Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Pleasant Thought and Arithmetical Errors

Robert J. Samuelson writes ‘Behind the Birth Dearth’ in the It is an informative article. It compares birth rates in developed countries, which have fallen below the natural replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman.

An exception is in the USA. However, he gives a curious statistic:

American fertility is roughly at the replacement rate, 2.1 children per woman. Nor does the U.S. rate merely reflect, as some think, a higher rate among Hispanic Americans. The fertility rate is 1.9 for non-Hispanic whites and about 2 for African Americans, reports demographer Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute.”

If the fertility rate is 1.9 for non-Hispanic whites and about 2 for African Americans, then some other group(s) of Americans must be greater than 2.1, because by averaging the total of all groups on this basis it must pull the average down to 2.1 and no average of 1.9 and 2 can produce a group average of 2.1. This means some group(s) of Americans is above 2.1, and if it is a minority group (where the total is not divided equally among the three groups mentioned), it must have a average well above 2.1.

Samuelson does not give the fertility rate for Hispanic Americans. Hence, I cannot see why he criticises the notion that the US the 2.1 rate is pulled up by the fertility rate of Hispanic Americans, if they are the missing group. I have no axe to grind about which group pulls the national rate up above 2.1, but there is something wrong with Samuelson’s argument here.

I did like his concluding sentence in his concluding paragraph:

By not having children, people are voting against the future -- their countries' and perhaps their own. It is easy to imagine the sacrifices and disappointments of raising children. It is hard, try as people might, to imagine the intense joys and selfish pleasures.

People ignore Adam Smith's keen insight: "The chief part of human happiness arises from the consciousness of being beloved."

Now that is what I would call a pleasant thought for the today.


Blogger Hal K said...

The point he was making about American fertility rates is that they are higher than in Europe and Japan even if you factor out the effect of higher Hispanic fertility rates. In other words, 1.9 is still much higher than 1.3. This isn't always recognized in immigration debates. It appears that the U.S. population would remain pretty stable without immigration.

5:19 pm  

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