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Making Babies

posted by awelborn

A piece on Frances’ (relatively) high birthrate

Researchers admit that their understanding of the relatively high French birth rate still retains a degree of mystery.

"For every rule you can come up with you find an exception," said Grant. Pison agreed: "There is a bit of mystery. We are doing studies but we don’t yet have all the secrets."

For example, it is sometimes suggested that because the two most fertile countries in Europe — France and Ireland — are mainly Roman Catholic countries, the Catholic tradition of having large families would help explain the high birth rates.

But Italy and Spain, two other Catholic countries, fall near the bottom of the EU list, in 16 and 17th position.

Experts also point out that while France’s fertility rate can partly be attributed to generous social support, Ireland is more fertile and does not have as many incentives.

The article, like almost every one I’ve seen, declines to look at the impact of Muslim immigrants’ fertility rate as a factor in the total.  I really don’t understand why – we do in the States, as we consider the impact of the fertility rates of Hispanic immigrants on the total US demographic.



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T. Chan

posted April 26, 2006 at 4:34 pm


b/c “there’s no Muslim question” that the mass media can admit to?



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Sr Lorraine

posted April 26, 2006 at 4:57 pm


If it’s true that France’s Muslim population is close to 10%, then that explains the increased birthrate.
The real mystery is why the media can’t talk about it.



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Susan Peterson

posted April 26, 2006 at 4:58 pm


Because we can’t admit that we don’t want the Muslims to “outbreed” Europeans and become the majority?
So no one can get birth statistics for the French which are broken down by race or religion or country of origin?
Are there a lot of Muslims in Ireland also? Or is their birthrate actually of Irish..or at least, European, people?
Maybe people are afraid of saying this because admitting you don’t want people of a certain religious and Ethnic origin to predominate over people more similar to one’s own religion and ethnic background, sounds too much like hating and fearing the Jews, and no one wants to do anything which would lead Europe back to a place like that.
Is there a way to say that we don’t want our decendants to live in a country with laws like those which prevail in countries where Muslims predominate, without engaging in ethnic hatred?
God does love little Muslim babies too, after all.
Susan Peterson



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Rich Leonardi

posted April 26, 2006 at 4:59 pm


An analysis performed last year determined that even when you control for Moslem immigration, France still does well on the fertility front relative to her peers (though it obviously takes the numbers down.) I’ll see if I can find it …



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Rich Leonardi

posted April 26, 2006 at 5:06 pm


Here it is, from ’05:

The most interesting factor is the increase in the birth rate. The ‘indice conjoncturel de fecondite, which seems to be equivalent to the Total Fertility Rate, has increased from 1.78 in 1998 to 1.92 in 2004. Higher birth rates among immigrants only account for a small part of this. The main factor seems to be that women who have postponed childbearing into their 30s are now ‘bearing fruit’. I pointed out some time ago (here) that changing patterns of conception made TFRs unreliable.”

And I obviously don’t vouch for the author’s policy prescriptions.



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John Sheridan

posted April 26, 2006 at 5:07 pm


One observation that may have some relevance. Unlike most other countries, France does not keep any official statistics on the religious identity of its population because to do so would be supposedly contrary to its secular philosophy. Without official statistics, it is just that much harder to know what religions are having the most babies.



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Local Man

posted April 26, 2006 at 5:12 pm


Who is this Frances?



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Bob Lozano

posted April 26, 2006 at 5:31 pm


The <a href=" Population”>http://www.pop.org/index.cfm“>Population Research Institute is dedicated to researching these sort of issues. Steve Mosher is a very faithful (convert) Catholic who has been on The Journey Home … his story is very compelling.
Among other stories, check out this article.



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Tony A

posted April 26, 2006 at 5:50 pm


The OECD has being doing ongoing work on the determinants of fertility in Europe. See d’Addio and D’Ercole (2005) “Trends and Determinants of Fertility Rates in OECD Countries,” http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/7/33/35304751.pdf.
They employ cross-country evidence (dynamic panel techniques) to show that fertility is higher in countries with childcare availability, higher maternity leave, and availability of part-time work. This would go a long way toward explaining the North-South divide in Europe. Remember fertility rates are highest in the Nordic countries, and lowest in the Mediterranean south.



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mark j

posted April 26, 2006 at 6:28 pm


Tony-
I’m confused that you say fertility rates are highest in Nordic countries (I assume that means Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, maybe Finland) but the story Amy linked claims France and Ireland have the highest rate? (I don’t mean that to sound snarky, it just seems that the 2 statements don’t fit.) Is ‘fertility rate’ something that can vary based on obscurely different definitions?



