Rising Chinese age of marriage:
With abated breath I wait for the arrival of the message, “I did as you suggested and went to gapminder.com and set the graph up to show birth rate against age at first marriage for women developing over time, and you’re right.  Every country begins an inexorable fall in birth rate until it falls below replacement; then age at first marriage starts to climb and never stops climbing.”  Maybe tomorrow.

The exception was China, where the birth rate fell as expected but during the times shown the age at first marriage does not rise.  That has now changed.  (Young, Single and What About It? Economist vol. 416 no. 8953 August 23, 2015 page 35) That of course was a big exception.  Had anyone asked I would have said that maybe the social expectations in China are different.  But now age at first marriage for women there is going up.  Culture has yielded to biology at last.

They seem to get along well, these singles.  They do have to deal with a certain amount of social pressure to settle down, marry and have babies, and it’s not just from the parents.  But by and large they seem to be happy with their choice.  That, of course, is as one would expect.  They are opting out of the gene pool just as nature insists they do.  The population is urbanized; they no longer marry kin.  Chairman Mao did a number of bad things, not always with bad intentions, but the worst thing he did was to efface the little villages and put people on communes, where of course they met strangers, fell in love and married them.  There go the babies. 

The one child policy has never been effective even though people seemed to think it was.  Initially the policy was instituted after the birth rate had already fallen, and as I pointed out before, removing it has a trifling effect on the birth rate.  6% of couples with one baby are interested in trying to have another.  I doubt half that number are going to be successful. 

Doom and gloom, doom and gloom and yet they are happy.  Well the healthy, rich, free young adults are happy in the cities.  The oldsters left behind in the village, not so much so.  (The Kin and I, page 36 in the same issue.  They feel deserted.  Many are essentially isolated.  And of course the suicide rate is going up just like in East Europe.  In a way it’s worse.  In East European villages there are very few babies, the young women move to the cities to live off their attractiveness, the old folks commit suicide and the young men drink.  The only growth occupation is bulldozing deserted houses.  In China the young men left behind have less chance of finding a wife because of the high value placed onmale offspring.  If they could only have one child a couple one way or another would try to have a boy.  Their success in this meant that there would be a lot of young men with no marriage prospects even before the girls moved away.

There was a movie “Young Frankenstein.”  The hero was chief of neurosurgery in the same hospital and at the same time that I was effectively chief of neuroradiology.  So of course I loved the movie.  After the action shifts to Transylvania the only person of consequence who seems to keep his sense of proportion is the chief of police.  He keeps saying, “A riot is an ugly thing,” and restraining the town folk.  But as evidence of something amiss accumulates he says at last, “A riot is an ugly thing, but I think it may be time for a good old-fashioned riot.”  What I mean to say is that panic is a terrible thing, but it may be time for a good old-fashioned panic.  

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