Highly intelligent women have never been very fecund

Men like to suggest that highly intelligent women routinely were very fertile and that they have a low fertility rate these days because of FEMINISM.

But this is not an easy question to answer.  Women who are very intelligent are even less common than highly intelligent men and it is pretty clear from the historical record that those guys were never all that fertile.  But when it comes to the ladies, there’s this idea that smart women routinely had ten kids and still would but for FEMINISM.  It is possible they had more children on average than they do now, but it would be hard to prove the difference was massive if so, at least in America, which has a history going back to colonial times of suppressed fertility for all white women, smarty-smarts not excluded.  When you are talking about one or two women per hundred, at maximum, that they had an extra .4 kid in the past is meaningful, but hardly a sign of eugenic breeding QUASHED BY FEMINISM.

As part of the data I’m scrounging up, this is partly relevant.  I might end up putting together some historical trend lines, but then again, we are talking about very very very few women (130 IQ or higher), so it seems a bit of a rouged herring.

Modestly above average in smarts women were clearly more fecund on average, but the 1/1000 types and even most of the 1/100 types, it just doesn’t match up with what little information we have about that kind of woman’s life in the past that such women were much more fertile than they are now.

ETA: The guy who wrote the original post and makes the argument I’m talking about all over the comments is a Boomer man in academia who had five kids.  That is, he and his wife had children in the last dregs of “the village” helping with the kids and also pre-internet and he smugly (as Boomers do) acts like there’s no real obstacles to having more children.  Nevermind that even when he was having five, Boomer women were very much not making that choice anymore.  As I noted in a different post, ” In 1970, about one woman (all races) in five had five or more kids.  By 1985 it was less than one woman in ten, and by 1990 it was around one woman in twenty.”  Cochran was born in 1953.  So during the time he and his wife had kids, women of all brainy-levels went from 20% having five kids to under 10% doing so.  This is a massive cultural shift and the guy lalaing that people (smart women) are just silly to not have five, after all they are “more affordable than ever before!” is the precise sort of clever silliness his post refers to.

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23 thoughts on “Highly intelligent women have never been very fecund

  1. I had four. Would have had 12, but neither the economy nor hubby would cooperate. 😉

    I don’t put much weight in IQ points or intelligence measurements, but there is emotional intelligence and it’s rather important when it comes to mothering. Emotional intelligence is something passed down to kids, perhaps not genetically, but by environment. It is also something that feminism has harmed, has taught women to recoil from. The other kind of intelligence involving IQ points, I don’t believe that’s really genetic, so those who lament the decline in fertile and intelligent women, probably shouldn’t be reproducing anyway because they haven’t got a clue.

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  2. If the non-religious “manosphere” really cared so much about low high-iq fertility, they’d put money into (or at least fervently support) ART, seeing as so many high iq women today see a fertility decline because they delay childbearing for schooling. Instead the general manosphere technique is to link to articles about devastated women with age related infertility and then laugh at them/gleefully boast that they should have married a lonely male blogger, and then move on. Which is one of the many things that convinced me that it’s less about the future of IQ scores and more about girl cooties.

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    • No, ART is a terrible thing and this guy isn’t a manosphere guy, although he is in the alternative/dissident right. ART doesn’t live up to its advertisements and shaves IQ points off if anything. Very intelligent people have always not really done well with infant/toddlerhood and that’s just how it goes. The idea that women of that level of brainyness were cooing and gooing in the past is not well supported. Doesn’t mean they can’t have a lot of kids, but there does need to be more support for “the village” in a real way (i.e. nannies and nursemaids on the paid end, real status for being an aunt/gramma on the unpaid end) to get women of all brain-levels to have noticeably more children overall.

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      • Oh, I wasn’t making a pro-ART argument, just pointing out that their logic doesn’t follow. Sponsoring ART (as opposed to wide societal changes to make high IQ fertility easier like you mention) is perhaps something that these guys could actually achieve, but none of them are interested, because it’s not as fun as complaining about ladies.

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      • What makes having many children an a priori good? How many children a couple should have, or whether or not they should have children at all, should be a decision based on rational choice grounded in their personal inclination and socioeconomic circumstances. Having children “just because” does a huge disservice to both the children and the parents.

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  3. I think the sensible version of the stupid argument that you’re rebutting would go more like “if the West hadn’t become massively anti-natalist, then very intelligent women would have had more children and grandchildren and we would have a generally smarter population.” But I agree that feminism is mostly an ideological justification for anti-woman, anti-family social changes, not the cause of those changes.

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    • “feminism is mostly an ideological justification for anti-woman, anti-family social changes, not the cause of those changes”
      I would tend to agree…this makes sense. I might go further and describe feminism as an epiphenomena of the late modern.

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  4. It was common for highly accomplished women of the past to have no children or to have just one illegitimate one.

    I was quickly skimming the internet, so there may be some inaccuracies, but here is a rough list:

    –Charlotte Bronte died pregnant with her first child (Anne and Emily didn’t marry)
    –Jane Austen never married
    –Louisa May Alcott never married
    –Elizabeth Blackwell never married and neither did her four sisters (although she adopted an orphan)
    –Maria Montessori seems to have had a child out of wedlock
    –Dorothy Sayers had a son born out of wedlock and then married (the son was passed off as her nephew until after her death)
    –Edith Wharton had no children
    –Edith Piaf had only child out of wedlock that died as a toddler
    –Florence Nightingale never married

    One of the differences between their time and ours is that modern marriage is much more attractive and comfortable for an ambitious woman.

