Sunday, October 14, 2012

More on the Declining Birth Rates in the U.S.

The Weekly Standard (h/t Instapundit) has the following on American demographics:
. . . Last week, the CDC released its preliminary birth data for 2011. Much of the analysis focused on the raw number of births, which declined for the fourth straight year. America's general fertility rate is now the lowest it's ever been. Which is not great news.

. . . The fertility rate for women in their 30s and older remained basically constant—the Great Recession hasn't stopped older women from having children. The big declines have come among women in their 20s. This trend of delaying childbirth is perfectly consistent with what we've seen in America since the late 1960s: As more people began attending college (and then graduate school), the average age of first marriage rose. As women (and men) waited longer to get married, they waited longer to have children, too. So the average age of women's first birth rose in tandem.

. . . The other group to see big fertility declines was teenagers: The teenage birth rate dropped 8 percent from 2010. . . . And what's more, teen births have been dropping steadily (by more than 3 percent every year) for 20 years. That's a promising sign because it means that the do-anything culture of the 1970s—when America really went off the rails sociologically—may be finally on the wane.
[Since teen birthrates includes eighteen and nineteen year olds, this is probably related to the same trend as women in their 20's--i.e., forgoing marriage and children until older].

Coupled with the teen decline is a decline in the birth rate for unmarried women. In 2011, out-of-wedlock births dropped for the third straight year. . . .
. . . When you look at the numbers by race, you see yet another component of our fertility dynamics. Among non-Hispanic white women, the fertility rate remained roughly unchanged last year. The big drop came among Hispanic women.

. . . Finally, buried deep in the report is the most telling number of all: In the last year the number of "first" births dropped to the lowest level ever recorded in America. What does that mean? It means that we're slowly bifurcating into a country where there are two kinds of adults: people who have children, and people who do not. The people who have children are inclined to have seconds and thirds. But for the first time in our nation's history, we're growing a sizable cohort of adults who remain childless their entire lives.
(Underline added). (For more commentary and analysis, see this "Fact Sheet" at the Population Reference Bureau).

My snarky observation is that this is merely evolution in action.

However, this illustrates another issue--the free rider problem. In the past, a couple's children were their retirement plan. Today, due to social security and other entitlement based retirement programs, pensions, etc., a person's retirement is provided by someone else's children. Why have children if you don't need them? You get the same reward, without the risk and cost.

This leads to another issue, which is the diminished economic and social benefits of having children. Children are expensive and time consuming. Laws and society have diminished or eliminated traditional benefits of having children (including the increased respect afforded mothers and fathers--I can't count the number of times my wife and I have been snubbed or treated worse in stores and restaurants because we have children with us) while increasing the legal burden. When I read of parents being harassed by police for letting their children play outside; father's "raped" by the courts on child custody issues; children being removed from families for the flimsiest excuses, I would suggest that, today, children are property of the state--parents merely pay for the privilege of babysitting them.

And, there is the comparisons in life-styles between those with larger families versus those with few or no children. I look at colleagues and friends with no children, or only one or two children, versus my own situation, and I see people with both time and disposable income to travel, engage in hobbies and recreation, and otherwise pursue worldly pursuits that I cannot. Is it any wonder that a young man or woman contemplating a family would decide to not have children, or have only one.

Ultimately, though, this is destructive to society. For instance, in a nation bifurcated into those who contribute nothing toward propagating the next generation, why should those who do propagate sacrifice their children (representing a significant emotional, temporal and financial commitment) to fight a war for those who had no children. To take an extreme example, why should Utah (with a high birth rate) sacrifice its children for the benefit of states or cities with low birth rates? Similarly, why should workers bear an increasingly heavy burden of supporting retired people that never produced any (or enough) replacements?


  1. "why should Utah (with a high birth rate) sacrifice its children for the benefit of states or cities with low birth rates? "

    Because, the Government and the other progressive states supported Utah's children (including those from teen mothers, from out of wedlock, from polygamous relationships etc) when the times were good.

    1. I'm not sure that "but we gave some of you food stamps and WIC" is as inspiring as "one nation under God," nor will it carry much weight 20 or 30 years down the road when the ratio of retirees to workers reaches an unsustainable level, and the nation has tired of "kinetic military actions" to support the latest humanitarian whim from Washington.