Monday, April 03, 2006

Oppression and Birthrate

I researched fertility rates of the nations involved in WWII and the Holocaust. Shrinkwrapped had an interesting speculation about a German patient’s decision not to have children because of guilt, and whether this was generalizable to German attitudes as a whole. (See also neo-neocon's commentary) The data is precise enough, but its interpretation will be rough edged. I was surprized that there does seem to be some statistical connection between perpetrating oppression and subsequent national birthrates.

I sought examples of Oppressor Nations, Victim Nations, Rescuers, Mixed, and Neutrals. The divisions are not always obvious. Was Norway a Victim or a Neutral? It declared itself neutral, was occupied by the Nazis, but sustained few deaths. Was Russia an Oppressor, a Rescuer, or Mixed? It did not participate in the Holocaust, but killed many Jews on its own account. It pushed out the Germans, but occupied Eastern Europe on its own. It oppressed its own citizens as much as its neighbors. France was both an heroic rescuer of Jews and oppressive collaborator with the Holocaust, and a victim in its own right as well.

I chose the following nations as clear Vicitms: Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Denmark. These are unfortunately geographically and culturally very close, similar enough to be the same nation. I reluctantly added France, and decided Israel, though it did not yet exist, qualified as a victim nation. These are now wealthy nations

The Oppressors were Germany, Austria, Japan, and Italy. Japan had no contact with the Holocaust, though it oppressed other groups. Much of Italy’s participation was indirect, but was significant enough to warrant being counted among the oppressors. Wealthy nations all.

The Rescuers were the US, UK, and Canada. Wealthy nations

Sweden, Switzerland, and Norway were neutrals. Wealthy nations

The mixed oppressor/victims were Russia, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Ukraine. Poor nations, by European standards.

To any of these categories other names might be added, and you are free to challenge my assignments. I expected that the fertility rates would divide along wealth lines, but this was only partly true.

The (wealthy) Victim, Neutral, and Rescuer nations had higher, and similar rates of birth per woman.

The Mixed category, which was entirely composed of nations which have been communist and poor for decades, had much lower birthrates.

The Oppressor nations had low birthrates, similar to the poorer Mixed nations.

Shrinkwrapped may be onto something. The Oppressor nations are now culturally and economically much more similar to the Victim, Neutral, and Rescuer nations, but their birthrates are similar to the Mixed category. You would expect Germany and Italy to have birthrates like France or Norway. They’re like Ukraine and Russia instead.

The Numbers:
Oppressor Nations children born/woman
Germany 1.39
Austria 1.36
Japan 1.39
Italy 1.28

Mixed Nations
Poland 1.39
Czech 1.2
Hungary 1.32
Ukraine 1.4
Russia 1.27

Rescuer Nations
UK 1.66
Canada 1.61
USA 2.08

Sweden 1.66
Switzerland 1.42
Norway 1.78

Belgium 1.64
Netherlands 1.66
Luxembourg 1.79
Denmark 1.74
France 1.85
Israel 2.44 (Jewish 1.88)

Rather than rely on a single statistic, I also checked the numbers for percentage of the population in each age category, which would show the same data over time, rather than just a snapshot of the birthrate/1000 in 2005, or the children per woman/lifetime. That data showed a similar phenomenon.

Observations: 1) Nations that engaged in serious persecution (Oppressor and Mixed) have lower birthrates. 2) Mixed might be an expression of “what happens under communism,” not “what happens when you are both victim and perpetrator.” 3) There is now little difference among the Neutral, Rescuer, and Victim nations. Only the US and Switzerland fall outside a narrow range. 4) As the nations not listed here have very different, nearly always higher birthrates, other factors (I would guess economic) have impact as well.

Update: Arrgghh! I forgot the part about Friedrish Durrenmatt! Ah well, the post was long anyway.


ShrinkWrapped said...

This is impressive work (and I am relieved that it supports, at least to some extent, some of what I was trying to get at in my posts; it is always embarrassing when the facts contradict one's most elegant suppositions.) I plan on using this data when I get to the last post or two of my series. (Next weekend, I am going to be discussing this with a very senior Psychologist who has worked with some survivors over the last 50 years and want to incorporate his views into my discussion.)

Anonymous said...

France as victim, but Poland as mixed? ... sounds like France got better PR...
ed in texas

Assistant Village Idiot said...

All quibbles are fair. I made that calculation because so many of the concentration camps were located in Poland, because they knew that Poles would work there and cooperate. The Poles' treatment of Jews was as bad as anyone's except maybe the Ukrainians