Birth Defects, FBD Marriages

While researching a different topic I stumbled upon the following 2006 report on the Internet. It contains comprehensive estimates for the prevalence of birth defects all around the world. The relevant graph is reprinted below (you can click on it to get a bigger picture).

birth-defects-by-country

What leaps out at first sight is the sheer extent to which the worst affected countries are Muslim ones. Of the 29 countries with a birth defects prevalence of over 70/1,000 births, only 5 are not majority Muslim. 9 of the worst 10 are Muslim. Furthermore, whereas those five are all very poor African nations, the Muslim ones include very rich Arab states like the UAE, Kuwait, and Bahrain.

What explains this? Is it something in the water?

Almost certainly this is due to high rates of consanguineous marriages. As hbd* chick has frequently pointed out, the institution of father’s brother’s daughter is prevalent and commonly accepted pretty much only within the historic borders of the 8th century Caliphate. This is arguably a very regressive custom: While it promotes familial loyalty, the side cost is high rates of clannishness, nepotism, depressed national IQ’s… and, as graphically illustrated above, birth defects.

The country with the least amount of birth defects per newborn is estimated to be France.

Comments

  1. How about that. Perhaps due to hybrid vigor stemming from the mixing of the natural diversity of the French population? France originally had greater ethnic and family system diversity than most European nations.

  2. Looking at the graph i can only wonder. My gut feeling says it is garbage. First there is my Congo rule. I have some deep-seated prejudices against Congo that any human statistic there should be seen as guesstimates without any statically work backing it up. Second what are birth defects? My expectation is that they would consider more things a birth defect in France than in Benin. There is also things like pre-natal screening (and abortion) and the age of the parents. Older women or men have more babies with birth defects

    ps. Please explain all the small pacific island state. They all have low defects but are because of their history not exactly genetically diverse.

  3. When you have a hammer (or think you do), everything looks like a nail. When you’re into HBD, you want to think it’s all about HBD. In this case, likely not.

    0) Let’s start by nothing that this is a 2006 study using 2004-5 data. Maternal and infant health is a fast-moving target — Senegal managed to cut infant mortality by about a third in less than a decade, and they’re far from alone — so while this report isn’t completely obsolete, it’s well past its sell-by date.

    1) most of the countries in the bottom 25 — the “reds” — aren’t Arab. The single biggest group is poor African countries like Sudan, Burkina Faso, and Benin. There are also a number of Central Asian countries — including Kyrgyzstan, where I’m sitting as I type this. (Nice place. Friendly people.)

    That said, if you were to graph birth defects against pcGDP, yeah, you’d have a descending line but with a number of Arab countries in a cluster above the line. Not a huge effect, but noteworthy.

    So, marrying cousins then, right? Ha. Not so fast.

    2) what do most of the countries in the red group have in common? two things. They’re poor as hell, and/or they treat women like crap. Women’s health indicators for Arab countries tend to be really low. That’s not because women are marrying their cousins. it’s because — for instance — there’s little or no government funding for maternal health clinics. If you’re in a country where being an Ob/Gyn is considered a slightly degrading occupation, on par with being a veterinarian, then you’re going to see some women’s health issues.

    religiously conservative societies tend to treat women badly. for the last century or so, pretty much all of the world’s religiously conservative societies have been Muslim. so, yeah, lot of Muslim countries on this list. however,

    3) you’re conflating “Muslim” with “Arab” which is sloppy — I know you know better than that. the red band includes a bunch of countries that are Muslim but not Arab, and that were never “within the historic borders of the 8th century Caliphate”. Putting aside the sub-Saharan African ones, you still have several big Muslim countries that are in the bad group anyway even though they weren’t in the Caliphate. For instance, Pakistan is far down in the red. But Pakistanis don’t do the cousin-marrying thing, so it can’t be that.

    You also have a number of Muslim countries that are doing okay, world average or better — most notably the world’s largest Muslim country, Indonesia. Hey, Indonesia doesn’t treat women like crap! Indonesia has a bunch of female parliamentarians and CEOs, has had a woman President, and has invested significant amounts of money in women’s health.

