A college degree as contraceptive

By Razib Khan | September 27, 2011 12:57 pm

Update: The Slate piece is not accurately representing the original research:

Lerner’s article is spreading misinformation. What the Guttmacher Institute study shows is not that the educated are having fewer children vis a vis the uneducated, but that there is a growing gap in family planning: the children of the uneducated are increasingly unplanned.

Knocked Up and Knocked Down: Why America’s widening fertility class divide is a problem:

You hear about the “haves” versus the “have-nots,” but not so much about the “have-one-or-nones” versus the “have-a-fews.” This, though, is how you might characterize the stark and growing fertility class divide in the United States. Two new studies bring the contrasting reproductive profiles of rich and poor women into sharp relief. One, from the Guttmacher Institute, shows that the rates of unplanned pregnancies and births among poor women now dwarf the fertility rates of wealthier women, and finds that the gap between the two groups has widened significantly over the past five years. The other, by the Center for Work-Life Policy, documents rates of childlessness among corporate professional women that are higher than the childlessness rates of some European countries experiencing fertility crises.

Childlessness has increased across most demographic groups but is still highest among professionals. Indeed, according to an analysis of census data conducted by the Pew Research Center, about one quarter of all women with bachelor’s degrees and higher in the United States wind up childless. (As Pew notes, for women with higher degrees, that number is actually slightly lower than it was in the early 1990s—but it is still very high.) By comparison, in England, which has one of the highest percentages of women without children in the world, 22 percent of all women are childless. According to the new Center for Work-Life Policy study, 43 percent of the women in their sample of corporate professionals between the ages of 33 and 46 were childless. The rate of childlessness among the Asian American professional women in the study was a staggering 53 percent.

At the same time, the numbers of both unplanned pregnancies and births among poor women have climbed steadily in recent years. About half of all pregnancies in this country are unplanned, with poor women now five times more likely than higher-income women to have an unplanned pregnancy, and six times more likely to have an unplanned birth, according to the Guttmacher Institute’s recent analysis of government data.

It being Slate, the author does not broach what I like to term the “Idiocracy hypothesis”. I invite you to make some observations at a Walmart Supercenter as you stand behind the pregnant 16 year old holding her adorable chubby infant, and then deny the possibility of this outcome. But you don’t need to “go there.” If you have a strong environmental leaning you can still admit that the cultural traits of the middle class may be heritable through acquisition in childhood, while the dysfunctional tendencies of the underclass can also be perpetuated by modeling the behavior of parents and peers. The skewed parental origins of the next generation, and the inferred long term divergence in reproductive output, are issues of some consequence for the broader social order. Systems which shift out of equilibrium may eventually reach a new “stable state,” and one not to our liking.


In any case, here is some General Social Survey data on the mean number of children by age cohort broken down by education for women surveyed after the year 2000. Basically you’re looking at the number of children that women born in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, had by the 2000s.

Mean number of children of women by highest degree
attained for age cohorts surveyed after year 2000
Highest degree 1951-1960 1961-1970 1971-1980
Less than HS 2.98 2.78 2.39
HS 2.08 2.05 1.5
Junior College 2.06 1.96 1.52
Bachelor 1.49 1.47 0.85
Graduate 1.46 1.37 0.75

 

Solutions? One quick one made by Randall Parker is to allow for easier acceleration of education of the academically gifted. Many school districts seem to discourage skipping grades from what I have seen for practical social reasons. But currently women with professional aspirations have a difficult time having children during their peak fertility years because of the necessary demands on their time of university and graduate or professional school. It is of course true that putting 14 year old teens in classes with 18 year old young adults is going to cause problems, but if a woman can make it out of medical school and into her residency around 22, rather than 26, it is going to be a huge difference in terms of options in their early 30s (beyond the peak fertility years, but not very much).

 

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Culture
MORE ABOUT: Culture, natalism
  • Jason Malloy

    Warning: Lerner’s primary assertion, that the fertility gap is widening between rich and poor, is not supported by the study she cites for this claim, which examines unintended pregnancies.

    As discussed before, this class fertility gap has actually been narrowing.

