Obama Adviser Argued: Kids from Big Families Have Lower IQs

February 22, 2012 - 6:21 PM
John P. Holdren

White House science adviser John P. Holdren speaking at Bauman Moscow State Technical University on March 3, 2011. (Photo from the U.S. Embassy, Moscow)

(CNSNews.com) - John P. Holdren, the top science adviser to President Barack Obama, wrote in a book he co-authored with population control advocates Paul and Anne Ehrlich that children from larger families have lower IQs.

The book—"Human Ecology: Problems and Solutions"—argued that the United States government had a “responsibility to halt the growth of the American population.”

“It surely is no accident that so many of the most successful individuals are first or only children,” wrote Holdren and the Ehrlichs, “nor that children of large families (particularly with more than four children), whatever their economic status, on the average perform less well in school and show lower I.Q. scores than their peers from small families.”

Holdren and the Ehrlichs published "Human Ecology" with W.H. Freeman and Company in 1973. In June 2000, a study published in American Pyschologist debunked the notion that children in larger families have lower I.Q.s. But when Holdren appeared in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee in 2009 for a confirmation hearing on his appointment to run the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, he continued to argue for the benefits of “smaller families” on other bases.

In "Human Ecology," Holdren and the Ehrlichs concluded: “Population control is absolutely essential if the problems now facing mankind are to be solved.”

“Political pressure must be applied immediately to induce the United States government to assume its responsibility to halt the growth of the American population,” they wrote.

Holdren and the Ehrlichs also called in "Human Ecology" for redistributing wealth on a global basis. “Redistribution of wealth both within and among nations is absolutely essential, if a decent life is to be provided for every human being,” they wrote in their conclusions.

In a section of the book entitled, “Solutions,” in a chapter entitled, “Population Limitation,” the future Obama White House science adviser joined with the Ehrlichs in writing: “Any set of programs that is to be successful in alleviating the set of problems described in the foregoing chapters must include measures to control the growth of the human population.”

The authors then questioned the values of parents who have large families.

“Certain values conflict directly with numbers, although numbers may also be considered a value by some people, such as businessmen (who see bigger markets), politicians (who see more political power), and parents of large families,” Holdren and the Ehrlichs wrote.

“Those who promote numbers of people as a value in itself, however, may be overlooking the cheapness such abundance often brings,” they said.

“One form of conflict between values and numbers arises in the choice between having many deprived children or having fewer who can be raised with the best care, education, and opportunity for successful adulthood,” they said on pages 228-229. “This dilemma is equally acute whether it is posed to a family or a society. It surely is no accident that so many of the most successful individuals are first or only children; nor that children of large families (particularly with more than four children), whatever their economic status, on the average perform less well in school and show lower I.Q. scores than their peers from small families.”

In a footnote to this passage, Holdren and the Ehrlichs cite a “[r]eport of a National Academy of Sciences Study Panel” that “includes several articles on the advantages to children of being first-born or in small families.”

In the June 2000 issue of American Pyschologist, a team of authors joined to debunk the notion that smaller families somehow produced higher “quality” or more intelligent children. The team included Joseph Lee Rodgers of the Department of Psychology at the University of Oklahoma, Harrington Cleveland of the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina, David C. Rowe from the Division of Family Studies at the University of Arizona, and Edwin van den Oord of the Department of Psychology at the University of Utrecht.

The study these scholars did was based on an analysis of data from actual siblings collected by the federally sponsored National Longitudinal Study of Youth.

“A large amount of publicity has circulated over the past two decades suggesting to parents that they should limit their family size in the interest of, in Blake's (1981) words, ‘child quality,’” Rodgers and his co-authors wrote. “Zajonc (1975) published a popular article entitled ‘Dumber by the Dozen’ that certainly must have led some parents to believe they should limit their childbearing lest they place their children into the diluted intellectual environment predicted for later birth orders, close spacing, and larger families.

“The columnist Dr. Joyce Brothers answered a question sent into Good Housekeeping (February, 1981) by a mother of four asking if she should consider having another baby as follows: ‘Studies have shown that children reared in small families are brighter, more creative, and more vigorous than those from large families,’” the authors noted.

“However,” they said, “the belief that, for a particular set of parents in a modem country like the United States, a larger family will lead to children with lower IQs appears to be, simply, wrong. The belief that birth order effects on intelligence act directly to decrease the intelligence of children born later in a given family also appears to be, simply, wrong.”

“Do large U.S. families make low-IQ children? No,” said the authors. “Are birth order and intelligence related to one another within U.S. families? No.”

In a chapter of a book ("U.S Policy and the Global Environment") published in November 2000, Holdren called for national and international policies aimed at reducing family size as a means of forestalling “global climate disruption.”

“That the impacts of global climate disruption may not become the dominant sources of environmental harm to humans for yet a few more decades cannot be a great consolation, given that the time needed to change the energy system enough to avoid this outcome is also on the order of a few decades,” wrote Holdren. “It is going to be a very tight race. The challenge can be met, but only by employing a strategy that embodies all six of the following components: … increased national and international support for measures that address the motivations and the means for reducing family size.”

At his Senate confirmation hearing in 2009, Holdren said he no longer believed determining optimal population was the proper role of government. However, he did say that appropriate government policies would have the result of decreasing family sizes.

“I think the proper role of government is to develop and deploy the policies with respect to economy, environment, security that will ensure the well-being of the citizens we have,” Holdren testified. “I also believe that many of those policies will have the effect, and have had the effect in the past, of lowering birth rates because when you provide health care for women, opportunities for women, education, people tend to have smaller families on average and it ends up being easier to solve some of our other problems when that occurs.”

The Obama administration has issued a regulation, set to take effect on Aug. 1, that will require all health-care plans in the United States to cover sterilizations, artificial contraceptives and abortifacients without any fees or co-pay. Many American religious leaders, including all of the nation's Roman Catholic bishops, have denounced the regulation as an attack on religious liberty because it will force many Americans to act against their consciences and the teachings of their faith.