. For the year 2002, according to Goskomstat, the country's total fertility rate has risen to 1.32.

The number of children that has to be born just to maintain population stability is surprisingly high. That reflects high rates of infant mortality and mortality at later stages of development as well as the surprisingly high rate of infertility.

A combination of scarred reproductive tracts from lots of abortions (really, I am not making this up) and a high rate of sexually transmitted infections (STIs - in other venues referred to as sexually transmitted diseases or STDs) are causing low Russian fertility rates.

According to some recent reports, however, 13 percent of Russia's married couples of childbearing age are infertile—nearly twice the 7 percent for the United States in 1995 as reported by the National Center for Health Statistics. Other Russian sources point to an even greater prevalence of infertility today, with numbers ranging as high as 30 percent of all males and females of childbearing age.

If the Russian leadership wanted to increase child births in Russia then good place to start would be a tax on abortions (and a tax on vodka) that would be used to pay for subsidies to supply birth control pills. Also, the article provides an estimate that as many as 15% of college students may have current STIs. Wow. Rather than test everyone for infections it might make more economic sense to simultaneously give all late teen and early twenties Russians (or whatever age range would be indicated as optimal by testing of population samples) a course of antibiotic treatment to wipe out the STI infections. Russia could really benefit from development of vaccines for syphilis, gonorrhea, and the like.

Russia is also suffering from declining marriage rates and rising divorce rates. Plus, the death rate from injury (including accidents, murders, suicides) is very high.

For men under 65 years of age, Russia's death rate from injury and poisoning is currently over four times as high as Finland's, the nation with the worst rate in the EU. Russia's violent death rate for men under 65 is nearly six times as high as Belgium's, over nine times as high as Israel's, and over a dozen times that of the United Kingdom. As is well known, men are more likely than women to die violent deaths—but in a gruesome crossover, these death rates for Russian women are now higher than for most western European men.

Russian male life expectancy is below 60 years. Alcoholism is one of the reasons for this.

Low life expectancy exacts a large economic toll. A doctor or engineer or manager who gets degenerative diseases decades sooner than a Japanese or an American becomes less productive as the diseases progress and then of course stops producing altogether if death comes when that same person would still have years left to work in a more successful society. The bad habits of binge drinking and higher rates of infectious diseases exact tolls on productivity as well. Esiimates for HIV infection rates in the Russian population range as high as 2%.

Russia's biggest problem is public health. The Russian government ought to elevate public health measures ahead of a lot of other competing uses of government money. If spent wisely, money spent on public health measures (e.g. vigorous tracing and treatment of people exposed to STIs) could pay big economic dividends.

What is most amazing to me is that the Russians are letting this disaster unfold. Think about it. As the core of the USSR the Russians put men into space, developed ICBMs, and built massive dams and other scientific and engineering projects. By some measures theirs is not a primitive society. Yet look at what is going on there. The trends in Russia illustrate the substantial differences in cultures and characteristics that still separate the different peoples of the world.

Read the whole article.

By Randall Parker    2005 March 05 09:05 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (9)
2004 June 11 Friday
Can Third World Fertility Statistics Be Trusted?

First of all, why are Third World fertility statistics a topic for FuturePundit? Well, at the risk of boring you by stating and then answering an obvious question: demographics is destiny. Gene Expression blogger Razib just got back to Oregon from visiting with his extended family in Bangladesh and along with his many other interesting comments on his trip (with more trip reports in the pipeline) he reports that an economist relative claims the Bangladeshi government is exaggerating the decline in fertility of women in Bangladesh.

Oh, about Bangladesh's drop in total fertility in the past 10 years, my economist relative told me that a lot of it was a paper drop, as functionaries cooked the books. Some change has occured, but it is inflated.

How widespread is the practice of cooking the books on human reproduction in less developed countries? If this is a widespread phenomenon then assorted projections of future human population trends are substantially in error and the world's population is going to grow much larger than currently forecast. That is a great tragedy. An increase in population of a country like Bangladesh is a net harm to both Bangladesh and the world at large.

This reminds me of a South African correspondent who tells me that we can't trust the crime statistics and migration statistics coming out of South Africa. The government takes years longer to produce the statistics than it did in past years and there is no reason for the delay since the government can churn through the input datasets to produce the statistics quite rapidly. This correspondent says that the government cooks the crime rate statistics to make South Africa look better than it is and that it does not even report black-on-white crime any more even though that is the category that is rising most rapidly (adjusted of course for the fact that the white population is dropping and the extent of that drop is hidden as well).

This all leads to a more general question: what important demographic trends are being covered up or exaggerated by which governments? Also, what kinds of sampling methods could social scientist employ to spot check and look for indications of systematic deception?

Since there is such a huge quantity of statistical data produced by a large assortment of sources we need some rules to inform our suspicions. For instance, one can expect governments to usually have an incentive to underreport crime statistics (though occasionally desires for larger budgets probably cause some law enforcement agencies to exaggerate threats). Also, in a place like South Africa where the crime rates have been rising the populace is going to tend to stop reporting many types of crime when they see that reporting does no good. So we have to also look for signs that entire populaces may be facing changing incentives with regard to whether to report pertinent information.

