Why does Singapore have such a low birth rate?

by on December 28, 2013 at 2:03 am in Economics, Education, Uncategorized | Permalink

In the comments, Collin asked:

How is it the most productive, functional country Singapore has one of the lowest birth rate in the world? Is this robot future in which only the better off have children? Why is it richer the world is the less people can afford children?

Right now the total fertility rate in Singapore is at about 1.2 and at times it has slipped down as far as 1.16.  (Though it just went up to 1.29, perhaps because of “dragon babies,” noting that intertemporal substitution may snatch some of this back.)  Why?

1. Singapore does education very well, and education lowers birth rates.

2. Singapore land and housing prices are especially high, which makes it very costly to have a family with three kids.  Long working hours are expected too.

3. Singapore is a lot more fun than it used to be, and in this regard it has improved more than say France has.  Children are a bit more fun, because modern life is safer, but “the fun of children” is subject to Baumol’s cost disease.

4. Women are doing very well in Singapore and arguably they are not so willing to marry down in terms of income and educational status.  I was struck, when I gave a talk to the economists at the Civil Service College in Singapore this summer, that well over half the audience was female.  Sadly for some, rates of female “singlehood” for women in their twenties are still rising (pdf, very useful).  Controlling for education, however, female singlehood is not going up, which indicates the decline in fertility is related to the rise in education.  And in that same piece you will find direct evidence for a “marriage squeeze” for well educated women and less educated men.  That same squeeze doesn’t seem as strong in the other wealthy East Asian countries.

5. This 209 pp. cross-national comparative study (pdf, also very useful) suggests that Singapore’s generous childbearing subsidies do not work because women are still expected to shoulder so many responsibilities of child rearing.  The traditional family model there is stronger than in say France.  At the same time, France is a culture of leisure, long vacations, and limited work hours in a way which is quite far from practices in Singapore.

6. Modern fairytales do not work.  Rap music also does not work (try this video, if you need help), nor do government-sponsored cruises and speed dating services.

7. It is suggested that population density lowers birth rates.

8. Child care and subsidized child care have been less common in Singapore than in France (see about p.119 of this pdf, the comparative study cited above), though Singapore has been changing in this regard.

Here is a typical Singaporean answer to the question:

What is stopping you from having more than 1-2 children?
“Very stressful, because when they misbehave, you have to scold them.”

Why do you think some Singaporeans are not having children nowadays?
“It is very stressful for Singaporeans as the cost of living has gone up and they do not have time for their children. More women are now busy working too.”

If you are interested in the comparison, ethnic Chinese in Malaysia have a total fertility rate of about 1.8.  Malays in Singapore have a TFR of about 1.6, whereas the ethnic Chinese and ethnic Indians in Singapore are just barely above 1.0.  To me that suggests that both culturally-specific-to-Chinese-high-earner factors and cost-of-living-in-Singapore factors are playing a significant role.  Malay population growth, in terms of Malay babies born in Malaysia, is robust.  Perhaps Singaporean men need more confidence.  In Shanghai, by the way, the rate is barely above 1.0.

If I had to put it all in a sentence, I might try this: in Singapore, work and educational norms have shifted far faster than have family norms, relative to other birth-subsidizing countries such as France.

Note, most of all, that the low birth rate in Singapore is not the fault of Lee Kuan Yew.

Steve Sailer December 28, 2013 at 2:25 am

Singapore has 5.3 million people in a country of 225 square miles that is surrounded by water. In contrast, Los Angeles has a population of 3.8 million in 469 square miles.

Rahul December 28, 2013 at 2:23 pm

When calculating the Singapoerain birth rate what’s the denominator? Won’t all those single migrant labor mostly male population cause the stats to dip?

Careless December 28, 2013 at 4:45 pm

No, TFR doesn’t care about males.

SgEconomist December 30, 2013 at 7:58 am

TFR is usually calculated over the resident population largely excludes the large swathe of low-skilled migrant labour.

Ann December 30, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Don’t they also have a lot of migrant domestic helpers (i.e. housekeepers/nannies), who would presumably be female? I had my babies in Hong Kong, in part because full time help there was so vastly cheaper there than in the US. [To clarify, I worked and lived in Hong Kong, rather than the US, and part of why I stayed as many years as I did was because of the cheap availability of domestic helpers, who did the laundry, cooking, cleaning and helped with the children.]

Perhaps Singapore should revisit their domestic helper policies. A lack of space affects this also, since help usually has to live in.

Careless December 30, 2013 at 5:13 pm

You write completely useless things two days after I do, why, exactly?

Steve Sailer December 28, 2013 at 2:29 am

Also, Singapore is growing rapidly in population due to immigration.

2003: 4.1 million
2012: 5.3 million

That level of immigration raises the cost of living and lowers wages, all else being equal. The government thinks it can import residents from abroad rather than grow its own. Perhaps the citizenry is picking up this message?

Blaise December 28, 2013 at 8:40 pm

All else being equal, immigration does not raise the cost of living and lowers wages. It’s not what is found in the literature. It’s very hard to imagine a scenario where cost of living increases and wages decrease. If wages decrease, prices of non-tradable should decrease. Housing is an exception and can increase if it is hard to extend available floor ratio. However, it is hard to increase rents if wages decrease. Moreover, rents are a cost for some and an income for other. So the impact on average income should be neutral. Median income can decrease if capital is concentrated but a large share of the housing is controlled by the State in Singapore and increase in rents increases gvt revenue.

Steve Sailer December 29, 2013 at 4:06 am

“Housing is an exception”

Kind of a big exception …

Steve Sailer December 28, 2013 at 2:40 am

So, over the last nine years, the population of Singapore has grown 1.2 million, while the population of Los Angeles has grown 0.07 million. Considering that it’s common for couples wanting to start a family to move out of Los Angeles for less crowded and less expensive places within the United States, why is it surprising that an entire country that makes Los Angeles today look like Los Angeles in 1960 when it comes to affordable family formation has a low birthrate?

Steve Sailer December 28, 2013 at 2:44 am

Here’s an analogy: Washington D.C.’s white women. The last time the federal government published the total fertility rate for the 50 states plus D.C. was for the year 2002. Then, the total fertility rate for Washington D.C.’s non-Hispanic white women was 1.11:


It’s likely gone up since then as white people have contrived to push blacks out of the District, but that’s a pretty direct comparison of city-states.

The District of Columbia is 100 square miles and only has 0.63 million people of all races, for a density of only about 30% of Singapore’s.

Steve Sailer December 28, 2013 at 3:00 am

It’s interesting to compare Singapore to another small, crowded, prosperous country, one where the government is successfully waging the war of the cradle, Israel. The Jewish total fertility rate in Israel has risen to 3.04 (versus 3.54 among Arabs, far down from a generation ago):


In 2008, the TFR among secular women of Jewish ethnicity in Israel was 2.05, the replacement rate. Other flavors of Israeli Jews, such as traditional non-religious, traditional religious, and religious, have TFRs between about 2.2 and 2.9:


I’d argue there are two fundamental differences:

- Israel is crowded and getting more so every day, but it’s still less crowded than Singapore.

- The Jewish State wants Jewish babies, and it’s pretty good at figuring out how to get what it wants. In contrast, the government of Singapore has come around to viewing the population of Singapore has more or less fungible and feels it can generate plenty of taxes via immigration.

AC December 28, 2013 at 8:51 am

And what specific policies has Israel been using to “get what it wants”? Don’t leave us hanging!

Ohad December 28, 2013 at 1:33 pm

I think it has less to do with govt policies and more to do with cultural norms. Israelis just expect that they will have kids.

