More babies, please

The cultural shift away from child-bearing

The following comes from an essay by Ross Douthat which appeared in the Decmber 1 New York Times.

IN the eternally recurring debates about whether some rival great power will knock the United States off its global perch, there has always been one excellent reason to bet on a second American century: We have more babies than the competition.

It’s a near-universal law that modernity reduces fertility. But compared with the swiftly aging nations of East Asia and Western Europe, the American birthrate has proved consistently resilient, hovering around the level required to keep a population stable or growing over the long run.

America’s demographic edge has a variety of sources: our famous religiosity, our vast interior and wide-open spaces (and the four-bedroom detached houses they make possible), our willingness to welcome immigrants (who tend to have higher birthrates than the native-born).

And it clearly is an edge. Today’s babies are tomorrow’s taxpayers and workers and entrepreneurs, and relatively youthful populations speed economic growth and keep spending commitments affordable. Thanks to our relative demographic dynamism, the America of 50 years hence may not only have more workers per retiree than countries like Japan and Germany, but also have more than emerging powers like China and Brazil.

If, that is, our dynamism persists. But that’s no longer a sure thing. American fertility plunged with the stock market in 2008, and it hasn’t recovered.

Last week, the Pew Research Center reported that U.S. birthrates hit the lowest rate ever recorded in 2011, with just 63 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age. (The rate was 71 per 1,000 in 1990.) For the first time in recent memory, Americans are having fewer babies than the French or British.

The plunge might be temporary. American fertility plummeted during the Great Depression, and more recent downturns have produced modest dips as well. This time, the birthrate has fallen fastest among foreign-born Americans, and particularly among Hispanics, who saw huge amounts of wealth evaporate with the housing bust. Many people may simply be postponing childbearing until better times return, and a few years of swift growth could produce a miniature baby boom.

But deeper forces than the financial crisis may keep American fertility rates depressed. Foreign-born birthrates will probably gradually recover from their current nadir, but with fertility in decline across Mexico and Latin America, it isn’t clear that the United States can continue to rely heavily on immigrant birthrates to help drive population growth.

Among the native-born working class, meanwhile, there was a retreat from child rearing even before the Great Recession hit. For Americans without college degrees, economic instability and a shortage of marriageable men seem to be furthering two trends in tandem: more women are having children out of wedlock, and fewer are raising families at all.

Finally, there’s been a broader cultural shift away from a child-centric understanding of romance and marriage. In 1990, 65 percent of Americans told Pew that children were “very important” to a successful marriage; in 2007, just before the current baby bust, only 41 percent agreed. (That trend goes a long way toward explaining why gay marriage, which formally severs wedlock from sex differences and procreation, has gone from a nonstarter to a no-brainer for so many people.)

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  1. Abeca Christian says:

    What a cute baby, I love this picture….

  2. Chuck Anziulewicz says:

    In my lifetime alone (I was born in 1959) the human population of this planet has gone from 3 billion to 7 billion. It could conceivably reach 9 billion by the time I die. These are all people that will have to be fed, clothed, housed, educated, transported, employed, entertained, and had their medical and sanitary needs met … at least in the best of all possible worlds. Greenhouse gas emissions will continue to increase, deforestation will continue unabated to make room for it all, climate change will continue to spiral out of control … and yet the common refrain amongst Catholics is, “There can never be too many people!”

    Future generations face unimaginable misery because of this attitude.

    • Tom Byrne says:

      Chuck: Most demographers predict a peak in world population about 2040-2050, followed by a decline to 5-6 billion in 2100. I hope all those elderly singles still alive in the West find a way to teach their cats and dogs how to take care of them.

    • John Feeney says:

      What’s your suggestion Chuck? Kill ‘em?

    • Plants consume carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, new trees grow, renewable energy is had from sun, wind, corn, soybeans, cities continue to grow higher, some people trust God and increase while others do not and decrease.

    • I remember all the hysteria in the 1960′s & 70′s predicting world wide famine and pestilence from overpopulation (remember “Poplulation Bomb;?) uhm, which had they been even remotely close should have happened about ten years ago , and according to them, we’re all supposed to be living cheek and jowl, gasping for air in overcrowded cities, everywhere…even in most remote places were supposed to be crawling with people and we’re all duking it out for the last crust of moldy bread. Hmmm. So much of the pseudo-science was presented in the most sensationalist manner possible to enrich the various authors and their publishers. You might want to start thinking for yourselves, any of you who fall for the doomsday prognosticators like the blowhard who recently got a ‘free nobel prize with your next oil change’ for his highly profitable speaking tours on global warming (he won over Irene Sandler, the nurse who saved hundreds of babies in Nazi Germany) and has made millions selling his doom and gloom theories.
      I think people are marrying way too late and by the time they finally decide they have all their ducks in a row they’re too old to have more than one or two children at the most, and find they’re too tired to manage energetic two year olds. Also, by marrying so late people generally have multiple sexual relationships making it more difficult to stay satisfied with just one person later on leading to multiple divorces. Also, I think classes on home economics and baby & child care should be brought back to school systems. Instead students are indoctrinated with sexual deviation and socialist theories.

