The black teen pregnancy rate dropped nearly 50% in 5 years.

In 2010 it was just over 15% of all (non-Hispanic) black births. By 2015, the most recent complete data available, it was 8.6%.

There are several reasons this could be the case. It could be people leaving high-crime urban areas, which are where the bulk of black teen pregnancy is concentrated. It could be part of the increase in older, more educated foreign-born and second-generation non-Hispanic black immigrant mothers making up a bigger share of black births. It could be both, or some other factors. It’s not an increase in abortions, though.

For perspective, here’s a chart with rough estimates since 1970 and percent changes.

% teen pregnancy % change
1970 31 N/A
1975 33 2
1980 26.5 -6.5
1985 23 -3
1990 23 0
1995 23 0
2000 21.5 -1.5
2005 17 -4.5
2010 15.2 -1.8
2015 8.6 -6.6

The 1970s were pretty bad, as were the 1980s, but the last decade has seen a significant and major turnaround in teen pregnancy.  Teen pregnancy for black Americans specifically is particularly “bad” because it’s skewed unmarried for much longer than was the case with white teen pregnancies, starting with under 15 pregnancies being mostly unmarried ones in the 1950s when that wasn’t the case with white pregnancies under 15.  In 1966, not long after the famous Moynihan Report, black teen pregnancies to mothers aged 15-19 crossed 50% unmarried.

Through the 1960s and 1970s, teen pregnancy became completely decoupled from marriage for black teen mothers and heavily decoupled for black mothers in their early 20s, culminating in 1978.  Five years after Roe V. Wade, black births to mothers in their early 20s were now majority unwed and teen births were 80-97% unwed, depending on age.  However, teen births were only about 25% of total births, during the 1960s.  The table shows how things shifted after the collapse in married black motherhood during the 1970s and 1980s.

All birth data used for rough percentages comes from Monthly Vital Statistics Reports or National Vital Statistics Reports.

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.”

Large families when you can’t run away

In America today there is a paradox of choice regarding large families that is as far as I can tell totally ignored by people who have or defend large families.  My experiences with large families (double-digit) are that I’m only one generation removed from women who couldn’t escape that size of family.  It wasn’t just one option they were taking and could drop at any time.  Yes, even extended abstinence is a major privilege that many of those women would have been pretty cheerful about having access to.

They had to agree to what he wanted when he wanted it, no matter if they were just a few weeks postpartum or had had a hard delivery and needed more recovery time. Formula being easy, cheap and reliable to use wasn’t the case and some of the double-digit kids didn’t make it on the various alternatives available.  This informs a huge amount of my views on birth control.  I don’t think birth control is something women should feel pressured into doing either for related and religious reasons, but let’s just be real and note that the medium-term consequence of that is fewer children you can handle if you do have a resource shortage in your household.

I just have to shake my head at women who have the totally free and unfettered choice to have zillions of kids acting like women abandoned that in droves in the last 50 years out of (@($*@#@(!@ “selfishness” or “hard hearts” or whatever self-righteous word of the month gets tossed out there.  Being able to feed, clothe, house and provide for the medical needs of ten or fifteen children with relative ease and comfort no matter what your income level is should be acknowledged as the astonishing modern consumption good that it is.

Now certainly some of these women would argue with me on the ease point, but you know what, if you can welcome pregnancy after pregnancy with zero concern that the other children or the one(s) you’re carrying will be stunted or die from lack of food or medical care when sick or have to be shipped off to sometimes pretty distant relatives because you can’t feed them all once the next one appears, that’s relative ease of provision.  This is not what the women I am speaking of could count on.  I am talking about deaths under age 5 all the way into the 1960s, in America.

It was really bad in the richest country in the world before mass-economy made food and clothes so cheap.  And anyway that’s where I’m coming from regarding large family rhetoric among conservative Christians.  It didn’t matter whether you had joy in your heart or not, you were facing another pregnancy anywhere from a few days to several months after that delivery until your 30s, and sometimes into your 40s.  A lot of those women knew however dimly about the sterilizations performed on many of them without their consent after World War I and many weren’t mad about it because it meant a break from the treadmill of fertility.  They weren’t as stupid as people think and had some idea what was going on.

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.

TFR, or Total fertility rate is not the last word on fertility

Even though it’s a statistic you can find in many spots on the internet, like the CIA factbook and Wikipedia, TFR or Total fertility rate (the total children a woman is expected to have in her lifetime, across an entire nation, ethnic group, or religious group, etc.) is a misleading portrait of the drop in childbearing over the decades.

Take two countries with a TFR of 1.5, which is very low, below the “replacement rate” of 2.1.  This would be 15 children expected per 10 women in their lifetimes.

Country A gets to a TFR of 1.5 this way with ten women: 5, 5, 3, 1, 1, 0,0,0,0,0.

