Thursday, June 22, 2006

Have more babies.

As wife_of_charlespeirce will tell you, I love statistics. One area that particularly fascinates me is demographics, and more specifically, why the US is still having babies while the rest of the developed world is not. German women have 1.4 babies each, which means that in Germany they're closing elementary schools and nurseries, the tax burden on the working class is growing, and the population is projected to shrink by 9 million (to 73.6 million) by 2050. (hans, does this concern you? Where's your German hegemony now!)

Meanwhile, we're chugging along here in the US. While Hispanics have a nominally higher birthrate once they get here, nearly all races in America have an average of 2 babies each, keeping us at replacement. Add immigration to that, and our population is still growing. (We're projected to hit 300 million in October.) In Italy the Pope is telling the people to have more children, and Putin in Russia is offering to pay families to do so.

This is from the Washington Post article linked to above:

What explains the American exception? Eberstadt cites three differences with Europe and most other advanced countries: greater optimism, greater patriotism and stronger religious values. There's some supporting evidence. A survey by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago asked respondents in 33 countries to react to this statement: "I would rather be a citizen of [my country] than of any other." Among Americans, 75 percent "strongly" agreed; among Germans, French and Spanish, comparable responses were 21 percent, 34 percent and 21 percent, respectively.

(Mair, you should get a kick out of that: citing optimism, patriotism and religious values as demographic/sociological explanations moves toward that human factor you appreciate and want to see more of in sociology.)

Here's the CIA's listing of all fertility rates. Does this represent the Death of the West, or is it just a phase?


At 2:03 PM, Blogger RedHurt said...

I think most of the "west" has been reproductively dead for a while now. How long has it been since a european power was replacing itself? WW2? I don't know if it's optimism or what, but Europeans simply don't have children.

Maybe it has more to do with cultural aspirations. In the US, we're pretty evenly balanced between people who idealize raising a family and the nuclear family and those who think urban lives and high powered careers devoid of children are the way to go. In Europe my short-sited and bad perspective only sees the second. Suburban yuppies aren't the glorified norm in Europe like they are here.

At 4:18 PM, Blogger Jackscolon said...

I think the reproductive ship has sailed for industrialized caucasians. Between single parents and two-income families, there isn't a lot of room left for more than a kid or two. Plus, since we no longer need kids for labor (namely, farm labor) and they don't die like they used to, it makes more sense to put all your reproductive eggs (pun intended) into one or two baskets- especially when the cost of raising kids (college is nearing status as something that must be provided) is becoming higher and higher.

When it comes down to having a nest egg or a third or fourth child, I know which way I'm leaning...

oh yeah, and contraception totally helps.

At 9:11 PM, Blogger Mair said...

I notice that what the CIA gives are estimates, and last I knew, the birthrate in the US was actually 1.9 per woman, which is just below replacement, but low enough below to mean we are, in fact, having less babies than we used to.

I could sit here and try to explain sociologically why this is happening in the West, and I know that somewhere in my brain, I actually have a theory stored in there - but I'm pressed for time, so I'll have to do it later. :o)

At 9:14 PM, Blogger Mair said...

Oh - I remember what I wanted to say in response to Jack. It doesn't make sense that in the US, where the cost of having a child is much higher than the (economic) benefit, the birthrate is higher than in European countries where children are subsidized, healthcare is paid for, and they need lots of young people to ensure retirement for the old. So, there must be something else going on - and I think religion has a lot to do with it, and probably so does acceptance of a post-modern ethos and radical individualism.

At 9:41 AM, Blogger Hans-Georg Gadamer said...

Charles -

1. Good to see you are backing PB in his book on this one. I knew you would come around. Now we just need to get you agreeing to close the borders...

2. I think Jacks end point was important. Nest egg or extra children; being fruitful and multiplying and having dominion over the earth or playing video games. The choice is pretty simple and contraceptives need to stop doing stuff.

3. Give us time. Remember, it is not so much the quantity of Germans that will become the world's end, but the quality. Death to the Ultimate Man, make way for the Superman!

4. Have more covenant children!

At 2:24 AM, Blogger StandingOutInTheCold said...

One of the interesting (maybe scary?) things is that, while European people are having less children, North Africans are reproducing at a rate something like 6 children per woman (that's what I heard on the radio anyway). So the extra North African population logically moves to Europe. With declining European populations such a quick replacement of majority race/culture could transform Western Europe into a much more African place. The thing that is hardest to accept about this to me is the fact that Western European culture has been around for so long and is such a central part of our history. Its hard for me to imagine a world without Western Europe being the way it has been for the last several hundred years. From what I've heard France already has a very sizable Muslim African population and there are indications that it may eclipse the native French population before long since the French are so far below replacement.

At 9:43 AM, Blogger Barnabas18 said...

A demographer here at Heritage shared with me an interesting piece of data. If every American family that has had at least 1 child already had 1 more right now, Social Security would not be in any trouble. Thus, there would be no need to cut benefits, raise taxes, or privatize the system (even though privatizing always makes sense).

This is an interesting argument to be made against the whole "children as a cost" argument. The more children we have, there might be enough aggregate economic benefit to offset the individual cost of having a child.

Furthermore, recent data shows that the bigger the family the more stability, and stability tends to lead to a greater amount of wealth.

Moral of the story - everyone should have 9 kids like I plan to, which brings us back to the contraception debate on my blog back in the day when I used to blog!

At 11:59 AM, Blogger RedHurt said...

well, as a whole it might mean the children vs. cost argument doesn't apply, but as one of the ubermenschen intellectual elite, I'm going to make tons more than the average guy will by not having kids, and I'm not going to get jack out of the social security system compared to my billion dollar pension, so you can ask ma and pa red-state to squeeze a few more out, but as for me and my house, we will rake in the millions.

or something like that.

At 5:04 PM, Anonymous dadman said...

The comments about how children are a net economic gain for a country reminded me of an NPR story I heard this morning, about schools soliciting money from corporations and naming classrooms and buildings etc. after them in return. One administrator said it was hard to convince people who had no children of the benefit of paying more in taxes for public school.

My response to that has always been, Are you people without children going to go to a doctor when you're 80 or 90 years old? Do you want your doctor to be younger than you? Do you want him or her to have gotten a good education?


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