Worse Than the Black Death? The “Second Demographic Transition”


This article should be read in conjunction with my brief essay “On Family” (2014).

by Andrew Hamilton

IN THE 1300s, the Black Death (bubonic plague), possibly history’s greatest demographic catastrophe, killed between 30 to 60 percent of the earth’s White population within a few short years.[1] Today our people are facing an even greater calamity: extinction.

While some readers are doubtless familiar with the well-known demographic transition model (DTM) formulated shortly after WWII, fewer have heard of second demographic transition (SDT) theory, originally advanced in 1986. Its central focus is permanent or structural sub-replacement fertility and the related phenomena — which it views as contributing to radical population decline — of family breakdown and associated ideologies and attitudes downplaying the importance of children, family, and marriage.

Because adherents of SDT view the current period — correctly, in my opinion — as a new demographic phenomenon, they refer to the older theory as the “first demographic transition” rather than the “demographic transition model.” Although there were temporary cases of below replacement fertility during the first transition, these invariably corresponded to exceptional circumstances, such as deep economic crises or war.

According to the co-founder of SDT theory, Dirk van de Kaa, emeritus Professor of Demography at the University of Amsterdam:

If now asked to define the essential difference between the first and second demographic transitions, I would simply say that while the first, the traditional demographic transition, was a long term consequence of the decline in mortality, the second transition should be interpreted as a consequence of fertility declining way below the levels long thought plausible. . . . [Over time,] the number of women of reproductive age will be comparatively small and the number of children born to them will, most likely, remain below replacement level. Three decades of fertility decline have already affected the age structure of most industrialized countries [N.B. — as of 2002: so, 1970–2002; in 2014 we have passed the four decade mark]. . . .

The two transitions appeared to be founded on different family models. . . . In fact, while during the first transition the family became a stronger institution, the weakening of that institution was considered to be characteristic of the second transition. (pp. 2–3, 6)

Clearly, the earlier model worked for us; the second has proved disastrous.

Here, and throughout the remainder of this essay, short-form references to “Van de Kaa” followed by specific page numbers are to Dirk J. van de Kaa, “The Idea of a Second Demographic Transition in Industrialized Countries.” Paper presented at the Sixth Welfare Policy Seminar of the National Institute of Population and Social Security, Tokyo, Japan (January 29, 2002), 34 pp.


A key feature of the SDT is the belief that population collapse has not been due solely to socioeconomic factors (i.e., purely materialist causes), but is equally the consequence of anti-natalist, anti-family, and feminist ideology (although proponents do not call them that, of course). Since 1960 the West has experienced later marriage, lower marriage rates, increased marital instability (more divorce, cohabitation, and single parenthood), massive decline in fertility, and miscegenation both inside and outside of marriage.

Of course, SDT proponents — well-heeled academics and globalist functionaries — are delighted that anti-family ideology and replacement migration have pushed the White race to the brink of extinction.

Nevertheless, the theory was developed in direct response to the sudden onset of sub-replacement fertility, which began among Whites in the First World around 1965. White population collapse was not anticipated by the original demographic transition model, which predicted population stability (replacement fertility) and the persistence of Western marital and family patterns.

It is important to understand that second demographic transition analysis is not marginal.

The European Association for Population Studies, a group of academic demographers that has NGO Consultative Status with the Council of Europe, asserts that SDT “has profoundly influenced research on family and fertility behavior. It can be argued that presently, it constitutes ‘the’ mainstream concept among population scholars dealing with demographic change in European societies.”

University of Oxford demographer David Coleman calls SDT “the most frequently used and cited model of demographic change in the Western world at the present time.”[2]

In 2004, Ron Lesthaeghe — emeritus Professor of Demography at the Free University of Brussels, the other Dutch-speaking (but in his case Belgian) co-founder of the theory — was ranked tenth among the most influential demographers in the world from 1950–2000 by 637 of his professional colleagues.

