The Unz Review - Mobile
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information

Authors Filter?
Razib Khan
Nothing found
 TeasersGene Expression Blog
Data Analysis

Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New Reply
🔊 Listen RSS

I was recently reading Sexual Behavior in the United States: Results from a National Probability Sample of Men and Women Ages 14–94. At N ~ 6,000 it’s a large sample of American sexual behavior around 2010. There was one descriptive result which I thought was interesting, though not surprising. Before the age of 25 it seems that women are more likely to have sex in a given year than an equivalent age man. After the age of 25 this starts to reverse, and men are more likely to be having sexual intercourse in a given year. The dynamics underlying this phenomenon seem to be easily subject to various speculations, so I’ll leave that to readers. Rather, I offer the graph (data drawn from the paper linked above):

• Category: Science • Tags: Data, Data Analysis, Sex 
🔊 Listen RSS

The Estonian Biocentre has put up lots of data in Plink pedigree format. Format is important because now many of you can manipulate these data. This the source of some of the data in PHYLO, so I need to double check the IDs or rebuild the data set (though for basic exploration I think PHYLO is still sufficient). This data set, combined with my ADMIXTURE tutorial should give everyone the tools to replicate results of the sort of papers which were cutting edge from 2006-2010 (i.e., model-based clustering with bar plots + PCA/MDS visualization).

Props to Mait Metspalu and company for release these data.

• Category: Science • Tags: Data Analysis 
🔊 Listen RSS

I was at ASHG this week, so I’ve followed reactions to the election passively. But one thing I’ve seen is repeated commentary on the fact that Asian Americans have swung toward the Democrats over the past generation. The thing that pisses me off is that there is a very obvious low-hanging fruit sort of explanation out there, and I’m frankly sick and tired of reading people ramble on without any awareness of this reality. We spent the past few months talking about the power of polls, and quant data vs. qual (bullshit) analysis, with some of my readers going into full on let’s-see-if-Razib-is-moron-enough-to-swallow-this-crap mode.

In short, it’s religion. Barry Kosmin has documented that between 1990 and 2010 Asian Americans have become far less Christian, on average. Meanwhile, the Republican party has become far more Christian in terms of its identity. Do you really require more than two sentences to infer from this what the outcome will be in terms of how Asian Americans will vote?

Below I took the data from Pew’s Religious Identification Survey in terms of how all Americans lean politically based on religion, and compared it to how Asian Americans lean based on religion.

All Americans Lean Rep/Rep Lean Dem/Dem No Lean
Evangelical Churches 50% 34% 16%
Mainline Churches 41% 43% 16%
Catholics 33% 48% 19%
Buddhists 18% 67% 15%
Hindus 13% 63% 24%
Unaffiliated 23% 55% 23%
Asian Americans
Evangelical Churches 56% 28% 16%
Mainline Churches 37% 44% 18%
Catholics 42% 41% 17%
Buddhists 27% 56% 17%
Hindus 9% 72% 19%
Unaffiliated 21% 63% 16%

Now compare the above to the breakdown of Asian American religiosity. Over half of Asian Americans are non-Christian. The track record of non-Christians voting for Republicans in today’s America is not good. In contrast, Asian American lean toward Republicans is fine, assuming that they are Christian (the Evangelical group above excludes historically black churches). Asian American Catholics are somewhat more Democrat than white non-Hispanic Catholics, but far less than Hispanic Catholics. But the issue is that Christians, aggregating the Evangelical, Mainline, and Catholic categories together, only make up ~40 percent of the Asian American population. In 1990 60 percent of Asian Americans were Christian. Today 30 percent follow non-Christian religions. In 1990 15 percent did.

These data may not explain all the variation between then and now (the two causal factors being the growing identification of the Republican party with Christianity, and the growing non-Christianity of Asian America), but they can explain most of the variation. In other words, if you want to present another model, show me the data. I don’t care about your opinion or intuition. Intuition is another word for private bullshit. There is social science out there that doesn’t require an esoteric regression model. It’s not even in the class of a non-obvious prediction. Rather, the description screams out at you. It’s aggravating that people can’t be bothered to find this stuff when they can be bothered to subject me to long ramblings and ruminations.

