cousin marriage and increasing population size

several researchers have suggested that cousin marriage rates increase as population size (or survivability) increases (see the articles i linked to at the bottom of this post, for instance). here is alan bittles (the guy who runs on the matter [pg. 3]:

“[T]he recorded numbers of consanguineous unions appear to have grown at least in step with increasing national and regional populations, and in some economically less developed countries the proportion of marriages contracted between close biological kin has expanded. The simplest explanation for this observation is that as greater numbers of children survive to marriageable age, the traditional social preference for consanguineous unions can be more readily accommodated.”

hmm. maybe. but i don’t think this is the whole answer to the question. lookie here — according to jurdi and saxena, here’s how the consanguinity rates in some middle eastern countries have changed (or not) over the past decades (all of their references were published in the 1990s, so we’re talking about changes before and up to that point in time):

uae (pub. 1997)

jordan (between 1900-1964)
oman (pub. 1996)

bahrain (pub. 1996)
lebanon (pub. 1998)
kuwait (pub. 1996)
syria (pub. 1995)

but look at the population growth rates for these countries (all charts taken from wikipedia. not included are uae and kuwait — no charts available from wikipedia, but those populations have also increased. maybe i’ll whip up some cupcakes charts one of these day. the population data is sourced from the fao. yeah, i know — the scales are all different.):

countries with increasing rates of cousin marriage


countries with stable rates of cousin marriage

jordan (between 1900-1964):


countries with declining rates of cousin marriage




i dunno. call me crazy, but i see increasing populations in all these countries from the 1950s/1960s onwards — except for lebanon which flatlined during the 1970s/1980s. (and doesn’t that mean there was prolly increased survivability in all these countries, or am i missing something here?)

so, i’m thinkin’ there must be something more to increased rates of cousin marriage than simply increasing population size. what that something is, i’m not sure. but inquiring minds want to know!

previously: inbreeding amongst christian arabs

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inbreeding amongst christian arabs

ihtg wonders how much christian arabs inbreed. ask and ye shall receive!

in a study published in 1984, a survey of the rural arab population in western galilee in israel found a 39% rate of consanguineous marriage (that included 1C and 2C). specifically, druze = 49%; muslim arabs = 40%; and christian arabs = 29%. the most common cousin marriage form was first cousin, fbd marriage.

the rates weren’t very different in 1990-92 (this was a “whole israel” study): druze = 47%; muslim arabs = 42%; and christian arabs = 22%. (recall, the rates in southern italy in the early ’60s are comparable to these druze and muslim arab rates! but cross-cousin marriage was/is more common there, i.e. not fbd marriage.)

and while they’re not exactly arabs, the lebanese are in the neighborhood — here from a study done in beirut in 1983-84:

so, the rate of cousin-marriage amongst lebanese christians was 16.5% while the rate for muslims approached double that at 29.6%.

christians married cousins more distant than first cousins at a slightly higher rate than they did first cousins: 8.6% (>1C) versus 7.9% (1C). muslims, on the other hand, favored first cousin marriage: 17.3% (1C) versus 12.3% (>1C). this is a similar pattern found elsewhere in the middle east/arab world. in egypt, for instance, copts tend to marry second cousins while muslims tend to marry first cousins (no, i can’t find the reference!).

there was also more fbd marriage amongst muslims (6.4%) versus christians (3%).

btw, a study published in 2009 found an overall consanguinity rate for beirut and other areas of lebanon to be 35.5%, so cousin marriage is obviously not going away in lebanon.

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virtual tribalism!:

“Online game mirrors Lebanese political scene”

“A new online game designed to mirror the Lebanese political scene allows players to join different tribes and parties modeled after the country’s own affiliations and pit themselves against one another in a bid to achieve social domination.

Lebania, which went fully live Wednesday morning after a two-week trial period, is the brainchild of a Lebanese software developer, who is keeping his or her identity under wraps at this stage because of the divisive nature of the game….

“Players of the game, which can be found at, choose one of four tribes – Trinity, Quraysh, Yerevan or Tawhid – intended to represent Christians, Muslims, Armenians and Druze. To play the game, players must attempt to take over neighboring villages with their own resources. They also have the option to form strategic alliances with other players. [just like real life! – hbd chick]

“Reading the description of the tribes, it’s clear where the impression that the game is controversial comes from.

“The Trinity (as in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit) tribe is described as having comparatively ‘high levels of social and technological development,’ while the Quraysh (the name of the dominant tribe at the time of the emergence of Islam) are characterized as ‘the plundering hordes roaming the lands’….”


see Lebanese people

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