2005 May 11 Wednesday
On Poor Women Putting Motherhood Ahead Of Marriage

A pair of sociologists, Kathryn Edin of University of Pennslyvania and Maria Kefalas of St. Joseph's University, have an article in the Washington Post about their new book Promises I Can Keep : Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage in which they discuss why teenage girls and young women choose to have children outside of marriage.

To understand this rise in unmarried childbearing, we tried to offer women like Lisa an opportunity to answer the question that many middle-class Americans ask about them: Why don't they marry before having children? To find out, we spent five years getting to know 162 white, African American and Puerto Rican single mothers who live in the poorest sections of Philadelphia and its sister city, Camden, N.J., talking with them over kitchen tables and on front stoops.

What we discovered was surprising: Instead of a rejection of marriage, we found a deep respect for it among many young mothers, who told us that getting married was their ultimate life ambition. While they acknowledge that putting children before marriage is not the ideal way of doing things, they're not about to risk going through life childless while waiting for Mr. Right. They build their dreams around children: As one 20-year-old mother explained as she watched her toddler, "I wanted to have a baby. It wasn't, like, because everybody else had a baby. . . . I wanted somebody to take care of."

These girls are putting their own emotional satisfaction ahead of the interests of the children that they want to have.

Who are these girls and young women mating with? That is the scariest part:

Women described to us relationships that were plagued by their partner's drug and alcohol addictions, criminal behavior, frequent run-ins with the law, chronic infidelity and violent behavior.

The guys are good enough for getting pregnant but not good enough to marry.

The women we met wanted to wed, but they insisted on marrying well.

But here is the biggest problem with these women: They place a high standard on who they will marry but not on who they will mate with. They are so eager to have children that they are not choosy enough about who they let knock them up. We'd be better off if these girls waited to try to find better mating material or even if they opted for a sperm bank sperm donor. When school drop-out violent criminal guys reproduce we are all worse off.

Modern liberalism, by breaking down the strong taboo against reproduction outside of marriage and by supporting welfare programs that make single motherhood more affordable, deserves to be blamed for the increase in the national illegitimacy rate from about 4% in 1950 (these figures from the article) to about a third today. Granted, liberalism is not the only cause for this change. Technological advances that changed the relative economic value of male and female labor, still more technological advances that helped to automate household work, and rising affluence combined to make single motherhood more feasible. But legal changes and social policy changes made a big difference and so did a change in attitudes promoted by liberal intellectual elites.

The undermining of useful taboos has an equally destructive flipside: defense of newly created taboos which have harmful effects. For example, by constructing taboos against arguments that genetics influences intelligence, character, and behavioral tendencies modern liberalism has basically replaced older constructive taboos that served society's interest with newer destructive taboos that prevent a full appreciaton of how much damage is being done by the destruction of the old taboos.

This, in a nutshell, is why I am not a liberal. I am opposed to social policy changes and to changes in what is taboo when those changes obviously cause crime waves, illegitimacy, and other harmful consequences. American liberals (as distinct from people in other Western countries who still use "liberal" in its more classical sense) have caused a lot of damage while claiming the moral high ground. When the empirical evidence contradicts a claim of moral high ground my reaction is to reject the moral claim and accept the empirical evidence.

I used to think that American liberals, by breaking down taboos, were at least motivated by a desire to free us from ignorance and superstition. Some of them may even believe that about themselves. But look at what has happened. They've really just tossed out one set of taboos and one moral code to replace it with a different set of taboos and a different and more destructive moral code. Put aside their feelings about why they think they've done what they have done. In empirical effect I think they have been promoting ideas that work against a reduction in ignorance and superstition.

Now, I can hear some of my liberal readers saying "But you are being totally unfair to me." For some of you that is true. Not all liberals are unrealistic about human nature. Some liberals accept that human nature is not a blank slate and that not all social problems can be solved by providing poor people better educations or racial preferences. Not all liberals think the welfare state is a good thing or that taboos against single motherhood should have been tossed out. Not all liberals gang up and engage in character assassination attacks in order to marginalize all discussion of genetic causes of cognitive differences. But the motivation for the destruction of the old taboos and the creation of most of the new harmful replacement taboos came from the Left, not the Right. Also, the Left still opposes the lifting of the new taboos.

Aside: The desire for single young ghetto mothers to have children outside of wedlock is not a new revelation. For example, over 15 years ago Washington Post reporter Leon Dash documented this phenomenon in his book When Children Want Children. As long as these girls are allowed to have children and enabled to have children they will continue to do so and with harmful consequences to us all.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 May 11 09:01 AM  Civilizations Decay

Radco said at May 11, 2005 9:33 AM:

If society paid these young women to be sterilized, how much money could be paid and still have society come out ahead? One thousand dollars? Ten thousand dollars? A hundred thousand dollars? Taking all the costs into account, including AFDC payments, medicaid, housing assistance, food stamps, the cost of criminal behavior by their offspring, the perpetuation of the same behavior in their offspring . . . Would a million dollars be too much?
Well, sure, because with that much money they'd simply pay to have the surgery reversed, then apply for another sterilization payment.
Even a hysterectomy wouldn't prevent them from donating eggs, hiring a surrogate, and having a baby that way.
You'd have to prevent them from adopting, do a total hysterectomy with bilateral oopherosalpingectomy, and keep payments low enough to prevent free market workarounds to get a baby anyway.

Invisible Scientist said at May 11, 2005 11:37 AM:

" Women described to us relationships that were plagued by their partner's drug and alcohol addictions, criminal behavior, frequent run-ins with the law, chronic infidelity and violent behavior.

The guys are good enough for getting pregnant but not good enough to marry."

Randall Parker:
Did you say that "these criminal guys were good enough to get married but not good enough to marry?"
Well, I think it's the other way around: Genetically speaking, the qualities of the father would probably be inherited by the child, and so perhaps, the woman is better off going to a gene bank to borrow the DNA of a Nobel laureate for artificial insemination, and then she can have a fun relationship with a wild criminal type, since in my opinion, these criminal types are probably humorous and entertaining, too, as opposed to a boring science nerd who is not interesting.

Matthew Cromer said at May 11, 2005 1:38 PM:


Isn't this a case of the "Dads and Cads" evolutionary stable strategy pattern? Women want to marry "Dad" types but have flings with the Cad type. That's the best recipe for evolutionary success, and the misfits and rogues these girls are breeding with are classic sociopathic "Cads".
But even well brought-up women are prone to flings with cads (although the more successful the Dad-type they marry, the less likely they are to stray).

Randall Parker said at May 11, 2005 2:04 PM:


I'm saying that the women are treating their boyfriends as of sufficiently high quality to get pregnant from while simultaneously saying these guys are not good enough for marriage. Well, their decisions hurt the rest of us.


It might well be an evolutionarily stable strategy for them. But for us it is costly. Any child born to a Cad is a child that the rest of us will pay for. Any child born to a criminal is, again, a child the rest of us will pay for.

The middle and upper class women are less likely to have babies with Cads than the lower class women are. But these guys the lower class women are mating with are not just Cads. They are dim bulbs and criminals.

John S Bolton said at May 11, 2005 2:22 PM:

Here is an opportunity to violate one of the biggest political speech taboos in force today: The breeding practices of the black man in America are subhuman. Normative illegitmacy in the black areas of America,~70%, means that subhuman bredding practices are normative there.

Bob Badour said at May 11, 2005 3:41 PM:


With all due respect, all human breeding is human even if not civilized, humane, legal or just.

Kurt said at May 11, 2005 4:19 PM:


You are spot on about the "dad vs. cad" breading pattern. This is simple socio-biology in its purist form. The Washington Post journalists and Daniel Long presentation and discussion of this phenomenon as well as the comments about "having someone to care for", etc, etc, is simply handwaving, nothing more. The socio-biological explanation is the reality.


Your comments about how this whole phenomenon is destructive to modern technological civilization are also spot on. The question is: What is to be done about this phenomenon? What measures should be taken to reduce and eliminate this phenomenon? Correctly identifying the problem for what it is ("cads vs. dads" socio-biology) is the correct and necessary first step in dealing with this problem. The fact that neither the Washington Post journalists as well as Daniel Long (When Children Want Children) fail to discuss this issue within the context of socio-biology makes it clear that our society as a whole refuses to take the necessary first step (proper identification of the problem).