  3. Larry from RI says:

    The real reason for lack of population growth is the loss of religious faith.
    If there is no life after this life,then we are like cats and dogs.
    What ever happened to the spiritual soul,how explain free will,imagination,etc.,etc..
    Babies are a punishment not a blessing.Who said dat?????

  4. It cost us over $100,000 to get our son thorugh the University of California, and will cost about $150,000 for law school. Studies show it costs about $200,000 to raise a child just to age 18. Do the math…..child birth and rearing and college educating a child is rapidly becoming a game for the wealty. A child is one couple’s largest and most expensive investment. Small wonder that birth control among we Catholics is at the same rate as Protestants.

    As an economy develops, its birth rate declines. Even India is seeing a levelling off of births, but births in its poorest province are still very high.

    We must pray that the Holy Spirit will touch our Holy Father with new wisdom about the stress on family life with too many births, and its consequent health and financial struggles. Here in the good old USA, the laity have already decided the issue….75% of Catholic couples contracept. In Europe, it’s about 95%.

    • I wonder why everyone feels that college is absolutely necessary? Especially when it is cost prohibitive. Where will we get grocery clerks, pizza delivery drivers, hair dressers, bus drivers, custodians, call center representatives, etc, etc….It takes people to run and staff all these businesses in our U.S. economy, an economy which WOULD BE THRIVING with 55 million more citizens had we not KILLED them by abortion. More people=more need for goods and services=more jobs=more $$ changing hands=a thriving economy. Its really very simple. Stop abortion and our economy will absolutely flourish.

    • Kenneth M. Fisher says:

      And a great many are entering the gates of Hell!

      Kenneth M. Fisher

    • John Feeney says:

      Hey goodcause, are there any other sins that you recommend?

  5. Anonymous says:

    I heard last night on the radio that the sperm count of French men is way down.

    So maybe we can eventually expand and make that our 51st state?

  6. oh, by the way, I am a grocery clerk, 26 years, no college. I make a decent living and have raised my family and we are quite comfortable, thank you.

    • Steve thank you for your two common sense post.

      I think that those who believe that college is the only way to become better off should read the book “The Millionaire Next Door”. The author, a college professor did a study to discover what made a millionaire in the US. He was actually shocked at what he found, so much so that he had to change his thesis. He found that contrary to the conventional wisdom that says you need a college degree to get ahead just wasn’t true. Minus the professions of Physician or Lawyer, the only common determining factor in becoming a millionaire was not a college degree, but starting your own business. He discovered that of those many millionaires and multi-millionairs who had only obtained their high school diplomas, these by and large were usually only average students. What stood out for them, however, was that they had good social skills and were involved in more extra-curricular activities than their peers who obtained higher grades. Some other interesting facts he discovered were that the majority of self-made millionaires and multi-millionairs were regular church goers, were large charitable donors, and that they bought good quality merchandise which they took care of and kept for a long time. They were not ones to follow fads.

      Of course, we know that entrepreneurs have been under attack in this country and we need to open our eyes and confront this.

      • Abeca Christian says:

        Tracy I still think that our kids should try to get a college degree….I think that times have changed and more jobs are requiring a college degree of some sort. Just saying….but I get what you mean

        • in germany they don’t promote going to university for everyone, but rather give students the chance to select a more trade-oriented kind of education if it’s more their thing.

          i find this intelligent.

          college is not for everyone, but everyone has some kind of gift and talent that can be developed — for some, at university, for others, the military, for still others, a job they love.

          • Abeca Christian says:

            max I agree…work experience use to be the thing…I just recall myself being passed up with great jobs because I didn’t have a bachelors….I had the work experience but the good paying jobs required a bachelors…

            also my husband in his job, he worked there since he was a teen, worked almost every department…by the time we got married, he had plenty of great experience….we married young too. But his job didn’t give him the managers position because he didn’t finish college. We struggled, I had to work as well….even when my kids were younger. Finally after more years..they gave my husband the manager position but still he may not move higher that easily but if he had furthered his college education, he may have moved up the ladder faster….but college is expensive and not everyone can afford it, that includes us.

            Also my brother in law is having a hard time finding a decent paying job, he use to work at Cox. But was laid off and still can’t find a full time job that pays decent…he was temporarily hired at a major company but wasn’t given full time status because he didn’t have a college degree.