  • dirk
  • RJK

    What about changing advanced and professional degree programs so that they are better able to support (or at least accommodate) people who want to study and raise a family concurrently?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    #2, i’ve seen that. that’s funny, but pretty much wrong. for most of history societies were characterized by rise and fall cycles (though there was a modest trendline up in social complexity, not nearly as much [if at all] in living standards due to malthusian conditions). the past ~200 years (at least 200 in england, the post-malthusian world hasn’t arrived in somalia, for example) has been the exception.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    What about changing advanced and professional degree programs so that they are better able to support (or at least accommodate) people who want to study and raise a family concurrently?

    for one thing, do lawyers and doctors need an undergrad degree? they don’t in other nations. subtract 4 years and it you’d make a significant change on the margins i’d think. a lot of the rest is a function of cultural norms. i don’t think that a lot of professionals really get a lot of marginal value for all the extra hours they put in. rather, it’s a matter of bidding wars of labor input to signal what a hard worker you are. people stay in the office and figure out ways not to be productive.

  • Angela M Cable

    Has it not occurred to anyone that perhaps the more educated a woman is, the less she *wants* children. How do we know these women are not child-free as opposed to child-less?

  • Corz

    I agree with #5; at least half of my undergraduate time was wasted with nonsensical courses like badminton and archery. Such general ed requirements are a pathetic attempt to keep people in college for the whole four years. It wasn’t until I got into grad school that my course load consistently made sense and moved me toward my goals.

    Another piece of the puzzle is crippling student loans. Coming out of college with loans, many young professionals have little choice but to work very long hours and live frugally. By the time they get out of the college loan trap the fertile years are passing quickly.

  • Dallas

    So, what’s the problem exactly? From the data that I’ve seen, people who don’t have kids tend to be happier (at least, they report that they’re happier in comparison to those who have kids). They spend a lot less money, get to focus on their own interests, etc. Besides, the large size of global populations seems to contribute to a lot of the problems around the globe right? Climate change, extinguishing resources, species going extinct, toxic chemicals pumped into the environment. Should we really call it a crisis when fertility approaches and dips below 1?

    I recognize the major issue being addressed here is that the gap between the upper and lower classes is increasing. But the lower classes have always had higher fertility, so I don’t really buy the idiocracy outcome. I know its changing, the gap is wider and lower class children are more likely to survive than in previous centuries… but a lower fertility rate in general (lower class fertility is also decreasing) just seems like an overall good consequence, regardless.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    But the lower classes have always had higher fertility, so I don’t really buy the idiocracy outcome.

    this is very false. many of the generalizations you take as a given apply to the past century or so. given that you don’t know the state of most of human history you might want to reconsider opining. you bring some interesting issues up in regards to population control, but the “happiness literature” is kind of confusing, and many of the researchers themselves don’t know what to make of it.

  • gcochran

    “But the lower classes have always had higher fertility.”

    No.

  • Jason Malloy

    “I recognize the major issue being addressed here is that the gap between the upper and lower classes is increasing. But the lower classes have always had higher fertility….”

    Lerner’s article is spreading misinformation. What the Guttmacher Institute study shows is not that the educated are having fewer children vis a vis the uneducated, but that there is a growing gap in family planning: the children of the uneducated are increasingly unplanned.

  • Dallas

    Razib, you’re right, I don’t have data about past centuries, so I don’t know if that’s true or not. I’ll trust you that it isn’t. But, that’s not really central to what I was saying. Fertility is going down in general. Is it really going to end up worse for us? That’s all I’m addressing. I don’t actually pretend to know whether it will be worse or not, but I’m skeptical about this being that big of a deal, compared to what large population sizes have caused. But maybe it’s just a matter of priorities, I tend to worry about the state of the environment a little more than whether people are doing well.

  • Mark

    “for one thing, do lawyers and doctors need an undergrad degree? they don’t in other nations.”

    Speaking as a 3L with an undergraduate degree in English… No.

    I’m heartened at times by the number of law students in my school that are parents already. Then I notice they are entirely male.

