Thursday, February 19, 2009

Wealth, Not Politics, Drives Declining Birth Rate: Lessons for Immigration

A thought occurred to me: might the declining birth rates in Europe result from socialist ideology? I went to the web and extracted per capita gdp from the CIA Fact Book and the Freedom Index from the Heritage Foundation (the freest countries are Hong Kong and Singapore; the least free Cuba, Zimbabwe and North Korea; the US is sixth--overrated in my opinion since the bailout and the Patriot Act). I also obtained a list of fertility rates from Wikipedia.

I entered the data into an SAS program. SAS is a statistical program that social scientists use to analyze basic statistics.

What I found is that there is a hyperbolic graphic relationship between gdp per capita and birth rate. The variables can be linearized by taking the natural logarithms. There is also a weaker curvilenear relationship between overall freedom and birthrate. However, the direction of causality appears to flow from income to political freedom to birthrate (for the effect on birthrate, not for the development of high income, which reflects a different processs).

The political freedom variable is negative and significant when correlated with birthrate: more freedom is associated with lower birth rates. However, that relationship is blown away by gdp per capita. When both gdp per capita and freedom are included in a regression, the freedom variable has zero effect while the gdp per capita variable has a huge effect. The r squared or measure of fit is pretty strong for gdp, in the area of .6. That is, 60% of the variability in countries' birth rates is due to economic output.

This would seem to have some lessons for immigration. In countries, like France, where immigrants are not able to easily commingle with the general population and remain low income, the foreign culture would likely grow in influence over time because of the immigrants' lower income level. In contrast, where the immigrants are integrated into society and so acquire the same economic productivity over a few generations, they are likely to adopt the same fertility rate (and one might suppose the same culture in other ways).

Education that encourages and celebrates ethnic differences rather than the "melting pot" theory can give way to divergent economic outcomes as people of a poorer culture cling to their poverty-inducing habits. This would result in higher birthrates and social conflict between the slower-growing but more affluent majority group and the faster-growing but less affluent immigrant group.

It would seem that the educational system ought to take seriously its obligation to encourage the adoption of skills by which all children can equally become economically successful. Then factors like birth rates will not become threatening to the majority culture, as they have in culturally exclusionary Europe.

Europe's problem is that they have adopted a politically correct approach to immigration without dropping their snobby cultural attitudes. If you want to have immigration, you should be practical and open minded, not snobby and exclusionary.

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