    4) What are the things that cause birth defects? Well, inbreeding can do it, no question. But so can all sorts of other things. Poor maternal fitness, for instance. (Hey, is there a correlation with those countries where there’s no tradition of women participating in sports or, indeed, getting any exercise outside the house? ) Poor diet, for another. (Like, having a traditional female diet that is all carbs and no protein — which, as anyone will tell you, is a great way to have obese, listless mothers and damaged kids.)

    But the real elephant in the room is environmental issues: pollution and disease. Malaria in particular can cause birth defects — an infection causes the placenta to “silt up” with damaged red blood cells, cutting off the flow of oxygen to the fetus. If the poor kid does survive, good chance it ends up brain damaged. So, no surprise to find poor sub-Saharan African and southeast Asian countries high on the list. Meanwhile, pollution may go a long way to explain why secular Central Asian countries are down there. (I like Kyrgyzstan a lot, but the one thing that would make me hesitate about living here is the air quality.)

    5) Here’s a useful reality check for the inbreeding theory: small island states. Nauru has less than 20,000 people, and they’re all descended from less than a thousand people a century or so back. *Everyone’s* a cousin. Fiji, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Niue, Palau — all of these have small, highly inbred populations. (All the Pacific islands saw dieoffs from introduced diseases in the 19th century, so everyone is descended from fairly small groups of survivors.) So, whenever you see something and you’re thinking it’s because of inbreeding? Go check and see if it applies to the Cook Islands or Palau.

    In this case, no, it doesn’t — all those countries do well.

    6) Finally, one last thought: in a lot of the developed world, abortion is used to reduce the prevalence of defects at birth. You’ll notice that Ireland, where abortion is still sharply restricted, is down in the yellow group instead of the green where you’d expect to find it (wealthy country, otherwise pretty good on women’s rights). On the other hand, Russia is in the top five in the world despite being a middle income country. Russia has a very high abortion rate. Is abortion regularly used to eliminate anticipated birth defects? I don’t know, but given the RF’s anomalous place on the table, it seems a question worth asking.

    I note in passing that Russia’s abortion rate is about 50% higher than more socially conservative Belarus. Belarus is weaker on women’s rights and health issues, generally, has fewer abortions… and is down in the yellow middle of the table. So, is there significant human biological diversity between Moscow and Minsk? Or is something else going on here?

    Doug M.

    • “you’re conflating “Muslim” with “Arab” which is sloppy”

      Where did Anatoly do that? I just reread his post and I don’t see that.

      “religiously conservative societies tend to treat women badly.”

      I’ve lived in secular societies all my life. Actually, I was both raised by atheists and am an atheist. The vast majority of secular women do want to marry and to raise families. Their success rate at this is far higher in religious societies than in secular ones. It is men who are programmed by nature to prefer quantity of partners to quality, to flee committment, to be more promiscuous than women. Secular morality caters to male short-term, selfish desires, not to female ones. Of course in the long term it destroys everyone. Even though I don’t believe in God, it’s obvious to me that secularism treats women worse than do the major religions. The obligation to support a woman and her kids after her sexual sell-by date is obviously pro-woman. The removal of the stigma for discarding her after her sexual sell-by date is anti-woman. They do generally want financial support and they don’t like the idea of dying alone.

      “But Pakistanis don’t do the cousin-marrying thing, so it can’t be that.”

      I have a feeling that you’re wrong on that, though I have no time now to look this up. I’m on my lunch hour here.

      “Belarus is weaker on women’s rights and health issues”

      Can you cite examples of that?

      • Can i laugh very hard at “Their success rate at this is far higher in religious societies than in secular ones.”