Revolutionary Change

The speed with which White fertility plunged below replacement, and the precision with which its onset can be marked, is well-captured in a statement by Dirk van de Kaa:

The spectacular decline of period total fertility rates in Europe immediately after 1965 struck the region as unexpectedly as a bolt of lightning coming from a blue, clear sky. No one had predicted that sudden shift. In fact, the population projections of the time customarily assumed a continuation of the, in hindsight, unusually high [White] fertility levels of the early 1960s. That within a few years fertility would drop below replacement level had not been imagined. (p. 6)

In a footnote he added: “The Netherlands offers a good illustration in that regard. The projections with 1965 as the base year concluded that the total size of the population would increase rapidly. A growth from 12.38 to nearly 21 million by the year 2000 appeared likely. The observed figure on 1 January 2000 was 15.9 million.” (p. 6)

What he does not say is that the latter figure includes large numbers of imported non-Whites, their offspring, and, by 2000, grandchildren, etc., not to mention part-White hybrids. 15.9 million was not the number of White Netherlanders. One must keep this distinction in mind whenever raw numbers are cited. Aggregate numbers must be associated with their corresponding dates to form a rough estimate of the size of White (or non-White, including racially mixed) population(s).

Across the White world, “the decade and a half between 1965 and 1980 were the most crucial. By 1990 only a few of the more traditional countries had not seen their fertility drop below replacement. . . A reversal of the steady downward trend has not been observed anywhere.” (p. 12)

Van de Kaa and Lesthaeghe introduced the idea of the second demographic transition in 1986 in “Twee Demografische Transities?” (“Two Demographic Transitions?”) in D. J. van de Kaa and R. Lesthaeghe, eds., Bevolking: Groei en Krimp (Population: Growth and Decline) (Deventer: Van Loghum Slaterus, 1986), pp. 9–24.

Recalling their conversations while formulating the SDT hypothesis, Van de Kaa said, “To our growing amazement and excitement we noted that in both countries [Belgium and Holland] almost every variable in the field of fertility and family formation had undergone very significant changes since the mid-1960s. It seemed as if a new transition had been taking place under our very eyes!” (p. 4)

Again emphasizing the revolutionary nature of the change, Van de Kaa comments upon “the spectacular shift in period fertility that has occurred in the industrialized societies in the thirty years from 1970 to 2000,” adding, “Its amazing simultaneity, first in the countries of Northern and Western Europe, slightly later in Southern Europe, and after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 also in the former socialist countries, cannot possibly be accidental.” (pp. 10–11; emphasis added)

The Role of Ideology in Population Decline

A major factor contributing to fertility decline is attitudinal or ideological. Revolutionary ideological change was a major factor in the decline of marriage and family, the rise of divorce, the spread of birth control (including oral contraception and legalized abortion), widespread cohabitation in lieu of marriage, extramarital childbirth, and extensive miscegenation.

During the first demographic transition, social solidarity was central, as was the idea of the family. All religious and political institutions, from churches to Socialist, Liberal, and even Communist parties, remained committed to the organic Western family. (Lesthaeghe, pp. 3-4)

Here, and throughout the remainder of this essay, short-form references to “Lesthaeghe” followed by specific page numbers are to Ron Lesthaeghe, “Second Demographic Transition,” Basil Blackwell. This is a brief, 7-page encyclopedia-style introduction to the topic in Word format.

In the words of Van de Kaa, the new dispensation has been generated in part by radical changes in value systems, worldview (Weltanschauung), and the spirit of the age (Zeitgeist) that have radically transformed basic norms governing politics, work, religion, family, and sexual behavior.

It is a state of mind, whereby people question the validity of the metanarratives, the grand stories, underpinning the modern [i.e., White, pro-family] period. The belief in progress, in the value of working diligently, in the need to honour the elderly, in the nation state and its sovereignty, and so on and so forth, weakens or evaporates even. (p. 26)

Three cultural-ideological factors propelling population decline in the 1960s were the “contraceptive revolution,” the “sexual revolution with declining ages at first sexual intercourse,” and “the gender revolution questioning the sole breadwinner household model and the gender division of labor,” all leading to “an overhaul of the normative structure.” (Lesthaeghe, p. 3)

In truth, the second transition had a pronounced top-down, “revolution from above” ideological-cultural element, and was not simply a passive, out-of-the-blue, inexplicable upheaval, as SDT theory slyly implies.

The overall outcome of this with respect to fertility is postponement: mean ages at first parenthood rise, opportunities for childbearing are lost due to higher divorce, the share of childless women increases, and higher parity births (4+) become rare. The net result is structural and long term below replacement fertility. (Lesthaeghe, p. 3. Emphases added.)

