Demographics and Democrats

Thursday, November 17, AD 2016



I am always amused by theories that, on the American political scene, a party has an electoral lock on the White House or that one party will be in control of Congress forever.  Such theories tend to be plentiful just before they are punctured.  The latest popular theory on the left is that the Democrats, due to illegal immigration from Mexico, will soon have total political dominance.  This has been bruited about since the 2000 election, so “soon” is not a precise term.  Sean Trende of Real Clear Politics takes a look at it:

The black vote: Neither of Barack Obama’s wins in 2008 or 2012 were dependent upon African-American turnout.  But it certainly helped.  Had the Republican nominee in 2008 received George W. Bush’s share of the black vote, and had African-American turnout resembled 2004, President Obama’s 2008 lead would have been halved.  In 2012 it would have been reduced to a single point.

The possibility of a reversion-to-mean among African-American voting patterns in 2016 was always a very real one.  If you look at turnout rates as reported by the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey dating back to 2002, African-American rates have always lagged Republican rates by around five points, give or take (though if you control for socioeconomic status, African-Americans are more likely to vote than whites).  This was true in 2010 as well as 2014.  The exceptions were 2008 and 2012, when African-American turnout rates exceeded white rates. 

Now, it was possible that we had entered a period with a “presidential” electorate and a “midterm” electorate, but it was foolish to dismiss the possibility of a mean reversion once a charismatic history-making candidate such as Barack Obama didn’t top the ticket.  With the African-American share of the electorate declining to 12 percent in 2016, I think it’s pretty clear that something along these lines occurred. 

Likewise, with Donald Trump winning a larger share of the black vote than Mitt Romney or John McCain did, and with the midterm electorates looking more like the electorates of 2002 to 2006, we have to take seriously the possibility of a mean reversion there as well.

Hispanics: Analysis focuses on the “fast-growing” Hispanic vote, but the Hispanic share of the electorate has actually increased glacially.  It was 8 percent of the electorate in 2004, 9 percent in 2008, 10 percent in 2012, and 11 percent in 2016. If we rely on the census data for the electorate, it has been even smaller.  The fact that Hispanics are increasingly adopting a “white” identity (what Reihan Salam calls “racial attrition”) may blunt this growth in the future.

Moreover, I’ve long believed that analysis of what motivates Hispanic voters misses the mark.  White and liberal analysts are far too reductionist when it comes to these voters, and for some reason have decided that immigration reform is a make-or-break issue for them.  This ignores an awful lot of contrary evidence, such as the fact that a majority of Hispanic voters told exit pollsters in 2008 that immigration reform wasn’t important to them, or voted Republican anyway.  It ignores the fact that sizeable minorities of Hispanics voted for anti-illegal immigration candidates such as Jan Brewer and Sharron Angle.  It ignores the fact that a large number of Hispanic voters backed Propositions 187 and 209 in California, and so forth.

I was always skeptical (though not entirely dismissive) of the idea that Hispanic voters were on their way to voting like African-American voters. Given that Donald Trump has likely out-performed Mitt Romney among Hispanics, I think it is safe to say that 27 percent represents something of a floor for Republicans.  It could be the case that Republicans will suffer further erosion here over time, but given that, over the long term, the Hispanic vote has gradually become more Republican (Bill Clinton, Michael Dukakis, Jimmy Carter and George McGovern all won larger shares of the Hispanic vote than Obama did in 2012), and that Hispanics become more Republican as they move from the border to the burbs, and that Hispanic immigration has for now leveled off, it may also be the case that the Republican share of this vote will grow.

Whites: I have written extensively about the Republican voting trend among white voters, especially among working-class whites. That is obviously an incredibly salient point in the wake of this election, where whites without college degrees voted like Hispanics, but with the impact Hispanics would have if they constituted 40 percent of the electorate. It is true that there weren’t enough working-class whites to win the election for Trump, as many asserted during the campaign.  But it was closer than a lot of people think.

I’m not going to rehash everything here; it is pretty well covered in the links.  I will just make two points.  First, mocking the GOP as the Party of White Voters was, from an electoral perspective, extremely short-sighted.  White voters are still 70 percent of the electorate (probably more). Winning around 60 percent of those voters will win a party an awful lot of elections.  If Trump were to bring college-educated whites back into the fold, that share will grow.

Second, this chart should have really scared Democrats a lot more than it apparently did.

Women: Here, I can be brief.  Analysts are right to examine the gender gap – the distance between the male share of the vote and the female share of the vote – but they are wrong to make predictions based upon it.  As I wrote earlier this year, the gender gap giveth, but it also taketh away. We see this on full display in 2016.  The 24-point spread in 2016 was actually the largest on record.  But like the year with the second-largest spread (2000) and the third-largest spread (1980), it ended in Republican victory.  In fact, looking at the years with the four smallest gender gaps in history (1976, 1972, 1992, 2008) we may reasonably ask ourselves if perhaps large gender gaps tend to hurt Democrats.

Overreach: The major theme of my book is that all party coalitions fall apart because, well, governing is hard and it inevitably forces parties to choose among members of their coalition.  More importantly – and this is where I think realignment theory isn’t just wrong but also counterproductive – parties see their wins as a sign that they’ve finally “won” at politics.  But this hubristic take is always wrong, and usually destructive. Such hubris destroyed the Republican coalition in 1910 when they thought they had won a mandate to pass the self-serving Payne-Aldrich tariff. It weakened the Democratic coalition in 1937 when FDR believed he had a mandate to pack the Supreme Court and pass the Third New Deal.  It destroyed the Republican coalition in 2005 when George W. Bush famously quipped that he had earned political capital and intended to spend it.

I have little doubt that a belief that demographics would save them at the presidential level led Democrats to take a number of steps that they will soon regret, from going nuclear on the filibuster to aggressive uses of executive authority.  But one thing deserves special attention.  A good deal of e-ink has been spilled describing the ways in which the culturally superior attitudes of the left drove Trumpism.  This too, I think, derived from a belief that history had a side and that progressives were on it, combined with a lack of appreciation of just how many culturally traditionalist voters there are in this country.

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12 Responses to Demographics and Democrats

  • How much does the “gender gap” change when broken down into “single” women and married women, or even more so, minority and white women?

  • Trump won a majority of white women. Single women currently tend to vote Democrat and married women currently tend to vote Republican.

  • According to the Pew Research Center, while it is true that non-college whites supported Trump by a very high margin, 67% for Trump to 28% for Clinton — a 39% margin — white college graduates also supported Trump 49-45%, a 4 point margin, that was the same margin that McCain won in 2008, 51% for McCain, 47% for Obama. In 2012, Romney won white college graduates 56-42%, a 14-point margin:

  • “Hispanic” is a term used by the US government to classify people in the US with ancestry from Spain, Portugal or any Latin American country. My wife is Hispanic. She was born in Colombia. She is white. My sons are “Hispanic” on the basis that their mother was born in Colombia. My oldest son looks as Hispanic as any eight year old you would see in Warsaw.
    My yongest son has black hair, green eyes and his skin tone is just a shade darker – he looks Mediterranean. Many “Hispanics” either already have or will get married to regular white people of European descent and eventually their kids will be….wait for it…..white. I’ll bet this goes on a lot in American Catholic dioceses in Florida, Texas, etc.

  • The fact that Hispanics are increasingly adopting a “white” identity

    Maybe because many Hispanics are in fact, you know, white? If by “white” you mean Anglo, there may be a point. But if by white you mean of European descent, then Hispanic is about as descriptive or predictive as “American.”

  • For example, a blond haired, blue-eyed Argentinean surnamed Bach would be considered “Hispanic”. Quite helpful.

  • Correct c matt. Of course most Hispanics in Latin America, outside of Argentina and Chile, have some Indian blood, but then again that is also true of a lot of Americans, including myself. Get the border under control, bring illegal immigration down to no more than around 100,000 a year, and assimilation will take care of the rest, especially since Mexican demographics are crashing.

  • I have always thought that the assumption that Hispanics would vote Democrat was misguided. For one, they tend to be a fairly religious cohort, especially Catholic. In recent years, they have also tended to move to evangelical Christianity. Both of these Christian faiths have a strong hatred of abortion, one of the pillars of the Democratic platform. Thus, while an individual Catholic or evangelical may vote Democrat for pro-immigration reasons, others may out of their faith reject that party.

  • I don’t buy the rubbish that Hispanics are natural conservatives. However, as they assimilate I expect them to follow the usual path of most immigrant groups and vote more Republican over time. The fact that Trump got 30% of the Hispanic vote when he was portrayed as the devil incarnate in regard to Hispanics, indicates that the process is under way.

  • How’s the demographics of Central America doing? Central America is now a major source of illegals entering the USA via Mexico.

  • Just a bit above replacement rate and falling.

  • My question is how did gerrymandering affect the election, if at all?

The Illusion of Security

Wednesday, June 12, AD 2013

One Child




Lauren Sandler, a proponent of having one child, writes a predictable piece in a predictable news magazine, Time, about he joys of stopping at one child.