        States with a little bit of development and a conservative/religious society have much lower birthrates than liberal ones. See for example Italy, Germany, Japan, Singapore, Korea, Taiwan and how well they do when compared to Sweden, France, Britain etc. Or you could look at the Lander level were the more liberal parts have a higher birth rate. (see for example East German or South and North Italy)

        • Are you suggesting that Germany and Italy are in any way religious or conservative? If so, you are wrong. And South Korea is the most “Westernized” (in the modern, decadent, declinist way, hence the quotes) of the NE Asian countries. Since HK isn’t a country, Japan comes right afterwards.

          • If you mean with “religious” that the Church still has a lot of influence then yes. Especially if you compare it with its neighbours.

            NE Asia: consist of Red China (kicked out by its massive size to form its own group), North Korea (weird and to much propaganda), HK (city state run by the real estate maffia),tiny Macao aka big Casino, Taiwan(conservative China), South Korea (extremely rich third world country), Japan(Belgium with yellow people), Eastern Coast Russia (to much a colony and still to short after the end of the cold war), Some American colonies for which i’m to lazy to wiki for which were run into the ground by American economy theory and possible the Philippines who speak to much English so they are forced to follow American economic theory.
            But in normal conversation NE Asia is just Korea, Japan, Taiwan and HK whose population isn’t far below that of Taiwan

            South Korea declinist? In what way? Samsung can’t overtake any electronics firm, HyundaiKia is number 4 in the world and Seoul is the only place in the world Hollywood fears.

            Japan is so much more Westernized/Modern then Korea that i really can’t see how you could claim otherwise.

            • Dude, you can’t really argue with Glossy on this stuff. I wouldn’t bother, myself.

              That said, I’ll note that South Korea is not “declinist” by any reasonable definition of the word. — it’s a First World country that has seen respectable (average ~3.5% p.a.) economic growth since 2010, is a world leader in a buch of different technology centers, is home to several of the world’s most important enterprises, punches well above its weight in music and culture, etc. etc. blah blah blah.

              Unless you mean (and he probably does) that it has a low TFR. In which case pretty much every advanced economy in the world is “declinist”, along with a bunch of middle income countries including Russia and China.

              Doug M.

              • From what I’ve seen of South Korean pop culture, and admittedly, it wasn’t a lot, it’s raunchier, less wholesome than the Japanese and Chinese equivalents. Also, I remember Peter Frost of the Evo and Proud blog quoting some values poll results which suggested that South Koreans have gone further than their neighbors in adopting the liberal mindset.

              • I’m not into Kpop as it is mainly boy/girlbands but those are always wholesomely marketed.

                I have been to Rome and to Korea. I saw more nuns in Korea so liberal mindsets is not something i expect from them

            • Italy does indeed have high church attendance (it is about the same as the USA). Germany does not – the western parts have a church attendance rate similar to that of the Czech Republic, while the eastern parts are down at Scandinavian levels and the lowest in Europe.

              My understanding of the situation in Italy is that due to economic problems Italians tend to live with their parents well into adulthood and thus (unlike Soviets) are unwilling to start families under such circumstances; it’s not so much a matter of “decadence” (well-off people who just don’t want to be bothered, as in Germany).

        • This may have to do with migration, but it appears that the southern Catholic parts of Germany (Bavaria) are demographically healthier than the more secular northern and eastern parts:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bev%C3%B6lkerungsentwicklung_Landkreise_2007-2009.png

          Within Ukraine the religious western parts are also much healthier demographically:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:NaturalGrowth2012.PNG

        • Hey guys,

          Issue is that countries like Italy, Spain, Japan and South Korea have low fertility rates as a result of a conservative political mind-set, influenced in the past by either Catholic religious morality or neo-Confucianist philosophy, not to favour social welfare policies that favour working women. These are policies like equal payment for equal employment, maternity and paternity leave and pro-natal policies like a one-off baby bonus payment for having a third child.

          @ Glossy: South Korean pop culture looks raunchy but as Charly says, it’s mostly girl groups / boy bands. Japanese pop culture is a lot more disturbing in some ways: manga (comics) and graphic novels featuring porn, bondage and sexual violence catering to both men and women.