The changes associated with reproductive collapse were accompanied by widespread “disengagement from civic, professional or community-oriented associations” (Lesthaeghe, p. 4). This is clearly what Robert Putnam, the author of Bowling Alone (2000), describes as a decline in social capital.

Marriage & Divorce

The 1950s and early 1960s are described as “the golden age of marriage” by both Van de Kaa (p. 15) and David Coleman in his Oxford lecture. Virtually everyone entered into marriage when society was still White and demographically replacing itself.

Contrariwise, a strong increase in divorce is characteristic of the second transition.

A crucial element from a demographic point of view is that man-woman relations are increasingly seen as a means of reciprocal emotional enrichment to which the birth of children may, or may not, be considered to be contributing. The relationships are expected to be based on love and mutual attraction, are entered into freely and come to an end once they are lastingly disrupted, whether they have the form of a stable union [unmarried cohabitation] or a marriage. (Van de Kaa, p. 7)

Though many men and women say they want two or more children when surveyed, that reality will be precluded for many by the harsh, disruptive consequences of separation or divorce, which are often emotionally draining and expensive.

A chart in Van de Kaa (Figure 5, p. 17, not reproduced here) shows the US as having the highest divorce rate of any country listed in 1999 (around 58%), though I recall reading elsewhere that Scandinavia’s divorce rates were as high as 70%. In Van de Kaa’s chart the Nordic countries ranged between 40–53% in 1999. Divorce rates in all nations leapt since 1980, the rates for which are also shown. Italy’s divorce rate was lowest at 10% in 1999.

Children in Marriage

Until recently, reproduction took place almost entirely within the family. “Historically, levels of illegitimate fertility [‘fertility outside of marriage’] in the West have been insignificant as (at least until the last few decades) the vast majority of reproduction has occurred within the context of marriage.” (Massimo Livi-Bacci, A Concise History of World Population, 4th ed., 2007, p. 240, n. 14. Emphasis added. Livi-Bacci is Professor of Demography at the University of Florence.)

Reproduction within marriage is no longer universal. Large numbers of children are now born out of wedlock.


Since the 1970s, unmarried cohabitation has replaced marriage as the most frequent type of first union among Whites. Cohabitation is also increasingly viewed as a socially acceptable alternative to marriage, and preferred by the widowed and the divorced as well.

According to Great Britain’s Office of National Statistics, as of 2012, cohabitation was the fastest growing “family type” in the UK.

Australia: Percentage of marriages preceded by cohabitation, 1975–2008 (Source: Australian Government: Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2014)

As seen in the accompanying chart, the figure for premarital cohabitation in Australia rises steadily from 16% in 1975 to 77.7% in 2008. The 1975 starting point (16%) is misleading in the context of our discussion, because in the preceding years cohabitation had already jumped sharply from low historical norms.

In such a regime, people behave as if their current romantic relationship will last forever, and genuinely hope it will, yet continue searching for another love perceived to be closer to the ideal. But new relationships turn out to be limited in duration as well. For example, a divorcee, age 34 (an anonymous woman described by her Israeli psychologist, a former president of the University of Haifa), who was still young enough to have two or three children, had engaged in four “long-term” consecutive romantic relationships, two of them in the form of marriage. Like many people, she continued to search for greater novelty and romantic excitement outside each relationship while she was in it, even if this was done more or less instinctively and unconsciously.

Thus, a strong increase in the dissolution of non-marital cohabiting unions is also characteristic of the second transition.

Births to Unmarried Women

The proportion of extra-marital births has risen sharply during the second transition.

Surveys show a sharp decline in the age at first sexual intercourse for both men and women. Men born in 1972–73 first experienced sex while younger than 18, and invariably at a lower age than men born in the period 1932–1941. Women born 1932–1941 were over 20, on average, when they had their first sexual encounter, while girls born in the early 1970s did so at an average age no higher than 16–17. (Van de Kaa, p. 18)

The proportion of out of wedlock births has surged. Again using Australia as an example, throughout most of the 20th century (the chart, note, goes back as far as 1901), only 4–6% of all babies were born outside of marriage. Abortion was illegal, and therefore unavailable as a means of birth control for pregnant women. As late as 1960 only 4.8% of babies were born out of wedlock. That proportion nearly doubled to 8.3% in 1970, and increased again to 12.4% by 1980. In 2000, 29.3% of all babies were born out of wedlock, and in 2008 34.4% (more than one-third).

