22 July 2013

Some Perspective on the Fertility Decline

A country can have a one-child policy by governmental coercion; it can also have one by living a particular lifestyle so insistently, by making many small choices, that the decision is "voluntary":

From What to Expect When No One's Expecting, by Jonathan Last:

...let's put America's fertility problem into the starkest relief possible.  China is famous for its One-Child Policy.  Instituted in 1979, One-Child decimated the country's fertility, driving the Total Fertility Rate downward and preventing, over the course of 30 years, somewhere between 100 million and 400 million births.  The One-Child Policy employs an array of coercive measures to prevent couples from having babies-- violators are often taxed or fired from their jobs; there are forced sterilizations and forced abortions; sometimes their homes are razed as punishment.  As a result of One-Child, the fertility rate in China is roughly 1.54.  In America, the fertility rate for white, college-educated women-- we'll use them because they are a fair proxy for our middle class-- is 1.6.  In other words, America has created its very own One-Child policy.  It's soft and unintentional, the result of accidents of history and thousands of little choices.  But it has been just as effective.

This is the kind of situation Paul VI warned about in Humanae Vitae.  

This book is devastatingly good, and I might come back to post excerpts again.  The demographic problem is known to most, especially those who read this blog.  But what I like about the book is that it not only goes into causation, but it is exhaustively researched and footnoted and documented.  Furthermore, it goes into the mathematics of a country's death spiral and shows that there is a tipping point beyond which even an unexpected upturn in fertility rates would be impossible to reverse.  It addresses the sensitive but related factors of demographics that affect, and are affected by, population growth or loss, such as immigration, race, economics, education, contraception, abortion, social safety nets and religion. 


Anonymous said...

Admittedly, I'm on the far side of 60, and testosterone starts dropping at age 40, but still...

The play talks of love of God...eternal consequences...shows the Church in a good light...and this is in a society that is going under at a rate that must astound even Satan. I presume that the movie is similar to the play.

We have to take our consolation where we can in this age..

Athelstane said...


I had no idea that the birth rate for college educated white women was so low now.


Sadly, if you mention this to any of the childless in question, you will get more than a few who will rejoice in that figure - Mother Earth is overburdened, there are too many people, etc., etc. In other words, some very, very convenient aggregate justifications for certain individual choices.

X said...

It's not an accident and it's not unintentional.