  • Mark

    “Lerner’s article is spreading misinformation. What the Guttmacher Institute study shows is not that the educated are having fewer children vis a vis the uneducated, but that there is a growing gap in family planning: the children of the uneducated are increasingly unplanned.”

    I remember reading this study. Am I right in remembering that it gave no explanations for the trend?

  • lemmy caution

    “One quick one made by Randall Parker is to allow for easier acceleration of education of the academically gifted. Many school districts seem to discourage skipping grades from what I have seen for practical social reasons. ”

    Parents want to get their kids into the best possible college. Avoiding skipping grades and redshirting kids for academic reasons is very common now; especially for boys.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    Fertility is going down in general. Is it really going to end up worse for us?

    perhaps not. the main issue for me are systematic fertility gaps. if they persist, the more fertile minority will naturally result in a “bounce back” in the medium term. not too big of an issue in the short term. though i do think that the average quality of life of a poor child would benefit by reducing their number, because they often depend on social redistribution, so the more the pie is divided amongst the needy….

  • chris w

    xkcd sucks and is not funny.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    Parents want to get their kids into the best possible college.

    kind of. remember that 3/4 of university attendees are in public colleges, and a larger proportion are probably in relatively unselective ones generally. i think we need to be careful about confusing cultural elite parental norms, and the normal middle to upper middle class person in much of america.

  • Alyson

    Clearly, we need to send the poor to college. Educated women are behaving rationally, whether they are choosing it consciously or not. In a heavily overpopulated world, we need fewer babies. I find it deplorable that I regularly see articles such as “How we can feed 9 billion” right along articles on how water is running low, or passing the half way mark on the worlds oil reserves, or on fish stocks, etc.

    The fact that we have no serious dialog about how the worlds human overpopulation is impacting everything from other species, our own happiness and well being, and our very viability as a species is dumbfounding to me. We should not be asking how to feed 9 billion of us. We should be seriously questioning why we as the presumably most intelligent animal on the planet are no smarter than freakin deer when it comes to managing our own population.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    #19, to be fair, the world population is on the way to stabilization. the main issue now is demographic “inertia.” but, that stabilization may be transient if ideological natalists have much larger families than the rest, as their proportion of the total will start to increase fast.

  • Clark

    Razib (4) I’m not quite sure what you’re referencing within the xkcd strip. When you say rise and fall cycles do you mean relative birth rate of upper class vs. lower class?

    Razib (5) Did you hear the econtalk from a few weeks back arguing for a loosening of the lawyer market? It was pretty interesting. One thing the guest pointed out is that the medical market really has broken up. So now you have a lot of physician assistants who don’t get undergrad degrees but instead get a one or two year vo-tec program. (I’m sure there are as many in your area advertising as there are here) But you also now have Nurse practitioners (admittedly who have undergrad+ degrees) who can do much of what a doctor used to do. That is within Medicine the market really has broken up trying to find out how much education is actually necessary for certain functions once done primarily by doctors. While there are paralegals they are still pretty limited and the Lawyer market really hasn’t become efficient yet. (Primarily, the show argues, due to capture by the Lawyers themselves who artificially limit supply)

    The problem with changing these professional programs is that once you don’t need 8 – 12 years of education then you get more supply and those new jobs just don’t pay what the doctor gets paid. So a physician’s assistant might give someone a job but it probably won’t be enough to be well within the middle of the middle class.

    Regarding signaling I think that has a lot to do with some functions. For instance that econtalk argues most law degrees are all about signaling because very little taught has practical use when you are a practicing lawyer. I suspect there are a lot of degrees like that. (As opposed to many of the hard sciences where there’s not enough time in your degrees to learn everything you need so you’re expected to learn more on your own – the signaling there is a bit of luck in the publish or perish market)

  • chris w

    “Clearly, we need to send the poor to college.”

