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Health

Fecundity vs. lesbianism; what's more atypical?

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanMay 19, 2010 7:52 AM

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Sex Lives of Supreme Court Justices:

Now that the sex lives of Supreme Court justices have become grist for commentators, we are finally free to discuss a question formerly only whispered about in the shadows: Why does Justice Antonin Scalia, by common consent the leading intellectual force on the Court, have nine children? Is this normal? Or should I say "normal," as some people choose to define it? Can he represent the views of ordinary Americans when he practices such a minority lifestyle? After all, having nine children is far more unusual in this country than, say, being a lesbian.

The GSS can answer this question. Sort of. It turns out that the highest number of children it asks about are "8 or more." Limiting the sample to 1998-2008 so it has some contemporary relevance, ~1% of respondents in the GSS has 8 or more children. But that's not quite fair, since many respondents are young adults, or just starting their families. Limiting the sample to those who are 60 years or older you have ~3.5%. Limiting to 70 and above it goes up to ~4.5%. Scalia is 74 years old, so I think it might be appropriate to judge him by his generation, though the relative gerontocracy of the Supreme Court, and American politics in general, might warrant examination. In 2008 in the GSS asked about sexual orientation, and ~2% of women stated they were lesbian, gay or homosexual. So whether Scalia is more abnormal than a lesbian measured against the general population depends on the reference population you use. For his generation, probably not, but for this generation, perhaps.

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