Dan said at May 11, 2005 4:20 PM:

Just a different comment,lately there has been many articles decrying the lack of children, Due to the "birth dearth' Are all births desirable or only those that are socially resposible? Some of the Right to Life people need to take a hard look at that question.

Kurt said at May 11, 2005 4:57 PM:

Only births that are socially responsible are desirable. How anyone can argue to the contrary is beyond me.

I was wong in my previous posting. It is John Leon, not Daniel Long, who wrote "When Children Want Children". I stand by my comments about him (and others) refusing to view this situation within a socio-biological context.

It is true that the birth rate is declining in a profound manner all over the world, not just in the economically developed countries. However, this does not mean that the birth rate is going to zero or that there is any kind of a population crash. There are still plenty of kids being born, just not as many as there was in the 70's and 80's. The notion that we are headed for decline because of a "birth dearth" is as wrong headed as Paul Erlich's "population bomb" and the resultant malthusian crash. Think of both scenarios as extreme projections of both high and low and are equally improbable. The future will most likely be something quite reasonable in between this two extremes. Might as well kick back and enjoy it.

Randall Parker said at May 11, 2005 5:06 PM:


One thing to note about the Evolutionary Stable Strategy theory about Cads and Dads: We have tilted the balance toward the Cads. Cads can more easily reproduce now than they could 50 years ago. Therefore genes for Dad behavior are being selected against and genes for Cad behavior are being selected for. So the "Stable" part of the balance between Cads and Dads is no longer the case.

As for what to do about it: For starters, abolish welfare. That means abolish WIC, Medicaid, and all the rest. But I really do not expect the public to go for that.

One problem we have with our inner cities is that Humpty Dumpty is hard to put back together again. How can a taboo against single motherhood be reestablished? Where many of these women live there is not a monogamous married majority available to shun the single mothers and voice disapproval to them. Also, too many cultural messages work against it.

raj said at May 11, 2005 6:02 PM:

"As for what to do about it: For starters, abolish welfare. That means abolish WIC, Medicaid, and all the rest. But I really do not expect the public to go for that.

One problem we have with our inner cities is that Humpty Dumpty is hard to put back together again. How can a taboo against single motherhood be reestablished? Where many of these women live there is not a monogamous married majority available to shun the single mothers and voice disapproval to them. Also, too many cultural messages work against it."

I used to believe that public policy was the way to go to ameliorate the suffering of humanity. However, the 'best' governments (Democratic governments) are too fraught with complications. I would submit that they only really 'work' well when the society is of at least relatively high IQ- and perhaps when it is relatively homogenous, too (I say this as a non- white). With our relatively open borders, it is too easy for lesser educated immigrants to come in. With human compassion being what it is, it is too esay in a modern democracy for minority groups to successfully beseech the majority for rights. Moreover, if and when the democratic society becomes relatively affluent, it is too easy for dysgenic trends in IQ and birth rates to develop. In short, I believe that the democratic society we live in is in a state of grave peril.

I don't believe that the answer lies in yet another government policy initiative or even in society trying to turn back the clock in values (not that either are bad- just likey not especially feasible). I truly think that the best hope for the world itself will lie in science. Specifically, I would suggest behavioral genomics and other voluntary eugenic solutions. This is an answer that demands, perhaps above all, patience. The situation in America and other affluent countries will get far worse before it gets better. We may be talking about years away- possibly even decades or longer. However, that is how I've come to maintain my perspective on the matter. Most of human history has taken place when our species were hunter- gatherers. Thousands of years passed to result in our current state. EVEN IF it takes another thousand, what is that in the long term scheme of things for mankind?

mariana said at May 11, 2005 6:58 PM:

Fuck a loser. Your kids will be losers.

It sounds bad to say but keeping the drug war up and running seems to be how we're disposing of some of these people.

mariana said at May 11, 2005 7:05 PM:

A friend of mine just had a kid with his now ex-girl friend. They almost got married, but didn't because they couldn't get help from programs like WIC if they were married. At least, this is what I was told. Perhaps being married should be a prerequisite for getting help from such programs? It would certainly create a penalty for not being married to the father of the child.

Randall Parker said at May 11, 2005 7:08 PM:


My take on the situation is very similar to yours. Things will get worse for years to come. Science will eventually stop the dysgenesis, both in the US and worldwide. I don't know what the time line will be for that. I also suspect that once germ line genetic engineering becomes possible people will make very unwise choices for their offpsring.

Just when DNA sequencing becomes very cheap is very important. See my recent post on the possibility of cheap DNA sequencing technology in just a few years. Cheap DNA testing tech will lead to proof at a more undeniable level that dysgenesis is happening. Lefties won't be able to deny the obvious any longer.

Also, easily accessible knowledge about DNA sequences and their meaning will cause changes in mating behavior. At that point will enough women alter their mating choices to cause average rises in the intelligence of babies?

Randall Parker said at May 11, 2005 7:12 PM:


Your question about marrigae requirements to get aid shows how much was lost to the damage caused by welfare state liberalism. The rules for aid eligibility were "liberalized" in the 1960s to make it more advantageous to have kids out of wedlock. In the past girls couldn't get cute babies to love because their choices were to either marry the father or give the baby up for adoption or get a job to pay for the baby.

raj said at May 11, 2005 8:10 PM:

"Cheap DNA testing tech will lead to proof at a more undeniable level that dysgenesis is happening. Lefties won't be able to deny the obvious any longer."

Yes, I agree that eventually the Left will be completely and utterly repudiated once the last vestige of the blank slate falls with the rise of behavioral genomics. I've read enough of Plomin's works well enough, however, to understand that our epidemiological research far outpaces our basic science research with respect to human behavior. That is not to say that we won't eventually get there and that cheap DNA testing won't fascilitate this process.

However, there will be acrimonious 'debates' coming from the Left even when the DNA results have been strongly correlated to IQ results. Much of it will come from intelligent but willfully deceptive Lefties who fully well understand the implications of these cheap tests and this type of research as nothing less than a broad side attack on everything they represent. Mark my words: the people who are found to be potentially at a disadvantage when the full extent of this research is known will continue to support the Left politically- artificially sustaining the Left's power for years afterward. In the ensuing battle against behavioral genomics, science will likely take a back seat to politics.

The only reason this will stop is if cheap DNA testing eventually leads to cheap DNA manipulation. Then, the disadvantaged groups will have actual reason to support this science. At least that is what will happen in this country. Fortunately or unfortunately, the Western world no longer will have a stranglehold on high technology. China, the rest of the Pacific Rim and possibly India have their own ethical standards for science and a rising cadre of geneticists who can research DNA as well as white people- with less of the liberal baggage.

"Also, easily accessible knowledge about DNA sequences and their meaning will cause changes in mating behavior. At that point will enough women alter their mating choices to cause average rises in the intelligence of babies?"

I think low IQ and/ or immature women will continue to mate with bad boys and losers at a frightening rate and with little regard for their kids's futures. If these single Moms actually gave a damn about their kids, they should explain if they have even thought about what type of environments they might be birthing them into: poverty ridden, limited high school and/ or post- high school options, limited ways of paying for education, crime ridden, plenty of broken homes...etc. etc.

Randall Parker said at May 11, 2005 8:59 PM:


Yes, a lot of the leftists of deep secular faith (and their irrational beliefs strike me as a sort of secular religion) and those who have especially strong economic interests in maintaining the existing falsehoods will resist the evidence when the obvious is proven at the genetic level. However, a lot of people who are now intimidated into silence who oppose the existing taboos will be emboldened to speak up. That'll be the biggest political change.

I see the current stalemate as a result in part of a lack of a coordinating signal to cause a lot of intimidated people to speak their minds. The few who speak out are sufficiently marginalized that a lot of others stay quiet. But the explosion of evidence at the genetic level is going to serve as a cue and people who are currently intimidated are going to take increasingly politically incorrect positions.

