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There is a theory that the demographic transition acts like a filter on people who are genetically less interested in having children but eventually pro-natal genes from the others will win out and TFR will boom. The french and secular jews were the first to go through fertility collapse so maybe their improved TFRs are the light at the end of the tunnel.

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Yes. The question is just how weird those of us who decide to have children today are, and how that will affect the composition of future populations. Or whether there are many enough of us, or we will be conquered by foreign, higher-fertility populations before fertility has the chance to rise among us.

Has the TFR of secular Jews improved?

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I meant secular israeli jews.

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>>In general, shaming people for lifestyle choices is taboo in individualistic, Western societies. But there is one exception: Parents. Since they don't act as individuals, but are responsible for the wellbeing of other individuals, parents are legitimate objects of shame. All moralists know this. Whoever feels like shaming some group of people, is likely to pick parents who are not good enough one way or another. In itself, this makes people anxious not to have children before they have assembled enough social capital to parry all or most shameful situations. This probably explains a good deal of the increase in the age of new parents.

I agree with you assessment but would put the weight more on that I think that the norms are such that most young people have other prospects and options. Status is definitely a factor here but it's also that there are so many things you can do with your life at that age that feels more interesting to young people in modern metropolitan society. And having children seems boring AND low status at the age of 21. Shaming plays an indirect role in that the the feeling is that the people that do are either religious, poor or lack any ambition for themselves and their future. For many people at that age it is also hard to know that you've "met the right one" and it feels irresponsible to try to have children when you're not even done studying.. (To your point of raising the bar)

So it's like we have postponed adulthood for almost everyone in modern society?

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>>Status is definitely a factor here but it's also that there are so many things you can do with your life at that age that feels more interesting to young people in modern metropolitan society.

I agree. People do not only care about how others see them. They about doing things they like and avoiding things they don't like too. I think shaming is most of all a phenomenon that works on the margin and makes people who hesitate decide against having children.

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Thanks for the shoutout for Haredim!

> > deny them all leisure activities except Torah studies.

I think this is a bit of an exaggeration, though it is mostly true for boys post elementary school. The study of Talmud is very intense (and invigorating).

In Israel, Haredim are opposed to organized sports as they associate it with secular culture. However, I believe the children are free to play for a significant portion of the day, though I am not familiar with the exact details. Perhaps you know more than I do.

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>>Perhaps you know more than I do.

Unfortunately I know too little. I scrap information together from newspaper articles. If I knew a book about the Haredim or Israel in general I would definitely read it. But I haven't come across such a book.

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I don't currently know of any such books, but I can keep an eye out. Perhaps you can add this to the topics of your book list: books about high TFR societies.

For now, I suggest you read the reports from the Israel Democracy Institute. Read as many years as you can. Perhaps you can translate the full reports from the original Hebrew.

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I remember controversy in the US during Covid because New York-based Haredi families kept cutting the chains and padlocks off the playgrounds so their children could play. When you have 8 kids in an apartment, you need *some* outdoor playground space...

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And probably they were right! The assumption that Covid spreads outdoors was always a bit strange.

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If your options are indoors or outdoors, outdoors is obviously better. But things were insane back then, and kids really got thrown under the bus here.

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Things were insane in Sweden too, although in the other direction. Here old people were supposed to make 98 percent of the sacrifices.

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You're point that shame plus subsidies equals perverse incentives for the worst of people, is a very good one.

Online in mom communities, there can be dynamics of ridiculous levels of shame over minor things, and others where pretty much no parenting choices are allowed to be shamed. In the latter communities, the taboo for shaming topics include (but ar not limited to): quantity of children, breast or formula, daycare or nanny or SAHM, having a breakdown, gentle parenting, schedules or lack thereof, cosleeping or not (safely!), seeking therapy/mental health issues, divorce, gender nonconforming stuff.

Compromising car seat safety, stomach sleeping for babies, corporal punishment, being judgmental about or towards other moms are very very frowned upon though.

