Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Poor people's poor sense

Cross-posted at HuffPo

This post will appear lacking in systematic structure because poor people tend to be fatalistic. Low future time orientation and few social obligations combine to create an existence that seems impulsive and chaotic from vantage points higher up the ladder. We look at the poverty and pretend to wonder why. We know the what and the how, we can see all the decisions and behaviors that precede the seemingly intractable problems, but it’s rare to have someone actually explain the why without resorting to epicycles and all the pretty lies that accompany them.

Social obligations are the millstones the middle and upper classes refuse to take off their necks. Voluntarily so you might say, but many of them don’t even take all the vacation their employers give them, let alone bailing unexpectedly. They force themselves to sleep before they really want to and then set obnoxious alarms that force them out of bed long before the sun is up. They juggle school, work, church, sports games, civic activities, and on and on—I don’t do many of these things, and none of them with any consistency. I’d rather just mill around in public places, maybe playing a knockout game here or a joining a flash mob there. I’m not married, but if I ever do tie the knot, it’s a good bet that I’ll cut that knot long before my avowed obligations expire. I have plenty of time to think about what I’m doing, but it’s not in my constitution to do so. Planning isn’t in the mix.

I’m coming off as far more eloquent and articulate than I actually am because my thoughts are being edited by someone who reads more books in a month than I will in my entire life. I don’t know what words like “pact” and “animosity” mean, though I do use the word “fuck” a lot, and quite creatively to boot—as a verb, an adjective, a noun, and an of course as onomatopoeia.

I don’t remember the first time I got pregnant. I was bouncing back and forth between my abusive baby daddy and my mom’s apartment. He wasn’t faithful but he was good in bed and shared with me the money he made in exchange for the WIC and EBT benefits I got for being a single mother without any reported income. I like to smoke and drink, and the things science says are changing all the time anyway, so I wasn’t going to stop just because my menstrual cycle had.

Yeah, I have the time to cook, I already said that. But that’s hard, boring work and getting fresh meat and produce means going all the way to the grocery store two miles down the road. There’s a convenient store in walking distance just around the corner where I can get Red Bull and Bomb Burritos with a swipe of my freeBT card. They even have a microwave so I can heat the food up after you buy it for me. I have time to clean, too, but I don’t do that either, so a lot of creepy crawly things live with me.

I try to live like I have the purchasing power of someone in the middle class, but I lack the prerequisite combination of intelligence, executive function, and shrewdness to procure the resources required to enjoy said purchasing power on my own. Better not to try. In fact, the less I try, the easier it is to have the state provide that purchasing power for me. Why would I give up time for sensual pleasures like junk food, nicotine, and spontaneous sex to engage in creating value for someone else? Those working class stiffs need a stiff drink, that’s what they need.

I live in a vibrant area and consequently there are a couple of Planned Parenthood centers amidst the conurbation I stomp around in, but even if I lived three hours away from the nearest one, the profiteering not-for-profit do-gooders and their government enablers who run PP would happily cover my travel costs.

Our society spends way too much time and effort medically remediating a whole host of conditions that our ancestors hardly knew. There are drugs for everything. Blue bloods doctor shop for the prescriptions they want, but I have my own contacts on the ground for getting the stuff whenever I want it. I don’t get vacation per se, but I get a lot more time off than my social betters do. If I was able or even wanted to spend all that excess free time working, I wouldn’t be poor, after all.

I think I’d make a great movie star and do even better with a reality show, but I can’t even get a job as a waitress (though I have enjoyed my 15 minutes of fame here—twice!) because I have stained teeth and it looks like I used to chew on rocks, my BMI is over 30 but an ignorant outsider could be forgiven for mistakenly believing my wardrobe belonged to someone half my size, I shower irregularly and often don’t wash my hair when I do, and when I inevitably make an error on the application I fill out, I don’t have the patience to grab a new one but instead scratch out the mistake and write the correct thing in wherever I can find room.

Beauty is a thing you get when you’re a post-pubescent teenager. After that, you have to work to keep it. And, well, you already know how I feel about work.