I think one of the really funny revelations that will come from cheap DNA sequencing is A) evidence that liberal and conservative political tendencies are influenced by genes and B) that among America's white population liberals are not reproducing as rapidly as conservatives. The white liberals are going to be faced with the fact that selective pressures are making them less numerous.

As for the decisions of low IQ women: The irony here is that the women who are not getting married and who are not getting any help from the fathers of their kids are the women who'd be best off using sperm bank sperm. They'd get smarter and healthier kids and yet they wouldn't lose anything in terms of absentee fathers since their other choices are loser guys in their own neighborhoods who aren't going to stick around anyhow. Whereas most middle and upper class women have better prospects for mates who will help pay for raising children and yet these smarter women are going to be more aware of the advantages of using sperm from men that they couldn't hook for marriage.

I'm not sure how this is going to play out. I expect once people can surreptitously find out about each other's DNA sequences more women than is currently the case will seek out high genetic quality men for sex to start pregnancies outside of marriage or use sperm bank sperm of known above average genetic quality. But I don't have a good guess on what percentage of women will do this. 1%? 10%?

JJ said at May 11, 2005 10:57 PM:

Illegitimacy is becoming quite common in white communities. The illegitimacy rate for whites in England is over 40%. The illegitimacy rate for whites in the United States is almost 25%. The illegitimacy rates in some Northern European countries are over 60%. It seems to me that society can not indenfinitely continue on such a path and hope to sustain a civil and highly advanced nation. If white illegitimacy rates continue to rise, then eventually predominately white societies are going to decline.

Rick Darby said at May 12, 2005 6:40 AM:

"They build their dreams around children: As one 20-year-old mother explained as she watched her toddler, "I wanted to have a baby. It wasn't, like, because everybody else had a baby. . . . I wanted somebody to take care of."

What nauseating hypocrisy. "I wanted to have a baby." "I want somebody to take care of." I, I, I. Never mind what kind of a trashy environment they are bringing a helpless baby into. Never mind the cost, morally and financially, to the responsible and productive people who must support mother and child. Raising a fatherless child whose peer group will be other fatherless children: this is "taking care of" their offspring?

We could learn a lot from the American and British culture of the Victorian age, so despised by modern leftists. The Victorians' social arrangements were far from perfect -- class divisions were too rigid, for one thing -- but they understood that the price of maintaining a well-functioning and coherent society was reforming sociopathic behavior, not subsidizing it. Today the very thought of reforming anyone is shocking to most people. It's judgmental! It's interfering with their lifestyle!

People should have maximal freedom in their lifestyle, but as soon as that freedom begins to have negative social repercussions, society's interests come into the picture.

Radco said at May 12, 2005 7:11 AM:

If these young tarts want to have a baby, perhaps they should obtain a lifelike robotic infant--it will never grow up! It eats, pukes, poops, wets, cries, just like a living infant. But it will never grow up to be a crackhead, gang-banger, or welfare mother. As long as it is maintained properly and its batteries kept charged, it will provide the basis for a lifetime of trouble free mothering. I think these devices are vastly underutilized.

Randall Parker said at May 12, 2005 7:33 AM:


First off, are you aware of the group run by Barbara Harris that pays drug addicts to get sterilized? I know a guy who donates to it who says it is his favorite charity. Check out my post here about Harris's work. So, there is a precedent for your first suggestion. You can even donate to it.

Second, the robotic infant: I like this idea. It reminds me of the Lib Abner comic strip where the Shmoo creatures would become anything you wanted. At some point (maybe in the 1970s) he used the Shmoo to solve the problems of people who like babies but who are unhappy with what babies grow up to become. He had (and this is a vague memory) a factory in which the Shmoo converted themselves into babies that would never grow up.

Ned said at May 13, 2005 5:47 AM:

How tragic it is that the African-American community, which was just the group the liberals said they were trying most to help, has been the one most injured by these misguided social welfare policies. For example, in 1918 the illegitimacy rate among African-Americans was LOWER than among white Americans. Now it's almost three times as high. The black family structure, which withstood the worst that discrimination, segregation and Jim Crowism could throw at it, has been almost totally wrecked by these pseudo-intellectuals and their ideas about social engineering.

Engineer-Poet said at May 13, 2005 10:01 AM:

Ned, you forgot to add "... and the willingness of the victims to accept them."

Welfare didn't hold a gun to anyone's head and force them to have babies out of wedlock; it just made it profitable.

Guessedworker said at May 13, 2005 1:04 PM:

A few non-welfare related observations ...

Cads v Dads: During their ovulatory phase women display a marked preference for mate-selection based - damnit - on looks. Rest of the time they are given to select on a basis of personal qualities. So one might argue that the Cad, being effectively shut out for a large part of the menstrual cycle, has to "operate" fast and frequently in order to maximise his chance of transmitting his genes. His cadishness is his best evolutionary strategy. "Dads", on the other hand, respond to their mundane physical attributes by developing other qualities which win them possession of the marital bed. That's their best strategy.

Given that these young mothers were not looking for husbands but for pregnancy, there is only one type of male they would choose.

It is entirely possible that the bar for caddishness is set high among Europeans and rather lower among sub-Saharan Africans. The African male is, on average, more confident and direct with women but scarcely appears to stand the test of time.

Last point, liberalism is not a safe political milieu for the low-IQ part of the population. As with any freedom commended by academics, media types and politicians it might possibly be manageable for their own class - though I doubt it. But for the lower part of society liberalism is an invitation to absolute disaster. It has no reverse gear, either. It will take generations of dystopia before the then elite seek ways to re-Conservative their politics and mores.

Kurt said at May 13, 2005 2:09 PM:

You know, Steve Sailor (www.isteve.com) has a rant about this issue on his website. For the past 2 months he has been ranting and raving endlessly about Steve Levitt's abortion reduces crime argument. Steve is really becoming a bore of late. He needs to back off.

Prior to this, his website was quite good, even if I didn't agree with the half of what he had to say.

Mark said at May 13, 2005 2:16 PM:

The problem Kurt, is that legalizing abortion didn't reduce illegitimate pregnancies and thus didn't reduce the number of genetically deficient bastards flooding the country.

Kurt said at May 13, 2005 3:20 PM:

Mark, whether legalizing abortion reduced crime or not is immaterial. It certainly couldn't have increased crime at all. Harping on and on about this doesn't accomplish anything and makes Steve Sailor sound like a broken record (which is unfortunate, because he otherwise has many insightful things to say).

In fact, its really quite irrelevant. The fact is that people enjoy sex. Except for vasectomy, there is no form of birth control that is 100% effective 100% of the time. Until science completes the separation between sex and reporduction, there is simply no way for someone to have a decent social life without the risk of accidental pregancy (at least without vasectomy on the part of the man). You simply have to have abortion as an option in the modern world.
Trying to ban abortion is like trying to ban cars and go back to the horse and buggy. It's just not going to happen. Pretending otherwise is just a waste of time, pure and simple. Why people continue to rangle on this issue after thirty years is utterly senseless to me.

Sometimes you have to hang it up and move on to something else.

Randall Parker said at May 13, 2005 3:39 PM:


I happen to think that the argument that Steve Sailer is making on abortion is quite important. Why? Because whether abortion is raising or lowering the crime rate is an important question. Why would you say it is immaterial? Just because abortion can't be abolished doesn't mean discussion of its effects is not important. It improves our understanding of human evolution and human society.

Also, the rate of abortion has dropped by about half in the last 15 or so years. So abortion rates are not fixed.

The elite view is naive about human nature. The elite will not change their minds and get realistic as long as they can rationalize their opinions. Levitt has dressed up the elite view on one issue with some fancy regression calculations while ignoring Sailer's points about how Levitt's argument is flawed. To the extent that an elite view on some issue can be disproved a chink is made in the intellectual armor that protects elite rationalizations on a great many subjects. So this abortion debate is not an isolated debate just about abortion.

The economists who are supporting Levitt, like Levitt himself, are sidestepping whether abortion is exerting a selective effect. This nonsense about "wantedness" is an attempt to hide the question of whether natural selection is at work. "Wantedness" is an environmental argument to make Levitt's conclusion politically correct (even while it is factually probably erroneous). So here's an issue where Levitt gets close to talking about human biology but ends up flinching.

