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Higher intelligence means fewer children

Written By | Jun 9, 2014

OCALA, Fla., June 9, 2014 — A recent study has generated major controversy in its revelation that more intelligent women want fewer children.

“[The] study has revealed a clear correlation between intelligence and childlessness – with cleverer women more likely to choose not to have a family,” writes Ruth Styles of England’s Daily Mail. “The study, which was conducted by Satoshi Kanazawa, a researcher at the London School of Economics, found that a woman’s urge to have children decreases by a quarter for every 15 extra IQ points.”

When Kanazawa, who used data from the UK’s National Child Development Study, added controls for economics and education, the results remained the same: The more intelligent the woman, the less likely she was to have children.

Kanazawa believes that this is not a good thing.

“If any value is deeply evolutionarily familiar, it is reproductive success,” he stated in his 2012 book The Intelligence Paradox. “If any value is truly unnatural, if there is one thing that humans (and all other species in nature) are decisively not designed for, it is voluntary childlessness. All living organisms in nature, including humans, are evolutionarily designed to reproduce. Reproductive success is the ultimate end of all biological existence.”

His analysis is anything other than universally accepted, let alone acclaimed.

“Kanazawa finds it paradoxical that intelligent women apparently don’t possess the desire to pursue what should be the ultimate goal of their biological existence, (hence the loser reference),” tells Sadhbh Walshe of The Guardian, another British newspaper. “He says that it’s not yet known why intelligent women are having less babies but says it’s not the reason most people assume, that women with higher IQs are more likely to go to college and have demanding careers.

“Basically he seems to come to the paradoxical conclusion that intelligent women just aren’t all that wise.”

Whatever the case might be, Pew Research has some undeniable data about childlessness among well-educated women.

“Nearly one-in-five American women ends her childbearing years without having borne a child, compared with one-in-ten in the 1970s,” Gretchen Livingston and D’Vera Cohn noted in 2010. “While childlessness has risen for all racial and ethnic groups, and most education levels, it has fallen over the past decade for women with advanced degrees.

“The most educated women still are among the most likely never to have had a child.”
While Kanazawa’s argument might be solid on evolutionary grounds, it seems that he has not measured quality-of-life factors.

“Research by Dr Nattavudh Powdthavee, a social scientist of the University of York, argued that the idea that the key to happiness is having children was an “illusion” and said there was almost no association between children and contentment,” says Claire Carter of The Telegraph, which is also published in Britain.

This, Powdthavee said in an interview with London’s The Times, is because “(p)arents spend much of their time attending to the very core processes of childcare: problems at school, cooking, laundry” and “these small but negative experiences….are more likely to impact on our day-to-day levels of happiness and life satisfaction.”

His research is supported by the findings of a similar 2011 study.

“Richard Eibach and Steven Mock, psychological scientists at the University of Waterloo, decided to explore the role that self-justification plays in parental beliefs about their choice to have and raise children,” reads a press release from the Association for Psychological Science. “More specifically, they wanted to focus on parental views of the economic hardships they’ve endured while raising their children.”

“Eibach and Mock suspected that parents who were focused on the costs of parenthood would be more likely to experience feelings of conflict and discomfort,” it later tells. “They also expected that these negative feelings would motivate them to idealize parenthood in order to trump the negative feelings.

“And that’s what they found, with a slight twist. Parents whose feelings of emotional discomfort were measured immediately after priming their thoughts about cost felt much worse than did the parents with a more mixed view of parenting. But if the scientists first gave them the opportunity to idealize parenting and family life, and then measured their conflicted feelings, those negative feelings were gone.

“How else might parents be fooling themselves in order to justify the high costs of their decision to be a parent?

“In a second study, parents were again primed to think about their pricey life choice or both the costs and benefits of parenting. But this time, the researchers asked the parents about their intrinsic enjoyment of various life activities, such as spending time with their children or engaging in their favorite personal activity. They also asked them how much leisure time they hoped to spend doing something with their child on their next day off from work.

“The results were clear: Parents who had the high costs of children in mind were much more likely to say that they enjoyed spending time with their children, and they also anticipated spending more leisure time with their kids.”

Perhaps smart women are having less kids because of the obvious. That almost definitely isn’t what most people want to hear, but sometimes the simplest explanation is both factually correct and politically incorrect.

Maybe this is why noncomplex answers are so often the right ones.

Joseph Cotto

Joseph Cotto is a nationally syndicated columnist. He hails from central Florida, writing about political, economic, and social issues of the day. In the past, he wrote for The Washington Times Communities and Blogcritics Magazine, among other publications.