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- Sociology and Modern Social Problems - 20/45 -

other nations may tend to ally themselves with the one or the other of these great world powers. Of course, China is the _X_--the unknown quantity--in the world's future. Should its immense population become civilized and absorb Western ideas, this would certainly bring into the theater of the world's political evolution a new and important factor.

The population and vital statistics of the various civilized countries show:--

(1) The population of all civilized countries, with one or two exceptions, has been increasing rapidly since the beginning of the nineteenth century. Previous to that time we have no statistics that are reliable, but it seems probable that the population of Europe stood practically stationary during the Middle Ages and increased only slowly down to the nineteenth century; but during the nineteenth century the population of the leading industrial nations has increased very rapidly. This is due primarily, without doubt, to improved economic conditions, which has made it possible for a larger population to subsist within a given area. Back of these improved economic conditions, however, has been increased scientific knowledge in ways of mastering physical nature, and accompanying them has been a very greatly decreased death rate, due in part at least to the advance of medical science.

(2) This increase in population has been due, not to an increase in birth rate, but to a decreased death rate. During the nineteenth century the death rate decreased markedly in practically all civilized countries. As we have already noted, this is due primarily to improved living conditions, particularly in the food, clothing, and shelter for the masses, but it has also been due in no small part to the advance in medical science, and especially that branch of it which we know as "public sanitation." Because the death rate decreases with improved material, and probably also with improved moral conditions, it is a relatively good measure, at least of the material civilization or progress of a people. We may note that the death rate is measured by the number of deaths that occur annually per thousand in a given population. The death rate of the countries most advanced in sanitary science and in industrial improvement apparently tends to go down to about fifteen or sixteen per thousand annually.

(3) The birth rate of civilized countries has also fallen markedly during the nineteenth century, especially during the latter half. On the whole, this is a good thing. The birth rate should decrease with the death rate. This leaves more energy to be used in other things; but when the birth rate falls more rapidly than the death rate or falls beyond a certain point, it is evident that the normal growth of a nation is hindered, and even its extinction may be threatened. While an excessively high birth rate is a sign of low culture on the whole, on the other hand an excessively low birth rate is a sign of physical and probably moral degeneracy in the population. When the birth rate is lower than the death rate in a given population, it is evident that the population is on the way to extinction. In order that a birth rate be normal, therefore, it must be sufficiently above the death rate to provide for the normal growth of the population. On the whole, it seems safe to conclude that we have no better index of the vitality of a people, that is, of their capacity to survive, than the surplus of births over deaths. Such a surplus of births over deaths is also a fairly trustworthy index of the living conditions of a population, because if the living conditions are poor, no matter how high the birth rate may be, the death rate will be correspondingly high, and the surplus of births over deaths, therefore, relatively low.

Vital statistics are, therefore, an indication of more than the mere health or even the material condition of a given population. Probably there are no social facts from which we may gather a clearer insight into the social conditions of a given population than vital statistics.

Without going into the vital statistics of modern nations in any detail, the following table of birth rates and death rates will serve to illustrate the decrease in the death rates and the birth rates of the three leading European nations, the birth rate being computed the same as the death rate, that is, the number of births per thousand annually of the population:


1871-1890 1893-1902 1904

England ................... 20.3 17.6 16.2 Germany ................... 26.0 21.5 19.6 France .................... 22.8 20.8 19.4


1871-1890 1893-1902 1904

England ................... 34.0 29.3 28.0 Germany ................... 38.1 35.9 35.2 France .................... 24.6 22.8 20.9

From the above table it is evident that while birth rates and death rates have been declining in all civilized peoples, the decline has been unequal in different peoples. Both England and Germany in the above table show still a good surplus of births over deaths; in the case of England in 1904 this surplus being 11.8 per thousand of the population annually, while in the case of Germany it was 15.6. In the case of France, however, the surplus of births over deaths for a number of years has been very insignificant, and in the year 1907 there were actually about 20,000 more deaths than births in all France (773,969 births against 793,889 deaths). France's population has, therefore, been practically stationary for a number of years, while within the last year or two it seems to be actually declining.