She’s on to something. According to the USDA, a child born in 2011 will cost an average of $234,900 to raise to age 18. If your household income is over $100,000, you can raise that number to about $390,000. Yes, there are some savings after the first child — you don’t have to buy another high chair! — but it’s not as though you get a huge volume discount on subsequent offspring. There are also opportunity costs of a mother’s loss of income from parental leave, scaling back hours or dropping out of the workforce entirely. No wonder, according to the USDA, two-parent households with two children devote over one-third of their income to their kids. Add it all up and there’s a strong economic case for stopping at one child.

And yet the world will tell you — from grandmothers to sitcoms to strangers in the supermarket — that money shouldn’t be a factor in deciding to have more children. If you express concern about how much children cost, then you’ve clearly got your priorities wrong. You’ll make it work, they tell you. Don’t be selfish. (I wrote about this and other stereotypes of parents with singletons in a cover story for TIME.)

Having raised three children I can say that for my family the 234,900 per child figure was way off base, unless one adds into the mix the lost funds of my wife not having a job during much of the time that the kids were growing up.  Of course that is the wrong way to look at it.  My wife and I did not get married in order to see how much stuff we could accumulate during our lives.  We got married because we loved each other and hoped that our love would be blessed with children.  My wife worked harder than I had to in our efforts to raise our kids, and I often told her that she had the important job in our house and I worked merely to facilitate her efforts for the kids.

In this vale of tears we have no guarantees as to our economic success, no guarantees as to how many, if any, kids we will be blessed with and no guarantees as to how they will turn out.  Every minute of our lives we are working without a net.  I often plan and calculate various aspects of my life to ensure the best outcome that I can, but I realize that the most important parts of my life are often completely out of my control.  It takes quite a bit of faith to endure the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” that come our way in this world and to realize that we always and everywhere are dependent upon the mercy of God to see us through.  Modern men and women mostly do not accept this.  They think that they can eliminate risk and turn our journeys through this life into a cocoon where we will have endless fun, accumulate lots of material items and never hear of such things as pain and sacrifice.  Such is not, and never will be, our mortal lives.

A much more accurate reflection of our lives is contained in the closing prayer of the Rosary:

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15 Responses to The Illusion of Security

  • From a practical viewpoint, having one child by choice is a bit daft. We become a burden as we age. That is the reality and the more adults to share that burden, the better.

    My maternal grandfather died in 1954, when my mother was seven. Worse yet, he was the only child to survive to adulthood, as was his mother and father. My mother was an only child of an only child, of an only child.

    Mom describes her childhood as “lonely,” surrounded by aging and distant relatives. She cared for my grandmother for many years, a draining task for single children.

    We may not need lots of kids to work the farm anymore but they are still the surest security we will have in old age.

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  • An article in The Economist reported the demographic crisis in the West.

    In the European community there is 1.4 fertility rate — that means that in five years deaths will outnumber births. The most prosperous areas have fewer children. The fertility rate in Italy and Spain is 1.2, that translates into a population in twenty years to half of what it is today.

    The typical citizen will have no brothers and no sisters, no cousins, no aunts and uncles. The Economist continued that the situation in the US is better because Americans are more devout — we are churchgoers and churchgoers get married and have families.

    One of the reasons the Church defends marriage in the face of divorce, cohabitation and redefinition of marriage is that marriage and family are the Sanctuary of Life and when that sanctuary is violated, life liberty and the pursuit of happiness, real happiness, society itself are at risk.

    Church is hated by liberals and democrats because it is the one bastion against their cult of death.

    As western populations age, we will see the generation that aborted their children euthanized by the survivors.

    Do the math: 4 grandparents -> 2 parents -> 1 child

  • Mr. Shaw,
    Your second to last paragraph is brilliant. I will have to borrow it in argument.

  • In addition to the other good comments; who will the Dems tax if there are no children? Or, “Jordan, te presento a Juan Carlos.”

  • We can be sure that the Moslems are not worrying about the cost of raising up a large family.

    We will pay for this selfishness, and not just by the lost productivity of millions unborn.

  • A weighted average of the total fertility rates in the Near East and North Africa places it at around 2.66 births per mother per lifetime (and the most recent measure for Israel is 3.0). A weighted average for the Central Asian states and Pakistan is around 3.5, and (bar Afghanistan) rates in these countries went into long-term decline around 1985). The 2011 rate for the U.S. was 1.89, but the rate has been above 2.0 for most years since 1990.

  • “and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” One of the purposes of our Constitution.” “And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” from The Declaration of Independence. “A nation divided against itself shall not stand.”

  • The typical citizen will have no brothers and no sisters, no cousins, no aunts and uncles.

    And I was feeling lonely because my kids only have two first cousins once removed, and three first cousins twice removed that we actually get to see….

  • Today’s (June 13, 2013) Wall Street Journal reports, on page A8, that 12,419 more white, non-Hispanic Americans died than were born in the year ended June 2012. In 2009, there were about 200,000 more births than deaths among that demographic group.

  • I hate those child cost statistics. They ignore the benefits of raising children and reduce it to how many fewer toys a person can buy. A child may cost money in direct expenses and lost earnings, but each of those children will provide a benefit to society when grown. They will add to GDP when they enter the workforce, and the amount they produce will far outweigh what they cost. Children are an investment who will yield a profit. The greatest predictor of wealth for a society is the level of investment compared to consumption.

    Rather than count the cost of raising children, we should count the cost to society of those who remain childless by choice so that they can spend everything on themselves. Children are not leeches. Selfish people are leeches. I say we ban contraception and require everyone to have at least five children! That will pull our economy out of its current long term prospects for insolvency.

  • “I say we ban contraception and require everyone to have at least five children”

    Believe it or not, that WAS actually the law at one time in one country…. Ceaucescu’s Romania. The motivation there was to build up the country’s military and it’s workforce. Unfortunately, it was also a big part of the reason there were so many Romanian orphans after their revolution.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m NOT saying that we shouldn’t be more supportive of largers families, or that there are not real dangers to a declining birthrate or to a critical mass of adults in society choosing to have only one child or none at all. And I agree that the “cost of raising children” articles are extremely misleading.

    That said, the Ceaucescu five-child policy was, in some ways, comparable to the Chinese one-child policy in that it treated people as mere cogs in an economic and military machine, and was instituted by a repressive Communist regime. I doubt very much that it was motivated by reverence for human life or for the integrity of the family.

    It’s one thing to try to make life easier for those who choose to raise more children via tax breaks, etc.; it’s another thing entirely to establish a de jure or de facto maximum or minimum number of children that everyone “should” have and ostracize or punish those who violate the “norm.” Also, don’t forget that there are many people out there (like me) who have only 1 child, or none at all, because God for whatever reason saw fit not to give them any more. I sure do wish I had more siblings and that my daughter had some but it just didn’t happen and it’s too late to do anything about that now.

  • “12,419 more white, non-Hispanic Americans died than were born in the year ended June 2012.”

    Could that be as much attributable to the start of the dying off of the Baby Boom generation (the oldest of whom are now 66-67 years old; I know several people who died of cancer or other conditions at that age) as to a decline in births?

  • I strongly disagree with the idea that the State should encourage childbearing because I see nothing to suggest that such a policy would encourage those who should have more kids to have them.

    The State is not advantaged by single-parent households. Extraordinary stories of great single-parenting are exactly the, extraordinary. Parenting is hard work; hard enough for two parents and damned near impossible for one. (why anyone in command of their wits would choose to be a single-parent is beyond me.)

    A policy like you suggest would add to kids from single parent homes without adding kids to two parent homes. We did that before if you recall. It was the effect, if not the stated purpose, of American welfare laws before Welfare Reform.

    Furthermore, the parents that I know with only one or two kids didn’t limit their procreation because they couldn’t affor more kids. They did so because their values include exptic vacations, new cars before the old is worn out, expensive private schools, and “time for us.”

    Parents of many kids, as I gather from your other writings, understand parenting to be full of sacrifice. Those with one or two kids want the benefits of kids without those sacrifices. (Understanding of course that this is a broad generalization.)

  • It wasn’t a serious suggestion. I was deliberately being over the top with the suggestion that the state require five children from each couple. I had no idea that Romania had that policy. Wow! I just did a little quick reading on it. The policy applied to single was well as married. Both single men and women who didn’t have any children by age twenty five were taxed punitively. Yeah, that’s not the Catholic model. Children are the product of love, not social engineering.

Demographic Decline: The Reason That Dare Not Speak Its Name

Saturday, February 2, AD 2013



Well what do you know, a recent spate of articles has recognized what many of us have known for decades:  Overpopulation is a myth and an ever-increasing decline in births is a bitter reality.  Typical of these articles is one by Jonathan V. Last in The Wall Street Journal:

America’s fertility rate began falling almost as soon as the nation was founded. In 1800, the average white American woman had seven children. (The first reliable data on black fertility begin in the 1850s.) Since then, our fertility rate has floated consistently downward, with only one major moment of increase—the baby boom. In 1940, America’s fertility rate was already skirting the replacement level, but after the war it jumped and remained elevated for a generation. Then, beginning in 1970, it began to sink like a stone.