Country B gets to a TFR of 1.5 this way: 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 1, 0, 0.

One country has a robustly fertile subculture leading to 20% of the women bearing 67% of the children and half of the women remaining childless for life.  The other country has most women having kids, but nobody has a large family.

When everyone has one or two kids, this is child-friendly in a very limited sense of the term.  Everything is set up around the expectation that women will be mothers, but not too much and not for too long.  It is a Nordic model and in fact they do look more like country B.

When a few people have most of the kids, things are more complicated and uncertain as to future fertility trends.  Because the choice to mother in country A is so much more stark and binary, there’s less child-friendliness in terms of maternity leave or whatever, but the women who will have kids will “harden” and just have them anyway…up to a point.

While living in a world with easy birth control is very new in human history, purposely limiting the number of children for any number of reasons is not.  By the way, America looks more like Country A.

Low TFR is a data point, but how groups get there is also relevant to understanding what a robust natalism would look like.

Dear conservatives, women are not having large families except on the internet per their (fictional?) husbands.

 

Because I am a data fan, I looked into the census data on fertility, especially for white non-Hispanic women, who make up most of your typical pool of conservatives in America.  And what I found is that the data supports my contention that women are simply not having more than four children and most are not having more than three, and this includes women in their 40s, who can be classified as biologically “done” whether they sped the process along with medical interventions or not.  This would include the overwhelming majority of conservative women too.

Either conservative men need to admit how utterly tiny the group is that they are classifying as “conservative” or “traditional” and that this group is simply too small to outbreed anyone via natural increase (the daughters are not replicating their mothers’ fecundity, according to the data as the cohorts move through time) or they need to shut up about how it’s not hard to have seven or ten kids, they know lots of women who do.  It’s called clustering.  It isn’t surprising if all the people with nine kids hang out together at Latin mass or Particular Baptist churches, but statistically speaking, they can’t be doing so at very many such places because there just aren’t enough of them to represent like that.

As of 2014, about 1%, or one women in a hundred is having five or more children, among the white non-Hispanic women aged 15-44.  Among the women who could still pop out a surprise baby or two (women in their 30s and early 40s), the percentage is three women per hundred.  There is nothing wrong with having three or four instead of the mass media-advocated “perfect two”, but out in conservative media, a distinct effort is being made to promote families of 7 kids or more as both normal and common and only marginally more difficult/expensive to raise than smaller families.  There is an assist from conservative men online with mysteriously high amounts of free time and mysteriously high levels of unemployment and underemployment chatting at great length about how easy it is for their wives.

The percentages I’m talking about have remained under five percent for over twenty years now.  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.  And those numbers are for all races of women, the white non-Hispanic numbers were slightly lower at every stage, with the current numbers for all races being about 2% having five or more children.

Babies are great, kids are great, but the function of female humanity is not solely to reproduce until menopause and even if it was, they sure aren’t supposed to do it alone in a tract house in a faceless suburban housing development with no way to get to anything except by car.

One of the biggest pieces of a practical Benedict Option would be some honesty from conservatives, male and female alike, about where exactly people are with the kid-having and why they have given up on large families despite most of the people having kids being people who greatly desire and want children.

ETA 8/10/15: I found an example of the conservative online deceptiveness with the note at the end of this sadly funny post about how silly women are for not having zillions of children with some unemployed Latin Mass LARPer.  I’ll paste the note below if you don’t want to slog through the linked post:

US Census shows 42% of women of childbearing age currently have no children. 22% have two, 17% one, 12% three, and 7% four or more. That means only 1/5 of women today have yet to dodge the ignominy of the Darwin Award. Interestingly, nearly all of the traditional women I know (who eschew divorce, natch) are in that final 7%. Having won the genetic lottery, why go feral? Domesticated animals rarely leave the warm farm if the farmer is feeding and breeding them well.

Setting aside the wonderful way this conservative man refers to Christian wives and mothers, what this guy is doing is combining data that is separated out by the Census.  I combined the data for women having more than five children because the category “7+” is measured in fractions of a percent for nearly all age groups and ethnic groups among women.  And having five or six are combined by the Census people to get that data consistently over 1% for most ages and ethnic groups of women.  The guy, by flinging around “seven percent of women have more than four kids in their lifetimes”, is combining categories in a way designed to over report how frequently women have larger numbers of children.  Four is only being included because without that group, the real math is the following:

All women, 5 or 6 children: 1.6%

All women, 7 or more children: 3/10% (three tenths of a percent).  This of course rounds up to the 2% of all women I am using.

Five percent of all women having exactly four children is very different than what this guy is trying to imply.  It also means that plenty of “traditional” wives and mothers are faithful and behave normally without having large numbers of children.  Not quite what this guy was going for, but the reality on the ground.  Women who are committed to Christ first honor their duties and obligations regardless of whether they have any children, three, five or fifteen.