How Can We Encourage Bright Young Couples to Have More Children ?

By Nathaniel Weyl

Originally published in The Eugenics Bulletin, Spring-Summer 1984 Our country annually spends billions of dollars to support the indolent and unemployable while they reproduce. Can it not do at least as much for healthy young couples of good character and above-average intelligence? The children of the latter group will usually enhance the productivity and progress of the nation, while those of the former will usually become burdens on society and a dead weight that the productive population must carry.

It is essential that our intelligent young men and women not defer child-bearing and child-raising until their years of greatest fecundity have passed. They should be encouraged to have children during those years when they are naturally best suited to do so, even though they may not be self-supporting at the time. The additional expenses of child-rearing weigh harder on youth and those beginning careers than on the middle-aged. It therefore becomes a social duty, both for the nation as a whole and its individual members, to assist bright and deserving couples to reproduce, and in that way improve the genetic quality of the American population. Affluent people past their own reproductive years are especially able to assist in this matter, but unfortunately they rarely do so. The greatest impediment to progress in progressive eugenics (also called "positive eugenics") is the fact that we live in an egalitarian society. The notion that all men are equal in intelligence and abilities is a proposition in which no sensible person believes, yet one to which every prudent politician must pay lip service. Hence, schemes for financial aid to parents to enable them to produce large families are either indiscriminately applied or selectively applied to the most genetically impoverished elements of the population. Any plan to restrict public aid to those parents who have demonstrated that they are law-abiding and of at least average intelligence would be howled down as an affront to the democratic spirit and as class legislation to oppress the poor. To maintain leadership in the modern world a nation should combine abundant fertility on the part of its intelligent and virtuous youth with higher educational facilities available to everyone with the requisite mental capacities.

For men and women of above-average intelligence, the coeducational colleges of the nation are today the most significant institutions for mate selection and family formation. They are admirably suited to fill this role because they are semi-closed communities in which young men and women live and study together during years of heightened sexual vigor, fecundity, and growing interest in forming stable emotional unions. Marriages of college students, during study or upon graduation, tend to bring together men and women more assortatively mated than the average for intelligence and with greater than average promise of producing superior-to-gifted children. Education and child rearing need not conflict. Parents should realize that discouraging children from marrying during their college years lowers the fertility of their families, for the number of children parents will ultimately have depends in large part on when they begin. Zero Population Growth (ZPG) had a disproportionately large influence on the campuses, thus contributing to the intellectual impoverishment of the American people. Fortunately, it appears largely to have died out.

Scholarships, stipends, fellowships, grants-in-aid, loans, subsidies have made it possible for most mentally qualified Americans to acquire a college education. Some 7 1/2 million Vietnam veterans, and millions of post-Vietnam veterans, have been potential beneficiaries of generous educational benefits. Partly because of the massive presence of veterans on campus, government and the universities and colleges have become more attuned to the problems of young married students with children, and have assisted them with loans, part-time employment, day-care centers, and subsidized housing. At the same time court orders and administrative decisions have forced formerly male and female colleges to become coeducational, thus widening the role of these institutions as communities of mate selection.

Under pressure from militant minority organizations and academic liberals and Marxists, the eugenic role of the colleges is diminished, however, when admissions and graduation standards are lowered. Furthermore, some universities, such as Columbia, Chicago, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Southern California, Wayne State, and Temple have found themselves so swamped by slums that they seem to be small islands of order in oceans of vice and crime. Instead of moving to more healthy environments, these universities have generally committed themselves to the attempted "rehabilitation" of their neighborhoods, which has usually been unsuccessful.

One result is that such universities have largely ceased to be communities either for mate selection or other purposes, and have become places where students and faculty put in minimal time, sometimes at considerable personal risk. It also goes without saying that they are hardly good places to raise families.

What are the practical steps that could be taken to strengthen the role of the campus as an area of mate selection and family formation?

The fundamental step would be economic and would consist of the elevation of the economic position of parents over that of the childless, i.e. financial and other aid to young couples on a scale sufficient to eliminate the economic incentive to remain sterile. This aid might include the following specifics:

*Help in obtaining employment, both for students and non-student spouses
*Low-cost heavily-subsidized housing which provides a pleasant, healthy, and safe environment in which children can grow up
*Free day-care centers
*Free provision of children's nurses and aides to the parents
*Special scholarships and fellowships
*Partial forgiveness on student loans for each child born, up to 100 %
*Relocation allowances for married students moving to attend the institution
*Fully-paid and adequate maternity leave from work at the university
*Low-cost and comprehensive health insurance for children of student parents
*Increases in university salaries for each child born

Such a program would not only have far-reaching eugenic benefits, but could also be in the immediate interest of institutions adopting it, since they would become more competitive in attracting top graduate students, many of whom are married. In this way their prestige would rise, which ultimately is translated into endowments, grants, research funds, and donations. Such a situation would also redound to the benefit of the towns and cities in which the institutions are located.

Aside from the universities themselves, the agency best equipped to plan and carry out much of this program is the Department of Education. Unfortunately, there is very little pressure on it to do anything of the sort, partly because in our highly-fractionated country, where pressure groups occupy the place where consensus once reigned, young parents are one of the few major groups which is not organized to lobby for its special interests. Yet these interests, unlike those of some other minorities, largely coincide with those of the nation as a whole.

In addition to programs and incentives, what is needed is a fundamental change in attitude, a recognition that to court biological extinction is immoral. A new ethic on the campus could inspire so many of the brightest to become parents that those childless by design would feel their self-imposed barrenness as a reproach and would be prompted to marry and reproduce in order to participate.

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