Popular Science Monthly/Volume 63/July 1903/Discussion and Correspondence

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DISCUSSION AND CORRESPONDENCE.

THE QUESTION OF RACIAL DECLINE.

To the Editor: I have read in your June issue the article entitled 'Race Decline' by George J. Engelmann, M.D., of Boston. The writer states 'The American population is not holding its own, it is not reproducing itself,' etc., and quotes statistics of college classes and of Massachusetts to prove it. When a young man thirty years ago I heard the same story, and people predicted that the American people of native stock would be extinct in a few generations. The census of 1900 flatly contradicts the gentleman's statements. It shows that the rate of natural increase is not exceeded by any nation on the face of the globe. What has doubled the population (white) of the states in the south since 1870? There is but little immigration to that section. Also what causes the great increase of population in states like Indiana where the foreign born are decreasing?

The fact is that the native population is increasing very rapidly and is not dying out, not even in Massachusetts. We hear a great deal about the prolific French Canadians and their great natural increase. It may astonish some people that the native Americans are increasing just as rapidly and in the south much more so. I will quote a few statistics taken from the recent census.[1]

Native born white native parentage 41,053,917
Under 20 years of age 19,556,558
Percentage under 20 47.6%

In the province of Quebec (French Canada) the 1901 census shows that 49 per cent, of the population were under twenty years of age, or a little more than 1 per cent, more than the native Americans. If we omit those under five years of age the percentages will be as follows:

Native American from 5 to 19 inclusive 34.3%
French Canadians from 5 to 19 inclusive 34.6%

This indicates a greater death rate among the French Canadians under five years of age. Now for figures for typical native states I take Indiana in the north, and North Carolina in the south. In the former the foreign-born are but 512 per cent, of the population and in the latter less than half of 1 per cent.

Indiana.
Under 20 years of age 46.3%
From 5 to 19 inclusive 34%
North Carolina.
Under 20 years of age 51.7%
From 5 to 19 inclusive 37%

Notice how much larger the percentage of children in North Carolina is than in French Canada. This is typical of all the southern states. Among the mountaineers the percentage of children even exceeds this, and a comparison of the number of children among these people and the French Canadians would make the latter look like a decadent race. It is true that in Massachusetts and some of the adjoining states the foreign element increases in the natural way more rapidly than the native, but this does not hold good as to the whole country.

But the showing made by Massachusetts is not as bad as indicated by Dr. Engelmann. I quote from Vol. 3 of the U. S. Census Vital Statistics, Part 1, page 356, for the census year ending May 31, 1900. This does not indicate that the native is dying out in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts: Births and Deaths.
Both parents native, births 21,343
Both parents native, deaths (all ages) 15,357
Natural increase 5,986
One or both parents foreign 44,252
Foreign born 624 44,876
Natives, one or both parents foreign, deaths (all ages) 16,194
Foreign born 13,645 29,839
Natural increase 15,037

While the above shows a very healthy increase among the natives of Massachusetts it also indicates a larger increase among the foreign element. But in this connection it must not be forgotten that a very large proportion of those included in the foreign element are of the same stock as the natives. Thus in Massachusetts there are nearly a half million English, Scotch, Welsh and English Canadians, both foreign and native born. I think the foregoing shows pretty conclusively that the natives are not dying out and that all opinions to the contrary are based on a false foundation.

C. E. Smith.
Brooklyn, N. Y.

[We publish Mr. Smith's letter as the question is of such importance that it should be discussed from all sides. It ought to be said, however, that statisticians hesitate to draw conclusions as to racial increase from the figures of the census. When the native population increases from one census to another, this is partly and may be entirely due to the children of foreign parents who are counted as natives. When Mr. Smith gives figures showing that in Massachusetts the births when both parents are natives exceed the deaths when both parents arc natives, it should be noted that the births come from a considerably larger group than the deaths. The native children of foreign parents are not counted among the deaths, but their children are counted among the births. It is also true that after a period when the native population has increased (perhaps only by children of foreign parents) there would be an excess of births. Mr. Kuczynski in his careful analysis of the fecundity of the native and foreign-born population in Massachusetts (Quarterly Journal of Economics, November, 1901, and February, 1902) states that in Berlin, where proper statistics are collected such as do not exist in this country, the birth rate is not sufficient to maintain the population. But in Berlin there was an annual birth rate of 10 for every 100 married women in child-bearing age, whereas it was only 6.3 in the native population of Massachusetts.

It seems also fair to our readers to state that we do not accept the conclusions of Dr. Engelmann published in the last number of the Monthly. In an article such as Professor Fleming's on 'Wireless Telegraphy,' we have simply to learn what the leading authority on the subject teaches us. When we leave the exact sciences, and especially when we enter the field of applied sociology, we have our science to make. The fact that sociology is now in about the condition of the physics of three hundred years ago does not detract from its interest, but rather adds to the possibilities of progress. Readers should, however, remember that while a physicist can usually speak for the science of physics, a sociologist can usually only speak for himself. The fact that the editor of this journal does not agree with Dr. Engelmann in regard to the interpretation of statistics does not necessarily mean that Dr. Engelmann is mistaken, but only that the subjects are not yet in the field of exact science.

Dr. Engelmann claims that an older age at marriage does not mean a smaller family, that the marriage rate of the college graduate is higher and the size of the surviving family larger than in the population at large, and that the decreasing size of family is entirely voluntary. We think that he has established none of these conclusions. Adequate statistics may not be at hand correlating the size of family with the age of marriage, but it seems almost certain that there is an inverse correlation, those who marry later having fewer children. This would hold especially for women—and older men are likely to marry older women—and for men who remarry. It is also of course true that earlier marriages produce a more rapid sequence of generations and a larger population.

Dr. Engelmann gives 2.1 as the size of family of graduates more than twenty years out of college and 1.9 as the size of family of the native-born in Massachusetts, and tells us that the college graduate does more towards reproducing the population than does the native American of other class. He appears to be in serious error in his statistics. A certain loyal Princeton graduate discovered that his class of '76 had 2.7 surviving children for each married graduate. Whether this case is typical or not we do not know, but Dr. Engelmann gives it the same weight in his average as the 1.86 obtained from 1,401 Harvard graduates. The families of Princeton and Yale graduates and of many Harvard graduates coming from a region having higher fertility can not be compared with the decadent native population of Massachusetts, nor can college graduates in part of foreign origin be compared with the exclusively native population. Dr. Engelmann compares the native surviving Massachusetts family of 1.9 with that of college graduates of more than twenty years' standing. The native population includes girls of fourteen and women just married. The average number of living children of native women of Massachusetts between the ages of forty and forty-nine was 2.13. With this family and a marriage rate of 79 per cent, the population is rapidly decreasing. Harvard graduates, with a marriage rate of 71.4 and a family of 1.86 surviving for a time are destined to even more rapid extermination. The Harvard graduate of New England stock is doubtless still more infertile, but we have no exact information in regard to this, nor as to whether or not the college graduate is more infertile than the race and class from which he comes. Editor.]

  1. Vol. 2—Population, part 2, page 2, Table 1.