    That’s not clear at all. You’re presuming education makes people more intelligent, when causality might be operating in the opposite direction. The actuality might be that the college curriculum filters out people who fall below a certain threshold of intelligence, future time orientation, etc. That’s my view, given the twin studies I’ve seen relating to the heritability of intelligence and personality traits.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    When you say rise and fall cycles do you mean relative birth rate of upper class vs. lower class?

    actually, peter turchin has written something on this, though his point is that upper class *oversupply* can cause problems. but my point is that the idea that worries of decline are stupid is historically short-righted. societies have collapsed many times over history, and it’s short-term thinking to blithely dismiss pessimists as not being driven by any basis in reality. the past few centuries may be aberrations. they may not be though (i am interested in things like the singularity, so i have a pretty open attitude toward paradigm changing events).

    i heard the econtalk. i agree with loosening up labor supply of professionals. it’s how it’s done in software, right? i don’t think the marginal returns on super-smart doctors or lawyers is that much, and we could gain as a society by slightly duller individuals who are a lot cheaper. as for medicine, i think that the ability of nurses and others to do things doctors do should be really loosened up much further. my friends who are specialists naturally tend to be open to the idea of general practitioners being replaced by nurses ;-)

  • Kiwiguy

    Professor Jim Flynn highlighted this problem in NZ a few years ago:

    “Otago University emeritus professor Dr Jim Flynn was commenting on census figures that show mothers without a higher education were the anchor of New Zealand’s current fertility rate.

    “Everyone knows if we only allowed short people to reproduce there would be a tendency in terms of genes for height to diminish. Intelligence is no different from other human traits,” he told the Sunday Star-Times.

    “A persistent genetic trend which lowered the genetic quality for brain physiology would have some effect eventually.”

    Statistics show women without tertiary qualifications who had reached their early 40s had produced 2.57 babies each.”

    http://www.buildingblocksplaygroup.com/blog/brainier-mums-needed-to-maintain-future-generations-intelligence-says-professor/

  • Alyson

    To be fair, stabilizing the population above the Earths carrying capacity isnt going to do us much good. And we are, indeed, above the Earths carrying capacity. Only oil is allowing us to ignore that.

    Our economies failed because, bottom line, there was not enough cash flowing into the lower classes while vast amounts were being sucked upward via lending and credit. It created the ILLUSION of a robust economy almost right up till the bitter end. Economists 6 months or a year prior to the crash were crowing about how they could only see growth for the next 60 years, and how the dismal science was now the optimistic one.

    Well we are doing the same thing in terms of resources. We are spending or withdrawing much, much faster than these resources can be replenished, and its a really bad plan to “hope for a scientific miracle” in the form of cheap energy that we will discover at the last moment. Its possible, but “and then a miracle occurs” is just not good planning.

    We should be doing everything we can to encourage and enable poor women to curtail their reproductive rates to meet that of their more educated counterparts. We absolutely should not be figuring out ways to get educated women to breed more.

  • Chris T

    Another piece of the puzzle is crippling student loans. Coming out of college with loans, many young professionals have little choice but to work very long hours and live frugally. By the time they get out of the college loan trap the fertile years are passing quickly.

    This is indeed a serious issue in the United States, but does not explain why countries with ‘free’ college education, such as Germany, have even lower fertility rates.

    Alyson – Even granting your contention that the world is overpopulated (I do not), there is nothing we can do to prevent 9 billion people short of genocide. As Razib notes, population inertia will get us there even with declining fertility rates.

  • Polynices

    If you think xkcd “sucks and is not funny” you probably lack the “STEM” background for it. A significant portion of the jokes are based on understanding something from math or science or computing or something else geeky. This comment isn’t meant as any sort of ad hominem, it’s just that the strip isn’t for everybody.

  • gcochran

    Considering at the laws of physics and known technology, we could certainly sustain something similar to today’s civilization for hundreds of millions of years – at minimum. We could probably do a great deal better than that.

    But if we persist with our current social arrangements, civilization will fall. We don’t have that much margin: note that populations with an average IQ only 10 points below that seen in Europeans play essentially zero role in science and technology.

  • Alyson

    @Kiwiguy upon what are you basing your assumption that the less educated are less intelligent? Access to higher education was not merely a matter of innate intelligence the last time I checked. There were many mediocre minds in my college classes, as where I am from (the US) having middle class or higher parents is a much better indication of whether or not you yourself will go to college than your native IQ is.

