In a melancholy companion piece to the announcement that America’s mortality rate is rising, the Wall Street Journal reports that fewer Americans in 2015 gave birth to new life.
Preliminary numbers out Thursday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show there were 3.98 million births in the U.S. in 2015. That is down 0.3% from 2014 and reverses a one-year rebound when the number of births rose slightly.
The data showed a sharp drop in births among teens, which fell 8% to their lowest level since the government began tracking them decades ago. Women ages 15 to 19 notched a birthrate of 22.3 births per 1,000 women. That is down 64% since its most recent peak in 1991, with most of the decline happening in the past eight years. “That is very atypical,” said Brady Hamilton, a statistician at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.
What is expected to worry some demographers is that the total number of U.S. births was lower than they projected, affirming concerns the country is struggling to recover from a childbearing slowdown sparked by the start of the recession in 2007.
The reduction in birth rates was not evenly divided between all demographic groups:
Women in their 20s had fewer babies in 2015, while the birthrate for those in their 30s and early 40s rose last year. Births decreased for white women, were flat for black females and increased among Hispanic women.
“To keep the labor force growing, we’re going to need to have pretty healthy levels of immigration,” said senior Pew Research Center demographer Jeffrey Passel.
Funny, nobody told Americans that during the long years when marriage has been devalued, abortion became a political instrument of feminist virtue-signaling, and population control was presented as a carefully-planned virtue.
Passel is correct, as a matter of cold, hard statistics, which are always an uneasy mix with something as emotionally and spiritually powerful as childbirth. There is no easy or swift way to reverse a demographic decline. Convincing people not to have children is much easier than instructing them to be fruitful and multiply. The creative business of having and raising children is risky, tough and difficult – especially for mothers, when fathers are not present.
Our social engineers have been energetically dismantling everything that encouraged couples to have children at a young age, and stay together forever afterward. Only now, when the political agenda has shifted to open-borders immigration, are the social engineers admitting that if a substantial number of people don’t begin having children at a fairly young age – the very cohort experiencing the birthrate decline described by the Wall Street Journal – the wave of young workers necessary to sustain benefits for the increasingly long-lived elderly never materializes.
Most people are familiar with the idea that a birthrate of 2.1 per family is needed to sustain a population. To maintain that rate, a great many families must raise more than two children. That generally requires women to have their first children in their twenties, and yet here we have birth rates slipping for that very age group.
There just isn’t any way to make the population math work without a healthy number of people marrying and raising families at relatively young ages. Obviously, intact families are important for society – illegitimacy is the single most powerful factor driving most social pathologies.
A few population alarm bells began ringing years ago, when the recessionary effect on childbirth noted by the Journal was detected. An Economist article in 2012 postulated that the U.S. economy was so weak that even migrant labor wasn’t sticking around to raise the big families needed to reinforce the population.
As for the native-born, a Pew Research Center poll cited in that 2012 article found 22 percent of Americans aged 18 to 34 had postponed having a baby, and 20 percent said they postponed marriage, due to economic considerations.
And yet, we’ve been told by Administration spinmeisters that the Obama economy was a roaring recovery! The demographic decline – on both the birth and death ends – offers compelling testimony to what people have really been seeing, in that big nation beyond the Beltway-Media axis. If rising mortality rates are due in some measure to despair, and accompanying substance abuse, then collapsing birth rates are even more obviously so. Young people are explicitly stating that they don’t want to risk bringing children into an uncertain economy.
In the process, they’ve created a negative feedback loop that will make that economy even worse, as the worker-to-beneficiary ratio for social spending slips even further, and mass immigration is seen as the only way to keep the system floating at all.
This is why child-centered marriage is so important, with all of its social and religious trappings. Without trivializing those considerations, set them aside for a moment, and look at population as the numbers game it is. Society has a clear interest in persuading couples to have children in their 20s, continue having them into middle age, and remain together in order to raise those children in solid homes.
That interest grows even more acute when the economy flags, because, as the polls in these articles on population decline indicate, marriage and childbirth become more intimidating prospects in recessionary times. Paradoxically, that could be even more true when the standard of living is high, as is the case in Western capitalist countries, because the perceived cost of raising children is so high, and the effect on lifestyle anticipations is so pronounced.
This is evident whenever young people are interviewed about their thoughts on marriage and children. They have a clear idea of what they want their lives to be like, and a keen sense of how the huge cost of raising several children could make it difficult to achieve that lifestyle.
Without powerful social forces to counteract those entirely logical reasons to hold off on starting a family, big families don’t flourish, and the numbers just aren’t there to keep the population up. That means big trouble for an irresponsible government that already spent the next generation’s money, and made certain assumptions about how many taxpayers would be around to receive the bills in their cradles.