Meth makes you overly alert to everything. Before Breaking Bad, nobody realized that. I’ve spent a lot of hours telling cashiers about all the things I need to take care of like right now, haha, sorry, *itch* I also want that, I get so forgetful, sorry *scratch* yeah sure that’s fine haha ohwheredidIputthatohhahaIputitoverthere. If only it would lead me to pull up my sleeves and get my shit together like it pulls back the skin on my face. It doesn’t work, but that is tweaking.

“Free” is only enticing if the object in question is something you want. It’s great that there are free condom giveaways in the convenient stores where I buy my bread (not by the loaf, rather one cinnamon-and-sugar topped roll at a time), but sex doesn’t feel as good with those things on.

Clinics? Specialists? Co-pays? Seriously?! Might as well be speaking Greek to me. If something’s wrong, I’ll go to the ER. They’ll see me anytime day or night, and they don’t make me do a bunch of stuff ahead of time or force me to produce an insurance card.

I smoke. It’s expensive. Okay, you’re with me on that one. If I justified it by feeding you a line about how it is the battery to my Energizer Bunny and then in the same paragraph called it a source of relaxation, well—what’s that? Ah yes, lack of structure, chaotic, impulsive—now you’re seeing exactly what I mean.

You might think I make a lot of poor financial decisions, but that’s because you’re so concerned with the past and the future that you’re forgetting about how I’m feeling in the present, too obsessed with gathering ideas of how it’ll all inevitably end for me. But if all it takes is a swipe of this piece of plastic to sate my appetites, what kind of sucker would I be not to take advantage? There’s an indefatigable pull to spend any money I can get my hands on before it burns a hole in my pocket. Look what being responsible gets you—a bunch of extra zeroes in your bank account that you never let yourself enjoy? And don’t get supercilious about your knowledge of financial instruments, blue blood. I know more about money orders and payday loans than you do, and I've played these same numbers for the last four months so I'm due to hit the jackpot any day now.

Understanding that I lack the long-term orientation we mentioned earlier, it should be easy to understand why you see people like me with four different baby daddies instead of one husband and father. We skip on the abortion because the irresistible pull that made us feel worthwhile at the time is something we can have over and over again afterwards just by letting nature take its course. Compromise isn’t our thing so we’re rarely compatible for the long-term, but carnality can keep us together for a couple of months, or at least a few hours anyway. It does not matter what will happen in a month. We don’t plan long-term because we’re fly, you ain’t cause you not. We take what we can as we spot it.

I’m not asking for sympathy (but I am asking for money. Have any to spare? God bless!), I’m just trying to explain, through parody, some of the many ways members of the Cathedral and their Great And Good Votaries deny empirical, ‘ugly’ realities in favor of self-serving pretty lies. Dive into the links provided and then take a gander at the interactive General Social Survey site to get a sense of what life is like in the Dark Enlightenment and a feel for the mechanisms that red-pill poppers employ in an effort to understand the world as it is rather than as we might wish it be. It’s certainly self-defeating, but it’s nobler.

GSS variables used: OWNFATE, REALINC(0-20000)(20001-999999), WORDSUM, NUMMEN, MARITAL, SMOKE, INTRWGHT, RACECEN1, GOVAID, JOBYEARS

Monday, November 25, 2013

Standing as one

A friendly gadfly notes the seemingly out-of-character failure to break down the results on preferred methods of raising a family by race. It wasn't included for a few reasons; as someone with an inclination towards citizenism, there are times when capturing the entire American flavor sounds more appetizing than unnecessarily compartmentalizing the palates (although that's admittedly an approach that doesn't tell the whole story--further drilling down is usually required); racial differences are fairly marginal; and sample sizes for non-whites aren't as large we would ideally like them to be.