    Before you can say that allowing the uneducated to reproduce at a higher rate will drive down IQ in humans overall, you first need to show that the uneducated genuinely are less intelligent than those with higher education. America isnt Plato’s Republic, and not everyone who is bright enough for college gets there.

  • Alyson

    And no, Chris, Im not assuming anything about college making people more intelligent when I say “clearly we need to send the poor to college.” Because I dont feel that choosing to have less children is a function of IQ. Its a function of education.

    The title of this piece was that education acted as a contraceptive. Im not the one making the assumptions that “Oh noes! If the uneducated out reproduce the educated the overall IQ of humanity will go down!” Other members of this thread are making that assumption.

    Higher education =/= necessarily mean higher IQ. Sometimes it just means better parents, more fortunate circumstances financially, etc. Yes, there are some really good minds with higher education, but Im not arrogant enough to assume that everyone who fails to enter college has a low IQ.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    #29, as implied above, in many western nations university is much cheaper than in the USA. the gov. subsidizes, but limits supply.


    Before you can say that allowing the uneducated to reproduce at a higher rate will drive down IQ in humans overall, you first need to show that the uneducated genuinely are less intelligent than those with higher education.

    if you don’t think there is any difference, that’s fine. but i think you’ll have a difficult time having a reasonable discussion with a lot of people here. even if the sorting is imperfect, i think many would agree that it’s reasonable in developed nations that some modicum of sorting has occurred.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    p.s., i can give you social science to support my supposition, but i’m kind of strapped for time. if you’re curious, google scholar it. if you’re not, we have nothing to talk about.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    alyson, sub-replacement fertility is now found in plenty of places where very few are college educated. e.g., south india. bangladesh has a TFR around 2.3 or so now. that’s lower than some american subcultures.

  • Clark

    note that populations with an average IQ only 10 points below that seen in Europeans play essentially zero role in science and technology

    I wonder why though. I don’t dispute the IQ issue however I wonder that for the populations tested that score that significantly lower if there isn’t something else going on affecting IQ testing.

    Also when you say populations what populations are you talking about? Inner city? Something else? I’d imagine that there may be other things going on in populations so we ought be careful in assuming causality in all this. I can imagine off the top of my head lots of explanations i.e. environmental causes like lead or other toxities; trauma in children (I honestly don’t know the effect of childhood trauma on IQ); lack of people to learn from (what would be the effect on a small population of below average IQs with say 20% people with above average IQ working with them); etc.

    I raise that last example as I believe it was actually a big issue in Canadian educational pedagogy and was why advance track (“honors”) within public schools was abandoned. Advanced track courses really helped those with high IQs (indeed they were separated based upon IQ tests in kindergarden and 1st grade) but if I remember correctly the effect on lower IQ students was to depress their achievement. When you mainstream both low IQ and high IQ students you decrease the overall performance of the high IQ kids somewhat (although they catch up in college I believe) but significantly raise the performance of low IQ kids. Sorry for the fuzzy memory on all this. I think Canada got rid of the honors track program I was in from 1st grade through High School sometime in the early 90’s. My fuzzy memory is largely from discussions with my brother who’s an education specialist up in Canada.

    I’m not sure the Canadian solution is necessarily bad. (I really appreciated the honors classes and honestly wish they’d had something like American AP classes to let me start college as a Sophomore) But it’s one of those situations without a good answer.

    Getting back on topic to Razib’s post it would be interesting seeing how the differing strategies affect birthrate. It might be difficult to do with Canada since despite being more similar to the US than any other nation there are huge social differences. I unfortunately couldn’t find similar statistics to the American ones over at Stats Canada.

  • jaakkeli

    It’s bizarre how eagerly people jump from “educated women have lower fertility” to “educated people have lower fertility” when there is every reason to expect the pattern to be different for men. Many men end up having two families in their lifetime and this is usually educated men: the men who get teenagers accidentally pregnant do not tend to be in shape to start second families in their 40s. Since in practice women end up doing the most intensive child rearing (not to mention the pregnancy), for many men children do not interfere with career and education at all. Actually, the opposite: an education and a good career will improve a man’s marriage prospects and for many men family is the whole reason of pursuing education and career.

