Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Providing procreation predictors, pronto

++Addition++See Jason Malloy's work in the comments.

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"Have kids" wasn't exactly the right answer to the question of how one finds his way to happy happy village, though "don't have kids" doesn't get the peregrinator any closer, either. But happiness doesn't echo through time, it expires along with its bearer. A question of greater consequence is how we get people to have more (or fewer) children. Okay, it's obvious in a technical sense. But what about a behavioral one?

By way of ordinary least squares, here are the absolute multiple regression coefficients for eleven variables that may reasonably be assumed to have substantial predictive power in terms of realized fertility. For contemporary relevance and to avoid racial confounding, responses are from 2000 onward and only non-Hispanic whites are included. Asterisks indicate statistical significance at 95% confidence.

First, for men, with parenthetical indications of what is associated with greater fecundity:

Marital status -- .37* (marriage = procreation)
Age -- .33* (time = procreation)
Church attendance -- .10* (churchgoing = procreation)
Education -- .07* (less = procreation)
Number of female partners -- .04 (fewer = procreation)
Political orientation -- .03 (conservatism = procreation)
Social class -- .03 (lower = procreation)
IQ (wordsum) -- .01 (intelligence = procreation)
Income -- .01 (less = procreation)
Happiness -- .00 (no relationship)
Belief in God -- .00 (no relationship)

The older a person is, the more time he's had to have kids. Surely age is the strongest predictor of the number of children a man has sired, isn't it? False. Marital status is even more powerful than age is, at least for those with a y-chromosome. Despite rising illegitimacy and declining marriage rates, there is no better* way to get a man to spread his seed than to have him tie the knot. Churchgoing and school-avoiding also push a man towards fatherhood. Nothing else matters much--getting around hurts a smidgen, being conservative helps a bit, but these things only marginally so.

Tangentially, a note to those interested in this sort of stuff: Religious activity tends to be more important than stated religious belief is. Speaking in broad generalities, the man who believes in God but doesn't pray, worship, or otherwise do anything else meaningful as a consequence of that stated belief is behaviorally more similar to an atheist or an agnostic than to a pious person who can reliably be found in the pews on Sunday.

For women:

Age -- .32* (time = procreation)
Marital status -- .24* (marriage = procreation)
Education -- .18* (less = procreation)
Class -- .11* (lower = procreation)
Church attendance -- .07* (churchgoing = procreation)
Political orientation -- .06* (conservatism = procreation)
Belief in God -- .06 (belief = procreation)
IQ (wordsum) -- .04 (stupidity = procreation)
Income -- .02 (less = procreation)
Happiness -- .02 (unhappiness = procreation)
Number of male partners -- .01 (fewer = procreation)

The variables are a more even keel than they are among men, with the only three not mattering much being how much a woman gets around, how happy she is, and how much money she (or her partner) makes. Age is the biggest predictor, followed by marital status, education (a killer of kid creation in the Western world), and then social class, all of which are notably influential.

Affordable family formation (and expressive piety!) isn't just the route to a Republican resurgence, it's the pathway to procreation, too. Societally, of course, we're moving in the opposite direction, as marriage and religious attendance declines while years spent accumulating debt in school instead of creating value in the workforce is still the predominant advice proffered to American youth. Forty more years!

GSS variables used: YEAR(2000-2010), SEX, RACECEN1(1), MARITAL, AGE, EDUC, CLASS, ATTEND, POLVIEWS, GOD, WORDSUM, CONINC, HAPPY, NUMMEN, NUMWOMEN

* With the obligatory qualification that correlation does not necessarily prove causation and is in this context best thought of as merely suggestive.

9 comments:

Jokah Macpherson said...

What I find interesting is that the factors associated with greater happiness (from your previous post) are basically the same ones associated with more children, with the major exception of age, yet children supposedly have a mild negative effect on happiness. I am not statistically savvy enough (yet) to interpret multiple regressions but I feel like there must be something to this.

I feel your point about religious belief vs. observance sharply since I had a tense moment with my parents Thanksgiving week over my position on the belief/participation spectrum - specifically, in the least populous quadrant.

Dan said...

Fertility collapse is one of the few things with the genuine power to collapse America.

As with all other Americans pillars, Obama is working hard to knock down this one as well.

