How normal is the two child norm?

By Razib Khan | October 6, 2013 12:28 am

Less than even two! Image credit: Yoshi Canopus

A few years ago Greg Cochran mentioned to me how he perceives the two child family to be the new bourgeois normal, enforced by the professional class and blue-haired ladies alike (this impression is informed by the fact that he has more than two children). This seems to align with my own general sense, but then again how normal is my socioeconomic milieu? So I decided to look at the General Social Survey. I limited the sample to non-Hispanics whites age 45 and over, constrained to the interval 2000-2012,* and broke the data into male and female classes. I crossed the number of children, binned 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5+, with the highest educational attainment of the individual.** In other words I limited the data set, and looked at how the number of children of individuals varied as a function of education.

For males the sample sizes were ~432 with no high school degree, ~1,592 high school degree, ~226 junior college, ~618 bachelor’s degree, and ~461 with graduate educations, for a total of ~3,329.*** The equivalent numbers for females were ~452, ~2,124, ~300, ~628, ~434, and ~3,939.

The results below:


Nothing too surprising. It seems that non-Hispanic white women without high school educations are particularly fecund (or perhaps they don’t have high school educations because of their fecundity?)


* Selection Filter(s): age(45-*) year(2000-*) race(1) hispanic(1)

** Row, childs(r:0;1;2;3;4;5-*), column, degree

*** The ~ is due to the fact that they’re weighted N’s.

MORE ABOUT: Fertility
  • Martijn ter Haar

    There is some evidence that there is a shift to more children (three, four or even five) here in the Netherlands among upper middle class whites, mainly from the ‘post-materialistic class’. It’s uncool for them to show their wealth with stuff like big cars, so they invest in art and children. This is in the form of child care, sports, music schools, but mainly time. Both parents work 3 or 4 days (the standard seems to be 3 for the mother, 4 for the father) and the rest is spend doing stuff with the kids.

    I found a Dutch newspaper article that mentions a 2009 Nature article, but of course without a citation.

  • JayMan

    Razib, I hate to tell you, but I long since beat you to it on this: :)

    Who’s Having the Babies? | JayMan’s Blog

    I even did political orientation, WORDSUM, and education level. I looked at men and women separately, and two generations.

  • stevesailer

    At the prep school level of class (which is, of course, pretty high), families with three children are not uncommon; and they tend to have more money and prestige than smaller families. The five-person family tends to score higher on a having-their-act-together metric than four or three person families.

  • MrJones

    “or perhaps they don’t have high school educations because of their fecundity?”

    Might be connected to age of puberty.


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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


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