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America’s low fertility rate – why? September 30, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, General Catholic, sickness, Society.

Chelsea at Reflections of a Paralytic has some answers:

The Weekly Standard’s Jonathan V. Last takes a look at declining fertility rates world-wide. It’s a very long article, but it’s interesting to see how many countries seem to have voluntarily adopted China’s forced “one child” policy over the years. His main focus is America (which has a fertility rate of about 2.06, so pretty darn close!), who he says owes it’s decline in birth rates to a variety of cultural and economic factors: the American drive for education, the broadening of women’s career paths and delayed family formation, a higher cost of living over the years and the rise in government programs (social security, medicare, etc…) that have reduced the pressing “need” for one to have children who will help take care them in old age (nevermind the fact that these programs, to be effective in the long run, require a steady supply of new workers to replace the ones who retire and want to reap their benefits).

And then, of course, there’s this:

If the G.I. Bill could wreak so much havoc on fertility rates, imagine the effects of the last century’s two great changes in sexual life: the contraceptive pill and the legalization of on-demand abortion. Calculating the number of babies not born because of the birth control pill is impossible. But without confusing correlation and causation, it is worth noting that the pill became available in America and much of the West in 1960, the precise moment when fertility rates began heading into deep decline.

On the other hand, it is quite easy to make an accounting of abortion’s effects. Before the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the tide of public opinion in America was against abortion. Accordingly, there were relatively few abortions, even though most states allowed for early-term abortions. In 1970, for example, there were 193,491 reported legal abortions. Certainly, this number undercounts the real total because it does not include illegal abortions. But let’s take 200,000 as a baseline. In 1973, as Roe created a universal abortion right, the number of reported abortions rose to 744,600. The next year, that number rose by 20 percent, to 898,600 abortions. By this time all abortions were legal, and so we can be confident that this number is fairly accurate. Over the course of the next 15 years the number of abortions rose by almost 100 percent.

In 1973—the year of the Roe decision—there were 3.1 million babies born. Over the next 10 years that number rose only slightly, despite the fact that America’s total population was increasing quickly. Why weren’t there more babies born in the decade following Roe? Because during that time, 13.6 million were aborted—meaning that 28.5 percent of all pregnancies ended in abortion. Since Roe more than 49.5 million babies have been aborted in the United States, and the fertility rate has varied inversely to the abortion rate, generally declining when abortion is on the rise and rising when abortion is on the decline.

Last goes on in his article to spell out what he thinks the government could do to try to promote procreation (reducing taxes for every child born per family, reformatting the college system, etc…), but is that really enough to reverse this trend?

It seems to me the problem is a lot deeper than potential parents needing a little extra money in their pockets and a quicker education. Just look at what passes for “entertainment” and largely influences our society these days. It is obvious that one of the main reasons Americans are having less children is because, for the most part, they simply do not value large or even medium-large families, period (just ask any couple expecting their 4th or 5th – sometimes even just their 3rd – child what kind of comments they get from people), nor do they necessarily hold the traditional family model or its values in very high esteem, either. Our morals have drastically changed over the past few decades and there’s little the government can do to really change that. Not that they shouldn’t try to make America more “family friendly”. One of the best ways they could do that (which Last doesn’t mention): get rid of abortion on demand. Would this end abortion altogether? No. But, as you can clearly see by the numbers above, at least less children are killed when abortion is illegal.

What we really need in this country is to get our priorities straight. To put God’s will above our own selfish desires and to rediscover the value of marriage and family and the truth and meaning of human sexuality.

Ultimately, the collapse in America’s birthrates is a moral issue.  We can make abortion illegal, but until hearts and minds are changed the birthrate will not increase.  Some may not see the problem in having a low birth-rate: the problems, though manifold, do not obviously and quickly materialize.  The entire structure of this nation’s social welfare system is predicated on a steadily expanding population.  That is why so many in government favor massive immigration, in spite of all the problems it causes, because they see that as a possible solution to the problem of low birth-rate and lack of population growth.  But immigrants tend to be poor, they tend to be consumer of services rather than contributors to services for others, and there are cultural problems from absorbing and assimilating huge waves of immigration that lead to all kinds of social issues, from crime to failing schools to potential for backlash.  A far better path is for governments to encourage larger families, but as “reflections of a paralytic” notes, these will only have a limited impact.  The only real way forward is to, with charity but some zeal, to explain to the dominant culture that the path it has chosen out of selfishness and obeisance to a hyper-materialized lifestyle will only lead to the eventual collapse of that society.  There are numerous reasons, as Christians, to have large families – these need to be emphasized.  But we also need to stress the practical advantages of having larger families, and get people to recognize that the short term perceived benefits of having 1 or 2 kids at most are outweighed by the long term damage to the economic and social life of the world.


1. Mary - September 30, 2010

I’m going to push it one step farther – making other things our God(s) and/or being in CONTROL. Instead of leaving God in control, we (probably especially women) want to be god, to be in control of our lives and everything around us. To have more than 1 or 2 children rapidly removes the control factor. I can no longer do everything I want or think I should do. I stay home (can’t afford day care or Mothers-day-out), can’t go out frequently with friends for lunch or drinks or shopping. Many so-called friends move on. I am no longer ‘socially acceptable’. I am no longer in control.

St Peter Julian Eymard discusses the ‘duties of the mother’ in his Eucharistic Handbook, “…God made of the family the center of Christian obligations… In taking up her state of life, she sacrifices to God her liberty and will. Her life becomes a continuous act of self-denial.”

2. Robert E. Mangieri - October 1, 2010

I had a friend here in the Dallas area who had 7 children when I last heard from him. His wife was one of 8 children before her mother became a widow. She later married a widower who had 8 children. 16 was a nice number.

tantamergo - October 1, 2010

So one of my in-laws has 17 kids – she had 7 then was widowed, and her current husband had 6, and they’ve had 4 together……17.

St. Catherine of Siena was 24 of 25! And they didn’t have epidurals or IV injected pain killers back then!

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