Israeli kids are also more independent than in the US and thus less demanding to parent. In a kibbutz or small community, parents just let their kids run around and not worry about them much. Kids who are age 9 or 10 will go on overnight trips with their school or youth movement.

Steve Sailer December 28, 2013 at 6:23 pm

The center-left Israel-American Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, headed by American luminaries like Dennis Ross and Stuart Eizenstadt, and run by former Israeli military intelligence insiders, has looked very carefully at how to mold Jewish demographics. Their book “2030: Alternative Futures for the Jewish People” is most informative:


mike December 28, 2013 at 10:05 am

Free IVF is the first thing that comes to mind, but there are many. Mostly it’s subtle because women will have babies by default unless you have the kind of sick culture that says they should wait until 30 and have a “career” and a string of sterile sexual relationships before they even think about children. Just get out of the way and watch the natural healthy instincts flourish.

todd December 28, 2013 at 2:17 pm

vshould wait until 30 and have a “career”

So, mothers shouldn’t wait to have children until they can afford to raise them? Or….?

Steve Sailer December 28, 2013 at 6:26 pm

Israel provides free fertility treatments, an expensive benefit that particularly appeals to secular women of Jewish ethnicity who pursue careers until their later 30s. This helps the impressive TFR of secular Jewish women in Israel, which in 2008 was 2.05, the replacement rate.

But that’s just one program. The immensely controversial West Bank settlements are, in part, an exercise in affordable family formation. You know how real estate agents say you should buy land because they ain’t making it anymore? Well, Israel is constantly making land for itself in the West Bank.

collin December 29, 2013 at 10:16 am

In terms of population growth outside of incomes and density, the next the biggest effect is the more religious society, the more babies tend to be born. (ie think other Middle Eastern countries and one explanation for the US being higher than most counterparts.)

I also assume Israel is high birth rate also comes from they are still sort of engaged in a ‘Cold War’ unlike most of the other of the develop nations.

mike December 28, 2013 at 9:21 pm

For most women, waiting until you can “afford” children on your own would mean never having children at all. See: autogenocide

Steve Sailer December 28, 2013 at 3:10 am

There’s a place even more crowded than Singapore: Manhattan (23 square miles, 1.6 million people).

Manhattan (and nearby Brooklyn) enjoys the biggest Money Vacuum in the whole world, Wall Street. The number of white babies in Manhattan grew by 40% from 2000 to 2005 as (among much else) the crime rate dropped and the rich got even richer.

From the New York Times in 2007:

“The analysis shows that Manhattan’s 35,000 or so white non-Hispanic toddlers are being raised by parents whose median income was $284,208 a year in 2005 … Among white families with toddlers, San Francisco ranked second, with a median income of $150,763, followed by Somerset, N.J. ($136,807); San Jose, Calif. ($134,668); Fairfield, Conn. ($132,427); and Westchester ($122,240).”


scineram December 28, 2013 at 3:26 am

“Sadly for some, rates of female “singlehood” for women in their twenties are still rising (pdf, very useful).”

Independent women are good, so why is it sad? Anyway, it’s their choice, no? Same with the number of children.

Cimon Alexander December 28, 2013 at 3:43 am

Some people, like the Israelis, are upset at their civilization dying off because they happen to stumble upon overly-selfish and contagious memeplexes. Whereas most of the West seems to be okay at their slow deaths, believing that everything will continue on as it is after they are gone, or just not caring too much about it.

ad*m December 28, 2013 at 5:00 am

“Israelis, are upset at their civilization dying off”
European Jewish civilization did not die off, it was deliberately destroyed. In 1933 the world had about 16 million Jews, in 1948, about 11 million. This was not because Jews stopped having kids. There are now about 13 million Jews in the world, so a slow recovery after the Shoah mostly because of the high TFR in Israel.

OT, elimination of what little remains of European Jewish civilization by legal means is ongoing, see for example the push to outlaw circumcision and ritual slaughter, for example the Council of Europe and Dutch and Polish parliaments:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/8603969/Dutch-parliament-votes-to-ban-ritual-slaughter-of-animals.html (suspended)

About the original post, it is the hope for immortality, so often transmitted through religion, that makes people want to have children. Singapore is a great place to live, especially if you live hedonistically, but it is devoid of spiritual longing.

Marian Kechlibar December 28, 2013 at 9:58 am

I do not think that, in case of the EU laws against circumcision & ritual butchery, the *Jews* are the intended target. It is pretty clear that the intended target are the Muslim communities.

I would even say that most contemporary Europeans have no idea about how Jewish culture really looks like, or that some aspects of it would be covered by those laws.

I also think that you need not see antisemitism behind every such initiative. European societies now have a very strong “green” movement, and its attitudes and values influence things like slaughter bans. There are tons of other Europen animal-welfare related legal initiatives and norms which have nothing to do with Judaism whatsoever. They should be taken into account.

mike December 28, 2013 at 10:08 am

LOL adam, you folks are so obsessed with what happened 60-2000 years ago, you can’t even see that Cimon is talking about what’s happening today. Stop with the obsession with revenge against your perceived historical enemies, it’s literally killing you.

James December 28, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Religion doesn’t increase fertility by transmitting the “hope for immortality.” The non-religious have the “hope for immortality” as well. In fact, the non-religious tend to be even more obsessed with the “hope for immortality” than the religious.

What traditional religion does to increase fertility is institute “sexism” i.e. establish a social environment “sexist” enough for men to be valued relatively more than women.

James December 28, 2013 at 1:32 pm

That is, the female need to “marry up” is satisfied by traditional, “sexist” religion by creating a social environment in which men in general are “up” relative to women.

Millian December 29, 2013 at 6:11 am

Slow deaths? What is the population of “the West”, when do you reckon it will “die”, and how confident are you that present TFR will continue forever?

prior_approval December 28, 2013 at 4:14 am

‘I was struck, when I gave a talk to the economists at the Civil Service College in Singapore this summer, that well over half the audience was female.’

That is an astute observation – after all, neither the GMU Econ Dept. nor the Mercatus Center would provide normal opportunities to interact with a professional audience that reflects the reality that half of us are female.

Cliff December 28, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Well over half?

mkt December 28, 2013 at 4:33 am

Aren’t urban birth rates, ceteris parabus, always lower than rural or even suburban birth rates? And Singapore is 100% urbanized, according to this list:

anonymo December 28, 2013 at 4:59 am

Some potential factors:
-High wages means that the opportunity cost of taking time off to raise kids is relatively high.
-Education (as Tyler pointed out) can play a role. E.g. Many people might not marry till they are out of college or grad school, so the average age at first marriage is probably high. And I suspect the rate of out of wedlock births is low.
-Religion might play a role. The largest religious group in Singapore, according to Wikipedia is Buddhism, at 34%. The second largest is “none” at 16%. My sense is that usually non-religiosity is correlated with a lower fertility rate. I don’t know whether Buddhism encourages high or low fertility rates, but religions that are thought of as correlated with high fertility rates are not a huge % of the population, though they are not minuscule either (e.g. Islam at 14% and Catholicism at 7%).
-The fertility rate is low in much of East Asia (e.g. Japan, South Korea). And it was recently announced that Taiwan has the lowest rate in the world (http://www.voanews.com/content/taiwan-birth-rate-falls-to-worlds-lowest-challenging-productivity-127933153/167887.html). So, Singapore doesn’t look like an outlier. The bigger question is why so many countries in East Asia have a low fertility rate, though perhaps Singapore is an informative case study.

dearieme December 28, 2013 at 5:57 am

“the low birth rate in Singapore is not the fault of Lee Kuan Yew”: that’s axiomatic, because everybody knows that absolutely everything is the fault of Mrs Thatcher.

prior_approval December 28, 2013 at 7:42 am

In America, some prefer to think that Ronnie Raygun was the root of all conservative evil. Of course, that was 3 decades ago – he looks better in retrospect. Well, except to today’s conservatives.

