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.

About 55% of American women 40 and over have 1 or 2 children.

Given biology, this percentage is much the same for American women 35-39 as well.  About 20% have exactly three and a bit under 8% have exactly 4.  Hispanic women have three at noticeably higher rates than other ethnic groups, which has kept the percentage of women having 3 pretty stable over the last couple of decades.

The numbers were a little lower 15 and 20 years ago, but not by much.

Adding all that up, over 80% of women have 1-4 children in their lifetimes.  Nearly all the rest do not have kids at all. About 3% have five or six.  More than six is, statistically speaking, a rounding error.

Sometimes you hear that “80 or 85% of all women reproduce”.  Well, yeah, but in practice, this is what that means as far as actual children born.

On a related note, Scandinavian birthrates are mostly below replacement and they are only as close to it as they are because of social and government pressure to get women over 35 to have a marginal extra child.  The Scandinavian model of family formation is to have one child in your early 30s, and occasionally a second in your mid or late 30s.  It’s really a disastrous approach long-term for reasons I’ll leave as an exercise.

The American model is much more diverse, but tends towards closely spacing births and having as many as you can handle mostly alone, which appears to max out around 3 or 4.  But because child spacing varies so much among Americans having kids, it’s difficult for people who had three kids five years apart over two marriages to understand the travails of someone having three kids in three years in one marriage.  Or having one kid out of wedlock in one’s early 20s and then two more in marriage ten years later.

It’s interesting that for several decades now women have been starting their families in their 30s in America more and more often and trying to have as many as they can then, but they can’t outrun biology, so the overall TFR doesn’t shift much.

 

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.

Why the right wing should thank party girl reverts today

They’re the ones having more than two kids, more often.  Many of them are the women starting their baby-having in their 30s.  Late marriage ages have not completely crashed birth rates because married party girl reverts are willing to have a third or fourth child despite starting in their 30s. And the ones who had a couple of kids in their 20s are having a few more in their late 30s once they have teenagers to help them out.  They aren’t “red pill women” though, since nearly all of those mysteriously stop at two kids, if they have any.  They aren’t the divorcers, they aren’t the childless careerists.  They’re the ones rearing the next generation with great difficulty while childless conservative men sit around flapping their hands about reduced birth rates in America among the “right” people.

Brought to you courtesy of the world of vital statistics microdata.  It’s a sick day at our house and this curiosity in the data charmed me.

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.