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Demography, Education, Poverty, and Religion: Some Data

by Ben P Fri Jan 13th, 2006 at 02:28:57 AM EST

A bit of a follow-up to the Mark Steyn diary. Not necessarily an effort to rebut Steyn, but I thought that discussion presented an opportunity for me to post some interesting demographic data - which looks at 2005 birthrates in nations across the world.


Basically,  the upshot is this: although, there is some small variation withiin the "developed" world (ie Europe, Japan, South Korea, USA, Canada, Australia, Taiwan, New Zealand) vis-a-vis demographic "futures" (Australia, New Zealand, France, and the US on the higher end, Italy, Germany, and Japan on the lower end), all of these countries have a birthrate between 8 and 14 per 1000 per year (as of 2005). The real gap lies between the "developed" world and the "developing" world, which has a much, much higher birthrate, whether or not the country in question is predominantly Muslim or Christian (or otherwise - indeed, as a side note, I think the explosive population growth in the non-Islamic world is vastly underappreciated in much of the current debate, as is the rise of various syncretic forms of quite fundamentalist Christianity, especially in Africa). The countries above 14 but below 20 births per 1000 tend to be nations that are "rapidly developing" or have economies and middle classes significantly larger than typical "third world" nations, but still substantially poorer than the developed world (ie Brazil, Iran, Argentina, South Africa, Turkey, maybe Ireland (although I think Ireland has largely "graduated" into the "developed" category)).

The following  list tries to be comprehensive, although not exhaustive. I try to include every important country in the world, as well as several nations from each global region and subregion - ie Africa, but French West Africa, the Maghreb, Southern Africa; or Europe, but the Meditteraenean, Scandanavian, and the former Eastern Bloc.

Below is a list of these birthrates (number of births per year per 1000 inhabitants), derived from the CIA's "World Factbook," and listed in ascending order:

Germany, 8.3
Italy, 8.9
Czech Republic, 9.1
Japan, 9.5
Greece, 9.7
Russia, 9.8
Hungary, 9.8
South Korea, 10.1
Spain, 10.1
Sweden, 10.4
United Kingdom, 10.8
Canada, 10.8
Poland, 10.8
Netherlands, 11.1
Denmark, 11.4
Norway, 11.7
France, 12.2
Australia, 12.3
Taiwan, 12.6
China, 13.1 *
United States 13.9
New Zealand, 13.9
Ireland, 14.5
Chile, 15.4
Thailand, 15.7
Iran, 16.8
Brazil, 16.8
Argentina, 16.9
Turkey, 16.9
Vietnam, 17.1
Algeria, 17.1
Israel, 18.2 #
South Africa, 18.5
Venezuela, 189
Indonesia, 20.7
Columbia, 20.8
Peru, 20.9
Mexico, 21.0
Jordan, 22.2
India, 22.3
Egypt, 23.3
Dominican Republic, 23.3 &
Bolivia, 23.7
Ghana, 24.0
Syria, 28.3
Saudi Arabia, 29.6
Pakistan, 30.4
Iraq, 32.5
Guatemala, 34.1 &
Sudan, 35.2
Cote D'Ivoire, 35.5
Tanzania, 38.6
Kenya, 40.1
Nigeria, 40.6
Democratic Republic of the Congo, 44.8

I think what this list demonstrates is that - as demographers, sociologists, and economists have noted extensively - the greater the poverty in a nation, the lower the level of education (ESPECIALLY the lower the education levels amongst women), the higher the birthrate. Thus, we should not be surprised that the countries with by far the highest birthrates are from the world's poorest region, sub-Saharan Africa, followed by some of the poorer nations in the near East, like Iraq and Syria. While I do think religion is a factor in higher birthrates, it is incidental and not catalytic - ie nations that are poorer and have lower levels of educational attainment also tend to have much higher levels of religious fervency (which, it should be noted, is not necessarily the same thing as religious observance, which can be simply a social custom rather than a vivid reality). Again, these tendencies are not monothilically true: obviously, factors such as governmental policy can have a significant impact - see the "pro-natal" policy effects on certain European nations, the relationship between the transition away from Communism and lower birth rates in the former Eastern Bloc (even in still quite pious nations like Poland), the effect of extensive and long-standing government policy to limit the birthrate and Chinese.