Steve Sailer December 28, 2013 at 6:15 am

Tyler writes:

“7. It is suggested that population density lowers birth rates, though a visit to Mumbai does not convince.”

The TFR in Mumbai is likely somewhere around 1.5 right now because the TFR for the entire state of Maharashtra (118,000 square miles, 112 million people) is 1.9.

“The state which achieved the second most rapid decline in TFR was Maharashtra, which has achieved a TFR of 1.9.”


Occam’s Razor says the two biggest factors in influencing TFRs are population density and women’s education. You can kind of synthesize those into one factor I call Affordable Family Formation.

Tyler Cowen December 28, 2013 at 8:30 am

Good point on Mumbai, I edited the post accordingly.

Steve Sailer December 29, 2013 at 4:27 am

Density is a dominant factor in fertility.

The Yglesias-Glaeser myth that All We Have to Do is build Blade Runner-sized apartment buildings to accommodate massive immigration is a really bad idea. For one thing, the colossal apartments don’t get built; and the native middle class doesn’t reproduce well under those conditions.

Marian Kechlibar December 28, 2013 at 7:53 am

Singapore is incredibly crowded and has no place where to grow. The current population is probably unsustainable in long term.

Also, what are the birth rates in similar cities in China, Japan etc.? I would be surprised if Shanghai or Tokio were much better.

I have always lived under impression that the East Asian megacities sustain their level of population by migration from the rural land around. At least for the last generation or so.

Jamie_NYC December 28, 2013 at 8:46 am

“4. Women are doing very well in Singapore and arguably they are not so willing to marry down in terms of income and educational status.”

This is how I would put it: women have an emotional need to “marry up”, in every culture. Having higher incomes relative to men makes fulfilling that need more difficult. Instead of meeting a “super alpha” that they were hoping for when they were teenagers, with whom they’d want to have a ton of babies, they keep searching in vain into their thirties, and finally settle for the dweeb that’s available, but in which they have barely any sexual interest. Result: one pregnancy per lifetime.

Some may consider this an uncharitable view of human (female) nature, but a lot of explanation offered by Tyler are non-explanations, like “education lowers the birthrate”. How exactly? I’m not being judgmental – women want both to secure resources for themselves and their children and to attract a mate who can provide resources, that’s understandable. I agree that there are other factors as well, especially related to stress of raising children in an urban environment and cost of housing etc., but I think this emotional/psychological aspect is rarely mentioned.

Sbard December 28, 2013 at 9:23 am

Educated women are able to take care of their material needs without making themselves subservient to a man. When you have the choice between working at a challenging and rewarding job to pay for the nicer things in life or wiping feces off a squalling infant you may very well stop at one to keep your parents and in-laws (who are helping out a lot with the childcare anyway) off your back.

AC December 28, 2013 at 9:36 am

“I mean, suppose you had the following two options:

1. A job working from home, where you are your own boss. The job description is “spending as much or as little time as you want with your own children and helping them grow and adjust to the adult world.” (but Sister Y also has a post on the childless alternative to this)

2. A job in the office, where you do have a boss, and she wants you to get her the Atkins report “by yesterday” or she is going to throw your sorry ass out on the street where it belongs, and there better not be any complaints about it this time.

Assume both jobs would give you exactly the same amount of social status and respect.

Now assume that suddenly a bunch of people come along saying that actually, only losers pick Job 1 and surely you’re not a loser, are you? And you have to watch all your former Job 1 buddies go out and take Job 2 and be praised for this and your husband asks why you aren’t going into Job 2 and contributing something to the family finances for once, and eventually you just give in and go to Job 2, but also you’ve got to do large portions of Job 1, and also the extra income mysteriously fails to give your family any more money and in fact you are worse off financially than before.

Is it so hard to imagine that a lot of women would be less happy under this new scenario?”

mike December 28, 2013 at 10:21 am

Also, wealthy countries have more sinecures to hand out to women, financed by taxing actual productive work by men. So women get these prestige do-nothing jobs like being the CEO of a “charitable” nonprofit, which are actually parasitic and worthless positions but are like vinegar to flies for women. And it’s not limited to the nonprofit/government sectors, increasingly transnational megacorps have HUGE amounts of these kinds of deadweight women, to meet government mandated quotas and also for cultural reasons such as wanting good looking young babes around the office and pretending that women are just as productive as men (which admittedly they are, in positions that cannot possibly create any value in the first place)

Richard Besserer December 28, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Item: countries like Japan where until a few years ago women were not trusted with any workplace responsibility more crucial than making tea and where married women were not welcome in the workplace wound up with lower fertility rates, not higher, and worse economic performance generally—as you’d expect if a country was daft enough to only use half its human capital.

Go back to A Voice For Men, all right? This is a serious conversation.

(It’s “honey to flies.” Vinegar catches far fewer flies than honey.)

msgkings December 28, 2013 at 9:10 pm

The fact that ‘mike’ is an expert at catching flies isn’t a huge surprise to me.

Millian December 29, 2013 at 6:19 am

“Assume both jobs would give you exactly the same amount of social status and respect.”

Well, that’s just not the case, is it? For most of human history, this choice didn’t exist. In the brief period when it did, wage-earners received more respect because… they earned a wage, and were not literally dependents.

The male crowd that hangs out here needs to think about how women might feel about the prospect of depending on someone else for your income, forever.

Sbard December 29, 2013 at 11:43 am

With regards to job 2: will your boss make you wipe her ass when she poops her pants yet again?

Skip Intro December 28, 2013 at 9:27 am

Perhaps this universal emotional aspect is seldom mentioned because you made it up?

A Definite Beta Guy December 28, 2013 at 9:45 am

You so sure about that?

Steve Sailer December 29, 2013 at 4:10 am

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

Millian December 29, 2013 at 6:21 am

Had you read the book, or even known anything about it, you would be aware that this is the most ironic opening line in English literature.

Steve Sailer December 30, 2013 at 12:17 am

Yes, that’s why it’s funny.

Austen’s joke is that while a single man in possession of a good fortune has it pretty good, each woman in the county considers it her duty to get the poor dear married, ideally to her or one of her daughters.

Marian Kechlibar December 28, 2013 at 9:50 am

In the context of secular western culture, I would say that the need to marry up is frequent enough to make a dent in the population tree.

All theories aside, let’s go empirical.

Go through the entire set of your acquaintances, and count all the heterosexual women around who stay single because they have very high standards for a prospective partner. What percentage will you reach? In my test set, it was approx. 7%. On the other hand, I know just a single guy who stays single for the same reason, which is about 0,5% of the entire set I can think of.

Notably, this does not manifest in some other cultures, like the Israeli Haredim culture.

Jamie_NYC December 28, 2013 at 11:35 am

Heh, heh. You tell me. How many male doctors married to nurses? How many female doctors are married to men who are less educated than themselves? There was an article not that long ago about a high divorce rate among actresses (but not actors) who won an Oscar. Why would this be?

trumwill December 28, 2013 at 12:08 pm

My wife is a doctor who married down, as are more of her female colleagues than not. I think it’s generally true that men are more likely to be willing to marry down, but it’s not exactly uncommon for women to do so when their education limits their options otherwise. It’s not unlike tall women.

