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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 66.djvu/580

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE.

THE BIRTH RATE AGAIN.

The Popular Science Monthly has printed several articles on the birth rate, and especially on the relation of higher education to the decreasing size of the family, as the subject appears to be of such consequence that it should be brought within the range of scientific treatment. It is, however, unfortunately true that the statistics are fragmentary and ambiguous, and that the opinions and theories are subject to such large personal equations as to make them almost valueless. It appears to be the case that only about one half of the alumnæ of the eastern colleges for women marry, and that they have on the average only about two children. One hundred alumnæ would thus leave in their places only fifty daughters, twenty-five granddaughters and twelve or thirteen great-granddaughters. But it is not at all certain that this disastrous state of affairs is due to the college education. It is probable that the marriage rate is lowered by the postponement of marriage to an older age and the ease of earning a living otherwise; but there are no available data to prove that the college graduate is less likely to marry than her sister who stays at home. She apparently does not have a smaller family than the Harvard graduate, who marries into the same class. It may be surmised reasonably that the higher education of woman is a minor factor in the decrease of the birth rate, but that the low marriage rate and small birth rate of college alumna? are primarily due to physiological infertility of the New England stock and to economic infertility of the upper middle classes.

While these matters are being discussed here without an adequate foundation of facts, a very thorough statistical study of the decline in the birth rate of New South Wales has been made by the government statistician, Mr. T. A. Coghlan. It has usually been assumed that the birth rate will be high in a new country, where there is room and work for all comers. This was in fact the case in Australasia until about 1880. The birth rate was then about thirty-eight per thousand inhabitants, and the average number of children in each family was about 5.4. In 1901 the birth rate in New South Wales had fallen to 27.6 and the average number of children in each family to 3.6. Between 1871 and 1880 to every thousand marriages there were 5,384 children, between 1891 and 1900 there may be expected to be 3,636 children. Mr. Coghlan calculates that of the 1,748 unborn children, the loss of 301 may be attributed to postponement of marriage, of 236 to barrenness and of 1,211 to decreased fertility.

Dr. Engelmann has argued in this journal and President Thomas of Bryn Mawr claimed in her address before the St. Louis Congress that a delay in the age of marriage does not appreciably affect the birth rate; but Mr. Coghlan shows that this is an important factor. When the average number of children is 3.6, a woman marrying at the age of twenty may expect to have five children, at the age of twenty-eight three children, at the age of thirty-two two children and at the age. of thirty-seven one child. An unexpected social condition is revealed by the fact that of the 94,708 first births in New South Wales in 1891-1900,