But the data are there, so why cover them up? Decide for yourself if there is anything additional that needs saying. The following table shows the percentages of respondents, by race (N in parentheses) in 2012, who identified each of the following six scenarios as the most ideal:

ArrangementWhites (712) Blacks (151)Hispanics (73)Asians (46)
Mother home, father full-time40.6%34.7%45.4%34.4%
Mother part-time, father full-time41.1%43.2%36.3%53.6%
Both full-time11.3%17.3%2.3%7.5%
Both part-time6.3%4.7%14.9%4.5%
Mother full-time, father part-time0.2%0.0%0.0%0.0%
Mother full-time, father home0.6%0.0%1.1%0.0%

Even among a segment of the population for which over two-thirds of babies are born out of wedlock, the acknowledged ideal is one in which dad brings home the bacon and mom cooks it up.

It is often errantly argued that Hispanics are "natural conservatives", though these results make them appear quite progressive indeed--nearly 15% of those surveyed seem to have acclimated themselves to a Peak Jobs future in which part-time employment becomes more and more the norm not merely among the elderly and those in school, but among those in their prime working years as well.

GSS variables used: RACECEN1(1)(2)(4-10)(15-16), FAMWKBST(1-6)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Seneca Sailer

Okay, he doesn't differentiate between genotype and phenotype, and he's unaware of epigenetics, but this isn't bad for a contemporary of the emperor Nero (and a Stoic to boot!):
No amount of wisdom, as I said before, ever banishes these things; otherwise--if she eradicated every weakness--wisdom would have dominion over the world of nature. One's physical make-up and the attributes that were one's lot at birth remain settled no matter how much or how long the personality may strive after pefect adjustment. One cannot ban these things any more than one can call them up.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

They aren't meant to pee standing up

++Addition++Staffan points out that, according to Google's Ngram viewer, the concept of feminism as an organizing principle is in decline:


How much of that is due to realization of biological differences and how much is due to female concerns being superseded by the concerns of 'victim' classes like blacks and gays who higher up on the victimology pyramid?

---

Gavin McInnes went into the HuffPo harpy's nest to--colorfully, as is his wont--assert that women tend to be happier following their maternal instincts than they are devoting all their energy to getting ahead in the rat race. He was met with lots of supercilious condescension but, predictably, nothing he asserted was empirically challenged. Unfortunately, his empirical grounding was insinuated rather than explicitly presented. The GSS can aid him in the future.

For starters, let's look at feminism as an idea. In the mid-nineties, the GSS asked respondents whether or not they considered themselves feminists. Self-described feminists, despite being modestly better educated, more intelligent (based on wordsum scores), and wealthier than those who didn't identify as such, reported lower levels of personal happiness than non-feminists. The following table shows the feminist/non-feminist breakdown among women who describe themselves as "very happy", "pretty happy", and "not too happy":

HappinessFeministsNormals
Very happy24.5%75.5%
Pretty happy27.8%72.2%
Not too happy34.4%65.6%

Feminists comprise less than one-quarter of women who are "very happy" but over one-third of those who are "not too happy".

Sure, the argument can be made that happiness is subjective and even though the non-feminists are more content, they're not objectively doing as well since they don't have as much money or education as the feminists do. That line of reasoning doesn't contradict McInnes' point, though. Instead, it strengthens it. Making that sort of judgment in favor of feminists because of career success is to assess female success by traditionally male--that is, masculine--standards, and the women whose lives more resemble men in this regard express lower levels of happiness than do women who travel life's more traditionally feminine path.

If that's overly abstract, let's take a look from another angle, one of social cohesion. In 2004, the GSS conducted a special module querying respondents on the most important aspect of their identities. Participants were able to choose from a list of ten, three of which are of special relevance to this discussion--occupation, gender, and family/marital status. The following table shows, among women who indicated one of those three identifiers as most important to defining who they are, the percentages who are "very proud", "somewhat proud", and "not very proud" of being American:

Identifies byVery proudSomewhat proudNot very proud
Occupation78.3%18.7%3.0%
Gender70.2%26.0%3.8%
Family/marital status84.3%14.3%1.3%

Women who are women, first and foremost, are the least content with the society they live in, those who most strongly identify with their work more middling, and those who care most about hearth and heart the most satisfied with it.

The survey also shows that, across a variety of measures, men are more willing than women are to make sacrifices--overtime, odd shifts, etc--in other areas of their lives for the sake of work. The converse of this, of course, is that women are less willing to put work ahead of other areas of life, like, say, raising a family.