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    • I think it’s because men didn’t WANT a highly intelligent, educated wife — they were worried she would outshine them in some way. In fairness to them, I think they so greatly worried about their ability to provide that perhaps they worried that they wouldn’t be able to give her what she felt she ought to have. As far as Jane Austen is concerned, just a reading of her novels will tell you why she didn’t marry — she was poor, and society looked down on you if you were poor. You either married a poor man or you were a spinster. It’s likely that nobody of any reasonable means would give her a second look because she couldn’t bring a fortune of any major amount into a marriage. If anything — and I am sure this will hail the cry of “feminist!” from those who wish to do so — the current trend (women in the workplace) at least prevented them from being destitute when their fathers died and enabled them to work their way into a higher class….? Just a thought. Which, in turn, should increase their chances for marrying, should they choose to do so.

      By the way, Charlotte Brontë died in childbirth, not while pregnant, and said child was also stillborn. Just a correction there. And yep, Maria Montessori did have a son out of wedlock (I’m a Montessori teacher, so got to meet Maria Montessori’s granddaughter).

      I plead ignorance, but what does ART mean? I get a bit confused as I don’t understand many of the acronyms floating about.

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      • With Jane Austen, you also get the feeling that she was keenly aware of how unpleasant being married to an inferior could be–see for example Mr. Norris or Mrs. Bennet.

        That’s a very interesting point about having a career enabling many contemporary women to work their way into a better marriage than would be possible given their family of origin. For all the talk of hypergamy, assortative mating is the order of the day. Contemporary men usually don’t marry down very far.

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    • Most of those women had highly fecund sisters, and all of them had highly fecund first cousins.

      Moreover, it is just as easy to make a list of highly accomplished women who had buckets of kids, or who would have if their health hadn’t prevented them:

      Anne Bradstreet: 14 children
      Abigail Adams: 5 living, 1 stillbirth
      Ada Lovelace: only 3 living, but I think she was pregnant more often
      Lady Montagu: only 2 living but given her history pretty certainly just lost a bunch
      Elizabeth Fry: 11 children
      Elizabeth Gaskell: 5 children
      Harriet Beecher Stowe: 7 children
      Elizabeth Cady Stanton: 7 children
      Clara Strauss: 8 children
      Alma Mahler: 4 children
      Gertrude Anscombe: 7 children

      It’s questionable how intelligent in this sense were Queen Anne and Queen Victoria, but Queen Anne was pregnant at least 17 times, although she never had any living children, and Queen Victoria was an able stateswomen in possession of the knowledge of her own limitations, which is a rare quality, and she had 9.

      It’s also just as easy to make a list of super smarty men who had no kids (well, who probably had no kids, it’s always impossible to say for sure) or only one:

      Isaac Newton
      Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz
      Rene Descarte (never married, one child)
      Immanuel Kant
      Soren Kierkegaard
      Thomas Young (no children although he did marry)
      Jean-François Champollion (only one child)
      Ludwig van Beethoven
      Jacob Grimm
      Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

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  5. again I cannot reply to this comment

    “Charlotte Bronte could have had a good-sized family…if the first one hadn’t killed her.”

    probably not cause she was almost 40

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    • She was 38 (almost 39) when she died. Every year counts a lot at that point.

      I’m betting on her being on the higher end of fertility, just because she was able to get married in her late 30s and immediately get pregnant. Somebody with fertility at that level might easily manage 3 children, maybe even 4 before final call. To this day, nice Catholic ladies find themselves having surprise babies at 46 and 48.

      (Wow! This has been very hypothetical!)

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    • Well, have one at 38, have another at 40, and then have another at 42 and that’s three–that’s not even pushing it very far.

      To this day, practicing Catholic ladies continue to have babies at 46, 47 and 48–and certainly at 42 and 43. It’s one of the things that makes life with NFP so exciting–the very real possibility of having a toddler of one’s own to chase at 50.

      I think a lot of the reason that people in the contemporary US believe that 40 is curtains for married mothers’ fertility is that so many US couples get sterilized by then. However, when sterilization is not on the table, you realize how LONG female fertility can last.

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      • Those practicing Catholic ladies are not having their first baby at 38. It doesn’t work that easily when you start after 35 for 99.999% of women. It doesn’t even work that easily for practicing Catholic ladies, those babies are surprises (and statistically rare even within the tiny demographic subgroup you’re talking about) for a reason.

        Chasing a toddler at 50 isn’t happening in those NFP households because they have a bunch of teenagers they had 20 or 30 years earlier to do it for them.

        Female fertility is robust, but it’s not immune to aging and there are waaaaaay more disappointed women who started at 30 or 35 and only managed 1 or 2 or 3 *even with NFP* than there are women having a baby after age 45.

        If it wasn’t in a ridiculous pdf, I’d paste in data from a Hutterite colony where women married in their teens and expected to have babies until menopause. Even those women barely had any babies after 45, despite marriage and childbearing starting at 15-16.

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