Friday, February 27, 2009

No kids? Too cold. Ten kids? Too hot. Two kids? Just right!

++Addition++Please see the comments section for Jason Malloy's potentially devastating rebuttal to my conclusions, by way of pointing out that happiness among those with children comes primarily from marriage and not from having kids, and BGC's contention that survey data on self-described happiness is of no real value.

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Crucial to Dr. Bruce G. Charlton's take on the underpinnings of sub-replacement level fertility in the West is the observation that women (and men) want to maximize their happiness, and contemporarily tend to do so in the pursuit of pleasure that does not involve the nuisance of offspring:
Low fertility is what happens when people seek to optimize their pleasure/happiness in life.

To put it another way (and in a generalization which includes men) a hedonistic life - a life of enlightened pursuit of satisfaction - will lead to extinction under modern conditions (although presumably under ancestral conditions pleasure-seeking would also have been fertility-enhancing on average).

High fertility in women who are able to control their reproduction is therefore not primarily seeking pleasure but is likely to be conforming to group pressure and/or to transcendental beliefs.
But are the barren actually happier than those who reproduce? Research on the question is mixed, but the GSS allows for additional insight surveys and studies have failed to tease out--the number of children, not just whether or not any have been birthed, makes a difference.

To avoid a skewed result from those who have not yet had time to start families, only the responses of people 30 years and older are included. The range of averages only represents about one-fourth a standard deviation. The differences are not huge, but the sample sizes are, and thus the patterns are real. The level of happiness (the higher the number, the greater general happiness is reported to be) by the number of children, for each gender (N = 15742 for men, 19187 for women):

KidsMenWomen
01.161.23
11.221.22
21.281.27
31.281.24
41.261.24
51.231.22
61.201.22
71.231.15
8+1.211.12

Mothers of two and fathers of two or three report the highest average level of general happiness. For as long as I've thought about it, I've maintained that I'd like to have three kids, but am willing to compromise at two. Seems reasonable enough!

While it's said that men are more often the husbands of their wives than the fathers of their children, males get the longer end of the stick when it comes to procreation. Childless men are the least content of all, and fathers of large broods do not experience the same downtick in happiness that mothers do. In the traditional family setting, it's not difficult to imagine why this is the case. Whether it's two kids or ten, dad goes to work each day so he bring home the bacon each night. Mom is the one who really feels the added responsibility that each new addition brings. Also, to have lugged around an occupied womb for several years, cumulatively, must take a toll on more than just the skeletal system.

Moderation looks like the best course for women. Those who have never had children and those who have a house full of them both report lower levels of general happiness than women who have between 2 and 4 kids do.

It would be welcome for popular entertainment to portray DINKS as being more miserable than the typical couple with two kids. But that peachy portrayal of Sex and the City whiterpeople single life helps construct the cultural myth that children are an unwelcome anchor that weighs down those who have them.

Every Occidental country other than the US and Israel are bequeathing subsequent generations smaller than the ones that bore them. Of consequence are two major demographic shifts that carry implications of global importance.

1) The West is graying. The median ages in Great Britain and France are just under forty. Among the indigenous populations it has undoubtedly crossed that threshold, as is already the case for the entire populations of Germany, Italy, and Spain. These latter three European power players are all seeing more people die within their borders each year than are being born. Indeed, the population of the EU as a whole would be shrinking if it were not for immigration from South Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East.

2) It is also shrinking, relatively--and nearly absolutely. As Pat Buchanan states in Death of the West (p12):

In 1960, people of European ancestry were one-fourth of the world's population; in 2000, they were one-sixth; in 2050, the will be one-tenth. These are the statistics of a vanishing race.
Where then goes liberalism, capitalism, science, and democracy? Are these foundations, upon which the contemporary developed world is built, moribund? In varying degrees, they find some refuge in East Asia. Yet the Orient, too, faces the same top-heavy, unsustainable demographic problems the West does. In Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and even China, the total fertility rate is well below replenishment.

Readers of this blog have virtually all graduated from high school. So I'm raising the bar a little higher. If you have not already made it happen, plan to have at least a couple of kids. I would hate to see you fail not only yourself, but also your country.

GSS variables used: HAPPY, CHILDS, SEX(1), SEX(2), AGE(30-100)

24 comments:

Patung said...

