Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Proud Vanguard of the Resurgent Patriarchy

I am a very traditional Catholic with four children being homeschooled by my stay-at-home wife, who is almost certainly more conservative and traditional than I am. Thus the title of this piece. Continuing my series of articles about demographics, I have another prediction about the future.

Modern progressive liberals are doomed. No, I mean that literally; modern progressive liberals are as doomed as the passenger pigeon, the dodo bird, or the Tasmanian wolf, with a key difference.

They are exterminating themselves.

I have been talking about what I believe to be a crisis in demographics for some time now. I was talking about the benefits of Patriarchy even earlier. As I pointed out in these earlier posts, I think the decline in fertility and the decline of Patriarchy are connected. Well, it turns out I am in good company.

The collapse of births in Europe is still accelerating with 17 European nations burying more people per year than are born (called ‘more coffins than cradles’). Russia alone lost 1.5 million people in a five year span, while maintaining an average of about 2 million abortions per year; thus Russia’s chillingly low TFR of 1.23. The overall European TFR is only about 1.5. In 1985 the overall global TFR was about 4.2. By 1995 the global TFR had dropped to 2.9. Today the global TFR is estimated to be 2.6 (and this may be high). This means that in a single generation (well, 30 years) the average family size for the entire earth dropped from a bit more than 4 children to well less than three children. If a similar transition occurs in another generation, by 2040 the global TFR could hit 1.0. Globally, 40% of the world’s nations are below replacement fertility rates.

When the overall European TFR fell below replacement all that was needed to stabilize the population was a return to a replacement TFR of about 2.15. But that was too long ago. A large proportion of the European population is older and now the number of women of child-bearing age is smaller. Combined with the acceleration in mortality as the elderly population dies off, this means that the TFR needed just to keep the European population where it is right now is 4.0. Based upon population and lifestyle trends, this is very unlikely to happen. As time goes on, the replacement TFR will get higher until, if current trends continue, the European TFR will be about 6.0 perhaps as soon as 2025.

As the population collapses, so will the European economy. An national economy requires workers. The fact that nations provide benefits to non-workers (mainly children and the retired) means that the non-workers need the products of a certain number of active workers for their own support; this is called the ‘dependency ratio’. In 2000 the average European support ratio was 4:1, or about 4 workers for every retiree. In 2050 it will be about 1.5:1. Since Europeans are having so few children, this means the majority of the dependency will be generated by the rapidly growing population of retirees. This is completely unsustainable.

The results of this reduction in the dependency ratio will be less and less money for European social programs such as pensions, universal health care, and education as well as basic spending such as defense and infrastructure. Europenas will be forced to reduce costs and even scrap entire programs. There is some argument that the current growing acceptance of euthanasia in Europe is based on a realization that Europeans may soon no longer be able to afford the elderly. In other words, the failure of the present generation to have children may mean that future generations will euthanize them as ‘too expensive’. Scary thought.

America is a relative ‘bright spot’. With a TFR of about 2.08 and strong immigration (only counting the legal kind) America has an annual population growth rate of about 0.9%, meaning that births in excess of deaths combined with legal immigration add about 800,000 Americans per year at this time. Already the third most populous nation on earth, the U.S. could grow to over 400 million people by 2050.

But fertility rates are not homogeneous; they vary within a population, sometimes greatly. In America, for example, Hispanic women have the highest TFR at about 3 with White women at about 1.85. And the fertility rate of White Americans increased from a mid-‘70’s low of about 1.2. It should be no surprise to learn that religious families have more children than secular families. But the contrasts go deeper; traditional Catholics have more children than even evangelical Protestants. The highest fertility rates in America are among Hasidic Jews, Hutterites, the Amish, Mennonites, and “Latin Mass” Catholics where they approach 4.6!

Urbanization is seen as a major cause of reductions in fertility, but urbanization does not seem to affect Hasidim or traditional Catholics; the majority of both groups are urban-dwellers, yet they have the same high TFRs as the almost exclusively rural Hutterites, Amish, and Mennonites. Although this might imply that rural Hasidim and traditional Catholics might have TFRs approaching 6.0.

Another element that reduces fertility may be a surprise: public schooling. Demographer John Caldwell noted that the spread of government-mandated public schooling was accompanied by a decrease in fertility. In some cases, this could be tracked county by county. His research shows that each additional month added to the public school year reduces the TFR of children who attend by .23. As one reviewr put it, Caldwell demonstrates that public schools “eat children”.

It should be no surprise that homeschoolers have higher fertility, regardless of their level of religious belief or particular creed. A survey of homseschoolers found striking differences; 62% of American homeschoolers have 3 children as opposed to less than 11% in the general population. And the real difference is in large families; in the general population only 5% of American families have four or more children, while 33.5% of homeschoolers have four or more children. This means that in a nation where the average number of children in 2, over 95% of homeschoolers have 3 or more kids. That is a radical difference, and if Caldwell is right the children raised by homeschoolers will be more fertile than their parents.

To extrapolate a little (i.e., guess), this could indicate that ‘Latin Mass’ Catholic homeschoolers may have a TFR of about 6.o right now. Since I am, effectively, a ‘Latin Mass’ homeschooler who knows a lot of fellow ‘Latin Mass’ homeschoolers, my guess is based on experience.

But where is this taking us? Well, we can assume that global TFRs will continue to decline. Also, we can assume secular urban liberal families that attended public school will continue to have the lowest and most sharply declining TFRs. It is estimated that the “basement”, or lowest possible, TFR is .72, which means that about 70 percent of women have one child while about 30 percent are permanently childless. While this may sound absurdly low, TFRs of .77 have been seen in eastern Germany and a province of Italy. The TFR of Hong Kong is only .89. I believe that TFRs below 1.5 will be seen in the large cities of the American east and west coasts (“blue states” have lower fertility than “red states”) and San Francisco may dip below 1.0. Europe may well free-fall into TFRs below .90

While this occurs the religious communities of the West will increase their TFRs, mainly because of an increase in per capita GDP associated with the initial stages of population decline. Combined with the increased fertility of adults who were homeschooled, the result will be a surge in religious conservatives throughout the West, especially in America. They will largely embrace tradition concepts of family, work, and government and will likely be more conservative than their parents. The population implosion will cause large economic disruptions, movements of people, and changes in government. But the largest effect will probably be a continued increase in TFRs as more and more people realize that children are inherently valuable.

I am far from alone in making these predictions. Phillip Longman wrote an article about these very ideas called “The Return of the Patriarchy” where he argues that the ‘birth dearth’ will shatter liberal welfare systems, eliminate Liberals through sheer childlessness, and result in a return to traditional concepts such as the nuclear family, rejection of illegitimacy, the father as head of the family, and large families as a symbol of success. In other words, the resurgence of Patriarchy. This idea is supported by other facts, such as the best predictor of whether a county voted for Bush or Kerry in 2004 was the TFR of Whites in that county and the overall higher TFR of red states over blue states.

While some protest that Longman and his fellow demographers, social scientists, and pundits are wrong, the evidence seems to refute them. The radical liberalism of the Baby Boomers was based on mass actions of a large number of liberal youth. In the next generations, those liberal youth will have never been born. The staunch feminists of the Second Wave and the Radical movement aren’t having enough children to even replace themselves, let alone grow. These protestors also miss a key point; Longman is a progressive, not a conservative. He views his predictions with dread, but feels compelled to reach the conclusions he does. In fact, many of the scientist predicting a population crash followed by a resurgence of traditionalist religious types share Longman’s dislike of their own results, but find they can reach no others.

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