• Category: Science • Tags: Asian Americans, Data Analysis, Demographics 
🔊 Listen RSS

Last week the GSS was down. I was very sad. The SDA team explains the situation:

Part of the popularity of our demonstration archive is that it is free for end users. We are happy to provide this service. It is a valuable resource for the academic community and it also publicizes the value of our SDA software. However, the flip side of providing this free service is that it does not generate any income to offset the cost of providing the infrastructure required. We receive no funding from GSS for hosting their datasets — which is often a surprise to our users. Almost all of our income comes from the fees provided by licensing the SDA software to other data archives (like ICPSR and IPUMS), and virtually all of that income goes to support the programming and technical support that we provide them. We obviously need some additional sources of revenue.

• Category: Science • Tags: Data Analysis, GSS 
🔊 Listen RSS

Despite the real estate bubble bursting, it looks as if Florida will surpass New York in population by the next Census. I once made some quick money by betting an older gentleman that Texas had a larger population than New York. I suspect there’s even more money to be made by betting people that Florida has a larger population than New York in a few years. The reality is that most people don’t check statistics in their free time, so some “facts” get frozen in their minds. A great number of adults alive today were told in elementary or secondary school that New York was the second largest state in population. They are unlikely to update their views as they age. Unfortunately, I suspect these confusions are going to lead to public policy problems as well. I am not confident that our elected officials are any more aware of statistics than their constituents.

• Category: Science • Tags: Data Analysis, New York 
🔊 Listen RSS

If you had the sense that Paul Ehrlich and Garrett Hardin are very much figures of the 1970s nexus of environmentalism and population control, it seems you are right. According to Google Ngrams mention of these topics has been declining since peaking during the oil crisis, in the afterglow of the influence of the late 1960s counter-culture. The general social survey has a variable, POPGRWTH, which asks:

And please circle one number for each of these statements to show how much you agree or disagree with it. The earth cannot continue to support population growth at its present rate.

The question was asked in the year 2000 and 2010. Demographic breakdowns below for the pooled responses….

Earth can not sustain population growth
Strongly agree Agree Neither Disagree Strongly disagree
Non-Hispanic white 15 41 22 20 3
Non-Hispanic black 6 32 28 29 5
Hispanic 14 39 22 23 3
Male 14 42 18 22 4
Female 13 38 26 21 3
Highest educational attainment
< HS 14 46 18 19 3
HS 13 38 24 22 3
Junior College 11 37 28 23 2
Bachelor 14 41 20 21 4
Graduate 16 40 17 23 5
Intelligence, measured by vocab score (WORDSUM 0-4 = stupid, 5-8 = average, 9-10 = smart)
Stupid 14 38 23 21 4
Average 12 41 23 22 3
Smart 21 37 15 22 5
Liberal 20 43 19 17 1
Moderate 12 41 27 18 1
Conservative 11 36 19 28 6
Protestant 12 39 22 23 3
Catholic 13 39 24 21 4
Jewish 15 33 22 30 0
No Religion 18 47 20 13 2
Bible is….
Word of God 11 35 23 27 5
Inspired Word of God 11 41 25 21 3
Book of Fables 23 43 14 18 2
Opinion as to the existence of God
Don’t believe 35 34 13 15 3
No way to find out 24 39 22 14 1
Some higher power 21 51 11 17 1
Believe sometimes 18 43 23 16 0
Believe but with doubts 13 44 22 19 2
Know God exists 11 37 24 24 4
• Category: Science • Tags: Data Analysis 
🔊 Listen RSS


In the post below I took the time out to link to the GSS, as well as posting my exact queries. As payment for this consideration the first comment was absolute drivel. I understand people have political opinions, but I’m not too interested in your opinions. You may be interested in your opinions, but I’d rather have more data. Most people don’t know enough for me to have interest in their opinions (most != all, many readers do have opinions in their specialties which I seek out).

I was trying to make a point that anger and even violence in reaction to actions which offend are actually comprehensible as the modal human response. The community reacts to punish those who violate taboos. The taboos may differ, but the response to the action of violation is normal and natural. A primary issue that needs to be considered is that taboos differ from society to society, so one is often not conscious of the act of violation (e.g., if you show the bottom of your shoes to people when you sit down, that’s an offensive act in some societies).

An implication here is that American norms of free speech near absolutism, enforced through the fiat of the courts because of their interpretation of the applicability of the Bill of Rights, are radically non-intuitive to most people. The only reason that they are intuitive to many Americans is that we are acculturated over time. This is clear when you look at differences of intelligence and education. In short, less intelligent and educated Americans are much more skeptical of allowing social deviants to speak. This is true even in cases where they are more likely to agree with the deviant in question (e.g., these groups have a more pro-military bent, and yet are more accepting of the concept of censure of pro-military opinions).

