Hypothesis on African Population Growth

Does anyone know what the average births per mother among African plutocrats is?

Everyone knows that there are countries in Africa which are averaging 7+ brats per dam; Steve Sailer has the charts, if you haven’t seen them already. But when members of Africa’s (black) upper classes move to the U.S. to enjoy the benefits of affirmative action, they don’t seem to have more than the usual two or three children — at least, that is what I gather from personal observation. This could be the force of social pressure.

But on the other hand, social pressure doesn’t seem to have dented the family sizes of poor African immigrants. Perhaps this is a class difference, or perhaps the poorer immigrants can leech off SWPLs just fine without going to the trouble of interacting with them.

Malthusian logic dictates that the historically, the rich have typically had larger families than the poor. There are dozens of factors that induce exceptions to the rule, like inheritance systems and, above all, profitable-but-pestilent urban environments. However, having lots of children survive to adulthood was typically a sign that you could feed them (and their mother) well. So while there were many possible incentives to have a small family in the ancient world, signaling a high social status was not one of them.

The West was introduced to modern agriculture and modern medicine slowly. The widespread use of smallpox inoculation is separated from the first antibiotics by about eight generations. At the beginning of that period the availability of food limited family size nearly everywhere; at the end, nearly nowhere. Thus at the beginning of that period, all poor families in the West probably would have considered it high-status to raise a dozen children to adulthood, but they could not afford to do so. By the end of that period, most poor families could afford to raise a dozen children to adulthood (not comfortably, and certainly not without relying on hand-outs, but it could be done), yet they no longer considered it high-status to do so.

In fact, to the extent that poor families did have broods of five to eight children circa 1950, they were aping middle-class mores from a few generations earlier, which were in turn modeled on upper-class mores from still earlier. The middle class was no longer having five to eight children because they didn’t want to be confused with the poor, just as earlier still, aristocrats probably started to feel that too many children would make them look like bourgeois strivers. I don’t have the numbers to prove that aristocrats started to flaunt their infertility at exactly the same time the haute-bourgeoisie could finally afford to match them, heir for heir, but I am imagining that is about the time when infertility first became a fashionably upper-class vice.

The key difference was that the physical limits on family size were removed little by little, so the upper-middle class could afford to raise arbitrarily large families nearly two hundred years before the poor could. This meant that there was plenty of time for the upper classes to counter-signal, and for the new fashion of small families to begin to trickle down to the bottom of the hierarchy.

Africa has a number of other problems — genetic, cultural, and ideological. But I wonder how much of the demographic problem is the rapidity with which Western do-gooders took Africans out of a strictly Malthusian situation where disease and deprivation made family size a sure signal of some kind of special status.

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6 thoughts on “Hypothesis on African Population Growth

  1. you assuming (without any evidence, so far) that:

    1) having fewer children in modern, urban environments is malapdaptive
    2) given this, it’s only because of social signaling factors that fertility dropped.

    that doesn’t sound very convincing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s what makes it a *hypothesis*! 🙂

      >having fewer children in modern, urban environments is malapdaptive

      do you have reasons to think having 0-2 children could be *adaptive*? It could be an interesting conversation but I don’t want to get into it if you are only pointing out that it’s a two-step conditional

      >it’s only because of social signaling factors that fertility dropped

      No, the model I’m looking at is the contrapositive: that a *lack* of social signaling factors in Africa caused fertility *not* to drop there. If the African kleptocracy is having fewer children but no one else is (yet), then that model is possible: the signaling cascade is beginning but the timeframe in which Africa got its previous Malthusian limits waived has been too compressed to allow the cascade to have its effect. If both the kleptocrats and the dirt-farmers are continuing to pump out 7+ per female, then social signaling can be ruled out as an explanation.

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      1. “do you have reasons to think having 0-2 children could be *adaptive*?”

        I’ll quote from this paper https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B98Qdzsez5oHRTdZX2w4cGowaGs/view (p. 6):

        “In fact the disruption of the common association between rank, wealth and fitness that is observed in different societies at different times over the recent demographic transition challenges HBE to examine more carefully the environmental, social and physiological factors that influence optimal fitness-maximising strategies.A key idea here is that rather than maximising the number of offspring raised, humans adjust fertility in ways that maximise longer-term fitness. This latter can be measured as the number of grandchildren, or in more complex analyses as a weighted product of children and wealth, a fertility function adjusted by risk or a simulated function. These explanations build on the trade-off between offspring quality and offspring quantity, highlighting the possibility that particularly high levels of offspring quality are required in societies dominated by labour markets that reward human capital. Without analyses of the long-term fitness consequences of a variety of different fertility strategies in different kinds of environments, it is probably still premature to conclude that the low current levels of fertility in much of the developed world are maladaptive.”

        so, yeah, it may be adaptive to have from 0 to 2 children.

        anyway, the example from Africa is sure to be constructive in this regard.

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      2. We’re talking about demographic averages, CN. If average fertility falls below replacement, no one is recouping their investment on the grandkids. A behavioral strategy involving below-replacement fertility needs to show up at the population level as high variance, with *average* births per mother rising due to the increase in offspring-quality.

        (Potentially you have confused the two senses of “adaptive”? I.e., I take it for granted that whatever behavior is driving fertility decisions, and whether it is the same or different mechanisms in Africa and the West or two different mechanisms, the causal explanation of the behavior is an evolutionary adaptation. But that does not mean it is a behavior adapted to the current environment, which is at issue.)

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      3. well, i wouldn’t rule out confusion (although i’m pretty sure the authors mean it in the second sense, and so consequently do i)

        the point is more that reduction of population may be adaptive (adapted to the eventual environment) if the resulting population has the skills and resources necessary for surviving at least a few more generations (if not grand-kids, then grand-grand-kids) etc, when everyone else is dying off from lack of skills and resources.

        inheritance systems seem to have a serious effect on fertility rates, so i wouldn’t rule this adaptive hypothesis a priori.

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