Who’s making more babies? “Good boys” or “bad boys”? Originally, the good boys were, thanks to parental monitoring of relations between single men and single women. The pendulum then swung toward the bad boys in the 1940s, only to swing back after the 1960s.
A recent Swedish study has found that “bad boys” are outbreeding “good boys”:
Convicted criminal offenders had more children than individuals never convicted of a criminal offense. Criminal offenders also had more reproductive partners, were less often married, more likely to get remarried if ever married, and had more often contracted a sexually transmitted disease than non-offenders. Importantly, the increased reproductive success of criminals was explained by a fertility increase from having children with several different partners. (Yao et al., 2014)
This study has been much talked about, yet few people have noticed its one big flaw. Sweden has many citizens of foreign origin whose crime and fertility rates exceed those of the native population (Crime in Sweden, 2014; Landes, 2008). Reproductive success may thus correlate with criminality simply because both tend to be higher among non-natives than among natives. Admittedly, this alternate explanation had been foreseen by the authors of the study and they tried to correct for it:
We included variables potentially associated with both criminal and reproductive behavior as covariates. [...] Immigrant status has been associated with both rule breaking, primarily through associations with other familial and socioeconomic risk markers (Moehling & Piehl, 2009), and adherence to cultural norms influencing fertility and monogamy-related outcomes (Coleman, 2006). The migration register provided information on immigrant status defined as being born in Sweden or not. (Yao et al., 2014)
Unfortunately, country of birth is no longer a satisfactory proxy for cultural identity, at least not in Sweden’s case. There is now a large Swedish-born population that self-identifies as Pakistani, Somali, or Afghan, including the youths who rioted in Malmö last year. The Swedish crime rate is influenced almost as much by the Swedish-born of foreign background as by the foreign-born:
During the period 1997-2001, 25% of the almost 1,520,000 offences for which a perpetrator was convicted were committed by people born in the Middle East or Eastern Europe, while almost 20% were committed by people with a foreign background who were born in Sweden. (Crime in Sweden, 2014)
If we could examine only people of Swedish descent, I doubt reproductive success would still correlate with criminality or, more exactly, with a tendency to “love and leave” one woman after another. Such a correlation used to exist in the U.S. but disappeared almost half a century ago. This was the conclusion of Jason Malloy and JayMan (2012) when they used General Social Survey data to find out the number of children fathered by monogamous men (“good boys”) versus men who had several female sex partners (“bad boys”). It seems that the reproductive success of bad boys has varied a lot over time:
Men born before 1920 – courtship under parental supervision
In this cohort, good boys were the top breeders. No need to think hard to find the reason. Any man wishing to meet a single woman, other than a prostitute, had to run a gauntlet of parental supervision. The preferred form of courtship was still “calling.” If a woman struck your fancy, you could “call” on her at her home. If she and her parents were favorably impressed, you could come back for further visits and eventually start taking her out to social events. Otherwise, that would be the end of it. A more direct approach could get you in big trouble, as a reference book for American lawmakers explained in 1886:
The state should punish, not only treacherous inducements to incontinence or to unchastity when accompanied by the violation of particular duties, and the seduction of minors, or girls under sixteen, but also seduction when it assumes a character dangerous to the interests of the community. It is not the duty of the state to make the individual moral, or to protect her against temptations to immorality; but it should endeavor to prevent all acts of immorality calculated to poison family life and the life of the nation. (Lalor, 1886, vol.III, p. 211)
The concern here is not just venereal disease, but also a family’s genetic heritage. In the 19th century, people believed that a part of their essence was reincarnated in their children and grandchildren. Their concern over sex was fueled not by irrational hang-ups but by a very rational desire to maintain the integrity of their family line. Bad boys threatened that integrity, and it was not for nothing that many ended up in jail … or at the end of a rope.
Men born between 1920 and 1939 – rise of dating, illegitimacy, and adoption
In this cohort, bad boys were the top breeders. Parental supervision had slackened with the replacement of calling by dating, thus creating new opportunities for them to sow their seed. A sharp rise in illegitimacy led to a sharp rise in adoption:
[...] The period 1945 to 1974, the baby scoop era, saw rapid growth and acceptance of adoption as a means to build a family. Illegitimate births rose three-fold after World War II, as sexual mores changed. Simultaneously, the scientific community began to stress the dominance of nurture over genetics, chipping away at eugenic stigmas. In this environment, adoption became the obvious solution for both unwed mothers and infertile couples. (Adoption, 2014)
Adoption had previously been very rare. As late as 1923, only 2% of children without parental care ended up in adoptive homes, the others going to foster homes or orphanages (Adoption, 2014). And a large chunk of that 2% involved adoptions between related families. These statistics are mirrored by my family tree: whenever children were left with no provider, they would be adopted by an aunt or an uncle or placed in a foster home. In those days, changing your family identity was as unthinkable as changing your religion or nationality.
To deal with the surge of illegitimacy, progressive-minded people now turned toward a seemingly great idea. On the one hand, there were babies abandoned by deadbeat dads. On the other, there were middle-class families with loving homes. Why not transfer these babies from the dads who don’t love them to the ones who can?
