Monday, December 18, 2006

A Short Note - Update

Deep Thought and the Airborne Philosophy Squad (Aristotlean) are in the process of moving. Not to a new house, like last time, but to a new location. That’s right, I bit the bullet and got my own domain and am switching to Word Press!

Quo Vadis?

As the comments for my recent post on political and religious socialization show, many people are still convinced that they world is becoming a secular one. I have received emails echoing the conventional wisdom that religion is on the way out and that non-believers are destined to rule. Even amongst many researchers and pundits who see the future as one that will be increasingly Christian, they focus on the Southern hemisphere and the growing trend of southern Muslims converting to Christianity. They almost to a man ‘write off’ Europe as being, eventually, all secular, all the time.

A few people, though, don’t agree, mainly some demographers and sociologists that are specifically watching trends in religion in Europe. As I have mentioned before and will again, religious women have more children, overall, than secular women. Again, the more devout a particular woman is, the fertility continues to increase. I will also repeat that children of religious people (especially religious mothers) are quite likely to be religious themselves. In the end, the argument over whether Future Europe will be religious or secular boils down to two questions: first, are religious women having more children in great enough numbers to be meaningful in the near-term (in this case, 100 years); and, will enough of these children of the religious stay religious?

Let me introduce you to Eric Kaufmann, a professor with Birkbeck University of London. Mr. Kaufmann is a demographer researching, among other things, religion in Europe. While everyone from me to Mark Steyn seems to be pointing out that religious women are certainly having enough children to overcome the moribund fertility of the secular, Mr. Kaufman is focusing on the second question by researching the combined effects of fertility and apostasy on future generations in Europe. His results are very interesting. While he does agree with the conventional wisdom that Europe is still becoming more secular, he points out that this is a trend that will end. By about 2035 Europe will be as secular as it will ever be, at about 55% non-religious (this is also, I would like to point out, almost exactly when world population will peak). After that, the secular population will begin to literally die off, leaving the religious. In the end, Mr. Kaufmann predicts, the Europe of 2100 will have a population more religious than the Europe of 2000. He points out that it will be a much more socially and politically Conservative continent, as well.

Just to recap; demographers predict that the Southern Hemisphere will continue to become more religious. Current research shows that Europe will become more secular for 30 or so more years, then rapidly reverse and end up more religious than they are now.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Kids Today, with their Music and their Haircuts!

During my discussions of fertility, birth rates, population decline, and the future, I have been fairly direct in my conclusions – the future population of the Earth will be smaller and more religious. I have had a surprising number of people counter that religious and political beliefs are not a matter of parentage, but of ideology. As one person stated ‘just because your parents are religious and Conservative doesn’t mean you will be’. Granted, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that some people from religious homes grow up to be atheists. And some people raised atheists become religious.

Statistically, however, the children of parents with ‘identifiable beliefs’ (i.e., they have an opinion on politics or religion strong enough to express it) are most likely to share their parents’ beliefs when they reach adulthood. The development of your political and religious outlook, called political socialization and religious socialization respectively, has been studied, especially in the last 25 years or so, and shows that most adults reflect the religious and political attitudes of their parents. The various ‘socialization factors’ that lead to our ideological development include family, school, peer groups, major events, workplace, marriage, etc. By far the most critical factor is the family, especially since the vast majority of political and religious beliefs are developed in childhood. Even the second most influential element, school, pales in comparison, even when attempts are made to directly influence political outlook with concerted school efforts. Indeed, researchers are coming to suspect that the main influence of school is as an environment where children learn the skills needed to promote and defend the beliefs developed at home. Thus, while major changes in life (leaving home for college, entering the military, marriage and parenthood) can cause something called ‘resocialization’, or seemingly-dramatic changes is behavior and outlook, the large majority of adults mirror the political and religious beliefs of their parents. Research also indicates that, for children of Conservatives or Liberals, the majority of those who do not mirror family beliefs become moderates, not members of the opposite extreme.

There is some evidence that Liberals/Mainline Religious families have lower rates of positive socialization (i.e., their kids are more likely to not be Liberals than Conservative children are to not be Conservatives). This seems to be especially true of Mainline Religious families who may have Liberal children, but those children are less likely to be religious. The biggest problem for Mainline Protestants and religious socialization is that Mainline Protestants are usually intermittent church-goers, and thus their children are less likely to be religious.

In brief: Liberals are likely to have Liberals kids and Conservatives are likely to have Conservative kids, but a higher percentage of Conservatives’ kids are like their parents. Devout parents tend to have devout kids, but lukewarm parents tend to have unchurched kids. Got it? OK.

Let us draw some conclusions. Given identical populations and birthrates, over time there would be a tendency of a group to slowly become more Conservative, since Conservatives have a slightly higher positive political socialization. Concurrently the level of religious participation would tend to sort out into devout and unchurched with fewer and fewer ‘sometimes’ attendees.

