Thursday, December 22, 2011

Fun in the city with Christian

This is Stephen. I've always thought that people tend to exaggerate the differences between Utah and the ever-cool, not clearly defined "outside-of-Utah."

That being said, there are moments, like the time some women protestors were lying down in the middle of UPenn campus topless (still not sure what they were protesting), when I have a "we're not in Provo anymore Todo" moment.

Christian has also had some of that much-touted "real-world" education that people always talk about existing everywhere affected The Fall (i.e. outside of Utah).

Last week we were walking and a strange-looking man walked right up to Christian, and reached out for him. I took my hands out of my pockets, but this guy smiled, patted Christian on the head, and walked away.

Yesterday we were walking to the post office and saw a police van squeal around the corner. Christian loves police men, and loved to point them out when we see them, and today was no exception, except today he got a little extra; while the van was still moving, two police officers jumped out and football hit a bystander, wrestling him down to the ground, cuffing him, and stuffing him into the back of the van.

And on today's walk we were approached by an incredibly drunk man who ran across the street and threw a dollar bill at us, insisting that he wanted to help support my son's "candy habit." I'm certainly not above taking a dollar bill from a drunk bum, but Christian was watching.

I love the city.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Demography part III

This section from a paper I was assigned is discussing hunter-gatherer cultures in an attempt to analyze how our ancestors lived. In a way, it's a "natural" setup, since we've been hunter-gatherers for the vast majority of our existence as a species.

"In these groups, child rearing is a broadly shared undertaking done not only by the parents, but also by older sisters and brothers, aunts, uncles, and grandparents...the average infant in a Efe hunter-gatherer group is cared for by 11 people in addition to its parents."

Rachel's dream.

But on the other hand:

"In these circumstances, members of the grip had an interest in its demographic composition, and would sometimes act to eliminate elderly who were becoming dependent."
(Ronald Lee, Demographic, Change, Welfare, and Intergenerational Transfers: A Global Overview: 2003)

Also, another reading we were assigned discussed maternal support networks, and it looks like maternal grandmothers are much more likely to be supported by a family in the U.S. than paternal grandmothers, even when the paternal grandmothers are disabled and have nowhere else to go. Sorry mom.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Demography tidbits part II: The importance of grandmas

After Simeon was born we were delighted to have both my mom and Rachel's mom come over for a week or so to help out with the newborn. Around this time, my mortality and aging class was discussing the reasons that have been hypothesized for why, out of all the known primates and mammals, humans are the only ones that 1) have an "adolescent" period where they are cared by their parents after lactating but before they are self-sufficient, and 2) live beyond menopause.

This is one of the leading explanations: hunter-gatherer societies use knowledge and skills-intensive methods for finding food, , which allows us to enjoy calorie-dense meat, in contrast to our hominid relatives that just forage for leaves. Learning and developing these methods require a longer learning time, which explains the longer adolescence. However, taking care of teenagers (yes, contrary to popular misconception, in a hunter-gatherer state of nature teenagers are naturally dependent on their parents until their late teens) requires more parenting effort from the parents than they are able to provide for themselves, so older lifespans evolved so that grandma's could assist with the rearing and providing of the children. These grandparents contribute more calories than they consume right up until they die (i.e. retirement is a modern invention that is not natural).

This theory is referred to as the "grandmother hypothesis." So, next time grandma flies out to help out with a newborn, remember that that is why you can expect to live beyond menopause.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

More Demography tidbits

The General Fertility Rate:

Number of children born/Person-years for women aged 15-50 (reproductive interval)

For the Donaldsons 2009-2012:

10/ 6*3= .56

For the Cranneys:

6/5*3= .4

1985-1990 France: .0059
1985-1990 Zaire: .2173

So, according to this one indicator, the Cranneys and Donaldsons have more than twice the fertility rate of a sub-Saharan African country, and more than ten times the fertility rate of France. Of course, this isn't a terribly accurate comparison, since in a normal population there is some variation within the 15-50 range, so the 15 and 50-year olds drag down the overall rate (although Catherine acts as the token 15-year old here), but it's still interesting.