Australia: Percentage of births outside marriage, 1901–2007 (Source: Australian Government: Australian Institute of Family Studies, October 2010)
Australia: Percentage of births outside marriage, 1901–2007 (Source: Australian Government: Australian Institute of Family Studies, October 2010)

Of course, many children born within marriage will experience divorce and subsequent single-parent households, the remarriage or cohabitation of their biological parent(s) with other people, and the need to “blend” with any children or other on-scene relatives of their parents’ later partner(s). It is presumably all very confusing and emotionally unsettling.

Table 3 in Van de Kaa, p. 14 (not shown here), calculates the percentage of extra-marital births to all births in 29 advanced countries for the years 1965, 1980, and 1999 respectively. The lowest was 1.1% in Greece (1970), 4% by 1999. The highest was 13.8% in Sweden (1965), 55.3% (i.e., well over half of all births) by 1999. (Remember, 1999 is already 15 years ago, and everything is moving at tremendous speed.) Estonia was similar to Sweden, with 14.8% of all births extramarital in 1965, and 54% by 1999. Other countries fell between the two extremes, though Greece was an outlier on the low end.

According to one source, from 1960 to 2006 the percent of all births to unmarried women in the United States increased 626%. Although the total percentage of unmarried births to Blacks was twice that to White women, actual percentage increases were largest among non-Black populations: All races: 626% increase (1960–2006), Blacks: 99% increase (1969–2006), Whites: 1,291% increase (1960–2006). (“The Contraceptive Revolution and the Second Demographic Transition: An Economic Model of Sex, Fertility, and Marriage,” 2012, p. 3)

Replacement Migration

In the second transition, sub-replacement fertility is viewed as a permanent (structural, long-term) feature of White populations. It is linked to a multitude of living arrangements other than marriage, and a disconnect that occurs between marriage and procreation. Collapsing populations are offset by massive Third World immigration — the course chosen by anti-White elites. Note that immigration restrictions were struck down, and the importation of non-Whites begun, before White populations started to collapse.

Yet Lesthaeghe invokes sub-replacement fertility as a justification for “replacement migration” (his term; Van de Kaa refers to mass immigration as “compensatory”). Replacement migration is the program to replace existing White populations worldwide with Third World non-White populations through mass immigration. It has been going on for decades now, and the endgame is finally in sight for its proponents. Replacement migration, of course, is genocide, a crime against humanity.

A stable population corresponding to replacement fertility (just over two children on average) would mean “no ‘demographic’ need for sustained immigration.” But massive White population decline requires huge migration streams to “stabilize population sizes,” thereby leading to “the further growth of ‘multicultural societies’” and “integration of immigrants and other cultures” (Lesthaeghe, p. 1).

Author Edmund Connelly has drawn my attention to the fact that Japan suffers many of the same fertility and population problems as the West, but has spared itself the insanity of mass immigration. There is no “demographic need” for replacement migration. It is a ruling class want, that is all.


SDT theory heavily emphasizes First World aging in what are now mixed race nations. The great majority of the elderly, of course, are White. By the late 1990s, life expectancy at birth had risen to 75 years for men and over 80 for women. (Van de Kaa, p. 19) But theorists seem eager to anticipate a future problem of the “oldest old” — people over 85. They dubiously project that medical advances and their ready availability to the elderly will extend lifespans indefinitely. (Adopting such a position, of course, also “justifies” increasing immigration even further.)

Real-world experience provides a far less abstract and sanguine view. It is hard even now to cajole or compel the system to respond to the needs of the elderly. Much sooner than you’d think, institutions become noticeably resistant to treating the aged as they would anybody else, often precipitating a cascade of further problems that result in a foreshortening rather than extension of life.

Furthermore, it is difficult not to believe that a Jewish and non-White — indeed, a virulently anti-White — social system will more and more withdraw medical care from and annul social insurance promises made to Whites during their working years in prosperous times, particularly when the elderly are in no position to fight back.

Therefore, the lifespans of Whites are likely to shorten rather than stay the same, much less lengthen, as time goes by. An expeditious but quiet removal of the aged through attrition from the population is just too easy a method to alleviate intractable fiscal burdens, and is consistent with prevailing ideological norms as well, as periodic outbursts of virulent racial hatred from the mass media of news and entertainment, and Jewish spokesmen such as Susan Sontag, Tim Wise, and Noel Ignatiev, make all too clear.

