Tuesday, June 29, 2021

American Indians in decline


After three decades of sharp decline, American Indians now have the lowest fertility rate of all ethnic groups in the U.S. The trend is real and is not due to sub-fertile Whites self-identifying as American Indians.



The pandemic has reduced the American birth rate. According to data from 2020 and early 2021, almost all ethnic groups have taken a hit, but the magnitude has been greater for some than for others.


Asian Americans took the biggest hit. At first thought, this makes sense. Asians, especially East Asians (who make up a majority of Asian Americans) tend to take infectious diseases more seriously. They are generally more willing to wear masks, practice social distancing, and wash their hands, and it seems logical that they would also be more willing to postpone childbearing.

But that's not the whole story. The pandemic has accelerated an ongoing fertility decline among East Asians at home and abroad. With the exception of North Korea, East Asia was already a zone of ultra-low fertility—about one child per woman. When the pandemic is over, I predict that East Asian fertility will not return to pre-pandemic levels. The decline will continue. The pandemic has merely acted as a social accelerant (Frost 2020).


This view is strengthened if we return to the above graph and look at the group that took the second-biggest hit: American Indians and Alaskan Natives. Their fertility rate has likewise been declining. It was still high in the 1980s, but sometime around 1990 it began to plummet, falling below the fertility rate of any other ethnic group in the U.S. by the early 2000s.

What's going on? Is the decline real? Or is it a statistical fluke? Perhaps sub-fertile Whites are self-identifying as American Indians in growing numbers. This hypothesis was tested by Cannon and Percheski (2017):


Concurrent with this decline in estimated TFRs, the self-identified AI/AN population enumerated in the decennial US Census increased in size, largely because of changes in the racial categories and in the wording of racial identity items on the census forms.


The increase in the census counts of the American Indian population means that there are several possible explanations for the decline in American Indian fertility rates published by Vital Statistics. First, the decline could be a mechanical artifact of differential changes in racial identification between the two data systems Vital Statistics used to calculate fertility rates. Second, the decline could be driven by compositional changes in who identifies as American Indian. Third, there may be real changes infertility behavior that are unrelated to changes in who identifies as American Indian.


To control for these differences in definition and self-identification, Cannon and Percheski (2017) used a single data system (the American Community Survey) for the period 1980 to 2010. They also examined the fertility decline on the basis of three definitions of American Indian/Alaskan native: 1) women who identify as AI/AN only, 2) any woman who identifies as AI/AN, whether identifying one or more races, and 3) women who list a specific tribe or American Indian for the ancestry question. The second definition seems to be the one most vulnerable to "ethnic reassignment."


Cannon and Percheski (2017) found that all three definitions showed a fertility decline, particularly the first one. The decline was steepest among younger women. However, there was no indication that lower fertility at younger ages was being offset by higher fertility at older ages. The authors concluded: "This finding of declining TFRs estimated within a single data system is evidence against the explanation that fertility declines are merely artifacts of data collection changes or incongruences."


So what is the explanation? The main cause seems to be the declining marriage rate: "fertility rates among married and unmarried women have remained fairly stable, while the share of women ever married has declined across birth cohorts. Thus declines in fertility rates seem to be linked with changes in marriage for this population."


In this respect, American Indians are more vulnerable than most other ethnic groups in the U.S. Their women seem to prefer having children when a man is in the home. As the authors note, "other population subgroups in the United States who have experienced substantial declines in marriage have not experienced such drastic declines in fertility levels" (Cannon and Percheski 2017, pp. 8-9). 


Anthropologists have long noted that the Indigenous peoples of the Americas still retain many "Arctic" adaptations in their anatomy. Could the same be true for their behavioral predispositions? Some 12,000 years ago, their ancestors lived in northeast Asia and Beringia. In that environment, women had almost no food autonomy and could not raise children on their own. Perhaps their female descendants are still making a half-conscious link between having a baby and having a male provider.



Cannon, S., and C. Percheski. (2017). Fertility change in the American Indian and Alaska Native population, 1980-2010. Demographic Research 37: 1-12.



Frost, P. (2020). An Accelerant of Social Change? The Spanish Flu of 1918-19. International Political Anthropology Journal 13(2): 123-133.



Hamilton, B.E., M.J.K. Osterman, and J.A. Martin. (2021). Declines in births by month: United States, 2020. NVSS Vital Statistics Rapid Release. Report no. 14, June


Thursday, June 17, 2021

Getting the message


Gaps between perceived and actual crime rates, by immigrant group in the Netherlands. Dutch people underestimate the crime rate of immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean while overestimating the crime rate of lighter-skinned immigrants, including Roma, Turks, and Chinese. The latter don’t benefit from the messaging of modern culture.



