Population regulation

Rob Quinlan (C611417@MIZZOU1.MISSOURI.EDU)
Wed, 14 Dec 1994 15:44:05 CST

I just wanted to bring up a couple of points regarding Bonnie Blackwell's
provocative ideas about population regulation.

Some of her ideas sound more reasonable to me than others, but my overriding
feeling is that we would have a difficult time selling such a program to anyone
. There are too many factions in this country w/ a very strong stance (in one
way or another) on all the issues involved to expect any useful common ground
to emerge. With that pessemistic note out of the way, I'd like to address
some specific issues.

First. Wide availability of birth control (including abortion) is IMHO very
desireble, but availability is only half the battle. People have to want to
regulate their fertility before we can expect any real cap on population
growth. It seems an important question is "What makes people want to have
so many children?" I can think of a couple of answers to this question.
a. Children are economically valuable in some situations including:
i. when they contribute to household production.
ii. when they translate into governmental subsidies.
iii. when they form the nucleus of a social system that deals with the vagaries
of a "boom and bust" economy through networks of reciprocal relationships (like
in Stack's _All our kin_).
b. People may want to have more children when they live in enviroments w/
high mortality rates (across all age cohorts). Jim Chisholm had a paper in
CA last year where he suggested that "decisions" about fertility may be trigger
ed by certain enviromental cues -- in this case the mortality rate of the local
population. From the little I know about demographic transition theory, Chisho
lm's interpretation seems to fit -- although he uses an evolutionary life histo
ry model.

All of the factors listed in a and b above may be at play simultaneous, and,
anyway, determining causality is not as important in this discussion as
thinking up interventions. Based on the observations above I have the followin
g policy recommendations.

1. That children not be allowed to work, at all under any circumstances.
2. That government subsidies not be based on the number of children one has,
but that all people in need receive a standard dole of $X.
3. That all 17 year old people be sent out of their home state to receive
training in either a university, vocational school, peace corps like thing,
or military for at least three years. This training should be completely
subsidized for those who cannot afford it and partially subsidized for
everyone else. Where one goes should be a matter of personal chioce, but they
should have to go somewhere and keep up with the standards of their chosen
program. The purpose of this would be to remove young adults from networks
of reciprocal obligation in poverty stricken segments of the population. Thus,
we remove young people from pressures to reproduce and join in the adult life
of an impoverished community. This would also raise the general educational
level of all Americans.

4. Health care should be available enough to drop mortality rates down to
an absolute minimum.
5. Responsible police force should focus on eliminating homocides rather than
spending so much energy on drug interdiction.

Second. It seems that Western education and status lead to lower reproductive
rates in developing countries (and our own). I remember reading a family
planning study from India which found that people moving to the city
who put their kids in school had lower completed fertility than did rural
counterparts and non-education oriented city dwellers. I believe, also, that
people who moved into areas populated by folks from their own neck of the woods
or ethnic group tended to be less likely to use birth control. Whatever the
reason, simple availability of birth control is not enough.

I think I've gone on long enough -- but first just two more points. 1. I am
a little uncomfortable about my own suggestions, because they seem to imply
that we should force people to become more like middle-class Americans. And
2. I wonder if we should be cautious about suggesting aggressive population
regulation programs lest they be used in sophisticated ethnic cleansing

I hope I haven't side tracked the thread too much. And sorry for the length.
(Citations provide upon request.)

Rob Quinlan