          • He’s calling an entire country “declinist” because, based on very limited exposure, he found elements in its culture that “seem raunchier”.

            — You know where South Korea is way more liberal than Japan? Race. Japanese are stone racists, and they’re fine with that — they’ve internalized that being racist is normal for them, and totally cool. You just don’t let it be obvious in front of foreigners because foreigners find it rude. Foreigners and their ways, ha ha!

            South Koreans, OTOH, have become far more liberal on racial issues in the last generation — and this is driven in part by a willful, thoughtful decision to *be less like the Japanese*.

            Doug M.

      • “Where did Anatoly do that?”

        He points out that 9 of the worst 10 are Muslim, says “including many rich Arab states, then immediately starts talking about the practice of consanguineous marriages in Arab countries. He concludes that “almost certainly” marriage customs are responsible. For non-Arab Muslim countries being so low on the list? Hey?

        “Can you cite examples of that?”

        Sure. Here’s one — the Gender Equity Index. Russia is 37th in the world, Belarus is 64th.

        Both countries have CEDAW reports, though Russia’s is getting a bit stale — 2006. Belarus’ is fresher, from 2010. (CEDAW tries to do one in each country every decade.) CEDAW reports cover everything from access to reproductive and maternal health services (“generally poor”; see pps. 18-20) to the number of shelters for victims of domestic violence (zero).

        — This is why you need to pick through older reports carefully — brief googling shows that while the 2006 CEDAW report shows no womens’ shelters, today Russia has 30 or so. Still a very low figure for a country of 140 million people, but, hey, progress. Meanwhile Belarus seems to have opened a single one, in Mogilev in 2011. (There’s also one in Minsk, but apparently it’s used for human trafficking victims, not victims of domestic violence.)

        Doug M.

        • Many non-Arab Muslim societies do have a lot of cousin marriage.

          From the wiki on cousin marriage:

          “figures for Iran and Afghanistan have been estimated in the range of 30–40%.[2] Though on the lower end, some parts of Turkey nevertheless have rates above 20%.[88]”

          “India’s Muslim minority represents about 12% of its population (excluding Jammu and Kashmir) and has an overall rate of cousin marriage of 22% according to a 2000 report. Most Muslim cousin marriages were between first cousins, with the rate of first-cousin marriage being 20%”

          “In Pakistan Cousin Marriages are highly appreciated and in most of the cases cousin marriages are considered first priority because arrange marriages are very common in Pakistani culture. [104]”

          • You act like cousin marriage is a Muslim problem in India while they are the most likely to not marry within cast

          • Dude, you’re citing a misspelled paragraph in a long, badly written wikipedia article. It has one cite, and that’s to an article on *British* Pakistanis.

            That said, a bit of research shows that I’m wrong; Pakistanis do indeed go in for cousin marriages. Unfortunately, the only study that breaks it down by class and region is in Danish, but it’s definitely an issue. (And one that the Pakistanis themselves talk about.) So, I spoke too quickly.

            That said, the other points stand: I’m very skeptical that it’s a HBD thing.

            Doug M.

    • georgesdelatour says:
    • @doug – “For instance, Pakistan is far down in the red. But Pakistanis don’t do the cousin-marrying thing, so it can’t be that.”

      you’re kidding, right?

    • @doug – “most of the countries in the bottom 25 — the ‘reds’ — aren’t Arab. The single biggest group is poor African countries like Sudan, Burkina Faso, and Benin.”

      most of the countries in the red practice cousin marriage to huge degrees, and most of them are father’s brother’s daughter’s (fbd) marriage practitioners, too (the closest, most inbred form of cousin marriage).