    To put it yet another way: imagine a population where fertility is perfectly equal between all levels of education. Within that population, you’re going to have a correlation between lack of education and fertility in women and the opposite correlation in men!

    Yet it’s stilldamn difficult to find the statistics for the whole population. Everybody wants to talk about how careers affect women’s fertility but no one ever seems to want to talk about how career affects men’s fertility. The last time I tried to massage it out of Finnish statistics myself it looked like the overall pattern is actually rather different and that once you stop talking about just women, the lowest educated people actually have the lowest child count.

  • dave chamberlin

    What about men? How different are they than women.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    re: men, the main difference is that in the 51-60 cohort grad educated men have more children than college ed. or junior college ed. men (about same as HS grads, but less than no-HS). but the trends are the same, just attenuated. i think part of this is that men have children later overall, so the generation length effect isn’t as noticeable.

  • Muffy

    Is anyone aware of data that shows the difference in fertility rates between different educational groups adjusted for mortality rates? I would imagine that the uneducated would have a age-adjusted higher mortality rate overall than the educated, which may diminish the magnitude of the effects of the fertility rate differences. Also related, has the mortality gap between educational groups increased or decreased?

  • Nameless_

    Grade skipping would only have any effect for a minority of women. By definition, the normal rate of progress in educational institutions is tailored to the majority. Professional schools, unlike K-12, are very homogeneous intellectually. And even if someone makes it out of residency by 29 instead of 32, would that really increase the chances of that person having offspring?

    Instead I’d propose to spread the burden of rising children (and particularly the time required) over all taxpayers. A major obstacle for professional women is that childcare below the age of 5 is expensive, school day is shorter than work day, and it’s tough to arrange things properly without spending a fortune if you don’t have anyone staying at home all the time.

    So, instead of providing subsidies only for families near the poverty level (the way it works in the US now), let’s offer taxpayer-financed child care, 7 AM to 6 PM, 5 days a week, for every child after 3 months of age, and taxpayer-financed extended school days in K-12.

    I’d want to look at European countries and see how childcare works there, and look for patterns.

  • Alyson

    “The models suggest that in impoverished families, 60% of the variance in IQ is accounted for by the shared environment, and the contribution of genes is close to zero; in affluent families, the result is almost exactly the reverse.”

    http://pss.sagepub.com/content/14/6/623.short

    I found nothing on Google scholar that I could use to tear apart the data on IQ and education. Which is what I want to see, not just that “on average, people with advanced degrees have a higher IQ than people who do not attend college. ” Why? Because a few geniuses can drag that average up and leave a lot of people with advanced degrees feeling pretty smug about their standing with little reason to.

    I did find, on the other hand evidence that genetics are not the be all and end all of IQ, and that lack of education, because education and income correlate as well as IQ and education, can reduce IQ.

    “For traits that are primarily determined by genes, identical twins will show no variation, but fraternal twins will. For traits that are determined by environment, identical twins and fraternal twins will show similar patterns of variation in the trait. For traits that reflect an interaction between genes and environment, identical twins will show somewhat less variation than fraternal twins. (Confused about twin studies?)

    What Turkheimer found was dramatic: for the families in the study at the very bottom of the socioeconomic scale, shared family environment accounted for 60 percent of the variance in IQ; and the contribution of genes was close to zero. (A third variable, non-shared environment, which includes factors such as gender, accounted for the remainder.)”

    http://sparkaction.org/content/new-thinking-children-poverty-iq

    Which leaves the question of whether or not the overall IQ humanity will be harmed by the slower reproductive rate of the highly educated firmly on the table. Not a foregone conclusion as some would like to make it seem.

    And thats without even tearing into the tests themselves.

  • Mark

    “Also when you say populations what populations are you talking about?”

    I’d guess: Mexicans, Indonesians, and Middle Easterners to start. GCochran can correct me if I’m wrong.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IQ_and_the_Wealth_of_Nations#National_IQ_estimates

    I don’t live and die by the specific numbers on the chart, but the trends are interesting.

  • Alyson

    “It’s bizarre how eagerly people jump from “educated women have lower fertility” to “educated people have lower fertility” when there is every reason to expect the pattern to be different for men.”