This leads to the second argument that I tend to hear: ‘If socialization patterns favor Conservatism’, I am asked, ‘why the dominance of Liberal ideas in the 20th Century?’ The answer to this lies in another element of political socialization – major political events. Let’s skip the potentially-huge discussion of if the Democrats were really Liberal (as we currently use the term) pre-WWII and focus on a few events [This also allows me to skip the discussion of ethnic alignment with political party and its decline, etc.]. The first is the Great Depression. This led to a slight preference towards Democrats because of their support of social welfare programs. This tendency was reversing itself when the next political event came along, Vietnam. Opposition to the draft led many young adults to become Liberals. In both cases, major events led to a slight increase in political socialization towards the Left.

However, even with these major events, and supporting events like Watergate, there was never a dominance of either Democratic Party or Liberal/Leftist influence in America. The nation leaned Right from 1900 to 1930 and even with the landslide Democratic victories in 1930 and 1932 a coalition of Conservative Democrats allied with Republicans regained dominance of both houses of Congress by 1937 and maintained that dominance for almost 40 years. Even the post-Watergate presidential election of 1976 was amazingly close, with less than a 2% difference in the winners. Ronald Reagan’s historic landslides and the Republican Revolution of the ‘90’sshow that even when baby-boomers were in their most politically-active phase that Conservatism was very strong in America, as it remains today.

To put it another way, there was no dominance of Liberal ideas in the 20th Century. In my opinion, the late 19th and early- to mid- 20th Centuries are remarkable for the (relatively limited) levels of success Liberal/Left ideas actually enjoyed.

Besides, the growth of Socialism, Communism, major wars, and political scandals and their cumulative bolstering of the Left all pale in comparison to the effects of demographic shift in the last 40 years.

The facts are clear – Liberals have fewer children than Conservatives. Much more directly, the devoutly religious have many more children than the non-religious, and the impact of religiosity on fertility seems to be growing over time. A study out of Australia illustrates how the impact of this cannot be understated. The study tracked a group of women from age 30 to age 40. It found that 22% were childless, 16% had one child, 35% had two children, 20% had three children, and 7% had more than three children. This means that 27% of the women accounted for more than 50% of the children. When the demographic, economic, and social factors were examined, the researchers found some interesting facts; women who had not cohabitated before marriage were more than 2.5 times more likely to have 3 or more children than women who had; women who had not planned their first child were over 1.5 times as likely to have 3 or more children than women who planned their first child; Catholic women were over 1.5 times more likely to have 3 or more children than non-Catholics. Toss in that starting young and having more than one child before being 28 also increased the chances of a woman have more than 3 kids, and you see a clear pattern - Catholic women who marry young and start having children early are having much more impact on the future than their own numbers indicate.

Using the generic “80% of children share their parents’ political and religious affiliation” (instead of the ‘97% of the children of very devout homeschooling Conservatives share their parents’ values’) that means that about 40% of the next generation will behave in a similar fashion, representing a 50% growth in relative numbers in a single generation. With Australia’s TFR of about 1.6 these political and social impacts will come faster than they will in America with its higher TFR and immigration, but those changes will be reflected in every nation with a negative TFR.

In the end, I stand by my position, which is: the demographic shift we are currently experiencing will lead to population that is increasingly religious and Conservative.

Weblog Awards, Again

Hello, and good day. The voting for the Weblog Awards is going to end on the 15th of this month, so I encourage you all to go and vote. As someone who routinely reads American Princess and likes most of the blogs I am up against, I can only say (like Holy Mama) – despite the excellent competition, why do I want to know how badly I am doing? Oh, and thanks to Where I Stand for the nod. I think.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Japan and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Life

In June of this year Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare released their findings on total fertility rate for 2005, a number that has not been revised since. The confirmed TFR for 2005 was 1.25. This is lower than the previous year (1.29 in 2004) and quite lower than had been predicted in 2000 (in 2000 the prediction was that in 2005 Japan’s TFR would be about 1.4, as can be seen in the World Factbook). As I have discussed before, TFR’s throughout the world are dropping faster than predicted, even predictions from just a few years ago. The result is that Japan’s population began dropping last year, two years before demographers had thought possible – and their predictions were made in 2000.

How surprising is this change? As recently as 2002 the Japanese National Institute of Population and Social Security Research announced that the lowest possible TFR in Japan was 1.3 (which would be reached in 2007) and that the TFR would rebound to 1.39 by 2035 and remain stable there indefinitely. This theory is now, obviously, discarded.

Attempts by the Japanese government to increase the rate of childbirth have all failed, although they continue to introduce new plans. These economic incentives, ranging from cash payments to parents, more day-care centers open longer, more parental leave, legal certainty that a mother would get her job back, etc., all failed. Indeed, as I mentioned above, the TFR fell faster than predicted after these programs were put in place. The programs also included steps to ‘increase awareness of the importance and value of children’; during the last fifteen years child abuse, sometime horrific, has steadily risen in Japan. Whether this is an actual increase or just better reporting is immaterial – in either case, a nation with fewer and fewer children continues to struggle with abuse in the face of both how few children there are and when government programs spend millions to promote their value.