Also, in the last couple of months Steve Sailer has made a number of original observations on other subjects. Did you read his latest essay about "Affordable Family Formation"?

Kurt said at May 13, 2005 4:32 PM:


I was not criticizing Steve Sailor in general. I think his articles on the corelation between republican voters and things like marraige rates, affordable housing, and kids was brilliant. What he should do is to focus on that and write it up into an article and submit it to National Review or even Forbes magazine. I think they are likely to publish it and give Steve much recognition on these points.

I am well aware that the abortion rate has declined since around 1990.

Steve Sailor may be correct that the availability of abortion has had little impact on the hard-core underclass. However, I believe that the availability of abortion has had a profound impact on the lower levels of the middle class. More specifically, I believe that it is the reason why there seem to be far fewer runaway and throwaway kids on the streets that there were when I was a teenager. I think that in the 70's and early 80's that the underclass was being fed a fresh supply of new entrants in the form of run away and throw away kids from lower middle class families and that this flow has largely stopped since the late 80's. This is of positive social benefit in and of itself. I do not have the time to do the research and statistical analysis to back up this belief. But anecdotal evidence suggests to me that this is in deed the case.

I stand by my point that even if Steve Sailor is correct about abortion not lowering the crime rate, that in no way could it RAISE the crime rate beyond what it would be otherwise. Steve seemed to argue precisely this in his first posting about Levitt's hypothosis, while failing to provide any statistical evidence to back this up.

raj said at May 13, 2005 5:01 PM:

" I stand by my point that even if Steve Sailor is correct about abortion not lowering the crime rate, that in no way could it RAISE the crime rate beyond what it would be otherwise."

I had the same questions when I read Steve's viewpoint. However, I still frequently visit Steve's website. He's too undeniably right on a host of other issues for me to care about whether or not his stance on this particular one is the correct one. Without Steve, I prolly would have never found out about GNXP or this site.

Randall Parker said at May 13, 2005 5:45 PM:


I stand by my point that even if Steve Sailor is correct about abortion not lowering the crime rate, that in no way could it RAISE the crime rate beyond what it would be otherwise.

Why not? What makes this impossible?

Abortion is exerting some sort of selective influence on who gets reproduced. Therefore it seems reasonable to expect that it is making those with violent and criminal genetic tendencies either more or less likely to be born.

You seem to be against the very idea that abortion is exerting selective pressure. I take it as obvious that it must be. The only question in my mind is in what direction?

I believe natural selection exerted different effects on cognitive function in different environments once humans spread out across the globe.

I also believe that natural selection is still operating. I think it is exceedingly unlikely that the opposite is the case.

Kurt said at May 13, 2005 8:27 PM:


Steve Sailor has made use of statistical data to show that crime and abortion have no corelation to each other. This, by definition, precludes the possibility that the availability of abortion has somehow increased the amount of crime.

I stand by my point.

Randall Parker said at May 14, 2005 6:09 AM:


I've read all his writings on abortion and crime. I do not see how he has made such a general statement. You want to point me to it? Your "no correlation with each other" sounds like you are excessively generalizing what he actually said. I think you are misrepresenting his argument.

He has shown that the biggest flaw in Levitt's analysis is that Levitt does not explain the crime surge that preceded the crime decrease and that the crime surge actually happened around the time the first cohort of post abortion legalization babies hit their teens (and half of the increase in legalized abortions happened in the 3 years before Roe v. Wade). This suggests a positive correlation.

When one states whether two variables have a significant correlation one needs to qualify that with whether one is talking about just comparing those two variables or comparing those two after having adjusted for the effects of other variables. Social science always has a lot of other variables that have to be adjusted for.

The mid 1990s saw a decrease in crime for a number of reasons. Lots crack warriors had killed each other. Lots more were in jail because jails were being constructed quite rapidly. Police were adopting community policing and "Broken Windows" style enforcement. Whether there appears to be is a correlation between crime and abortion during this time depends on how many other factors are adjusted for and how they are adjusted for.

Kurt said at May 14, 2005 10:30 AM:


The crime surge that you and Steve are refering to was obviously due to the crack cocaine street wars. You will note from Steve's data that the crime wave began in 1986 (when crack hit the streets) and began to decline around 1994. This would have happened regardless of the status of abortion. No doubt, it would have been much worse had abortion not been available. Is there anyway anyone could say that this crime wave would not have occured or been less significant if abortion had not been available? I hardly think so.

All Steve Sailor is saying in his comments is that there are many other factors other than abortion that influence crime and that Steve Levitt has failed to adjust for these factors in his "abortion reduces crime" hypothosis. I actually agree with Steve Sailor on this point.

However, in one of his earlier postings, Steve Sailor postulates that the availability of abortion has actually INCREASED the amount of crime, then proceeded to do lots of handwaving to justify this argument. I see no reason to believe this, nor do I see any plausible mechanism for how this could be possible. This was one of his earlier postings that you probably missed and, therefor, are not aware of.

You are correct that liberal economists are using Levitt's arguments to avoid thinking and discussing the socio-biological roots of crime and of socio-biology in general. I also agree with you that the issue of "wantedness" is also being used as a deflection tool by liberals to avoid discussion about socio-biology, crime, and race (which are taboo subjects for them).

However, I disagree with you about the importance of "wantedness" in general. Kids who grow up in families where they are "wanted" are obviously going to turn out psychologically healthier than kids who don't. Kids who grow up "unwanted" are much more likely to be screwed up that those that grow up "wanted". Aside from the discussion about socio-biology and natural selection, can you honestly disagree with this point?

Randall Parker said at May 14, 2005 11:37 AM:


No doubt, it would have been much worse had abortion not been available.

This is simply an assertion on your part. You are arguing that you agree with Levitt. Yet you offer no proof of what you assert is obvious and I happen to think it is very unlikely to be true.

Yes, Steve explained why he expects abortion to raise crime rates. Yes, he hasn't proven that his hypothesized mechanisms really are causing women with more impulsivity and lower IQ to become more likely to get pregnant and then not abort as compared to before abortion was legalized. That seems highly plausible to me.

On the importance of "wantedness": The illegitimacy rate started rising as soon as abortion was legalized. That rather obvious measure the level of "wantedness" of babies indicates a steady decline of "wantedness" that stretched over decades. Dads didn't want to stick around and help raise junior. Moms became less likely to raise their kids and handed the kids over to the state or to their own mothers.

When increasing portions of Dads stopped sticking around this fell most heavily among blacks. Blacks of course commit over half the crimes in the United States. Then Moms started taking up with a succession of boyfriends who physically abused, molested, and raped the kids. The kids were taken away by the state to bounce around between foster homes or institutions for kids that no one wants. Or the kids were handed off to mom's mom or mom's sister or aunt.

If abortion helped fuel the rise in illegitimacy (which seems obviously to be the case) then abortion decreased "wantedness" by a large margin.

I quote from one of Steve's readers on who decides to abort:

Will having kids hold back your career? Well, if you have an IQ of 80 and are looking for a reason to drop out of high school anyway, then no.

Youíve probably already figured out that your prospects of a good job are dim, and getting dimmer by the day, especially with immigrants flooding in by the millions to take the few jobs you're qualified to do.

So for you, its not a choice of a ghastly life as a welfare mother or good life in the burbs. Fate and the immigration mavens have already decreed that you will get mostly crumbs from America's bounteous economic table. The only choice you have is between a crummy life with kids or a crummy life without kids.

Your lack of career prospects just makes having kids look that much more attractive. Children are about the only thing you can produce that people will view as being truly valuable.

Besides, if you can't count on a spouse for love and companionship, kids become doubly important because they'll be the only family youíve got.

So becoming a single mother makes quite a bit of sense to you. You realize itís a scary prospect and a hard life, but what are your options?

You may not exactly be looking to get pregnant, but when it happens -- well, is it really all bad? Lots of others have done it before you. In fact, in your neighborhood, girls who have babies out of wedlock are becoming the norm.

