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Posts Tagged ‘demographic’

Quick Method for Determining the Demographic Destiny of Any Group

May 27, 2020 26 comments

Here is one of those posts which I started writing years ago but did not finish till today, because it was.. well.. so short. Yes, one of the two reasons I kept delaying its publication was my inability to find something extra or deeply significant about the basic concept. The other being that this post will almost certainly attract some traditional and socially CONservative types- a group that I don’t care about.. to put it mildly.

So without further ado, here is how you determine whether any group (racial, ethnic, economic, religious etc) will grow or shrink in the near future. Ready.. if the median age of first birth in women of said group is under 26, then it has a bright demographic future. If the median age of first birth in women is over 28, that group is headed for a rapidly shrinking demographic future.

But wait.. there is more. The father’s age is equally important. Groups where the father’s age at time of birth of his first child is under 30 are expanding. Conversely, groups where the father’s age at time of first child’s birth is over 30 are aging and contracting. The above two observations hold regardless of factors such as historical era, race, ethnicity, religion, culture etc.

Confused? Let me explain the concept with a few examples and also tell you how I first stumbled on this observation. Looking back at my ancestors, I realized something peculiar about changes in number of children per woman. While both sides of my family tree were always well off, the number of kids per women (fertility rate) dropped sharply after the 1940s. This occurred irrespective of level of education for women or whether they had jobs outside the house.

The point I am trying to make is that the drop in fertility had nothing to do with ability to afford having more kids. Sure.. medical developments after 1940 ensured that almost all kids born to parents who can afford them will live to adulthood and beyond. But then again, the majority of kids born to my ancestors in previous eras made it to adulthood.. so survival of genetic legacy was unlikely to be a consideration.

So what was going on? Well.. while overhearing conversations among the older members of my family I realized that around that time, the average age of marriage of women went up rather steeply- from late teens to early 20s. We can certainly debate the social, economic and cultural shifts which caused that change- but it does not matter, because the outcome does not change. Years later, I noticed a very similar pattern when looking at chronological demographic data for countries such as UK and France.

By then, I had also noticed something else. The median number of children per woman drops below 2 once the age of having first child for women exceeded 28. Also, this observation holds regardless of country or social class. While this shift first occurred in the more “educated” and moneyed classes of every country, it has since spread much further- especially in westernized countries. The most curious part of this shift is that it has little to do with ability to financially support more children. And it gets even weirder..

While some of you might think that the correlation of male age at birth of first child with fertility rates is simply an artifact of men being a few years older than women in most marriages or relationships, it is a much more complicated than that. See.. men who haven’t had kids by 30 are much less likely to seek relationships where they want to have them. Moreover, even if they have kids after 30, it is seldom more than two- and usually one or one.

Now I am sure some of you will tell me about counterexamples they know in person. To that I say.. sure.. but I am talking about the correlation of parental age with average and median number of children. I am sure that somebody like a sports star, famous rapper, movie celebrity or somebody that is very interested in having many kids might have more. But they are the minority and face it.. very few people have a half-dozen or more kids.

To summarize, the total number of kids a woman has starts dropping sharply once her age at birth of first child is over 22, approaches replacement (IFR ~ 2) if her age is between 24-26 and goes below replacement (IFR < 2) once her age exceeds 28. As far as men are concerned, those who haven't become first-time fathers by 30 are unlikely to have more than two- usually one or zero. This occurs regardless of their financial ability to support more children.

I am sure that many of you will have a lot to say about my observations and potential reasons behind these socio-economic-cultural shifts.

What do you think? Comments?

Interesting Recent Articles on the Ongoing Global Demographic Decline

November 18, 2019 18 comments

Recently, I came across a number of articles about the ongoing demographic decline in developed countries all over the world. FYI- I plan to write a short series about this topic soon.

Link # 1: The End of Babies

If any country should be stocked with babies, it is Denmark. The country is one of the wealthiest in Europe. New parents enjoy 12 months’ paid family leave and highly subsidized day care. Women under 40 can get state-funded in vitro fertilization. But Denmark’s fertility rate, at 1.7 births per woman, is roughly on par with that of the United States. A reproductive malaise has settled over this otherwise happy land. It’s not just Danes. Fertility rates have been dropping precipitously around the world for decades — in middle-income countries, in some low-income countries, but perhaps most markedly, in rich ones. Declining fertility typically accompanies the spread of economic development, and it is not necessarily a bad thing. At its best, it reflects better educational and career opportunities for women, increasing acceptance of the choice to be child-free, and rising standards of living.

Link # 2: The Global Fertility Crash

While the global average fertility rate was still above the rate of replacement—technically 2.1 children per woman—in 2017, about half of all countries had already fallen below it, up from 1 in 20 just half a century ago. For places such as the U.S. and parts of Western Europe, which historically are attractive to migrants, loosening immigration policies could make up for low birthrates. In other places, more drastic policy interventions may be called for. Most of the available options place a high burden on women, who’ll be relied upon not only to bear children but also to help fill widening gaps in the workforce. Each of the following indicators tells a part of the global fertility story: not just how many babies women have on average, but also how well women are integrated into the workforce, what slice of the income pie they receive, and level of educational attainment.

Link # 3: Armenia’s Looming Demographic Crisis

The sharp drop in births seen in 2001 has continued for another decade. In addition, the births are heavily weighted toward male children (15% more males than females). One can easily understand the additional strain this will cause by 2030 in family formations. Diasporan communities being formed today, who are prospering in their host nations, offers no guarantees of repatriation to Armenia, or even of having close ties with a country their parents chose to leave. The first 30 years of independence set in motion a demographic crisis so deep and lasting that it is unclear whether anything can be done today to rectify it. The resulting national security issues for Armenia are so serious as to jeopardize the viability of the country for the next 30 years.

Link # 4: How to Overcome Losing 600,000 People a Year

A banner at a traffic roundabout urges onlookers to marry North Koreans. Another, with a photo of a pregnant woman, reminds passersby that freelancers and self-employed female workers can benefit from government stipends for expecting mothers. A church hall contains a busy office, staffed by government social workers, that supports brides from Southeast Asia who wed lonely farmers unable to find a local mate. Uiseong’s efforts are laudable, but government programs like these have done little to address the commonly cited barriers to having children. The cost of living, particularly in urban areas, is astronomical; meanwhile the brutal competitiveness of the education system and a work culture that has traditionally placed a premium on long hours leaves little time for family-rearing. Last year, President Moon Jae-in reduced the maximum work week to 52 hours from 68, though not all firms are covered by these restrictions.

What do you think? Comments?