Trumwill December 29, 2013 at 12:21 am

My wife and I have both struggled with our weight to varying degrees, but neither of us are particularly outliers in the looks department. It wasn’t a case of her trading down on education to compensate for a discrepancy on appearance. And some of her colleagues (as well as their husbands) are quite attractive.

Jonfraz December 28, 2013 at 11:52 am

Women don’t need a “super-alpha” male to marry up. They just need someone who is slightly better off. Very few women will be an Elizabeth Bennett, snagging an über-rich husband— let alone an Elizabeth Woodville, snagging a hot young king. And most women are sensible enough to know that. One factor left out of your analysis is the fact that most men do not want to marry young either, so outside religious communities like the LDS, if a woman does want to marry young (and wants a husband who is more or less her contemporary) there’s a shortage of men who are interested in doing so. Most of them are busy starting careers, while maybe also having too much fun as party boys.
Women’s education alone is not likely to cause women to delay marriage (except until after graduation), but education leads to careers, which leads to independent livelihood and that induces women to delay marriage.

Careless December 30, 2013 at 12:43 am

but in which they have barely any sexual interest

Are you unaware of how reproduction works in humans or something? It doesn’t generally take a lot of sex to make babies.

PeterW December 28, 2013 at 8:47 am

1. To what extent is Singapore’s fertility rate atypical compared to other rich urban areas? Singapore as a city-state should probably be compared to other cities, rather than other countries, in this regard. One counterargument to this, perhaps, is that migration in and out of Singapore is harder than migrating into New York for jobs and moving to Connecticut to raise a family, so that there’s less selection bias for “the kind of person who lives in a big city” in Singapore.

2. To the extent that the explanation is high cost of living and high opportunity cost for educated women, shouldn’t that be responsive to the large tax breaks for child-rearing ($20k after the third, also significant for the first and second) and near-free college tuition Singapore provides? Yet there appears to be no measurable effect, not even in skewing the distribution of the number of kids among families who decide to have children at all. The weakness of the economic lever suggests that the problem is not primarily economic and that cultural factors predominate (professional women wanting to marry up, the joys of consumption compared to child-rearing, the elevation of career status over motherhood/fatherhood status).

Cyrus December 28, 2013 at 9:32 am

Suppose you are an educated Singaporean Chinese whose preferences for family vs work differ from your compatriots. Your life plan is to work like a dog and live like a monk for 10 years, saving as much as you can. Your choices may not seem unusual. But then your plan is to emigrate to a lower cost of living city and raise a family. You may need to find a partner once you get there, and for cultural reasons your dating pool is probably limited to other Chinese people. Where do you emigrate to?

Jon Teets December 28, 2013 at 10:04 am

Young mainland Chinese professionals in first tier cities rely heavily on both sets of grandparents to help with child-rearing duties, cooking, cleaning, and in house-holding in general, freeing them up to advance their careers. If the grandparents are in a different town, it’s not uncommon for the couple to ship their kid back until school age. There’s also very low trust in nannies, and while they are hired in large numbers, they live on a tight leash held by the grandparents.

I don’t know what percentage of mainland Chinese living in Singapore are recent emigres (meaning no accompanying grandparents), but I suspect it’s been high enough to lower the birth rates.

mike December 28, 2013 at 10:11 am

Contextual Reminder: Tyler Cowen has zero biological children.

chuck martel December 28, 2013 at 10:12 am

Let’s just keep fixating on rational decision making and ignore the most salient factor of all: cheap, effective birth control.

ladderff December 28, 2013 at 10:21 am

4. Women are doing very well in Singapore and arguably they are not so willing to marry down in terms of income and educational status.

Indeed I suspect they are not so willing to marry horizontally either.

From the archives, Hypergamy is the word of the day:

So they [women] are monogamous at points of time but not over time; Devlin then solves for the resulting equilibrium, so to speak. The birth rate falls, for one thing. [emphasis added] [...] I disagree with the central conclusion, and also the motivation, but it does seem to count as a new idea.

Tyler Cowen has accidentally deployed this “evil” man’s evil idea. Whoops.

Ob December 28, 2013 at 12:33 pm

This gives the great lie to the feminist movement. Equality was never actually the goal. The goal was “more”: more of everything. It was materialistic. It was a quest for power. But that quest does not stop at gender equality. It is gender domination.

Men are as we all know, content with a pretty smile and a warm heart. Doctors, for example, marry nurses. But do female doctors marry male nurses? Not a chance. They look for bankers.

The unwillingness to “marry down” shows us that equality is simply not the point. And it never was.

Richard Besserer December 28, 2013 at 3:37 pm

I’m sorry that women’s no longer having to fear permanent poverty and/or ostracism if they don’t marry the first men they sleep with has put a damper on your sex life.

If no North American woman you find interesting will have you, maybe you don’t have much of interest to offer such a woman. Go away and do something about that before lecturing us about Big Sister.

Tom December 28, 2013 at 9:05 pm

What about male sexual liberation? In nature females are free to choose their mates and males are free to challenge other males in natural duels to the death. You cheer female sexual liberation, but what about male sexual liberation? Do you support that? If not, why not? Are you worried that cowards like you would be worm food if males were liberated?

Tom West December 28, 2013 at 10:40 am

Because the natural birth rate of a well-educated, non-fundamentalist, relatively egalitarian, prosperous society is well below 2?

There’s certainly nothing on record to suggest differently.

ladderff December 28, 2013 at 11:26 am

I do not regard as prosperous a society whose members appear to have lost interest in its future.

Tom West December 28, 2013 at 11:54 am

Nobody has “lost interest in the future”. Having kids satisfies the “legacy desire” in men as long as they didn’t have to do the vast majority of the work. Once they do, they (on average – there is a lot of variance) find the cost of having children higher than their desire for a legacy.

ladderff December 28, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Your second and third sentences do not support your first sentence.

As for doing the “vast majority of work”: it should not be surprising that the members of society equipped with wombs and breasts do the vast majority of the work that goes into bearing and raising children. This is called ‘division of labor’ and is considered a boon in all other contexts. Were women disinclined to have children made to pick up a coal shovel or a rifle or an electrical engineering textbook instead, they would quickly change their tune—to begging for sperm.

Richard Besserer December 28, 2013 at 4:00 pm

No there isn’t. In developed, secular, well-educated societies, children are a huge financial liability to their parents, not an asset as they are in traditional societies where they can be used as cheap agricultural labour (or as a source of income in the form of bride-prices charged to men wanting to marry their daughters). Far more reliable options for income when the parents are too old to work than raising a child to maturity (such as pension plans, private and public) are widely available in societies with well-developed capital markets.

To not put too fine a point on it, children have ceased to be beasts of burden and have become pets—and such expensive pets at that that a 401(k) and a cat look like a much better deal to many women, married or not, than a child. You make something more costly and reduce the benefit of acquiring it, you get less of it. Simple as that.

derek December 28, 2013 at 5:39 pm

How does that explain the US and Canada of the 1950′s?

barbara December 28, 2013 at 6:18 pm

US and Canada of the 1950s? Come on – outside options for women were horribly limited, then, and there. Richard is absolutely right about the current reality of children and personal finance. And even so, cultural expectations and practices adjust only with some lag.