I have limited all the results to the year 2000 and later. Additionally, I classify those who score 0-4 on the WORDSUM vocab test as stupid, those who score 5-8 as average, and those who score 9-10 as smart. WORDSUM has been reported to have a 0.7 correlation with general intelligence. In this data set 20% of individuals scored 0-4, 69% 5-8, and 12% 9-10.

Stupid Average Smart
Allow racist to speak 52 60 84
Allow homosexual to speak 74 86 98
Allow militarist to speak 51 67 93
Allow communist to speak 51 68 95
Allow atheist to speak 64 79 97
Allow Muslim to preach hatred of America 25 41 74

I wanted to repeat the logistic regression I did earlier, this time with more variables. If you care, they are: SPKRAC, SPKHOMO, SPKMIL, SPKCOM, SPKATH

Allow group to speak
Communist Racist Homo Militarist Atheist
B Prob B Prob B Prob B Prob B Prob
SEX 0.279 0.01 0.331 0.00 -0.209 0.11 -0.062 0.53 0.282 0.01
AGE 0.012 0.00 0.008 0.00 0.019 0.00 0.021 0.00 0.017 0.00
SEI -0.004 0.18 -0.003 0.29 -0.009 0.05 -0.013 0.00 -0.011 0.00
DEGREE -0.366 0.00 -0.119 0.02 -0.267 0.00 -0.108 0.06 -0.138 0.04
WORDSUM -0.229 0.00 -0.139 0.00 -0.276 0.00 -0.204 0.00 -0.228 0.00
RACE(Recoded) 0.068 0.58 0.021 0.86 -0.096 0.54 0.29 0.02 0.078 0.55
HISPANIC(Recoded) 0.419 0.01 0.876 0.00 0.173 0.36 0.49 0.00 0.463 0.00
GOD 0.194 0.00 0.176 0.00 0.233 0.00 0.149 0.00 0.228 0.00
POLVIEWS 0.025 0.50 0.07 0.04 0.227 0.00 0.079 0.03 0.103 0.01

Most of you may not know the GSS codes for variables, but I do, so I will tell you what the above means. For sex 1 = male and 2 = female. And 1 = allow speech, and 2 = disallow. Therefore, you see that women are more skeptical of free speech for communists, racists, and atheists. Additionally, this skepticism is statistically significant. In contrast, they more supportive of free speech for homosexuals and militarists than men. These results are on the border of significance, but in general women support gay rights more robustly than men, so I think we can accept that.

For age the values are straightforward. Older people have higher values. There isn’t a strong trend. Similarly with socieconomic index. The magnitudes for the beta are not high because intelligence and education probably is what is really driving the socioeconomic differences. And as you can see in every case people with more education or a higher intelligence are more supportive of free speech. These are the people who run American society. I’m intrigued that when accounting for background variables non-whites don’t seem particularly supportive of restraints on the speech of racists. In contrast, Hispanics seem definitely much more skeptical of free speech. Finally, being more religious and more conservative also tends to result in more support for censorship. Note that this is the case even in the situation where the very religious and conservative are more likely to support the outlined deviant position, militarism.

On a deep philosophical level what this is asking is whether the community has the right to restrain the speech of individuals. Historically, and to a great extent internationally, the answer is yes. Particular universal ideals of individual liberty which have expanded in scope since the 18th century have started to challenge this assumption, but even within Western societies there are substantial minorities who hew with the older ways.

• Category: Science • Tags: Data Analysis, GSS, Speech 
🔊 Listen RSS

After the post on fatness and homophobia I decided to query the GSS on the extent to which people think that fatness has a strong biological element, similar to homosexuality. There’s a variable, GENENVO1. It asks:

Character, personality, and many types of behavior are influenced both by the genes people inherit from their parents and by what they learn and experience as they grow up. For each of the following descriptions, we would like you to indicate what percent of the person’s behavior you believe is influenced by the genes they inherit, and what percent is influenced by their learning and experience and other aspects of their environment. The boxes on handcard D1 are arranged so that the first box on the LEFT (which is numbered 1) represents 100% genetic influence (and 0% environment). The next box (numbered 2) represents 95% genes (and 5% environment), and so on. The RIGHTMOST box (numbered 21) represents 100% environmental influence (and no genetic influence). After each description, please type the number of the box that comes closest to your answer. Please use the numbered scale on handcard D1 to indicate, FOR EACH OF THE BEHAVIORS DESCRIBED, what percent of the person’s behavior you think is influenced by the genes they inherit, and what percent is influenced by their learning and experience. After each question, type the number of the box that comes closest to your answer. Remember, the higher the number, the more you think the behavior is influenced by learning and experience; the lower the number, the more you think it is influenced by genes. Carol is a substantially overweight White woman. She has lost weight in the past but always gains it back again.