What about the perceptions broader society has regarding what is, generally, the more preferable way for families to be raised? Collected in 2012, these figures still have that new car smell. The tables are reposted here from a post put together earlier this year. The following table shows the percentages of respondents who identified each of the following six scenarios as the most ideal:

Arrangement, all responsesDist%
Mother home, father full-time39.7
Mother part-time, father full-time41.6
Both full-time11.3
Both part-time6.8
Father part-time, mother full-time0.2
Father home, mother full-time0.5

Looks like we need a runoff to decide whether or not the woman should be a full time homemaker or should instead enjoy occasional breaks from the homestead to earn a few bucks while dad takes the kids. Fewer than 1-in-100 think Mr. Mom is the way to go, and the dual careerist path where, in McInnes' words, "shaping a human life" is put on the back burner, isn't very popular either.

Some great victory women in the workforce has been! On the bright side, though, it's self-perpetuating objective--the more women there are working, the lower the wages both working men and working women are able to command, and consequently the greater the need for women to enter the workforce to make ends meet, let alone raise a family!

Perhaps it's skewed heavily by the patriarchal enforcers of patriarchy, the patriarchs themselves. The response results, this time with only women considered:

Arrangement, women onlyDist%
Mother home, father full-time33.6
Mother part-time, father full-time45.7
Both full-time11.7
Both part-time8.5
Father part-time, mother full-time0.2
Father home, mother full-time0.3

The vast majority--we're talking 4 out of 5--of Americans conceive of the ideal family environment being one in which a man works full-time and a woman works either part-time or not at all. It's as though they recognize some sort of special bond between a mother and the child her body spent nine devoted months bringing into the world.

Maybe the patriarchs have brainwashed their own barefoot wives slaving away in the kitchen into falling for the breadwinner-homemaker ideal, but what about women who think for themselves? Liberal women only (n = 130):

ArrangementDist%
Mother home, father full-time23.1
Mother part-time, father full-time48.4
Both full-time12.9
Both part-time15.0
Father part-time, mother full-time0.0
Father home, mother full-time0.6

The feminists may have three or four waves on their side, but McInnes has the tsunamic force of hundreds of thousands of years of evolutionary forces on his.

GSS variables used: SEX(2), HAPPY, FEMINIST, FAMWKBST(1-6), SEX(2), POLVIEWS(1-3), AMPROUD1(1-3), SOCID1(1,3,8)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Nope, not in the NBA, heh heh ugh

This weekend I was in conversation at a wedding with the 6'9'' groom about how dealing with unending comments about his height when out in public must be wearisome. I wonder if after the transgender crusades burn themselves out, heightism won't be the next monster to seek out and destroy. It's about the only attribute remaining that is socially acceptable to comment upon despite the fact that the recipients of said comments don't ever want to hear them. 

While tall people, like lefties, don't naturally constitute easily organized interest groups since they're more-or-less randomly distributed throughout the population, fat people don't, either, and acceptance of the corpulent has become increasingly compulsory in polite society. On the other hand, lacking natural organization, markedly high achievement, and a history of persecution, perhaps 'height privilege' will negate widespread goodwill towards the especially tall.

Though height generally gently correlates positively with some desirable life outcomes, the returns are probably diminishing and might even begin to reverse a couple of standard deviations out above the mean. I suggested my best guess of the ideal for a man to be as tall as possible without his height being the first thing others notice about him, somewhere in the 6'4''-6'5'' range.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Professional journalism

On display in that oh-so venerable rag, the New York Times, in an article referenced recently by Steve Sailer. Excerpt worthy of special derision, my emphasis:
In a photograph taken not long after the assassination, my grandmother smiles a porcelain smile, poised and lovely in psychedelic purple Pucci, coiffure stacked high in what can only be described as a hairway to heaven.
Only? It can only be described using a cute phrase that doesn't even denote a specific hairstyle, but is instead used in local hair styling salons all across flyover country? There is no other way to describe it?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

NFL post-season correlations between wins and various stats

++Addition++Steve Sailer comments:
Regarding turnovers, another way to look at them is to separate interceptions and fumbles, and then look at total fumbles versus fumbles lost. It seems pretty likely that once the ball goes on the ground, it's sheer luck who winds up with it. (Both teams grapple like mad to get the ball.) So, the number of fumbles in a game is a measure of skill, but the percentage of fumbles lost is the most obvious and perhaps most important single measure of luck.
My emphasis on what strikes me as one hell of an insight into the game.

