The Fertility of American Women

By Wilson H. Grabill; Clyde V. Kiser et al. | Go to book overview
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The question of differential reproduction according to socio-economic status has long been a matter of scientific and public interest. Eugenists traditionally have been much concerned about the tendency for the socalled "upper" classes to have fewer children on the average than the socalled "lower" classes. They have emphasized the possible genetic implications of differential fertility. Although there are marked differences of opinion regarding their meaning and significance, various studies have indicated that intelligence test scores (I.Q.) of school children tend to be correlated directly with occupational status of the father and inversely with number of children in the family.1 Some students believe that continuation of the inverse relation of fertility to socio-economic status may bring a lowering of the average intelligence of a population.2 Recent studies in Scotland yielded "no evidence of a fall in average intelligence" in 1947 as compared with 1932, but the authors also emphasized the complexity of the problem and the need for more intensive investigations.3

Other students have stressed the economic, social, and public health implications of differential fertility. Various studies carried out before World War II indicated, for instance, that a disproportionate part of our annual births was coming from the so-called rural problem areas where levels of living were lowest, where schools were poorest, and where facilities for child health were least developed. Within cities, the unskilled laboring class tended to be the only occupational group that was having enough children for purposes of self-replacement. There doubtless are complex and deep-seated reasons why some groups of families have more children than others. Whatever these may be, it is well known that group differences in the prevalence and effectiveness of contraceptive practice constitute the immediate reasons for the differentials. Studies have in

National Resources Committee, The Problems of a Changing Population, Government Printing Office, Washington, 1938, pp. 146 and 147.
Cyril Burt, "Intelligence and Fertility--The Effect of the Differential Birth Rate on Inborn Mental Characteristics", Occasional Papers on Eugenics, No. 2, The Eugenics Society, Cassell and Company, London, 1952.
James Maxwell, "Intelligence, Fertility and the Future: A report on the 1947 Scottish. Mental Survey", Eugenics Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 4, December 1954, p. 247.


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