      fbd cousin marriage:

      sudan
      saudi arabia
      occupied palestinian territory
      uae
      iraq
      kuwait
      afghanistan
      oman
      syria
      pakistan
      qatar
      bahrain
      jordan
      libya
      tunisia
      morocco
      yemen
      djibouti

      cousin marriage:
      burkina faso (probably fbd marriage, but i don’t know for sure)
      tajikistan (poss. fbd marriage, don’t know)
      nigeria
      kyrgyzstan (poss. fbd marriage, don’t know)
      guinea

      don’t know (having said that, many africa groups practice cousin marriage – not all though):
      benin
      congo
      congo d.r.
      angola
      gabon
      sierra leone

      • 1) A cite would be nice. The only global reference I’ve been able to find is at consang.net. That collects a lot of data together, which is nice — but you need to look at it carefully. (Do /not/ just look at the map. It’s just aggregating data from the tables, and the tables are all over the place. You have sample sizes that range from two figures to six figures, studies that range from nationwide to a single ciity, province, or tribe, and papers dating from 2009 back to colonial-era studies in the 1940s and ’50s.) I’m not seeing anything giving recent good data for Central Asia (outside of much-studied Afghanistan) or most of SS Africa.

        1) While I’m open to cousin marriage being /a/ factor in birth defects, I’m a little dismayed at your rush to judgment here. Most of the countries in the bottom seem to do cousin marriage: fair enough. But most of the countries in the bottom are also poor and/or score particularly badly on womens rights and womens health issues. I don’t think you can just wave your hand and say “well but of course! it’s cousin marriage!”.

        2) There are a number of cases on that red list where we can be pretty sure that cousin marriage is not the issue. I’m writing from Kyrgyzstan, and HBD cousin marriage is strictly taboo in Kyrgyz traditional society. (cite: http://crossroads-asia.de/fileadmin/user_upload/publications/Ismailbekova_Coping_Strategies.pdf, page 25.) Maternal cousin marriages are allowed but are not particularly common. Yet Kyrgyzstan is far down in the red, alas. Personally, I suspect a combination of poverty, environmental issues left over from the Soviet era (much of Central Asia remains an environmental disaster area, and it’s not getting better), and some gruesome marital customs including a very strong tradition of bride abduction. (If your abducted bride wasn’t completely willing, you keep her locked up until she has her first kid. Checkups? Prenatal care? Ho ho stranger, Kyrgyz women are tough.)

        Similarly, Laos has no tradition of cousin marriage whatsoever. But it’s very poor, and malaria rates are still sky high. I’ll throw you HBD types a bone here: malaria rates are high because most of the local populations have evolved a fairly high level of malaria resistance, so that instead of being a potentially lethal disease it’s more of a flu-level chronic annoyance. But it still causes very high levels of birth defects. (The mechanism for this is well understood. Red blood cells damaged by malaria tend to “silt up” in the placenta and clog it, reducing oxygen flow to the fetus. This often kills the kid — but if it doesn’t, you have an excellent chance of a baby with serious brain and other organ defects at birth. There’s a fairly large medical literature on this.) Paradoxically, if Laotians were less resistant to malaria, their government would probably have put more effort into wiping it out… but anyway, on any map of malaria prevalence, Laos always glows bright red. Since we’ve known for over a century now that malaria causes birth defects, I’m thinking that cousin marriages aren’t the first place to look here.

        Doug M.

        • @doug – “A cite would be nice. The only global reference I’ve been able to find is at consang.net. That collects a lot of data together, which is nice — but you need to look at it carefully.”

          trust me, i have (see my blog, in particular the “mating patterns” series in the lower left-hand column).

          consang.net is a good site to check out, which you already have. i also gave a reference in my other comment here in this thread, but you may have missed that. it deals with mating patterns in the arab world. do a few pubmed searches for whatever country you’re interested in plus keywords like “consanguinity” or “consanguineous” for more data.

          @doug – “While I’m open to cousin marriage being /a/ factor in birth defects, I’m a little dismayed at your rush to judgment here.”

          i’m not rushing to any judgement here. a lot of research has been done in the arab countries that have extremely high birth defect rates and they are well connected to the high levels of inbreeding there. again, for starters, see the book i referenced in my other comment.

