Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fertility before and after Roe v. Wade

In two posts, I described five different studies that conclude that more intelligent (or more educated) pregnant women are much more likely to get an abortion. It can be argued, however, that making abortion illegal will only increase fertility among less intelligent women because smart women can always find a way to get an abortion if they want one.

One way to test this idea is to compare the fertility ratios of dull to smart women who had their babies prior to 1970 with the ratio of those completing their families recently. In this manner, we can see how the two groups behave relative to each other both during an era when abortion was illegal and when it was widely available.

The first year of the General Social Survey was 1972. I looked at white women ages 50 and over for all surveys conducted in the 70s. The mean number of kids for dull women (Wordsum 0-4) was 3.02. It was 2.22 for smart women (Wordsum 8-10). That's a ratio of 1.36. Looking at this decade, I calculated means for white women ages 45-59. For the unintelligent group, the mean number of kids is 2.38, and it's 1.76 for the bright group. That's a ratio of 1.35.

There is no difference between the two periods. The higher fertility of dull women seen prior to 1970 continues to the same degree today. 

How do we explain this? If I'm correct that intelligent pregnant women are more likely to get an abortion, why doesn't their relative fertility go up when abortion is not widely available?

I suspect that the answer is contraception and perhaps abstinence. By 1970, 40 percent of married women were on the pill (Wattenberg. 1974. The Real America. p. 158). I've shown recent Guttmacher research that educated women are much more likely to use effective contraception. This was probably the case prior to Roe v. Wade. So if you take away abortion, but birth control is available, smart women will be more likely to use it than dull women and will consequently have fewer babies.

If I'm right, reducing the problem of low relative fertility among bright women would require the banning of both birth control and abortion. I don't see how that's possible, but even if it were, more capable women might very well reduce their number of children by abstaining from sex.

Of course, the real problem is the greater motivation to not have children when you don't want them, and to want fewer of them in the first place. Birth control and abortion are simply the tools that intelligent women use to end up with smaller families.

Changing the attitudes of these women would be a very difficult thing to do, which leaves strategies to reduce fertility among the lower half. I imagine that offering free and convenient abortions to poor women might help, but the idea gives me the creeps. In fact, even contraceptive programs aimed specifically at reducing the numbers of  poor people give me the willies. I suppose I harp on smart women having more babies, and being more selective about our immigrants because those are "eugenic" approaches that don't seem morally objectionable to me.


  1. "In fact, even contraceptive programs aimed specifically at reducing the numbers of poor people give me the willies."

    The thing is the poor/unintelligent always have someone telling them what to do. They have little discernment of their own. They truly need guidance and direction. They need to be indoctrinated to be honest and work hard because that is the honest contribution they are able to make to society. They don't need incentives to be even less productive and more reproductive.

    Smarter women have fewer kids because they get overeducated/overcredentialed. If the education industry weren't so greedy and cared about quality only about 25% of the women who are now in college would be there. Kind of sad all the smart kids sitting in daycare with stupid women rather than home with their brighter moms. A friend who worked at a private school said the rich and poor sometimes seem to have many of the same problems and wondered if the fact that poor women often raised them both contributed to their lack of strong values.

    Restricting birth control would frustrate men more than women. Men would get less sex and have more kids to support at home and through the social welfare system. I think you are right that restricting birth control would not improve smart vs. dumb kid ratios because it is damned hard to out maneuver smarter people. The dumb don't care and just accept stuff.

  2. Anonymous1:24 PM

    Uruguay is 88% white and has elections Sunday.

    If the leftist is elected, he will legalize abortion.

  3. Anonymous6:36 PM

    "n fact, even contraceptive programs aimed specifically at reducing the numbers of poor people give me the willies. "

    Why? This is the only thing that can work.

    Have one child. Sterilize yourself.


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