There’s a constellation of reasons for this decline: Middle-class wages began a long period of stagnation. College became a universal experience for most Americans, which not only pushed people into marrying later but made having children more expensive. Women began attending college in equal (and then greater) numbers than men. More important, women began branching out into careers beyond teaching and nursing. And the combination of the birth-control pill and the rise of cohabitation broke the iron triangle linking sex, marriage and childbearing.

This is only a partial list, and many of these developments are clearly positive. But even a social development that represents a net good can carry a serious cost.

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17 Responses to Demographic Decline: The Reason That Dare Not Speak Its Name

  • Genesis 1:28 – “And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

    Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

    Galatians 6:7-8 – “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”

  • The results of a decline in total fertility rates (number of lifetime live births per woman) on a society can, perhaps, best be seen in the case of Japan, for Japan is a country with very low rates of inward or outward migration.

    As the population aged, it spent less and saved more for retirement. In other words, demand shifted from consumer goods to securities. The price level of consumer goods fell. The price of securities rose, thus, the compensation for waiting for the future declined, and the rate of interest fell.

    They traded surplus present goods and services for future goods; that is, they exported goods and purchased securities with the proceeds, shifting the current account balance to surplus. The exchange rate rose.

    Japan has a public debt to GDP ratio of 230%, the highest in the world. Given their demand for securities, most of it is held by its own citizens. That is why Japan, with a mountain of public debt, still has a strong currency.

    So, not all bad news.

  • We’re Number #2

    From yesterday, Instapundit: JAPAN’S DEMOGRAPHIC DISASTER: “Recently, the Japanese government announced that the population decrease for 2012 is expected to be 212,000—a new record—while the number of births is expected to have fallen by 18,000 to 1,033,000—also a record low. Projections by the Japanese government indicate that if the current trend continues, the population of Japan will decline from its current 127.5 million to 116.6 million in 2030, and 97 million in 2050. This is truly astonishing and puts Japan at the forefront of uncharted demographic territory; but it is territory that many other industrial countries also are beginning to enter as well.”

  • True enough- out of those women who DO get pregnant, one in three will kill that child before birth.

    On the plus side, there is reason to rejoice in this; the trend is not sustainable and pro-life families will inherit the earth- for there will be nobody else left.

  • Paul,

    I would like to add:

    Luke 23: 28-29 – But Jesus turning to them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck.

    2 Timothy 4: 3-4 – For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

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  • Ted-
    I know that stat is popular, but the actual survey was if they’d ever had an abortion, and I can’t find the phrasing of the question.

    We can’t actually know the statistics, because there isn’t enough reporting. It’s all guess-work.

    Still horrifying, even with the lining that young folks are getting more and more prolife as time goes on. (When you can see your own “first baby picture” that was at three months post-conception…..)

  • This is a handy tool for viewing World Bank data for total fertility rates.!ctype=l&strail=false&bcs=d&nselm=h&met_y=sp_dyn_tfrt_in&scale_y=lin&ind_y=false&rdim=region&idim=country:USA&ifdim=region&hl=en_US&dl=en&ind=false

    The CIA World Factbook has somewhat different values for this set of metrics.

    You can see that the United States has fertility rates at the replacement level. The weighted average of rates in Europe and Central Asia has been below replacement level since 1993, but the situation is not hopeless having improved from 1.63 to 1.81 over the period running from 2000 to 2010; the situation in Canada is slightly worse. Particular countries within that set (e.g. Germany and Austria) have been in wretched condition with below replacement rates for a generation. The real disaster is in the industrial Orient, where rates have been between 1.12 and 1.39 in recent years and subreplacement fertility has abided for decades.

    Live births in the United States have since 1946 fluctuated between 3.1 million and 4.3 million without much in the way of a discernible trend. The problem you have with our retirement programs derives not from later cohorts being smaller than earlier cohorts, but from having fixed retirement ages conjoined to secular increases in the life expectancy of those who reach working age.

  • addendum:

    “3.1 million and 4.3 million per year”

  • “Sin is its own punishment” as certainly as virtue is its own reward. Well said, Donald McClarey, my sentiments exactly.

  • Art Deco: Why is the World Bank counting our fertility rates?

  • In Iran, the total fertility rate has fallen from 6.48 in 1980 to 1.67 in 2010, a country with a strongly pro-natalist government.

    If Iran harbours any imperial ambitions, they had better act soon, before the number of men of military age starts to plummet.

    Their oil revenues are in decline and they do not have Japan’s resources to cope with an ageing population.

  • Excellent article. Yet… so depressing. There are a couple of well made documentaries on just this subject. They aren’t Catholic or even Christian – but they can’t be accused of that bias either (which is sometimes a good thing…).

    Both can be found at ( )

    The first movie is called Demographic Winter. You can find it on YouTube if you look around. It discusses the same issues as above.

    The second movie is called Demographic Bomb and discusses more of the economic impact of demographic decline. I only found the DVD available and the trailers.

    When I was studying Geography in University, we discussed demographics quite a bit. On the one hand we had a liberal professor who was arguing that we have too many people on the planet, etc., etc., yet on the other hand he couldn’t help but discuss demographic decline because of falling birthrates all over the planet, especially in Europe and now North America. It was breathtaking… :/

  • Art Deco: Why is the World Bank counting our fertility rates?

    I do not work there. I am not sure why they started this particular data series.

  • Regarding the World Bank and the monitoring of fertility rates: I suspect it has something to do with population control. Unless I am mistaken, the World Bank is closely tied to the UN.


  • I think it is the UN Fund for Population Activities which trafficks in population control. The World Bank’s book is financing development projects. They produce an annual report which includes a statistical compendium in the rear. It is mostly economic statistics but includes some demographic data.

  • I am sure the World Bank tracks all kinds of stats. There is no question birth rates both have an impact on an economy and are impacted by economics. So it would not be unusual for an organization like the World Bank to track them, even without nefarious intentions.

Will Money Make Everyone Virtuous?

Friday, September 21, AD 2012

One of the many divides among modern Catholics is between what we might call the “moralizers” and the “justice seekers”. “Moralizers” are those who emphasize the importance of teaching people moral laws and urging them to abide by them. “Justice seekers” seek to mitigate various social evils (poverty, lack of access to health care, joblessness, etc.) and believe that if only these social evils are reduced, this will encourage people to behave better.

Moralizers tend to criticize the justice seekers by pointing out that following moral laws is apt to alleviate a lot of the social evils that worry the justice seekers, arguing, for example, that if one finishes high school, holds a job and gets married before having children, one is far less likely to be poor than if one violates these norms.

Justice seekers reply that the moralizers are not taking into account all the pressures there work upon the poor and disadvantaged, and argue that it’s much more effective to better people’s condition than to moralize at them (or try to pass laws to restrict their actions) because if only social forces weren’t forcing people to make bad choices, they of course wouldn’t do so.

(I’m more of a moralizer myself, but I think that we moralizers still need to take the justice seeker critique into account in understanding where people are coming from and what they’re capable of.)

One area in which the justice seeker approach seems to come into particular prominence is the discussion of abortion. We often hear politically progressive Catholics argue that the best way to reduce abortions is not to attempt to ban or restrict them, but rather to reduce poverty and make sure that everyone has access to health care. There’s an oft quoted sound bite from Cardinal Basil Hume (Archbishop of Westminster) to this effect:

“If that frightened, unemployed 19-year-old knows that she and her child will have access to medical care whenever it’s needed, she’s more likely to carry the baby to term. Isn’t it obvious?”

You’d think that it was obvious, but I’m suspicious of the idea that having more money or resources makes us better or less selfish people (an idea which strikes me as smacking of a certain spiritual Rousseauian quality that doesn’t take fallen human nature into account) so I thought it would be interesting to see if there’s any data on this.

I was not able to find data on the relationship of abortion to health insurance, but I was able to find data on the relation of abortion to poverty, and it turns out that the Cardinal, and conventional wisdom, are wrong.

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39 Responses to Will Money Make Everyone Virtuous?

  • “Having more money and resources does not make us better people. Those who are better off are just as capable of doing wrong than those who are less well off. Indeed, in this case, it appears that people who are better off are more likely to do wrong than those who are less well off.”

    The poor usually have not had the “advantage” of a politicized college education where abortion is viewed as a sacred rite. It usually takes much such “education” for a woman to convince herself that the child within her womb has no more moral worth than a piece of disposable garbage. Most faculties, including at many Catholic institutions, might as well have a sign outside the faculty lounge saying Sophists-R-Us!

  • In addition to being wrong on the facts, there is also an either/or attitude that always irks me. There is no reason we can’t push for illegality of abortion and support for pregnant women.

    As for more money and resources making people morally better, when has that ever been apparent? Many “elites” are the most vile people in the world.

  • To Don & the A.C.

    Two Weeks ago I found your site via Spirit Daily.
    I wish to thank you and your research talents.
    This post is most interesting and is being bookmarked for further education purposes.
    God bless you and the members of A.C.
    Philip Nachazel.
    M.I. (Militia Immaculata)

  • I think the relevant statistics are comparators of abortion rates as a function of household income. As such, it is pretty evident that abortion rates for poor pregnant women and their babies is multiples of women making more money.