Razib also says that if reports from his own extended familiy are indicative (and he comes from an unusually highly educated family) many of the most skilled Bangladeshis are living abroad. One thing I wonder about that is whether there are nations whose outward migration patterns of skilled workers have gotten large enough to lower average national IQ. That seems plausible for Middle Eastern nations that have little or no oil wealth. Ditto for sub-Saharan African nations suffering from brain drain of their most skilled.

Razib also reports that employees of Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are living high on the hog by Bangladeshi standards. NGOs are funded by international agencies and by aid programs of wealthier nations.

Many of the people who work at NGOs or "own" them drive posh cars. 10% are really making out from foreign aid, while 90% are unaffected. Of course, if the money was given directly to the government, 1% would benefit. My economist uncle is working on "microdevelopment." Don't really know what it is, but sounds like getting illiterates to behave in a less stupid and exploitable fashion. I'm skeptical.

Are these NGOs providing a net benefit to Bangladesh or are they just creating a privileged class?

By Randall Parker    2004 June 11 01:43 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (20)
2004 May 18 Tuesday
Workforce Growth In Industrialized Countries To Slow

Labor markets are going to stop growing as populations age and population growth slows.

Research from a US think tank, the Aspen Institute, has found that in the past 20 years, the US workforce grew by 44 per cent. Over the next 20, however, the projected growth rate is zip. In the past 20 years, skilled workers increased by 19 per cent but over the next two decades, the number will rise by just 4 per cent.

The figures from Australia are just as stark. At the moment, our workforce increases by around 170,000 a year. Fast-forward to 2020 and the forecast is 125,000 new entrants - for the entire decade.

Changes in labor market participation rates make future workforce sizes hard to predict precisely. It seems likely that the coming financial crunch due to huge unfunded retirement liabilities governments will need to raise retirement ages and cut back benefits. So older people will come under increasing financial pressures to work longer and even people in their 50s will come under pressures to work more to save more for their retirements.

As Ben Franklin famously commented, necessity is the mother of invention. It therefore seems logical to expect more innovation aimed at reducing the need for expensive skilled labor.

One big trend I expect to see is the greater use of telecommunications and computer technologies to allow remote use of experts. This will greatly increase the amount of work each expert can do for types of jobs that require remote site support.

To take just one example think about just how wasteful it is to fly an expert petroleum engineer to a remote oil field or an expert mining engineer to some remote mining site. The time the engineer has to spend travelling is not productive. Also, upon arrival the engineer may not be needed all the hours of each day of a visit. Even worse, other experts that a visiting engineer may need to interact with may be available only part of the time. Plus, some worksites pose risks due to terrorism, lawlessness, climate, or disease. But as networks become faster and cheaper and sensors improve it seems reasonable to expect we will gain the ability to allow geographically distant workers to use high fidelity holographic image projectors of people and equipment to allow experts to support many more far-flung projects.

In the future even operation of many types of equipment could be done remotely. Picture someone operating a crane or mining machine from thousands of miles away while wearing goggles that provide incrredibly high resolution images that make it seem like the person is at the distant worksite. While current communications technologies represent a substantial improvement on what was possible in years past we are still scratching the surface of what will become possible once we are able to build much higher resolution holographic imaging systems.

By Randall Parker    2004 May 18 02:19 AM   Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2004 May 10 Monday
On China's Shortage Of Females

China has a lot of extra males. (same article here)

The number of boys under 9 years old was 12.77 million more than that of girls.


Li said the normal newborn sex proportion is 100:104-107, and if China's disproportionate figure is allowed to continue unchecked, there would be 30 to 40 million marriage-age men who would be single all their lives by 2020.

"Such serious gender disproportion poses a major threat to the healthy, harmonious and sustainable growth of the nation's population and would trigger such crimes and social problems as mercenary marriage, abduction of women and prostitution," Li said.

I've previously written on China's sex ratio problem and how it could make China militarily aggressive. In a post about Taiwan's sex ratio problem I speculated that a surplus of males will be a selective pressure for higher IQ as smarter men will use their higher earning power to outcompete less smart men for women. There are yet other likely consequences of the increasingly skewed sex ratios of China, Taiwan, and other East and South Asian countries such as India. So let us explore a couple of other possible consequences.

One possible response to the surplus of males in China is that more Chinese men will seek to emigrate to lands that have more women. When there is a shortage one way to deal with a shortage is to go to where the supply is more plentiful. This could lead to literally tens of millions of men trying to leave China for more babe-rich territories. Another strong possibility is that Chinese men may enter the market for "mail order brides" on an absolutely massive scale. Whether the Chinese government will allow Chinese men to import brides by the millions remains to be seen. But the single men will have plenty of motive to try to shop abroad for mates. For millions of men women in foreign lands will be their only potential candidates to be their brides.

Suppose that China decides to allow foreign brides to be imported. Will the Chinese government impose racial requirements in order to assure that the imported brides will have children that can plausibly be passed off as genetically Chinese? Or will China impose other qualifications such as a minimum level of tested intelligence or education? Most foreign woman with higher intelligence and more advanced educations are going to have good choices of husbands and career prospects in their own lands. So they are going to be a hard sell. On the other hand, if China's economy continues to grow rapidly eventually Chinese living standards may rise far enough to put Chinese men in a better position to offer foreign women in poorer countries a more affluent lifestyle.