The causes of the stationary population of France are probably mainly economic, although all the factors which influence the family life in any degree must also influence birth rate. For a number of years the economic conditions of France have not been favorable to the growth of a large population, and at the same time the law necessitating the equal division of the family's property among children has tended to encourage small families. Unquestionably, however, other factors of a more general social or moral nature are also at work in France as well as in all other populations that are decreasing in numbers.

_The Decrease in the Native White Stock in the United States._ Certain classes in the United States also show a very slight surplus of births over deaths and in some cases absolutely declining numbers. In general the United States Census statistics seem to indicate that the native white stock in the Northern states is not keeping up its numbers. This is suggested by the decreasing size of the average family in the United States. The average size of the family in the United States in 1850 was 5.6 persons; in 1860, 5.3; in 1870, 5.1; in 1880, 5.0; in 1890, 4.9; and in 1900, 4.7. Moreover, if we include only private families in 1900, the average size of the family was only 4.6. Thus, between 1850 and 1900 the size of the average family in the United States decreased by nearly one full person. This decrease is most evident in the North Atlantic and North Central states. In Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire, for example, the average size of the family in 1900 was 4.1 persons.

Moreover, the vital statistics kept by the state of Massachusetts for a number of years show conclusively that the native white stock in that state is tending to die out. In 1896, for example, in Massachusetts the native born had a birth rate of only 16.58, while the foreign born had a birth rate of 50.40. Again, the following table of birth rates and death rates for 1890 in the city of Boston [Footnote: Taken from Bushee's _Ethnic Factors in the Population of Boston_, Publications American Economic Association, Vol. IV., No, 2, 1903.] for the native born and sections of the foreign born shows conclusively that the native-born element is not keeping up its numbers:

Birth Rate Death Rate

Native born ..................... 16.40 17.20 Irish ........................... 45.60 25.20 Germans ......................... 48.00 15.00 Russian Jews .................... 94.60 15.90 Italians ........................ 104.60 25.30

It is evident from this table that the foreign born are increasing in Boston very rapidly in numbers through birth, while the native born are apparently not even holding their own. The high birth rate of the foreign born is, of course, in part to be explained through the fact that the foreign-born population is made up for the most part of individuals in the prime of life, that is, in the reproductive age. Nevertheless, while this explains the excessively high birth rate of some of these foreign elements, it does not explain the great discrepancy between their birth rate and that of the native born. If the present tendencies continue, it is apparently not difficult to foresee a time in the not very distant future when the old Puritan New England families will be replaced in the population of Boston entirely by the descendants of recent immigrants.

Moreover, so far as vital statistics concerning different classes can be gathered in the northern tier of the states, practically everywhere the same tendencies are manifest, that is, everywhere we find the native-born white population failing to hold its own alongside of the more recent immigrants. Apparently, therefore, we must conclude that the birth rate in the native whites in the United States is declining to such an extent that that element in our population threatens to become extinct if present tendencies continue. Only the Southern whites present an exception to this generalization. The Southern white people, from various causes not well understood,--partially, perhaps, from family pride, partially, perhaps, from racial instinct, but even more probably on account of certain economic conditions,--keep up their numbers, increasing more rapidly even than the negro population which exists alongside of them.

_Causes of the Decrease in Birth Rate in the Native White Stock in the United States._ What, then, are the causes of this decrease in the birth rate of the native white stock in the United States? It is worth our while to inquire briefly into these causes, for they illustrate the factors which are at work in favoring or deterring the growth of population.

(1) Economic conditions are without doubt mainly at the bottom of the decreasing birth rate in the native white American population. Certain unfavorable economic conditions have developed in this country of recent years for this particular element; especially have higher standards of living increased among the native white population in the United States more rapidly than their income. This has led to later marriages and smaller families. Again, more intense competition along all lines has forced certain elements of the native stock into occupations where wages are low in comparison with the standard of living. This has, perhaps, especially come about through the increased competition which the foreign born have offered to the native white element. The foreign born have taken rapidly all the places which might be filled by unskilled

Sociology and Modern Social Problems - 20/45

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