Ratio of Children to Women, 1920: A Study in the Differential Rate of Natural Increase in the United States

By Warren S. Thompson | Go to book overview

II
RATIOS OF CHILDREN TO WOMEN, BY STATES1

FACTORS WHICH INFLUENCE POPULATION GROWTH

It has been known for several decades to students of our population growth that foreign-born women raise larger families than native women. This is so obvious in any city that most observers are prone to conclude out of hand that the older stock everywhere is dying out. This has been the subject of much exaggeration and has had the effect of focusing attention upon the nationality aspects of our population growth to the almost complete ignoring of aspects of equal, if not greater, importance. Particularly have the social and economic conditions which encourage or repress the growth of population been ignored. These factors are of greater importance than the nationality factors, chiefly for two reasons.

In the first place, unbiased study reveals little in the nature of fundamental genetic differences between our older native stock and the newer foreign-born groups. Differences in temperament and training are likely to issue in different mental attitudes toward many of the most fundamental aspects of life, but such differences in values assigned to the "goods" of life certainly can not be attributed to essential superiorities or inferiorities of genetic constitution. If, therefore, we ever wish to exercise an effective control over the processes of population growth we can not look upon the exclusion of certain groups of foreign born as more than a preliminary step taken to gain time for a more fundamental study of the processes of internal population growth as they are now being determined by the selective forces at work.

In the second place, although the genetic constitution of individuals and groups can not, so far as we know, be changed by anything except selective breeding, the processes of population growth can be controlled to a considerable extent by conscious modification of the social and economic conditions of every day life.

In this study the whole question of the genetic constitution of different groups and nationalities will be put aside and attention will be focused on those economic and social conditions which seem to have more or less influence in determining the growth (or decline) of population in different communities in this country at the present time.

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1
In order not to complicate the discussion unduly only white women will be considered in the greater part of this monograph. The discussion of the ratios of children to women among Negroes and the "Other colored" in our population will be found in Chapter VII.

-18-

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