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Dan

posted April 26, 2006 at 6:41 pm


We’re splitting hairs here folks. The article says that none of the EU countries — not even league leading France and Ireland — have even the 2.1 replacment level fertility rate. So there is no baby boom going on anywhere on the continent, nothwithstanding the presence in some places of extensive childcare or a large Muslim population.



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Tony A

posted April 26, 2006 at 7:00 pm


Mark J,
Some numbers:
Austria (1.5), Belgium (1.5), Denmark (1.7), Finland (1.7), France (1.6), Ireland (1.8), Greece (1.3), Italy (1.2), Netherlands (1.5), Norway (1.8), Portugal (1.4), Spain (1.2), Sweden (1.8), UK (1.6).
So we can see clearly that the Nordics lead the pack and the southerners lag. And yes, Dan, they are all still below replacement but I think there is a big difference between 1.2 and 1.8.



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SiliconValleySteve

posted April 26, 2006 at 7:26 pm


Not to muddy the waters but there are also large muslim populations in many of the nordic countries. I know firsthand that in Denmark through Danish friends that visit us regularly there is a large and growing young muslim population and according to the book “While Europe Sleeps” that I glanced through last weekend, there is a large muslim community in Oslo.



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Jeb Protestant

posted April 26, 2006 at 7:55 pm


Considering that Rome supports immigration, why should there be any concern about Europe becoming Moslem by the Moslems having more children?



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anon

posted April 26, 2006 at 8:00 pm


No no, Jeb, they support immigration here, not at home where they are.



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Deacon John M. Bresnahan

posted April 26, 2006 at 9:06 pm


Noone seems to feel that keeping a country in one culture or religion by controlling borders is rascist or unfair or discriminatory. So why is it politically incorrect to be against the same result from happening because of high birthrates of those inside a country who refuse to assimilate and brag about wanting to totally destroy the culture that is hosting them–like a malignant tumor destroys its host body. And this is not similar to the Jewish issue because religious Jews never went around screaming for the death and destruction of Christianity and Christian culture the way Islamo-fascists do regularly.



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Glenn Juday

posted April 26, 2006 at 10:21 pm


Just a couple of unwarranted thoughts.
Overall, in more advanced societies, higher fertility is clearly associated with young married (or at minimum, semi-stably committed) couples who are optimistic about the future and see opportunities that they are striving to take advantage of while they are grounded in a culture and or community that supports and/or assists them as they form families. Government programs may play a supportive role around the margins. But these programs generally end up causing a negative feedback especially when they substitute for the male role in household support. There is no real substitute for the cultural value of fertility, since this is an act of mutual will on the part of the couple.
Of course, in less developed societies high fertility is the consequence of effectively enforced policies that deny women the opportunity to do much of anything in society outside a domocile, at least as long as integrated programs of population reduction are not present.
In my mind I tend to associate the minor blip of higher (but below replacement level) fertility in Norway to an outbreak of prosperity, and even relative prosperity, from the easy North Sea oil money. It’s just based on the personal situations of folks whom I know. That’s not systematic, and my not be generally valid. They talk as if they had a future to look forward to, with opportunities. And compared to the old days when their Swedish neighbors were distinctly more prosperous, things look pretty good.
But recently the marriage scene has become a mess in Norway, as in rapidly disappearing. Now traditionally, and this goes back a long way, solemnizing marriage formally there was never as strong a social habit as in much of the rest of the world. But one gets the sense of the collapse of the institution of marriage among young Norwegians these days. I don’t see how that can do anything but depress the fertility level over the near and medium term.
And at this point it would not be hard to imagine a government support program there for all but the one unique contribution of the individual male partners of prospective Norwegian mothers. I don’t know what additional material inducement could do to influence the decision of those women to have children. But adding up their state of life, the quality of experience of shared life they are having with men, and their experience if they have a first child, a large number of urban women are just not interested. Women from village and rural Norway may be a bit different, but I’m not sure their numbers are great enough to make a difference. I guess we just need to keep watching the numbers there to find out.



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Rich Leonardi

posted April 26, 2006 at 10:30 pm


So we can see clearly that the Nordics lead the pack and the southerners lag.
Because of course the only cultural dividing line between “Nordics” and those selfish southerners is their respective “maternity leave” policies.
God save us from the lidless statists in our midst.



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Sydney Carton

posted April 27, 2006 at 1:25 am


Rich, don’t you know that if you want your country to have enough replacement births, you have to adopt the Democrat agenda? I’m sure they teach you that in college somewhere: Don’t have kids unless your materialist agendas are fulfilled. Yup. A real Catholic policy that is: telling parents that materialism is primary over starting a family.