    The intended vs.unintended pregnancy doesn’t start the relevant question, but simpler questions do: does income level impact the decision to abort? For this one has to evaluate all pregnancies vs. income level. There seems to be a relationship.

    In fact considering the high rate of abortion at or below the poverty line, that it is multiples of the rate of abortion above the poverty line, and that these may be intended pregancies often (by the above statistics), one has even more concern as to the perceived compulsions to abort intended pregancies.

    Household income factors seems to factor into these choices, or at least be very closely related, as it has for millenia.

  • Dan C,

    The reason why “abortion rate” data that is discussed is deceptive is that the “abortion rate” is the number of abortions per 1000 women per year. By that measure, yes, poor women do have a higher abortion rate than other women.

    The thing is: In order to make a decision whether to abort or note, a woman has to actually be pregnant first. This is called the abortion ratio, the percentage of pregnancies that end in abortion.

    Poor women (under the poverty line) abort 42% of their pregnancies (that’s ignoring the intended vs. unintended question.)

    Women living at more than 2x the poverty line abort 59% [corrected] of their pregnancies.

    In other words, a woman making more than 2x the poverty line is more than 40% more likely to abort if she gets pregnant than a woman living below the poverty line.

    Now, it’s true that when asked why the abort, women often cite financial concerns. But the numbers are stark. Poor women are less likely to choose abortion when they are pregnant than better off women.

  • Darwin,
    You should add in another very big variable: those just above 200% of poverty can be insurance less as to hospital bills ( making $30,270 plus but working for a small business that doesn’t cover them) ergo they must pay for prenatal, delivery, and post partum care out of small funds.
    Those exactly at 200% above FPL and lower are covered in New York by medicaid that covers pre natal, delivery, and post partum.
    In other words, medicaid is helping the poorer opt against abortion while those just above 200% of FPL have an additional sinful temptation of increased bills compared to a $400 abortion at 10
    weeks…and compared to poorer women who are covered by medicaid.
    Here is NY’s chart:

    Therefore Ryan’s desire to greatly reduce Federal medicaid can have abortion increasing results.
    That is not his fault before God IF he sees national bankruptcy as probable and as a greater evil if medicaid is not reduced. It’s the fault of those below 200% if they choose less expensive abortion if faced with medicaid cuts. But the Eisenhower Research Institute just tallied the full long term cost of the Iraq war as 4 trillion dollars and no candidate seems to be seeing that as a waste even if
    well intentioned at the time by Bush. Knowing what we know now, would we have spent lives and 4 trillion on Iraq as critical to US defense?

  • Is the 42% vs. 49% a statistcally significant difference? And by how much?

    Also, the poverty line is about $10,000? So at the massively enormously different income of $20,000, we are ok with these folks as being described as financially secure? The 200% number is an interesting number, however, the individual at this income level will only be insured through state-sponsored programs, since most jobs providing this level of income are without benefits. The point: this is not a secure position economically despite the apparent astronomically increased income (200%!) over what counts as really and truly poor.

    Finally, comparing 42 vs 49 percent, I do not get the 40% more likely to abort. The increased likelihood would be the 49 – 42 divided by 42? I get 17%.

  • Just looked it up: poverty level for 2012 for single woman is $11000.

  • So…the better terminology: financially insecure vs. desperately poor. The financially insecure person likely works, likely works without benefits in what would politely be termed, unenlightened work environments. This group will likely be in and out of employment- laid off, fired, etc. The person at the poverty line or lower is likely 100% surviving on government support.

    Does this offer any further insight into the dynamic of those desperately poor vs. very financially insecure?

  • Bill,

    I would really love to see data by insurance situation, I just wasn’t able to find a detailed breakdown, though Guttmacher clearly has some data on it. All they provide is a general statement that women with private insurance have a lower abortion rate than women with no insurance or with public insurance.

  • Dan C,

    First off all, I mis-typed when copying from Excel: Women who make more than 2x the poverty rate abort 59% of their pregnancies. (Thus they’re 42.6% more likely to abort when pregnant than women below the poverty line.)

    I agree that making 22k is not much, though since this is individual income we could be talking about a woman making 22k with a boyfriend who’s making and additional 22k. But more importantly, keep in mind that Guttmacher is splitting all women in the US into three groups: Those making less than the poverty line, those making 100-200% of the poverty line, and those making more than 200% of the poverty line.

    Thus, when we talk about women (between 20 and 29) making more than 200% of the poverty line abortion 59% of the their pregnancies, we’re talking about women making 22k but also women making 50k or 100k or $1mil. The whole range.

  • Darwin – There’s a lot of merit to your analysis. But the abortion ratio is higher for unmarried women, and a higher percentage of lower-income women are unmarried. What you’d need to do is control for marital status. I note that the report you linked to doesn’t have the necessary split. If I get a chance, I’ll see if the numbers are available on the site.

  • What this argues, for me, is that we need to attack both ends. Women need to be paid to be mothers and the best way to do that is to tax abortions to the point they are no longer afordible to even the rich. If an abortion cost 4x as much as a pregnancy, you would see those numbers change drastically and we could fully fund WIC.

  • I suspect one reason women at the higher income levels have abortions more often than lower income women is that they feel they have more to lose from an unplanned pregnancy. A poor teenager living in an environment where unwed motherhood is pervasive and few women attain higher education or professional jobs may not see an unplanned pregnancy as “the end of the world” in the same way that, say, a middle-class woman working toward a degree or professional career might. It is for this very reason that Mary Cunningham Agee (google her name to find out more) founded The Nurturing Network to assist college/professional women in choosing life.

    As for Ted’s idea that abortions should be taxed heavily (at least as much as tobacco and liquor), I’d suggest, only partly in jest, a reverse Hyde Amendment requiring ALL abortions to be paid for by Medicaid — because there would probably be no better way to drive abortionists out of business, given the months-long payment delays Medicaid providers (at least in Illinois) endure.

  • Seems some people care more about social evils (poverty, lack of health, unemployment) than about moral evils (abortion, class hate, fornication, sodomy, violent crime, etc.).

    Can the BLS measure the amounts poverty and unemployment that are caused by sloth, gluttony, lust, wrath, etc.?

    Anyhow, money is the root of all evil. Vegas casinos and many liquor stores are awash with food stamps.

    Recently, a NYC deli clerk was knifed for refusing to accept food stamps in payment for beer.

  • I like your division of moralizers vs. justice seekers.

    For the moralizer, I note the following, and this delves into all aspects of education to promote behavior change, in engineering, or patient safety or catechism: very clearly, education is the weakest form of promoting change. Forcing functions is the best.

    I also think some judicious language will help.

    I would like to note that voluntary poverty has much merit. Involuntary poverty must never be seen as desirable or normative. Certainly, few would desire involuntary poverty for oneself.

    I do like your argument, although I clearly find it arguable. Itbis hard to make sense of pro-lifism’s discussion of the impact of poverty, because sometimes when one is talking about abortion, one hears the movement’s line: poverty has no impact on the decision. This has been a clear notion for years, repeated. But then everry new statistic like the rate of African American abortion in NYC or the rate of abortion in the ghetto and pro-lifism makes noise inconsistent with the previous argument.

    Just an observation.

  • “Poverty” isn’t always just economic.

  • Ted Seeber: Both Hitler and Musollini paid women to bear children to become taxpayers and soldiers. America needs to replace 54 million aborted people to secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterty.

  • I should certainly like to see a law against abortion, as an expression of our social values. However, I doubt if such a law would have any great impact on the number of abortions.

    Anyone who remembers France in the 1950s and 1960s, before the Veil law will know that every village seemed to have its «faiseuse d’anges» [angel-maker]. Everyone knew it; nobody talked about it and the police regarded it as “women’s business,” and largely ignored it. Occasionally, a woman died and the Parquet, like Captain Renauld in “Casablanca,” would be “shocked, shocked to discover” that such things went on.

    Now this, remember, was before misoprostol or other abotifacient drugs became widely available. Banning them would probably be about as effective as the current laws banning marijuana.

    Catholic involvement in the quest for social justice may, as Blondel thought, lead persons of good will to respect Christianity and “to find only in the spirit of the gospel the supreme and decisive guarantee of justice and of the moral conditions of peace, stability, and social prosperity.”

  • Most of these studies (for practical reasons of data collection) are limited to correlational analyses rather than proving causal relationships. Also bear in mind that the imprecision of most such statistics makes only the largest differences worth analyzing (as Dan C alludes to). I prefer looking at the contingencies or results (sometimes referred to as decision theory) in following a course of action (or inaction). For example, Income would have a causal relationship with abortion frequency if abortions were very expensive And only performable in an accredited hospital And no one subsidized it. Since abortion is heavily subsidized and can be performed in a variety of settings, we would Not expect income as a Direct factor to play the major role. Without writing a term paper, it’s safe to say that in the US, abortion is more prevalent where there are (at least initial) economic and social benefits to the Individual making that decision. Since it is an individual making the decision here, there can be many idiosyncratic factors affecting that decision. All one could do is find those factors, if any, in common with large numbers of these individuals. Then those factors would have to be varied (through policies) to see if there were changes in abortion frequency. In practical terms, usually there have to be many different kinds of bad outcomes to the individual to prevent them from making decisions that would provide them some perceived benefit. (Recall how strictly the work requirement in welfare reform had to be written to get any effect).