One can easily imagine disputes between China and other nations if the Chinese government allows the importation of brides. Men in neighboring countries are not exactly going to be happy if their women are getting recruited in large numbers to move to China and marry Chinese guys.

By Randall Parker    2004 May 10 03:05 AM   Entry Permalink | Comments (17)
2004 April 28 Wednesday
Aging Or Sex Ratio Bigger Demographic Problem For China?

Richard Jackson and Neil Howe have written an excellent report about demographic trends for the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) entitled The Graying of the Middle Kingdom.

CHINA IS ABOUT TO UNDERGO A STUNNING DEMOGRAPHIC TRANSFORMATION. Today, China is still a young society. In 2004, the elderly—here defined as adults aged 60 and over—make up just 11 percent of the population. By 2040, however, the UN projects that the share will rise to 28 percent, a larger elder share than it projects for the United States.(See Figure 1.) In absolute numbers, the magnitude of China’s coming age wave is staggering. By 2040, assuming current demographic trends continue, there will be 397 million Chinese elders, which is more than the total current population of France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom combined.

China's shift from a younger to older population is far more rapid than has been occurring in Western nations.

The forces behind China’s demographic transformation—falling fertility and rising longevity—are causing populations to age throughout the world. China’s aging, however, is occurring with unusual speed. In Europe, the elder share of the population passed 10 percent in the 1930s and will not reach 30 percent until the 2030s, a century later. China will traverse the same distance in a single generation. How China navigates its demographic transformation will go a long way toward determining whether it achieves its aspiration of becoming a prosperous and stable developed country. In the near term, while its population is still young and growing, China must rush to modernize its economy and raise living standards. In the long term, it must find ways to care for a much larger number of dependent elderly without overburdening taxpayers or overwhelming families.

China will have a higher percentage of elderly than the United States will by 2040.

Elderly (Aged 60 & Over) as a Percent of the Population

China US

There is one really big caveat that ought to be kept in mind when talking about the elderly in the year 2040: at least some of the ideas proposed by Aubrey de Grey as Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) will be developed and widely used by the year 2040. A 60 year old body will be younger in 2040 than a 60 year old body is today. Methods of carrying out aging reversal will allow people to remain economically productive for decades longer.

Declining birthrates and the migration of children to cities are undermining the traditional role of children as the supporters and care-givers for the elderly.

The biggest problem, however, is that most of today’s workers—and hence most of tomorrow’s retirees— have no pension or health-care coverage at all. The great majority of Chinese continue to rely on the traditional form of old-age insurance: children. But as birthrates decline and urbanization breaks up extended families, this informal safety net is beginning to unravel. In China, demographers call it the “4-2-1 problem,” a reference to the fact that in many families one child will be expected to support two aged parents and four grandparents.

China is going to have fewer workers to elderly than the United States of America by 2040.

Aged Support Ratio

2000 2040
US 3.9 2.3
China 6.4 2.0
South Korea 6.2 1.5
EU15 2.8 1.5
Singapore 6.4 1.5
Hong Kong 4.8 1.4
Japan 2.7 1.1

The UN projects that the size of China's working age population will peak in 2015. The rate of decline after that point depends on future fertility rates that are hard to predict.

100 Total Percentage Decline in the Working-Age Population: 2005-50

Constant Fertility Scenario: -18%
Low Variant Scenario: -35%

Pension coverage in China is largely limited to urban workers in the state-owned sector of the economy. In 2002, the “basic pension system” covered 45 percent of the urban workforce, mainly employees at state- and collectively owned enterprises. Although the government has begun to extend pension coverage to the private sector, participation remains minimal. A separate and more generous pension system for civil servants covers another 10 percent of the urban workforce. Rural workers are excluded from the basic pension system, although 11 percent participate in a small and voluntary rural pension system. All told, just 25 percent of China’s total workforce, urban and rural, have any pension provision at all. (See Figures 9 and 10.) By and large, government health insurance is limited to the same privileged groups, although overall coverage rates are somewhat higher than for pensions.

The whole report is 40 pages long and delves into many aspects of population aging, pension systems, tax rates, and other demographic trends in China including the rising male-to-female sex ratio. That rising male-to-female sex ratio will make China's elderly care problem even more difficult. The daughters-in-law provide most elderly care in China. But elders whose son(s) can find no wife will have no daughter-in-law to help care for them. At the same time, the movement of younger workers from the rural areas to the cities is separating sons and daughters from their aging parents.

Absent a functioning nationwide pension program, unforgiving arithmetic suggests there may be something approaching a one-to-one ratio emerging between elderly parents and the children obliged to support them. Even worse, from the perspective of a Confucian culture, a sizable fraction — perhaps nearly one-fourth — of these older Chinese will have no living son on whom to rely for sustenance. One need not be a novelist to imagine the intense social tensions such conditions could engender (to say nothing of the personal and humanitarian tragedies).