The 20th century is littered with great ideas that proved to be not so great. Adoption is no exception. One negative outcome, which could have been foreseen, is that adopted children tend to replicate the psychological profile of their biological fathers. In one study, Gibson (2009) notes:
Adoptees were more likely than genetic offspring to have ever received public assistance, been divorced or been arrested. They also completed fewer years of schooling and were more likely to have ever required professional treatment for mental health, alcohol and drug issues.
[...] This supports other research showing that, compared to genetic children, American adoptees have a higher overall risk of contact with mental health professionals, specifically for eating disorders, learning disabilities, personality disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder [...] They also have lower achievement and more problems in school, abuse drugs and alcohol more, and fight with or lie to parents more than genetic children [...]
These problems are not due to adoptive parents shortchanging adoptees. In fact, the reverse seems true:
This study categorically fails to support the hypothesis that parents bias investment toward genetically related children. Every case of significant differential investment was biased toward adoptees. Parents were more likely to provide preschool, private tutoring, summer school, cars, rent, personal loans and time with sports to adopted children. (Gibson, 2009)
Adoption does seem to improve the behavior of these children. It lowers their risk of committing violent crime, although they remain just as likely to commit other offences:
The possibility that genetic factors are among the causes of criminal behavior was tested by comparing court convictions of 14,427 adoptees with those of their biological and adoptive parents. A statistically significant correlation was found between the adoptees and their biological parents for convictions of property crimes. This was not true with respect to violent crimes. There was no statistically significant correlation between adoptee and adoptive parent court convictions. Siblings adopted separately into different homes tended to be concordant for convictions, especially if the shared biological father also had a record of criminal behavior. (Mednick et al., 1984)
With respect to intellectual capacity, adoptees likewise seem to benefit from their new homes, although the benefit tends to wash out over time. When children with two white biological parents were adopted into white middle-class homes, they initially did somewhat better than their non-adopted siblings, as seen on IQ tests at the age of 7. By the age of 17, however, the situation had reversed, with the adoptees falling behind their non-adopted siblings in terms of IQ, GPA, class ranking, and school aptitude (Minnesota Transracial Adoption Study, 2014).
Clearly, adoptees are getting some benefit although the benefit is less than what some may think. It also comes at a price. When the family unit is reoriented toward social welfare goals, it can no longer serve its original purpose of perpetuating a genetic heritage.
Men born after 1939 – separation of sex from reproduction
In this cohort, good boys have once again been the top breeders. This might seem counterintuitive. After all, sexual morality has become even more liberal since the 1960s, and this change has paralleled a growing infatuation with thuggish males in popular culture. Yet something seems to have kept bad boys from translating their sexual success into reproductive success.
That “something” is easier access to contraception and … Roe v. Wade. More and more good girls are making out with bad boys, but fewer and fewer are making babies with them.
Pro-lifers see this as proof that pro-choicers are secret eugenicists. I think it’s just an unintended consequence. Paradoxically as it may seem, modern culture is favoring the reproduction of stable couples who plan for the long term and invest in their children.
Just think. What is the core message of modern culture? It’s live for today, live for yourself, and avoid long-term commitments, such as family and children. And who responds the most to that message? It’s people whose time orientation is already focused on the present and who already invest as little as possible in their offspring. Modern culture is sterilizing those individuals who are most susceptible to its message.
And so, when it comes to having babies and raising them to adulthood, America’s white middle class is slowly but surely closing in on first place (Frost, 2012).
Perhaps this is all for the best. What other choices are there? Conservative politicians talk a lot about traditional values, but not one in ten believe what they say. To judge by their personal lives, many seem happy with the current climate of sexual permissiveness. Anyhow, if conservatives really do try to turn back the clock, their efforts will be blocked by the libertarian right and the liberal left. And if they manage to outflank both groups, they’ll be lucky to take us back to the policies and practices of the 1950s. Unfortunately, this is one case where half-measures will make things worse. We’ve come to where we are because of the 1950s.
So what political option is left for someone like me? I wish to preserve our existing genetic heritage, if only because we don’t fully understand what we are about to lose. If you feel the same way, the best course of action seems to be the present one of separating sex from reproduction. Call it “tactical liberalism” if you wish, but I see no other realistic alternative.
“Adoption” (2014) Wikipedia
“Crime in Sweden” (2014). Wikipedia
Frost, P. (2012). Obama: White America’s bogeyman? Evo and Proud, November 24
Gibson, K. (2009). Differential parental investment in families with both adopted and genetic children, Evolution and Human Behavior,30, 184-189.
JayMan. (2012). Some guys get all the babes – not exactly, JayMan’s Blog, November 8
Lalor, J.J. (1886). Cyclopaedia of Political Science, Political Economy, and of the Political History of the United States, Chicago: A.H. Andrews & Co.
Landes, D. (2008). Higher birth rates among Sweden’s foreign born,The Local, November 3
Mednick, S.A., W.F. Gabrielli Jr., & B. Hutchings. (1984). Genetic influences in criminal convictions: evidence from an adoption cohort,Science, 224, 891-894
“Minnesota Transracial Adoption Study” (2014), Wikipedia
Yao, S., N. Langstrom, H. Temri, and H. Walum. (2014). Criminal offending as part of an alternative reproductive strategy: investigating evolutionary hypotheses using Swedish total population data,Evolution and Human Behavior, in press