          @doug – ” I’m writing from Kyrgyzstan, and HBD cousin marriage is strictly taboo in Kyrgyz traditional society.”

          yes, that’s why i said fbd marriage (not hbd (~_^) ) in kyrgyzstan was possible but i didn’t know — because i didn’t. i thought it might be possible with kyrgyzstan being not all that far away from pakistan and afghanistan, but i wasn’t sure.

          @doug – “Maternal cousin marriages are allowed but are not particularly common.”

          not true. depending on where you check in kyrgyzstan, the consanguinity rate can be as high as 12%.

          @doug – “Similarly, Laos has no tradition of cousin marriage whatsoever.”

          yes, they do. second cousin marriage more than first cousin [pg. 194+], but i don’t know what the rates are at all, unfortunately.

          @doug – ” Since we’ve known for over a century now that malaria causes birth defects, I’m thinking that cousin marriages aren’t the first place to look here.”

          “Genetic disorders afflict Arab world”

          “Saudi Arabia has the highest rate of birth defects in the Gulf, with around 80 babies out of every 1,000 born with a disorder. In the UAE, Kuwait and Oman, 70 to 79 children in every 1,000 are born with a birth defect.

          “Sudan has the highest rate in the world at 82 per 1,000, while France has the world’s lowest rate, at 39 per 1,000. Birth defects have been closely linked to marriages between cousins and relatives, a common practice throughout the region and estimated to account for 35 to 50 per cent of all weddings. Such traditions can increase the number of carriers of recessive genes, leading to higher rates of birth defects. Selective and environmental factors, including a lack of public awareness about how to prevent such conditions, also compound the problem.

          Autosomal recessive disorders, in which two copies of the gene must mutate for a person to be affected, form an overwhelming proportion of genetic disorders in Arab patients in the UAE, according to CAGS [Centre for Arab Genomic Studies], which says high rates of marriage between relatives are a leading contributor to the condition. An affected person usually has unaffected parents who both carry a mutated gene. Up to half of all Emirati marriages are between relatives, with 54 per cent of married couples in Al Ain being relatives, compared to 32 per cent in Abu Dhabi and 40 per cent in Dubai.

          Saudi Arabia, has perhaps the highest rate of intermarriage, with up to two thirds of all marriages occurring between relatives. There are no national projects aimed at controlling genetic disorders in most Arab countries, said Dr Ghazi Tadmouri, the assistant director of CAGS…. ‘[I]f you go into the details of some of these diseases you will always find them described as occurring in certain families or tribes, or confined to certain geographical regions. In that case consanguinity is one main reason for that disease to be occurring.'”

          • I’m getting that “talking past each other” feeling that I often get in conversations with HBD folks.

            You’re apparently delighted with a monocausal model where it’s all, or very predominantly, about cousin marriage. While I acknowledge the effect may be real, I don’t see evidence that it’s as utterly dominant as you seem to think. Again, I don’t see that you’re sorting out the effects of cousin marriage from the effects of poverty and general poor treatment of women. I don’t see that you’re even trying to, actually. You seem sure you’ve found the answer, so no other factors need be considered.

            Kyrgyzstan: you’re citing a decade old Russian study that found rates of “between 1.4% and 12%”. Kyrgyzstan is a very rugged country with a fair number of small isolated communities up in the mountains (though the bulk of the population lives in the valleys, naturally). So it’s not too surprising that they could find a few places where the rates were high. That doesn’t tell us anything about the general rate throughout the country. It’s not clear how the Russians define “consanguineous” marriages, but the most common definition includes both second and third cousins. Let’s say it’s only second, and let’s say further that the average for Kyrgyzstan falls neatly between those two figures — which I suspect is not the case, since 90% of the population does not live in isolated mountain villages, but lets go with it. That would mean about 6.7%, or one marriage in sixteen, was between first or second cousins. That is, by global standards, not a terribly high rate — and it’s certainly not high enough to be a significant contributing factor to Kyrgyzstan’s crazy high rate of birth defects.

