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JAMA 100 Years Ago
June 16, 2004


Author Affiliations

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2004;291(23):2887. doi:10.1001/jama.291.23.2887-a

The Chicago Inter Ocean points out the well-known fact that, with the imperfections of the vital statistics in this country, we can form very little idea as to the increase or decrease of the birth rate. But abroad, where special records have been kept most accurately for years, the case is somewhat different, and the question of race suicide can there be put to the test of fact. It quotes from the recent volume of H. G. Wells, "Mankind in the Making," which applies this test to England and Wales, and finds that, while the birth rate has declined between 1850 and 1896 from 33.8 to 28 per 1,000, the death rate has also declined from 23.3 to 17.7. Subtracting the death rates from the birth rates leaves a normal increase of the population and shows only a fall of 0.2 per 1,000. But he still further shows that the ratio of illegitimate births has declined in England and Wales from 2.2 in the period from 1846 to 1850 to 1.2 in the period from 1896 to 1900, and that but for this decrease an actual rise of 0.8 per 1,000 would have been shown by the figures. This would indicate that England and Wales are not only becoming decadent by the decreasing birth rate, but are becoming more moral, and in this counteract the deficiency of 0.2 per 1,000. The fact is that the question of race suicide is really a local one. It may be a serious fact in certain sections, but applied to large territories or whole countries there are many factors which have to be considered, and which will necessarily call for much reserve in any conclusions that may be deduced.

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