Yes, the question itself is somewhat scientifically incoherent. Heritability doesn’t really work this way, but in the colloquial sense it is not an unreasonable question to ask, as it gauges real sentiment. Because the response are in five point increments, I combined the intervals 0 to 25% and 75 to 100%, and left the middle as a separate category. I crossed that with a host of demographics, and also re-ran the analysis for non-Hispanic whites only.

Before I report the results I’ll stipulate a few things (this might preempt me having to ban people who sincerely leave long, but unpleasant, comments). I accept that weight is substantially heritable, but I do not believe that the levels of obesity that we see in the United State are inevitable. But, I do also believe that there is a “moral panic” of sorts about obesity in the United States. Much of the attack on obesity which is grounded in real concerns about health also does rely upon the genuine loathing and disgust toward fat people which is widespread in American society. Additionally, there is a class dimension here, insofar as in the United States being grossly obese is more emblematic of the lower orders. All that being said, I think it is important to acknowledge that the vast majority of obese people would be happier, and live more fulfilled lives, if they weren’t obese. Though this doesn’t entail that I agree with criminalizing obesity, it does mean that I think that the “fat acceptance movement” is misguided. Rather than acceptance of fat, people need to be more generally civilized toward a level of inter-personal kindness which would diminish a whole host of cruelties. We don’t need to “liberate” fat people. We just need to “not be dicks.”


Being overweight is….
100 to 75% genes 70 to 30% genes 25 to 0% genes
Respondent’s weight
AVERAGE 18 48 34
18-25 20 48 32
26-40 19 45 35
41-65 17 46 37
66- 18 49 34
MALE 18 45 36
FEMALE 18 47 34
WHITE 16 48 36
BLACK 27 39 34
HISPANIC 26 40 34
Socioeconomic index
Bottom 1/3 25 41 34
Middle 1/3 17 47 36
Top 1/3 14 50 35
<HIGH SCHOOL 30 40 30
HIGH SCHOOL 20 43 37
BACHELOR 14 52 34
GRADUATE 8 57 35
Income indexed to 1986 dollars
<$20 23 44 33
$20-40 20 47 34
$40-60 10 49 41
$60-80 15 54 31
$120-140 15 46 39
Liberal 28 43 29
Moderate 17 52 30
Conservative 18 44 38
Non-Hispanic whites
Respondent’s weight
AVERAGE 15 50 35
18-25 16 55 28
26-40 15 48 37
41-65 15 48 37
66- 17 50 33
MALE 16 48 37
FEMALE 15 50 34
Socioeconomic index
Bottom 1/3 22 43 35
Middle 1/3 15 48 36
Top 1/3 13 53 35
<HIGH SCHOOL 28 44 29
HIGH SCHOOL 17 46 37
BACHELOR 11 53 36
GRADUATE 8 59 33
Income indexed to 1986 dollars
<$20 18 49 32
$20-40 17 48 35
$40-60 8 50 41
$60-80 16 55 29
$120-140 14 46 40
Liberal 22 46 32
Moderate 16 54 30
Conservative 15 46 39

Out of curiosity I ran a linear regression with the variable not recombined into three categories (so the full 1 to 21 range in outcomes). Basically the only major statistically significant predictors seem to be education and political ideology. The less educated and more liberal tend to think that an individual’s weight is more due to their genes than the more conservative and more educated.

Image credit: Wikipedia

• Category: Science • Tags: Data Analysis, Obesity 
🔊 Listen RSS

Over at Econlog Bryan Caplan bets that India’s fertility will be sup-replacement within 20 years. My first inclination was to think that this was a totally easy call for Caplan to make. After all, much of southern India, and the northwest, is already sup-replacement. And then I realized that heterogeneity is a major issue. This is a big problem I see with political and social analysis. Large nations are social aggregations that are not always comparable to smaller nations (e.g., “Sweden has such incredible social metrics compared to the United States”; the appropriate analogy is the European Union as a whole).

So, for example, India obviously went ahead with its demographic transition earlier than Pakistan. But what this masks is that the two largest states in terms of population in India, in the far north, actually resemble Pakistan in demographics, not the rest of India. Uttar Pradesh, with a population 20 million larger than Pakistan, has similar fertility rate as India’s western neighbor. Bihar currently has a slightly higher fertility rate than Pakistan when you look at online sources (though the proportion under 25 is a little lower, indicating that its fertility 10-15 years ago was lower than Pakistan’s, it is simply that Pakistan is now transitioning toward replacement faster than Bihar).