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Have you read any Brian Caplan on Lazy parenting? It's not exactly the same as what you are saying, but it might connect. It's something like "Kids are fun and you have less control as a parent than you think, so just do a decent loving job and everything will work out OK. You shouldn't be so stressed about having kids - many parents are stressing themselves out for no good reason."

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I have looked at it. In general I don't read Bryan Caplan, because 1. His arguments feel a bit slippery, like if he cherry-picks a bit too much for my taste, which means that I wouldn't dare to quote him and 2. I mostly agree with him anyway, so I won't learn anything new.

But although I didn't read much of that book, I definitely think he is right. I'm sure that people who haven't read too much on the issue already could make use of the book.

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FWIW In the US certain groups (e.g. Mormons) have much higher fertility that the rest of the nation.

But yes. Overall society in the developed world has made the perfect the enemy of the good regarding children. "If you can't give your children a perfect life then you shouldn't have any"

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Mormon fertility is sinking rapidly. From Wikipedia:

"As of 2021, American church members have an average of 2.8 children per household by ages 35-45, as opposed to a US national average of 2.06."

https://religionnews.com/2019/06/15/the-incredible-shrinking-mormon-american-family/

The Amish seem to keep to their old high-fertility habits.

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>> After all, there is no shame in waiting. There is also no shame in having only one or two children or in having no children at all.

I believe the elimination of non-parent shaming is as important, if not more, than the introduction of parent shaming. Back in the day, it was just not ok to be single and childless at certain age, and the fear of this shame drove people to enter relationships, marry and have children.

A generation ago, it was a common trope to hear older parents push or encourage a young married couple to have (more) children. Now it seems like it's the total opposite - children are discouraged by the older generation.

What I think happened is that the generation of my parents (I'm 34) was first encouraged to have children by their parents, and they did. Then, parent shaming kicked in and so our parents were shamed (more or less - no parent is perfect and, as noted before, the standards were and still are incredibly high). Now, feeling cheated by the society and their parents, our parents discourage us from having children, to protect us from the shame they experienced themselves.

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I'm old enough to remember when marriage & children were assumed and no kids was shamed. It took me special effort at age 28 to get my tubes tied!

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I think parents o grown up kids want their kids to have kids but they don't pressure them because they don't want to ruin the relationship and it's also very friend upon nowadays to hint at encouraging others to have kids, especially to hint that you want grandkids.

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>>I believe the elimination of non-parent shaming is as important, if not more, than the introduction of parent shaming.

Yes. What matters is the balance of shame. Not absolute quantities of shame.

I also think you are right concerning the dynamics between generations. I'm almost 40, and I grew up with the impression that good parents always felt insufficient.

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I'm not super qualified to comment on this, but based on my one summer living in Jerusalem ten years ago, when I visiting a few ultra-orthodox neighborhoods, there's a real antipathy between the ultra-orthodox and secular Jews. They are seen as welfare-exploiting, draft-dodging, dusty old "black hats," not as aspirational examples.

But I think your broader point stands!

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It doesn't surprise me. I have heard similar things from Israelis abroad. The ultra-orthodox have some important privileges and it is not strange if the rest of the population get tired of it. More or less, they must get tired of it at some point, because otherwise they will have a defenseless, impoverished country to deal with.

Still, it is quite amazing that those privileges have held up this far. There was a proposition to take away the right to subsidized daycare from the children of Yeshiva students, but it didn't pass, if I get it right.https://www.timesofisrael.com/high-court-stalls-cut-to-daycare-subsidies-for-children-of-yeshiva-students/

https://www.timesofisrael.com/oecd-calls-on-israel-to-cut-subsidies-for-yeshiva-students-boost-employment/

From the outside, it looks like the difficulties in taking away those privileges point at a rather high level of support for the ultra-orthodox from broader segments of Israeli society.

