Saturday, September 09, 2006

Israeli-Palestinian demographics

Ben' comments interspersed:

***
From the Jerusalem Post

In Israel, kids are "in." (Yes indeed.)

They are even a status symbol. "If everyone has a Jeep, we will have one too; if everyone fills it with children they have brought into the world, why shouldn't we do the same?" This is how a feature in Haaretz by Galit Edut (September 1) describes the reigning societal norm among educated, double-income, secular Israelis. True; I met an Israeli woman at schul las last night with five children; her sister has eleven. They serve in the military.

In virtually the entire modern world, increased wealth and education are linked with plummeting birthrates. The New York Times reported this week that Europe is "wrestling" with birthrates which have "reached a historic and prolonged low... straining pension plans and depleting the work force across the continent." The EU projects a shortfall of 20 million workers by 2030. In 1990, no European country had a fertility rate of less than 1.3 children per woman; by 2002, 15 countries did. The "birth dearth" my coinage --- Braggy Ben has become a political issue in Germany, Russia and the Czech Republic. "Almost all countries are increasing baby bonuses," the article reports.While the US fertility rate currently hovers around the replacement level of 2.1, the rate among American Jews is considerably lower: 1.86. I believe this be much over-stated. I'd guess about 1.5, with secular Jews at about 1.0

Israel is almost another world. The average fertility rate is 2.7 children per woman - by far the highest of any modern democracy in the world. Yes. Moreover, the average size of families with a high monthly income - above NIS 50,000 - is 4.3 people, compared to 3.7 for families with more modest salaries.
What's going on here?

ACCORDING TO demographer Sergio DellaPergola, we are different than Europe and America in our attitudes toward family size. "Here, people would like to have three children at least." If they don't, it is generally because of economic restraints, as demonstrated by the fact that, in Israel, the upper-middle class is associated with more children, not fewer.

DellaPergola points out that the three variables affecting the decision couples make on their family size are societal norms, economic capability, and the cost of raising children. The power of societal norms is most dramatically seen in the remarkable birthrates among Orthodox Jews. In America, fertility rates among the modern Orthodox are 3.3 and among Haredim 6.6 children per woman, presumably with similar rates among the same communities in Israel.
But even setting the Orthodox aside, there is a striking difference in the confluence of these variables between the non-Orthodox majorities of Jews in America and in Israel. Why is the norm regarding family size so much higher among Israelis, whose harried, secular, modern lifestyle seems so similar to their American Jewish counterparts?

The answer seems to be that norms and economic factors influence and reenforce each other. It is easier and cheaper to raise children, particularly Jewish children, in Israel than America. Pro-children norms have shaped our society and economy, while this family-friendly structure, in turn, reenforces the norms that created it.

The participation of Israeli Jewish women in the workforce is extremely high, but so is the assurance of fully paid maternity leave and the availability of affordable day care. Perhaps even more important are the intangible attitudes that surround parents at their workplace. It is understood that parents - women and men - will zip out of the office for all sorts of child-related reasons; from daily logistics, to emergencies, to school ceremonies.

IT IS perhaps too great a generalization to say that family takes precedence over work in Israel. But there is no doubt that the balance between the two is skewed more toward family here than it is in most, maybe all, modern democracies.

There are two other items of great importance:

1) An Israeli family --- a secular one and an orthodox one as well --- seeks "insurance babies." Every time an Arab terrorist attack occurs, every time there is a war, Israelis feel they must make sure to make more babies.

2) Why? Because they have a spirit and a cause. I think Americans (not secular Jews) feel the same way. Americans have the second highest birth and fertility rates ---1bout 2.0 children per woman, plus we take many immigrants, legal and illegal.
BTW: More Israelis die in traffic accidents than from war. So too in the USA.

Meanwhile Palestinian fertility rates are sinking. They had been over-counted to begin with for political purposes. They too watch television offering an alternative to sexual activity. They emigrate --- often to the Gulf States or to America.

PS I would like to "cross-link" this blog with of JPost. Any ideas for,

Ben

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