I have two. :) Two aint enough though in general terms,not enough to take up the slack for people who have none or one.

The previous treasurer of Australia used to say to women - 'have one for yourself, one for your husband, and one for Australia'.

silver said...

But that peachy portrayal of Sex and the City whiterpeople single life helps construct the cultural myth that children are an unwelcome anchor that weighs down those who have them.


It'd be a useful myth if it could convince the lowest classes to forego children. (Personally, I'd coerce them, but heh, that's just me.) If only welfare could be massively reduced, portrayals of what a financial burden those little bundles of not-joy are could have some real impact.

The Undiscovered Jew said...

In 1960, people of European ancestry were one-fourth of the world's population; in 2000, they were one-sixth; in 2050, the will be one-tenth. These are the statistics of a vanishing race.

Why does it matter if whites fall to 10% of the world's population?

A population decline is not the same thing as an extinction event, as any biologist could tell you.

Being 10% of earth's population is fine in this day and age from a military standpoint because nobody can conquer a nuclear armed country.

Our problem is bad immigration policy. However there is no guarantee this will continue longterm nor is there a guarantee white birthrates will stay low forever.

East Asia has a much lower birth rate than Europe does but nobody calls East Asians a vanishing race.

The reason they are in ok shape despite a sharp fall in fertility is because Asians are not importing poverty into their countries.

Mgumba said...

Have you read Vonnegut's Galapagos? Feel contented that women are still breeding freely in the wild places of the globe. In one million years humans may not resemble ourselves, but they will exist in some form.

Civilization as you know it will not survive.

Jason Malloy said...

Hmm, I don't know the exact differences in method, but Half Sigma did basically the same analysis in 2006 and found child-free people were the happiest, and the Inductivist did basically the same analysis last year and decided children didn't affect happiness to any significant extent:

"There is no evidence here that happiness is undermined by having children, but neither does it help much either. There is basically no difference between a childless woman and one with two kids, and a father of two is only a quarter of a standard deviation above the childless man."

I don't think it is this easy though, and I'll give you a few examples of the kinds of methods I think points to children lowering happiness.

1) There are a lot of confounds here. Men with 0 children are the least happy, but there is a good reason for this. Men with 0 children are most often at the bottom of the social status barrel. They have a lot of good reasons to be unhappy unrelated to children; they lack access to both mates and material comforts. Most important is that marriage IS a major cause of happiness, and that obscures the association. People with kids are happier because they are married, etc., not because they have kids.

So when you do the same analysis with a few key controls, each kid starting with 1 really does appear to lower happiness for men and women.

2) Experience sampling and cross-sectional data provide evidence that children subtract from sum lifetime happiness.

For instance, people are less happy in the daily moments they are interacting with and taking care of their children (and happiest when they are being intimate with their spouses). And, more generally, their baseline levels of reported subjective well-being are lower in the years their children are living at home as dependents. People are only as happy as they were before they had children after their children leave home.

So the sum effect of having children, on average, is total decreased lifetime happiness.

But I'm sure the last word hasn't been spoken on this. Bryan Caplan is currently writing a book arguing that children are beneficial.

Also, I've come to think that all else isn't equal. People are less happy after their kids are born, but if those kids weren't there at all their marriages would likely dissolve much easier, and that would make them even less happy.

Still, that would mean children help happiness only to the extent that they preserve another relationship, which doesn't make children attractive goods in themselves. Children don't have the same unavoidable causal effect on life satisfaction as key variables like marriage and money, and that is an important finding.

Anonymous said...

RE: silver ...

Wow.

Outland said...

AE

I want a lot of children, my gf does too. So, we'll do our best. ;))

BGC said...

The basic problem, as I commented a day or two ago, is that 'happiness' as measured by surveys is not necessarily what people think it is.

Survey happiness is probably a personality trait (or combination of traits), mostly. If you control for self rated big five personality traits you can usually abolish happiness differences, according to Daniel Nettle in his book on Personality.

And survey happiness measures comparing countries and cultures are not valid, presumably for the same reason that self-rated personality does not yield valid comparisons between cultures and nations.

Therefore 'happiness' is correlated with age or sex or social class, more than it changes in response to events.

I have done some questionnaire work with happiness scales of various types, and in small studies it just yields nothing or nonsense so I gave up with the concept. None of the work was ever worth publishing.