  • Sacred Scripture is very clear about moralizers vs social justice types:

    If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 2nd Chronicles 7:14

    If we don’t behave morally, then we don’t deserve social justice. In fact, what we deserve (since we murder unborn babies just as King Manasseh made his children to walk through the fire in sacrifice to Molech) is exactly what God gave rebellious Israel and Judah: deportation and enslavement.

    It’s the Gospel of repentance and conversion – “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto thee as well.” Murder babies and expect the consequences – “The wage of sin are death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

  • See the UPDATE on the post above, I got to thinking about how these percentages added up and took a second look at the report, and realized that although it’s not super obvious, it must be the case that the table is showing abortion ratio by demographic breakdown for the sub-group of unmarried women only. The top of each table breaks down overall pregnancy rates for married and unmarried women. Then all the other groups discussed (breakdowns by age, race, income and education) are for unmarried women only.

    I’ve re-written the post to reflect this. I think in some ways it strengthens the case a bit (since we’re now clearly talking about women in the same situation: unmarried women below the poverty line vs. unmarried women making more than 2x the poverty line) but it does mean that we’re not seeing the effect of the current social trend towards the poor marrying far less than the better off. If we looked at all women making more than 2x the poverty line, we might see a lower or equal abortion ratio to that for women who are below the poverty line, because women who are married abort far less than women who are unmarried. Unfortunately, Guttmacher doesn’t provide that data, only the comparison of unmarried women to unmarried women.

    That said, I think that reinforces the point that for women in the same position (unmarried and in an unplanned pregnancy) are actually less likely to choose abortion if they are extremely poor (below the poverty line) than if they are better off (making more than 2x the poverty line) which is exactly the opposite of the common wisdom on the topic.

  • JACK is correct.

    The most massive, most widespread poverties confronting America are in Faith in Jesus and His Holy Church; Hope in eternal life (not in this World); and Love of God and Neighbor.

  • “I should certainly like to see a law against abortion, as an expression of our social values. However, I doubt if such a law would have any great impact on the number of abortions.”

    Well laws against abortion certainly had an immense impact on the number of abortions in this country MPS before abortion was judicially legalized by Roe.

    I think the Guttmacher numbers on pre-Roe abortions are inflated (based on the deaths from illegal abortions I suspect their estimate on pre-Roe abortions are at least 50% too high), but even using their figures the number of abortions post Roe doubled. Beyond that, there is a world of difference between living in a society where abortion is condemned as a heinous crime, and one in which it is celebrated as a constitutional right.

  • Mary De Voe @11:04am, too, is correct.

    It’s politically incpoerrect so agenda-driven ideologues, that call themselves economists, will never report that lack of popuation growth (replacement rate less than one) is a massive problem contributing to rump Europe’s economic, cultural and poltical problems.

  • Maybe I missed it in all of this but, is there any data on why the women had abortions?

    A poor woman may have an abortion but for reasons other than being poor.

  • I haven’t used my handy-dandy, HP-12 financial calculator yet today – hmmmm.

    Anyhow, I just did a quick calculation.

    Since late 2008, the FRB printed and gave away about $2,900,000 millions.

    Since late 2008, fedreal deficits added up to about $5,000,000 millions.

    The population of the USA over that near four-year period is, say, 310 millions.

    That comes to just under $255,000 for each man, woman and child since late 2008.

    Where’s the money?

    If someone can find our piece of the action and send it to me, my wife and our three sons, we’d be truly virtuous!

  • MPS, RU486 requires multiple visits to medical clinics. (And is it really your thesis that the drug laws have no effect on the prevalence or incidence of drug use?)

    A couple of points you do not make which Edward Banfield might have suggested:

    1. Impulsiveness and circumscribed time horizons tend to be associated with ill considered sexual encounters and with various sorts of behavior that diminish one’s earning power. Moral decision making and good work benefit from discipline and prudence (though it helps to have a good heart).

    2. Education, marriage, &c are all very well and good, but they may just be correlates of the sort of dispositions and behaviors which enhance one’s earning power. They are ‘answers’ to problems in the social economy only if so doing enhances one’s human capital (and thus one’s wages) in sum and/or vis-a-vis other social strata. As a rule, all strata of society in 1948 behaved quite well in certain spheres. We were, however, a materially poorer society (something which applies as well to the lower economic strata).


  • Art says “Moral decision making and good work benefit from discipline and prudence (though it helps to have a good heart).” This is a golden statement and memorable.

    However, risk taking behavior (which includes impulsiveness) is not that correlated with socioeconomic level. Bill Clinton was certainly prone to frequent ill considered sexual encounters but mainly because there were no serious consequences to it (outside of a thrown object by Hillary once in a while.) Lack of planning with money is certainly associated with lesser economic outcomes, if for obvious reasons. However people with good financial planning skills don’t necessarily have good planning skills with anything else.

  • I am perplexed that when this discussion arises there is no mention of adoption as a solution to the unintended pregnancy. There are millions of couples who want to adopt, yet there are few babies available for placement. My husband and I tried for 5 years to adopt and were unsuccessful. Adoptive couples cover expenses for the birthmother which certainly would help with the financial issues during and immediately following the pregnancy. Clearly there is another alternative.

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  • It is impossible, of course, to determine the number of abortions before legalisation, but some statistics are suggestive. In the century or so from the battle of Waterloo to the outbreak of WWI, the French population rose, in round figures, from 31 million to 41 million, or about a third. During this period, there was little or no access to mechanical or chemical means of contraception. Over the following 98 years, from 1914 to 2012 the population rose to 66 million, again about one-third. Now, during the first 50 odd years, up to 1971 of that period, the policy of “Republican Natalism” severely restricted access to contraception. These figures confirm anecdotal evidence that abortion was not uncommon throughout a period of nearly two centuries.

    In the very different ethos of Victorian England, between 1815 and 1914, the population trebled, from 11 m to 33 m; this in a country with much higher rates of emigration. Between 1914 and 2012, the population increased from 33m to 52 m. an increase if one half, a period during which contraception became much more common.

    There is nothing in the mortality rates of the two countries to account for this stark variation. It is the result of the birth rate alone.

    Hence my contention that social attitudes play a much more significant role that legislation.

  • Michael,
    You may have to adjust your concept though for coitus interruptus in France. John Noonan in his book, ” The Church That Can and Cannot Change” cites the fact that the French Jesuit Theologian, John Gury, writing in 1850 wrote:  “In our days, the horrid plague of onanism has flourished everywhere”.  

  • Bill

    Making every allowance, I doubt if a nine-fold difference in fertility rates can be accounted for by coitus interruptus.

    I cited the demographic figures as lending support to the widely-held perception and the wealth of anecdotal evidence to suggest that abortion was common throughout the period in question.

    As for social attitudes, the pro-natalist legislation of the 1920’s fixed the penalty for abortionists at 5 years; more would have given the accused a right to trial by jury and juries were notoriously unwilling to convict

  • I doubt if a nine-fold difference in fertility rates can be accounted for by coitus interruptus.

    MPS, the figures you quote make for a four-fold difference in the rate of increase. Since France’s population was increasing during that century, it is a reasonable inference that the total fertility rate exceeded replacement rates. Even in societies with exceedingly low infant and juvenile mortality, that is still 2.1 live births per mother per lifetime. Somehow I doubt British women were popping out 19 babies a piece.

  • Art Deco

    I apologize for the unfortunate slip of the pen.

    What I meant to say was that the French population increased by 33% from 1815 to 1914 and the English by 300%. That is the nine-fold difference I was referring to.

    Of course, in each case the increase is spread over three to four generations, taking 25 to 30 years for a generation.

  • The formula is as follows:

    ln(Rg)/ln(Rf); Rg=3, Rf=1.33.

Choice and Gendercide

Friday, June 24, AD 2011

Last weekend’s Wall Street Journal featured an interesting review of Mara Hvistendahl’s new book Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men. The topic is one that pro-lifers are all to familiar with — the use of sex selective abortion throughout the world which has resulted in the death of 163 million unborn girls being aborted over the last 40 years, specifically because their parents wanted a boy instead. (In other words, over and above all of the abortions going on for other reasons.) The sheer number of “missing girls” is staggering — imagine a number of women equal to the current total populations of France and the UK combined.

Mara Hvistendahl is worried about girls. Not in any political, moral or cultural sense but as an existential matter. She is right to be. In China, India and numerous other countries (both developing and developed), there are many more men than women, the result of systematic campaigns against baby girls. In “Unnatural Selection,” Ms. Hvistendahl reports on this gender imbalance: what it is, how it came to be and what it means for the future.

In nature, 105 boys are born for every 100 girls. This ratio is biologically ironclad. Between 104 and 106 is the normal range, and that’s as far as the natural window goes. Any other number is the result of unnatural events.

Yet today in India there are 112 boys born for every 100 girls. In China, the number is 121—though plenty of Chinese towns are over the 150 mark. China’s and India’s populations are mammoth enough that their outlying sex ratios have skewed the global average to a biologically impossible 107. But the imbalance is not only in Asia. Azerbaijan stands at 115, Georgia at 118 and Armenia at 120.

