The Springboard of the Neolithic Demographic Transition

Great series of accessible papers in the current issue of Science on global population growth. As regular readers of this site will know, I’m semi-obsessed with the neolothic demographic transition, so this paper caught my eye.

When the World’s Population Took Off: The Springboard of the Neolithic Demographic Transition

During the economic transition from foraging to farming, the signal of a major demographic shift can be observed in cemetery data of world archaeological sequences. This signal is characterized by an abrupt increase in the proportion of juvenile skeletons and is interpreted as the signature of a major demographic shift in human history, known as the Neolithic Demographic Transition (NDT). This expresses an increase in the input into the age pyramids of the corresponding living populations with an estimated increase in the total fertility rate of two births per woman. The unprecedented demographic masses that the NDT rapidly brought into play make this one of the fundamental structural processes of human history.

via When the World’s Population Took Off: The Springboard of the Neolithic Demographic Transition.

And here is a graph showing same from the paper. The y-axis is the proportion of 5- to 19-year-old skeletons (to all skeletons 5 or more years old)  in 133 cemeteries across the Northern Hemisphere during the transition from foraging to farming, and the horizontal axis is the elapsed time between the advent of farming at that particular location. Ndt



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  2. What is most interesting is the contemporary demographic transition, which is marked by two phases. The first phase is widely appreciated, but it seems there is a second phase which is only now starting to be appreciated, even though its effects are enormous.

    The first stage of the contemporary demographic transition is well-known collapse in modern birth rates.

    The second stage of the contemporary demographic transition is driven by the cultural gap between secular and religious countries and also of subgroups within countries. In a world where birth control and abortion are available and widespread, those subgroups and societies that have pro-family and pro-natalist beliefs exhibit much higher birthrates than their secular cohorts.

    This second stage is seen in the astonishing fertility gap (of as much as 4x) between the secular and the Orthodox (and especially Haredi) Jews both in modern Israel and elsewhere, the fertility gap between Europe and America, the demographic rise of Africa and the Islamic world, and even the marked differential fertility and long term growth rates between liberal and conservative denominations in America.

  3. What is most astonishing about the second stage is that the intensive and purposeful efforts toward secularization of societies by the much of the left seem to lead invariably toward the relative diminishing of those very societies on the world stage. The Soviet Union led the way in purposeful secularization and leads the way in relative demographic and economic decline. Russia totally reversed course recently on its attitude toward churches, which it hoped to destroy for 75 years, since it turns out they are crucial for Russia's future, but it seems a little late for them.

    Europe followed suit. Much of America's elite seems enamored with the idea of purposeful secularization and anti-natalism these days. Brilliant. The little flaw in this all is that the future belongs to those groups that show up for it, and if your decendants don't bother to show up, well so much for your nice "progressive" society.

  4. mutant_dog says:

    @Dan, where ignorance is fertility, tis folly to be wise.