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A Tale of Three Maps
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To demonstrate a point that I have asserted at various points – a point that tends to be often indirectly hinted at in the blogosphere and only occasionally stately concretely, I again avail to maps to tell a tale.

First, I’ll start with a previously featured map of fertility rates across Europe:


This is a map of the total fertility rates across Europe by region, as previously seen on my blog. I’ve filled in data for the former Soviet and Yugoslav states. Last time, I made the case that fertility exists in an inverse relationship with population density. Europeans (and East Asians to a degree) prefer to have a lot of room when procreating, and don’t seem too keen on having families in urban areas. As well, fertility is impacted by cost of living. This seems to heavily affect Europeans and East Asians when it comes to having children because these peoples have been selected to seek resource security before procreating. Not being able to afford the “standard” necessities makes individuals in these groups feel that they (largely incorrectly in today’s world) can’t afford to have children. Cost of living is heavily impacted by population density; the more dense the area, the higher land values (and all other expenses) typically tend to be. This limits how far your money can go, and limits how much is left for starting a family. The result in much of the developed world is sub-replacement fertility. While low-fertility is not necessarily a bad thing, especially in the most crowded countries, and is ultimately a temporary phenomenon, it does speak to a certain level of psychological distress.

And with that said, compare the above map to this map:


This is a map I drew of self-reported happiness in across Europe, as assessed by the World Values Survey. Above are the percentages of people in each surveyed region that report being “very happy” (4 on a 4 point scale, the others being “quite happy”, “not very happy”, and “not at all happy”). Most of the data comes from the fifth wave of the study, collected between 2005 and 2008, hence is roughly contemporaneous with the fertility data shown here. However, some countries were not included in this wave, and for most of those I drew my data from the fourth wave, collected around 1999. The gray areas in Europe are areas where the sample sizes were too small (less than 50 respondents). The percentage ranges exclude the lower bound and include the upper bound.

(Note: some of the low scores here are slightly misleading. Most of the areas where a very low proportion of people responded that they were “very happy” have a very high proportion – often 70-80% – reporting that they were “quite happy.” This is especially so for Spain, Italy, and Lithuania. However some others, such as Portugal and Latvia, do have fairly small proportions even in this category. An indeed, reported happiness in quite low in Romania. Sadly, in many of its low-scoring regions, a large majority of the people report being “not very happy” or worse.)

As we can plainly see, there is a pronounced relationship between fertility rates and happiness. Indeed, as I’ve articulated in discussion, people are most happy when they can make enough of a living to support a family. What people seem to want most, by and large, is indeed the house, the white picket fence, and their 2.3 kids. This is why in the United States, the proportion of people who reported being “very happy” peaked in the 1950s – in the middle of the Baby Boom – and hasn’t returned since.

There is a distinct fertility advantage in Northwestern Europe as opposed to Central, Southern, and Eastern Europe. As we’ve seen, this isn’t solely the result of population pressure, because population densities in much of Eastern and Southern Europe are on the low side (land quality is another matter). This brings me to the third map:


This is a map of gross domestic product per capita across Europe, in purchasing power parity, from Eurostat, with additional information filled in (for Norway and for the former Soviet and Yugoslav states). This is essentially the relative wealth of the European regions. The disparity between Northwestern Europe and the rest of the continent is quite evident here. Perhaps the poor fertility of Eastern Europe can be explained by the abundance of poor people. With anything resembling resource security apparently an elusive target, children may be only be a distant wish for many. (It may be worth considering the map of unemployment from my original Tales of Two Maps post also for more insight on some of these apparently wealthier areas. I would have added it here as well, but I liked the title of this post, and hence I had to choose which one to feature in this post. The above map won out.)

The few disconnects between fertility and happiness from the previous two maps are attenuated when this map is considered (particularly in the poorly fecund but wealthy Alpine area). However, by far, fertility remains the stronger correlate with happiness. Happiness, it appears, means the ability to make babies and the ability to comfortably support them (with the things that modern parents expect to have, anyway).