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6 Responses to Choice and Gendercide

  • Sex-selective abortion is a problem that more stringent abortion laws and government regulations will not change, because the root of the problem is cultural. These cultures do not value their women; they are seen as inferior and undesirable when compared to sons for various reasons, many of them financial (see, for example, the use of dowries in India). If these cultures started treating their women with respect instead of as commodities, there would be less “incentive” to abort a female child, and women would be less pressured by their families to abort for this reason.

  • The British stopped suttee in the Nineteenth Century by threatening to hang those who immolated a widow on her husband’s funeral pyre. Cultures do change in the face of laws that are enforced. If one is waiting for sex selection abortions to end as a result of oriental cultures equally valuing women to men, than in regard to some of those culutures I suspect one would still be waiting when Gabriel sounds the Final Trump.

  • I understand what you are trying to say re: sati, but from what I’ve read, the practice of sati never reached epidemic proportions, and was practiced only in certain sects of Indian culture. It still occurs very rarely in India, even though there are laws against performing and even observing sati. It’s disingenuous to say that the British stopped it, and it’s not comparable to sex-selective abortion.

    “Cultures do change in the face of laws that are enforced.” I agree. But the key word is enforced. Dowries were made illegal in India in 1961. Nonetheless, due to insufficient enforcement, it’s still a common practice, to the point that women who refuse to pay dowries (or have “insufficient” dowries) can find themselves verbally and physically abused, even murdered.

    If you were to simply outlaw abortion (sex-selective or otherwise) in these countries, yes, there would be a rise in female births. However, there would also be a rise in female infanticide and neglect. An unwanted female child will not suddenly become wanted because of legislation. Education (teaching, among other things, that daughters have rights, and are valuable members of society, just like sons) is an essential factor in changing cultural attitudes, perhaps the most important one.

    Please don’t misunderstand me and think that I am advocating or approve of sex-selective abortion. But singling out and focusing on abortion over all other things is like treating a broken bone with painkillers — it’s treating a symptom and failing to deal with the reasons why it’s happening in the first place.

  • The British did stop suttee for all practical purposes. A law cannot stop all incidents of any brutal practice, but it can greatly reduce the rate of occurrence. Laws against infanticide can greatly lessen the chance that a parent will murder their child, just as the absence of such a law can mean that infanticide becomes accepted as was the case in ancient Greece and Rome. With the rise of Christianity, laws were passed against infanticide. They did not work overnight, but the incidence of infanticide was greatly reduced, and orphanages were established to care for abandoned children. Cultures rarely change by themselves until the law points the way.

    Today, advocates of abortion promote abortion as a safe and legal solution to unwanted children within the womb for any reason or no reason. In that environment I have a hard time understanding how an advocate of legal abortion can say that a sex selection abortion should not occur, while still steadfastly holding that abortion for no reason is acceptable. Once the law begins to ban certain types of abortion, then the “abortion liberty” is in danger, which is why advocates of abortion fought so hard to preserve the disguised infanticide known as partial birth abortion.

    Atheist and uber pro-abort Richard Dawkins has no problem with sex selection abortions in theory as long as the deaths are handed out even-handedly:

    “Even sex selection itself and selective abortion of early embryos is not necessarily a social evil. A society which values girls and boys equally might well include parents who aspire to at least one of each, without having too large a family. We all know families whose birth order goes girl girl girl girl boy stop. And other families of boy boy boy boy girl stop. If sex selection had been an option, wouldn’t those families have been smaller: girl boy stop, and boy girl stop? In other words, sex selection, in societies that value sexual equality, could have beneficial effects on curbing overpopulation, and could help provide parents with exactly the family balance they want.”

    His main point is that it is the nasty religious and cultural prejudices against women of societies that are to blame rather than scientific abortion for sex selection abortions aimed exclusively at girls. He is, as usual, wrong. The problem is people believing that it is perfectly proper to kill children either in or outside the womb for any reason or no reason.

  • One would think that in a society where women are scarce, they would be treated with GREATER reverence and protection, kind of like we treat endangered species of plants and animals or rare materials like gold or jewels. Instead the opposite seems to be the case — they get treated worse, subjected to all sorts of violence, coercion and discrimination. Maybe some environmentalist group should declare Chinese and Indian women to be an endangered species? (Of course it will be a cold day in hell before that happens…)

Inequality, Heritability and the American Dream

Tuesday, March 8, AD 2011

Ever since people finished identifying “the American Dream” — the idea that in the US in particular and the New World in general somehow allowed people to escape the hidebound social structures of the Old World and better themselves via their own efforts — people have been worried that it is on the point of dying. Americans continue to show an an unusual degree of belief in the ability those who work hard to better themselves by their own efforts. For instance, in the 1999 International Social Survey, 61% of Americans agreed that “people get rewarded for their effort”, whereas only 41% of Japanese agreed, 33% of British and 23% of French. This belief has actually increased in recent decades. In 2005 the New York Times reported that while in 1983 only about 60% Americans agreed that “It is possible to start out poor, work hard and become rich” by 2005 nearly 80% of Americans agreed with that statement.

And yet, those who study inter-generational income mobility have been increasingly worried in recent decades that despite American’s belief that people can work hard and get ahead, that it is becoming increasingly difficult for people to actually achieve this in the US. In a lengthy report by the liberal think thank Center for American Progress, Tom Hertz of American university brings together a number of the recent studies on intergenerational income mobility in the US as compared to other countries, showing how people who are born into the lower income quartiles in the United States are less likely to reach the top levels of income than in other countries such as Germany, Sweden or Denmark.

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7 Responses to Inequality, Heritability and the American Dream

  • “This may reflect the effects of discrimination in the labor market, but may also result from factors such as the difference in the quality of schooling acquired by blacks and whites. Note also that while we have controlled for a long list of parental personality variables, we have not been able to
    control for that same list among the children. It is thus possible that given ostensibly comparable family backgrounds, African American and white children develop different attitudes towards economic success that are then reflected in their family incomes.”

    This seemed interesting given that mobility for Latinos was not significantly affected by their race. (It would also have been interesting if Asians were included.) One might hypothesize that schools are generally poor for Latinos as well as African-Americans. If that is the case, then increasing quality of education would not be as useful as improving “attitudes towards economic success.”

    This conclusion is supported by this which shows that increasing expenditure on schools does not necessarily improve outcome:

  • As it turns out, heritability of IQ can explain only about 5% of the correlation between parent/child income (in other words, controlling for heritability of IQ reduces the parent/child income correlation from .42 to .4). The reason for this is that while IQ does appear to be substantially heritable, the correlation between IQ and income is fairly weak (.27).

    Granted, IQ is only one trait which is both potentially heritable and correlated with income. Things like willingness to work hard, for example, may be partly heritable. However, these traits are presumably also present in other countries where the parent/child income correlation is a lot lower.

  • Blackadder,

    GNXP seems to be down at the moment, so I can’t follow your link, though I did find this someone interesting EconLog post linking to the same GeneExpression post:

    I don’t have a particular dog in the IQ fight — I have an inherent dislike for the IQ concept, have never had mine measured, etc. That said, it seems to me that we have a couple of pretty basic conceptual issues to sort out here:

    – People in the US tend to want to believe that “anyone” can succeed, and so that success correlates, to a great extent, with the extent to which people have striven to “get ahead”.

    – Additionally, people tend to want to believe that through some constellation of factors (genes, education, instilling “values”, etc.) they can prepare their children to have success equal to or greater than their own.

    Now, either one or both of these are totally false, or else one would expect, after a certain period, a country to become fairly “sorted” and to find that many people achieve success moderately similar to their parents — not necessarily because there are nefarious forces keeping their parents from succeeding, but because their parents success is a measure of their parents effort and their parents have been moderately successful in passing on the characteristics (whatever they are) that allowed their own success.

    Certainly, you’re right that the degree to which humans tend to inherit the characteristics of their parents is likely to be consistent across countries, and there is a good deal of variation across countries in regards to the degree to which parental income correlates with child income. However, that could potentially be the result either of the country being less sorted (and thus people’s parents abilities having less correlation to their incomes than is the case in the US) or to some difference in cultural attitudes and drives.

    The perception that success is primarily the result of chance is much more prevalent in some of those countries with lower correlations of parent to child income — and the lower correlation of parent to child income could, depending on what assumptions one makes about the heritability of whatever traits it is that result in success could in fact be the result of greater randomness rather than greater correlation of ability to reward.

  • As I think about it further, there are really three beliefs which, like many Americans and classical liberals, I find myself strongly attached to:

    1) People are all fairly equal — there is not some “peasant class” which is inherently fit only for inhabiting the bottom levels of society.
    2) Hard work, saving, etc. will result in “getting ahead”.
    3) By bringing your kids up right and teaching them well, you can make it pretty likely that they’ll all do as well or better than you.

    The thing is, these three beliefs are not really compatible. If it’s true that via effort and ability one can “get ahead”, and if by bringing your kids up well you can assure that most of them will do the same or better than you, then necessarily people are not all that equal (as shown by the fact that not everyone “gets ahead”.