The key for Caplan’s bet is that over time Uttar Pradesh and Bihar will become a larger and larger proportion of India’s population. Though they’ll probably drop in fertility, for the purposes of Caplan’s bet perhaps the better question is whether Uttar Pradesh and Bihar will attain sub-replacement fertility in 2032, not India. That’s a much different question than India as a whole. I think Caplan has an even chance of winning, but it’s not guaranteed.

• Category: Science • Tags: Data Analysis, Demographics, India, Pakistan, Population 
🔊 Listen RSS

Over at Darwin Catholic a commenter asked whether a pro-choice commenter on this weblog also supported the death penalty. I presume that they were here pointing to the consistent life ethic issue. Many liberals who oppose capital punishment support abortion rights, and many conservatives who support capital punishment oppose abortion rights. These camps both have their viewpoints, which I’m not interested in re-litigating in the comments. But I was curious as to the overall societal support for the combinations of positions.

So I looked at the GSS, using the CAPPUN and ABANY variables (capital punishment, and abortion for any reason). In this post I will show you screenshots of the GSS output. It’s ugly, but it shows you deviation away from the expected proportions. Basically, if two variables are independent you can predict what you’d expect to be the crossed percentages over the four cells. If the results deviate from that you can ascertain particular associations. In the GSS output red means that the cell has a higher value than it should, and blue a lower value. Additionally, the intensity signals the magnitude of the deviation. I limited all results to the year 2000 and later.

First, the general aggregate result:

What you see here is a moderate correlation between pro-termination positions (of murders and fetuses), and between anti-termination positions. I decided to break it down by demographic, and that’s where the strangeness jumped out at me (though not in hindsight).

First, non-Hispanic whites.

Now you see a striking reversal of the associations. The political stereotypes hold here; non-Hispanic whites who oppose abortion rights favor the death penalty. Those who favor abortion rights oppose the death penalty.

So let’s separate by ideology.


I was rather surprised by these results, and I don’t have anything succinct to say, so I’ll just leave them.

Now blacks & Hispanics.

As I said, in hindsight these patterns make sense. But interesting to see how they play out in any case….

• Category: Science • Tags: Data Analysis, Death Penalty, Ethics 
🔊 Listen RSS

It’s basically impossible to avoid hearing about Todd Akin right now. My Twitter and Facebook feeds are kind of swamped. But it did make me wonder: what percentage of Americans reject abortion in cases of rape and incest? The GSS has a handy variable, ABRAPE, which asks respondents about the possibility of abortion if a woman gets pregnant as a result of rape (let’s stipulate that it’s possible to get pregnant as a result of rape!). I also limited the sample to the year 2000 and later, and non-Hispanic whites (to clear out confounds). Demographic breakdowns below….

Before people start complaining, the scale below goes from 0% to 50%, NOT 0% to 100%!


• Category: Science • Tags: Abortion, Data Analysis, GSS 
🔊 Listen RSS

Long time readers know that one of my pet hobby-horses is to try and convince more pundits that they should use the GSS. Opinions based on opinions may be fun, but opinions based on facts may be useful. In general my appeals have fallen on deaf ears. But today I notice that Will Saletan is using GSS data to discussion the Todd Akin case. You may not agree with Saletan’s take on the results, but at least he bothered to generate some results.

• Category: Science • Tags: Data Analysis, GSS 
🔊 Listen RSS

Reihan Salam has a post up on the alignment of racism and political orientation. He begins:

Recently, Chris Hayes, host of MSNBC’s UP with Chris Hayes, made the following observation:

It is undeniably the case that racist Americans are almost entirely in one political coalition and not the other.

Chris is a good friend of mine, and we grew up in the same milieu. I can attest to the fact that the view he expressed is very widely held in the circles in which we both travel….

Salam then links to Alex Tabarrok, who uses party identification data to indicate that actually racism is split between the two groups, while John Sides suggests that there is a definite lean toward Republicans being more racist, using a few indicator variables. Overall I think Sides is about right, all things equal conservatives are more racist than liberals. At least in the modern context of the two ideologies.* I say conservative/liberal rather than Republican/Democrat, because my experience with the GSS data set is that ideology is a more powerful predictor of social views among whites. This holds true with the variables which Tabarrok and Sides query from what I can see; the gap between Democrats and Republicans is smaller than between liberals and conservatives. Why? There are still a non-trivial number of self-identified conservative Democrats in this country, as well as very well off socially moderate Republicans who vote their economic interests.

