Ross Douthat in his latest column in the New York Times examines the fact that under Obama the US has the lowest fertility rate in its history:
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.)
Go here to read the rest. As is always the case, the outraged reaction of Douthat’s uber liberal readers are a hoot:
The world has a surplus of young people. If the rich countries need more, let them liberalize their immigration policies. You are certainly right, Ross, about privileging the present over the future. That’s consumer capitalism for you. We must all be persuaded to buy more stuff (even if we’re sinking deeper into debt with each VISA bill) to keep up with our neighbours, keep the economy growing, and capital accumulating in the hands of the very rich, while our global economy — now more capitalist than ever — depletes the world’s natural resources, heedless of the costs to future generations.
Perhaps Ross would write a column on why conservatives don’t take conservation seriously. Why do you refuse to question our addiction to growth? Why do you trivialize (or deny outright) the free market’s externalities — such as the enormous build-up of carbon gases causing climate change. Why no recognition of capitalism’s savage inequalities that undermine community solidarity and family stability — values conservatives hold dear? What is conservative about ignoring these problems, and discounting their future costs in order to preserve an uncritical belief in unfettered capitalism? That belief, and the comfort it provides you, seems to be the main thing you are keen to conserve.
Oh Ross, where to begin? Let’s start with the decline (or, as you call it, decadence) of the good ol’ days: contraception; women’s rights; human rights; civil rights; the better to eradicate nasty (whites-only) patriarchy. Then let’s move on to Sweden. That’s right, Sweden. As in socialist state, hyper-high taxation, and huge, and I mean HUGE government. My goodness. And then, gasp, did I read the word gay in there somewhere? What has happened, Ross?
This piece is just hilarious. Douthat writes, “and the evidence from countries like Sweden and France suggests that reducing the ever-rising cost of having kids can help fertility rates rebound.” What? A “conservative” is arguing that maybe the U.S. should adopt the economic systems of Sweden and France where they have universal health care, a generously subsidized education system, extensive paid vacations mandated by law, generous retirement programs, a miniscule military budget, etc.???
Maybe Douthat is still having recurring mental lapses since Romney’s certain “win” as predicated by his cohort, Karl Rove, and other republican pollsters didn’t turn out quite as expected.
Mr. Douthat suggests a tax code, a lowered cost of college and/or flexible work hours. Those bandaids are foolish compared to the policies of enlightened countries: excellent single-payer paid medical care, up to a year maternity leave with 100% salary for either parent; automatic daily home care (and later, child care) provided by professionals, well-trained to care for and teach your baby.
In Germany a cadre of doctors (in VW’s?) is on call at night and come to your home! Sounds like advanced countries provide nourishing care for both parents and babies.
Republicans will never get it, will they? Nor will American women provide babies for this sadistic country.
Three reactions. My first snarky reaction is that I am not terribly heartbroken that quite a few of Douthat’s readers seem to be dead set against reproducing. My second reaction is that these people are an accurate reflection of much of “elite” opinion on the Left in this country that is unremittingly hostile to kids and traditional families. My third reaction is that my definition of a decadent society is one that cannot be bothered to fight to protect itself or to reproduce itself. Much of “elite” opinion in this country is truly decadent and the Obama administration is firmly committed to policies that reflect this decadence and decay.