'Happiness' does not even have a very impressive inverse correlation with the Beck Depression Inventory - which is a pretty robust self rating scale, and which yields reproducible and meaningful results - unlike the happiness scales.

So, if I were looking for a 'happiness' scale which responds to environmental change, I would not ask about happiness but would probably use a reverse-scored Beck Depression Inventory (or equivalent). This doesn't discriminate between degrees of happiness (so there is a low ceiling for happiness) but does a reasonable job of separating out degrees of un-happiness.

Large scale surveys might be analyzed by looking at responses to any questions that correspond to items on the Beck inventory :

http://www.ibogaine.desk.nl/graphics/3639b1c_23.pdf

Audacious Epigone said...

Patung,

Hey, doing your part is nothing to be ashamed of :)

I cannot imagine a US politician, even an unelected cabinet member, of either major party tying fertility and patriotism together so blatantly.

Silver,

In the urban core, having children isn't stigmatized, and there is a financial incentive in having them.

Undiscovered,

It is the absolute decline that worries me, and the fact that we have not bottomed out yet. It will take a huge swing in many European countries just to reach an equilibrium point, where the population stops declining.

Re: East Asia, I'm a Japanophile, but the country has major problems. It's population is shrinking and aging, its public debt is twice the size of ours (as a percentage of GDP), and its economy has been stagnant for over a decade. China is still young--its population will become increasingly productive for the next couple of decades, so the demographic problem is just further down the road.

Jason,

HS only looks at married women. So his childless population only represents 15% of the women considered (compared to nearly 30% of all women), and he includes people of all ages. Newly-weds in the honeymoon stage are especially happy. Inductivist does an analysis similar to the one I did, but brushes over the minor differences in reported levels of happiness as being insignificant.

Great thoughts, per usual. It is a mixed bag. A successful marriage, a prestigious job, affluence, physical health--all seem to relate more strongly to happiness than children do.

I wonder about the assertion that lifetime happiness is reduced by having children, ceteris paribus. Perhaps while they're being raised, but among only those who are married or widowed and age 60 or over, those with 2-4 children report the highest levels of happiness (unlike HS' results when married women of all ages are considered).

Outland,

Good man. I'm about three years behind you, but it's mapped out!

silver said...

Why does it matter if whites fall to 10% of the world's population?


Of itself, it doesn't matter much at all. It's the fact that they're on course to become 10% of their own countries, which is merely a signpost along the way to becoming (effectively) 0%. And, brace yourself, UJ, it's not immigration that will do it, it's -- I said brace yourself -- race-mixing. Even if immigration were stopped tomorrow, miscegenation would has the same effect as immigration: the addition (in this case by creation) of a non-white inhabitants. In most cases certainly a less troublesome non-white than an immigrant, very often a lovable, culturally familiar non-white, but a non-white nonetheless, whose presence, in the aggregate, is actually even more effective at dispossessing the previous white majority than that of immigrants, because the racial transformation of neighborhoods that it will cause will come without much of the strife that attends immigration.

It's a point that can no longer be responsibly evaded. Certainly it's a difficult, painful point, often an excruciatingly painful point, one that requires those who understand it and who care for the the future to either rearrange their priorities in life around it or to continue evading it, providing half-truths and half-way solutions that, in the long term, are not solutions at all, and can only hope to stanch losses, not prevent them, can only secure greater comfort during the decline but not halt it or reverse it.

Our problem is bad immigration policy.

Immigration policy is presumably bad because it threatens your future. But, demographically, it is not the only thing that threatens the future, and not even the main thing.

You have a choice, UJ: you can either dismiss this as the rantings of a deranged "nazi" (a charge that does and cannot even remotely apply) or you can begin to ponder its implications, not only for your life now, in the present, or your children's lives (those you have or those you are yet to have), but for all future generations.

silver said...

AE,



In the urban core, having children isn't stigmatized, and there is a financial incentive in having them.


Yes, I know. That's why I said the "myth" (if that's what it is) of children being an "unwelcome anchor" would be useful to the extent that the "urban core" could be brought to internalize it, but that for that to happen the financial incentive for having children otherwise not affordable (welfare) would have to be cut. The upshot of believing that "myth" is that they'd live much better without the hassle of kids they are generally incapable of or even interested in properly caring for, so those who would propound the myth would very much be doing those people a favor.

