Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Duggars do their part to buoy birth rate

Al Fin points me to Jim Bob Duggar and his wife Michelle, who illustrates that being a homemaker can mean more than watching soap operas and reading romance novels:

Arkansas couple had a baby daughter Thursday — their 17th child and seventh girl - and the pair say they're still not ready to give it a rest.
The Duggars should be celebrated. He's a real estate professional with several commercial holdings and presumably plenty of wealth. Raising seventeen children presents an obvious financial challenge, but the family has no debt. He's likely an intelligent man. The Duggars are attenuating the wealth gap the surest way that it can be attenuated: By rich couples have lots of children and poor couples having few of them.

Further, by spreading their affluence across the lives of their children, most of whom are probably headed for college, the kids will have to work professionally or get a start-up going instead of being able to live penthouse lifestyles by merely managing a trust fund set up by their parents. Yet they'll have the resources to pursue whatever it is they have a knack for. Maybe there's a Mark Zuckerberg among the clan.

It's not desirable to have everyone adopting the Quiverfull movement, though. The steep rise in the illegitimacy rate, from a national rate of 8% in the early sixties to more than one-third of children born today, fuels all the other pathological behaviors that describe the contemporary underclass. Yes, demographic trends are partly responsible for the rise in illegitimacy (the contemporary Hispanic rate is 46%), but they only color a trend that has engulfed all of American society--just four decades ago the black out-of-wedlock birth rate (22%) was lower than the white rate is today (25%).

Just as social apropos should be given to fat cats who make babies instead of enjoying frivolous travel and cosmopolitan nightlife, the social stigma going the other direction needs to return. To do otherwise is to injure poor kids, who need more than anyone else to see their numbers reduced--and, by extension, the supply of unskilled labor--as demand for menial labor is reduced, else their plight (and the nation's Gini coefficient) be accentuated uneccessarily in the future.

The Duggars are devout Christians. This story illustrates the strong relationship between religiosity and fecundity. At the national level, the correlation is .714. In the US, by state, it's a statistically significant .43 (with religiosity gauged by regular weekly church or synagogue attendance) even with lots of geographic mobility and a relatively uniform standard-of-living. Piety seems necessary for demographic continuity, yet religiosity and intelligence, both at the national and individual levels, are not surprisingly inversely related (a vigorous .848 at the national level).

Yet it's not that adopting a faith plunges one's IQ. And, ceteris paribus, a pious population does a better job perpetuating itself than an enlightened one does, at least among 'developed' nations.

Mocking the faithful doesn't seem to me a wise thing to do, so long as that faith doesn't mobilize enough support to seriously hamper scientific progress or educational curricula. The religious tend to be more nationalistic (anabaptists and Jehovah's Witnesses excluded), and the decline of Western religiosity has paralleled the decline in Western nationalism, both of which have paralleled the startling drop in the percentage of the global population that is of European descent (25% in 1960, 18% today, and 10% by mid-century). A Pew survey of white evangelicals, mainstream Protestants, Catholics, and secularists found support for immigration restriction proceeded in the same order, with evangelicals least supportive of current immigration patterns and "secularists" the most supportive of them.

Evangelical Christian organizations like Focus on the Family are the leading pro-family institutions in the US. Recently, in an article in The New Republic (worth reading, as it outlines, from the mouth of a respected psychologist and cognitive scientist, a way of looking at the world through the lens of human biodiversity) Steven Pinker suggested that a trade-off had to be made between family and nationalism:
Contrary to a shibboleth of the American right, family values do not uphold religion and country; they subvert them.
However, that's not applicable to the contemporary Western idea of family; that is, the nuclear family. Regarding extended kin, potentially encompassing tens and hundreds or even thousands of members, he's right. But the middle class married couple with a mortgage and a few youngsters running around in the front yard are a lot more nationalistic than the swinging Sex in the City downtown singles are.


agnostic said...

IQ and religiosity may go opposite ways, but religiosity and socially desirable personality traits go in the same direction. I'll be posting on that pretty soon, at my blog or GNXP. The strongest correlation is, surprise, between religiosity and Conscientiousness, in the expected positive direction.

Audacious Epigone said...

I'll be eagerly awaiting it. Are you using GSS data? I wonder also how religiosity correlates with other social variables once IQ is taken into account.

agnostic said...

The data is from all over the place. One study looked at Terman Study data -- these were kids selected with IQ at least 135, way back in the 1920s though. Most weren't religious, but religiosity still correlated with Conscientiousness even among these gifted kids.

faq said...

The relationship between fertility and religiosity is going to have a powerful effect. It will up the birthrate in the U.S. and other European countries. Those who have the most desire to have children are having them, passing these tendencies to their children who will do the same. In this sense it is more important than in any other.

Audacious Epigone said...


That is an argument Randall Parker has been making for some time. I have my reservations, but I must admit it is seeming more and more plausible to me as time passes by.

agnostic said...

OK, it's up at GNXP under "religiosity and personality"

Audacious Epigone said...


I wonder how much of the conscientiousness advantage seen in God-believing people comes from a respect for and appreciation of authority, something that your neotenous, loudly atheistic, school bookstore-working chump has little of. This is crucial for conducting yourself gracefully in public, and it seems logical that there'd be quite a bit of overlap that may be as much based on spirituality as on an inclination towards respect/awe instead of hostility/challenge.

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