Pullman December 28, 2013 at 9:18 pm

Then why do they pay taxes that feed the reproduction of competing genes? There’s more going on than simply trading kids for a 401(k) and a cat. They’re also paying taxes that go to welfare that feeds the reproduction of strangers. Why aren’t they engaging in tax revolts if they hate kids so much? Their taxes are going to the reproduction of highly fertile strangers. Are you saying that not only are they trading having kids of their own for a 401(k) and a cat, but also for the reproduction of strangers?

asdf December 28, 2013 at 10:27 pm

I believe you have outlined the progressive view of children well. Thank god you people won’t exist in a few generations.

msgkings December 28, 2013 at 11:31 pm

That’s a pretty optimistic view for a conservative, that progressives won’t exist in a few generations. I’m used to hearing the complaint that progressives are overrunning everything.

asdf December 29, 2013 at 11:04 am

A ever shrinking group of people can hold on to the reigns of financial, cultural, and political power for a long time. This is mostly a matter of controlling key institutions, something those that have few children, pour resources into them, and raise them without morals and tons of ambition are likely to achieve.

Moreover, the key progressive feature is immigration, which imports fresh democrat bodies to replace death addicted progressives.

mike December 29, 2013 at 12:30 am

There’s nothing inconsistent about observing that progressives are overrunning everything but they will die off quickly because of the autogenocidal nature of their ideology

msgkings December 29, 2013 at 12:52 am

So then calm the hell down and just wait ‘em out. Jeez.

bill reeves December 28, 2013 at 11:20 am

I lived in Singapore fro 70 to 73 and there was a definite Malthusian tone in the government’s two kid propaganda. Singapore is a free market with a heavily moralistic state on top. This leads to campaigns thought up at the top that turn out to be detrimental. Don’t underestimate the impact that antinatalist propaganda has had on birthrates among the conformist Chinese majority. A good example of why social liberty is so critical.

Careless December 30, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Yeah, I wonder why a country that imports 95% or so of its food would have a Malthusian tone to its population growth

John Smith December 28, 2013 at 11:51 am

I am a Singaporean male.

I don’t see what is the big issue with all this in the first place. The government is able to sustain the population by maintaining a steady moderate influx of foreigners of similar races from overseas, notably from China and to a certain extent from India.

Since the population base is not only not decreasing, but actually increasing, what cause for great concern is there? In fact, it may well be better to attract high quality high education foreigners than to have organic growth which may be of lower human capital, since the racial composition is not affected.

msgkings December 28, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Hear hear. Birthrates worldwide are falling, everywhere, except perhaps tiny communities like Hasidics and Mormons. So the parts of the world that have higher (still falling) rates will send people to the ultra low birthrate areas. Eventually the whole world’s population is in decline.

I’ve always wondered what happens then. I don’t think it drops so low that the race perishes, but over time I expect the globe to get down to some equilibrium, with robots doing a lot of the work. Who really knows?

jason December 28, 2013 at 1:52 pm

Apparently you don’t know how natural selection works. The current environment is selecting for high fertility.

The “demographic transition” fantasy is like the fantasy that we can over-use antibiotics without developing resistant strains of highly virulent bacteria.

Economic development is like an antibiotic against human reproduction. The fact that you’re successfully committing genocide against a huge portion of humanity blinds you to the fact that you’re selecting for strains of humanity that will find ways of more efficiently turning wealth into an exponential growth of their babies. That optimum appears to involve lowering the age of female puberty and increasing the rate of de facto transfer payments to support their offspring. The idea that “property rights” are the answer must take into account the political dynamics of the recent election as a warning: Liberal democracy has a strong tendency to serve the most reproductive.

A female that pumps out 1 child a year from age 8 until age 38 has a 30 to 1 gain over those 38 years. That means an effective doubling time of under 4 years. Many of us may live to see this new breed of “human” become a dominant demography.

Randy McDonald December 28, 2013 at 8:11 pm

What are you talking about when you talk about “genocide”, Jason?

“A female that pumps out 1 child a year from age 8 until age 38 has a 30 to 1 gain over those 38 years. That means an effective doubling time of under 4 years.”

Has there ever been a single woman, never mind a whole population of humans, with such very high fertility?

Careless December 30, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Yes, a few extreme individuals who have had multiple multiple births. The record for babies from a single woman is over 30

jason December 28, 2013 at 1:56 pm

A rational assessment of money is in the context of evolutionary psychology. If the cost of successful reproduction increases, one must obviously value that which pays the cost. In some instances, the cost is non-monetary (or at least proximately non-monetary) such as joining a sexist religion that demands adherence to beliefs that are not commensurate with the requirements of modern society. Good examples of this are Islam or Orthodox Judaism.

It’s too bad that belief in “the demographic transition” has become a religious belief all its own that anesthetizes the loss of reproductive potential by those who have sunk huge evolutionary costs in the acquisition of money by sacrificing reproductive viability. Exponentials are powerful in more ways than one. These sexist religions and sexist genotypes — yes they do exist and are in evidence by their resistance to modernization and high reproductive rates in the present may represent a minor aspect of present developed societies but that won’t last.

msgkings December 28, 2013 at 5:52 pm

A female that has 30 kids is a fiction, and will not happen. Having more than 8 is almost a freakshow nowadays.

Careless December 30, 2013 at 3:55 pm

time to cash in your reality based community card

Careless December 30, 2013 at 4:03 pm

never mind, I read your next comment and you’re a dumbass creationist.

msgkings December 28, 2013 at 5:39 pm


Men and women are not dumb animals. Our brains trump our genes. Reproductive rates are dropping, this is inarguable. It will not stop.

Damien December 28, 2013 at 8:56 pm

What’s hilarious is someone like you who clearly doesn’t understand how natural selection works opining about evolutionary trends.

msgkings December 28, 2013 at 9:02 pm

Natural selection stopped working the way you think it does when modern humans created advanced culture, such as birth control, agriculture, and the Internet.

Again, the world’s population will stop rising in perhaps 50-60 years, and begin to slowly fall. This is inarguable. Demography is a science with almost no divergent outcomes.

Damien December 28, 2013 at 9:28 pm

You don’t understand how natural selection works period. Natural selection never stops. Having “advanced culture” does not mean natural selection suddenly stops and fertility stops being selected for. And demographic projections get revised all the time.



msgkings December 28, 2013 at 9:36 pm

No, but advanced culture does mean that the link between fitness and more offspring is pretty much severed.
Bill Gates and Tom Brady can afford to marry and divorce and keep on the side dozens of women, and have hundreds of children with them. But they don’t, because they aren’t dumb brutes. I picked them as examples of superior fitness (for different reasons).

I could if I cared enough find many links for each of yours still predicting declining world population in the not so far future. That’s the way to bet.

msgkings December 28, 2013 at 9:48 pm

It’s really pretty simple….fertility isn’t ‘selected for’ with modern humans because humans can control their fertility, and they ALWAYS choose to reduce it as they get wealthier and more educated. With animals, sure, the more fertile you are the more your genes will pass on and create still more fertile offspring.

But today only small groups have lots of kids, and not all of those kids keep at it the same way, they break off from the (usually ultra-religious) group, or at least moderate, and become like the culture around them.

Africa (and some Muslim places like Pakistan) is the last stand for hyper-fertility, and this is clearly due to it being the last place to become wealthy and educated. But it will, and the birthrates will drop just like they have EVERYWHERE else.

In 2200 you should not expect a world of 20 billion mostly Israeli and Mormon and sub-Saharans.

mike December 28, 2013 at 10:02 pm

We would be better off if Gates and Brady had hundreds of children. At best, you’re arguing in favor of dysgenics.

msgkings December 28, 2013 at 10:16 pm

Bill Gates has 3 kids you idiot.

msgkings December 28, 2013 at 10:18 pm

And I’m not ‘arguing in favor of’ anything, I’m showing those who are arguing that the world’s population will rise forever because ‘natural selection’ are being obtuse.