    As a result, people necessarily end up de-emphasizing at least one of these three in order to try to make some sense of the thing. (Or else mindlessly asserting all three without thinking about the contradictions.)

  • Darwin, your three beliefs are logically incompatible only if you assume all parents are bringing up their children right and teaching them well, and that is demonstrably false. I am reasonably confident in the accuracy of your first belief as long as “fairly” is underscored. Most people with multiple children observe remarkable aptitude variances notwithstanding the same gene pool. The second is most certainly true as a generality. The last belief is problematic. Children of achievers seldom equal or surpass the achievements of their parents. There are several reasons for this, which are reasonably obvious upon modest reflection. Nonethless, like most Americans achievers share (or at least want to share) your last belief, but the odds are they will be disappointed even assuming sound child-rearing. But it is certainly true that good parenting produces better results than poor parenting, but that is a different point.

    In the end, the real debate is over the role of luck. Even assuming away dogmatic biological materialism, liberals tend to over-estimate its importance and conservatives tend to under-estimate it. It is a very important factor (indeed being born into a loving family and with a brain wired for aptitudes the market values is luck), but ordering a society around the assumption that luck is the dominant if not dispositive factor (which at bottom is what many liberals would like to do) is extremely pernicious in that it will fail to reward prudent behavior and punish imprudent behavior thereby making society much worse off for all.

  • I agree with your three points, Darwin. Point number 2 is the funny one. Some people will tend to balk at that statement, reading into it a cold and (dare I say) Calvinist worldview. As Mike pointed out nobody denies the presense and influence of “luck”, it’s a matter of to what degree it plays a part. Clearly people of our mind allow for good fortune and misfortune, but the exception prove the rule.

    As a test we can ask the question of the naysayers: how far do you suppose someone will get in life if they don’t work hard or make no effort to save or at least limit discretionary spending? The answer to me is self evident and I suppose it would have to be to them as well. I also think you can rework point 3 that way too. I doubt you would get many people to disagree with point 1, but unfortunately I think there are a number of people who subscribe to it in practice. Oddly enough they’re likely to be the same people who have no use for points 2 and 3.

  • Oops, that should be “people who don’t subscribe to it in practice”.

Class and Marriage: A Reverse

Wednesday, December 8, AD 2010

It’s long been a trope of the “culture war” that the rich as social and religious libertines while the stolid middle class cling to traditional values. Or, as another portion of America sees it, that the educated elite have moved beyond the primative and prejudices social mores of the past while the uneducated cling to their guns and their religion. I would venture to say that for many of us reading here this may also to a stereotype which fits with our lived experience.

However, a report out from the Institute for American Values stands this set of stereotypes somewhat on its head, showing a educated elite which is going to church more and sleeping around less, while the broad middle class is going to church less, having more children out of wedlock and getting divorced more often.

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8 Responses to Class and Marriage: A Reverse

  • It’s still comparing those went graduated college in the 70’s (low 20%) to those who graduated in the 2000’s (30%). In other words, the “highly educated” now includes some in the middle class.

  • Awesome find DC!

  • I suspect that one reason marriage is less frequent and divorce and unwed motherhood are more frequent among the lower/middle classes is simply the fact that single parenthood in and of itself perpetuates poverty, limits educational opportunities, deprives children of stable adult role models with intact marriages, and to some extent, limits one’s ability to be an active churchgoer.

    A child who grows up in a single parent home in which the parent (for the sake of simplicity I’ll assume it’s the mother) works long and sometimes unpredictable hours, doesn’t make much money, doesn’t have time or energy to help the child with homework, and doesn’t attend church on Sunday for various reasons (from lack of transportation to just plain being worn out on weekends) probably won’t grow up to attend church or graduate from college.

    If he or she doesn’t have a father and most of his or her peers don’t have two-parent families, then the child grows up assuming that two-parent families are outside of the norm, or that only rich people can attain them (this is particularly true when society and the media places great emphasis on financial and career stability as a prerequisite for marriage).

    If a lot of the people the child knows have kids out of wedlock, then he or she assumes that to be normal and more likely than not, does the same thing. Then the downward cycle continues into the next generation.

    Meanwhile, children who grow up in two-parent, married, churchgoing families are less likely to be poor, do better in school and are more likely to complete college. They pass on the same expectations to their children. With each generation, the percentage of religiously observant, married persons with traditional sexual mores grows. This is because the traditional family structure (surprise, surprise!) tends to produce disciplined, stable and productive citizens.

  • I wonder how applicable the comments of Ross Douthat earlier this year might be applicable to these findings:

    “Liberals sometimes argue that their preferred approach to family life reduces the need for abortion. In reality, it may depend on abortion to succeed. The teen pregnancy rate in blue Connecticut, for instance, is roughly identical to the teen pregnancy rate in red Montana. But in Connecticut, those pregnancies are half as likely to be carried to term. Over all, the abortion rate is twice as high in New York as in Texas and three times as high in Massachusetts as in Utah.

    So it isn’t just contraception that delays childbearing in liberal states, and it isn’t just a foolish devotion to abstinence education that leads to teen births and hasty marriages in conservative America. It’s also a matter of how plausible an option abortion seems, both morally and practically, depending on who and where you are.

    Whether it’s attainable for most Americans or not, the “blue family” model clearly works: it leads to marital success and material prosperity, and it’s well suited to our mobile, globalized society.

    By comparison, the “red family” model can look dysfunctional — an uneasy mix of rigor and permissiveness, whose ideals don’t always match up with the facts of contemporary life.

    But it reflects something else as well: an attempt, however compromised, to navigate post-sexual revolution America without relying on abortion. ”

  • Overall this is just a reflection of the devastation of our society by liberal moral concepts. That it is spreading to the middle and lower classes while fading a bit in the upper class doesn’t really alter the fact that no one so much as blinks when they hear of an unmarried girl getting pregnant; and when was the last time that anyone felt that divorce was a shame? In the end, relentless propaganda in favor of pre-marital sex and divorce has led to more pre-marital sex and divorce.

    We’ve, at best, about half the population living lives of sobriety, hard work and thrift. We can’t sustain very much more social disintegration. The line must be drawn and we must start to battle back to the old moral values.

  • It’s almost as if some of these educated people woke up one morning, looked at the society they had created, and perhaps after seeing an episode of Jerry Springer or Maury Povich and said in bewildered tones, “wow, ideas have consequences.”

    They made a desert – a moral and spiritual desert – and called it peace. But now the party is over and the corpses are starting to stink.

  • A couple of hypotheses to consider:

    1. Fr. Paul Mankowski’s observation that the clergy have been losing their rapport with the wage-earning population, making congregations a bourgeois preserve. If I understand him correctly, he is referring to an intramural process derived from how clergy are recruited, trained, and formed. We might consider that the process is at work in the protestant congregations as well as the Church.

    2. Getting married in today’s world requires one lay aside some of one’s normal risk aversion. Husbands and fathers are treated as redundant and disposable to a far greater degree than was the case sixty years ago and their willingness to invest in family life has corresponding diminished. This problem one might speculate is simply more acute among wage-earners, who are less valued by women.

Big Government and Small Society

Wednesday, November 17, AD 2010

The Democratic Party suffered a historic drubbing a couple weeks ago. However, one of the things with which several left leaning commentators publically consoled themselves was that demographics are in their favor. The parts of the electorate which tend to vote for Democrats are growing, while those who tends to vote for Republicans are shrinking. Progressives like to focus on the examples of this they feel proud of: the non-white percentage of the US population is growing, and non-whites tend to vote Democratic. Young people also lean more heavily progressive on a variety of issues than previous generations did at the same age.

From a progressive point of view this sounds pretty good: progressivism will succeed in the end because it is supported by young and diverse people, while conservatism will die out because it is supported by old white people — and no one like them anyway, did they?

I’d like to propose an alternate reading of the data:

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4 Responses to Big Government and Small Society

  • Excellent post, Darwin. Hopefully it won’t deter from what you really want to talk about, but I have one question about the demographic trends. While some of these trends favor Democrats, on the other hand the big growth areas in our country are in states favorable to Republicans: Texas, Utah, Florida, etc. So what I wonder is: will the influx of these Democratic constituencies in these states make them more Democratic-leaning, or will the cultural milieu of these environments change these young voters and cause them to be more sympathetic to conservatism?

  • “… will the influx of these Democratic constituencies in these states make them more Democratic-leaning, or will the cultural milieu of these environments change these young voters and cause them to be more sympathetic to conservatism?”

    Paul, my guess is both, but more of the former, resulting in those states shifting to a more purple hue. Examples: Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia.

  • “Do people come to support an all-consuming relationship between individual and state because other social institutions have already broken down for them, for some unrelated reason, and they have nowhere else to turn for support, or is it the growth of a state which leads to the breakdown of other social relationships”

    Well, here are my thoughts on that issue:

  • Thanks for sharing your analysis here, DC, and it seems to be logical and solidly in line with the empirical evidence (sorry, that’s the philosophy courses I’m currently enrolled in talking through my fingers!)