    Im glad you pointed that out. Males and females have different reproductive strategies overall, and its not surprising that educated women who have choices and are not dependent upon men for their finances might choose to pursue their own naturally preferred “less in number but higher quality” strategy.

    Less educated women may also be more prone to have to deal with the “higher number damn the quality” male reproductive strategy for various reason, including religious influence, (Education and religosity also correlate negatively) or economic necessity.

  • Nameless_

    “Is anyone aware of data that shows the difference in fertility rates between different educational groups adjusted for mortality rates?”

    Mortality between the ages of 1 and 40 for all educational groups in developed countries is quite small. In the US, the probability of a 1-year-old black male (the riskiest group) to die before the age of 40 is 6.2%. For a 1-year-old white female it’s 1.7%. It’s not enough to cancel the gap in fertility rates.

    Mortality has gone down significantly for all educational groups in the last 200 years. Educated people benefited most, because infectious diseases used to be a major killer, and bacteria don’t check your credentials.

  • Jason Malloy

    The two key papers on intelligence, education, income, and fertility are the 2006 study by Rosemary Hopcroft using the GSS and the 2008 study by Daniel Nettle using the NCDS. Intelligence decreases fertility in men and women, education decreases fertility in men and women, and income decreases fertility in women but increases fertility in men. This is not due to multiple offspring or multiple families, but solely because a higher income lowers male lifetime probability of childlessness. Dumb rich men are the most likely to reproduce, and there are probably a lot of pro athletes and entertainers who could illustrate this.

    Also, it should be noted that Charles Murray found the same fertility levels for low and high IQ white women in the NLSY (although a somewhat higher fertility level for less intelligent blacks).

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    on the other hand evidence that genetics are not the be all and end all of IQ

    do you want to just argue, or do you want to see where we differ? i did not say that genetics was the absolute determinant of IQ. i stated explicitly that the sorting was imperfect. in other words, there is a correlation which exists outside of environmental factors because of past meritocracy and assortative mating. i appreciate that you did take the time to look into the literature (i’m familiar with a lot of what you cited, and have even blogged it).

  • http://www.usmc.org/7th/ mustapha mond

    Im just glad that I’m a beta. Sometimes alphas come to work wearing different colored socks!

  • Kiwiguy

    ***Higher education =/= necessarily mean higher IQ. Sometimes it just means better parents, more fortunate circumstances financially, etc***

    @ Alyson,

    IQ seems to predict academic achievement controlling for SES. On the other hand, SES only weakly predicts academic achievement.

    http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2010/03/ses-and-iq.html

    Also, people tend to mate with others with a similar educational background.

    Schwartz, C. and R. D. Mare, Trends in Assortative Marriages from 1940 to 2003, Demography, 2005, 42 (4), 621646.

  • http://www.quora.com/Alex-K-Chen Alex K. Chen (InquilineKea)

    Wow, I actually came up with the exact same idea that Randall Parker came up with! So that’s pretty exciting to me (for some discussion, see http://www.facebook.com/simfish/posts/183597101681295 )

    I do feel, however, that early entrance would be a lot better than acceleration (or starting early). The latest results from the Terman Study (The Longevity Project) – http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/19/science/19longevity_excerpt.html?pagewanted=1 – show that students who start school early actually have social problems and stunted development (this would have great applicability for the gifted, as Terman students were also gifted). But – students who skip grades have no such problems with social adjustment (apparently, having the opportunity to play during early childhood really does matter). As someone who has gone to an early entrance program myself, I’ve noticed that almost all the students there are almost universally glad that they’ve went (and also do much better than most college students), and the students there aren’t all super-geniuses either.

    I might add that the Peter Thiel thing could also increase fertility among the educated, if it spreads.