Second, and no less important, there is no particular reason to expect that older people in China will be able to make the same sort of contributions to economic life as their counterparts in Japan. In low-income economies, the daily demands of ordinary work are more arduous than in rich countries: The employment structure is weighted toward categories more likely to require intense manual labor, and even ostensibly non-manual positions may require considerable physical stamina. According to official Chinese statistics, nearly half of the country’s current labor force toils in the fields, and another fifth is employed in mining and quarrying, manufacturing, construction, or transport — occupations generally not favoring the frail. Even with continuing structural transformations, regular work in 2025 is sure to be much more strenuous in China than in Japan. Moreover, China’s older population may not be as hardy as peers from affluent societies — people likely to have been better fed, housed, and doctored than China’s elderly throughout the course of their lives.

The sex ratio trend in China may well pose a far bigger problem for the rest of the world than the aging population trend.

In a new book, Bare Branches: Security Implications of Asia's Surplus Male Population (MIT Press), Valerie M. Hudson and Andrea M. den Boer warn that the spread of sex selection is giving rise to a generation of restless young men who will not find mates. History, biology, and sociology all suggest that these "surplus males" will generate high levels of crime and social disorder, the authors say. Even worse, they continue, is the possibility that the governments of India and China will build up huge armies in order to provide a safety valve for the young men's aggressive energies.

"In 2020 it may seem to China that it would be worth it to have a very bloody battle in which a lot of their young men could die in some glorious cause," says Ms. Hudson, a professor of political science at Brigham Young University.


Bare Branches offers some disheartening numbers: In 1993 and 1994, more than 121 boys were born in China for every 100 baby girls. (The normal ratio at birth is around 105; for reasons debated among biologists, humans seem naturally to churn out slightly more boys than girls.) In India during the period 1996 to 1998, the birth ratio was 111 to 100; in Taiwan in 2000, it was 109.5. In 1990 a town near New Delhi reported a sex ratio at birth of 156.

Valerie Hudson argues that the shortage of females is not going to self-correct because the females and their parents can not leverage the scarcity of the females for self-benefit and so there is no market incentive to have more female children. If certain free-market Ph.D. economists of my acquaintance (and the rest of you as well) have read this far do you have any comments to offer on this point?

Given the imbalance in the sex ratio in China consider this question: Would China be more peaceful internally and less of a threat to the rest of the world if it has high marriage rates with lasting marriages and high sexual fidelity? Or would China be less of a problem if a sizable fraction of Chinese women never married or did not stay married? Consider the extremes. If all women marry at a young age, stay married, and remain sexually faithful to their husbands then any man who can't find a wife will never have a lover or wife. A society of high marital fidelity would make most male losers in the marriage sweepstakes permanent losers. This will create a group of men who are frustrated, bitter, and angry. But if the limited supply of women engage in a succession of relationships more men will have a chance of having a lover or wife at least part of the time. Would that make the society more peaceful and lower crime rates?

The answer to this question is not obvious to me. On the one hand, a society in which women are constantly shifting between relationships may seem to allow more men to be winners. But it would also cause men to continuously compete for women. In a society with the vast bulk of women paired up permanently to one man some men will come to know that they are permanent losers those men might resign themselves and become passive and peaceful in defeat. Or will they? Will they stay ultra-competitive for decades because they don't know whether they might eventually win a woman?

Some argue we do not have to worry about China as a military power because an aging population is not a militarily vigorous one. But if rejuvenation therapies restore the youthful vitality to China's population even as China's sex ratio continues to be lopsided then a wealthier, more youthful China with a high ratio of males to females could become militarily aggressive. Advances in medical science could therefore produce a more dangerous China. On the other hand, Chinese people faced with the prospect of much longer lives might become opposed to aggressive military moves because they have too many future years of life to lose in a war.

By Randall Parker    2004 April 28 02:48 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (28)
2004 March 12 Friday
Collapsing European Populations: Time To Reverse Aging

The Daily Telegraph (free registration required) has an interesting article on demographic trends in Latvia and other European countries.

"Abortion on demand, which carries no social stigma, is almost as common as live birth." The collapse in the fertility rate has now continued so long that further contraction appears inevitable. The United Nations forecasts that Latvia will lose 44 per cent of its population by 2050. The projected collapse for Estonia is 52 per cent, Russia 30 per cent, Italy 22 per cent, Poland 15 per cent and Greece 10 per cent. Britain will grow slowly to 66 million, while France and Germany will contract gently.

The governments are changing their policies on taxes and benefits to encourage child birth. Will this work? Past attempts by governments to do so are hardly encouraging. As an extreme example Romania during the communist years tried drastic measures to boost birth rates.

Although government expenditures on material incentives rose by 470 percent between 1967 and 1983, the birthrate actually decreased during that time by 40 percent. After 1983, despite the extreme measures taken by the regime to combat the decline, there was only a slight increase, from 14.3 to 15.5 per 1,000 in 1984 and 16 per 1,000 in 1985. After more than two decades of draconian anti- abortion regulation and expenditures for material incentives that by 1985 equalled half the amount budgeted for defense, Romanian birthrates were only a fraction higher than those rates in countries permitting abortion on demand.

Romanian demographic policies continued to be unsuccessful largely because they ignored the relationship of socioeconomic development and demographics. The development of heavy industry captured most of the country's investment capital and left little for the consumer goods sector. Thus the woman's double burden of child care and full-time work was not eased by consumer durables that save time and labor in the home. The debt crisis of the 1980s reduced the standard of living to that of a Third World country, as Romanians endured rationing of basic food items and shortages of other essential household goods, including diapers. Apartments were not only overcrowded and cramped, but often unheated. In the face of such bleak conditions, increased material incentives that in 1985 amounted to approximately 3.61 lei per child per day--enough to buy 43 grams of preserved milk--were not enough to overcome the reluctance of Romanian women to bear children.