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JonathanR.

posted April 27, 2006 at 1:32 am


“I think there is a big difference between 1.2 and 1.8.”
Considering the amount of money the Swedish government is throwing at these potential mothers, you’d think the birthrate would be much higher. And Ireland is in there keeping pace with Sweden, even if Ireland isn’t as keen on nannying its people.
Its a matter of culture. Spain did not sink so low on account of lack of childcare and maternity leave….



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JTII

posted April 27, 2006 at 7:25 am


Who is Frances and why is she having so many babies?
(sorry – can’t resist a good straight line)



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JPK

posted April 27, 2006 at 8:31 am


“Austria (1.5), Belgium (1.5), Denmark (1.7), Finland (1.7), France (1.6), Ireland (1.8), Greece (1.3), Italy (1.2), Netherlands (1.5), Norway (1.8), Portugal (1.4), Spain (1.2), Sweden (1.8), UK (1.6″
These are not numbers for a baby boom. Even for the top 4 nations, these numbers spell disaster.Not one nation has exceeded replacement levels. Sweden, Ireland and Norway are just falling into the abyss a bit slower.
Europe is rushing to a demographic catrastrophe not seen since the 30 Years war. In that period, Central Europe’s population was halved.



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Ed the Roman

posted April 27, 2006 at 9:03 am


If Nordic socialism is the answer, why are we beating all of them? Even controlling for immigrants?



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ken

posted April 27, 2006 at 10:00 am


I wonder what the child care availability and maternity leave policies are in the 80 nations with fertility rates at 4.0 or higher?
http://www.alsagerschool.co.uk/subjects/sub_content/geography/Gpop/HTMLENH/stats/fer.htm



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Tony A

posted April 27, 2006 at 10:19 am


Rich Leonardi is displaying his typical ideological populist anti-intellectual rubbish. Just read the OECD paper. Have a look at the empirical evidence. If the statistical techniques are beyond your comprehension, ask a friend. And if you wish to quibble with their findings, please do so in s smart way, and stop aping Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh.



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MaureenM

posted April 27, 2006 at 10:21 am


Ken, You might want to consider correlations between fertility rates and what might be considered predictor variables.
Fertility is strongly correlated with high infant mortality (.83), agriculture, and child labor and negatively correlated with female educational attainment (-.73), safe water, televisions and newspapers. It is a developed/developing world phenomenon.
http://www.alsagerschool.co.uk/subjects/sub_content/geography/Gpop/HTMLENH/stats/cmatrix.htm



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JPK

posted April 27, 2006 at 10:43 am


In a post several weeks ago I highlighted some historical data that refutes the point that prosperous nations by default will have lower birth rates. In Bismarkian Germany (1860-1900, Germany had a population explision. Fertility rates were on pare with what India has now (approx 4 children/couple), while France’s birthrate was barely above 2.5/couple. Germany underwent during this period rapid industrialization -Berlin’s population for expampled doubled. France, however remained a traditional, agricultual nation.
Germany also went through another Baby Boom right after the Second World War. Europe as a whole began to contracept heavily beginning in the late 60s, early 70s.
There seems to be more that is going on than just economics.



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John Murray

posted April 27, 2006 at 2:46 pm


The thesis that government social welfare programs and fertility are inversely related is pretty widely accepted. Here is a recent paper that attempts to parse out the validity of various explanations for the relationship in the case of retirement pensions:
http://minneapolisfed.org/research/common/pub_detail.cfm?pb_autonum_id=1023
The first sentence in the abstract reads: “The data show that an increase in government provided old-age pensions is strongly correlated with a reduction in fertility.”
I don’t think the mechanism is too mysterious. What the government steps in and does for people, the people stop doing for themselves. In this case, it’s making the next generation that would care for parents in their dotage.



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Tony A

posted April 27, 2006 at 3:22 pm


Hi John Murray,
Thanks for providing this reference; this is a serious piece of work from some excellent economists. But note that their entire logic is based on transfers between generations (government-provided pensions). I don’t see any contradiction between this and the OECD’s study which points to “family friendly” policies boosting fertility (including subsidized childcare and maternity leave).



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Rich Leonardi

posted April 27, 2006 at 4:48 pm


Tony lisps … Rich Leonardi is displaying his typical ideological populist anti-intellectual rubbish
… which is just more bloviation from St. Blog’s newest house dissenter. And if you deny the charge again, I’ll simply repost what I shared the last time you tried to wiggle your way out of it.



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Local Man

posted April 27, 2006 at 4:54 pm


Uh oh, Tony A — Rich said you “lisp.” Next he’ll dare you to knock the battery off his shoulder. Are you trembling?