In retrospect, it is silly anyone thought it any different; the primary goal of all life is to reproduce. Contrary to the sentiment of Ellen Walker, for most people, anything that interferes with this primary goal is bound to create misery for many – or, at the very least, lead to an empty life for many more (also here and here).

Now, this project is an example of picking some really low-hanging fruit, and can easily be expanded to look at things globally (indeed, the levels of people reporting being “very happy” in the poorly fecund East Asian countries are all low), and I will do so at some point. But I wanted to do this preliminary examination of the data, and lo and behold, I found much what I expected. In a way, this post is a the natural conclusion of my first two “Tales of Two Maps” posts.

Some might try to explain away this data on the apparent happiness of Northwestern Europeans as a result of their high standard of living and the freedom that they their open societies permit them. However, I think this is a poorer fit. If this was the case, why are peoples who are just as free, such the Spaniards, Italians, and Portuguese considerably less happy? Why are the wealthy and free Germans less content than the less wealthy Irish and Scots? Cultural (read: genetic) differences are likely also at play here, but I think this association is too strong to causally dismiss.

Many voices in the blogosphere note that the solution to the low-fertility problem (if we consider it to be problem; for the aforementioned reasons I don’t think that it is one per se) is for women to abandon the workforce. That, I’m afraid, is American Deep Southern/Appalachian-derived thinking. Sorry guys, but, it’s simply not going to happen. Women in developed countries, by in large, not only like to work, but indeed need to work. This is because they’ve evolved this way. As Greg Cochran and Henry Harpending point out in The 10,000 Year Explosion, cold-weather farming states selected for hard workers, indeed, people who are driven to work. Even if this selection was limited to men – which it wasn’t – it would have led to both the sons and daughters of these men becoming compulsive workers.

That being said, a recent survey found that 75% of new mothers in hard-working Britain would rather stay home with the children than work, if only they could “afford” to do so. Indeed, as noted in the links above, working women, to some degree, create their own problems. The additional income of two-earner households have served to bid up the cost of living, essentially necessitating working moms in a vicious cycle. In the past, women’s working energies were used tending to the home, the family’s affairs, and most importantly, to the crops that fed the family. Today, with agrarian living a thing of the past for most people and domestic life drastically simplified by technology, women find their outlet in working for a living (especially the high-IQ types that we’re most concerned with). Because of the current economics and the lack of anything significant to consume women’s time and energies, this pattern will not change in the foreseeable future.

The track that the Western European countries have taken, subsidizing and enabling women’s work with maternity leave and other amenities to working mothers is indeed the wisest recourse, with the above considered. This has opened up the “mommy track” in these countries to favorable results across Northwestern Europe. However, this is unlikely to ever take hold in America thanks to its Appalachian and Deep Southern heritage (more on that in a future post). I suppose the happy medium is for (again, higher-IQ) Western women to realize that quite likely family and children will turn out to be more important than career for them and, not guilt themselves too much if they find themselves gravitating to the former at the expense of the latter.

(Republished from JayMan's Blog by permission of author or representative)
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  1. Staffan says: • Website

    I’m not convinced, but I’m certainly intrigued. It’s interesting to see that large cities like Paris, London, Berlin, Stockholm and Bucharest make up islands of relatively less happiness than the surrounding areas. Especially since they at the same time make up islands of higher GDPs.

    • Replies: @JayMan
    , @Anon
    , @Anon
  2. JayMan says: • Website

    I’m not surprised about that: city living sucks. Cities contain the worst of all worlds: greater poverty; more crowding; fewer children; and of course, “diversity”. The percentage of people who thrive in city life is probably a tiny one compared to the masses of average joes just trying to get by. Good call on that!

  3. Anon • Disclaimer says:

    Paris is a wonderful place when you’re a 24 year-old single male. It’s an awful place when you’re a 35 year-old women with three kids who just wants to buy groceries.

    Jayman, I’m new around here. How do you reconcile this data with happiness research that seems to say kids are a mild negative? I’m not sure I believe that research, but I do have an interpretation: Maybe you’re capturing marriage, and not kids? Happiness research says marriage is a big positive and kids a mild negative. Regions with higher marriage rates probably have higher fertility, but maybe marriage is causing the happiness you observe, and giving a spurious positive correlation with fertility.

