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.


  1. I wouldn't be surprised if Africa was the stand-out exception. Of course, it depends on how you define "religious" since traditional "religions" of Africa are, as elsewhere, hardly distinguishable from very strongly held folk beliefs.

    Basically, what I'm saying is that agricultural societies need some sort of control on polygyny or they'll default to African "alphas" with huge working harems as is happening now around the West with its corporate concubines.

  2. Given that IQ is inversely correlated with religiosity, the religious group will probably have lower intelligence.

    It might be interesting to introduce IQ controls if possible, or a level of education control if not.

    If the data were broken down by Wordsum/ IQ - I wonder what would the average IQ level at which average fertility exceeded 2.1? This might be suggested as the possible average IQ of the future cognitive elite - once demographic changes have stabilized.


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