Israel Shows The Way Forward

Anthropologist Peter Frost writes:

Westernization seemed to be the secret to success. In the 19th century, Ashkenazi Jews embraced it with the fervor of the newly converted, using Yiddishkeit as a vehicle to spread the ideals of the Enlightenment—progress, freedom, and personal autonomy. The Japanese converted during the Meiji Restoration, turned away during the 1930s, and finished the job under American tutelage. In Russia, the Bolshevik Revolution began as an effort of accelerated Westernization, which later reversed course under the pressures of autarky and fear of the West. In the 1990s, with the end of communism, the West once more became the model to be followed.

Today, non-Orthodox American Jews have a fertility rate of only 1.3 children per woman. Similar baby busts have played out elsewhere, especially where collectivism has rapidly given way to individualism: Japan, Russia, Spain, Germany, Italy … Modern Western culture is toxic for family formation in most societies, but its effects seem to be more toxic in some than in others.

Sad but inevitable, you say? Only if you think Western modernity is inevitable. In recent years, both Israel and Russia have dramatically reversed their fertility declines, while continuing to be modern societies (Goldman, 2013; Karlin, 2014). Cash inducements have been one factor. But the really key changes lie in the realm of culture and ideology, particularly in the effort to strike a new balance between the individual and the collectivity. And by the collectivity, I don’t mean the artificial structures of State, ideology, and corporate loyalty. I mean the natural ones of family, kith and kin, and ethny. This will be the basis for postmodern traditionalism, including that part of the world where Western modernity began…

Russia and Israel are large enough to sustain their own cultures, but this is not the case with the Parsis. Unless they want to be like the Amish or the Hassidic Jews, by blocking out modern Western culture as much as possible, they will have to find some other way.

I would argue that it’s critical for southern Europe (Spain, Italy, Greece), since they border other countries where fertility is much higher. All three countries are at risk of rapid population change. One could argue that it’s also critical for American Jews. Over the next decade, we’ll see fewer and fewer Jewish Americans in public life, entertainment, and academia.

The only religious groups with above-replacement fertility are those that can block out modern Western culture. This is the case with the Amish, the Hutterites, and various Orthodox Jewish sects. It’s also the case with the Mormons, who have been able to create a viable alternative subculture. But religion, in itself, is not a relevant factor.


* We already have a more elegant explanation for fertility declines that fits the data more closely: Caldwell’s cost of kids model. Caldwell points out that all fertility declines have coincided with the onset of mass education, which massively raises the cost of kids to the parent. Before it, wealth flows from kids to parents–kids do not quite deliver a market-beating return but it’s not much worse. Combined with the other reasons to have kids families might aim for 7 or 8 or 10. Post education wealth flows the other way.

This ‘cost of kids’ model also fits nicely with loads of other evidence we have. For example when kibbutz broke up, Israelis from them had on average substantially fewer kids because the cost of raising them was higher. Another example is cheap immigrant labour, which by lowerng the cost of childcare raises native fertility.

* The problem of low and sub-replacement fertility is hardly just a NW Euro one. Indeed, every high-IQ group of people on Earth (collectively) have sub-replacement fertility (by collectively, I mean certain subsets within some groups, like Mormons and Amish in the U.S. or Orthodox Jews in Israel have much higher fertility rates).

But, the problem is actually least acute in NW Europe. Southern and Eastern Europeans (and East Asians) have significantly lower fertility rates.

Sub-replacement fertility, in and of itself, is hardly a problem for immediate concern for most groups. The Parsis stand alone as a group for which sub-replacement fertility is a matter of critical importance. The NW Euro countries, with fertility rates only barely below replacement, have plenty of time to address the issue in one manner or another. The East Asian nations – being so crowded – might stand to gain in the long run from a period of population decline. And Eastern Europe demonstrates the conclusion of the process: rebounding fertility both as natural selection works its magic and as effective cost of living declines.

The occurrence of sub-replacement fertility is perhaps an example of adaptations misfiring in a new environment. People act as if there was a quantity-quality trade off when in fact there is none in today’s world.