The only people who can't seem to grasp what is going on here are the Really Smart Guys. Even though it should be getting pretty obvious by now, especially since the black illegitimacy rate is close to 70 percent. Admittedly, most of these out of wedlock pregnancies may not have been "planned" or "intended" in any sense that a middle class observer could understand. But that doesnít mean they're necessarily "unwanted."

Seen from this perspective, poor women who have abortions are likely to be the strivers and achievers. They're the ones who see some prospect of improving their lives, and realize it may hold them back if they have five kids by four fathers. They're the ones who are trying, in their own way, to make good.

Inability to grasp what is wrong with Levitt's argument seems to be a case of "I'll see it when I believe it." Maybe all the bright guys who can't believe what's going on in the underclass world should ditch Elvis and listen to Fantasia Barrino [last year's American Idol and an unwed mother herself] sing:

Nowadays it's like a badge of honor To be a baby mama... Cause we the backbone of the 'hood.

Steve Sailer has a single web page with most what Steve Sailer has written about abortion and crime.

Randall Parker said at May 14, 2005 11:41 AM:


One other point: Of course the crack cocaine wars caused a huge upsurge of crime. But I do not see how that fact supports your argument. Steve Sailer pointd to the crack cocaine wars precisely to argue that Levitt is failing to properly adjust for all the other factors that were influencing crime rates.

I think Levitt's attempt on abortion and crime is naive because he's underestimating the size of the problem of adjusting for everything that influences behavior. Sailer is far more in touch with all the currents of change flowing through American subcultures.

Prince C. said at May 14, 2005 10:00 PM:

Reading this post and the comments which followed reminded why I am a liberal.

I get very irritated by the fact that some people really beleive that poor people, just because they are poor, or not married, should not have children. It's one thing to say "Hey, you don't make enough money to own a Lexus so you have to have a Kia" it's another to deny a poor person a basic right given by God.

The problem with modern conservatism is that it gives all of it's "rights" to rich people while poor people can't do shit. Conservative values are either money based or involve taking someone's natural rights away. When poor people attempt to follow "conservative values" and not have an abortion they are criticized by the same folks who insist they have the child, for being a drain on the economy (a lie, btw). It's sickening.

Common sense will tell anyone that poor people have more children because they have less things to do. Can't afford to take you to the movies, let's have sex. Can't afford to take you to a nice restaurant but we can have sex. You get the point. Of course we can teach these people about condoms and contaceptives and give them away at school...oops no conservatives don't agree with that! So they end up creating the problems they claim to be against(i.e. baby mommas).

Randall Parker said at May 15, 2005 4:47 AM:

Prince C.,

I get really irritated by the fact that some people think I exist to work to pay taxes to support them.

God did not grant a basic right to live off the labor of others. That is basically what you are advocating for. The welfare state has to be paid for. When poor folks have kids the rest of us are expected to pay for delivery at the hospital, other medical care, schooling, and all the rest.

What is sickening is the loss of belief in so many millions of people that they should be responsible for the consequences of their actions (e.g. the babies that follow from their having sex) and that others should pay for it.

Common sense will tell anyone that a person's boredom should not be an excuse for that person to stick others with burdens.

Kurt said at May 15, 2005 11:30 AM:


Fortunately, the liberalism of Prince C is waning in this country. I think that the retirement of the baby boomers is going to be the final nail in the coffin of this kind of liberalism. The Johnson-era social welfare programs (which were supported by the baby boomers in their idealistic youth) have generally failed. As the boomers retire to their sun belt communities and cruise ships, they will force the choice of spending of an increasingly limited federal budget of either maintaining the Johnson-era social welfare programs or pay for the baby boomers retirements. Given 77 million self-absorbed baby boomers, which choice do you think will be made?

Gen-Xers (like myself) are of no use in this debate because we grew up be told that we have to take an economic step back from our parents generation and learn to relish it, then got suckered punched by two recessions. We learned to relish this all right. One, by becoming slackers and not giving a damn and, two, by deciding that the government and the rest of the system is simply an road block to be ignored or overcome in our quest to become successful. In other words, we became natural born libertarians in that we took the message to heart that if we want to create the life we want, we have to do it ourselves and not rely on the government, big business, or any other "social institution" to help us get what we want.

A contributing factor is the public school system. In its eternal quest to make everyone equal and to destroy any kind of excellence and achievement (because it might make the other kids "feel bad"), the school system has produced a boomerang effect in that many bright kids (who despise the "system") are becoming more and more attracted to the philosophies of Ayn Rand and others.

This doesn't even take into account the rise of China and the rest of Asia, economically speaking. The fact is that if you do not do your job well, there are about 6-7 hungry people in Asia who are willing to take on the responsibility of your job (and the income that comes with it). Combine this with the fact that you have a population 4.5 times that of the U.S. with an average IQ one-half standard deviation above that of the U.S. AND who are natural born entrepreneurers. How do you think Price C's liberalism will do in the face of these megatrends?

I actually think that the liberalism of Price C is going to become extinct in the next 10-15 years.

Prince C said at May 15, 2005 4:54 PM:

God did not grant a basic right to live off the labor of others. I have not heard a more hypocritical statement in a long time.

I'm always amazed by people who think that value is shown by bank accounts. All conservatism is about is cheap labor. Every policy, every law, is designed to help corporation and spit on the poor.

So what happens to the wage scale, when we do things on the "cheap labor conservative plan". What happens when we abolish the minimum wage, eliminate all social spending, open our borders to cheap goods from the world, and capital flight to the third world. Which direction will average wages paid to Americans go? Do they go up? Or do they go down?

The answer of course, is down. We are talking about policies whose effect -- I say the intended effect -- will be to erode the wages and livingg standards of ordinary American wage-earners. We are talking about a deliberate effort to undermine the bargaining position of American labor. We are talking about an economic environment of 'haves" and "have nots".

What sort of "personal responsibility" is possible in such an environment? If a wage earner's only asset is his ability and willingness to do a day's work for a day's pay, where does he get the wherewithal to improve his circumstances? He gets that wherewithal from the wages he earns. But in the environment created by conservatives, that wage scale will not support accumulatioon of any savings. It will not support job training or higher education. It will allow the wage earner to survive -- in an economic environment where he lives paycheck to paycheck, hoping he doesn't lose his job.

But that isn't what the cheap-labor conservatives mean by "personal responsibility". What they mean is "blame". If you have nothing, and can accumulate nothing "its your own fault". Thus does the conservative wash his hands of the poverty and exploitation inevitable in such an economic environment. It isn't his fault, it is "impersonal market forces". It is the "natural order" of things -- which government has no business correcting, according to him.

All of which utterly overlooks all of the laws, institutions and government created infrastructure that benefits the wealthy. First on the list of these is the corporation itself. Corporations exist because state law creates their possibility. State laws give them a benefit no partnership enjoys -- limited liability for investors. They were and are a government created means to encourage investment in large scale industrial enterprises.

They amount to "organized capital", and have grown into institutions so large, many have annual revenues that exceed the Gross Domestic Product of many third world nations. They obviously create an imbalance of economic power between those who hold capital on the one hand, and wage earners on the other. Add to that the rapid movement of capital made possible by technology, and you have an even more uneven playing field. That rapid movement of course, is made possible by computers -- developed with government subsidies and assistance -- over communications networks built by government subsidy. [Any private companies out there launching communications satellites?].

In fact, the largest beneficiaries of all government built infrastructure, including hydroelectric dams, railroads, air traffic control systems, and even roads and schools, are the corporations who buy power, transport goods by rail and over the roads, and employ workers educated at public expense. They are the primary beneficiaries of the banking system, of Federal Reserve efforts to stabilize the currency, and of the regulation of securities creating confidence in the financial markets.

But Conservatives are oblivious to all this government spending, government infrastructure, and government regulation that directly benefits American corporations. They only see the government spending that helps the wage earner -- and hypocritically claim that the "wage earner" should "stand on his own two feet" -- as if they do.

In fact, they stand on the backs of labor. Having formed hugely powerful corporations, they complain when wage earners respond by forming unions to counterbalance the power of these giants. Apparently, it is okay for capital to "stick together", but not labor.