I saw Idiocracy (and laughed a bunch), but that’s not how it works. Even welfare moms will have fewer and fewer kids. Just like Africans, Pakistanis, and the rest of the world.

Damien December 29, 2013 at 12:44 am

There is a positive correlation between a man’s wealth and his fertility even in developed countries — it’s just that the threshold where that positive correlation starts is far above the middle class level it was during the 1950′s — that decade hated by Hollywood almost as much as the Nazis the fathers of those middle class families fought in WWII.

Damien December 29, 2013 at 12:46 am

Again you reveal that you don’t understand natural selection. Among humans, modern or otherwise, there is genetic variation in ability, willingness, desire to limit or control reproduction, just as there is variation in any other trait.

Fertility is always selected for. Wealth and education selects for people who are more resistant to wealth and education inhibiting fertility. Just like as jason writes above, antibiotic use selects for antiobiotic resistant strains of bacteria. You don’t need “hyper-fertility” to out-reproduce other people. Differential reproductive rates are what matters.

BTW, I never said that the world’s population will rise “forever.” Obviously it won’t once Malthus weighs in.

Careless December 30, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Yeah, MSGK, you are either a complete moron (which I don’t think is true) or deliberately wrong about how evolution works.

Steve Sailer December 28, 2013 at 6:47 pm

The Singapore government currently seems to take a racialist rather than citizenist view of who it is theoretically in business to benefit. If the current citizens don’t reproduce, but they are replaced by other Chinese (and South Asian) individuals, that apparently is okay with the government of Singapore. In fact, the government appears happy to depress citizens’ reproduction by flooding the place with immigrants, as long as they are from the same races. (I.e., Africans need not apply, no more than they are wanted in Israel.)

John Smith December 29, 2013 at 12:55 am

Why not? If your population is not replacing itself, it seems logical that something has to be done, no?

And of course we don’t want any Africans. Do you?

Careless December 30, 2013 at 4:40 pm

You’re very confused. Sailer is not the god of Singaporean naturalization.

Ed December 28, 2013 at 8:05 pm

Exactly as long as they are adding people with similar values, aptitude and ethnicities not much can go wrong. This worked well for America up to 1965.

msgkings December 28, 2013 at 8:37 pm

And yet, since 1965, Americans are much wealthier and live significantly longer….so what hasn’t ‘worked well’ since 1965? I don’t know the ‘happiness’ stats from then and now, but I’d wager self-reported happiness has increased or stayed the same.

So, in other words, America is a better place since 1965.

mike December 28, 2013 at 9:05 pm

America is a “better” place due to pre-existing technology inventors, which needless to say has nothing to do with post-1965 mexicanization. Look at education stats to see the future created by the mass importation of Third World peoples.

msgkings December 28, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Hand waving. You can go back to 1965, most of us like it here better.

Basically, what’s not better to you and your buddies in the Klan is America has gotten less white. By every measure things are better now (even education and IQs). But there’s just too many darkies.

mike December 28, 2013 at 9:22 pm

How about California’s education system, bro?

msgkings December 28, 2013 at 9:37 pm

Parts of it suck hard. Most of it is as good as it was in 1965.

mike December 28, 2013 at 9:45 pm

It went from best to 48th-best, that’s all there is to say

msgkings December 28, 2013 at 9:52 pm

But America in aggregate went from wherever it was in 1965 to better than that today. So, in other worlds, America is a better place even educationally than in 1965. California has comparatively slipped, obviously, vs other states.

And that’s only referring to public schools. More and more Californian kids are getting very good private educations or home schooling. The funding is different but the outcomes, in terms of kids’ educational attainment, is much better than 1965 even in CA.

mike December 28, 2013 at 10:08 pm

Yes, intelligent whites are fleeing the public school system. In your mind, this is a good thing because your insane suicidal ideology trumps reality.

msgkings December 28, 2013 at 11:33 pm

Why, what’s suicidal about it? The only group of people you care anything about (whites) are moving on up.

David December 28, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Is the issue really economic? Educated women may just be less interested in having children. There are people who respond very inelastically to incentives to have children. There is probably a selective effect (women who don’t want children pursue education and careers instead) and also a social value aspect (kids are less important in their culture).

Maybe this will lead to a reorganization of the way children are raised. Maybe the sci-fi writers are correct and children will be birthed artificially and publicly brought up.

Eric R. December 28, 2013 at 1:54 pm

Everytime I hear about countries having low fertility rates due to education and crowding, I have the example that shows this need not be the case:


Population density > 1,000/sq. mi, and most of that is on just 25% of the land. It has an INCREASING fertility rate, even though the fertility rate of its Arab minority has dropped to almost that of its Jewish majority. And the high Jewish brithrate is not just due to the Haredim (ultra-orhtodox); even non-Haredi Jews have a fertility rate above the 2.08 replacment level.

And this despite 50 years of terrorism, eight wars, increasing worldwide Jew-hatred, and a universal (for all non-Arab muslims) military draft.

Eric R. December 28, 2013 at 1:57 pm

with regards to the draft, I meant to say “for all except Arab Muslims” (and even at that, some Bedouin volunteer for the IDF).

mike December 28, 2013 at 3:11 pm

I can tell you don’t know that you’re talking about because you say “despite” rather than “because”

Steve Sailer December 28, 2013 at 6:36 pm

Israel has a government and media that are biased in favor of its majority remaining its majority. In contrast, President Clinton announced to cheers that he was looking forward to American having a white minority. Interestingly, many of the same media institutions that favor majoritarianism in Israel also favor minoritiarianism in the U.S.

A Berman December 28, 2013 at 8:05 pm

Actually, it may be *because* of 50 years of terrorism, eight wars, increasing worldwide Jew-hatred, and a universal (for all except Arab Muslims) military draft.

David Goldman listed several societies with a high birth rate that plummeted after they made peace with their neighbors in his book, ‘How Civilizations Die.’

jason December 28, 2013 at 1:58 pm

A rational assessment of money is in the context of evolutionary psychology. If the cost of successful reproduction increases, one must obviously value that which pays the cost. In some instances, the cost is non-monetary (or at least proximately non-monetary) such as joining a sexist religion that demands adherence to beliefs that are not commensurate with the requirements of modern society. Good examples of this are Islam or Orthodox Judaism.

It’s too bad that belief in “the demographic transition” has become a religious belief all its own that anesthetizes the loss of reproductive potential by those who have sunk huge evolutionary costs in the acquisition of money by sacrificing reproductive viability. Exponentials are powerful in more ways than one. These sexist religions and sexist genotypes — yes they do exist and are in evidence by their resistance to modernization and high reproductive rates in the present — may represent a minor aspect of present developed societies but that won’t last.

JayMan December 28, 2013 at 5:53 pm

All right, I’m going to try this again with fewer links:

As Steve Sailer notes, population density and women’s education both play a role in affecting the fertility rate.

The effect of population density is highly visible across Europe and East Asia:

Another Tale of Two Maps « JayMan’s Blog

and is visible in India (link to post “Further Testing the Pioneer Hypothesis: Canada and Russia” | JayMan’s Blog – search for it at my blog).

As noted in Nix Chin’s article, humans apparently have a desire for space and generally comfortable living. This is especially true in the more developed nations. Since access to these things requires a great deal of effort – in the form of lengthy educations and dedication/long hours in careers, this significantly raises the cost of having children. Indeed, even marriage may be a detraction from this process. As such, in high-density or high “effective” cost areas (that is, areas were costs are high relative to wages), people are effectively priced out of having children, as per Steve Sailer’s affordable family formation theory.

