This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Monday, May 2, 2011

Outliers in Family Demography

The killing of Osama bin Laden has resurrected the very unusual circumstances of his family life. In the first place:
Bin Laden was born in Saudi Arabia in 1957, one of more than 50 children of millionaire construction magnate Mohamed bin Laden. 
In fact, Wikipedia suggests that Osama bin Laden's father had 54 children with 22 different wives. It is almost impossible to contemplate this constant turnover and turmoil of wives and births of children. Indeed, it is said that Osama was the 17th child, and that his mother was the 10th wife, yet by the time Osama's father was killed in a plane crash ten years after Osama's birth, his father had married (and presumably also divorced--since Islam only allows four wives at a time), an additional 12 wives who bore him an additional 37 children. Osama's mother was a Syrian-born woman who was divorced by Osama's father shortly after his birth. She remarried and had additional children.
With respect to the family that Osama created, it is reported that:
His first marriage was to a Syrian cousin at the age of 17, and he is reported to have at least 23 children from at least five wives. 
The last wife, who was reportedly only 17 when she was married, was apparently a human shield in the compound and was killed along with Osama bin Laden.

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