Demographic Decline: The Reason That Dare Not Speak Its Name



Well what do you know, a recent spate of articles has recognized what many of us have known for decades:  Overpopulation is a myth and an ever-increasing decline in births is a bitter reality.  Typical of these articles is one by Jonathan V. Last in The Wall Street Journal:

America’s fertility rate began falling almost as soon as the nation was founded. In 1800, the average white American woman had seven children. (The first reliable data on black fertility begin in the 1850s.) Since then, our fertility rate has floated consistently downward, with only one major moment of increase—the baby boom. In 1940, America’s fertility rate was already skirting the replacement level, but after the war it jumped and remained elevated for a generation. Then, beginning in 1970, it began to sink like a stone.

There’s a constellation of reasons for this decline: Middle-class wages began a long period of stagnation. College became a universal experience for most Americans, which not only pushed people into marrying later but made having children more expensive. Women began attending college in equal (and then greater) numbers than men. More important, women began branching out into careers beyond teaching and nursing. And the combination of the birth-control pill and the rise of cohabitation broke the iron triangle linking sex, marriage and childbearing.

This is only a partial list, and many of these developments are clearly positive. But even a social development that represents a net good can carry a serious cost.

Go here to read the rest.  Note something missing from the list?  The form of child murder that dare not speak its name:  abortion.  Without abortion there would be over 55 million more Americans, not to mention the kids of many of them.  Abortion is the ultimate form of tossing back in God’s face the precious gift of children that He gives to us.  C.S. Lewis once wrote a great truth.  Ultimately we either say to God, “Thy will be done.” or God says to us, “Thy will be done.”  Our society has clearly indicated to God through abortion and contraception that many of us view children as a curse rather than a blessing.  God is giving us our oft expressed wish to be free of the “burden” of children.  Sin is its own punishment.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.


  1. Genesis 1:28 – “And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

    Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

    Galatians 6:7-8 – “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”

  2. The results of a decline in total fertility rates (number of lifetime live births per woman) on a society can, perhaps, best be seen in the case of Japan, for Japan is a country with very low rates of inward or outward migration.

    As the population aged, it spent less and saved more for retirement. In other words, demand shifted from consumer goods to securities. The price level of consumer goods fell. The price of securities rose, thus, the compensation for waiting for the future declined, and the rate of interest fell.

    They traded surplus present goods and services for future goods; that is, they exported goods and purchased securities with the proceeds, shifting the current account balance to surplus. The exchange rate rose.

    Japan has a public debt to GDP ratio of 230%, the highest in the world. Given their demand for securities, most of it is held by its own citizens. That is why Japan, with a mountain of public debt, still has a strong currency.

    So, not all bad news.

  3. We’re Number #2

    From yesterday, Instapundit: JAPAN’S DEMOGRAPHIC DISASTER: “Recently, the Japanese government announced that the population decrease for 2012 is expected to be 212,000—a new record—while the number of births is expected to have fallen by 18,000 to 1,033,000—also a record low. Projections by the Japanese government indicate that if the current trend continues, the population of Japan will decline from its current 127.5 million to 116.6 million in 2030, and 97 million in 2050. This is truly astonishing and puts Japan at the forefront of uncharted demographic territory; but it is territory that many other industrial countries also are beginning to enter as well.”


  4. True enough- out of those women who DO get pregnant, one in three will kill that child before birth.

    On the plus side, there is reason to rejoice in this; the trend is not sustainable and pro-life families will inherit the earth- for there will be nobody else left.

  5. Paul,

    I would like to add:

    Luke 23: 28-29 – But Jesus turning to them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck.

    2 Timothy 4: 3-4 – For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

  6. Ted-
    I know that stat is popular, but the actual survey was if they’d ever had an abortion, and I can’t find the phrasing of the question.

    We can’t actually know the statistics, because there isn’t enough reporting. It’s all guess-work.

    Still horrifying, even with the lining that young folks are getting more and more prolife as time goes on. (When you can see your own “first baby picture” that was at three months post-conception…..)

  7. This is a handy tool for viewing World Bank data for total fertility rates.


    The CIA World Factbook has somewhat different values for this set of metrics.

    You can see that the United States has fertility rates at the replacement level. The weighted average of rates in Europe and Central Asia has been below replacement level since 1993, but the situation is not hopeless having improved from 1.63 to 1.81 over the period running from 2000 to 2010; the situation in Canada is slightly worse. Particular countries within that set (e.g. Germany and Austria) have been in wretched condition with below replacement rates for a generation. The real disaster is in the industrial Orient, where rates have been between 1.12 and 1.39 in recent years and subreplacement fertility has abided for decades.

    Live births in the United States have since 1946 fluctuated between 3.1 million and 4.3 million without much in the way of a discernible trend. The problem you have with our retirement programs derives not from later cohorts being smaller than earlier cohorts, but from having fixed retirement ages conjoined to secular increases in the life expectancy of those who reach working age.

  8. In Iran, the total fertility rate has fallen from 6.48 in 1980 to 1.67 in 2010, a country with a strongly pro-natalist government.

    If Iran harbours any imperial ambitions, they had better act soon, before the number of men of military age starts to plummet.

    Their oil revenues are in decline and they do not have Japan’s resources to cope with an ageing population.

  9. Excellent article. Yet… so depressing. There are a couple of well made documentaries on just this subject. They aren’t Catholic or even Christian – but they can’t be accused of that bias either (which is sometimes a good thing…).

    Both can be found at DemographicBomb.com ( DemographicBomb.com )

    The first movie is called Demographic Winter. You can find it on YouTube if you look around. It discusses the same issues as above.

    The second movie is called Demographic Bomb and discusses more of the economic impact of demographic decline. I only found the DVD available and the trailers.

    When I was studying Geography in University, we discussed demographics quite a bit. On the one hand we had a liberal professor who was arguing that we have too many people on the planet, etc., etc., yet on the other hand he couldn’t help but discuss demographic decline because of falling birthrates all over the planet, especially in Europe and now North America. It was breathtaking… :/

  10. I think it is the UN Fund for Population Activities which trafficks in population control. The World Bank’s book is financing development projects. They produce an annual report which includes a statistical compendium in the rear. It is mostly economic statistics but includes some demographic data.

  11. I am sure the World Bank tracks all kinds of stats. There is no question birth rates both have an impact on an economy and are impacted by economics. So it would not be unusual for an organization like the World Bank to track them, even without nefarious intentions.

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