Part of the reason why the Ceacescu regime failed to sustain an increase in the birth rate in Romania is that an expenditure level that equalled half the annual defense level of Romania was still only enough to buy each child 43 grams of preserved milk per day. Well, think about those 43 grams as calories. Fat is 9 calories per gram while sugar and protein are 4 calories per gram. So the Romanians were so poor that half their defense budget could pay for only a small fraction of all their children's daily calorie needs. Still, even pronatalist policies by Western European countries seem to be having little effect as free child care and other benefits have done little to slow the decline in birth rates in Scandinavia.

Children who grow up to earn high incomes pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits. Yet the idea of aiming for an increase in the high income-earning population rarely shows up in public debates about social policy and the idea is totally ignored by advocates of high levels of immigration. In an article about retirement and children that Jonathan Rauch wrote for The Atlantic back in 1989 he puts his finger on the core of the problem.

If boys and girls grew up to become industrial machinery instead of men and women, it would be easy to see that everybody had a stake in other peoples children.

But how to go from that observation to useful social policies is hardly obvious. One problem with pronatalist policies that dole out equal amounts per child regardless of income is that they essentially become incentives for the poorest and least educated to have children. An amount of money that is a lot for a poor person is not much for a high income earner. So equally sized benefits for all children become a recipe for growing the size of the impoverished class. But the amount of money needed to provide substantial incentives for those who earn higher incomes to have children would likely be politically unacceptable. The cry would go out against subsidizing the rich and the amount of money involved have to be so large that other programs would have to be cut to pay for it.

So can policy makers do anything at all to prevent the collapse of their populations? One argument I've made for other reasons, to accelerate education, would also likely have the effect of increasing family sizes. Increased education is anti-natalist in part because it delays the beginning point when women will be ready to have children. That education-caused delay is acting as a Darwinian selective pressure on the population of industrialized societies.

Part of the twin data analysis aimed to discover the effect that social, psychological and historical factors had on the number and timing of children born to the 2,710 pairs of twins studied.

The researchers found many of the variations in the threetraits were controlled by social factors such as religion and education (5). For example, Roman Catholic women had 20 per cent higher reproductive fitness than other religions. University educated women had 35 per cent lower fitness than those who left school as early as possible.

"I was staggered by the results we got," said Dr Owens. "When we decided to control for these factors, I wasn't expecting anything to come out of it. I thought, 'let's just run with the analysis'. But there was a massive difference in the number of children born to families with a religious affiliation. Many of the Catholic twins we studied had an average family of five children, where other families were having only one or two children.

"We also found that mothers with more education were typically having just one child at an older age. Their reproductive fitness was much lower than their peers who left school as early as possible. Again, and again, our analyses for these two factors came back with the same results."

The influence of religion and education in family size may seem an obvious finding - but what the scientists found really astonishing was that after controlling for these social factors, genetic changes were influencing the three life traits studied.

"Even after we controlled for these social factors, there was still lots of genetically heritable genetic variation in the three life history traits. This is a really unexpected finding."

However, he cautions against linking this work with the possibility of a eugenic programme for selective human breeding.

"Looking to the future, I would expect to pick up genetic changes within the ten generations (6) since industrialisation. However, what this work doesn't indicate or find, is a genetic marker for human reproduction - so you can't breed for early reproduction from our data. All the traits that we have examined are controlled by interactions between the environment and many genes."

The future work aims to understand more fully, the contribution psychological factors make, says Dr Owens. "We also want to repeat our experiments using twins databases elsewhere, to really put our results into a 'western world' context," he said.

Some of the genetic markers he can't find are probably alleles which enhance intelligence. Other genetic markers might be factors that cause people to like children or to act impulsively. Also, genes could be selected for that increase the level of sex drive or that decrease the selectivity of who one is attracted to. The more general idea here is that the genetic variants being selected among are most likely ones that affect cognitive function in a variety of ways.

An extremely appealing approach to the problems caused by declining bith rate would be to develop rejuvenation treatments. Populations won't decrease if people do not die. The half billion dollars that Aubrey de Grey wants to jumpstart eternal youthfulness research seems like pretty small potatoes compared to the future benefit.

Just how small a cost is biomedical research as a way to solve the aging population problem faced by Western countries? Well, to put it in perspective the United States government has $45 trillion in unfunded liabilities as a result of the aging of the population. (also see more from Alex Tabarrok on this here and here and the discussion on Arnold Kling's blog here). When I look at the financial consequences of the declining birth rates and longer life expectancies my first reaction is that we need an absolutely massive effort to develop therapies that will reduce aging. The size of our liabilities dwarf any amount of money that could possibly be spent on research to reverse aging. Aubrey de Grey argues that the current widespread fatalism about the inevitability of aging is unjustified by our current level of understanding of the causes and possible treatments for aging. This fatalism is greatly holding back the rate of progress. Though at least stem cell therapy research is being pursued for less ambitious reasons and so rejuvenation therapies are being pursued anyway, albeit at a slower rate than would be possible if serious money was thrown at the problem. Aubrey argues that with proper funding 7 approaches for doing rejuvenation could all be tried on mice within a decade's time. So lets get started!