Before further analysis, I do want to admit one thing: “racism” is a subjective term to a great extent. I say this because there are very few Americans left who will defend legal segregation and white supremacy. At the other extreme there are some Democrats and liberals who would claim that opposition to affirmative action is racism. That seems too far. Between the two are a whole host of views ad positions, and there is dispute where to draw the appropriate line. But no matter where you draw the line there does seem a robust difference between white liberals and conservatives. The only key issue is that the difference, even if consistent, is often not very great. Sides and Tabarrok seem to have the right of it in relation to Hayes.

What I think is going on with Hayes’ assertion is similar to what’s going on with social conservatives who talk about “pro-family” views and attitudes. Very few liberals are “anti-family” (though some Leftist radials arguably are, insofar as they want to overturn normative understandings of the American family). And yet similarly very few conservatives are “pro-racism.” Rather, the terms have become implicit code among conservatives and liberals for opinions on a wide range of family and race related issues. Even if conservatives don’t live the pro-family agenda (e.g., Newt Gingrich), they believe in it. Similarly, even if white liberals live among, socialize, and marry, other white liberals, they believe in a particular vision of race relations. More concretely, conservatives who label themselves pro-family support a suite of policies which they presume support the values of families, even if their own families are a shambles. Liberals who oppose racism in Vermont or rural Oregon do so through their support for particular policies which they believe foster national racial equality.

But to some data. Replicating John Sides’ results with ideology, for non-Hispanic whites after the year 2000:

But I wanted to take the analysis just a little further than Sides. First, what about segregation in one’s personal life?


I did find a variable where there was a strong difference between whites by ideology:

These results prompted me to look for some literature in this domain. Here’s what I found, Is Love Colorblind? Political Orientation and Interracial Romantic Desire:

As shown in Figure 2, the probability that a White participant at 1 SD toward the liberal end of the spectrum would say “yes” to a Black speed-dater was approximately 26%, whereas the probability that a White participant at 1 SD toward the conservative end of the spectrum would say “yes” to a Black speed-dater was approximately 16%.

I think these results encapsulate the truth which Chris Hayes’ elided: a tendency toward racial whites consciousness, whether explicit or implicit, increases the odds that one is conservative (and vice versa), but it does not guarantee that one is conservative.

* There was a time in the 19th century where being racialist was the more progressive ideology.

• Category: Science • Tags: Data Analysis, GSS, Interracial, Racism 
🔊 Listen RSS

There was a question below in regards to the high fertility of some extreme (“ultra”) religious groups, in particular Haredi Jews. The commenter correctly points out that these Jews utilize the Western welfare system to support large families. This is not limited to just Haredi Jews. The reason Somalis and Arabs have fertility ~3.5 in Helsinki, as opposed to ~1.5 as is the norm, is in part to due to the combination of pro-natalist subcultural norms, and a generous benefits state. Of course we mustn’t overemphasize economics. Israel’s decline in Arab Muslim fertility but rise in Jewish fertility in the 2000s has been hypothesized to be due to different responses to reductions in child subsidies by Muslims and the Haredi Jews. In short, the former reacted much more strongly to economic disincentives in relation to the latter.

A bigger question is whether exponential growth driven by ideology can continue indefinitely. I doubt it. Demographics is inevitable, but subject to a lot of qualifications. Haredi political power in Israel grants some benefits, but at the end of the day basic economics will serve as a check on the growth of the population of this sector. Similarly, barring massive productivity gains we’ll see some structural changes to the provision of government services across the aging developed world.

Below are some fertility numbers from the GSS. You see the median number of children for non-Hispanic whites born before 1960 from the year 2000 and later. I’ve compared the demographics of fundamentalists, non-fundamentalists, and those who are skeptical of the revealed nature of the Bible.

Attitudes toward Bible and median fertility
Word of God Inspired Word Book of Fables
No College 2.58 2.29 2.17
College 2.21 2.05 1.65
Mean real income, indexed to 1986
$0-$15000 2.63 2.27 1.97
$15001-$30000 2.50 2.19 2.00
$30001-$50000 2.28 2.29 1.92
$50000> 2.53 2.11 1.85
WORDSUM (vocab test) score
0-4 (dumb) 2.71 2.08 2.23
5-8 (average) 2.54 2.26 2.07
9-10 (smart) 2.58 2.07 1.69

These data imply to me that the secular are getting idiocratic faster than the fundamentalists.