---

Having looked at several years of regular season NFL data, my working assumption is that, more than anything else, winning is about having an offense that is capable of moving the ball through the air, and that such an observation has not just contemporary relevance, but is historically descriptive as well (though the trend has become increasingly pronounced over time). It's boorish to so audaciously insinuating that I've discovered the key to success (not to mention a little painful, as I grew up as a votary of "Marty Ball"). If utilizing an occasional run for no other reason than to keep intact the integrity of the play action is how to become this year's Kansas City Chiefs, well--wait, at 9-0, they're 27th in passing and 12th in rushing. Like I said, boorish.

Speaking of our hometown Chiefs, juxtaposing the ball-controlling, defensively-led, conservative-play-calling Chiefs' style with the high-flying, shoot-out-welcoming Broncos is timely enough. I'd be happy to have this post thrown in my face this Sunday night, but if I had to bet on it, I'm not betting against Peyton Manning, aging agitated ankles be damned.

Sports commentators--many of them former players--regularly espouse phrases like "defenses win championships" and "to win, they'll need to maintain the ground game" in the post-season. Even if being able to pick apart the bottom of the division during the regular season gets a team into the playoffs, perhaps the dynamics are different at that elite-of-the-elite level.

Looking at the results from the last five years of post-season play (60 teams), the following stats correlate with playoff win percentage as relayed in the table below. Italics indicate a correlation in the 'unexpected' direction (average yards gained per rush play correlating inversely with winning, for example--that is, the more efficient a team has been moving the ball on the ground, the worse they tend to fare). Asterisks indicate a lack of statistical significance in the correlation at 95% confidence:

OffenseWins
Turnover ratio.62
Passer rating.52
Yards per pass play.45
Time of possession.31
Yards per play.27
3rd down conversion %.26
Total yards gained per game.25
Rush yards per game.24*
Pass yards per game.15*
1st downs per game.10*
Yards per rush play.10*
Defense
Rush yards allowed per game.42
3rd down conversion % allowed.34
Opposing passer rating.31
Yards allowed per pass play.28
Yards allowed per play.20*
Yards allowed per game.18*
Yards allowed per rush play.08*
Pass yards allowed per game.07*
1st downs allowed per game.02*

A few notes:

- Turnover ratio and time of possession are no more justifiably classified as offensive than as defensive.

- This methodological approach probably doesn't work as well in the post-season as it does during the regular season due to issues like home field advantage, #1 and #2 seeds having a buy week, more weather variation than during the regular season, etc, but it's still useful.

- Special teams stats are not included. They are far less informative than defensive and especially offensive numbers during the regular season. I expect nothing different in the post-season based on the similarities between offensive and defensive correlations during the regular seasons and post-seasons. Due to the time required to do this sort of data, I elected not to include special teams stats.

Relative to what we find during the regular season, turnovers are even more crucial in post-season play than they are during weeks 1-17. That's comprehensible given that teams are generally more evenly-matched during the playoffs than they are during the regular season, so giveaways are harder to overcome than they are during the regular season.

The quarterback spot is football's marquee position, and justifiably so. Just as is the case during the regular season, there is little that is as predictive of winning as a QB's passer rating in the playoffs. Using the bemusing formula has an advantage over other stats that are based primarily on simple averages--it negates the problems this sort of analysis has when teams intentionally run out the clock by keeping the ball on the ground, a phenomenon which tends to make winning teams' rush stats look relatively poor and losing teams' rushing defense looking correspondingly good, since both sides know what's coming.