 But nevertheless, I also think this information tends to suggest what the "Eurabia" crowd (including Mark Steyn are): paranoid, bordering on delusional, this generation's version of the John Birch Society: only now the menace is "green" (Islamic) not "red," and the conspiracy is a secret Muslim Brotherhood plot to take over the governments of every European nation, not a secret cadre of communists within the US Departments of State and Defense.

* on China, clearly the "one child" policy has significantly altered the nation's birthrate.

# on Israel, I am not sure if this number includes the West Bank and Gaza or not. Even if doesn't, I think the fundamentally precarious nature Israel finds itself in suggests that a series of demographic and physical pressures exist on the society that would tend to work against what the educational and economic data would suggest Israeli demography would be like in a different geopolitical context.

& The Dominican Republic and Guetamala are included because they - along with Mexico and Puerto Rico - probably represent the most significant sources of immigration to the United States and the United States's concomitant "Latinization." Also, neither country is "small": Guetamala currently has a population of over 14 million and the Dominican Republic has a population of close to 9 million. Considering how small these countries are - especially the Dominican, which shares the island of Hispaniola (smaller than Ireland, geographically) with Haiti, itself with a population of 8 million - these trends represent a kind of irresistible migratory pressure. Indeed, Latin America should be seen as playing a similar role vis-a-vis labour supply and immigration that the Maghreb, West Africa, and Turkey plays vis-a-vis Europe's economy and demography.

An Addendum on the "Latinization" of the United States

Furthermore, I would argue - from my personal experience, both travelling and as a scholar of 20th century US history and urban geography - that the "Latinization" of the United States is a considerably more significant trend than the various third world/post-colonial migrations to Europe. Really, you have to go to south Florida or Southern California to see what I mean. Essentially, an alternative Spanish-speaking socio-cultural world exists in Florida, California, Arizona, Texas, and Nevada in particular - with extensive Spanish language media and large business districts with signs in Spanish, even at public schools. From personal experience, I can tell you that anywhere from a quarter to a third of the radio stations in the LA/Orange County/Inland Empire/San Diego region are Spanish. In the Miami area, there are at least 8 or 9 Spanish language channels on cable, offering music video shows, news, televangelism, game shows, talk shows all in Spanish. However, it should be noted that the Latino presence in Florida is of a considerably different nature from that in California: really, Latino Florida is of the Caribean basin (Cuba, the Dominican, Puerto Rico, Panama, Columbia, Venezuela), while that in California tends to "Aztec": from Mexico, Guetamala, and El Salvador - and there are significant cultural and historic differences between the two diasporas (which I will perhaps elaborate on in the future.

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Question: Care to make a "Steynian-size" generalisation and tell us what you think the values of "Latin USA" are? Or at least some sense of the difference with "Old USA" or how it fits into the jigsaw?
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Fri Jan 13th, 2006 at 03:52:15 AM EST
I hesistate to make such large claims. As I allude to, there is a great deal of diversity with Latino America, historically and culturally. Vis-a-vis, say, the Puerto Rican experience (and its relationship to American), the Mexican experience, the Cuban experience, and so on.

One thing I will say is that the Mexican diaspora tends to be more of a rural or small town origin, and is much more comfortable moving to small towns in places like California's Central Valley (huge agriculutral region), and increasingly, small towns in as unlikely places as Kansas, Georgia, Arkansas, and Nebraska. Often to work in the meat industry and at slaughterhouses (poultry in Arkansas, North Carolina, et al; beef in Kansas, Nebraska, etc.). However, it must also be noted that Mexicans live in large numbers - approaching, if not constituing majorities - in cities like El Paso and San Antonio, Texas, Tuscon, Arizona, and most significantly, Los Angeles, which is actually the second largest Mexican city in the world (behind Mexico City). Culturally - and again, this is changing, as younger generations grow up in urban spaces, have contact with other parts of the Latino diaspora, not to mention (Anglo) American culture - Mexicans tend to have a culture that is somewhat "rural" in orientation: Norteno music (kind of a Mexican folk/country music, which is inescapable on Los Angeles radio), a kind of syncretic Catholicism (veneration of saints, esp. the Virgin of Guadalupe, and penchance for driving pick-up trucks, wearing cowboy boots, etc..

