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JSPES, Vol. 27, No. 3 (Fall 2002 )
pp. 363-379

The Upper Limits of Civilization: Why Improvement of the Commonweal is so Difficult

Wade C. Mackey, Ronald S. Immerman

Over the last half century, advancements in agriculture, medicine, and technology have been impressive. However, large segments of the world's population are underfed, sick, and/or pre-industrialized. The question is addressed: "Why does it take so long for the benefits of civilization to spread to everyone?" Using data from the United Nations (n = 165 countries), it is argued that cultural expectations which enhance fertility are aligned with cultural expectations which, in turn, do not emphasize tertiary education, especially for women. Accordingly, those areas of the world's population which do generate advances in agriculture, medicine, and technology represent a proportionately smaller segment of the world's population every generation. Thus, to remain "even" or to maintain their proportion of the world's citizenry, sizable numbers of individuals from higher fertility/lower technology areas must be systematically recruited - every generation - into a set of attitudes or cultural expectations which were not aspects of their early socialization experiences. The slower the recruitment is, the longer it will take for any putative advance to diffuse. It is further argued that the training and self-interests of behavioral scientists make such societal dynamics likely to be systematically under-reported in academia, and, by extension, to the communities at large.