* Religious peoples have above replacement level fertility, non-religious have below replacement level fertility. There is something about a commitment to a supernatural order that encourages fertility, while a commitment to secularism discourages same. “Praise God from Whom all blessings flow” and children are such a blessing.

* Non-Orthodox Jewish-Americans’ intermarriage rate is reducing their population far faster than their low fertility rate.
– 1.3 children per woman reduces the next generation to 62% of the size of the last generation (1.3 / 2.1 replacement rate = 62%).
– Their 71% intermarriage rate reduces the next generation to 29% of the size of the last generation.

Multiplied together, the next generation of non-Orthodox Jewish-Americans should be expected to be 18% the size of the last generation (.62 * .29 = .18).

* Some of the most famous Jews today:

Jon Stewart: Married a Catholic.
Kevin Rose: Married a Christian.
Mark Cuban: Married a Christian.
Mark Zuckerberg: Married an Asian.
Larry Page: Half-Jewish, married a Christian.
Dustin Moskovitz: Married a Turk.
Larry Ellison: Married a Christian.
Steve Ballmer: Half-Jewish, married a Christian.
Ben Horowitz: Married an African-American.
Steven Spielberg: Married a Kate Capshaw.
Jared Kushner: Married Ivanka Trump.
Wesley Clark: Half-Jewish.
Neil Gaiman: Married a Christian
David Cameron: 3/32 Jewish.
Boris Johnson: 1/8 Jewish.

Jennifer Connelly: Half-Jewish, married Paul Bettany.
Gwenyth Paltrow: Half-Jewish, married Chris Martin.
Natalie Portman: Married Benjamin Millepied.
Rachel Weisz: Married Daniel Craig.
Scarlett Johansson: Half-Jewish, married Ryan Reynolds, then Romain Dauriac.
Mila Kunis: Married Ashton Kutcher.
Rachel Bilson: Half-Jewish, has a kid with Hayden Christensen.
Dianna Agron: Half-Jewish.
Allison Brie: Half-Jewish.
Winona Ryder: Half-Jewish.
Yasmine Bleeth: Half-Jewish.
Lily Collins: 1/8 Jewish.
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley: 37.5% Jewish.
Helena Bonham Carter: 37.5% Jewish.
Alicia Silverstone: 1/2 Jewish.
Olivia Newton-John: 37.5% Jewish.
Jessica Biel: 1/8 Jewish.
Olivia Wilde: Distant Jewish.
Neve Campbell: Distant Jewish.
Jessica Alba: Distant Jewish.

Harrison Ford: Half-Jewish, married Calista Flockhart.
Armie Hammer: 1/2 Jewish, married a Christian.
Daniel Day-Lewis: Half-Jewish, married a half-Jew-raised-Christian, neither are religious.
Paul Newman: Half-Jewish, married a Christian.
Sacha Baron Cohen: Married Isla Fisher.
Liev Schreiber: Half-Jewish, married Naomi Watts.
Michael Douglas: Half-Jewish, married Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Jake Gyllenhaal: Half-Jewish.
Chris Pine: 1/4 Jewish.
Noah Wyle: 1/2 Jewish.
Ed Skrein (Game of Thrones): 1/2 Jewish.
Adam Levine: 3/4 Jewish, married Behati Prinsloo.
Sylvester Stallone: 1/4 Jewish.
Daniel Radcliffe: 1/2 Jewish.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: 1/4 Jewish.
River Phoenix: 1/2 Jewish.
Sean Austin: 1/2 Jewish.
Ansel Elgort: 1/2 Jewish.
Lewis C.K.: 1/8 Jewish.
Topher Grace: 1/8 Jewish.
Will Wheaton: 1/8 Jewish.
Cary Elwes: 1/8 Jewish.
Robert Downey Jr: 1/8 Jewish.
Lars Ulrich: 1/4 Jewish.
Yul Brynner: 1/4 Jewish.
David Beckham: 1/4 Jewish by ancestry, 1/2 Jewish by identity.
Tom Hanks’ children: 1/8 Jewish.


Even if the Jewish intermarriage rate were lower for some reason, there’s a lot of evidence that it’s one of the largest trends in the Jewish-American population.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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