            I miss the good ole days where work experience mattered more and companies trained their people to move up….now I think the mentality is different with most. I don’t like college for it’s liberal ways and I get that….but what does one do…we just want our kids to grow up and live comfortably…

        • The vast majority of students lose their faith their first several years of college. I also think college causes conformity and kills creativity. I finished college in my late twenties, having taken a hiatus for adventures and family, and I can honestly say that I gained absolutely nothing that I couldn’t have gained from workshops and reading. I was fortunate to be older and spoke up against the atheistic lies profs were used to feeding their students. Schools are even worse today and are an incredible waste of money. I wish people would wake up to the reality of the huge educational wasteland this country promotes. It’s US Steel and GM in education. Only if you’re going on in the sciences or special areas like law etc.where lab work is crucial and you know from the beginning what it is you want from your education. If you’re going to college just to get a degree then it seems like a pretty stupid waste of time and money. Too many students go to party and hook up. I’m speaking generally, abeca, as I know your child is going to JPII Univ. and it’s an excellent school. It takes intelligent parenting these days to keep you child on the path to salvation. In the end, that is all that matters, isn’t it?

          • Abeca Christian says:

            Thanks Dana….I just hope that people realize that once a teen hits 18, the secular keeps reminding them that they are old enough to do what they want no matter how they were raised….the influences are very strong and as much as a parents try to lovingly give guidance and more to them….they still have free will.

            I know that that our elders think that going to college is a waste of time, but all I know is that one does need a degree to move up in almost any job now…..I don’t know what to tell you. I just know that we parents who do care and are faithful do our best and pray that our kids still choose the good ways in which they were raised in. Even if your child still attends a good Catholic College….for some reason some kids still choose to rebel against healthy boundaries set upon them.

            Once they are 18, there isn’t anything else you can do…I recall with one of my best friend, her daughter, grew up home schooled, attending the Latin Mass and received a lot of love and care from her family…..she turned 18 and the outside forces were working hard…she moved out without her parents blessings…broke her mum’s heart and her siblings cried because they missed her. I don’t think they could of said or done anything better to make their daughter stay and continue her community college courses…nope not at all. The girl dumped everything…..selfish but it is the reality.

      • You never get rich working for someone else. I’m surprised people don’t know that. College doesn’t hurt. Also, what you take in college (business, math, engineering vs. liberal arts, social science) has a bearing on how liberal it is. Many who attend college lose their faith because they were taught a very simplistic religion or because they were taught that God is the great helper when you have a problem and they don’t have problems. They have not developed a real relationship with Jesus Christ. Teach your children to pray-praise, thanksgiving, repentance as well as supplication.

  7. My sister just sent this to me today & it kind of fits the topic at hand.
    “Just a little note…. Do you remember me telling you about the time my Amish friend Miriam, asked me to come to her class room to give my spinning demonstration? She put my spinning wheel on top of her big desk and as I looked out over the class, I was so touched by the innocence of the expressions on the children’s faces. Well, as time passed I made many enjoyable visits to the Graber’s home. One of Miriam’s favorite stories was how Amos told her that the Lord wanted him to marry her. (This was after his wife had died.) Miriam told HIM that the Lord had not given HER that message. Finally they were married and they had a joyous life together, making the many quilts for children and grandchildren and to sell. A short time ago Amos had passed away. I thought you would be as amazed as I was to see the number of Amos’s progeny. Fourteen kids, eighty-six grand children, two hundred and forty one great grandchildren and forty three great grand children. There were 600 people at family gatherings!!! The funeral had to be held at the produce building to accommodate all the people. Actually, I hope the Amish produce many many wholesome people into this world.”
    No one’s told the Amish that the world has gone topsy turvey. My Amish neighbors have such a sense of community and responsiblity to one’s family.

  8. I like the part of the article about the vast lands that are available for developing. Not much of it is adaptable to food production or manufacturing. All that type of land has been taken already. In other words the author of the article seems lost in space. Also, somehow this author imagines that America was developed by population growth without any specific ideology or religion. But, does it really matter, as long as the bishops do what the Pope has requested, which is to become holy? And thankyou goodcause for revealing the source of your confusion and shallow thinking, namely your hopes that the legal profession will solve all problems. And then there is the other thing about the dream of college: Why not first fix the dreams about K-12,the reality of which has become shambles in the USA? It is now more of a socialization program than anything else … at least it produces happy workers who are now managed by foreign manufacturers and food and energy producers.

  9. we need to keep having babies.

    otherwise, who will take care of ME when i’m old and gray?!?

    seriously, this is a problem in “developed” countries like italy, where people are chasing after wealth, cell phones, and a high lifestyle rather than traditional family values.

    and what happens? the muslim immigrants come to italy, maintain the traditional family values, and ‘take over’ the country — then the italians get all nervous and wonder WHY?

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