The Agenda

The Coming Fertility Bounceback

Robert VerBruggen of RealClearPolicy points us to a new paper by Jason Collins of the University of Western Australia and Oliver Richards of the Australian Treasury which argues that “the recent rise in the fertility rate in developed countries is the beginning of a broad-based increase in fertility towards above-replacement levels.” Robert writes:

We usually assume that evolution happens at a glacial pace, but it doesn’t always. Certainly, the slow rate of genetic mutation limits the speed at which a species can add entirely new features, but evolution can act quickly when it has existing variation to work with. For example, some wolves are tamer than others; if you breed the tamest wolves together for a few generations, they become noticeably more like dogs. Even in the natural world, a sudden shock to the environment can create incredibly rapid changes.

The various technological and cultural shocks that have reduced fertility levels have changed the playing field:

As the new paper demonstrates, there’s a significant correlation between the fertility of parents and that of their children, and much of this correlation is likely attributable to genetics. Depending on numerous variables, evolution might increase the fertility rate significantly in as little as two generations. And we shouldn’t ignore culture — like genes, it can influence fertility and is transmitted to some degree from parent to child.

In 2006, Phil Longman predicted that the coming decades would see ”the return of patriarchy” in the affluent market democracies:

A single child replaces one of his or her parents, but not both. Nor do single-child families contribute much to future population. The 17.4 percent of baby boomer women who had only one child account for a mere 7.8 percent of children born in the next generation. By contrast, nearly a quarter of the children of baby boomers descend from the mere 11 percent of baby boomer women who had four or more children. These circumstances are leading to the emergence of a new society whose members will disproportionately be descended from parents who rejected the social tendencies that once made childlessness and small families the norm. These values include an adherence to traditional, patriarchal religion, and a strong identification with one’s own folk or nation.

The obvious counterargument is that children born to fecund culturally conservative families might defect from the patriarchal way of life as they age. But this doesn’t rule out the possibility that these children will nevertheless have larger-than-average families. 

 

Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

Hillary Ruins the Plan

Editor’s note: Andrew C. McCarthy’s new book is Ball of Collusion: The Plot to Rig an Election and Destroy a Presidency. This is the first in a series of excerpts.  There really was a collusion plot. It really did target our election system. It absolutely sought to usurp our capacity for ... Read More
Culture

An Insider’s Guide to Italian Insults

The tragicomic irony of Chris Cuomo’s pugilistic outburst earlier this week — cursing and physically threatening a man for taunting him with a reference to the movie The Godfather — is that the CNN anchor reinforced the usual tropes about Italian Americans. We are all wise-guys, goons, and Mafiosi, just ... Read More
World

The End of Hong Kong as We Know It

The protests in Hong Kong have been going on for more than four months now, and no matter how the current crisis concludes in the coming days or weeks, it will mark the end of Hong Kong as we know it. The protests started in response to an extradition bill that was proposed by the city’s Beijing-backed ... Read More
Religion

Another Pop-Culture Christian Loses His Faith

It’s happened again. For the second time in three weeks, a prominent (at least in Evangelical circles) Christian has renounced his faith. In July, it was Josh Harris, a pastor and author of the mega-best-selling purity-culture book I Kissed Dating Goodbye. This month, it’s Hillsong United songwriter and ... Read More
Elections

A Brief History of Election Meddling

Editor’s note: Andrew C. McCarthy’s new book is Ball of Collusion: The Plot to Rig an Election and Destroy a Presidency. This is the second in a series of excerpts. ‘The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back.” Thus spoke President Barack Obama just a couple of weeks before ... Read More