16 June 2018

Fertility, Marriage and Religion In My World

This Father's Day weekend, I am thinking about fertility.


I have twelve first cousins and a brother, for a total of fourteen people in my generation, of whom eight are men and six are women. Of the fourteen:

Six have no children (four female, two male)
One has one child (male)
Six have two children (five male, one female)
One has three children (female)

Overall, the fourteen people in my generation have sixteen children. My brother and I, who are in our forties, are the youngest in our generation, so there aren't likely to be any more. This is a lifetime fertility rate of 1.14, which is well below the replacement rate of about 2.1.

My father had one brother, and my mother had five siblings, for a total of eight people in my parent's generation - although, of course, that makes for only seven independent sets of parents. Of those seven sets of parents:

Two had no children (one female, one unknown)
Three had two children (three male)
Two had four children (one male, one female)

This is a lifetime fertility rate equivalent of 2.

The weighted average lifetime fertility rate of the two generations is 1.43.


All sixteen children were born in wedlock and none of the marriages that produced children have ended in divorce. Of the six who do not have children, both of the men and one of the women are married, one of the women has been in a marriage-like decades long committed opposite sex relationship that has not broken up, one of the women was married one for less than a year before divorcing, and one of the women was never married and died as a young adult.

In my parent's generation, all of the children were born in wedlock and none divorced. My father remarried as a widower, but no one else in that generation has remarried after losing a spouse to death at this point (this could conceivably change). Of the two who did not have children, neither married; one died as an infant and one died as an adult from a condition (M.S.) that first manifested when she was in college.


All of the members of my parents generation were/are life long members of mainline Lutheran denominations (the names changed over the years due to denominational mergers), and all of them raised their children in those churches.

In my generation, of the fourteen of us, at least four of us (29%) are no longer religious, nine (64%) are still mainline Lutherans and one (7%) is Christian but has been participated in non-Lutheran churches as an adult.


My extended family is an extreme example, but not that much of an exceptional one. Birth rates in the United States are at record lows as companies that make diapers are well aware.

Birth rates are also low in both Northern Europe, where my extended family's ancestors originate, and in Korea, where my wife's extended family's ancestors' originate.

As I note above, I had twelve first cousins. My two children have three first cousins.

14 June 2018

Are Suicide and Violent Crime Rates Inversely Related?

Suicide rates have increased across the United States — and in dozens of states by more than 30 percent, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention based on public health data from 1999 to 2016.

Among suicide victims counted in 2015 in 27 states, 54 percent had no known mental health condition, researchers say in the June 8 report. For those who died, circumstances surrounding their suicide included relationship or job problems, the loss of a home, legal troubles and physical health issues. These factors played a role whether suicide victims had a diagnosed medical condition or not.
Overall, close to 45,000 Americans died by suicide in 2016. . . . By state or jurisdiction, the rates of suicide in the most recent period studied (2014 to 2016) ranged from 6.9 per 100,000 people in the District of Columbia to 29.2 per 100,000 for Montana.
From Science News citing D. Stone et al. "Vital Signs: Trends in state suicide rates — United States, 1999-2016 and circumstances contributing to suicide — 27 states, 2015." 67 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 634 (June 8, 2018).

What else was happening as suicide rates surged?

All across the United States crime rates, including violent crime rates, were plummeting.

Image from here.

My hypothesis, changes in suicide rates are inversely correlated with changes in violent crime rates, which would be fairly easy to confirm by comparing changes in suicide rate with changes in violent crime rates on a state by state basis in the same time period (e.g. from data here and here).

Why would this happen?

Lots of people who might otherwise commit suicide, when violent crime rates are high, instead engage in criminal behavior that creates a high risk that they will be killed. Joining a gang or robbing a bank at gunpoint are not all that different from playing Russian roulette psychologically.

Even if it isn't such a direct tradeoff, the risk factors that make someone a potential suicide victim and the risk factors that make someone a potential violent crime victim and the risk factors that make someone a potential violent crime perpetrator heavily overlap, and less death and incapacitation from violent crime makes these highest risk individuals more available to become suicide victims.

This could also explain why adolescent and young black men have below average suicide rates, even though younger black children have above average suicide rates.

Other Considerations

There is a direct intersection between suicide and homicide although it is a relative small part of the overall relationship:
Suicide decedents without known mental health conditions also had significantly higher odds of perpetrating homicide followed by suicide (aOR = 2.9, 95% CI = 2.2–3.8).
An alternative thought: Increases in suicide rate and opioid overdoses are correlated strongly in this time period. Could opioid overdoses reduce crime by taking high risk people out of the pool of potential criminals?