Fortunately, we are moving into an age where corporations will have less and less influence. Instead of things being "top down" they are moving to "bottom up". It's getting harder and harder for corporations to shove things down peoples throat. Thanks to Globalism and the Internet things are beginning to happen more organiclly. This means power is moving tward the consumer. That means, despite the fact that you want us liberals to go away, it won't happen. In 10-15 years, Gays will be getting married and in the military. The definition of a family will have to change as well. Sigle mothers will be the norm.

Conservatives see that as the end of civilization but actually it's just the beginning. The beginning of greater "personal freedom and responsibility" created not by religious groups but by individuals.

(sorry for rambling and going off topic but you guys really hit a nerve!)

Kurt said at May 15, 2005 7:38 PM:

It is true that giant corporations are nasty. They hire you and then fire you when it is convenient for them to do so. They have "downsizings" and then pay their top managers more and more. This is pathological and is a sign that these corporations are in trouble. Let them die. The fact is that any large scale social institution (whether it be a corporation, government, or non-profit) is bureaucratic and inefficient. They are also evil and reward the "insiders" over the "outsiders". Reform cannot come from within, but can only come from the outside, in the form of free market competition.

This is the reason why the liberalism that Price C advocates by definition cannot work. It is based on the flawed assumption that an even bigger institution (i.e. the federal government) can "correct" and "reform" the big evil corporations that Price C rants and raves about. The problem with getting the government involved is that it results in more and more regulation (not to mention more taxes) that make going out on your own and starting your own business more and more difficult. Entreprenuership (grass roots capitalism) is the only solution to the problem, not the kind of wrong-headed liberalism that Prince C advocates. This kind of liberalism will only accelerate the collapse of America.

Liberalism is flawed because it is based on the efficacy of bureaucracy. Having the experience of working for big and small companies, I can tell you, it is definitionally impossible for bureaucracy to do possitive work.

Price C is correct in one regard. the internet and globalism are changing the rules of the game. Not only is the consumer becoming king. It is also making it easier for people to start businesses and to become self-employed. Once 51% of the electorate becomes self-employed or works for small companies, what do you think the role for big government and big business is going to be? The answer is not what prince C thinks it will be.

Let me tell you something. Those of us out on our own really do not like big business. However, we despise big government even more.

Now how does all of this relate to the underclass having kids? Very simple. In the early 90's (when I was living in Japan) I returned to the states to visit friends and family in Tucson. One of my friends used to work for a big company (one of your victims, Price C, so you should identify with him). he cound not find a new job, so he decided to start a chololate store, which later evolved into a coffee shop. A small business owner, certainly not rich, just a normal sod like you and I.

I went to dinner with my friend and his girlfriend. During the course of the dinner, the conversation got on to the exact same subject that this thread is about. Both of them thought that the underclass (especially if they were drug users) ought just be sterilized.

Keep in mind, this was in the early 90's and that these are run of the mill middle class people trying to make their own way in life. Any bets that such attitudes have hardened since that time? And they will continue to harden in the future.

Prince C, I tell you all of this because we are economic "victims" by your definition (we have been laid off, shafted, and generally mal-treated by what you call the "system"). Yet, we not only do not identify with your liberalism as the solution to our problems, we despise it as being part of the problem in the first place. Now given all of this, I can tell you, the kind of liberalism that you advocate is going into the junk bin of history in the next 10-15 years.

Prince Campbell said at May 16, 2005 10:24 AM:

If our government provides infrastructure and services that benefit the wealthy, does any sane and sensible person really have a problem providing infrastructure and services that benefit regular people?

Randall Parker said at May 16, 2005 10:45 AM:

Prince Campbell,

I don't have time to respond to all of your misconceptions but since you are portraying government-funded research as being done for the benefit of the wealthy I feel compelled to respond.

First off, all the National Institutes of Health budget is for medical research. That benefits us all. Also, the government funds research into pollution clean-up could save the US Department of Defense hundreds of billions of clean-up costs for their old polluted sites.

Then there is computer and network research: We all benefit greatly from advances in computer science and technology. DARPA funded the early development of the internet. Well, we all can blog and exchange email and go read news sites around the world in part because of that funding. We can shop for cheaper deals, find products that are hard to find, and read comparative reviews and comments by product users. I happen to be a computer programmer and find the internet as extremely valuable as a research tool. Well, I'm not rich (if only I was!).

Infrastructure that benefits regular people: Ridden on any roads recently? Travelled through any airports operated by government agencies? Been to a public library? Or a public school?

Kurt said at May 17, 2005 8:10 PM:

For Randall, Price C, and the rest of you who may not understand the context of my last post, let me provide you with some more. Check out the following links:


to get an idea of what grass roots capitalism is about and why liberalism is going into the junk bin of history. Some of us may be "victims" in the classic sense, but we reject our victimhood and consider liberalism an insult to us and our dreams.

Kurt said at May 20, 2005 11:16 AM:


I went through all of Steve Sailor's data. I agree with him that Steve Levitt failed to take the crack wars into account in analyzing crime rates in the last 20 years. However, that is a far cry from Steve Sailor's assertion that the availability of abortion actually resulted in an increased amount of crime than if it had not been available. This assertion simply does not show up in the data graphs that both Steve levitt and Steve Sailor have provided on their respective websites. The only thing that Steve Sailor can claim is that Steve Levitt failed to account for the crack wars. Nothing more.

There seems to be this belief among social conservatives that there is a social benefit in "pushing" people into having kids, even if they don't want them. I believe that this sentiment and the social pressure to have kids that derive from this sentiment is one of the root causes of many of the social problems that inflicts the U.S. Postings on Steve Sailor's website strongly suggests that he subscribes to this sentiment and that this is at the root of his opposition to abortion. His article condemning Steve Levitt's theory is very clearly driven by this ideological conviction and is at the root of his belief (unsubstantiated) that abortion has actually contributed to an INCREASE in crime. I believe that Steve Sailor's article is simply pandering to the "everybody should have kids" crowd. As such, it is not only useless, but actually contributes to the many social problems that Steve professes to want to solve on his website.

Randall Parker said at May 20, 2005 11:38 AM:


I do not see how Steve Sailer's analysis is a simple result of opposition to abortion. I certainly did not see that as I've read him and I read the vast bulk of what he writes.

Steve Sailer did not just say that Levitt failed to account for the Crack Wars. You are grossly simplifying what he has said on the subject. He said something a lot more general and far reaching: That Levitt did not prove his case and that to begin to prove such a case requires accounting for a lot more factors than Levitt considered. Crack was just one of the factors that Sailer discussed.

I fully agree with Sailer. I've read a lot of books and articles about the causes of criminality (e.g. see Crime and Human Nature by Richard Herrnstein and James Q. Wilson for a dated but still excellent treatment of many factors that influence crime rates) and I find Levitt's analysis naive.

Agsin, the idea that the lack of access to legal abortions would contribute to social problems remains unproven. You keep asserting this as your retort to Sailer. But it is just an unproven assertion and plausible arguments have been made for why the opposite may well be the case.

Look at the basics: The rate of conceptions went up something like 30% after abortion was legalized. Well, were all women equally likely to become pregnant as a result of the knowledge that abortion was available? No, of course not. What sorts of women were more likely to become pregnant once they knew abortion was available? We don't know. We can engage in intelligent speculation though. How about more impulsive women? How about women who are as irresponsible as they think they can get away with?

Then there is the abortion side of the coin. Some of the abortions are for babies that otherwise would have been born. What sorts of women had abortions who otherwise would have kept the babies? Again, we don't know. Women who knew they were so poor they shouldn't have babies? Or dumber women? Or smarter and more ambitious women who just didn't want babies to interrupt their ascension of corporate ladders or their college educations? The answer to that question is really important.

My guess is that of the pregnancies that happened above the previous rate once abortion was legalized the types who had abortions were better equipped to deal with babies than the ones who actually had their babies. The strivers and the women who had brighter futures in front of them were more likely to abort. My guess is that women for whom having babies was the most they could hope to accomplish were more likely to decide to go thru with their pregnancies.

