A few notes from The Third Child

The Third Child is the second stage and second book of the study I mentioned here,and it reveals some interesting things about the parents of the Boomers.

The biggest is the strong pressure to pop out 2-4 children by age 30. This was a recurring theme, that women should complete their families (yep, including the Catholics) by age 30 and not have more kids after that. What’s interesting about this is that what we have now is the opposite, women are under strong pressure to pop out 2-4 kids *after* age 30. The difference, aside from the obvious, was that the Boomer’s moms could rely on a lot more other women around and were younger when their kids were teenagers.

The other interesting thing is the insane sex selection mania. Part of the baby boom was driven by wanting children of both sexes, and popping em out like pez until you got your boy or girl. One might note that Boomers were the first generation to have access to ultrasound that was useful for sex identification during their prime childbearing years.

Boomers were responding to a lot of less than perfect behavior from their parents and grandparents, which doesn’t make them saints, but it gives some perspective on where some of their self-centered tendencies might have come from other than a vacuum.

Just how dysgenic is the college gap between men and women?

Vox Day feels that it is quite dysgenic, but I think that we kind of see the Grain of Truth thing going on.

The reality is that 70% of white, non-Hispanic (WNH) births each year for the last decade or so are to college educated women.  And still more reality is that a majority of WNH births have been to college educated mothers since sometime in the 80s, when they crossed 50%.  So for about 30 years now, a majority of white babies are being born to educated white mothers.  And by 1960, the percentage was already over 20%.

Now this is a different issue than raw baby count, but even there, white women had about 2 million babies (after minusing 50k or so Hispanic births, this was before they were a separate category) in 1970 (when college educated mothers were around 25% or so of the total) and in 2015, the most current year available, they also had 2 million babies.

People are having fewer children as a population proportion, that is true, sort of.  But the raw count of kids has been very stable for decades, with its structure changing.  The right wing having a big conversation about what it means that most white kids are born to college-moms would be more useful than asserting that such motherhood is definitely dysgenic.  Which is itself an open question.  Intelligence flows from mom, so is having bright women make up more of the moms (particularly the married moms) dysgenic?  Yeah, yeah “watered down curriculum”, but that means arguing that the ones who can’t complete coursework in even a watered down form are somehow smarter.  Which would be a hard sell.

Even among black women, a higher fraction of mothers who get married before the babies come are college educated.  That is, college educated black mothers are often married before the babies come and non-college black mothers are at scary 90% or so out of wedlock levels.  A majority of black mothers with a BA or greater are married before the kids come.

So we have a larger population with a static baby count and thus a lower birth rate, but the women left who are bothering to have babies, plural are majority college-attending and married.  And they have more higher-order births, they have supermajorities of the 3+ births.

One could make an interesting argument that it was mainly the vanguard of college educated women’s daughters who successfully reproduced.  And that also has pretty far reaching implications.

 

Poking at the large family myth bubble.

As anyone reading along in this blog or the broader American right wing knows, there is a loud contingent of people who assert that in America, large families used to be common as dirt and women loved having them too.

This is not, strictly speaking, accurate.

The Vital Statistics folks (originally at the Census, and now with the CDC) stopped making a new column for births past #17 in 1959. The next year, in 1960, while still in what came to be called the Baby Boom, they stopped doing new columns for births above #8. And the Vital Statistics people are very conservative about these things. They were cheerfully making columns for 312 16th births for years. But 312 out of 4 million or so births a year is a really tiny number and eventually even they just started mushing all those ten and twelfth and seventeenth births together.

The point being that thousands of double digit births can still be happening, but still also be not common as dirt. Pesky math.

The other poke at the bubble for now is that as soon as American women got birth control access, they mysteriously rushed as far away from double digit family sizes as they could. Eight was very much enough, thanks, and keeping births down to six or less was nicer still, as far as white American women were concerned. There is some amusing (for a personal value of amusing) commentary in many of the annual bulletins expressing statistician puzzlement at the plunge in 8 and up births among white women about twenty seconds after the first shipload of diaphragms washed ashore. And while access came decades later for black women, they behaved exactly the same and kablooey went the higher order black birth numbers too.

This is not the behavior of women who looooooved having ten or fifteen kids. It’s also not really much to do with feminists or feminism except that they felt the solution to male sexual incontinence was to have women end run around it with birth control of ever-increasing reliability.

Urban dads in the 1950s did a surprising amount of childcare.

It looks as though the dad pitching in with the kids and housework is not quite as recent as people, particularly on the right, often claim.  While GI fathers show decent evidence of being hands-off, it appears things had changed for the fathers who came along a decade or so later.

During the 1950s and early 1960s, there were a lot of excited demographers studying the lower age of marriage and relatively higher fertility, and thrilled at the idea that a new pattern of family growth even in urban areas via natural increase might be the new normal.

One of those studies was done in two parts in 1957 and 1961 and it involved over 1100 white collar and blue collar couples in the eight largest major metropolitan areas at the time. It involved white couples who’d had their second child in 1956.  They further narrowed the group with technical requirements beyond the scope of this post, but the upshot was that they got some interesting data that Catholics, Jews and Protestants alike all wanted 2-4 children (90% across the board) and less than 10% wanted 5+.

