Thursday, November 05, 2009

The survival value of religion

Is Richard Hoste right that people need to be religious in order to have replacement levels of fertility? 

If we limit our analysis to the U.S. and use GSS data for women in this decade ages 40-59, those who never attend church average 1.69 children, while those who go more than once a week have a mean of 2.26 kids. The irreligious are not even close to the 2.1 level needed for replacement, while the very active have more than enough babies.

Okay, but maybe America is unique.

Let's examine a global sample.  Using World Values Survey data on 57 countries, I calculated the percent having three or more children by religious attendance:

Clearly, religious people are more likely to have large families the world round.  Hoste argues against Richard Dawkins' claim that religion has had no survival value for individuals, and while I'm unsure about its role in our evolutionary past, it surely seems relevant in the present.

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