By Randall Parker    2004 March 12 05:58 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2003 November 19 Wednesday
Human Population May Add 2.6 Billion By 2050

There will be 8.9 billion people on planet Earth by 2050.

It took from the beginning of time until 1950 to put the first 2.5 billion people on the planet. Yet in the next half-century, an increase that exceeds the total population of the world in 1950 will occur.

So writes Joel E. Cohen, Ph.D., Dr.P.H., professor and head of the Laboratory of Populations at The Rockefeller University and Columbia University, in a Viewpoint article in the November 14 issue of the journal Science.

In "Human Population: The Next Half-Century," Cohen examines the history of human population and how it might change by the year 2050. By then, the earth's present population of 6.3 billion is estimated to grow by 2.6 billion.


In the Science article, Cohen reports such statistical information as the following:

  • history of human population: It took from the beginning of time until about 1927 to put the first 2 billion people on the planet; less than 50 years to add the next 2 billion people (by 1974); and just 25 years to add the next 2 billion (by 1999). In the most recent 40 years, the population doubled.
  • birth rates: The global total fertility rate fell from five children per woman per lifetime in 1950 to 2.7 children in 2000, a result of worldwide efforts to make contraception and reproductive health services available, as well as other cultural changes. Encouraging as this is, if fertility remains at present levels instead of continuing to decline, the population would grow to 12.8 billion by 2050 instead of the projected 8.9 billion.
  • urbanization: In 1800, roughly 2 percent of people lived in cities; in 1900, 12 percent; in 2000, more than 47 percent. In 1900, not one metropolitan region had 10 million people or more. By 1950, one region did -- New York. In 2000, 19 urban regions had 10 million people or more. Of those 19, only four (Tokyo, Osaka, New York, and Los Angeles) were in industrialized countries.
  • poor, underdeveloped regions: b
  • population density: The world's average population density is expected to rise from 45 people per square kilometer in the year 2000 to 66 people per square kilometer by 2050. Assuming 10 percent of land is arable, population densities per unit of arable land will be roughly 10 times higher, posing unprecedented problems of land use and preservation for the developing world.
  • aging population: The 20th century will probably be the last when younger people outnumbered older ones. By 2050, there will be 2.5 people aged 60 years or older for every child 4 years old or younger, a shift that has serious implications for health care spending for the young and old.

Although it is not possible to predict how global demographics will affect families or international migration, Cohen points out that three factors set the stage for major changes in families: fertility falling to very low levels; increasing longevity; and changing mores of marriage, cohabitation and divorce.

In a population with one child per family, no children have siblings, Cohen explains. In the next generation, the children of those children have no cousins, aunts, or uncles.

If people are between ages 20 and 30 on the average when they have children and live to 80 years of age, they will have decades of life after their children have reached adulthood, and their children will have decades of life with elderly parents, Cohen also points out.

If family sizes shrink in the Middle East one consequence will be to reduce tribalism. But if life expectancy increases dramatically then the tribal bonds may continue for somewhat longer period of time due to intergenerational bonds and because the older generations who still have siblings and cousins galore will stick around longer.

All else equal, the political value of having a larger population is to make a country potentially stronger as a result of having more workers and also greater economies of scale. But the costs of crowding, pollution, and burden on the environment rises as well (and suburbs and freeways stretching as far as the eye can see is esthetically undesireable for most of us). For a country that wants to compete in terms of power and influence given that the productivity of workers varies literally by orders of magnitude it makes much more sense to have a much smaller increase in population but to make that increase be much more heavily weighted toward people who have very high economic productivity.

Productive potential is a function of innate cognitive ability, training, and motivation. A large raw increase in population decreases the amount of resources available to train each new member of a society. It is more cost-effective to add people who have much higher cognitive ability because:

  • smarter folks are faster learners and are quicker and therefore cheaper to train.
  • smarter folks can do brain work more rapidly.
  • smarter folks can do types of brain work that are beyond the ability of lesser minds.

The value of physical labor continues to decline relative to the value of complex mental work as the sum total of all knowledge increases and provides a larger body of information which can be manipulated to create economic value. But even the value of having a smarter brain may eventually be obsolesced by technological advances.

If computers become smarter than humans then the economic value of having a larger number of smarter and more productive humans will eventually pale next to value of having smart artificially intelligent computers.

By Randall Parker    2003 November 19 12:17 AM   Entry Permalink | Comments (8)
2003 October 13 Monday
Married Couples Soon To Be Minority Of All US Households

Married couples are fast headed toward being less than the majority of all households.

The U.S. Census Bureau's newest numbers show that married-couple households -- the dominant cohort since the country's founding -- have slipped from nearly 80% in the 1950s to just 50.7% today. That means that the U.S.'s 86 million single adults could soon define the new majority. Already, unmarrieds make up 42% of the workforce, 40% of home buyers, 35% of voters, and one of the most potent -- if pluralistic -- consumer groups on record.

Only half of the married couple households have kids in them.

Married couples with kids, which made up nearly every residence a century ago, now total just 25% -- with the number projected to drop to 20% by 2010, says the Census Bureau. By then, nearly 30% of homes will be inhabited by someone who lives alone.