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I think you are right that this is much more complicated than it appears to an outsider. There are various kinds of Haredim. Many of those in Jerusalem are extreme. The secular culture in Israel is also on a spectrum. Many secular Jews recognize that Haredim are the most similar to their own grandparents, and they respect them for that. I imagine that Jews that insist on staying in Israel tend to be more idealistic.

> > More or less, they must get tired of it at some point, because otherwise they will have a defenseless, impoverished country to deal with.

To some extent I agree with this. I believe that when Haredim multiplied and gained political power (in the 80s) they became more extreme and insular. However, the pendulum will have to swing back as they take over the country. I believe they want that to happen, but they feel that they need to be in control of it. They don't want their children in an army or university which is controlled by people with an anti-Haredi attitude. Hopefully a path will be found for a peaceful transition.

As we discussed previously, their brethren outside of Israel are not impoverished.

However, I would like to note here a response I almost made to your comment here https://woodfromeden.substack.com/p/building-utopia-endurable-version/comment/48139344.

Considering that you recognize that ultimately the greatest challenge to Israel is the demographic challenge, wouldn't you say it makes sense for the country to invest in a strong Haredi society, even if the economy and army will grow slower?

I am very curious to hear an outsider's perspective on this from someone who appreciates the importance of fertility and demographics.

One final point.

It seems to me that some of the privileges that the media claims Haredim enjoy may be exaggerated. For instance, when Haredim are depicted as low income is the data controlled for the difference in the median age of Haredim and the average median age. Additionally, Haredim have a longer life expectancy, so they have more time to contribute to the economy. And of course, even when Haredim are poor they don't necessarily take more from society, but rather they consume less.

I hope I'm not intruding with all this Hared apologetics.

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>>Considering that you recognize that ultimately the greatest challenge to Israel is the demographic challenge, wouldn't you say it makes sense for the country to invest in a strong Haredi society, even if the economy and army will grow slower?

That depends on what it means to invest in a strong Haredi society. If the investment leads to people starting to work in the productive sector and contributing to the army, then absolutely. If the investment only leads to even more people studying religious texts even more, then I don't know. Israel has enemies on most sides. How much religious studies can it afford before Hamas breaks in and slaughters everyone over their Torah books?

Especially it is strange that Ultra-Orthodox Israeli males work so little in the productive sector.

https://worldcrunch.com/culture-society/why-israel039s-special-privileges-for-ultra-orthodox-must-end

All over the world, Ultra-Orthodox Jews are successfully participating in the economy. In that light the Israeli situation looks like the result of some kind of bad policy.

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Thank you for acknowledging the true genocidal intentions of Hamas. It is greatly appreciated these days.

Do you agree that if Israel does not succeed in eradicating all the genocidal elements among the Palestinians (perhaps due to international pressure) there is no solution in sight?

I feel that in this case the only long-term solution will be if Israel succeeds in outnumbering the Arabs demographically, to the extent that they can then annex "the entire area "from the river to the sea" and give full citizenship rights to all residents without the threat of the Arabs turning their backs on them. Therefore, I feel it is essential for Israel not to throw out the baby with the bathwater and to invest in Haredi society in such a fashion that they can remain Haredi.

Certainly, Haredim do need to start serving in the army. I believe that will only happen if (a) they have control over the religious atmosphere in their divisions and (b) they are allowed to defer serving to the age of 26-28. Hopefully such a path will emerge soon.

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>>Do you agree that if Israel does not succeed in eradicating all the genocidal elements among the Palestinians (perhaps due to international pressure) there is no solution in sight?

As a matter of principle I hardly ever discuss the Israel/Palestine question because my impression is that for the vast majority of people discussing it, it is just a proxy for the first world/third world question. People sympathize with Israel because they sympathize with the enlightenment and efficiency of the first world, or they sympathize with the Palestinians because they sympathize with the suffering of the third world. However, you clearly have an interest in the issue in itself, so I make an exception.

I think the conflict seems very hard to solve since there clearly are genocidal elements among Arabs against Jews. Your demography-focused solution is interesting for that reason: Since nothing has worked to this date, everything that hasn't been tried already could be the thing that works. The question that remains for me is whether the genocidal elements would disappear from being outnumbered.

