The fertility divide

Short version: more educated women are having ever fewer children; poorer women are having more and more unplanned children.  Longer version:

 Because the American fertility rate is an average, it obscures the fact that our country is actually more like two countries, which are now experiencing two different, serious crises.

You hear about the “haves” versus the “have-nots,” but not so much about the “have-one-or-nones” versus the “have-a-fews.” This, though, is how you might characterize the stark and growing fertility class divide in the United States. Two new studies bring the contrasting reproductive profiles of rich and poor women into sharp relief. One, from the Guttmacher Institute, shows that the rates of unplanned pregnancies and births among poor women now dwarf the fertility rates of wealthier women, and finds that the gap between the two groups has widened significantly over the past five years. The other, by the Center for Work-Life Policy, documents rates of childlessness among corporate professional women that are higher than the childlessness rates of some European countries experiencing fertility crises.

And, this is bad:

If our overall fertility rate is at replacement level—if we have enough young people in the pipeline to do all the jobs that will need doing going forward—does it really matter so much if some women are having more kids than they are ready for and some are having fewer? Unfortunately for women on both ends of the economic spectrum, it does. Poorer women suffer when they have unintended births—as do their children. Research shows that women with unplanned pregnancies are more likely to smoke, drink, and go without prenatal care. Their births are more likely to be premature. Their children are less likely to be breastfed, and more likely to be neglected and to have various physical and mental health effects. Then, reinforcing the cycle, the very fact of having a child increases a woman’s chances of being poor.

Well, then, the Greene family is doing our part to fight back!  Four(!) planned children who’ve been breastfed and not neglected (we think).  Your turn, educated readers.


Chart of the day

Too busy today to get too much. This will have to suffice:


No wonder my wife can’t remember anything I say

Well, it’s no surprise that women prefer men with deep voices.  Yet, despite the fact that roughly 1/3 of the time telemarketers refer to me as “m’am,” I found a good woman anyway.  Alas, it’s not only a preference for deep voices, women actually remember things better they hear from a lower male voice:

In a recent experiment, researchers asked 45 women to try to remember objects that flashed on their computer screens—innocuous items like “fish” or “microscope.” As the items appeared, either a male or female voice identified them; these voices were either slightly raised in pitch, by audio-editing software, or slightly lowered.

In a follow-up test, the women saw pairs of objects and were asked which ones they’d studied. For the purposes of memorization, there was no effect of pitch alteration when it came to female voices: The participants remembered roughly the same number of objects whether the voices were extra-high or extra-low.

But the women remembered 84.7% of the objects spoken by extra-low male voices, compared with 77.8% for those spoken by a the higher male voices, a statistically significant difference. (A second experiment that incorporated non-altered voices found much the same thing, with the unaltered male voice performing midway between the high and low voices. Again, there was no relationship between female-pitch and memory, with this female audience.)

The two experiments “indicate for the first time,” the authors write, ” … that signals from the opposite sex important for mate choice affect the accuracy of women’s memory.” One hypothesis is that women have learned (in the evolutionary sense) to pay special attention to “conspicuously masculine” men, because these men are 1) potentially attractive mates; and 2) potentially dangerous, because of heightened aggressiveness, for example.

Hmmm, perhaps I’ll take solace in that second hypothesis.  Surely, I don’t lack for attractiveness :-).

Rick Perry on immigration

Been reading a lot about Rick Perry’s immigration “gaffe.”  I think Yglesias gets it pretty much right:

What I think they’re missing is exactly what Perry said, namely that people who disagree with him about this are heartless.

As it happens, I agree that the conservative view on this is kind of heartless. Still, it was a crazy thing for him to say.

To win an election of any kind, you need the votes of people who disagree with you about some stuff. Sometimes it’s going to be the case that most voters disagree with you on something in particular. When that happens, what you want to do is suggest that your disagreement with the majority is about something boring and technical and that on fundamental issues of values you’re all on the same page. What Perry did was the exact reverse of that. He took an issue that’s simply not that important in the scheme of things and elevated it to a deep moral issue about compassion. I think Perry thought he was saying thatMitt Romney is heartless, but what he actually said is that most American conservatives are heartless…

Yep.  It’s one thing to simply disagree on a particular issue with some of your ostensible supporters.  It is another thing entirely to insult them in precisely the way their political opponents insult them on the issue.  (Of course, I think conservatives take special umbrage at characterizations like this because they hit so close to home).  This really is amazingly tone-deaf.  I still think the nomination is Perry’s to lose, but he’s sure as hell not doing himself any favors.


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