    • Replies: @JayMan
  4. JayMan says: • Website

    Jayman, I’m new around here.

    Well welcome!

    Paris is a wonderful place when you’re a 24 year-old single male. It’s an awful place when you’re a 35 year-old women with three kids who just wants to buy groceries.

    Yup, I believe it.

    How do you reconcile this data with happiness research that seems to say kids are a mild negative? I’m not sure I believe that research

    Bryan Caplan (who – despite the fact that I give him a hard time on Twitter about the open borders craziness – is rather brilliant about most of the stuff he talks about) has said a lot about children and happiness. I haven’t followed it all thoroughly, but I suspect most of it consists of nonsense correlations from apples-to-oranges comparisons. And the thing that seems to bear this out is right here. When people do longitudinal studies of people and see if more children decrease their happiness, they find no such effect. In other words, that kids make people less happy is bullshit, and indeed, the reverse seems to be true.

    Regions with higher marriage rates probably have higher fertility, but maybe marriage is causing the happiness you observe, and giving a spurious positive correlation with fertility.

    Likely this is part of the puzzle. To borrow Chris Rock’s idea, perhaps married and bored beats single and lonely…

    I will comb through Caplan’s writings on the topic and get back to you on this.

  5. Anthony says:

    While northwest Europeans are genetically driven to work, it doesn’t have to be *paid* work. Up through the early 70s, most volunteer organizations basically were run by mothers whose kids were in school. And many made it possible to bring in the littler kids, so that women with younger children could participate, too. Volunteer organizations won’t be as demanding, so adjusting one’s schedule around the kids is easier than for paid work.

    My mother was one of the only one of my parents’ social circle in the early 70s to work at a paid job, but some of her peers were spending more time on their volunteer activities than my mother was working and commuting.

    • Replies: @JayMan
  6. Anon • Disclaimer says:

    I’m familiar with Caplan, but hadn’t seen that one. Thanks for the pointer.

  7. My vague impression is that France has about the best real estate in the world.

  8. Definitely close correlation between fertility rates and reported levels of happiness in countries as seen on the first 2 maps. Britain’s fertility rate has rebounded in recent years, partly due to immigration and partly due to the native population having more children. I think Britain’s TFR reached a post-war peak in the early 1960s? then continued declining until the late 90’s before climbing again.

    In France I believe mothers are paid 1000 Euros/month for 1 year if they give birth to a third child. And in Scandinavia there is generous paid childcare and lengthy maternity/paternity leave etc. (all this of course comes at the cost of very high taxes).

    I think the lower levels of reported happiness in Eastern and Southern Europe may partly relate to economic weakness in these countries, but one should not overlook their less generous welfare states as compared with Western Europe. All of this will contribute to women reluctantly choosing to have fewer children. These countries are at an earlier stage of demographic transition, and in several years their TFR may start to rise also.

    The real mystery is Germany, which currently has a strong economy and a fairly generous welfare state, but very low reported happiness and a very low fertility rate. Of course we should remember that part of Germany is a former eastern bloc country like the low happiness/low fertility central & eastern European countries. I think the eastern part of Germany may still have some economic weakness but it is no longer enough to drag the whole country down. I did hear that there is a much lower level of labour force participation among German mothers, which apparently is due to cultural reasons. Whereas in Scandinavia many mothers return to work and continue bringing in a second income to their family, in Germany this is far less common so with a reduced household income they rationally make the choice to have no more than one child. Apparently there is now pressure to reform the tax/welfare system to encourage more German mothers to return to work.

    • Replies: @JayMan
  9. asdf says:


    This is inordinately sloppy research. You’ve got to seperate out the births of immigrants from those NE European numbers. Muslims and chavs in London churning out kids don’t tell me what Mrs. Anglo 130 IQ has for a TFR.

    I can’t find that stuff. However, the stuff I can find casts doubt on the overall TFR #:

    According to the ONS analysis, the number of babies born to British-born mothers barely changed in the five years from 2007 to 2011, up from 603,000 to 612,000.