Again, see Leon Dash's When Children Want Children. Explain to me how those girls saw abortion as a ticket out of their lower class lives with dismal prospects.

Kurt said at May 20, 2005 2:29 PM:

Steve Sailor may have shown that the idea that the lack of access to legal abortions would contribute to social problems remains unproven. However, he certainly has failed to convincingly argue the OPPOSITE case, which remains equally unproven. Personally, I fail to see any plausible argument for such a thing.

If the rate of conceptions went up during the 70's, this was obviously due to the sexual revolution in general, which abortion was a part of, but not the entirety of it. The sexual revolution of the 70's saw the rise of everything; abortion, conceptions, STD, and divorace. There is no way to statistically show that the rise in conceptions was linked exclusively to the availability of abortion. This is simply speculation on Steve Sailor's part. In the past 15 years or so, we have become more sophisticated about sexuality. This is reflected in the rather dramatic decline in both conceptions and abortion. People are becoming more effective at using birth control and/or sexual techniques that do not involve the risk of accidental pregnancy. Likewise, the crime rate has fallen as well. This suggests that even if Sailor is right about abortion increasing the crime rate, that the effect was a temperary one and that it is long past and, therefor, irelevant to our present day situation. In which case, he is beating a dead horse.

Steve Sailor show statistics that the underclass has never utilized the abortion option. If this is true, then abortion has never had any effect on these people, whatsoever.

I agree with you that the control and reduction of crime is important. I also agree that the quality of a given society is only as good as the human capital that comprises it (just like the Entreprenuer's Manual: "first rate people hire first rate people, second rate people hire third rate people). Winging about abortion and the whole sexual thing is simply not an effective way to deal with these problems.

If these women are indeed having

Randall Parker said at May 20, 2005 3:08 PM:


Even Steve Levitt says that legalized abortion caused a large rise in the rate of conceptions.

But whatever the cause of the rise in conceptions it surely was not equally distributed across all types of women. So which women became more likely to conceive? Impulsive ones. A woman who planned extremely well would not start getting pregnant and aborting once abortion was legalized. The existence of abortion was an incentive for impulsive women to be careless. They wanted to be careless and live in the moment anyhow.

Kurt said at May 20, 2005 4:29 PM:

I can accept the argument that the impulsive women are more likely to conceive than the ones who are maticulous with birth control, because of the availability of abortion. No doubt this is true. However, does this not contradict your article (and Leon Dash's) that these women actually want to have the kids that they are having?

If the impulsive women are having more careless sex (because of the availability of abortion), why are they then not having abortions? You (and Steve Sailor and Leon Dash) seem to be having your cake and eating it, too.

Randall Parker said at May 21, 2005 3:45 AM:


I picture it working like this:

1) "Come on baby, lets do it." "But I could get pregnant." "But you can have an abortion." "But I don't have the money". "Don't worry baby, I'll pay for it and you probably won't get pregnant anyhow." "Okay."
Then he never comes up with the money and he moves on and she gets to thinking how nice it would be to have the baby. Besides, she thinks, he was very good looking and the baby would be good looking.


2) "I keep forgetting to go to the abortion clinic to make the appointment. But my friends are having babies and they think it would be great if I kept mine".

The important point to keep in mind is that these women are not great planners. They are just going along with the next impulse that passes over them. Some, feeling the pregnancy inside of them, become easy converts to the idea that they want a child. Yes, are quite determined to get pregnant in advance. Others are, to varying extents, on the fence. They sometimes think they want a baby. But other times they think not. The ones on the fence are pushed over into going ahead with the pregnancy once pregnant. The existence of abortion lowers their resistance to sex and lowers their incentive to use birth control. Once pregnant they just go along with what is happening to them.

Kurt said at May 21, 2005 5:01 PM:


Perhaps, but there is no way to show your reasoning statistically. What is very clear statistically is that both conceptions and abortion has declined rather dramatically in the last 15 years. This suggests that whatever the explanation, the problem is self-correcting.

Also, I don't think that the middle-class is willing to give up the abortion option, just to keep the underclass on the "straight and narrow". I think the people who want to reverse Roe vs. Wade and ban abortion are idiots.

In any case, it seems to me that the problem is self-correcting in the medium term anyways. There are STDs (not HIV) that are asymptomatic, much more easily transmissible than HIV, and cause sterility if left untreated. Clamydia comes to mind. I believe something like 20 million Americans get clamydia each year. If the "impulsive people" (as you describe them) are too screwed up to use birth control or abortion, they will most certainly not have it together enough to get treated for clamydia, especially if its asymptomatic. Hense, the problem corrects itself.

Steve Sailor has a problem with eugenics. Whats wrong with eugenics? You do not need to be a McKinsey managment consultant to understand that any human organization is only as good as the human capital that makes it up. I have never shared the aversion to eugenics and sterilization of the "unfit" that both the liberals and conservatives claim to. I am perfectly comfortable with these ideas just as I am perfectly comfortable living in Japan or building a business in Taiwan.

Indeed, why should I feel any commonality with anything less than first rate people anyways? In the four years I have been back to the U.S., I find that I feel no more commonality with the average joe blow in the street here anymore than I do with the typical salariman on the Tokyo subway. I have friends and have people I have shared dreams and goals with all over the world. I feel commonality and loyalty only to those who I have shared dreams and goals with, nothing more.
This is the reason why I reject the whole nation-state concept anyways and think that people who believe in patriotism are stupid.

I say let the best and brightest rule the world, regardless of where they are from. It is only the values of becoming the best and brightest that have any meaning to me, whatsoever.

Randall Parker said at May 21, 2005 8:39 PM:


I don't know what the rate of infertility is from chlamydia or other STDs. I'm curious to know because infertility is a major problem in Russia and STDs are usually mentioned as one cause. But very high rates of abortion might be a bigger cause of infertility in Russia. All the accounts I read do not provide any indication of the relative contribution of various pathogens and abortion to fertility.

One very correct argument that Steve Sailer makes about the Levitt theory is that trying to pick out the effect of abortion only starting in the aftermath of the Crack crime wave is highly problematic. Society responded to that Crack crime wave too many different ways such as building prisons, changing policing methods, changing laws for sentencing, changing priorities of prosecutors on what types of crimes would the most attention, cultural changes to encourage different attitudes, cultural changes in what parents were told they should do about kids in gangs, and so on. How to pick out the signal caused by abortion from all those other influences?

Abortion was getting legalized in some states in 1970. The mid 1980s are the right period to start looking for crime rate differences in 14 to 17 year olds in states that first legalized abortion. Levitt starts looking for evidence too many years later after abortion was legalized.

He's arguing that the effect of abortion might not be eugenic and that at a minimum Levitt hasn't proven his case. I think Steve's real problem with Levitt's argument is that in a rare development mainstream intellectual Levitt actually takes an interest in what might be a possible mechanism of human natural selection and then proceeds to A) make claims that are unproven and doubtful and B) avoids discussing genetics by embracing "wantedness" as a highly dubious mechanism for how abortion might lower crime rates.

Patriotism: I think we benefit from people who take pride in their society and who want to preserve what is best about their society.

Kurt said at May 22, 2005 12:54 AM:


If Steve Sailor is arguing that the effect of abortion is not eugenic, he should come out and say it so. I agree with your other comments about how the left is using Steve levitt's arguments to promote their agenda. Steve Sailor has made very insiteful comments about immigration, the underclass, and the deletarious effects that these have on our human capital. My point is that his American Conservative article is very deferent than what he writes on his website in that he is very clearly pandering to a value system that is not committed to the improvement of human capital. I think we are all in agreement than ANY method that can improve the human capital of our society can be and should be untilized. Steve Sailor balks on this final point and that is the flaw in his thinking. Ideologies such as christianity and socialism are useful only so far as they improve human capital. The flaw of the conservatives is that they actually believe in stuff like christianity and what not as values in their own right, rather than simply as tools for human capital improvement. That is thier flaw and their failure and it will bury them, as they deserve. Steve Sailor should have the intelligence and insight to realize this.

