Rabbit Trails and Fertility Data

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 at 8:45 am

One of the many reasons I love my husband…

When I assert that I doubt white fertility rates reach replacement level anywhere in the developing world, he challenges me to a race to determine if this is true in the US.

For those of you uncertain about the concept of “replacement rate”, this is the number of children a woman would have to have to keep the population stable. In most developed countries, this rate is about 2.1

Daniel beat me (finding this CDC dataset), but the challenge led us to making an excel spreadsheet to evaluate which states, if any, were reaching the replacement rate (irrespective of race).

Our results showed that nine states and four US territories have fertility levels at or above the replacement rate.

Oklahoma came in closest to the replacement rate, with 2.105 children born for every woman of childbearing age. Nebraska, Hawaii, Kansas, and Texas were next up, with approximately 2.15 children born for every woman. Idahoan and South Dakotan women had about 2.25 children each; while Alaskan women have 2.35 children each. Utah tops the count, with 2.45 children per woman.

I don’t find this information particularly surprising. In general, states that exceed the replacement rate are conservative, Bible-belt or Mormon states with a heavy emphasis on “family values”.

More interesting to me was the knowledge that Northern Marianas, the Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa have very high fertility rates. In fact, the last three on the list have the highest fertility rates in America, ranging from 2.49 to 3.11.

Why is this, I wonder? Could this be evidence supporting my assertion that developed countries tend to have fertility levels below replacement rate while developing countries (and maybe developing territories too?) have fertility rates above the replacement rate? Could this support my assertion that white fertility rates (especially in developed countries) are less likely to reach replacement rate than those of other races and ethnicities?

I’m just going to have to see if I can find some kind of data on the fertility rates of different nations around the globe.

Well, wouldn’t you know…the CIA keeps record of such things and the
CIA list of fertility rates can be found on Wikipedia.

Of the 34 countries listed by the CIA as “developed countries”, only four meet the replacement rate: Israel (2.67), Faroe Islands (2.4), South Africa (2.28) and Turkey (2.13). Of these, South Africa’s black peoples exceed the replacement rate, while their white peoples have a total fertility rate of only 1.4-1.8 (per table A3 in this report from Statistics South Africa). Both Israel and Turkey are difficult to classify racially, since their residents often have white-toned skin but claim a variety of ethnic backgrounds. Only the Faroe Islands is undeniably white.

Additionally, of the 117 nations listed in the CIA Factbook as having fertility rates of above the replacement rate for developed nations (note that replacement rate is higher in less developed countries where mortality is higher), only four can potentially be called “White”. Three of the four are from the “developed country” list: the aforementioned Israel (2.67) Faroe Islands (2.4), and Turkey (2.13). Kazakhstan (2.41) is a newcomer to the mix, being composed primarily of Turkish ethnicities but with a substantial population that could be called “white”.

So my original claim (that I doubt there are any countries in the developing world where white fertility rates reach the replacement rate) is not true. The Faroe Islands almost certainly has white fertility rates above the replacement rate.

On the other hand, my underlying premise does appear to be true. Overwhelmingly, the developed world has fertility rates below the replacement rate–and primarily white nations are exceedingly unlikely to have fertility rates above the replacement rate.

So there you have it. Rabbit trails I’ve taken tracking fertility data.

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