Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Cousin marriage is frowned upon in the West

Alex Tabarrok writes in a very popular economics blog:
In the United States consanguineous marriage (marriage between close relatives, often cousins) is frowned upon and in many states banned but it is common elsewhere in the world. Approximately 0.2% of all marriages are consanguineous in the United States but in India 26.6% marriages are consanguineous, in Saudi Arabia the figure is 38.4% and in Niger, Pakistan and Sudan a majority of marriages are consanguineous. Cousin marriage used to be more common in the West ...

A recent paper finds that consangunuity is strongly negatively correlated with democracy: ...
It is widely believed that the argument against cousin marriage is the risk of birth defects. Actually the risk is not so large. The real problem with cousin marriage is that if everybody does it, the society breaks down into clans and a civilized democracy is extremely difficult.

Thus cousin marriage is frowned upon in civilized countries.

Update: Today's newspaper advice column has this letter:
Dear Annie: Since my husband discovered that his parents are first cousins, he's been having an emotional crisis that I can't help him with. I was the one who uncovered the secret when I was doing research for a genealogy study to be presented as a gift for my father-in-law's 70th birthday.

I have given my in-laws many opportunities to absolve themselves of their deception, but I must have been far too subtle to make myself clear about the situation. I don't expect an answer from you or your staff members, because I've tried to contact numerous others concerning this subject, and it appears to be taboo for even the most open-minded of venues. — Need Help in California
Yes, cousin marriage is a taboo in America. In most of the world, it is commonplace, and certainly not a secret or emotional crisis. Furthermore, they would find it strange that middle-aged Americans have to do an online genealogical study just to find out who their relatives are.

Another letter says:
Dear Annie: ... My mother was an alcoholic and also blamed my father for her sad life. He finally left, and we kids took the brunt of her sorry existence. Finally, as an adult, I gently cut ties with her. When she developed dementia (partially due to her alcoholism), she ended up in a care facility. ...

So many times, people said, "But she's your mother," as if I had to love her because we were related.
I could be wrong, but I am guess that most of the world would say that she should love her mother even if she is an alcoholic with dementia. Only in America do people discard their parents so casually.

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