Patriotism: Yes, people who take pride in their society are necessary for the wellbeing of such society. However, society must be of a form that it is worthy of such pride. A society worthy of such pride must be composed of people and achievement equal to or greater than the potential of the people that it seeks to command the pride of.
Clearly, the society that we currently live in is not worthy of such pride. There is much restructuring that must be done in order to create the society that we can take pride in. Can you think of any reason why no method should left unexploited to create such a society? The people with the greatest capability and greatest desire deserve no less.

Randall Parker said at May 22, 2005 8:53 AM:


I think Steve Sailer is avoiding using the term "eugenic" because it is such a loaded term and would be a distraction. He's restricting himself to just pointing out flaws in Levitt's analysis and assumptions. He's not trying to make his arguments to you or me. He's trying to address economists and liberals and social conservatives. They have different sets of assumptions and different flaws in their reasoning. I think his approach is sensible for that reason.

It is pride that makes a society better in the first place. If people take the attitude that they don't care about a society because it is so messed up then that just perpetuates the problem.

As you know, I advocate many measures that are considered beyond the pale by the liberal left. I am for abolition of welfare for all but the mentally retarded and mentally ill and those who are severely physically handicapped. I am for stopping immigration of dummies. I am for stopping illegal immigration and massive deportation of all the illegals. I'm for various other measures that will stop and reverse the decay. I'm not a Catholic conservative or a Jewish liberal. I don't come to the question of the decay of civilizations with liberal left or conservative Christian ideological baggage.

Well, as I see it Levitt does not provide his argument. I think there is a very strong possibility that abortion is dysgenic, not eugenic. I'm a Darwinist. I assume that abortion has some selective effect. The question really is what is the selective effect? But Levitt tries to just plain ignore Charles Darwin. Darwinism is the elephant in the room. Sailer is at least attacking the Levitt "unwantedness" argument as being an implausible environmental argument for how abortion could change crime rates. But note when Sailer does that he's basically saying "The only environmental developmental explanation for your supposed result is wrong". Er, if it is wrong and yet there is some effect then the more likely mechanism must be selective pressure on genes. To the extent that anyone accepts Sailer's argument they are forced to consider natural selection as a mechanism. Though Sailer is arguing that Levitt hasn't even demonstrated an effect from abortion, regardless of the mechanism.

Kurt said at May 22, 2005 12:51 PM:


I agree with you on the social-welfare and immigration issues. However, I think that we should go farther in improving our human capital. We need to be doing research into increasing our IQ and what I call emotional balance. We should be discouraging people of sub-normal IQs from having kids. The tax system should be reformed to eliminate deductions for more than two dependents (the article called "Two is Enough" was brilliant, I forget who wrote it). We need quality, not quantity. Effective forms of germline genetic design and ectogenesis need to be developed.

You do not need a McKinsey management consultant to tell you that the quality of any human organization is based on the quality of the people that comprise it. Having good human capital will also increase pride in ones' society, thus increasing the patriotic effect.

Please do not misunderstand my comments about patriotism and America. I believe very strongly in the principles that America was founded on and the concept that the founders had in mind at the time. I simply do not regard the current incarnation (and the quality of the human capital that make it up) as being consistant with the original vision. "Restructuring" is necessary to realize this vision.

I believe that both leftwing liberalism and conservative christianity act as barriers to progress. Both of these ideologies are parasitical and contribute nothing to our future potential.

If my above comments about eugenics and human capital make me a bad person or whatever, so what. I will make the most of it. I know what I want to become and the kind of people I want to surround myself with. My vision of the future America is based on this.

Randall Parker said at May 22, 2005 1:07 PM:


I have a proposal on tax deductions that is politically impossible but that would bave a beneficial effect: I'd make the tax deductions a percentage income rather than a fixed number of dollars. Then upper class people (who are smarter on average) would get bigger tax deductions from having kids.

On quantity versus quality: We need larger quantities of higher quality people. If everyone who could give birth to 125+ IQ kids could have 5 kids we'd be better off.

Conservative Christianity encourages responsible behaviors like waiting to get married before having kids, sticking together to pay for and raise kids rather than passing the burden on to taxpayers, and obeying the law.

I am all for accelerating the rate of progress in figuring out the genes that code for IQ and personality qualities. The best way to do that is to accelerate the rate of progress for development of cheaper and faster DNA sequencing equipment. Microfluidics advances are key.

With regards to eugenic and dysgenic public policies: We are a long way away from being able to get policies implemented based on an open acknowledgement of their effects on genetic quality. What I look for are policies that are sellable for other reasons that would have beneficial effects on genetic quality of new births.

asdf said at June 15, 2005 4:50 PM:

I'm a little surprised to find a soft spot in Randall for conservative Christianity. Sure, it promotes family values, which in turn can promote the overall productivity and happiness of society. But the perks of that ideology's popularity are far outweighed by the negatives - i.e., legions of people who want to ban stem cell research, keep braindead people alive indefinitely, and divert funding towards "abstinence programs" in third world countries rather than condoms. They will also probably be throwing up every barrier known to mankind when it comes to things like genetic engineering. It seems to me that conservative christianity is actually orthogonal to societal progress, rather than directly (or inversely, for that matter) correlated.

I'm in 100% agreement with Kurt here.

I'm a little ambivalent on this idea of abortion leading to increased crime rates. The question is, is the increase in pregnancies that are happening because impulsive women know abortion is "out there" outweighing the number of impulsive women who actually do go ahead and get abortion? Hard to know, but then, I'd better go read the Sailer articles first.

Randall Parker said at June 15, 2005 5:22 PM:


As I've repeatedly argued in other posts: I do not expect the fundamentalist Christian opposition to human embryonic stem cell research to prevent stem cell research in general from moving forward. On my FuturePundit blog I have explained why and linked to examples of how non-hESC cells are getting reprogrammed to act more like pluripotent cells. I keep coming across articles about progress in working around those restrictions on hESC work. Also, every time I see someone tell me that Christians want to ban stem cell research without adding the human embryonic qualifier to it I wonder whether they are just grandstanding or not paying close attention.

Do you know that the US government spends over $550 million per year on stem cell research? That California is now going to chip in another $300 million per year without the federal hESC restrictions? I see a box that is a lot more than half full rather than one that is half empty.

In terms of damage done I see far far more damage done by secular left-liberalism than by conservative Christianity. Which group enforces the taboo and restrictions on funding on IQ research? That'd be the Left. Not the Right. The restrictions on IQ research and affirmative action racial preferences programs cost the economy several hundred billion dollars per year and a lower economic growth rate. That's painful. The enforcement of their taboos against the truth also support a deeply harmful immigration policy that is dumbing down America. That is extremely harmful and makes the hESC restrictions very small potatoes in comparison.

taha said at September 4, 2005 6:50 AM:

i need to get help to do on behalf of my partner in order i can help her to take out of the risk she is in now for more i will tell you soon i get your mail

meah said at November 4, 2005 9:50 PM:

We need quality, not quantity... Yea what ever HitlerÖ

I read a lot of the bias comments posted on this link and I can agree to certain issues but a lot of them were sort of racist and derogatory.

This site is just shining light on ignorance and racism from an ignorant one-sided perspective.

Poor women are not the only ones in our society choosing to take on the role of a mother and father. Woman of all races (and for the clueless conservatives, yes that includes white women too!!!!) are choosing to go down the path of motherhood alone.

And since white women of all social classes and backgrounds fall into these categories of wedlock, does that mean weíll start seeing a new subhuman species of Jeffery Domerís roaming society; since staticís show that the majority of serial killers are white? I mean after all, your staticís show that single parent males tend to grow up and become criminals right!

As for my opinions on the whole I.Q. stereotype, the test was created by Caucasians based formally on events within their world excluding the rest of society, so really you canít base a personís existence on a stereotypical test.

You all have no clue, unless youíve walked in a black manís shoes. If the I.Q. was based on the ability to see things from a clear two-sided perspective trust me you all would be severely fail under the charts.

scottynx said at March 16, 2006 12:02 PM:

[since staticís show that the majority of serial killers are white?]

Irrelevent. Whites aren't over-represented among serial killers, when viewed as a percenatage of the population.

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