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HolyDragon

posted April 27, 2006 at 5:41 pm


Frankly, I think I can do without all this mean-spirited diminishment of others on the comments here…and I think this goes for both sides.



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John Murray

posted April 27, 2006 at 5:57 pm


Just a quick note from your friendly economist here…Tony A, I think the thing to note is that these policies tend to be very expensive with little to show for it. For example, Gauthier & Hetzius in the 1997 Pop Studies conclude “that family allowances have a positive and significant effect on fertility, while maternity leave benefits have no significant effect. Increasing the value of family allowances by 25 per cent would result in an 0.6 per cent increase in fertility level in the short run. In the long run this effect would be of the order of 4 per cent, or about 0.07 children per woman on average.”
A 25 percent increase would not be chicken feed, and for 0.07 children per woman in the long run? On a base of 1.2 children in the South? And note, G&H don’t take into account the fertility depressing effects of tax increases needed to pay for the subsidy. Note how thoroughly hedged that OECD paper you linked to is on this question. The effects of family policy on fertility are not at all clear.
My read is that if Europeans are serious about pronatalism, they’ll have to offer big tax breaks for children. The French are discussing this, apparently hoping to get higher income white families to have another baby or two, without giving the incentive to Muslim families to do the same.



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Tony A

posted April 27, 2006 at 7:06 pm


Rich,
If you want to debate me, read John Murray’s stuff. He’s smart and he knows his what he’s talking about. And bloviating? That’s all you do, my friend. I’ve yet to see a coherant argument from you on any single point, just sweeping assertions, ideological slogans, dismissive put-downs and accusations of dissent. Let’s see you defend the full gamut of the church’s social teachings, and not just the ones that happen to suit your ideological predispositions.



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Local Man

posted April 27, 2006 at 9:28 pm


Oh man, you are so in for it!



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J?mmy Mac

posted April 28, 2006 at 3:43 am


Even as we ‘speak’ ? am wandering the wilds of Turkey. At an internet cafe in Ankara ? can report that this country ?s AWASH ?s small children. I don’t know how representative of ?slamic society Turkey is, but, ?f it is, we are ALL being outbred!



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JP

posted April 28, 2006 at 9:12 am


Tony and Rich,
Germany, France, and Austria gave huge economic incentives to families to have more children during the 1980s- and to no avail. Very few took advantage of this.
Prehaps the laws of unintended consequences had something to do with this. Most businesses had to directly or indirectly pay for the costs of not only the tax breaks, but also foot the bill for the extended maternity leave (up to 6 years)with no guarentee that the mother would ever return. This resulted in women of childbearing ages being discrimnated against. Especially those right out of college.
In Germany, even women who didn have jobs could enjoy 100% goverment care to include free housing, and a monthly stipened that grew with every child they had. This applied to married couples as well. Even then Germany knew it was in trouble demographically, and lavished a lot of goverment money on children. Germany’s fertility rates dropped throughout the 80s. There were few takers.
Goverment subsidies do not work- there is something deeper at play then economics.



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Tony A

posted April 28, 2006 at 11:02 am


JP,
Many European countries have, in the past, chosen inappropriate instruments to attain social goals. For example, when unemployment was high in teh 1980s and early 1990s, one “solution” was to keep numbers down by bribiong older workers out of the labor force. Participation and employment fell, and numerous countries are facing inactovity problems (disability in various Northern European countries is a key escape route).
But this is not to say government subsidies do not work. There is a wealth of information suggesting that active labor market policies can boost employment if spent wisely (wage subsidies, not training programs). The problem, as John Murray pointed out, is that none of this comes on the cheap.
On maternity leave, I seem to recollect that there is a non-linear effect. Maternity leave up to 12 weeks or so boosts female employment, but anything after that decreases it, for the reasons you noted in Germany.



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Ken

posted April 28, 2006 at 12:42 pm


I don’t know how representative of ?slamic society Turkey is, but, ?f it is, we are ALL being outbred!
And remember the original idea of Charles Darwin: “Survival of the Fittest” actually meant “fitness” as in reproductive rates.
1) If one population has one child per two parents, its numbers will decrease by half each generation.
2) If another has four children per two parents (math gets a little quirky when you’re talking polygamous harems), its numbers will double each generation.
3) Continue a couple generations and who goes effectively extinct in the total population?
4) Radical imams brag that “We shall invade and conquer the infidel with our wombs!”



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JP

posted April 28, 2006 at 4:25 pm


Tony,
If you are correct, then the EU better come up with some solution quick. Like you said these subsidies do not come cheap. If European women do in fact want to have 2-4 children on average,
and economics are the only thing holding them back, the Eurocrats will have to rob Peter to pay Paul. Prehaps extending retirement age to 68 instead of 60?



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