Adherents of the belief set characteristic of Communism, Zionism, and US-UN-EU-style “democracy” are not renowned for their humanitarianism.

Miscellaneous Elements

A number of other components of SDT can be dealt with very briefly.

The theory, like demography generally, treats human races as interchangeable. It examines only raw population statistics within officially demarcated political boundaries, usually nations. Of course, the truth is that races are not fungible. For example, White fertility is much lower than the fertility of colored populations imported into our homelands to replace us.

SDT, like the original demographic transition model, is universalist. Proponents view it as applicable to all races, populations, and nations on earth, when it might simply constitute a good description of what happened to White Europeans.

The authors provide a Maslovian theoretical underpinning to explain the anti-family ideologies that promote non-reproductive behavior. This is based upon an odd reading of Jewish psychologist Abraham Maslow’s well-known hierarchy of needs theory. Proponents of SDT view social atomization and the destruction of the family as fulfilling “higher-order” self-actualization needs of individuals at the pinnacle of Maslow’s pyramid.

Readers who desire more background on this aspect of the theory, which is important to its proponents but irrelevant to me, can listen to the portion of David Coleman’s lecture discussing it; he provides a very clear summary. They can also glance over the “Societal Background” section of Ron Lesthaeghe’s accompanying overview chart contrasting the FDT with the SDT.

Finally, the SDT correctly considers modern contraception and abortion as central to causing sub-replacement fertility. This topic, however, is too broad to deal with here, so I will try to address it in a future essay.


Whites today are confronted with a rapidly diminishing population many of whose members have never experienced intact families while young, much less lived in a White society. There is no precedent for such a development encompassing an entire global population.

In an interview with an anti-White academic who spent years studying “haters” (racially aware Whites), the SPLC, a powerful Jewish hate group with strong ties to the media, academia, and secret police, expressed puzzlement over why a handful of Whites, unlike the overwhelming majority of their fellows, oppose Jewish dominance, totalitarianism, White dispossession, and the cultural and biological genocide of their race and civilization. What, they asked, motivates such perverse beliefs?

One of the professor’s answers was that “haters” often come from broken homes. Indeed, it seems indisputable, based upon SDT analysis, that this must be the case — as it is true also for an expanding lumpen population of aracial, degraded Whites, and affluent “anti-racists” who loyally serve the Jews and government. The truth is, almost no Whites have escaped the harmful effects of the disintegration of the Western family over the past five decades (half a century). Everyone is stranded in new terrain. Most don’t even know what they’ve lost.

Any action, or plans for a free, progressive future following liberation, must take into account the catastrophic consequences of family destruction, and the evaporation of social capital that accompanied it.

Whites everywhere are perilously close to nonexistence as a group in any meaningful sense of the term. Our race’s gravest crisis is at hand.


1. Ole J. Benedictow, author of The Black Death, 13461353: The Complete History(2004), writes: “Researchers generally used to agree that the Black Death swept away 20–30 per cent of Europe’s population. However, up to 1960 there were only a few studies of mortality among ordinary people, so the basis for this assessment was weak. From 1960, a great number of mortality studies from various parts of Europe were published. These have been collated and it is now clear that the earlier estimates of mortality need to be doubled. . . . A historical turning point, as well as a vast human tragedy, the Black Death of 1346–53 is unparalleled in human history.”

2. Coleman makes this statement in Lecture 3, “The ‘Second Demographic Transition:’ New Forms of Family” (at approximately 34:38), one of a series of 11 hour-long lectures comprising his freshman-level Oxford University course, “Demographic Trends and Problems of the Modern World.” All 11 talks can be viewed online through Oxford’s Open Academy program. Readers may be interested to learn that Oxford social science lectures closely resemble social science lectures at less exclusive universities.

Coleman, 67, is a member of the Galton Institute (formerly the Eugenics Society) and has written for its Newsletter (e.g., “Replacement Migration,” March 2001). He is an advisor to Migration Watch UK, which he helped found. Last year he told theIndependent (UK) that white Britons will be a minority before 2070. Unsurprisingly, anti-white elites have attacked him as a “racist.” (E.g., “Watching David Coleman,” Guardian[UK], March 16, 2007.)

* * *

Source: Author and Counter-Currents

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