The impact of effective cost can be seen in areas where fertility is low despite fairly low population density (Eastern and parts of Southern Europe):

A Tale of Three Maps | JayMan’s Blog (search at blog)

The evidence would suggest that constantly running the futile rat race in an effort to secure comfortable living for putative children takes a psychological toll, visible in decreased reported happiness in low fertility areas. See the above post and this one:

Fertility and Happiness: A Global Perspective | JayMan’s Blog (search at blog)

Not that low fertility isn’t all that bad for many of these countries, especially the highly crowded East Asian ones, which could stand to depopulate for awhile.

Access to education for women has the effect of driving up the effective cost for everyone (dual-earners bid up the cost of land), forcing everyone to strive for education even if they don’t necessarily desire to do so. Children then incur a much higher opportunity cost, as a commenter at my blog noted, “even if having a child was free, you still have to give up a very large amount of earning potential to have one.” As it appears women prefer to marry up, a highly educated female populace may be disinclined to marriage since that makes it becomes that much harder to find higher-earning husbands when women can earn money themselves. (Note, that unlike many commenters on this topic, I don’t believe that women having careers or education is an intrinsically bad thing).

Steve Sailer December 28, 2013 at 6:40 pm

One reason that France, Sweden, and America have relatively high TFRs compared to similar countries (e.g., sprawling France v. densely populated mountainous Italy) is because they have a relatively high amount of fairly desirable real estate per capita.

Randy McDonald December 28, 2013 at 8:12 pm

Is it? The United Kingdom has a comparable population density to Italy yet it has a much higher TFR. And at the other end, Spain still has one of the lowest population densities in western Europe but it also has one of the lower TFRs in western Europe.

JayMan December 28, 2013 at 11:11 pm

Nothing like flat, green, warm(ish) land, yes? :)

Randy McDonald notes something I was going to remark on. The outliers from the inverse relationship between fertility and density are interesting. England and the Low Countries have much higher fertility rates than you’d expect from density alone. Are these folks simply comparatively wealthy enough to afford children despite the relative crowding?

Spain may be on the other side of this equation. Are the Spanish so effectively poor than fertility is suppressed? (Given the economic trouble there, that might seem reasonable). This would seem to be the likely explanation for the poor fertility of Eastern Europe; they’re broke.

Randy McDonald December 29, 2013 at 8:10 pm

Spain over the past generation has seen strong economic growth, bringing incomes up to western European averages. At the same time, Spanish fertility rates have remained consistently low, with the recent marginal increase linked as much to the higher fertility of first-generation immigrants as to any improvement in native fertility. In central Europe, meanwhile, recent growth in income isn’t necessarily linked to increases in fertility.

Careless December 30, 2013 at 5:07 pm

That makes no sense. Italy has a far higher costal ratio to France

Ed December 29, 2013 at 12:56 am

This relationship may be a sort of defensive mechanism against overpopulation. Overcrowding decreases the desire or ability to have children. A situation of overcrowding is also highly vulnerable to an interruption of the food supply. But the historical record indicates that this is a very weak defense.

A Berman December 28, 2013 at 8:07 pm

Joel Kotkin published a paper on this very topic, sponsored by the Civil Service College of Singapore:


Blaise December 28, 2013 at 8:59 pm

I don’t get the comparison Tyler made between Singapore and France. They are very different countries with very different cultures and very different family policies.

asdf December 28, 2013 at 10:39 pm

Yes, in general I find comparing Asian and European based cultures to be pretty problematic. You can maybe make useful comparisons between French and Germans. Asia is another universe though.

sam December 29, 2013 at 12:18 am

Very simple:

Singapore has a TFR of 1.2 and an illegitimacy rate of 0.02.

The US has a TFR of approx 2.0, and an illegitimacy rate of approx 2.0, and an illegitimacy rate of 0.4.

Singapore and the US have identical within-wedlock TFR, 1.2. The difference between Singapore and the US is that the US has an additional population procreating outside of wedlock, and Singapore does not.

Steve Sailer December 29, 2013 at 4:17 am

Good point.

Bow December 29, 2013 at 12:53 am

No one seems to notice that the modern critique of Ricardo’s Iron Law of Wages ignores the ground truth of the so-called “demographic transition” is nothing more than replacement of the earlier developing groups by the later developing groups. This is because — in the context of the open borders/global labor arbitrage theocracy combined with birth control technology — the definition of “subsistence wages” no longer includes the high cost of child rearing in more developed nations. The demographic collapse of earlier developing groups is not having the upward pressure on wages among those groups that modern economists predict.

Modern economic theory is genocide. And yes, I do mean deliberate. This is due to high IQ niche invasion by Jews with their historic animus toward native intelligentsia.

Randy McDonald December 29, 2013 at 8:14 pm

How do you define “genocide”? It doesn’t involve murdering a disliked ethnic group, it seems.

Kevin C. December 29, 2013 at 11:13 pm

Well, Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines genocide as:

any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

So “murdering a disliked ethnic group” is a sufficient condition, but not a necessary condition; and thus is only a subset of the acts legally defined as genocide.

Bow December 29, 2013 at 12:55 am

Note that Ricardo invoked the distinction between “natural price” and “market price” of labor primarily to argue that a continually expanding economy could continually drive the market demand for labor high enough that the market price would sustainably exceed the natural price. Moreover he invokes decadence among laborers as driving the perceived subsistence price higher and higher. This demoralization of labor continues today in the form of comments that today’s middle class lives like the kings of old. The reality is that men must compete for reproduction among a mating market driven by fertile women, and that in societies that place value on women, mating market demands by fertile women (primarily childless fertile women) is the foundation of the iron law of wages in the modern society. Add females to the labor market with demands for equal wages, as well as birth control, and you have an explosive brew.

Junhee Park December 29, 2013 at 1:06 am

Why are Westerners so concerned about East Asian’s supposed low fertility? Can you see with your own eyes East Asian’s supposed low fertility? I just looked up Harbin, China’s population statistics yesterday. As of 2010, Harbin had a population of 10.6 million. That is more than the entire population of Sweden which is 9.5 million. There was only about 30,000 people in and around Harbin at the end of the 1800s. Within a span of 110 years Harbin exploded in population and 60% of that 10.6 million happened in the last 20 years. Are we supposed to believe that is due to migration? I ask the same question of Singapore. East Asian fertility rates are reported between .8 and 1.8, well below replacement rates, yet with your own eyes you see the populations of every East Asian country continue to grow. Are East Asians born out of thin air?

Peter December 29, 2013 at 2:14 am

Harbin was a rural village in the 1800s. The Japanese and then the PRC established industry there which attracted migration. Harbin’s growth from a population of 30,000 in the 1800s is due to migration, not natural increase.

A Berman December 29, 2013 at 7:28 am

Population increase can happen because of a decrease in death rate, which can happen as the expected life span increases. Since this cannot happen forever (unless Ray Kurzweil is correct), eventually the population will max out and start to decrease. This has happened in Japan.

asdf December 29, 2013 at 11:07 am

I think people use it as a marker that the factors at play are economic rather then specifically western cultural. If Asia had a 3.0 TFR, we might say that wealth isn’t the cause but culture is.

Randy McDonald December 29, 2013 at 8:13 pm

“Are we supposed to believe that is due to migration?”

To migration, and secondarily to urban expansion, yes.

Even after fertility rates drop below replacement levels, there’s still a considerable length of time between the drop below replacement-level fertility and the onset of natural decrease on account of population momentum. If a country has a relatively young age structure, then even low fertility rates can translate into relatively high birth rates. The lag varies according to the degree and speed of the drop, but it has happened and is happening everywhere.