    However migrant mother births went up from 169,000 to 196,000, an increase of 16 per cent.

    (As HBD chick points out, even amongst the “British born” mothers many may not be actually be British)

    “Overall, foreign-born women were likely to have 2.28 children during their lives, while British born women could expect, at 2011 fertility rates, to bear 1.89 children.

    But there was a bigger gap in London, where fertility rates were higher for foreign-born women and where fertility rates for British-born women were ‘well below average’.

    This may be because a higher proportion of British-born women in London than elsewhere are pursuing education and careers and delaying childbirth and families.”

    Further showing that what British fertility there is may be the lower end of the British bell curve. I here chavs shit out lots of kids.

    “The number of births outside marriage has also been rising alongside the general birth rate. In 1999, 38.9% of live births were to unmarried women, while in 2009 this had risen to 46.2%. The percentage of births to mothers born outside the UK has also increased, to 24.7% from 14.3%.”

    The “mommy track” is in fact not working. Liberalism and careerism remains a TFR dead end. Only religion has had any real success at getting high IQ people top breed. Your own data shows it.

    • Replies: @JayMan
  10. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    There’s an error there.

    What constitutes “high fertility”? In France and Sweden high fertility is 2.1 or 2.3 children, which is replacement level. It’s not +3 children, which is common in either lower class criminals neighborhoods or certain religious families.

    Low fertility is < 2 kids.
    Replacement fertility is 2-3 kids.
    High fertility is +3 kids.

    And what's with the whole "working mothers", working women charade that you wrote there? Various women have always worked either as servants or slaves in patriarchies.

    Or are you talking about the most successful women of them all, ones who compromise 1-10% of the population, and who aren't the average working mother type?

    • Replies: @JayMan
  11. JayMan says: • Website

    The White British total fertility rate is 1.89 – plenty high by modern standards. See my latest post.

  12. JayMan says: • Website

    In modern populations, especially in the crowded UK, fertility doesn’t need to be that high. Replacement value or abouts is all that is necessary.

  13. JayMan says: • Website

    Population density is the key. Germany may be so crowded that the German paycheck doesn’t go all that far, discouraging reproduction.

  14. vimothy says: • Website


    Caught a bit of a conversation on Twitter, in which you stated that the most “traditional” states in Europe have the lowest fertility.

    A moment’s Googling turned up this from the Mail:

    It claims that the country with the highest TFR is… Ireland. The next highest is… France. So it seems that it’s not really the case that the most traditional states have the lowest fertility, unless the Mail has its facts wrong, or you want to argue that Ireland and France are not traditional.

    In fact, looking at the top ten, the only really incongruous presence is that of Scandinavian countries and the UK. But the white British TFR hasn’t moved at all in recent years and would still be resolutely mid table, absent the effect of immigration, or so the Mail’s journalist claims.

    I don’t know much about trends in Scandinavia, but I would guess that their high rates also reflect the high fertility of their booming immigrant populations.

    (Would it be possible to make a chart of Euro TFR, controlling for immigration?)

    So my reading would be that the evidence is somewhat more mixed than you made out.

    • Replies: @JayMan
    , @vimothy
  15. JayMan says: • Website


    First of all, welcome!

    Considering France to be “traditional” seems to be equivocating on the meaning of the word. Perhaps Ireland would count, but the reality is that, in general, the Northwest European countries – those with the highest levels of gender “equality” – have the highest fertility rates.

    This isn’t just due to immigrants. The fertility rates of the native populations are high (by First World standard) across the board:

    UK: 1.89 (very similar to the White TFR in the U.S.)
    France: ~1.7
    The Netherlands: 1.72
    Norway: 1.8
    Denmark: 1.93

    Still sub-replacement, but concerns over sub-replacement fertility – at least in the West – is misplaced. The real issue is dysgenic fertility and population replacement (by immigrants).

    Also see my follow-up post to this one, Fertility and Happiness: A Global Perspective.

  16. vimothy says: • Website


    A pleasure, sir, and thank you for the links.

  17. That’s a good post.

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