Delays till marriage, cohabitation, divorce, and other factors such as death of one spouse are all working to make married couples into a minority.

You can bet money that the unmarrieds are going to push for changes in taxes and benefits that currently give the marrieds all sorts of advantages.

Update: Another report on the same trend:

In 1940, less than 8 percent of Americans lived alone. Today that proportion has more than tripled, reaching nearly 26 percent. Singles number 86 million, according to the Census Bureau, and virtually half of all households are now headed by unmarried adults.

Signs of this demographic revolution, this kingdom of singledom, appear everywhere, including Capitol Hill.

Last month the Census Bureau reported that 132 members of the House of Representatives have districts in which the majority of households are headed by unmarried adults.

By Randall Parker    2003 October 13 02:55 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 September 12 Friday
Joel Kotkin On The Shift Away From The Old Big Cities

Joel Kotkin, author of The New Geography: How the Digital Revolution Is Reshaping the American Landscape, has an article in the Washington Post on how the digital communications revolution is undermining the position of the old large cities and leading to a shift of skilled workers to smaller, lower cost, more comfortable, and safer cities.

But the most recent demographic trends show a massive exodus from these same centers. Between 2000 and 2002, for example, more than 300,000 more Americans left New York City than moved in, among the highest rates of outflow in the nation. (Though the city's population saw a small uptick in 2002, this was due chiefly to immigration and births.) Even worse was the outflow from San Francisco, which was nearly 50 percent higher, adjusting for the city's smaller population, than New York's. This is part of a broader trend; in 2002 migration out of large metropolitan areas reached the highest level since the mid-1990s, driven largely by the escalating cost of housing.

The greatest beneficiaries of the demographic shift have been the cities of the South and West, such as Phoenix and San Antonio. But a surprising development has been the gradual slowing, and even reversal, of flight from the Midwest, which was a virtual torrent several decades ago. Today more Americans are moving into cities in the heartland -- such as Fargo, Des Moines, Columbus and Indianapolis -- than are moving out. Even cities like St. Louis, which people have been leaving in massive numbers since the 1960s, are now approaching an equilibrium among domestic migrants.

Individuals who can work wherever they can get a fast internet connection are going to choose their residences increasingly based on lifestyle choices. Companies that have more connections to companies all over the world than they do to other companies in any one city are going to choose their headquarters locations more based on costs and the appeal of the locations to prospective workers and less based on the size or types of industry in any city.

The major remaining advantage of a large metropolitan area for an employer is the labor force. But if a company can find an appropriate labor force in a smaller city or if it can recruit people who are willing to move to the smaller city then the need for the large metropolitan area declines even further. Plus, if the company is outsourcing functions to India or to other businesses then it has less of a need for such a large assortment of workers with different speciality skills found in the biggest metropolitan areas. Even if a particular function is kept in-house the need to co-locate all functions that used to be assocated with a head office has declined with the declining cost of communication and transportation. The marketing department doesn't need to be in the same city as the information technology department. Even the IT department can make use of specialists located in other cities and towns who log on remotely when their specialty skills are needed.

You can find out more about Kotkin's book at his NewGeography.com website.

By Randall Parker    2003 September 12 12:41 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2003 May 21 Wednesday
Europe Set For Prolonged Population Decline

Europe really is getting old.

It is estimated that by 2050, the number of people over 60 in Europe will have doubled to 40% of the total population, or 60% of the population of working age.

While this article is confused on this point the figures provided are for active (i.e. capable of working) population. The decline Europe's active population will be larger than the decline in the region's total population.

Its population declines from 331 million to 243, North America advances from 269 million to 355 million. Their big elephant is "Greater China" (including Taiwan) which sees its growth rate level out at 2.6 percent, ahead of North America's 2.3 percent, and far outpacing Europe's 1.1 percent.

Note that currently Europe has a larger total and active population than the United States and Canada. But at some point in the next 50 years Europe's working population will decline to a level below the current North American level while North America's working population will surpass Europe's current level.

For Ifri, Europe has two basic problems. The first is its dwindling population. From 2000 to 2050, the institute projects a decline in the EU's active population from 331 million to 243 million. Over the same period, the active populations of Greater China and South Asia move ahead, while the North American grouping rises from 269 million to 355 million.

A declining working population combined with rising working populations and more advancing populations elsewhere will shrink Europe's portion of the world economy to a little over half current levels.

By 2050, Europe's share of the world economy will only be 12 per cent against 22 per cent today.

Europe's population is going to shrink while the world as a whole grows.

Due to the dropping birth rate as well as the prolonged impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the current Revision projects a lower population in 2050 than the 2000 Revision, namely, 8.9 billion instead of 9.3 billion. The European continent is the only region in the world whose population is set to decrease in the years to come, with a growth rate of -0.28 per cent.

Worldwide the elderly will grow as a percentage of total world population.

At the global level, the number of elderly people will grow from less than 1/2 a billion in 2000 to 1 1/2 billion in 2050 which as a share of the overall population is equal to an increase from 7% to 16%.