            (Incidentally, while Kyrgyzstan is “close to” Pakistan and Afghanistan, it’s culturally very, very different. The local language is Turkic, not Pashto or Urdu, and the culture is derived from Central Asian nomads. It’s nominally Islamic, but it’s extremely relaxed Islam, heavily secularized by the decades under the USSR. Tangential to the discussion, but what the hey.)

            Laos: you have one cite from a book that’s about something else, mentioning in passing that second cousin marriages sometimes happen. In a country that was until recently almost entirely rural, this is not exactly surprising. But Laos has no tradition of cousin marriages remotely similar to what we see in Pakistan or much of the Arab world. Nor does mainstream Lao society show any of the factors that tend to correlate with cousin marriages; there’s not a strong tradition of arranged marriages, for instance, nor are women heavily dowried. (As you know, large dowries encourage cousin marriages in order to keep the wealth in the family. That’s one reason cousin marriage is so common in Islamic countries: the Koran mandates the practice of _mahr_, or male dowry. _Mahr_ in many countries is often several years of the man’s salary. Mainstream Lao society does have dowries, but they’re typically pretty dinky, on the order of a month or two’s salary.)

            So we have no evidence that cousin marriage is a significant factor in Lao demographics. Yet Laos has one of the highest rates of birth defects in the world. Laos also has one of the highest rates of malaria infection in the world. And we know that malaria causes birth defects. So why would you think that cousin marriage was the culprit here, as opposed to malaria? (Well, and general poverty of course. Laos is one of the poorest countries in the world.)

            As I said way upthread, when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And when you’re into HBD, it seems impossible to perceive the world in any other terms.

            Here’s the thing: you can throw out Laos and Kyrgyzstan and several others and still have the outline of a respectable argument. Hell, I could make it for you. “While many factors may come into play, cousin marriage is clearly very important. It neatly explains why we have this cluster of countries, and also particularly why countries X and Y — which should be up in the yellows or greens based on income — are down here in the red zone.” Boom, done.

            But instead you’re talking like it is the sole and only explanation for a country’s position on that chart. That’s silly. Does HBD explain why Russia and Belarus are ~60 places apart? Come on, you know it doesn’t. Does it explain why Ireland is so dismally low? Probably not either. And it’s probably not explaining Laos or Kyrgyzstan, either.

            [shrug] Moving along.

            Doug M.

            • @doug – “You’re apparently delighted with a monocausal model where it’s all, or very predominantly, about cousin marriage.”

              nope. i never said that. that’s just something you’re reading into what i’ve written.

              what i’ve been pointing out to you is that, in countries where there is a long-history of very close inbreeding (i.e. fbd marriage), there are a lot of genetic/birth defects connected to that. the geneticists and the medical community know this already. it is an established fact. have a look at the links which i’ve provided you. and these are the majority of the red countries in the chart above, so the reason that most of the countries in the red have such high birth defect rates is because of their high rates of inbreeding. as far as the other countries with rather high rates go (like the ones in the orange zone) i have no idea. probably a multitude of problems like you say, but i wouldn’t be surprised if some of it had to do with inbreeding in some of those countries.

              the only reason i gave the stats/info for kyrgyzstan and laos was to correct your errors. you said that cousin marriage was not particularly common in kyrgyzstan when in fact one study shows that the rate in some areas is as high as 12% (unfortunately i don’t have access to the paper so i don’t know which areas they’re talking about or how widespread the cousin marriage rate is). in my experience, most studies on consanguinity tend to underestimate the actual rates — the true rates typically creep out in medical studies. more data from kyrgyzstan is clearly needed. also, you said that there was absolutely no cousin marriage in laos at all, and that is incorrect, too. that’s all.

              @doug – ” It’s not clear how the Russians define ‘consanguineous’ marriages, but the most common definition includes both second and third cousins.”

              the standard, scientific definition of consanguineous is anything closer to and including second cousin matings. i’m sure these russian scientists don’t mean third cousin matings.