The advantage yards-per-pass-play has over yards-per-rush-play isn't quite as pronounced as it is during the regular season, but it's still enormous.

Defensive stats simply aren't as explanatory as offensive stats are. Rush yards per game is often an artifice of the occurrence mentioned above--teams that give up a lot of yards on the ground tend to lose because winning teams tend to run a lot towards the end of the game against teams they're beating, even though said losing teams aren't necessarily any less efficient at stopping the run than winning teams are, as the weak relationship between winning and yards given up per rush play illustrates.

Opposing passer rating and yards per pass play, along with 3rd down conversion % allowed, are the only other major statistical indices considered that reach statistical significance, an expected converse of the success having an offense that is able to move the ball through the air brings.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Virginia tells

As one of the most demographically representative states in the country, and one with an enormous amount of American history packed into it to boot, the gubernatorial results out of Virginia this week are worth examining as a way of better understanding America's contemporary social landscape.

- Cuccinelli, the Republican, won among whites by a margin (56%-36%) nearly identical to the margin Romney did in the 2012 presidential election (59%-39%). McAullife, the Democrat, similarly won among blacks (90%-8% compared to Obama's 93%-6%). No surprises here. At 72% of the Virginia electorate and shrinking, it is difficult for Republicans to win nationally representative elections without winning 2-to-1 among whites. The exit polling data do not report results for other groups due to insufficient sample size, but it's safe to assume McAullife won among the Hispanic/Asian/other residual about as convincingly as Obama did last year.

- Despite all the political polarization etc etc, the third party pipe dream is becoming less and less tenable as the US becomes less and less non-Hispanic white. Whites are the only people with whom Kang's famous taunt to (or was it Kodos'?) "go ahead, throw your vote away", actually resonates. Sarvis, the libertarian, got over 87% of his votes from whites. Cuccinelli received a strikingly similar share of his total votes from whites, coming in at just under 89%. McAullife, in contrast, received just over half of his votes (54%) from whites. Perhaps the seemingly disparate Democratic coalition breaks apart at some point in the future, but currently whites are the only ones who appear to have any willingness to oppose it.

- Why I think Rand Paul's liberty message has legs to stand on in the future: Sarvis' won nearly 15% of voters under age 30 but less than 6% of those aged 30 and over. Whether or not this is constitutes the making of a deal with the devil, reasonable people will disagree.

- The fat-cats-versus-working-class-union-types dichotomy became antiquated decades ago, not least because of the spending advantage Democrats now regularly enjoy, this election clearly being no exception. The new paradigm pits the top and the bottom in alliance against the middle:


Though he lost the race, Cuccinelli won comfortably among voters in households with annual incomes in the $50k-$100k range, and held his own in the $30k-$50k and $100k-$200k ranges, but was blown out by McAullife both among those earning less than $30k and among those making $200k+.

- Another way to characterize today's political dynamic is to pit the government trough eaters and trough fillers against the government food trough producers, or value transferers vs. value creators. Without the state's DC suburbs, from which almost 1-in-5 voters hailed from, Cuccinelli would've won by nearly the same margin he ended up losing by.

- While arguing that there should be some sort of property ownership requirement as a prerequisite to voting eligibility will figuratively lead to one being tarred-and-feathered to shouts of "no to Jim Crow!", the exit polls offer a more modest tact to take in opposition to universal suffrage, of a less personal nature than that preferred by Howard Stern, but similarly based.

Queried on whether Cuccinelli's positions--fairly described as strongly socially conservative within the parameters of contemporary American politics--were too liberal, too conservative, or just right, 8% of exit poll respondents answered "too liberal". Among this group comprising 8% of the electorate, 77% voted for McAullife! The actions of the 13% who said he was too liberal but still voted for him and to a lesser extent the 9% who said the same while voting for Sarvis are comprehensible, but the only conclusion regarding the vast majority who voted for McAuliffe because Cuccinelli is too liberal is that they simply have no idea what "liberal" or "conservative" means in a political context! These are people who would garner a goose egg (okay, it's multiple choice, but you get the idea) on Pew's Political News IQ test, unable to name the vice president or say which party controls the Senate.

