The College Funnel and fertility hysteria on the American right.

The right does a tolerable job beefing about and critiquing the problems with left/liberal hysteria about “too much” fertility. But they conflate two issues into one and thus come out unsuccessful in their rhetorical quest to get married women to pop out more babies.

The fact is that American white fertility has been clustered around 2-4 children (with 5-6 the acceptable fringe due to Catholic and Mormon influences) since basically we had free black people and free white people (so, since 1870 or so). American black fertility has been more like 2-6 children until the 1970s, when they pretty much went to the same pattern as whites. There were also extended periods where both black and white women had 20% or so rates of no children.

So fixating on 1950s style fertility, with its unusually low rate of childlessness among the women of both races, is historically inaccurate. The excessive and vigorous rhetoric on even the mainstream right regarding family size is not very successful because it’s going up against long-standing American norms about family size being relatively small even when there wasn’t much or any modern birth control.

And it causes the right to make that conflation error I led with. They look at small family sizes through a 1950s, historically wrong lens, and declare, repeatedly, that college education is responsible, whether it’s simply attending at all (non-mainstream right) or liberal indoctrination while attending plus too many people attending (mainstream right).

Which brings us to the College Funnel. The College Funnel is the process by which married childbearing increasingly requires women to climb into the College Funnel and squeeze their way through to a degree. Some, quite a few, fall out at various points, but even that much makes getting married before the kids come a whole lot more likely.

With whites, the College Funnel has clearly increased births for women attending and especially completing college. But the births for white women without college attendance have plunged dramatically. With blacks, the College Funnel is at least partly another way to describe married black birth becoming the province of educated immigrants and/or mixed marriages (racially or ethnically, as in marrying a black immigrant) at higher and higher rates since the 1980s. What you have left over in both white and black cases is a small hard core of annual unwed births that combined were around 400k in 1970 and are now around 900k-1m annually since 1990. Sharp rise, then flattened out.

The College Funnel is fairly raceless, with more racial and ethnic intermarriage, which probably muddies the numbers some too.

So you have this problem where people of a certain level of brains are having the married kids and in the case of whites and Asians, it’s most of their kids on top. You have this different problem where people who might or might not have that level of brains, but don’t get into the College Funnel basically can’t have kids except in a handful of “wheeee feckless pride” areas, mostly urban. And the second problem is real, and worth discussing. But combining it with the college thing and declaring college renders anyone who stands next to one sterile is incorrect and not a solid way to get to solutions to let those second-problem people get to have children, much less children mostly in wedlock, again.

The numbers are from data in the National Center for Health Statistics Vital Statistics Reports’ various pdfs.

ETA 7/14/17: And right after I make this blog post, Ace of Spaces pushes a user comment to the top that is the very hysteria I was lamenting.

More college mom ruminations

This was some comments I made on Steve Sailer’s blog continuing to think about the college mom situation.

“In 1960 about 20% of first-time mothers were college attending or completing, which is striking given that less than 10% of women graduating high school were college attending then. You want to know why we have a college fixation, you might consider that aspect and that it was nearly 60 years ago. Currently a supermajority of first births are to college attending mothers, particularly white non-Hispanic ones. College since the postwar era was and is trade school with pretensions for men and marriage protection/guarantee for women and increasingly also trade school for them too.”

(in response to someone dusting off the “college women end up childless bitter spinsters” canard)
“Those college moms are rarely baby mamas and they send their sons to college. Christian colleges have a distinct lack of mattress girl or sjw type drama. Same for most colleges really. The system is working well for white college mothers since they have most of the white babies and have for decades now.”

(replying to a different someone dusting off the “college teaches nothing useful to anyone” canard)
“College is what women do to signal fitness for marriage and motherhood, among reasons that are obvious from data but go unmentioned. A system where women have to at least attempt college to be eligible for marriage and kids in that order is the one we have, even though it doesn’t work quite that strictly for men, which is one of the other reasons there’s a sex gap in admissions.