• Category: Science • Tags: Data Analysis, Demographics, Fertility 
🔊 Listen RSS

A commenter below notes:

Also, in modern society, doesn’t just about everyone reproduce, such that not only is any particular advantage competing against other countervailing pressures as you note, but also that the “less fit” genomes are not removed from the overall population, but rather are added back to the mix? In other words, the less-preferred short males don’t die and have zero kids, they also get married and their genes get thrown back into the pot.

First, let’s not get caught in the assumption that for genes to be disfavored one has to have zero fitness in individuals carrying those genes. If, for example, in a situation of demographic expansion you had individuals who had eight children vs. those who had one child, there would be selection for the traits which were passed by those with eight children in relation to those who had one child. But, it did make me realize I wasn’t intuitively aware of the distribution of number of offspring in the population. I assumed that the median was around two, but that’s about it.

So, I looked at the GSS CHILDS variable for individuals born in 1950 or earlier from the year 2000 on (COHORT and YEAR variables). I also separated out the results by sex. Do not take these results as definitive because the GSS data set is not entirely representative. But, it does give you a general sense.

In hindsight I can’t say I’m surprised that somewhat over 10 percent of middle-aged adults and older currently don’t have any children. That sounds about right. And the proportion of those who were only children also seems plausible.

• Category: Science • Tags: Data, Data Analysis 
🔊 Listen RSS

There’s a cliche, which isn’t totally false, that more education tends to lead one toward heterodox viewpoints which challenge conventional norms. But one issue that has been coming to the fore over the last 10 years or so is that college educated Americans tend toward social liberalism, and yet often continue to live very bourgeois lives. In other words, the freedoms which they favor are those freedoms which are ever operative in their own lives. In contrast those Americans without college educations tend to have a less libertarian attitude toward personal mores, but have lives characterized by greater disturbance and disastrous choices.

And yet this does not hold in the case of what articles such as this report, How Divorce Lost Its Groove:

Though she wasn’t entirely surprised. Ever since her divorce three years ago, Ms. Thomas said, she has been antisocial, “nervous about what people would say.”

After all, she had gone from Park Slope matron, complete with involved husband (“We had cracked the code of Gen X peer parenthood”) and gut-renovated brownstone, to “a Red Hook divorcée,” she said, remarried with a new baby and two children-of-divorce barely out of preschool. “All of a sudden, this community I’d lived in for 13 years became this spare and mean savannah,” she said.

It was as if, she said, everyone she knew felt bad for her but no one wanted to be near her, either. Even though adultery was not part of the equation, Ms. Thomas said, “I feel like I have a giant letter A on my front and back.

The article goes on to detail how exactly marriage is working for the upper middle class, and it is not working for the lower and lower middle class. But there isn’t much more than anecdote for social attitudes, as opposed to actions (which may have material bases). So I decided to look at the General Social Survey. I looked at the variable DIVLAW over the 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s. Then I limited the sample to whites, and divided them between those with college degrees, and those without. To my surprise the “trend story” seems about right in broad strokes:

1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s
Non-college educated Make divorce easier 25 23 24 24
Keep the law the same 22 19 19 22
Make divorce more difficult 53 59 57 54
College educated Make divorce easier 38 21 19 17
Keep the law the same 25 30 29 34
Make divorce more difficult 37 50 51 49

Mind you, this does not lend itself to an interpretation that college educated want to take divorce laws and norms back to the 1950s. Rather, there seems a genuine strand of sentiment that the liberties of the 1970s went too far. This is an important finding because in general the more well educated are more socially liberal in attitudes on a given issue. And, quite often that liberalism waxes over time. Here you have a case where that is not so. Why? I have to offer that perhaps that is because divorce is not simply a matter of the individual. It effects the social fabric, and in particular children.

• Category: Science • Tags: Data Analysis, Divorce, Marriage 
🔊 Listen RSS

The readers of this weblog are relatively non-fecund, at least going by reader surveys. But I was curious nonetheless about the attitudes toward number of children, and realized goals of number of children, in the General Social Survey. I decided to look at two variables:



The former asks the respondent how many children they had, the latter how many they’d like to have. I restricted the sample to whites ages 45-65 for every survey year. I then combined all the years of a particular decade, so you have 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. For demographics I looked at highest educational attainment, and household income indexed to 1986 real value dollars (so they are comparable across decades).

Two major takeaways:

1) Education matters more than income in terms of number of children. Having lots of education tends to reduce family size. No great surprise.

2) Ideal number of children increased in the 2000s, but the decline in average number of children continued.