  • Wasn’t done yet damnit

    How about the fact that the educated are offered free and/or discounted contraception? What about all of the free sex-Ed seminars offered at hundreds of universities? How about the fact that being broke without both of your parents puts you and your peers at better odds for unintended

  • Clausentum

    The xkcd skit is fraught with the dishonesty and political correctness that prevent any rational debate on the issue. The only thing that surprises me is that nobody’s thrown the eugenicist taunt at anybody yet.
    The ideas about fast-tracking in education seem good, but, as the Canadian experience shows, people seem to accept that it’s ok for the more academic kids to be held back in the interests of more equality of outcome. The taboo on selective education increases the effect of SES, because richer parents can find ways to give their kids a leg-up, inside or outside the public school system.

  • dave chamberlin

    GCochran is right, it won’t take many generations of women who drop out of high school averaging twice as many children as women with graduate degrees to have a disasterous effect, even if this ratio is considerably less in men. It is as if we are excused from thinking logically about the future because we can’t exactly predict it and besides that, we will be dead.

  • Jason Malloy

    The Inductivist does a GSS regression on factors that affect fertility. He finds a large negative effect for education, and no effect for IQ. So the entire effect of IQ on fertility is mediated by education; this is very important and it is not an aberrant finding. Rosemary Hopcroft also nodded at this, somewhat obliquely, in her GSS analysis. And Robert Retherford found the same dynamic in the Wisconsin Longitudinal Survey.

    So to summarize what seems to contradict all conventional wisdom:
    1) Intelligence does not depress fertility.
    2) Female education is the primary reason for lower fertility.
    3) Female education lowers fertility primarily by stemming unplanned pregnancies.

  • Jacob Roberson

    Alex K. Chen (InquilineKea) Says: I might add that the Peter Thiel thing could also increase fertility among the educated, if it spreads.
    Specify? I read [[Peter Thiel]], no help.

  • http://www.delicious.com/RobertFord Darkseid

    Thanks for that summary, Jason and keep up the awesome delicious bookmarks!

  • dave chamberlin

    52) the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study you refer to and claim finds the same dynamic, namely that IQ has no effect upon a women’s family size, does not. If you will read the link you provided it says “the negative efect (of IQ influencing family size) was considerably larger for women than for men.”

  • Jason Malloy

    Dave, from the same abstract: “Path analysis shows that the effects of IQ on subsequent family size are almost entirely indirect through education; thus education provides most of the sought-for explanation”.

    And from the paper itself “… the negative effect of IQ on [fertility] is almost two times larger for women than for men. When education is introduced as a control, however, the adjusted effect becomes statistically nonsignificant for both men and women. Thus we interpret the effect of IQ on [fertility] to be indirect through education, or, in other words, education explains (in the sense of mediating) the effect of IQ on [fertility] as hypothesized.”

    Similarly there is an IQ/fertility correlation in the GSS but not in the regression.

    However I’m currently reading through some more research and this interpretation might be wrong as well.

  • pconroy

    @50,
    The ideas about fast-tracking in education seem good, but, as the Canadian experience shows, people seem to accept that it’s ok for the more academic kids to be held back in the interests of more equality of outcome.

    Yes, I too find this attitude of holding back the Gifted disgusting.

    I’m reminded of a seminar my wife dragged me to on how to navigate the New York Public school system a few weeks ago in Park Slope, Brooklyn. I asked a question on which schools stream gifted students, and the presenter refused to answer the question, then added that Gifted programs weren’t all they were cracked up to be, and anyway who wants to send their kid to a class full of antisocial kids, and that regular classrooms were just as enriching as Gifted classrooms. Then she encouraged the mostly SWPL audience to send their kids to the lowest SES schools, to help “balance” the classrooms.

    IMO, the reason a parent should send their Gifted kid to a Gifted class is NOT for enrichment, but for socialization. What most idiots educators, don’t seem to understand is that the Gifted – especially Very or Profoundly Gifted – are likely to be socially ostracized by the regular/dumber folk that they are surrounded by. But rather than allow a Gifted child to develop normally, they are more interested in providing every opportunity to stupid kids.

  • Miguel Madeira

    “Female education lowers fertility primarily by stemming unplanned pregnancies.”

    The cause-effect could not be the opposite?

  • dave chamberlin

    Jason Malloy
    I appreciate your response and your logical approach. Something does not yet add up and I can’t put my finger on it.

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Gene Expression

This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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