    As a college instructor for the past 9 years (in three different and diverse states: VA, HI, and TX), my hypothesis is that young adults of college age (even, perhaps especially, those not enrolled in tertiary education) are generally tuned out to politics. They seem to be more susceptible to cynical news sources like Stewart, Colbert and Conan, all of whom skew very “progressive”, and they also lack the life experiences to see through a lot of the idealistic manipulation behind slogans like “hope” and “change”, so they are more likely to pull that lever in the voting booth for candidates who seem “edgy” or “cool”, whilst these young adults have little or no real understanding of any of the issues. Indeed it’s highly likely that they’ve had any meaningful exposure to many conservative ideas proudly and cogently explained.

    All of this adds up to what we saw in 2008–millions of young adults who really don’t “get” politics pulling a lever once for “hope” and “change” rhetoric. Now the ones who are paying any attention at all to the results of their vote in 2008 can see how little good it’s produced, and they are completely dissuaded from voting in the mid-terms, and perhaps even in the 2012 presidential elections. If I were in a cynical mood, I would say that this is ultimately a net positive for political conservatives. However, from a Catholic anthropological angle, I think it’s incumbent upon us as Catholic Christians to educate the youth better in the moral principles upon which the Church grounds its moral teachings. If young people can be taught to understand these principles and apply them as voters, I think there is great potential for a conservative cultural and political renaissance in the US.

Real Sex vs. the Contraceptive Mentality (Part 1)

Thursday, June 17, AD 2010

If you move in conservative Catholic circles much, you have doubtless heard the phrase “contraceptive mentality”. Though used frequently and negatively, I think there is value in delving a bit more deeply into what we mean by the phrase. I was moved to write this in semi-response to an interesting post by Brett Salkeld a couple months back which sought to explore the bounds of what a “contraceptive mentality” is. Another good resource on the topic is this post at Catholic Culture on the contraceptive mentality.

While recognizing the dangers of trying to be too wide ranging in subject matter in the limited space of a blog post, my goal here is to set out answers to the following:

  • What is a “contraceptive mentality”?
  • How is a contraceptive mentality contrary to how humans are “meant” to function morally and sexually?
  • How, if at all, does NFP (natural family planning) relate to a contraceptive mentality?

I think it’s easiest to think about the idea of a contraceptive mentality against the backdrop of how we function sexually as human creatures — a term I use advisedly in that I want to emphasize our rootedness in a certain biological reality of being primates with certain biological systems and instincts, while at the same time not ignoring our rational, emotional and moral sensibilities in the sense that “human animal” strikes me as implying.

Uncertainty and Conception

One thing that sets us apart from most other higher primates is that humans have fairly even sexual drive all of the time. Or, at least, men have sexual drive pretty much all of the time. Women seem to have more variation in their level of interest, and indeed there is a fair amount of evidence that one driving (though unconscious) element of their drive is that they are more “in the mood” during the times of the month when they are fertile than when they are not. Another thing that sets us apart from most other higher primates is that a woman’s fertility is not marked by unmistakable physical signs (change of color and swelling of the genital area, changes in smell, etc.) (Though Bonobos have often been compared to humans in regards to their relatively constant sex drive, they are like chimps in that female fertility is readily apparent through external signs.)

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2 Responses to Real Sex vs. the Contraceptive Mentality (Part 1)

  • Though this doesn’t necessarily relate to the topic directly, according to a recent Gallup poll public opinion on same-sex relationships has shifted even more so toward moral acceptance. The two groups that shifted more toward approval were Catholics and men — the “contraceptive mentality” at work?

  • “the “contraceptive mentality” at work?”

    The older I get the harder it is to overestimate the pernicious effects of the “contraceptive mentality.”

Well, Good Luck With That

Monday, June 8, AD 2009

[Cross posted from DarwinCatholic]

I have the feeling that readers have emailed me about this site a couple times before, and I left it without comment because some topics seem like shooting fish in a barrel for a blog with the tagline “Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don’t survive.” However there comes a point when fish who choose to live in barrels deserve to come under fire.

Meet the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement.

VHEMT (pronounced vehement) is a movement not an organization. It’s a movement advanced by people who care about life on planet Earth. We’re not just a bunch of misanthropes and anti-social, Malthusian misfits, taking morbid delight whenever disaster strikes humans. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Voluntary human extinction is the humanitarian alternative to human disasters.

We don’t carry on about how the human race has shown itself to be a greedy, amoral parasite on the once-healthy face of this planet. That type of negativity offers no solution to the inexorable horrors which human activity is causing.

Rather, The Movement presents an encouraging alternative to the callous exploitation and wholesale destruction of Earth’s ecology.

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7 Responses to Well, Good Luck With That

  • I think they’re saying that the urge is to have sex, but that there’s no urge to have babies per se. It sounds ridiculous. Haven’t they ever met a career-driven woman who’s also complaining that her biological clock is ticking? People definitely have an urge for babies, and not just plain old sex. They sound like a bunch of teenagers.

  • They claim that the “biological clock” is merely a cultural construct, that there’s no natural human urge to have babies, just to have sex.

    Which is ludicrous. The only reason, at a biological level, why we are able to have sex and why it’s pleasurable is in order to “make babies”. That’s why they’re called “reproductive organs”.

    As you say, it does all seem to suggest a certain lack of familiarity with life…

  • “They claim that the “biological clock” is merely a cultural construct, that there’s no natural human urge to have babies, just to have sex.”

    Obviously these people have never seen a group of women at a baby shower, or experienced the phenomenon of one woman in a group of friends of child-bearing age getting pregnant and the other females in her group of friends getting pregnant within a year. Not to mention the reaction of virtually all women when they see a baby. An ounce of experience is definitely worth a pound of theory in this area.

  • in the words of Johnny Mac: “You CANNOT be SERIOUS!”

  • Methinks these a-holes need to read some Chesterton.

  • Perhaps “apres vous”?

  • “If an idea lacks enough merit to be passed on without being force-fed from an early age, it probably deserves to be forgotten.”

    this quote pretty much sums it up for me, and as far as I’m concerned is the basis for all the erroneous liberal ideas that we see today.

Examining the "Youth Vote"

Friday, November 7, AD 2008

Ever since McGovern, Democrats repeatedly staked their electoral hopes on an expended avalanch of young voters. This year, it appeared to happen, with Obama winning the votes of 18-29 year olds in a landslide:

Democratic brand domination was the corollary to Obama’s 66%-32% blowout among 18-29 year-old voters. The youth also voted 63%-34% for House Democrats. So, young voters also voted straight ticket for the Democrats down ballot. The real story about the youth vote is not how many “new” voters Obama got to show up, but rather how he produced a gargantuan 34% differential in the youth, versus a 9% margin for Kerry in 2004.

In 2008, 18% of the electorate was comprised of 18-29 year-olds. That figure, when multiplied by the 34 percent differential in Obama voting equals 6.1 points, or a majority of Obama’s popular vote margin. Had the Democratic 18-29 year-old vote stayed the same as 2004’s margin, Obama would have won by about 1 to 2 points, and would not have won 73 electoral votes from Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, or Indiana. “The Electoral College result would not have been the same, nor can we say that Obama would have won the election,” said Greenberg.

Does this overwhelming Obama victory among young voters represent a strong likelihood that the Democrats have a long rule ahead of them?

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3 Responses to Examining the "Youth Vote"

  • It’s probably also important to look at what was happening when these kids grew up. For Bush 2004, the 9/11 generation got to vote for the first time. For Obama, it’s the Iraq war generation.

    I think in general the youth vote is fickle. Bush voters in 2004 were very optimistic, then disappointed, then Obama supporters. With the hype and hope for obama super-high among the youth, Obama is doomed to disappoint. The question is how much and how angry they will be. Counting on the youth is a good move for the challenger but not so dependable for a re-election.

  • Only makes sense that our youth would favor the hip young Democratic candidate over the old guy on the GOP side who always looks ready to blow a gasket. But in reading stats, numbers, analysis above, I conclude:

    1. If you are a political candidate and you expect young voters to carry you to victory, think again. This Rock The Vote and it’s hep to the jive to vote and such silliness is still an illusion. Most young people know little about politics and care less. Just as well. Real Life will run over them like an 18-wheeler sooner or later.

    2. I get the logic that people are inclined to vote Demo tend to be rootless, restless, devoid of kith and kin, not occupying space in church pew. They also tend not to be people who reproduce other rootless restless types. In fact, they tend not to reproduce at all. Thus the conundrum of the Death Party. Not producing enough future Democrats. A little too much like their Western European models- the distinct aroma of Eau de Death Wish.

    3. Obama brought the many and varied Democratic coalitions together as one- African-Americans, unions, enviros, gay/lesbian/transgender communities, etc. They will fly apart in the mad dash to monopolize his attention and plead for the superiority of their individual causes. Amazing that the majority of feminists who supported La Hillary opted for him with little fuss. If their concerns aren’t heard- possibly my least favorite lib cliche of the moment- those voting patterns can very easily go askew as early as the 2010 midterms. The only certainty about voting patterns is that there are no certainities. Except for- don’t rely on the youth vote.

  • Hep to the jive?
    From one oldster to another, take care! You’re dating yourself.