Friday, April 02, 2010

Traditionalism and family size

A traditionalism score was computed for white MIDUS Study participants based on the following items: endorses high moral standards; endorses religious values and institutions; expresses positive regard for parents; endorses strict child-rearing practices; values conventional propriety and a good reputation; opposes rebelliousness and unrestricted freedom of expression; condemns selfish disregard of others.

I divided the sample into low and high traditionalism groups and calculated the mean number of children for all ages 45 and over:

Mean number of children

High traditionalism 2.93
Low traditionalism 2.39*
Difference: 0.54 children


High traditionalism 2.88
Low traditionalism 2.58*
Difference: 0.30 children
* significantly lower than counterpart
Traditional white men average about one-half of a child more than their non-traditional counterparts. The gap is smaller for white women: 0.3 more kids. (All the means seem high. Respondents were asked to include step-children, adopted children, etc.) 
The heritability of traditionalism is estimated to be 60 percent.
The country might inch in a more traditional direction, if current trends are sustained (over a very, very long time). (I'm assuming the trend is the same among our growing population of Hispanics and Asians).


  1. The problem with this is that it's probably true that traditionalists have been more fecund forever, and society has been drifting in a non-traditionalist direction approximately forever.

    Doesn't high heritability of traditionalism just mean that the kids of traditionalists are more likely than the kids of non-traditionalists to be traditionalists themselves? So, traditionalism would look pretty heritable if 40% of traddies had traddie kids and 5% of non-traddies had traddie kids, right?

    And there is the additional problem that traditionalism is highly relative. I'll bet lots of Sarah Palin fans would score high on the traddie index you mention.

  2. Yes, see this from Razib.

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