to be posted on Oct. 15, 2012

John Stossel

Dear John Stossel:
A dear friend knowing of my abiding interest in cousin couples steered me to your posting of September 5, 2006 based on a broadcast on 20/20 August 6, 2004.  You were talking about cousin marriages and your tone was warm and thoughtful.

I have been at this for more than 10 years with a web site for the past couple of years.  There is something that might interest you.  For my purposes a cousin marriage is third of fourth cousins or maybe stretching it out to second through fifth.   That is the goldilocks zone.  That permits excellent fertility.  Get outside it and heavy, heavy hangs over your head at least from a fertility perspective.  Rather than get technical right away, here is a link to a poster I prepared but did not present at a fertility convention last November:

There is more to it than that.  Indeed supporting data continues to pile up.  There is an article in Proceedings of the Royal Society B by Anna Goodman et al. volume 279 pages 4342-4351 called Low Fertility Increases descendant Socioeconomic Position but Reduces Long-Term Fitness in a Modern Post-Industrial Society. 

It would be natural to assume, as indeed has usually been assumed, that rich people have fewer children but invest more in them so they are better educated and richer than the children of the less wealthy and thus have more children each on average.  That sunny concept proves simply not to be true.  Sure the children do well, are richer and better educated, but the number of grandchildren winds up fewer than the grandchildren of the poor. 

What has to be going on is this: the rich don’t marry cousins.  The poor are more likely to.  The Icelandic data indicate that closer relatives who marry have more children right down to “second cousin or closer,” with seems to me to mean first cousin once removed.  But the  peak in grandchildren is “third cousin or closer to fourth cousin or closer” which I take to mean third cousin … at least by their reckoning, which is not the usual one of identifying the closest kinship but going back ten years and counting all ancestors to see what is shared. 

All right.  Get rich.  Marry a stranger.  Have a few children.  They marry strangers.  They have even fewer children so you lose out on grandchildren.  But it gets worse.  The real fall in fertility comes with the great grandchildren.  Get the article and look at it, but it looks to me like the fertility decline is far greater than it was in the first or second generation. 

It’s almost biblical, isn’t it?  “For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the sons even to the third and fourth generations.”  Maybe you thought He was kidding?  The iniquity is marrying outside the congregation and the punishment is infertility.  I mean it sounds that way.  Just kidding.  Don’t let me offend your own beliefs in religion.

I thought you might like to know.  Since you have taken a tolerant position in the past, I am hoping you will not be offended by my analysis.  If you have any suggestion as to how to get the word to the baby-starved populations of rich countries, I’m all ears.  (A congenital anomaly brought on by inbreeding, I’m sure.)


M. Linton Herbert 

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