It also means the data showing lower income is misleading, since enough women taking 3-10 years out of the workforce or working very part time to have 2-4 kids would cause a pretty substantial drop without really devaluing the degree in the typically meant sense of the term.”

(same guy who also “wasn’t sure” it was true that the college mom plan was working outside the upper class)
“It’s more true than ever, most white babies are born to women with completed college and a supermajority are born to women who have attempted college and not completed a degree. The unwed motherhood for white women is concentrated among non-college attending women.

Attending and completing college, getting married and having kids in that order is not so much upper class (for whites) as the new norm among whites who have kids, plural. White single moms tend to have one child and no college coursework, while married white mothers are experiencing a relative increase in 3rd and higher children.

You can’t really get rid of the college bubble until you figure out how to change the incentive for the overwhelming majority of white mothers, for whom things are working fine and whose children will attend college, marry and have 2-4 kids same as they did. You can’t even throw the increase in unwed motherhood at them, since it’s concentrated in “Fishtown” and skews interracial anyway. And they don’t know those women in their social circles, except a smattering of…college educated ones with decent jobs or careers.”

College education and birth numbers, 2007-2015

The CDC has a birth database,, and it is pretty complete.  It’s where the numbers come from.

What I was talking about here  is a little more obvious once the percentages are there.  This is just for black and white non-Hispanic women, the groups you can go back to 1960 or earlier on.

Black women: 53% of births to women with high school completed or less, 47% of births to women with some college education, including completing bachelor’s and advanced degrees.  Nearly 4 million births for that timeframe.

White women: 32% of births to women with high school completed or less, 68% to women with college education.    Nearly 15 million births for them.

These numbers represent all births for this timeframe, first kid, second, fifth, whatever.

Now we look at the impact of education level on marital status for black women:


Race Education Level Percent Married at Birth Percent Unmarried at Birth
Black 8th grade or less 38.49% 61.51%
9-12 grade 9.63% 90.37%
Finished High School 18.30% 81.70%
Some college 27.68% 72.32%
AA degree 44.23% 55.77%
BA/BS 62.28% 37.72%
MA 76.47% 23.53%
PhD or Professional Degree (MD, JD, etc.) 86.00% 14.00%

Though not ideal, the impact of more education is evident, women with even a little college education represent a substantially lower number of out of wedlock births.

Here’s the impact for white women:

Race Education Level Percent Married at Birth Percent Unmarried at Birth
White 8th grade or less 67.41% 32.59%
9-12 grade 30.05% 69.95%
Finished High School 50.39% 49.61%
Some college 63.35% 36.65%
AA degree 79.10% 20.90%
BA/BS 92.69% 7.31%
MA 95.74% 4.26%
PhD or Professional Degree (MD, JD, etc.) 96.06% 3.94%

Amish births distort their 8th grade numbers in favor of marriage, but given the radically different structure of Amish society,  one could argue that this is a more education= more marriage situation too.  It is worth noting that the out of wedlock numbers for white women with BAs or more have remained in the single digits for decades now, despite the group itself being much larger a chunk of the mothers.

Having looked at basic out of wedlock differences by education we come to the question the natalist of any sort is most interested in: what percentage of BIRTHS do the higher-educated moms represent?

Let’s look at the numbers for black women first:

Race Education Level Percent of total married births Percent of total unmarried births
Black 8th grade or less 2.35% 1.48%
9-12 grade 6.04% 22.28%
Finished High School 21.68% 37.99%
Some college 26.26% 26.94%
AA degree 10.04% 4.97%
BA/BS 20.67% 4.92%
MA 10.38% 1.25%
PhD or Professional Degree (MD, JD, etc.) 2.57% 0.16%

And the kicker, percentage of total births:

Race Education Level Percent of all births
Black 8th grade or less 1.72%
9-12 grade 17.70%
Finished High School 33.39%
Some college 26.75%
AA degree 6.40%
BA/BS 9.36%
MA 3.83%
PhD or Professional Degree (MD, JD, etc.) 0.84%

As you can see, the ground gets pretty thin for black women with more education, but they still represent about 20% of total births at the AA+ level, and at that level a comfortable majority of births are in wedlock.  This means most of the 30% or so of black births born in wedlock these days are heavily drawn from that 20% group, despite their smaller separate percentages.  It also means that even including the “some college” group’s high OOW rate, black women have a majority of births in wedlock being born to college educated mothers.

But here’s something interesting with the data for white women:

Race Education Level Percent of total married births Percent of total unmarried births
White 8th grade or less 1.33% 1.54%
9-12 grade 3.41% 18.99%
Finished High School 16.11% 37.99%
Some college 19.53% 27.07%
AA degree 10.42% 6.60%
BA/BS 31.53% 5.96%
MA 13.94% 1.49%
PhD or Professional Degree (MD, JD, etc.) 3.74% 0.37%

If you look at unmarried birth percentages, you see that they are nearly identical in distribution to the black percentages.  They are in fact identical at the “Finished High School” level, with that being the largest chunk of unwed mothers for black women and white women.  What we also see is that for white women, there are MORE college educated mothers having OOW births as a percentage, while they have a smaller group of births in the “Grade 9-12 only” category.

That was surprising.

Here’s the total birth percentages for white women by education level:

Race Education Level Percent of all births
White 8th grade or less 1.39%
9-12 grade 8.00%
Finished High School 22.55%
Some college 21.75%
AA degree 9.30%
BA/BS 24.00%
MA 10.28%
PhD or Professional Degree (MD, JD, etc.) 2.75%


Just like with black women, you get a shrinking of percent from some college to AA and then a strong bump for the BA, but it’s much more significant here.  So even if you don’t care about test scores and all that jazz, the basic cognitive sort is blindingly obvious in both black and white women.  Black women who marry before kids are heavily college attending, and white women in general, but ESPECIALLY those who marry are heavily college attending.

Anyway this post is just putting the numbers up.  These births, as noted in the title, are recent and span nearly a decade and are all births, not just first births.  So these children are almost entirely under 10 years old and this represents some completed families and siblings.  This has interesting implications for the future.

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.


College has replaced the parish

This is more of a note than a fully hashed out idea, but I think there is something to the fact that the “tribe” of college-educated adults and especially college-educated parents is where what remains of functional parenting culture lies in America among American-born Americans.  It’s the college-educated who hook each other up with nanny shares, allowing them genuinely flexible childcare that pays a good wage to the nanny while none of them ever pay more than center-based daycare costs per family.  It’s the college educated who can still find college-educated young women willing to barter and be live-in childcare for a gap year or two.  Who make social events mixed-age, and welcoming to children and their parents.  There is a loyalty and support base there that even crosses political boundaries.  But of course, both parents have to be college-educated.

Thus, when the political rubber hits the road, conservatives are more loyal to their real tribe of college-educated types than their supposed tribe of conservatives, Christians or conservative Christians.  I’ve seen way too many non-Christian college educateds serve as enforcers of progressive stuff by assuring college educated Christians that so long as they agree with some progressive thing (obviously being frothy about how evil Trump is would be a recent example) they’re “sane, sensible Christians” and thus acceptably human and allowed to retain access to a fairly vast social network.

And why shouldn’t they scrabble for the attentions of fellow college-goers?  Completing a BA/BSc or more has a shared vocabulary and world of experiences that crosses the same kinds of political and ethnic lines that church or parish (sometimes) used to.  Being cut off from a complete culture with its own traditions and lore, and of course, support in real terms like showing up to watch your kids with ten minutes’ notice, it’s easy to see why Christians end up choosing to go along with tons of progressive cant to maintain those bonds and access to those resources.