Let's not be too critical of this contingent of utterly clueless voters, though. Chances are, they are quite a vibrantly diverse and diversely vibrant crowd and consequently worthy of reverence (even if--or perhaps especially because!--they come almost exclusively from the bottom part of that top-and-bottom alliance we spoke of earlier).

The reverse probably occurred as well, as there were inevitably a few Cuccinelli voters who said McAullife was "too conservative", but their numbers were too small to be statistically reliable and thus were not reported on.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Total fertility rate

It seems to be a widely accepted fact among demographers--professionals and amateurs alike (and of amateurs taking an interest in demography, too)--that, assuming net migration of zero, a TFR of 2.1 is the threshold a society must reach if it is to maintain its current population size going into the future. A TFR lower than that portends a numerically attenuated future; a TFR higher than that a correspondingly accentuated posterity. Since first seriously thinking about differential fertility rates after reading Pat Buchanan's Death of the West as undergraduate, I've lazily accepted the 2.1 figure without making an effort to grasp why it is such instead of being the putatively far more easily comprehensible 2.0. People much smarter than myself took no issue with the figure, so why should I?

Resolved to have at least three kids so that I can go to the grave knowing that while my side has lost the war of the womb (yeah, I'm engaging in some oh-so audacious augury, I know) at least I'll know that on my little square of turf I advanced the cause, fait accompli be damned. Still, natal thoughts prodded me to finally want to understand why having two apparently wouldn't even qualify as fighting the forces of desolation to a draw.

Well, for fans of industrialized, developed, first-world East Asian- and European-descended modern market-oriented countries, the news, at least with regards to the figure required for replacement (actually realizing said slightly reduced figure is another story entirely) is good. Our replacement figures actually fall in between 2.0 and 2.1, and are, sans immigration, moving closer to the former and away from the latter with each passing day, thanks in large part to steadily increasing life expectancies and declining infant mortality rates. On the other hand, in more vibrant parts of the world, 2.1 doesn't cut it. In sub-Saharan Africa, in fact, it doesn't come close.

The lower maintenance mark for Icy places relative to Sunny spots results because TFR is a synthetic figure (meaning it is a statistical artifice rather than a measure of any specific population segment at any given time) defined succinctly by Wikipedia as "a measure of the fertility of an imaginary woman who passes through her reproductive life subject to all the age-specific fertility rates for ages 15–49 that were recorded for a given population in a given year". In other words, women who live to at least their fiftieth birthdays not only have to pull their own weight but also have to pick up the slack of those who bite the dust before hitting the half-century mark; more slack for the unfortunate ones who die in infancy and in prepubescence, but also some slack accounted for by those, in decreasing order, who die in their teens, twenties, thirties, and forties.

In the US, more than 95% of women who were born fifty years ago are still alive today (so those of you Xers and millennials who spend an inordinate amount of time speculating on eschatological matters--you know who you are!--stop it, there'll be plenty of time for that later, for now, worry about breeding). A societal collapse notwithstanding, the percentage of those born today who will reach the big 5-0 will be even higher than that. And while 19 in 20 American women born fifty years ago are still around today, nearly 199 in 200 babies born in the US today will make it through infancy.

Sex-selective abortions are another factor pushing the TFR replacement threshold up in other places relative to where it rests in the West, a non-negligible factor in the world's two most populous countries, China and India, nations where the total population sex ratio is more skewed in favor of men over women than nearly any other country on earth, the few exceptions being mostly small islands with large laboring populations like Bahrain (and the norm being a total sex ratio favoring women over men). Oversimplifying, if your tribe has 60 men and 40 women, if each woman has two kids during her lifetime, when the next generation turns over, your population will have declined from 100 people to 80. Conversely, if your tribe has 40 men and 60 women, and each woman has two kids, your tribe will have grown from 100 to 120. The female sex is the limiting factor when it comes to reproduction, after all.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Fighting the good fight

Photo diary of a loyal soldier in Agnostic's legion:






This is only the avuncular role. Just wait until it's the paternal one!