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Thank you for the response. I greatly admire your clear-headed thinking on many divisive issues. I obviously am biased towards my birth culture. Finding someone from a completely different background who thinks the same way is something special.

>>The question that remains for me is whether the genocidal elements would disappear from being outnumbered.

Yes. But if the entire area would be controlled by a stable first world government with a functioning economy, police force and a deradicalized education system I think there is a good chance.

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Re the article you linked.

If you don't mind, I would like to comment on this. I feel that while there is a valid point that Haredim need to integrate more into the economy, there is also much exaggeration. These points are the same that you will inevitably encounter in any high TFR society. Such a society will inevitably have a higher poverty rate, because the poverty rate for a larger family is higher, and more children does not magically bring a higher income. Instead, larger families manage with less. Additionally, a society with a lower median age will inevitably have lower rate of employment and a lower average income, because younger people earn less.

Now for the data. Here are the 2 most recent reports on Haredi society in English, and the most recent report in Hebrew. https://en.idi.org.il/media/22766/annual-statistical-report-on-ultra-orthodox-haredi-society-in-israel-2023-executive-summary.pdf

https://en.idi.org.il/media/20567/annual-statistical-report-on-ultra-orthodox-haredi-society-in-israel-2022-executive-summary.pdf

https://en.idi.org.il/media/22766/annual-statistical-report-on-ultra-orthodox-haredi-society-in-israel-2023-executive-summary.pdf

I find it quite fascinating that Hareidi women have about the same rate of employment as n Other Jewish women, despite their young age and large families. There certainly is room for the men to improve and they have been improving. (The report states that the growth has come to a halt, yet somehow there is a difference between the 2 reports.) However, since there is only one chart for all ages, I don’t know how large the gap actually is. It is very encouraging to see that the rate of higher education among Haredim is rising fast. I think this should be a top priority for the government of Israel, that there Haredim should be able to access higher education on their own terms.

Are Haredim taking a drain on the Israeli economy?

It is hard to tell. The report shows clearly that they spend far less per capita. Additionally, the idea that Talmud study is unproductive is false. The main reason for this myth is that Talmud teachers charge little for their services. However, tens of thousands of foreign students are in Israel to study Talmud from the Israeli scholars, even during the war. These students are a major boost to the Israeli economy. Not only do they contribute to the economy, but their friends and relatives come to visit them, which is a major source of the tourism industry. The salary of Talmud students is mainly from private contributions, especially from America, and if a teacher of Talmud ever finds himself in financial need (i.e. when marrying off his children) his students and admirers from across the world will rally to his side.

The final question is the social one. Haredim in Israel are unique in that their women have a higher employment rate than the men (though I believe that if we would focus only on the ages above 35 the picture would be very different). Is this truly because they value the study of Talmud so deeply or is it because they are misogynistic?

I don't know how to answer this question directly. However, the report from 2022 shows clearly that Haredim are far more satisfied with their life than other Jews. I assume this includes both men and women.

I apologize again for diverting the conversation. However, I feel I have finally found someone who can appreciate what Haredim have to offer.

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I think that you are largely right. The important question is not whether the Haredim are net pluses or net minuses in the Israeli economy right now. The important question is whether they will be able to manage the hard jobs of provision and defense of a large part of the country.

I think you are right that things are moving in the right direction. They should: When Israel was funded, it seems like they made the mistake to divide labor between workers, soldiers and Talmud readers. Now that the Talmud Readers are becoming too many, it seems they are adapting to other tasks. Hopefully fast enough.

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Also I would have thought the Israeli secular fertility was higher. I think it might have fallen a lot too, like the Mormons'.

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Me too, I had to double-check. It seems to have decreased during the last few years. https://www.timesofisrael.com/israeli-population-growth-slowing-as-fertility-rates-continue-to-fall-report/

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COVID probably contributed, as it has in the US.

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