The Caribean diaspora - from Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican, and now Colubmia, Venezueala, Panama, even Brazil and Argentina - tend to be much more "urban" in orientation. They almost universally move to/live in big cities, especially Miami and New York, but also in significant numbers in Orlando, Philadelphia, Newark, NJ, Atlantic City, NJ, and elsewhere. There culture tends to be more "cosmopolitan," and is more closely connected with urban African American culture (with tje exception of the Cubans, who tend to be much more middle class - and whose history is intimately bound up with the Castro revolution, although the increasing presence of other nationalities is causing some of the old stereotypes about "Little Havana" in Miami to change).  Music forms include traditionally Salsa, Merengue and now Reggaeton - which if you don't know about, you should know - a kind of Salsa, Reggae, Hip Hop mixture with artists like Daddy Yankee (Puerto Rican) and Don Omar (Dominican). These groups tend to be more oriented towards a front stoop/bodega/street court culture of urban sociability and cafe life.

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Fri Jan 13th, 2006 at 04:24:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
of Latino migration and "Anglo" America, I'd say that right now a lot of the latent tension is bubbling under. Right now, there is an increasing struggle within the Republican Party between its business wing and its cultural nationalist base. George Bush - to his credit - has tended to avoid nativism - I think by personal inclination and political calculation - and side more with the "business wing." However, there is a significant force in the GOP congressional caucus - not so much in the Senatorial caucus - pushing for "action" on the issue, essentially lauding and appearing with more-or-less vigilante groups like the MInutemen, who have been conducting unauthorized (and armed) patrols of the US/Mexican border. There was a recent "by-election" in a Southern California district - the staunchly conservative 48th in Orange County - in which Minuteman founder Jim Gilchrist ran as a third party candidate basically solely on the issue of immigration and received 25% of the vote - which is really quite high in an American election.

However, I think broadly speaking, as long as the US economy is out of recession, the "broad middle" of American public opinion can't be bothered, even though many of them probably would say they'd want stricter boarder controls if asked.

Basically, while there is - I think - a good deal of angst about the increasing presence of a linguistically unified - and distinct - cultural "group" (although as I note, there are large differences within the US's "Latino" population), especially over the issue of the English language. However, one of the solutions - as it always has been in American life - is simply flight. In other words, those who complain about California becoming "Mexifornia" (in the words of right wing historian Victor David Hanson) the issue does not come to the surface because the folks who share these views simply move - to Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Washington - to get "back" to what California "used to be like."

However, this is just as the issue is playing out in the West, especially California. The East Coast issue is different. Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Panamaniams, etc. are basically seen by the average (white) suburbanite as being like African Americans. This doesn't necessarily make them out and out racists - but again, they can "avoid" the issue by moving out of cities, and increasinlgy, out of older suburbs, when they don't like the "demographic" trajectory. And as long as the economy is providing enough jobs, it keeps a lid on the situation.

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Fri Jan 13th, 2006 at 04:46:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For the data to be more meaningful it would need to be combined with childhood death rates. In poor countries a high birth rate has usually existed at the same time as a high infant mortality rate, so the net growth rate is less than it would appear.

I'm sure the general trend will be unchanged, however.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Fri Jan 13th, 2006 at 09:24:09 AM EST
Responding to the whole thread so far:

The "Latinization" proceeds also in pockets everywhere, Washington state (my case), the Carolinas, etc. With different results. And politically, these people are in play. Of course, I think their best interests lie in aligning with the left.

I was encouraged to diary my local take on this and will, at length, when I get back there (still in my remote undisclosed location). Suffice it to say that I think many of the real values - the ones worth saving - of old-time small town America can be found in the Hispanic community. It is more complicated than you might think.

Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other. -- Dr Johnson

by melvin (melvingladys at or near yahoo.com) on Fri Jan 13th, 2006 at 12:47:43 PM EST
India's birthrate seems quite high. Then again it probably has gone down in parallel to a larger middle class emerging.
by Alex in Toulouse on Sat Jan 14th, 2006 at 06:14:08 AM EST
Always beware of biased Western focus (or in this case, local elite focus too): the Indian middle class is probably less than 15% of the total population. Most of India is still poor rural people (and city slum-dwellers).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Jan 14th, 2006 at 06:52:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I know what you mean, I've met a lot of Indians (or Lankans with Indian origins and a passion for India) who are always eager/proud to claim that the Indian middle class numbers in the hundreds of millions and that China is going to get it in the arse.

Another thing that's not well known, inversely to China which has a high literacy rate (>80% I think), India has a huge number of illiterates, something like 300 million!!

by Alex in Toulouse on Sat Jan 14th, 2006 at 07:22:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BTW, 2003 article on this.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Jan 14th, 2006 at 11:38:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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