BGC said...

AE said: I wonder about the assertion that lifetime happiness is reduced by having children, ceteris paribus.

(Not forgetting my skepticism of happiness surveys) I think the above is probably over-interpreting the data. These are cross sectional surveys, and having children is not random. You might be able to say that having 'n' children is or is not correlated with happiness. But you can't assume the direction of causality - causality could be either direction or the correlation could be caused by confounding.

I think one would need to follow up a cohort to make inferences about the effect on people of having 'n' children versus having none, fewer or more.

Likely the answer concerns long- versus short term happiness, degrees of risk aversion, relative priorites and all kinds of stuff - but the fact that the more intelligent and better adjusted a person the fewer children they have does look to me like a revealed spontaneous hedonic preference. The good news is that this can apparently be overcome by at least one pro-modernizing religion ie. Mormonism (and maybe some types of Orthodox Jews?).

Why does it matter? It matters 1. because modernity is important to human well being (read Greg Clark, or Ernest Gellner if in doubt), 2. modernity seems to depend on population intelligence and personality as a necessary but not sufficient element (read Clark and Richard Lynn), and 3. personality and intelligence are substantially heritable (just plain facts).

So if present trends continue modernity will unwind and humankind will return to the Malthusian Trap. That seems like very bad news to me.

The Undiscovered Jew said...

You have a choice, UJ: you can either dismiss this as the rantings of a deranged "nazi" (a charge that does and cannot even remotely apply) or you can begin to ponder its implications,

I've been considering the implications since the early 2000s when I read the Bell Curve.

As of now I am a fully converted HBDer who supports welfare-for-sterlization, paying criminals serving sentences of less than 20 years to get sterilized, white's only immigration, Artificial Reproductive Technologies to extend white women's fertility from their late 30's to late 40s, and removing all illegal alins.

As for banning interracial marriage, I don't think this will last too long once genetics confirms there are genetic neurological/psychological differences in how the different races mentally operate and that interracial children have mental functions in between the two parents.

Is that right-wing enough for you?

:)

popularsymbolism said...

The west is not just graying and shrinking, it is also losing fertility. And fast.

There has been a devastating drop in sperm drop over the past 50 years. Scientists in the documentary linked below conclude this shows all the symptoms of a dying species:

CBC - The Disappearing Male

popularsymbolism said...

Typo: "There has been a devastating drop in sperm drop" should read:

"There has been a devastating drop in sperm count"

Anonymous said...

RE: RE: silver

"those people"

Wow. Eye opening racism and bigotry.

Audacious Epigone said...

Silver,

"Myth" was a bad word choice. "Presumption" or something similar is more reasonable. Your points are well taken.

UJ,

I favor an expansion of the EB-5 Visa program and a reduction of all other residency grants, permanent and temporary, but basing immigration on race seems infeasible and not optimally merited to me. Proxies for things like English fluency would be sufficient as long as total numbers are small. Otherwise, I'm in total agreement with you.

This position has a nice fringe benefit--I can point to you as a right-wing nutjob while portraying myself as a balanced, reasonable moderate!

PS,

Thanks for the link. I'm going to take in that video tomorrow. Looking forward to it.

The Undiscovered Jew said...

but basing immigration on race seems infeasible and not optimally merited to me. Proxies for things like English fluency would be sufficient as long as total numbers are small. Otherwise, I'm in total agreement with you.

AE

You might be interested in this Forbes article on Indian immigrant IQ:

Indian Americans: The New Model Minority

Jason Richwine, 02.24.09

http://www.forbes.com/2009/02/24/bobby-jindal-indian-americans-opinions-contributors_immigrants_minority.html

But education and culture can take people only so far. To be a great speller--or, more importantly, a great doctor or IT manager--you have to be smart. Just how smart are Indian Americans? We don't know with much certainty. Most data sets with information on ethnic groups do not include IQ scores, and the few that do rarely include enough cases to provide interpretable results for such a small portion of the population.

The only direct evidence we have comes from the 2003 New Immigrant Survey, in which a basic cognitive test called "digit span" was administered to a sample of newly arrived immigrant children. It is an excellent test for comparing people with disparate language and educational backgrounds, since the test taker need only repeat lengthening sequences of digits read by the examiner. Repeating the digits forward is simply a test of short-term memory, but repeating them backward is much more mentally taxing, hence a rough measure of intelligence.