Other stats look just as bad for Japan’s future. As the population declines the number of households is increasing. In a country with so few children, this means more and more Japanese of all ages are living alone. The declining number of workers and the allure of Chinese markets, which is draining some of Japan’s entrepreneurs, have caused a shortage of workers in Japan; yet in 2004 unemployment was the highest it has ever been since records were kept. Unemployment figures in Japan only account for people looking for work (stay-at-home mothers, for example, are not counted as unemployed), so this record level of unemployment masks the phenomenon of Hikikomori.

Hikikomori (which translates to “pulling away”) are young people from the ages of about 15 to as old as 30 who simply never leave their parents’ home and, almost always, rarely leave their own room. The usually eat alone in their rooms, rarely speak to even their parents, and the majority seem to only leave their rooms at night, when everyone else is asleep. This behavior is so common that the Ministry of Health limits the term ‘hikikomori’ to people who exhibit such behavior for more than six months. In some cases, hikikomori have not left their rooms for 15 years or more. While female hikikomori are underreported (Japanese culture tends to spotlight male behavior) there is some evidence that hikikomori are abour 60%/40% male/female. Estimates for total numbers are tough, due to a social stigma that causes many parents to simply not mention that their child is a voluntary shut-it. The best guess, though, seems to be that about 1 million young Japanese are hikikomori. This is equal to about 1.5% of all Japanese of working age, or about 5% of all Japanese between 15 and 35.

There has been discussion about suicide in Japan for decades, but it is getting worse. The overall rate is more than three and a half times the rate of the United States (which has a high rate, itself) and suicide is the leading cause of death for Japanese between the ages of 25 and 39. Since 1998 at least 30,000 Japanese have committed suicide every year; that’s almost one suicide every 15 minutes, all day, every day. Suicide rates are increasing across the board, including suicides among elementary school-aged children and murder-suicides where a parent kills their own child before committing suicide. Now people even join internet ‘suicide clubs’ where they can learn how to commit suicide and work with others on their plans. As a result, group suicides are a growing trend in Japan.

Another growing trend in Japan is the sexless marriage. This is common enough that it even has a slang term; ‘Narita ED’. Narita ED seems to cover all age groups equally, indicating that it is related to culture, not age, In a survey of Japanese married couples of all ages it was found that about 1/3 were chaste with another ¼ having sex less than 5 times a year. More and more single Japanese are both declining intercourse and marriage, fearing a ‘disruption’ to their lives. This has led to the average age at marriage being 27.8 years (women) and 29.6 years (men) with the average woman giving birth to her first (and increasingly only) child at 28.9 years of age. It also means that the average number of marriages per 1,000 people is down to 5.7, an all-time low.

So what the heck is going on? Most researchers point to the flat Japanese economy and intone that ‘the long-stagnant Japanese economy is driving people to despair’. I say this is bunk. The Japanese economy began rebounding in 2003 and showed very strong growth through the middle of 2005 – hindered by a lack of skilled workers! As the Japanese economy rebounds unemployment is dropping (although slower than anticipated). If one of the prime reasons for suicide is lack of economic opportunity, why are workers killing themselves in greater numbers as their prospects improve? This makes no sense. The ennui that leads to the statistics we see above comes from more than just the economy. More importantly, high rates of suicide and the hikikomori phenomenon began when Japan was going gangbusters, making it unlikely that a poor economy is, or was, the culprit.

So what is it that is taking the once-vibrant Japanese culture from being aggressively expansionist to apathetically self-destructive in the course of a mere 60 years? I have a vague inkling of a theory. As I mentioned earlier, religion is good for you. Religious societies tend to be happier, more fully employed, higher earning, and have more children. They also have lower rates of depression and suicide. Japan is perhaps the most secular Western society on Earth, removing the positive effects of religion from its population. Also, it appears that there is some correlation between suicides and projected population growth. This could mean that despair means fewer children, fewer children in a society lead to suicides, or that both are symptoms of something else. In any case, the positive effects of religion are absent from Japan. At the same time, Japan’s embrace of what they perceived as Western values after WWII led to it becoming in some ways the epitome of Western materialist and postmaterialist aims.

I believe that Japan is showing us nothing more, and nothing less, than the ultimate result of a materialist, secular nation. The rejection of religion and mysticism, the detachment of morals and values from absolute claims, and the embrace of the government as surrogate family are all seen in Japan. The resulting society is the goal of any number of Western thinkers.

In short, I think Japan is a warning.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

That's Kinda' Flattering

It seems I am in the running for a Weblog Award. Its for the 'Best of the Top 1001-1750' award, but to even be mentioned with the blogs on the list is really flattering.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Inadvertently Funny

Usually people are much funnier when they are not trying to be than when they are. Want an example? Go to this link to Echidne’s archive, scroll down to the entry titled “Want a Headache?”, read it, then check the comments.

Well, it made me laugh.
Quote of the Month

"Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions."
-G.K. Chesterton