Archive for August 19th, 2009

Europeans Have More Babies – Well, Europe, Anyway

Now that Elden has finally finished a room – my office – things should start to move faster. Certainly my Internet connection will move faster.

Fast enough to catch this item from the Washington Post, marveling how the birth rates in Europe seem to be on the rebound. The researchers used the relationship between something called HDI, or Human Development Index, and the Total Fertility Rate (TFR). Keep an eye on that latter measure, because it’s going to become very important.

According to the researchers, once a society reaches a certain HDI, its fertility increases. Not only is this true statically – countries past the magic 0.86 mark in 2005 show higher birth rates – but it’s true dynamically. Countries which moved past the 0.86 score almost all increase their fertility compared to 1975.

So Mark Steyn is wrong, right? Europe’s declining fertility has been reversed through the magic of the progressive welfare state, and perhaps this will give them the leeway to commandeer ever-larger portions of future generations’ wealth! The only mystery is why this miracle is occurring, which of course provides the paper’s obligatory plea for more funds for further research.

The flaw in the analysis is the sort that could only be made by researchers trained to ignore the most obvious reasons. Remember that “T” and that stands for “Total?” Right. The study makes absolutely no effort to determine who is having all these kids. I know this because I actually went to the library and read both the paper and the accompanying “Demography” note by Stanford researcher Shripad Tuljapurkar.  Because it insists on treating all residents of a country the same, it flails about, looking for the magical mystery pill that’s causing some countries but not others to abide by the trend.  They finally settle on some vague sense that maybe it has to do with how easy it is for women to earn a living and re-enter the workforce.  The problem, as the Tuljapurkar admits, is that HDI doesn’t make any distinctions between the sexes:

…in some countries, including Japan, South Korea, and Canada, the TFR continued to decline…These puzzling findings may instead due to the use of the HDI, which does not directly tell us which aspects of human development affect women rather than men.

The authors themselves list a litany of statistical relationships they’d like to examine for correlations:

labour-market flexibility, social security and individual welfare, gender and economic inequality, human capital and social/family policies…

Hmmm, what’s missing here?

Basically, the authors just pull this idea out of thin air, with nothing in their research pointing to it.  They do so because they don’t admit – can’t admit – that it’s the immigrants who are having the kids.  Everyone knows this, apparently, except the three authors of this paper, because they didn’t bother to look.  Fertility didn’t increase in Japan and South Korea because they have virtually no immigrant population to speak of.  The reversal in Israel began in 1992 because that’s when the walls came down and Jews were finally free to get the hell out of the formerly Communist country.  Even if I grant that you can call a reversal year of 1976 on a data set that begins in 1975, fertility increases level off in the USA, even as HDI marches on.  Hispanic women have, according to the Census Bureau, the distinction of being the only ethnic group reproducing above replacement rate.

In fact, this paper tells us nothing new. It actually reconfirms the societal trends that are killing the liberal West. And it reconfirms the evergreen that social science researchers find what they were looking for in the first place.

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