Why do we have fewer kids today, even though we are rich? In ancient societies, richer folks usually had more kids than poorer folks. Important clues should be found in the first place where fertility fell lots, France from 1750 to 1850. The fall in fertility seems unrelated to contraception and the fall in infant mortality. England at the time was richer, less agrarian and more urban, yet its fertility didn’t decline until a century later. The French were mostly rural, their farming was primitive, and they had high food prices.
This post reminded of an old Karl Smith post about the choices poor people have and make:
Note that the modern critique of the Iron Law of Wages ignores that the ground truth of the so-called “demographic transition” is nothing more than replacement of the earlier developing populations by the later developing populations. This is because — in the context of the open borders/global labor arbitrage theocracy combined with birth control technology — the definition of “subsistence wages” no longer includes the high cost of child rearing in more developed nations. The demographic collapse of earlier developing populations is not having the upward pressure on wages among those populations that modern economists predict.
Modern economic theory is genocide.
It’s really basic economics:
The iron law of wages states that in a labor market wages will fall to the cost of labor’s subsistence. The problem is that the definition of “subsistence” has changed due to the advent of birth control and feminism. “Subsistence” used to, by implication, include reproduction — so you labor costs simply could not decrease below what it cost to obtain a fertile female and keep her happy with her circumstances. With feminism and birth control, the demand for fertile women has gone up — not as reproducers, but as employees. This at the same time land prices, hence home prices, have gone through the roof. This guts a fundamental factor of human happiness for all but those rich enough, or sexist enough (say, Islamics, Orthodox Jews, Mexicans, Hindus and some evangelicals) to be able to afford to keep a woman at home and raise the children.
The iron law of wages is now destroying the population.
Oh, and don’t give me this “demographic transition” garbage. The population of the US has not decreased, nor that of any of the other countries supposedly undergoing the “demographic transition”. The “demographic transition” is nothing but the replacement of some population by others — red in tooth and claw.
Female education and economic development are like antibiotics against human reproduction. But the fact that you’re successfully committing genocide against a huge portion of humanity blinds you to the fact that you’re also selecting for strains of humanity that will find ways of more efficiently turning wealth into an exponential growth of their babies. That optimum appears to involve lowering the age of female puberty and increasing the rate of de facto transfer payments to support their offspring. The idea that “property rights” are the answer must take into account the political dynamics of the recent election as a warning: Liberal democracy has a _strong_ tendency to serve the most reproductive.
A female that pumps out 1 child a year from age 8 until age 38 has a 30 to 1 gain over those 38 years. That means an effective doubling time of under 4 years. Many of us may live to see this new breed of “human” become a dominant demography.
The “demographic transition” fantasy is like the fantasy that we can over-use antibiotics without developing resistant strains of highly virulent bacteria.
Greg Clark reports an extremely low English illegitimacy rate in "A Farewell to Alms".
Surely Balzac had something to say about this somewhere.
"But the problem with your hypothesis about women is that men don't care about stuff like a woman's education, or job*. We care about "hotness."
Have you ever had a multi-year relationship with a woman? There are a lot of things besides "hotness" that start to count after a while, even as far as back as the Roman Empire the women of the elite were educated so as not to bore their future husbands.
"High status folks focused their resources on fewer kids, and your kids had a big chance to grow up high status too if only you would also focus your energies on a few of them."
Yes, but this is no secret: people from third world countries will sometimes flat out say they have a lot of children to make sure there'd be someone to look after them in old age. With inceased income equality and social mobility fewer children are needed to look after two parents. I've also heard third world women say they'd rather have gotten less children but their husbands forced them to have lots for religious reasons.
So the reasons for lower fertility are this:
1) less children needed for old-age security (this factor is increased by the existence of pension systems)
2) loosening up/disappearing of religious pressures to "go forth and multiply" and religious rules against the use of contraception (Iran is a good example)
3) the availibity and low price of contraception
4) the emancipation of women: if you put off having your first child you reduce the maximum number of children you can have in your lifetime, the same happens when people are no longer forced to marry when they're young (they spend years looking for a suitable partner)
5) the increased technological level of society necessitates more time to be spent receiving education, during which it is not practical to have children (for social and financial reasons)
6) changing legislation regarding slave women, concubines, inheritance, divorce, alimony, DNA testing, etc... that make it much harder to just deny the existence of unwanted children
7) probably minor factors, but still, pollution reducing sperm count and gay people being not being forced into heterosexual marriage anymore (though some gay couples use medical science to have a child and adoption by gay couples may decrease infant mortality in society, perhaps even negating their lower fertility), finally I know some people explicitly have less children because they worry about overpopulation and environmental damage, a worry that didn't use to exist when science was in its infancy and most people couldn't read
I simply don't understand what this paper is trying to say, despite Robin's summary. The last line here says the landholding pattern is crucial, but the excerpt doesn't say which kind of landholding goes with low fertility or why. The same with correlation of wealth across generations, which way does it send fertility and why?
"It seems to me this roughly fits with the fertility hypothesis I put forward."
But the problem with your hypothesis about women is that men don't care about stuff like a woman's education, or job*. We care about "hotness." And that trait peaks in the High School/College years. So that's when women should try to lock down a mate. The Mormons are right.
*Unless a woman makes more money, then we care about her job and don't give the relationship our all, because it's embarrassing, as a man, to be out-earned by your mate.
Two factors strike me as highly important that don't seem covered in the paper:
1) Primogeniture vs. equal inheritance. If only the oldest son inherits the bulk of the property than the legacy of the house can be preserved even with a lot of children. In contrast if legal or social rules promote fairly dividing the inheritance than high fertility will quickly ruin a house.
2) Rights of illegitimate children: Fathering bastards seems like a common way that rich and high status men in medieval Europe achieved high fertility rates. As women gain social status the cost of bastards is higher.