Another interesting detail of this study is the post title.  Many of the mothers were still housewives, but fully 2/3 of them could count on their husbands to take care of the children as a norm.  Fully 1/3 of these urban women mostly living in apartments could also count on someone who wasn’t their husband (and by definition for the study not one of their own children) to help them around the house as a norm.

If one includes “sometimes”, 85% of the 1100+ wives could expect some recurring level of help with the kids from their husbands.  And including “sometimes”, it was 60% of those wives.  So by 1957, the husband was already viewed as a major source of help by urban wives.

They did a follow-up study covering whether a third (or) child had been born, and I haven’t gotten far into that one yet.  But I found the detail about help that the wife felt she could count on reliably very relevant to 60(!) years later.

Source: Family Growth in Metropolitan America, 1961, Princeton University Press.

American childbearing goes Scandinavian

The latest birth and fertility data are showing what I feared, the only age groups showing an increase in births were the 30-44 age groups.  All groups under age 30 have been showing consistent and steady declines of late, with the 25-29 group finally succumbing after occasional blips upwards half a decade ago.

Lower under-18 births is ok, and that continues (and no it is not via more abortions, but less sex).  But the shift towards having kids in your 30s as the norm continues apace.  This is the modern Scandinavian model.

The plus side is that there’s more married childbearing in all racial groups.  The unwed motherhood trend is going ever so slowly backwards, consistently.  Black births to unwed mothers dropped while the total number of births increased, lowering their percentage of unwed births.

There’s a shift in the last decade where unwed mothers are finally seeing percentage and absolute decreases in their births, but married mothers are having more children.

Fewer women are having children, but the ones who get married first are having more third and up children than they used to five years ago.  This is tricky though, because with women having all their kids in their 30s and 40s more, we can’t be sure we haven’t moved into a different fertility pattern of relative robustness for the women who can navigate waiting that long to marry and pop out 3 or more kids.  It could be the latest dead cat bounce before we get yet another step down in higher order births.

Nearly 10% decrease in number of third and higher births from 1992 to 2014

For white non-Hispanics, a little over 600k births in 1992 were the third live baby or higher.  This represented just under 1/4 of all births.  Over 75% of all births for 1992 were first or second births.

The approximate distribution of the 600k higher birth orders (less than 100% due to rounding) was:

3rd order: 66%

4th order: 22%

5th order: 7%

6th order: 2.6%

7th order: 1%

8th order or higher: 1.1%

In 2014, there were over 50k fewer such births, a bit over 550k and that represented just OVER 25% of all births for that year.

The distribution of these 550k higher-order births over 20 years later was:

3rd: 61%

4th: 23%

5th: 8.4%

6th: 3.4%

7th: 1.6%

8th or higher: 2%

The total births for 1992 were around 2.5 million, while for 2014 they were around 2.1 million.  So people were having fewer children overall, but the ones having many are chugging along pretty impressively.  The problem is that there’s no filtering for how much of that chugging along is in little horse-powered buggies, so there’s that to keep in mind.

To put this distribution of higher-order births in context, here’s the “white” distribution for 1970, ten years after the Pill and IUDs were introduced.

Total white births: approx 3.1 million

Total third or higher order white births: approx 1 million

Percentage distribution of third and higher order births:

3rd: 48%

4th: 25%

5th: 12.5%

6th: 6.4%

7th: 3.4%

8th: 4.5%

Admittedly this includes some Hispanics, but only about 4-5%, not enough to shift the overall pattern.  This pattern from 1970 could be returning at the higher orders, but it’s too soon to tell.

Latest homebirth/birth center study of 80k Oregon women shows higher infant mortality

This is an article about an analysis of births in Oregon, where homebirthing (and to a lesser extent use of birth centers) is extremely popular at rates above the national average, and where the women are mostly of more “slim” BMI and other conventional health markers.  The takeaway is that infant mortality is rare homebirthing or birthing at a center, but occurs at a greater relative frequency than in hospitals.  There was also a higher risk of neonatal seizures, needs for infant ventilators and blood transfusion need for mothers in out of hospital births. Minor complications like tears were lower, however.

This analysis excluded all the actual high-risk to OBs women (breech, twins, etc.), and that’s a big flaw, because women with “weird” (breech) or genuinely high-risk conditions are a big chunk of the homebirthing pool (not the birth center pool, since they are excluded from nearly all American birth centers) and that is one of the reasons there is so much antipathy towards homebirthing (even though those women doing so is itself a response to obstetric mismanagement with hospital birthing).

The basic takeaway is that if you’re a low risk, healthy woman, homebirthing or using a birth center is not unreasonable and probably will be easier overall in terms of recovery, but yes, your baby is more likely to die if you birth away from high-tech emergency equipment.  By excluding the high-risk women who choose to homebirth, though, the discussion of how to improve obstetric management for those women remains left off the table.