evolgen

Birth Rates, Politics, and Education

A couple of people are talking about this Wall Street Journal article which claims that Republicans are popping out more babies that Democrats, and this disparity will lead to an relative increase in the frequency of Republicans. It’s been pointed out that the statistics and logic behind this argument are flawed, and the math in the article is atrocious.

Depending on your political persuasion, the outcome suggested in the article may be viewed as a good thing or a bad thing. Regardless of the political direction you’d like to see our country take, however, I think we can all agree that we’d like to see intelligent people spreading their seed. The problem is the well educated (allow me use this as a proxy for intelligence) are often burdened with the task of learning and spreading knowledge to the point where their reproductive success suffers. Floyd Reed and Chip Aquadro offer a solution to this paradox in a recently published Opinion in Trends in Genetics:

Genetic and cultural fitness can also directly conflict with each other. A clear example is the role of celibacy in many religions, which allows individuals to redirect their energy from child rearing to proselytism, but at the expense of darwinian fitness [42]. Higher education can also present a similar cultural-genetic conflict; that is, training others, and spreading the cultural trait, comes at the expense of genetic fitness [43]. (However, the positive correlation between income and number of offspring [43] suggests a way society could mitigate this conflict to some degree — by increasing the salaries of educators, especially during their reproductive years!)

The rest of the article, dealing with topics in human evolution, is a good read for those people interested in such boring topics.

Comments

  1. #1 razib
    August 24, 2006

    I think we can all agree that we’d like to see intelligent people spreading their seed

    why?

  2. #2 RPM
    August 24, 2006

    Don’t make me think about what I wrote. I just wanted to find an excuse to quote that article because I thought it was clever. But, if I must: if smart people make babies maybe society as a whole will become smarter. I’m not advocating planned breeding, but it’s probably not a good idea for smart people to be put in situations where they don’t have the time or means to reproduce.

  3. #3 razib
    August 24, 2006

    I’m not advocating planned breeding, but it’s probably not a good idea for smart people to be put in situations where they don’t have the time or means to reproduce.

    RPM,

    if had a penny every time i heard a grad student in biology express the idea that ‘people like us’ should have more kids, i’d be a rich man :) the logic is simple and clear, and it never gets beyond the sentiment stage….

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