The crime news is unfair to Negroes, on the one hand, in that it emphasizes individual cases instead of statistical proportions [...] and, on the other hand, in that all other aspects of Negro life are neglected in the white press which gives the unfavorable crime news an undue weight. Sometimes the white press "creates" a Negro crime wave where none actually exists. (Myrdal 1944, pp. 655-656)


Gunnar Myrdal wrote An American Dilemma during the early years of the civil rights movement. He won over many young educated people, particularly when he argued that prejudice was making Black American criminality seem worse than it really was:


The popular belief that all Negroes are inherently criminal operates to increase arrests, and the Negro's lack of political power prevents a white policeman from worrying about how many Negro arrests he makes. Some white criminals have made use of these prejudices to divert suspicion away from themselves onto Negroes: for example, there are many documented cases of white robbers blackening their faces when committing crimes. (Myrdal 1944, p. 968)


The theme of the "framed Black man" would be central to a work of fiction, To Kill a Mockingbird. Since its publication in 1960 it has never been out of print. In 2006, it was the book most often mentioned when British librarians were asked: "Which book should every adult read before they die?" (Pauli 2006). Thus, for at least six decades, there has been a social norm of downplaying Black crime.


This norm has spread not only within the United States but also to all countries where English is widely used, particularly among the university-educated. In fact, it has spread to countries that never had black slavery or Jim Crow, or even a substantial African minority until recent times.


Perceptions and realities of crime in the Netherlands


One such country is the Netherlands. In a recent survey, 615 Dutch adults were given the following instructions:


There are many different immigrant groups in the Netherlands. For each of the groups, adjust the slider to your estimation of the crime rate relative to Dutch natives. This means you should adjust the slider to two (2) if you think the crime rate of this group is twice that of natives. (Kirkegaard and Gerritsen 2021, p. 4)


The actual crime rate of each immigrant group is known from public data published by the government. It was thus possible to measure how much the survey respondents overestimated or underestimated the criminality of each immigrant group. The respondents were chosen by two polling firms. A little over two-thirds of them came from a firm that tended to select younger and more university-educated people.


The findings are shown in the above graph. On the y-axis, the crime rate is overestimated at values higher than zero and underestimated at values lower than zero. The x-axis shows the percentage of Muslims in the immigrants' home country.


Kirkegaard and Gerritsen (2021, pp. 12-17) argue that the results show a pro-Muslim bias: the respondents tended to underestimate the crime rate of Muslim immigrants. But the bias was not favorable toward all Muslims. In fact, the crime rate was overestimated for immigrants from Indonesia, Syria, Turkey, Pakistan, and Afghanistan and more or less correctly estimated for those from Egypt, Iran, and Iraq. In addition, the respondents showed much larger gaps between perception and reality when estimating the crime rates of different non-Muslim groups.


For source countries less than 25% Muslim, the crime rate was greatly underestimated (by a factor of 1 or more) for people from Congo, Angola, Cape Verde, the Netherlands Antilles, and the Dominican Republic. Conversely, it was greatly overestimated for people from Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Mexico.


Do you see a pattern? The respondents were underestimating the crime rate of immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean. Their pro-Black bias was much stronger than their supposed pro-Muslim bias. In fact, it was so strong that it affected their perceptions of different Muslim groups. The respondents perceived North Africans and Somalis as being better than they really are, while perceiving Turks as being worse than they really are.


It looks like people in the Netherlands, and probably throughout the West, are being conditioned to view the Black African phenotype positively and the White European phenotype negatively. This bias caused the respondents to overestimate the arrest rate not only of European immigrants but also of any group that deviates too far from the Black African phenotype, including Chinese, Mexicans and, apparently, Roma.(1)


What about the respondents who voted for Nationalist parties? You know, the “far right.” Although Nationalist voters were more inclined to overestimate the crime rate of Muslim immigrants, they were just as inclined to underestimate the crime rate of sub-Saharan African and Caribbean immigrants. The pro-Black bias seems very pervasive.





1. Roma in Western Europe identify themselves to the authorities by their country of origin, not by their ethnicity. The Dutch respondents greatly overestimated the crime rate of immigrants from Romania, and the recent wave of Romanian migrants is widely perceived to be mostly Roma:


In these figures, the number relating to the Roma is indeterminate since the ethnicity of asylum seekers is not recorded. Nonetheless, the assumption is that the majority of these applications were made by Roma. Certainly, the press is of this view. Articles discussing Czech or Romanian asylum seekers refer frequently to the Roma. As a result, it is easy for the ordinary member of the public to assume that such groups of applicants are of Roma extraction (Stevens 2003, p. 440)





Kirkegaard, E.O.W., and A. Gerritsen. (2021). A study of stereotype accuracy in the Netherlands: immigrant crime, occupational sex distribution, and provincial income inequality. OpenPsych, June 14 https://openpsych.net/paper/60/  



Myrdal, G. (1944). An American Dilemma. The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy. New York: Harper and Row.


Pauli, M. (2006). Harper Lee tops librarians' must-read list. The Guardian, March 2



Stevens, D.E. (2003). The Migration of the Romanian Roma to the UK: A Contextual Study. European Journal of Migration and Law 5(4): 439-461.