U.S. Birth Rate Falls to 100-Year Low

http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2010-08-27-birth-decline_N.htm?loc=interstitialskip

Now for a little good news for a change.  As reported in the above-linked USAToday article, the National Center for Health Statistics reported on Friday that the birth rate fell in the U.S. in 2009 by 2.7% to 13.5 births per 1,000 people, its lowest level in a century. 

“When the economy is bad and people are uncomfortable about their financial future, they tend to postpone having children. We saw that in the Great Depression in the 1930s and we’re seeing that in the Great Recession today,” said Andrew Cherlin, a sociology professor at Johns Hopkins University.

This is great news – a significant improvement from the 14.14 birth rate at the time that I wrote Five Short Blasts – but still above the rate of 12.73 needed to reach stability in the native population.  But just as significantly, as the professor observed above, it’s proof that peoples’ decisions about whether to have more children is indeed influenced by economic conditions.  I have had people argue that there is no such effect, and they offer the example of single mothers on food stamps and welfare who continue to have more and more children.  While there may be isolated examples like that, the overall decline in the birth rate is proof that they are wrong.  This is significant because it’s proof that population management policies aimed at achieving stability through economic incentives, as I proposed in Five Short Blasts, will indeed work without the need to resort to coercive, draconian measures like the one-child policy employed by China.

But, alas, the article goes on to bemoan falling birth rates as some sort of economic threat:

The downward trend invites worrisome comparisons to Japan and its lost decade of choked growth in the 1990s and very low birth rates. Births in Japan fell 2% in 2009 after a slight rise in 2008, its government has said. 

Not so in Britain, where the population took its biggest jump in almost half a century last year and the fertility rate is at its highest level since 1973. France’s birth rate also has been rising; Germany’s birth rate is lower but rising as well. 

“Our birth rate is still higher than the birth rate in many wealthy countries and we also have many immigrants entering the country. So we do not need to be worried yet about a birth dearth” that would crimp the nation’s ability to take care of its growing elderly population, Cherlin said.

 Very true, we do not have to worry about a “birth dearth” if nothing changes.  However, we do have to worry about the consequences of overpopulation, not least of which is declining per capita consumption and a corresponding rise in unemployment and poverty.

I’ll take the “birth dearth” any day.

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5 Responses to U.S. Birth Rate Falls to 100-Year Low

  1. MikeF says:

    Pete,

    This is a subject that drives me to distraction. It’s as if natural physics can be totally disregarded and the moldable social desires of growth capitalism (pure balderdash) can somehow prevail!

    Japan? Stick a fork in ’em; they’re done. We have living full color pictures in stunning HD format of how to fail catastrophically and we want to replicate that model?

    “Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist. ” Kenneth Boulding

  2. Mark Hall says:

    It is truly amazing that (2) years into this economic meltdown, our government officials and many of our economists HAVE NOT yet clearly identified the “root cause” of our problems.

    Yesterday it was announced that One in Six Americans (50 million+) are now on MEDICAID. The article also noted that the federal government’s spending for Medicaid has jumped 36% in the last two years.

    When you consider continued government deficit spending (federal, state & local), the lost opportunity costs (the wages, taxes and spending power of the now unemployed & under-employed) and the continued reduction in personal wealth; the U.S. economy is probably now losing $8-$10 Billion each day we continue to mis-identify the “root cause”.

    When will ANYONE finally acknowledge that UN-RESTRAINED CAPITALISM (Providing Cheapest Price at ALL COSTS); UN-RESTRICTED TRADE (Providing Cheapest Source at ALL COSTS) and UN-REFORMED IMMIGRATION (Providing Cheapest Labor at ALL COSTS) DOES NOT WORK!

    Are we waiting for One in Three Americans (100 million+) to be on MEDICAID before we decide?

    • Pete Murphy says:

      I agree. But what really puzzles me is that while early on, at the outset of the financial crisis, they did seem to link it all to global trade imbalances, they now seem to have gone completely silent on the issue. The Obama administration, the Fed, economists and analysts alike seem to fear uttering a peep about our trade deficit. It’s seems clear that the Obama administration would rather be drummed out of office after one term and go down in history as an abject failure than to take on this issue. At the most, Obama has turned it into an export issue. But imports are the 800-lb gorilla in the room and Obama just doesn’t have the courage to take it on. And the Fed and economists are just as gutless.

      If earlier presidents had been so lacking in courage, we’d now be a British colony or we’d be goose-stepping in formation as we paraded past the Fuhrer’s descendant.

      • Mark Hall says:

        Pete:

        Which is better?

        Goose-stepping (going forward)

        or

        Side-stepping (going no where)

        OUR #1 PROBLEM:

        Having a president with NO business or economic savvy being “coached” by the likes of Geithner & Summers.

      • Peteopolis says:

        Even if you believe commodities are just another investment bubble, the fact remains that material and energy input costs are rising every year. That doesn’t bode well for wages no matter how you look at it. This boils down to energy infrastructure, and specifically, energy storage. The current elite would say go build a better battery and IPO…you’ll be rich. Sure, thats great for a few insiders but the problem remains of wealth distribution. Labor just isn’t part of the club. Got to have price stability (price fixing) you know.

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