There is often talk in the literature on the disjunction between ideal family size in Third World nations and the realized family size, with a larger number of children than women may want. What is less discussed is the inverse discussion. It seems that Americans want larger families than they manage to have. Of course, there is the distinction between avowed and realized preferences here.


1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s
< HS 2.78 2.99 2.84 2.55
HS 2.64 2.86 2.53 2.2
J. College 3.11 2.37 2.29 2.12
Bachelor 2.68 2.39 2.11 1.78
Graduate 2.52 2.41 2.05 1.74
< $20 K 2.49 2.76 2.47 2.13
$20-40 K 2.68 2.83 2.48 2.04
$40-80 K 2.8 2.87 2.4 2.1
$80 K > 3.24 2.8 2.32 2.09
1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s
< HS 3.1 2.99 2.76 2.79
HS 2.95 2.83 2.65 2.9
J. College 3.1 2.59 2.62 3.19
Bachelor 3.06 2.82 2.76 3.04
Graduate 2.87 2.72 3.27 3.12
< $20 K 3.06 2.93 2.81 2.93
$20-40 K 2.99 2.86 2.74 2.97
$40-80 K 2.9 2.74 2.71 3
$80 K > 3.33 2.79 2.69 3.04
• Category: Science • Tags: Data Analysis, Demographics 
🔊 Listen RSS

In the year 2008 1,400 people were asked this question in the GSS:

Scientists should be allowed to do research that causes pain and injury to animals like dogs and chimpanzees if it produces new information about human health problems. (Do you strongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree?)

(variable ANSCITST)

I was curious because I ran into some stuff on pro-life sites today about how animal rights activist don’t oppose abortion, and how hypocritical that is. So naturally I was curious about how attitudes varied on that issue.

Allow animal testing which might case pain
Strongly agree Agree Disagree Strongly Disagree
Yes to abortion on demand 8 31 39 22
No to abortion on demand 7 32 39 23

What the results above show is that there is almost no difference in attitudes toward animal research when you vary attitudes toward abortion on demand. In other words, 22 percent of pro-choice people oppose such research strongly, while 23 percent of pro-life people do. How does this vary by demographic?

Strongly agree Agree Disagree Strongly Disagree
Male 8 44 34 14
Female 4 23 42 31
Liberal 6 34 38 22
Moderate 5 32 38 25
Conservative 7 35 38 20
White 6 31 39 24
Black 7 41 36 16
No College Degree 6 32 38 24
College Degree 7 36 38 19
Stupid (WORDSUM 0-4) 8 33 38 22
Average (WORDSUM 5-8) 6 34 36 25
Smart (WORDSUM 9-10) 13 29 41 16
Age 18-35 4 34 40 22
Age 36-65 7 32 37 24
Age 66 and up 8 33 39 20
Protestant 6 35 39 20
Catholic 7 32 38 24
Jewish 12 29 36 23
No Religion 7 31 36 26
Atheist & agnostic 9 36 33 21
Theist 6 33 38 23
Bible Word of God 5 36 39 20
Bible Inspired Word 5 32 39 24
Bible Book of Fables 10 32 35 22

• Category: Science • Tags: Animal Rights, Data Analysis 
🔊 Listen RSS

Prompted by a comment below I was curious as to the correlation between intelligence and income. To indicate intelligence I used the GSS’s WORDSUM variable, which has a ~0.70 correlation with IQ. For income, I used REALINC, which is indexed to 1986 values (so it is inflation adjusted) and aggregates the household income. Finally, I limited my sample to non-Hispanic whites over the age of 30 (for what it’s worth, this choice also limited the data set to respondents from the year 2000 and later).

The results don’t get at the commenter’s assertions, because 10 out of 10 on WORDSUM does not imply that you’re that smart really. But the trendline is suggestive. Note that aggregated 0-4 because the sample size at the lower values is small indeed.

• Category: Science • Tags: Data, Data Analysis, GSS, IQ 
🔊 Listen RSS

In the further interests of putting quantitative data out their instead of vague impressions, I noticed two GSS variables which might be of interest. One queries the impression of effect on the environment of genetically modified crops. The second asks about whether science does more harm than good. The latter question exhibited almost no year to year variation of note, so I just threw them in a pot together. But for the environment and genetically modified crop question I show responses for the year 2000 and 2010. As you can see there is a modest difference in regards to the first where liberals are more skeptical.

• Category: Science • Tags: Data, Data Analysis 
Razib Khan
About Razib Khan

"I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. If you want to know more, see the links at"