Early Anthropological Researches 123
We now turn to certain papers dealing with these points. The first paper we have to notice is entitled : "The Relative Supplies from Town and Country Families to the Population of Future Generations"; it was the first paper Galton read before the Statistical Society of London'.
"This is an inquiry into the relative fertility of the labouring classes of urban and rural populations, not as regards the number of children trought into the world, but as regards that portion of them who are destined to live and become the parents of the next generation. It is
well known that the population of towns decays, and has to be recruited by immigrants from the country, but I am not aware that statistical measurement has yet been attempted of its rate of decay. This inquiry is part of a larger one, on the proportionate supply to the population from the various social classes, and which has an obvious bearing on investigations into the influences that tend to deteriorate or to improve our race. If the poorer classes, that is to say, those who contain an undue proportion of the weak, the idle, and the improvident, contribute an undue supply of population to the next generation, we are justified in expecting that our race will steadily deteriorate, so far as that influence is concerned. The particular branch of the question to which I address myself in this memoir is very important, because the more energetic of our race, and therefore those whose breed is the most valuable to our nation, are attracted from the country to our towns. If, then, residence in towns seriously interferes with the maintenance of their race, we should expect the breed of Englishmen, so far as that influence is concerned, to steadily deteriorate." (p. 19.)
It will be seen that Galton makes two great assumptions : (a) that the population of the town decays, and (b) that the most energetic of our race are attracted to the towns. Now there is no doubt that a considerable number of energetic men do come from the country into the towns, but also many weaklings and the general human refuse also migrate, and it is not at all clear where the balance of gain may lie. If there be a large contingent of the loafing, pauper and even criminal sections of the community who have come from country to town, the want of fertility in the town may be in part due to this selection.
Captain John Graunt in his "Observations on the Bills of Mortality," 1662, was perhaps the first to assert that the town was recruited from the country, but he had the marked experience of London being rapidly refilled after great plagues. Galton got Dr Farr to provide him with the size of family of 1000 mothers between ages 23 and 40 from Coventry, and the same series of mothers from the rural districts of Warwickshire; the former were the wives of factory hands, and the latter of agricultural labourers. He does not say, however, whether the wives of the factory hands were employed or not, and he does not know whether the ages at marriage of the town wives were differentiated from those of the rural wives. Now the town returns show 510 wives under 32 and the rural returns only 466. It follows therefore that the town wives were younger in the selection made than the rural wives; or quite apart from the possibility of an evil influence of town-life on fertility, we might well anticipate that the 1000 town wives would show fewer children. Accordingly, I reconstructed Galton's table, by considering the ages of the wives and reducing the town and country.
1 Journal, March 1873, Vol. XXXVI, pp. 19-26. Galton was elected to the Society in 1860 and served on the Council from 1869 to 1879.