When statistical adjustments are used to convert the backward digit span results to full-scale IQ scores, Indian Americans place at about 112 on a bell-shaped IQ distribution, with white Americans at 100. 112 is the 79th percentile of the white distribution. For more context, consider that Ashkenazi Jews are a famously intelligent ethnic group, and their mean IQ is somewhere around 110.

http://www.aei.org/research/nri/subjectAreas/projectID.22,pageID.1933/default.asp

Jason Richwine is a National Research Initiative Fellow at AEI. He is currently completing his dissertation on IQ and immigration policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. His general research interest is in applying the science of mental ability to better inform public policy on a variety of issues, including immigration, race relations, welfare, and education.

Audacious Epigone said...

UJ,

I'd never heard of Jason Richwine before. Thanks for the links. I wish I'd read that Forbes article before the post I did on the percentages of immigrants who are granted residency based on work visas by nation. Of the 127 countries who sent the US more than 500 legal immigrants in 2007, India had the 5th highest percentage come on work visas.

The Undiscovered Jew said...

AE,

Personally, I'm not that impressed with the Indian IQ scores Richwine refers to.

The Indian immigrants that come to the US are probably the top 5-10% of India's IQ spectrum because they come (for now) on work visas rather than family reunification.

If we screened for immigrants in the top 10% of Europe's and Northeast Asia's IQ spectrum, the Europeans and Northeast Asians would score quite a bit higher than 112.

Still, it is nice to see someone who might become prominent in policy debates argue for the need to take IQ into account of immigration policy.

popularsymbolism said...

[quote]
As for banning interracial marriage, I don't think this will last too long once genetics confirms there are genetic neurological/psychological differences in how the different races mentally operate and that interracial children have mental functions in between the two parents.
[/quote]

You do know that ever since the days of Francis Galton, the aristocracies and upper classes (predominantly Anglo-Saxon whites of course - oh hell - 99.9% of them) had this collective belief in the white Nordic race being superior mentally to the 'negro', 'mongrel', and yes, even the 'semitic' races, right? Back then they didn't have solid enough 'evidence' to give their racial superiority conviction some scientific credos - but it was still adopted all the same by every major university in the States.

The Nazis went farther than anyone else in pursuing eugenics - they used the gas chambers exactly as was suggested in 1910 by George Bernard Shaw at an international eugenics congress ('Part of eugenic politics would finally land us at the gas chamber. A great many people would have to be put out of existence simply because it wastes anyone's time looking after them'), they used IBM supercomputers to track and dispose of all the 'feebleminded' persons (in America they couldn't go so far as to kill people - they could only forcibly sterilize them or put them in segregation - colonies where they would be worked to 'death', so to speak - not unlike the concentration camps, in fact, just not as ruthless and malicious and sans the gas chambers and bullets in the head). After World War II and the Holocaust, they renamed eugenics/went underground/subdivided it into 'genetics', 'bio-ethics', 'transhumanism' and several other fields. Eugenic periodicals were renamed to remove all traces of the word 'eugenics'.

How funny/ironic/scary it is then - that all this talk of the 'white race' being genetically superior is all creeping back into the public limelight - once again backed up as 'solid science'. This is a collective belief system - of course you can point me in the direction of IQ tests - true, they are a lot more accurate than the Stanford-Binet IQ tests they used to classify the 'feebleminded' back in eugenics' heydays. But ultimately, the basis for an intelligence test is all backwards because it was invented squarely to identify the 'feebleminded' or 'lesser-minded'. Similarly, you can't polish a turd - either something is intended for social stratification purposes or it isn't.

I'd also like to point out I'm white as well so I don't have a stick in this fight - I just think it's wrongheaded and smacks of a religious 'the white man's burden' conviction more than science.

MikeFrizzi said...

Well, your wish was granted and the eb5 visa program has now been extended through 2012...can't help you with the right wing nutjobs, though!

Audacious Epigone said...

Mike,

I'm not sure if you're being sarcastic or not, but you asked about my thoughts on the EB-5 visa program on another thread, insinuating that I do not support it. But I do.

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