Of course these are all projections. Note that the world population project for 2050 was just cut by 400 million people which is about a 4 and a half percent decrease. That projection will no doubt be changed again. There are scientific and technological factors that could cause changes in population projections. Among those technological advances that could raise population growth:

  • Technological innovations that make it easier to raise children. Think technological advances that reduce housework, sophisticated tutor computers, more elaborate sensor systems for tracking the kids and warning of imminent dangers, and assorted other advances that unburden moms.
  • Biotech advances that will raise fertility rates for women in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and later.
  • The ability to genetically engineer offspring will reduce the uncertainty of the outcome and therefore reduce reluctance. If one can be guaranteed a very bright child with an innately happy and easy disposition then more will opt for children.
  • Dramatic breakthrus in life extension and youthful rejuvenation technologies.

Of course, global thermonuclear war, a bioengineered plague, or out-of-control nanoreplicators could all greatly reduce or perhaps even wipe out the human population. There are no guarantees in this life. But while fertility has been declining for some time due to the effects of technological advances on human society it is possible that some coming technologies will eventually begin to exert pro-fertility influences.

By Randall Parker    2003 May 21 02:14 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (14)
2003 March 14 Friday
World Population May Shrink Later In 21st Century

Ben Wattenberg says UN demographers have finally accepted the extent of declining birth rates.

Now, in a new report, United Nations demographers have bowed to reality and changed this standard 2.1 assumption. For the last five years they have been examining one of the most momentous trends in world history: the startling decline in fertility rates over the last several decades. In the United Nations' most recent population report, the fertility rate is assumed to be 1.85, not 2.1. This will lead, later in this century, to global population decline.

Wattenberg and the UN demographers are almost certainly wrong in predicting a decline in the human population. If robots do not take over and if nanotech replicators do not run amuck and wipe us out then the human population will increase even late in the 21st century. Why? Aging rejuvenation therapies will cause a radical increase in life expectancy.

Increased life expectancy will increase the population in two ways. The most obvious is of course that people who live longer will not cause a population decline by dying off. The less obvious cause is that aging rejuvenation therapy will allow female reproductive organs to stay functional for a longer period of time. Women will be able to have children in their 50s, 60s, and later. Gene therapies will help repair aging cells and cell therapies will replace aging stem cell reservoirs. Also, the development of the ability to grow new organs will eventually include the ability to grow new ovaries and other female reproductive organs.

Another future contributing factor to the growth in human population will be the development of artificial wombs This will increase the fertility rate even among younger women who are too busy with their careers to want to be slowed up by a pregnancy. Consider the Hollywood actresses who can't get pregnant without putting their careers on hold. This is especially true for TV actresses who star in their shows. Filming goes on for too large a portion of the year to allow a pregnancy to happen. When artificial wombs become reliable many will opt instead to have their babies grown from their own cells but not in their own bodies. An artifiical womb will be more trustworthy than a surrogate mother because women won't have to worry about the artificial womb doing drugs, drinking alcohol, smoking, eating poorly, or getting an infection.

Natural selection is also going to eventually cause reproduction rates to rise. In a study of twins in Australia evidence was found for natural selection for genetically influenced traits that increase fertility.

University-educated women have 35% lower fitness than those with less than seven years education, and Roman Catholic women have about 20% higher fitness than those of other religions. Although these differences were significant, education and religion only accounted for 2% and 1% of variance in fitness, respectively. Using structural equation modeling, we reveal significant genetic influences for all three life-history traits, with heritability estimates of 0.50, 0.23, and 0.45, respectively. However, strong genetic covariation with reproductive fitness could only be demonstrated for age at first reproduction, with much weaker covariation for age at menopause and no significant covariation for age at menarche. Selection may, therefore, lead to the evolution of earlier age at first reproduction in this population.

Current highly visible trends are useful for predicting the future one or two decades in advance. But the further out a prediction is made the more other factors need to considered. Natural selection happens more slowly than changes caused by industrialization. But natural selection does happen and it is exerting selective pressure that is changing the behavioral and other characteristics of humans. At the same, the ways in which technology is changing society today are not the only ways technology will reshape human society tomorrow.

The two biggest wild cards that make future prediction extremely difficult for the 21st century will be the development of machine intelligence and the development of genetic engineering techniques for boosting human intelligence. These two developments will cause such huge changes in human society that predictions of demographers about human reproductive patterns 50 or 100 years from now are almost certainly very far from what will really happen.

It is still possible that the human population on Earth will decrease by the end of the 21st century. But it is unlikely to do so as a result of trends that demographers can now measure. Humans could migrate off planet in large numbers when space flight becomes widely affordable. Or a world government, responding to the development of biotechnologies that can rejuvenate and dramatically extend life, could enforce strict reproductive limits in order to prevent a rise in population. Or perhaps humans may all become part of a Borg mind that suppresses reproductive instincts in the individual nodes. Or a virus could be released into the population that does genetic alternations that in turn cause cognitive changes in human minds that make child-rearing unappealing. There are a lot of reasons human population could rise or fall in the latter part of the 21st century. The most important factors that will determine the outcome depend on technological developments that will happen as the century progresses. We can not know with sufficient precision how all these changes will play out. Therefore predictions of world population changes become increasingly inaccurate the further out the predictions are made.

By Randall Parker    2003 March 14 09:09 AM   Entry Permalink | Comments (3)
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