Junhee Park December 30, 2013 at 12:53 am

A lag that produces 6 million people in Harbin from 1990 to 2010? If they came from some place else in China then those places have to be making babies at more than replacement rates. Harbin has had non-stop population growth since the end of 1800s. In order for that to happen some place needs to be producing children at more than the replacement rate.

My point is I believe fertility rates in East Asian countries like Singapore are around the 2.1 replacement rate (1.8 to 2.5) not 1 and that explosive population growth is not largely from migration. East Asian populations are expanding not just merely moving around.

Aaron December 30, 2013 at 4:48 pm

China’s population was around 1.15 billion in 1990. 6 million is a small fraction of this.

When people migrate to cities adding to urban population, it’s not the case that every area they migrated from have to have above replacement fertility.

Harbin’s population growth since the end of the 1800s is, like any other city, due to a combination of natural increase and migration. China has not had below replacement rate fertility since the 1800s. Low fertility rates are relatively recent.

Singapore is a city whose recent population growth has been due to migration, not natural increase.

Junhee Park December 31, 2013 at 3:02 am

China’s reported population in 2010 was 1.34 billion, an increase of 200 million or 17% from 20 years earlier. Harbin’s population grew by 150% in the same time period. China’s population is still growing and I believe Singapore’s is too not just from migration but from near replacement level fertility rates among native citizens.

Aaron December 31, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Yes, you don’t need above replacement level fertility or migration for a population to grow over a given time period. You just need reproduction rates to be higher than death rates over that given time period. A population will grow over a given time period if nobody dies during the period and as long as reproductive rates are above 0 during the period.

The concept of “replacement level fertility” assumes time periods long enough to include the aging and death of previous generations. Having below replacement level fertility does not mean a population is falling for every single time period selected. You can have a fertility rate of 0.1, far below replacement level fertility, and on a day that nobody died say that the population grew on that day.

Singapore’s recent population growth is primarily due to migration, not above replacement level fertility, which it hasn’t had recently. I don’t know Harbin’s fertility rate, but I imagine it hasn’t been above replacement level fertility and that its growth is also primarily due to migration.

Junhee Park January 1, 2014 at 2:31 am

China’s death rate has risen from 6.73 per 1,000 in 2000 to 7.31 in 2013. China’s birth rate has fallen from 16.12 per 1,000 in 2000 to 12.31 in 2013. I’m skeptical of Chinese statistics although I think the overall trend is correct, I don’t think China’s birth rate is that low.


Here’s another statistic showing the migration rate. It’s negative for China meaning more people are leaving China then coming in. As I said East Asian populations are expanding.


Aaron January 1, 2014 at 4:57 pm

Yes, like I said, you don’t need above replacement level fertility for a population to grow over a given time period. You just need birth rates to be higher than death rates over that given time period. If just one baby is born today and nobody dies today, then we can say that the population grew today.

“Replacement level fertility” is just that: a rate of fertility that replaces the pre-existing population as it ages and dies. It assumes time periods long enough to include the aging and death of the pre-existing population. Having below replacement level fertility doesn’t mean a population is falling for every single time period selected.

As you point out, China’s birth rate has been higher than its death rate, which is why its population has grown. This is different from the concept of replacement level fertility.

Yes, the migration rate for China is negative, which is consistent with what I’ve said. Some of those migrants leaving China have been going to Singapore, adding to Singapore’s recent population growth. Within China as well there has been tremendous internal migration, with rural Chinese migrating to cities like Harbin, adding to Harbin’s population growth.

Junhee Park January 4, 2014 at 12:06 am

As I said Chinese have above replacement rate births.

There was no Harbin before the late 1800s. It was rural. Chinese have been more urban than many other populations throughout history. Chinese are spreading out within their own country and the world. China is creating new cities. Western and Northern China, and Tibet have seen a flood of Han Chinese in the past few decades where there have been very few before.

Aaron January 5, 2014 at 1:58 am

China doesn’t have above replacement level fertility:


China hasn’t been more urban than many other populations throughout history. They’ve been very rural until recently. That’s why they have such a huge population. Rural populations are more fertile than urban ones.

collin December 29, 2013 at 12:28 pm

My second question follow-up question, is continued lowering birth rates going to continue until nations become like Singapore? Outside of Israel and the Middle East, birth rates are dramatically falling and in the US all birth rates per female except 35+ have had significantly drops since The Lesser Depression.

The Wobbly Guy December 29, 2013 at 2:50 pm

It’s, as with so many things, a confluence of factors, mostly direct-on-target by Jayman and Sailer already.

Highly educated women in Singapore have huge problems securing mates. My fiancee is a pharmacist, and she has loads of unattached female colleagues who are getting desperate about finding husbands as they reach the age of 30 and beyond. These women thought it was more important to secure their career and education before snagging a guy. Many of them went on to get their Masters and residencies/specializations, and by the time they were done, they were in their early thirties, unattached, and close to being left on the shelf. A fair number of them jumped, desperate to start over in a less intense work environment and try to start up a family before it is too late.

It took me a while to convince my girl that her career would always be waiting for her once we have set up a stable family, even though her superiors warned her that if she did not take up the opportunities for educational advancement now, they will never be offered to her again. It’s a stupid policy that virtually ensures the fertility rate of some of our best and brightest women will remain low.

A lot of it has to do with the intense career pressures and relatively low regard for labour in Singapore, further exacerbated by the immigrant labour issue. Employers generally have the whiphand – why would they employ a middle-aged woman with such irritating distractions like family when they can easily employ an immigrant single with lower pay, no family and no distractions? It doesn’t help that our government promotes a workaholic attitude – when the pay of healthcare personnel were raised last year to try to attract more people into those fields, the directive from the Ministry of Health was that they were henceforth expected to do more! The inevitable result – private gain, social loss.

The fertility issue will only be solved when our political leaders want to solve it. The easiest way is to base their bonuses on raising the TFR, instead of GDP as the current practice.

sloganmaker December 29, 2013 at 7:32 pm

Interesting article. A well educated country will make birth rates go down. Unlike third world countries where population growth where education in some areas is minimal. Population growth is a real problem.

Lost Gweilo December 30, 2013 at 11:35 am

Does anyone have some information or reference material about why a high fertility rate is considered a good thing? I see a lot of articles and talk about everyone trying to raise the fertility rate, and to have ever more people on the planet. I do not understand why this is a good thing, or why it is often a policy goal. It seems that the race to create more and more people as a solution to our inability to deal with the currently existing and aging ones is a short sighted plan: these new people will age too, so this “ever more people” race is just delaying and increasing the size of the problem?
I am curious to get to the bottom of this topic, and understand the reasons, beyond the usual gospel people just take for granted.
I see many people on this thread posting interesting links to reverence material so I hope someone can share basic educational material or a reading list on this topic for a newbie like me?

Careless December 31, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Two reasons: one is basically a pyramid scheme. We need ever more people to support our social security and other similar schemes. The other is that people do tend to have more children when they feel wealthier, so the birth rate is a decent way to judge subjective wealth

A Berman December 31, 2013 at 4:22 pm

I suspect there are two separate factors in the women education –> fewer babies. The first is simple literacy and high school, which reduces the number of children down from 8 to some number like 4. The second is time spent in higher educational institutions, which is usually time not spent having babies. The first effect might be reasonably called ‘empowering’ for women. I’m not sure that the second effect can be called empowering- rather, I think you can make a case that it is disempowering, i.e., the woman must give up having children in order to complete a multi-year task.

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