The ascendant Democrats are anti-natalist in every possible respect. As I posted on Jayman's blog:

Here are 10 areas off the top of my head where ‘liberal’ theology is anti-natalist:

1 – Pro-Life versus pro Choice (duh)
2 – Worshipping the Cathedral (specifically higher education); the more time you are in higher ed, the less time you have to have children
3 – Feminist careerism – can’t be in the kitchen cooking dinner for your kids if you are in the corporate boardroom, or most any demanding job
4 – Antagonism toward religion – most religions are pro natalist to varying degrees
5 – Feminist insistence in the sameness of men and women – makes women much less attractive to men
6 – View of marriage as a patriarchal instrument of oppression – Children are much more likely to spring forth from married people
7 – Upholding birth control as a fundamental human right (and forcing every institution to give it away for free)
8 – The environmentalists view of humans basically as a scourge on the planet
9 – Liberals’ attachment to urban living puts them in a setting not conducive to having children
10 – Young liberals’ belief that they have a human right to pursue a field that is not economically viable means of course that they will not be able to, you know, support anybody.

Oh, gosh and I forgot the most obvious ones of all!

11 – Male homosexuality as the holiest and most righteous form of goodness that there is.
12 – Lesbianism as the other holiest and most righteous form of goodness that there is.

Audacious Epigone said...

Dan,

Nice, thanks for that.

Dan said...

Epigone --

To me the ultimate irony is that the modern liberal playground is only possible in prosperous western nations that liberals are so intensively undermining.

If they break the system, they will be breaking that which came the closest to their ideal world.

I imagine nothing that comes next will be very much to their liking.

JayMan said...

Interesting that you found that political orientation is essentially uncorrelated with fecundity, because that's certainly not what I found.

Audacious Epigone said...

Jayman,

It is correlated with political orientation, but only because political orientation is correlated with religiosity and marriage. When these things are controlled for, political orientation doesn't tell us much.

JayMan said...

It is correlated with political orientation, but only because political orientation is correlated with religiosity and marriage. When these things are controlled for, political orientation doesn't tell us much.

That's what I thought! :) It's always better when things make sense!

Of course, I would argue that we should look at it a different way. Sure political orientation is correlated with religiosity and likelihood of marriage, but I suspect that it's a rather inextricable correlation; i.e., those minded towards conservative views are also minded towards religion and towards marriage. Hence, one could study any of these three is your independent variable and get an idea about the rest.

Jason Malloy said...

In the past I've correlated nearly every variable in the GSS with two different variables: sex partner # (NUMMEN/NUMWOMEN) and '# of children' (CHILDS), to find the strongest correlations (although I did not untangle them with multiple regression). Here were the top 10 correlations with CHILDS for men and women:

MEN:
Premarital sex wrong .20
Self-rated religiousness .19
Age first marriage -.18
Homosexuality wrong .18
Watch pornography -.18
Military service .17
Gives to charity .15
Time spent at church .15
Income .14
Pro-choice -.13

WOMEN:
Age first marriage -.26
Self-rated religiousness .24
Education -.23
Homosexuality wrong .22
Premarital sex wrong .22
Time spent at bars -.22
Number siblings .20
Pro-choice -.17
Spouse’s education -.16
Teen sex OK -.16

What stood out was the cluster of values at the top that might be labeled "sexual sanctity" (to align it with Jonathan Haidt's "Purity" dimension of morality). People that are emotionally outraged by non-reproductive sex are more likely to have reproductive sex.

Self-rated religiosity is more or less the strongest correlate for both men and women (higher than church attendance), and appears to be connected with sexual sanctity.

JayMan said...

And just in time, enter a paper that essentially proves the point I made:

"I would argue that we should look at it a different way. Sure political orientation is correlated with religiosity and likelihood of marriage, but I suspect that it's a rather inextricable correlation; i.e., those minded towards conservative views are also minded towards religion and towards marriage."

Religion, personality and fertility | Evolving Economics

"Tomas Rees points to an interesting paper by Marcus Jokela, who examined how the fertility rates of Americans born between 1920 and 1960 were affected by their personality.

Using the big five personality traits – openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism – Jokela found that higher levels of conscientiousness in women and higher levels of openness in both sexes became more strongly related to low fertility as time went on. Effectively, cultural conservatives are now more likely to have higher fertility."

It is a certain mindset, captured by religiosity, political views, social attitudes, and personality—all the things that both you and Jason have discussed above—that is associated with fertility. Those conservative-minded folks are undergoing strong positive selection at the moment, and it is uncertain whether this pattern will change anytime soon.