U.S. Birthrate On The Decline Again – Should We Care?

I have to admit, it’s interesting to see someone waxing poetic about the declining birthrate in this country. Not sure if I agree if it is something to be lamented, but the “overpopulation” argument is getting a little boring – even though it’s one I believe in.

It is one conservative man’s opinion I’m speaking of – but it is an interesting one. Ross Douthat, New York Times blogger and writer wrote a column today about America’s declining birthrates. Apparently, the birth rate “plunged with the stock market” in 2008 and hasn’t fully recovered. U.S. birthrates hit the lowest rate ever in 2011, with just 63 births per 1,000 women.

He attributes this decline to the usual suspects; an unstable economy, a decline in immigrant birthrates, and shifting family structures – or as he refers to it, “a broader cultural shift away from a child-centric understanding of romance and marriage.”

But he sums up with a view that I can’t really get behind. Douthat seems to think the main reason so many are retreating from child-rearing is because we are all a bunch of  decadent, lazy jerks. I’m paraphrasing a little:

The retreat from child rearing is, at some level, a symptom of late-modern exhaustion — a decadence that first arose in the West but now haunts rich societies around the globe. It’s a spirit that privileges the present over the future, chooses stagnation over innovation, prefers what already exists over what might be. It embraces the comforts and pleasures of modernity, while shrugging off the basic sacrifices that built our civilization in the first place.

Hmm. I don’t know about this. I think moving away from the nuclear family structure is the opposite of stagnation. If we really did prefer “what already exists over what might be,” there would be no decline in birthrate at all, would there?

If the sacrifices that built our civilization were simply related to breeding future workers, it’s probably time that our idea of sacrifice shifts a little. The job market sucks and we are finally beginning to realize that we don’t have an endless supply of natural resources at our disposal. If deciding to put off having a family, or deciding to not breed at all isn’t thinking of the future over the present – I don’t know what is.

I guess I’m really not bored of the “overpopulation” argument after all.

(photo: Vivid Pixels/ Shutterstock.com)

 

 

You can reach this post's author, Maria Guido, on twitter.
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    • CW

      I find it very sad that babies are seen in our modern U.S. society as burdens rather than blessings, and that so many people today are childless by choice rather than by circumstance. It is totally understandable that the birth rate goes down when people are financially struggling. However, I constantly hear women I know claim that they would love another child but “can’t afford” it when they can afford a McMansion, multiple luxury vehicles, designer clothes, a fancy gym membership, trips to exotic locales, etc. It isn’t that they truly can’t afford another baby- they just are unwilling to give up the lavish lifestyle to which they have become accustomed in order to have a 2nd or 3rd child. That’s their prerogative to value consumer stuff over adding to their family, but I find it very sad :-(

      • RJ

        If only we could afford multiple cars, a McMansion, and whatever else. Sounds like you’re talking about inner city people. Most of us working from paycheck to check people cannot afford much. People don’t NEED a lot of children to be happy.

      • Justme

        Or maybe there is another, more personal reason that they don’t tell you because it’s none of your business.

      • meteor_echo

        Or maybe we just have other things to do with our lives and do not want to be tethered to a child for 20-something years. Or maybe we do not want to put our partners on the second place. Or maybe we are just very fond of our pelvic floors. Anyway, this is none of your business.

      • lawcat

        But…what’s your point? Maybe they just don’t (GASP!) *want* another baby. It’s not really your business why someone is or isn’t adding to their family.

        Family planning isn’t something that is open to debate by the public. I agree with Justme…it’s probably something people say to assuage nosy people.

      • Kai

        I have spoken with multiple people who chose to have a small family specifically so they could give more things to a couple children, rather than spreading it out. Some physical things, sure, but also lessons, sports activities, trips, and also time.
        If you have lots of kids and deprive them of things because you want to spend all your time and money on yourself, that’s a problem. But choosing to focus both your money and especially time and energy on fewer kids is just careful thinking. And much to the benefit of the children.

    • Tea

      I personally see lowered birth rates as a responsible move, given the current excessive population. I would rather see less new children being born when other children are literally starving to death (Which is the kind of child I want to save some day).

      And it’s not selfish to not have children when finances are in tight straits, it’s responsible. I would rather have stability, like a home, a steady job, reliable transportation and funds for medical bills before having a child.

      So much more is required to adopt a child than to have one the old fashioned way, anyway, so this is probably just my slant as someone who literally cannot breed.

    • Eileen

      I certainly think it’s responsible to have fewer, or no, children if you can’t afford to support them or just plain ol’ don’t want them. BUT it still kind of is a bad thing given the way that entitlement programs, particularly Social Security, are set up in this country – dependent on either limitless growth of working population who contribute or shorter lifespans of those collecting benefits. And considering that the opposite of those things are both currently true, well, it does kind of suck for any attempts to maintain the status quo – and any change will end up screwing at least one generation over.

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