            • Greying Wanderer says:

              “But instead you’re talking like it is the sole and only explanation for a country’s position on that chart.”

              Straw man.

  4. This might be effect of prenatal care.

  5. Greying Wanderer says:

    The UK experience shows it is caused by close-cousin marriage.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1578246/Minister-warns-over-in-breeding-in-Asians.html

    “Figures show that British Pakistani children account for as many as one third of birth defects despite making up only three per cent of all UK births.”

    • That’s a Telegraph article that cites a junior minister, with no link or reference to any scientific paper. There’s no “figures show”.

      Doug M.

      • It is also common for immigrant groups top develop consanguineous marriage as the group of potential spouse candidate is small

        • Greying Wanderer says:

          Is it now? My experience is the groups particularly afflicted with this arrange marriages with their cousins from the same villages / regions.

      • 700 children born with genetic disabilities due to cousin marriages every year
        More than 700 children are born with genetic diseases every year as a result of cousin marriages, an investigation has found.

        Rise in birth defects ‘is top priority’
        Bradford has the second highest number of infant deaths in England and 15 per cent of the population is of Pakistani origin, of which 70 per cent are in blood-related marriages….

        “A study in the paediatric department has so far listed more than 140 different autosomal recessive genetic conditions seen in our child patients during recent years,” he said.

        “It has been estimated that a typical British health district might see about 20 or 30. An ongoing study by the British Paediatric Surveillance Unit has shown that 72 out of 902 United Kingdom children with neurodegenerative conditions live in Bradford. Most of these conditions are genetic.”

        “Foundation Trust staff have published reports showing high rates of deafness, neurodegenerative conditions and microcephaly (small head with learning disability). This has led to genetic research identifying genes for some of these conditions. Families in Bradford and around the world can now benefit from more accurate counselling as a result of these advances.”

        Dr Corry said that while genetic conditions could occur in any ethnic group, it had been found that autosomal recessive conditions were much more prevalent in children of Pakistani origin.

        BradCAS: Establishing congenital anomalies ascertainment system for BiB.
        Bradford has 1% of UK births but 8.5% of progressive neurological deficits. Bradford babies are 60% more likely to die of a birth defect than average. Non-lethal birth defects, including blindness and deafness, are common. Clinicians engage with children and families in the context of concerns about the stigma of birth defects being equated with consanguineous marriage in Bradford’s Pakistani families.

      • Greying Wanderer says:

        The people who don’t want to believe it won’t believe it regardless of the evidence but there’s lots of papers on it out there for people who want to do a few minutes googling to prove it to themselves.

  6. @anatoly – very neat (but sad – i’m a chick) graph!

    the arabs know that they have very high rates of birth defects, and they know it’s ’cause they inbreed (see here for example) — although i’m not sure they realize that fbd marriage is particularly bad (since it results in an excess of double-first cousin marriages). they spend a LOT of their oil money into researching the problem and setting up genetic testing programs for prospective spouses. this is why there’s so much data on cousin marriage in the arab world.

    sorry ’bout the duplicate comments above. i dunno what happened!

  7. Some Tatar/Bashkir/Kazakh tribes in Russia believed that to have healthy children one had to kidnap a bride from far away – the further away, the better.

    If this was a pre-Islamic belief, then it’s a pity that they’ve converted to Islam.

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      It surprised me at first how common it was for so many cultures around the world to all have the same idea about inbreeding too close being harmful – although with very different ideas about where to draw the line on “too close” but it seems to be or have been extremely widespread.

  8. g2-337af867fe9cd20258bdbc586fbefd0d says:

    As a starting point, the graph is interesting. It needs to be statistically processed to refine it. For example, China, Japan, South Korea apply very generously the abortion of defective fetuses and they dont even register them. I am not sure about Russia today. Regarding Israel, there are several reproductive isolated populations, such as the Beduins (with astronomic incidence) and the Palestinians (quite inbred) so the figure may be nonsense average.

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